Sunday, 7 October 2012

Week 21 - Social life explosion , dancing til the lights come on & Football comes to Wellington!

Cycle Rides!
Good evening everybody! (it's 22:40 here...) and I'm only just starting to think about how I write this weeks blog, as it's been a week of unexpected fun and activity! I also wanted to discuss how people go about 'building social networks' as it's a phrase I use quite often with some of my clients.. but is the practice is far more complex than the theory?? 

So where to start? I think probably best to give a little rundown of my week so you get an idea of the week and how some opportunities have come about.... 
MONDAY - Usual evening yoga after work (no jokes please) and $10 massage!
TUESDAY - Gym after work & Meeting with Ros - An OT from the UK, working here in Wellington the I met at conference and who I am hoping to do some lecturing with!
WEDNESDAY - gym again after work and then 'leaving drinks' for Sopheary - (a Cambodian girl I met whilst she was working in a restaurant I got to for lunch). Her friends were good value and that led to an offer to join a group of people to watch the football with on Saturday.
THURSDAY - Started the volunteering for kids/adults with intellectual disabilities with 'special olympics Wellington' organization - supporting sporing activities around the city. The people were great fun and welcoming! 
FRIDAY -  Drinks with folks from my apartments, with Sheila (Hungarian property manager), Clinton,  Kiwi Doctor at the hospital, Tibo (?) French student / waiter, and Carla (new to the apartments - lives directly underneath me, and knows what time I shower every day apparently!) These drinks led to more drinks, some brilliant conversation, and then on to the wonder of wellington that is 'BOOGIE WONDERLAND' disco, and 'Alice's' bar which served cocktails in tea pots!!! We danced the night, in what I can only describe as a hole that has not moved out of the 80's, all the way until the lights came on! I have not danced that much in a long long time!!!! 
SATURDAY - had a lunch planned with a work colleague, before preparing for my first NZ live football match watching the Wellington Phoenix - which also led to drinks afterwards.
SUNDAY - bit of skype-ing before a 32.5 km (20 miles) bike ride around the 50+ bays of Wellington, followed by Clinton and Carla coming around to my flat to watch NZ's Got Talent a movie - they brought cake and crisps... perfect guests right?! 

HOW DO WE MAKE FRIENDS?
The issue of making friends, and mixing in new and different social circles has been a feature of many conversations this week, with lots of different types of people. It's also something I have experience in, however it's been pretty difficult to do here. In the field of mental health we often look at 'occupational deprivation', and issues around 'occupational justice' - so basically the right of all people's to have the same access and opportunity to participate in meaningful occupations. But even when we have access to opportunities to engage, do we need certain skills and the confidence to get out there and give it a go? Having the opportunity to go and engage in new occupations / actives, can sometimes require money, travel and lets not forget social skills. If you are removed from social circles developed from spending years of time in one place, (where people know your history and share the same cultural ideas - and also share the same ideas about 'normal' behaviour), can be really difficult. You need pretty good social skills to engage new groups of people and real awareness of how people may respond and perceive you and what you say. Making conversations with strangers, can make you seem odd, or weird, and even when you meet people you think could be 'potential friends', they might not have any interest in making friendships with you, simply because they have enough friends already! So you are exposing yourself to potential rejection on a personal level. People who date often deliberate about how long they should wait to text or call after a date, so is the same is true of potential new friendships? So how do our clients, who may have difficulties with self-image, confidence, altered perception, manage this process? If a client/person has no real experience of working or studying, even tackling that first question of 'what do you do?' can be a challenge that seems insurmountable. Teaching people 'social skills' or communication skills in a group can be one way forward, but does that really give our clients enough tools to face the reality of making friends? We all search for common ground, and equality in friendships are important, (awareness of dependency behavior is equally important as we have all had friends that take, and never give). So it is surprising that many mental health clients make friendships with other mental health clients because the common ground leads to a shard peer base, so people feel comfortable with each other? Do other people define us depending on what we 'do'? If 'doing' is so important, should our interventions, be based around a 'doing' activity? I personally have benefitted from volunteering / working which has opened up conversation, and often direct clients to consider volunteering as a stepping stone to engaging / re-engaging in 'worker' or responsibility roles. The other  issue is about seeking out opportunities where there is potential to meet new people. Internet dating is a classic example because despite many people's reservations, having spoke to many people who use this method, is it simply one way to find potential opportunities...???  
Ultimately, I have to say, that only since positive risk taking by being pro-active in starting activities, in new roles, and sometimes even talking to strangers have I been able to start developing new relationships. I have hope some of these relationships become friendships, but there is no way to be sure.    

THE PHOENIX EXPERIENCE
Ready for the 'Phoenix' game! 
 I have to say the overall experience was lots of fun and so I'll share a little bit of it. I met Barry, husband of one of my work mates, in the same pub I had been introduced to on Tuesday with Ros... The 'hard core' group of fans of the Phoenix call themselves the 'yellow fever' - I know I know, I don't think they realise the other connotations of the name! The big news regarding the game was that the away team - Sydney (Phoenix play in the Australian league because they are the only professional team in NZ!) - had Allesandro Del Piero playing for them - the former Italian & Juventus player! This led to a crowd of over 12,000...
looks full ish....

not so full...

Del Piero....
 The crowd was friendly enough with lots of families, though as always in large crowds you get one or two people that think they need to just shout insults at the other team's players - the only problem with the two idiots behind me is that most of their shouting had nothing to do with football and they seemed totally confused about how football is played, - often guys in this country seem to think playing sport means players have to 'smash' each other. Fortunately I was with a mix of kiwis and others who knew a thing or two about the game! One other thing I should mention is that the phoenix have a little tradition - if the team is winning at 80 mins... fans take their shirts off until the end of the game - no matter what the weather! 
Phoenix rituals.....

A LITTLE BIKE RIDE AROUND THE BAYS
Sunbathing @ the lighthouse
So, with yet more gorgeous weather this weekend, I got the bike out again determined to make the ride ALL the way around the bays of Wellington! my first stop was a little lighthouse for a sunbath, (only after stopping at a local cafe to use their free suncream and water).   
Another 30 minutes later I found my way to 'Breakers Bay' and decided to stop and have a little paddle in the sea. I must have discovered at least 50 little bays, some just 50 metros wide, some with sand, and some rocky. I say I discovered these bays - obviously people had set foot on them before I saw them, but that is how it feels here, because you can find yourself in these places all alone and totally secluded. Have a look at some of the pictures of the bays, and the funny crossing sign! 
Breakers Bay
Breakers Bay

Scorcing Bay

Sand Castle Building
Funny signs!
 Night, and regards from New Zealand!
Dan 

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