The mountain less travelled
I find climbing a mountain helps give a sense of perspective, so on my last day in Segovia as part of a month-long poetry fellowship, I set off up to the 2019m high Reventón Pass. There is a road winding steeply up from the town of La Granja de San Idelfonso—where you can wander the gardens of the royal palace based on those of Versailles and visit the royal glass factory—and it is pretty easy going, sharing the path with cows that you hope aren’t bulls eyeing you with their sharp horns, until you reach a dry-stone wall just above the tree-line and a stony path meanders alongside it right to the top. From there you have stunning views over the province of Madrid to
the south and back to Castilla and León in the north.
On my way down I say ‘buenas tardes’ to a couple resting by a stone hut and overhearing them chatting in English I go back and say hi. They’d been walking the Guadarrama mountain chain for five days, most of it in fog having caught the tail of hurricane Leslie, which hit the first night just as they’d got completely lost and had to sleep out on the mountain getting soaked to the skin. I think they appreciated having someone to tell their story to as we enjoyed the afternoon sun and a vulture circled lazily over to see if we were moving. I felt a twinge of jealousy at their adventure but this is only a day-trip from where I live in Madrid so I can easily return.
Some tips. If you are following a map use a compass and don’t rely too much on the signs along the way, or just stick to the main paths. There are fresh springs along the path where you can fill water bottles but beware of the summer when temperatures are in the 40s and in winter the mountains are under snow. On weekends and bank holidays lots of people visit La Granja and restaurant menus can double in price (and you’ll be lucky to get a table if you don’t have a reservation), so it’s best go during the week if you want the mountain to yourself or a delicious lunch in a quiet restaurant.
In the footsteps of a Spanish poet
I took the above photo from near the 12-sided Romanesque Vera Cruz church looking towards the walled city of Segovia, the cathedral rising above everything from the main square.
I often ask myself, quietly amazed, how I came to be here: A Kiwi lad from Nelson driving up the M3 into the London night, cycling around the Brittany coast or Grenoble mountains, wading through flooded streets in Venice, having a painting shown in the Saatchi Gallery in London, being passed the guitar at 2am in La Soleá in Madrid by the house guitarist while he took a break and having to accompany two gentlemen from Cordoba and Seville singing flamenco soleares, or standing in front of a room full of poets in Madrid reciting my poem Cosecha (Harvest) for the first time in Spanish, about picking sweet corn.
It was flamenco guitar and my interest in Spanish artists like Velázquez and Goya that drew me here, along with wanting to experience a different culture and language from what I was used to. Before my trip I looked up in ‘Who’s Who in New Zealand’ artists with connections to Spain and came across Darcey Lange, who I saw perform in Auckland, and Robert Ellis, with whom I spent a lovely afternoon in his studio sharing flamenco guitar falsetas and talking painting during my last trip back in 2001. Finding other Kiwis who had come here before me made it a little less daunting.
And then last year I was awarded the III Antonio Machado Poetry Fellowship of Segovia and Soria, finding inspiration in both cities to write poems and do projects in the community. During my month in Segovia I imagined Machado after a morning’s teaching French, in the corner classroom which now bears his name at the IES Mariano Quintanilla, walking through the arches of the spectacular Roman aqueduct and up into the city, stopping maybe at the Union Cafe. Perhaps he would meet with a friend or wander down to the tree-lined Eresma River before returning to his room near the main square in a humble pensión, which is now kept as a museum.
So getting back to that sense of wonder, as an artist and migrant I often question how I got here and where I’m headed. This poem by Machado from his collection Campos de Castilla is addressed to wanderers and I think it is a beautiful reflection on this question.
Traveller, your steps
Are the path, and no more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.
By walking the path is made,
And looking back
One sees the route that
One will never tread again.
Traveller, there is no path,
Only a wake widening on the water.
Not the first Kiwi in Covaleda
When I visited the Manuela Peña Primary School in Covaleda, everyone told me I was the second Kiwi they’d met because the previous year they’d had a placement teacher from New Zealand. It was a nice surprise because for most Spanish people I’m the first Kiwi they’ve met. The town of Covaleda in the province of Soria is not particularly attractive and is small with around 1700 inhabitants but I was there to do a ‘Poetry Walk’ with the pupils and a few minutes walk from the school we were in the countryside and the teachers had organised a two-hour hike up and down hills and along the Eresma river with beautiful pine forests and views of snow-capped mountains. It was frosty and misty as we set off but the kids were the first up the hills and I thought how lucky they were to have this landscape on their doorstep.
