Two weeks ago I got a call that the university was willing to sponsor me to go to the 2008 National Youth Diversity Forum in Auckland. The theme of this year’s forum was “Finding Common Ground”. I was pretty nervous, but I figured if they were willing to pay I was obliged to take such a great opportunity. I’m not really a forum person. I don’t give speeches, I don’t keep abreast of politics, I don’t… I’m just not a forum person. So I was pretty nervous.
In the end it was pretty awesome! I’m really glad my friend Joe from uni was able to come too, so I didn’t have to be there by myself >..< But we met heaps of awesome people (most of whom were a lot younger than I expected!) and it was really interesting to meet them in that context, where we could talk openly about issues relating to diversity.
Plus we had fun. Sssssh.
The culmination of the forum was to present the 2008 “Youth Challenge” to the Plenary forum. I still don’t know what “plenary” means, and since the Prime Minister left as soon as we’d pimped the report they wanted us to read out I felt like our slot was a filler and we were the token “young people”. Didn’t feel good.
But the hosts of the event – Marama, the folks at the MIT marae, MCs Ronji and “Nolz” – were so nice and took us seriously. In a real genuine way. And I’m really grateful for that. I had a great weekend and learned a lot. Something I really appreciated was the way they supported each of us, and we were not asked or pressured to do anything that we didn’t feel comfortable doing. Each of the leaders really respected us and really cared that we were represented honestly and not used.
One of the trips we went on as part of the forum was to the 佛光山 Fo Guang Shan Buddist temple. It was really amazing – a huge complex with impressive shrines, teaching facilities, dining halls, tea cafe, and beautiful gardens. The whole site took 4 years and $33 million to complete, and is the largest Buddist temple in the southern hemisphere.
We had guides to show us round – professional Chinese styles, complete with handless mics. It was really interesting hearing them explain about the Tang dynasty architecture and features of the tmeple as well as the traditions observed there and significance of certain areas and customs.
I loved the statues of “novices” around the inner courtyard, they were so cute! And while we were there a small of group Chinese kids finished class and ran home with their schoolbags across the courtyard and out the front entrance. I had a moment where I was really happy ‘cos I could imagine these kids looking back on those classes in 10 years time the same way I look back on my Girls Brigade meetings. It was like looking at the perpetuation of Chinese culture in New Zealand. I just found in really hopeful.
It was really amazing to visit that place, and especially interesting to discuss the experience afterwards as a group who had entered the temple from a variety of backgrounds.
I wanna thank everyone who was there, “delegates” and leaders. It was a great experience.