What actually happened was that Marianne Elliot, a former UN peacekeeper who worked in the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan extensively, came to talk to our Human Rights group (+ anyone else who wanted to come) this morning about her experiences working as a humanitarian activist. She talked about how she first got into the human rights commissioner job – by doing a law degree, working really hard, doing the first couple of jobs as a volunteer, building up experience, and applying a lot. She explained what the situation had been in the Gaza Strip, where she worked for four years, and what her role had been. She also talked about her stay in Afghanistan, where she moved around quite a bit more than in the Gaza Strip. Her experiences in both these places have been recently published in a book called “Zen Under Fire”, which sounds like a very interesting read.
Now she is based in New Zealand so as to be close to her family, but she still works with human rights, and was in Afghanistan for three weeks recently. Doing book talks, writing and moving around New Zealand for various things is how she occupies her time mostly, nowadays. She was a very good speaker, as I imagine diplomats have to be, and an amazing fact about her is that she can pick up languages very fast – after a year she is fluent. When asked how she does this, Marianne replied that being bi-lingual from an early age (she was born in Papa New Guinea) helped a lot, and that after you have learnt one language it is much easier to learn more.
So, I learnt quite a bit, enjoyed some Fairtrade cocoa, and started the day with a great talk…
Which was great because the weather is absolutely dismal.