The photo above was one of six places where the kids had to find a hidden poem to read out to the rest of the group. At the end of the walk they wrote short poems in groups with words they had chosen along the way inspired by their surroundings. Covaleda is close to the Laguna Negra (Black Lagoon), which inspired one of Machado’s longest poems. I was lucky to have friends in Soria who drove me there and to other places like La Fuentona, a natural spring with crystal clear water and amazing emerald colours, and Calatañazor, a medieval town where Orson Welles
A couple of hours walk along the Duero River from Soria are the archaeological remains of the pre-Roman town known as Numancia. The guided tour (in Spanish) is excellent—with stories of elephants being used disastrously by the Romans to attack the town—but there was a freezing wind blowing across the hilltop and to get down to the village below to warm up with a coffee in a local bar and ask the locals which restaurant was best for lunch.
Learning Te Reo Māori in Spain
I left New Zealand when my mother, Marion Olsen, received grants to study singing in London. We planned to go for two years and I remember that strong longing of homesickness in those first few years. Occasional quick phone calls or weekly airmail letters were how we kept in touch with those back home. Coming to Spain had its own challenges, as I didn’t speak any Spanish. I did a TEFL course in Madrid and found work teaching English, which is a great exercise for any writer. I picked up the language from Spanish friends and my flamenco guitar classes, although it took me a few years to really get the hang of it. One of the benefits of learning Spanish is that being a phonetic language it makes the pronunciation of Māori much easier and so last year I found the Tōku Reo video series online based on the Te Whanake language programme of the late Professor John Moorfield and have just worked through the first 100 videos. Ngā mihi nui.
So am I still homesick? I feel at home in Spain, but I don’t want to loose touch with my roots and am looking at ways to visit, but in the meantime I have found small ways to connect such as the video series I made ‘Poetry on the Terrace’ where fellow Kiwi Anna Borrie and I introduce New Zealand poets to a Spanish-speaking audience, or running the ‘Given Words’ competition for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day the last four years.
I feel very fortunate with the experiences I’ve had so far and I’m always surprised by where following my passions have led me. I hope this inspire you to perhaps get off the beaten track and find new stories, learn from other cultures, and perhaps find new ways of connecting with your own roots.
Charles Olsen is an artist and poet living in Madrid, Spain. With the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares he runs the audiovisual production company antenablue. He has published two collections of his poems in bilingual editions, Sr Citizen (2011) and Antípodas (2016). His poems are included in the forthcoming collection More of Us, Landing Press (Wellington), he has written essays for the forthcoming The Poetics of Poetry Film, Intellect Books (Bristol), and his poetry film Morning’s fishing will be published in the Atticus Review. He has work published in Moving Poems, blackmail press, Landfall and the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, including his translations of Spanish and Colombian poets.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional background
I’m currently the General Manager of Women’s Rugby for World Rugby based in Dublin. I moved from Wellington New Zealand to Dublin in January 2017 to take up this newly created role with a vision of Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby.
Prior to this I had a long professional and governance career in New Zealand mostly in senior leadership positions within sport management. I attended Lincoln University studying sport and recreation management and went from there to complete a Masters Degree at Victoria University in Recreation and Leisure Studies. I started my professional sport career with the Hillary Commission for Sport and Recreation, then looked after the investment and performance of high-performance teams and athletes at the New Zealand Sports Foundation.
From there I was appointed as a GM Sport and Performance at the crown entity which is now called Sport New Zealand. My accountabilities within the sport and recreation sector varied from working on improving the capability of national governing bodies through to establishing the New Zealand Academy of Sport which was the precursor to High Performance Sport New Zealand. When I took a hiatus from working in sport, I worked for an extended period at ACC firstly as the General Manager of Injury Prevention and then was the General Manager Corporate Services. From there I went into Economic Development in Wellington and after that did a series of long-term transformational type projects. One incredibly special long-term contract had me involved for two years as the project director to develop Te Auaha in Wellington. I had the privilege to work with passionate leaders within the education and art industries to help to establish this amazing incubator of future creative excellence in the heart of Wellington.
How do you work to use your position as a means to create social change?
World Rugby as an International Federation is a membership based organisation with six regional associations and more than 120 full time member unions. Women in Rugby is the strategic growth area for the game globally and, as such, my role has me working with targeted unions and regions to develop opportunities for girls and women to get involved in the game. In many of these unions/countries involvement in sport provides the opportunity to dramatically improve the current and future quality of life of both individuals and communities. This can be from both a physical and mental wellbeing. Sport can create supportive communities and individual leadership development opportunities. Sport is an agent for social change its often the circuit breaker which in many instances can completely alter a young girl’s career and or life projection. You can see a great example of this by looking at the story of Sweta Shahi from India.
