Dreamworld Report: Giftival Day 2

Picking up where we left off…

Day 2 of Giftival began with a nice feeling that I’d already gotten to know the other participants much more than one would expect in one day. I was eager to see what Day 2 would bring.

Well the first thing it brought was some lovely new people. Deborah Frieze of Boston whom I’d met a few times before, Yeyo and Aerin from Oaxaca – all of whom work with the Berkana network, plus Robin McKenna, a filmmaker from Toronto who’s working on a film version of Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift, and Genevieve Vaughan, a thinker and writer on the topic of women, mothering and gift economies.

IMG_0390We began the day introducing the newcomers and recapping what had felt important to us from the day before. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but one of the most valuable times for me was when Munir, the 72-year-old man from Palestine (whose wife and two sons aren’t allowed to live there with him, and who are allowed to visit on an arbitrary schedule determined by the Israeli IMG_0392government), told us how he had gained a lot of insight from the Arabic language, particularly the word mujaawarah which means, roughly, ‘neighboring’ and also implies ‘learning.’ The understanding from thousands of years of people of different cultures living alongside each other is that we learn from neighboring people who are different from us. Munir repeatedly expressed the need to repair the social fabric of the Middle East, which had been woven tightly among the various cultures for thousands of years, until 1917 when the European-led World Wars began to divide the region into different countries. Mujaawarah really exemplified what made Giftival special and worthwhile. Many people, including participants, have asked what happened at Giftival and what it was all about. It’s really hard to put into words but mujaawarah would be the most appropriate word. I’ll tell you about our open space topics, reports, presentations and excursions but the mujaawarah was really the key piece that made it a beautiful and enriching learning experience.

Next we had an open space session. In case you’re unfamiliar with open space – any participant who wants to call a session can write up a topic and briefly present it to the group. Those who wish to attend will gather with you. Anyone can leave at any time. I attended Libor’s (Prague, Czech Republic) open space on how to turn vision into action. Yeyo (Oaxaca) had combined his topic with Libor’s but the session mainly focused on Libor’s experience of how to take a group from vision (brainstorming) to implementation plans, to critique, and back through the process again. What he said made a lot of sense, in terms of engaging the same or different people in each group process but keeping each process separate. No critique in the brainstorming session, and no taking things too hard or personally in the critique session, but allowing the critics to tear things apart to show where holes might be, then taking all of that into consideration in the second go-round. There was a lot more to this discussion but this is my representation in a nutshell, what I remember most after everything that’s happened since. I thought I had photos of his diagrams but don’t see them offhand.

IMG_0242For lunch we made the trek to Suleymaniye Mosque, had a great meal at a long table at one of the manyIMG_0244 restaurants surrounding the mosque, then gathered for a beautiful history lesson from Aysegul. And building on our new learning from Kamyar, whose grandfather or great-grandfather had been a Sufi mosque architect, using a traditional method largely forgotten today. The architect would sit in the land where the mosque was to be built, sometimes for months, until he had a vision of what building wished to be IMG_0262IMG_0268built on that land.

IMG_0272IMG_0275Aysegul shared with us some of the history of the mosque. The highlights that stick with me are that the family who was having the mosque built learned the needs of the neighborhood and built a complex surrounding the mosque that was designed to meet those needs. This included (now sourcing this info from Wikipedia): a hospital (darüşşifa), primary school, public baths (hamam), a Caravanserai, four Qur’an schools (medrese), a specialized school for the learning of hadith, a medical college, and a public kitchen (imaret) which served food to the poor. Many of these structures are still in existence, and the former imaret is now a noted restaurant. The former hospital is now a printing factory owned by the Turkish Army.

IMG_0280 IMG_0287 IMG_0291We then heard a story from Charles Eisenstein about a man who, after getting lost in an underground maze and running through it fruitlessly until he was exhausted and could no longer run, was able to envision the layout of the maze in his stillness, and finally to hear the singing of the woman he had left aboveground, and find his way out.  After this we wandered through the mosque and each made our way back to the gathering space, taking our route through the Spice Bazaar and stopping for a lovely tea on the shores of the Bosphorus River. IMG_0304 IMG_0309 IMG_0311 IMG_0313 IMG_0315 IMG_0316 IMG_0318 IMG_0320 IMG_0325 IMG_0334 IMG_0339  IMG_0354IMG_0327IMG_0343

When we returned from our excursion we held another open space session. I had offered one on “Gift/sharing as part of an economic and community ecosystem.” Because we were scattered when we returned from the excursion I was shy about pulling people together, so it was a little shorter than it would have been otherwise. Aysegul, Aerin and Yeyo all attended with an interest in how to make their timebanks (Zumbara in Turkey, and a 1 1/2 year-old timebank in Oaxaca) flow better. Lisette and Chris were there to learn and ask questions. Someone else was there too but again I didn’t document well enough.

I drew up my regular picture of soil, grass, bunnies and wolves and shared what we’re doing to create the Mutual Aid Network (MAN) infrastructure to support people doing good work. I also shared some of our basic timebank engagement techniques, including the yarn game, the Build a Better World Game (just that it exists) and Dane County TimeBank’s project focus. Chris Carlsson had a lot of big questions about cooperative dynamics, especially in the context of other cooperatives through history, but he came in pretty late and we ended before we were able to delve into it.

IMG_0373 IMG_0380 IMG_0378 IMG_0376The we were treated to an amazing, beautiful, delicious Indian meal cooked by some Giftival participants and the Zumbara chefs. They served it in a traditional manner and we were asked to eat in silence. Really wonderful. At the end we had a blessing dance and then broke up for the evening. Some of the people went out but I was (uncharacteristically) way too tired.

Day 3 in next post…