Much of my time is devoted to working to develop women leaders globally supporting them to also support and grow other opportunities for women and girls. We currently have 49 women from 40 plus countries on executive leadership scholarships all with a vision to provide inspirational leadership at the highest level.
Rugby has many strong partnerships with organisations that see the benefit of working with sport for social change. Two of these that immediately come to mind are the long term partnerships with such as ChildFund and rugby unions in Asia and UN Women in working with Oceania Rugby to support women in rugby in Pacific.
What was it like taking on a head role as a woman in what must have been a male-dominated industry at the time?
World Rugby has gone through transformational governance and leadership reform since I arrived in 2017. I remember just after I was appointed I was invited to attend a World Rugby Council meeting in Buenos Aires and several of the 30 male council members commented to me over dinner how unusual it was to have any females in attendance. Whilst gender diversity existed within the actual World Rugby staff based in Ireland, globally from senior leadership and governance perspective women were far and few between. To be honest, I was familiar with this type of work environment as I worked in high Performance Sport for so many years and there were and still are very few women in senior leadership roles working at an elite sport performance level in New Zealand. As the head of the NZ Academy of Sport I was often the only woman in the room.
I arrived at World Rugby at a time that the organisation was ready and committed for change. Rugby and in particular women’s rugby had just had its first global exposure at the Olympics Games in Rio in 2016 and it was a huge success. This Olympic impetus was a catalyst for impressive growth particularly in non-traditional rugby markets. Women’s Rugby in terms of participation was on the rise with significant growth year on year globally (by 2019 there were 9.6million players recorded globally, with female players accounting for 2.7million (28%). By the end of my first year the World Rugby Council adopted a new eight year global strategy to normalise women’s involvement in rugby. One strand of this strategy was to demonstrate inspirational leadership on and off the field and this meant a commitment to drive diversity. In 2017 Council agreed the strategy they also changed the constitution to bring on an additional 17 women council members. This decision led by Sir Bill Beaumont overnight changed the percentage of women on council from 0% to 35%.
How have you pushed for diversity within World Rugby since you began in your role?
This is a core aspect of my role to work with World Rugby the organisation and the world of rugby our members to drive diversity. At an International Federation level we have made incredible progress, following the decision to transform the council representation we also put in place a pipeline programme to develop more women leaders globally. We have now invested close to £500k in 49 women who were currently in senior leadership and or governance roles and identified as having the potential to make a big impact in rugby. Many of these have gone on to take up positions of CEOs, Presidents at Board Directors at a Union, Regional Association and World Rugby Level. We also produced a resource called Balancing the Board which we use with targeted unions to assist them to improve their commitment to diversity. And we are seeing changes, sometimes it’s simply about pointing out the obvious that value comes from diversity of thought.
One area that I feel really passionate about is the work we are doing is coaching. We completed a review of the status of women in coach leadership positions which showed that back in 2017 at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland there was only one union (out of 12) that had a woman in a head coach position and there were less than four women coaches involved in wider coaching teams. Since then we have adopted a holistic set of recommendations aimed at driving diversity in coaching with the premise that the business case for diversity is just as important on the field as it is in the board room.
We now are working with over 100 elite level coaches on a long-term change programme and have put in place a series of interventions working with unions to change the look and feel of coaching. One such an initiative has been the introduction of a Coaching Internship Programme for the RWC which will now take place in New Zealand in 2022. In this case we provided the qualified unions with an additional coaching accreditation on the basis that this must be filled by a woman high-performance coach who is included in the world cup campaign for a 12 month lead period in the lead up to the NZ Event.
Can you talk through the work that you’re doing with girls in countries such as Iran, Syria, Malaysia and Laos?
We have seen impressive growth in the game globally but in particular huge women’s participation growth in Asia and Africa. One of the programmes we launched two years ago was a global integrated marketing campaign called Try and Stop Us. You can find out more about the campaign by going to www.women.rugby. The three-year campaign started with World Rugby working with the Regional Associations to identify a team of inspirational women in rugby who despite some of the challenges that exist for them to play sport embraced the sport of rugby and have been called the Unstoppables.
Two of the original Unstoppables were from Iran and Malaysia. The before and after participation growth following the original campaign were phenomenal with women’s rugby in iran growing from approximately 3,300 to over 10,000 and the number of women in Malaysia growing from approximately 14,300 to 18,000. The campaign has now morphed into World Rugby providing generic resources to enable unions such as Syria and Lao, for example, to identify their own Unstoppables to lift the profile of women in rugby in their countries with the aim of increasing participation and growing awareness of the women’s game. Of note is the fact we have executive leadership scholars from Lao, Syria and Iran all leading the way to grow women’s rugby.
Why do you believe it is so important to use sport to grow pathways and opportunities for women, and how do you scale this up on a global level?
Participation in sport and physical activity develops psychological and physical wellbeing. All girls and women should be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts to realise the benefit of participating and achieving in physical activity. Involvement in sport is character building, it builds a sense of community connection, social support and diverse friendships whilst at the same time creates opportunities for leadership development. I have seen first-hand the power of sport to change people’s lives.
There are so many amazing stories about women who through their involvement in rugby have had life changing situations. Whether it is though programmes that enable young girls to stay, as long as possible, as young girls rather than being teenage brides or it’s where actual participation in a sport defies the stereotypes and cultures in many countries that hold women back from reaching their potential in society. Whilst there is still a long way to go, sport does create a platform for change for women in many countries where life for them is just not fair.
Rugby and its values has the ability to empower woman and girls, both on and off the field. There is something special in the “sisterhood” of this game which goes wider than clubs, regional and national representation. The connection globally of women in rugby I have found incredibly unique and enduring. My role is to work with unions and regions to remove barriers and foster opportunities for young girls to get involved and to support the competitive pathways at the highest level to create inspirational on field performances that capture male and female fan engagement and entice new commercial partners to underpin our strategy.
How has Covid-19 affected your work, including most recently the postponement of the Women’s Rugby World Cup?
I join with the rest of the rugby family to express my sincere sympathy for the disappointed players, coaches and teams feel due to the postponement. This was an incredibly difficult decision to make but it was the right decision for many reasons. This postponement has enabled us to now develop a more comprehensive support package for teams. We announced a minimum of £2m increased investment to target into the preparation of the teams. I know that next year will be phenomenal and it will be great to be able to showcase New Zealand to the wider rugby family, friends and fans that would not have been able to attend the event in New Zealand this year. Covid-19 has affected everyone globally to some extent, however what I can say is that at a global level World Rugby has been 100% committed to increase its support for women in rugby during this time. There has been no cuts to any budget area linked to growing the women’s game and given the growth of women in rugby is a key strategic priority there has been increases in areas such as coaching, competitions, profile and leadership. Whilst the return to play has been challenging in many countries what has been exciting is the focus on lifting the profile of women in rugby both at a leadership level and the rise of the global “Unstoppables”. With the announcement this month of a new global calendar and the launch of a new 16 team three tiered annual competition called WXV the landscape for the future is incredibly positive. During this period we have taken the opportunity to work with unions to think big about how to take the women’s game to the next level.
What are you hopeful for in 2021?
I have been incredibly fortunate this year to be back in New Zealand for an extended period for work which has enabled me to spend quality time with family and friends. But with working Dublin hours on zoom calls till early hours in the morning most nights it’s time to journey back to Ireland. This year from a work perspective despite the RWC 2021 postponement is looking like a huge year. We are at the halfway mark of the eight year plan and it’s time to take stock and look at what have been the big wins, what impact have they had and where do we need to focus more investment and resources going forward. We are on a journey to normalise women’s involvement in rugby on and off the field and we are making inroads but have still much to do. On a personal perspective, I’m looking forward to vaccinations rolling out, borders opening and life for many returning to some sort of normal state where people can embrace their family and friends and meet for a coffee or glass of wine in a pub. For a rest of the world to experience living like it is in New Zealand again.
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When Kea revealed the potential number and calibre of returning Kiwi expats last year, it caused a sensation among commentators and journalists, who asked; “If that many talented Kiwis return, what could that mean for our nation?”
With the global landscape continuing to evolve, Kea is looking to build on this initial report with the Kea Future Aspirations Survey, intending to flesh out more important detail on our Kiwi explorers, and establish what may be changing for this valuable offshore network.
The Kea Future Aspirations Survey seeks to:
- Understand how world events, including the vaccine roll out, are impacting exploring Kiwi. Are external influences altering their decision to return home, their timeline, and how they feel living away from New Zealand at this critical time
- Provide an updated view on Kiwi talent around the world, including those looking to return home, what barriers they face and what they might need to thrive
- Gather the ideas and aspirations exploring Kiwi have to help leverage the current positive global awareness of New Zealand, and how they feel they can best contribute to our nation’s recovery, wherever they choose to reside
“Last September we were delighted that 15,000 Kiwi from around the globe took the time to complete our ‘Welcome Home’ survey, giving New Zealand an essential dataset during a unique moment in time,” says Kea chief executive officer, Toni Truslove.
“This survey showed that a significant number of talented Kiwi were planning to come home in the next two years.
“Six months on, we want to understand what might be changing for them. Will they still return and bring their talent, their families and their investment, or will they choose to stay offshore, and what factors could influence that decision. If they do choose to stay offshore how can we still enable them to effectively contribute to New Zealand’s success as a united population? ” Truslove asks.
“The number of Kiwi expats residing offshore is roughly the same size as the population of the South Island. As border restrictions ease over the next 12 months, the decisions these New Zealanders make could have a huge impact on our workforce, our regional communities and our aspirations for the nation,” she said.
Founded in 2001, Kea nurtures a diverse and vibrant community of Kiwis and friends of New Zealand, with members all across the globe and operations in Auckland, London, New York and Beijing. Kea’s mission is to enable better understanding of our exploring Kiwi through goodwill and connection for the benefit of New Zealand.
“Kea is uniquely able to reach and connect with a very large and broad group of expats, including those planning to return to New Zealand,” says Truslove.
“All Kiwi, no matter where they are in the world, are important to New Zealand’s success. We are asking New Zealanders to forward the survey to Kiwi family and friends abroad and invite them to take a few minutes to complete the survey, and to get involved!” she said.
The Kea Future Aspirations Survey has been commissioned by Kea, with research and analysis by leading research agency TRA. The initial report is expected before the end of June.
If you’re a Kea community member, check your inbox for your exclusive link.
If you’re new to Kea, join to tell us where you’re at and to be first to hear the results.
Key findings from the Welcome Home Survey released 9th November, 2020
- Over 15,000 people completed the survey, from regions including the UK, Australia, US and Canada
- 49% are planning to return, with half of those planning to arrive within the next two years
- 75% of those intending to return plan to stay permanently
- 75% of respondents have been away for 5+ years, and are primarily aged between 35 and 54
See the ‘Unleashing the Potential of our Returning Kiwis’ report here
For more information contact:
Kea Communications Representative: Ele Quigan 027 773 7779 [email protected]
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New Zealand has the second largest offshore community per capita in the OECD. Kea was founded in 2001 to connect and engage our global people, for the benefit of Aotearoa.
Two decades on, Kea nurtures a vibrant and diverse community who share a strong passion for New Zealand and the success of its people and businesses.
Our mission to connect New Zealanders has never been more important.
The UK has the second largest B Corp Community in the world, with over 430 B Corps (and counting) representing 48 industries and over 22,000 employees, with combined revenue of £4.3 billion. Additionally, Europe currently has over 600 registered B Corp members.
The B Corp movement is gaining traction in New Zealand as well, and is an exciting opportunity for Kiwi businesses and exports to strengthen their global footprint amongst this dedicated community.
Joining the B Corp movement also has proven business benefits, with employees of B Corp businesses 46 percent more likely to report being satisfied and engaged. Furthermore, the B Corp movement is reflective of public sentiment in the UK, with 72 percent of the public believing that businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people, alongside maximising profits.
There is a huge opportunity for New Zealand businesses to tap into the UK market through B Corp certification. Assessment is free, all you need to do is pay an annual certification fee and re-certify every three years. As an increasing number of companies look to balance people, profit and the planet, a B Corp certification is a huge opportunity for Kiwi businesses to gain exposure in export markets as this business practice grows in traction across the world.
The island’s (Hainan) offshore duty-free sales are likely to exceed 60 billion yuan ($9.15 billion NZD) in 2021, up from 30 billion yuan last year. The categories of duty-free goods have also been expanded from 38 to 45. This is a good chance for high priced New Zealand products to access the China market and seize the momentum.
As part of the Hainan project in Lingshui, one of the key zones in Hainan’s Free Trade Port, workers have been in a race against time to prepare a education campus as part of a pilot area for a new model of international education. So far 16 prestigious universities from China and overseas, including Coventry University from the United Kingdom and the University of Alberta in Canada, have decided to host education programs at the campus.
The Hainan FTP is pushing itself to become one of the world’s top places for international education. New Zealand’s education providers will benefit from exploring this opportunity. Even private institutions such as outdoor sport academies (eg. golf and surfing) could be in great demand in the future.
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