We are home and it feels great to be back in Moray.
I might be sending you this, because you have shown an interest and have been supportive during my recent exploration into the work of CPT. Writing this will also hopefully help me to begin to process the month of training in Amman.
By embarking on CPT training I hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the work and discern whether joining a CPT team was for me.
Participating in CPT training was not without some personal challenges. As you know, the preceding months had been fraught. The deaths of my Mum, Step Dad and Brother in Law as well as other major life and family events meant that I had low emotional reserves. Self care during the weeks leading up to and during training was a priority.
The group comprised 13 trainees, four trainers and care support. We travelled to Amman from Holland, Canada, USA, Palestine, Ireland and UK. We lived in shared apartments. Owen and I shared with Melissa from the US who is the newly appointed Care Coordinator for CPT and Erin from Canada. We named our home, ‘The Dungeon Apartment’ because it was the darkest accommodation, being on the ground floor, it had bars at the windows and shutters that blocked out any daylight. It was small and airless, but a comfortable space and we really enjoyed each other’s company. The washing machine didn’t work, so we bought a large bucket. Other than a blocked drain causing a flood in the kitchen and Owen sticking his hand down the drain to clear the stinky sludge, we had no issues.
We took it in turns to shop and cook and all felt the burden of this task at the end of our long days in training.
Each day, we left the dark apartment at 7.30am, put on our sunglasses and took a taxi to the training centre about four miles away. The group convened for a reflection at 8am and we each took it in turns to lead this time together. Some reflections were longer than others, some more engaging. Training was four hours in the morning and three in the afternoon, with a two hour lunch break for working on any assignments and rest. We had a rota for lunch prep and ate a lot of hummus and pitta bread. We had a closing circle at the end of each day, followed by daily tasks such as mopping floors and cleaning toilets. We usually left the training centre around 6.30pm. Owen and I often walked back to the apartment which took an hour and a quarter, including a ritual ice cream stop!
Being part of an intentional community was an intense experience. Meeting strangers and walking with them whilst they also walked with me felt risky. At times, I felt vulnerable and fragile in the space we created together.
Long hot days in an enclosed environment, the constant sound of traffic through the open window, a constant reminder that people continue their everyday lives whilst I have been able to take time out of mine. I am reminded of my privilege to have a home and the freedom to return to it.
Two weeks in, I had started to form a new identity, changing the way I saw myself and the world around me. By involving myself in consciousness-raising dialogues, questions arose like, ‘how can I improve and be a useful tool in a world where hopelessness and injustice are rife?’ ‘What, if anything, do I have to offer a CPT team?’. Gaining invaluable insights into the values of CPT was really thought provoking and helpful. Just in case you’re still not sure, CPT are a human rights organisation committed to building partnerships that transform violence and oppression. Their routes grew from a pacifist Mennonite tradition, recognising the need for a more assertive but still non violent resistance to systemic oppressions. CPT reflects presence, spirituality and faith and strengthens grassroots initiatives.
CPT have teams working alongside communities in Iraqi Kurdistan, Canada, Colombia, and palestine where indigenous people are having their land, homes and livelihoods destroyed by the state and corporate powers.There is also a team on the Greek island of Lesvos, where 10,000 migrants live in the refugee camps.
I was reminded that I am part of an oppressive system and I also carry oppressive attitudes and beliefs. I’m also reminded of some distant and recent personal hurts caused by oppressions in my family. This was, at times, painful to carry and process.
At times, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the content of the sessions. Some complex issues were presented to us and I was intellectually challenged. I found the training room a difficult learning environment. The background noise of traffic, air conditioning and the wide variety of people’s vocal expressions, together with the limits of my tonal hearing at times felt too much to process. The pace of the sessions seemed to move quickly for me and I felt I was constantly playing catch up. Still processing the previous day whilst trying to grasp new information and ideas. I hung on in there.
It is true, I experienced death by:
PowerPoint, group work, role play, feedback, singing, light and livelies, poor skype connections to CPT in other parts of the world and all things being awesome most of the time and ate far too much hummus, lentils and ice cream.
You might be wondering, whether this training prepared me for CPT fieldwork and what on earth we did for an entire month? My answer is both yes and no and it will take a while to process all that we did. We were invited to go inside ourselves and be transformed. This was a profoundly individual journey in a shared space and I engaged as fully as I felt able to. I think the long intense days were to test our stamina for team life and we both coped well.
We were given three full days off and some of us took a long day trip to Petra and Wadi Rum which was well worth the effort. On another day, we booked a hotel with a swimming pool which was luxurious.
I stepped up to the training and stepped out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions during the month. I surprised myself and Owen, by discovering I had a bit of a hidden talent for acting and public speaking. My closing speech was chosen as a best example and much to my discomfort, I had to do an encore! All good confidence building stuff as I received so much praise and encouragement which felt so good.
This is a list of some of topics we covered during the month. We looked at our own spirituality, fears and core values, public witness, civil disobedience, de-escalation and nonviolent direct action, photography, public speaking, report writing, videography, social media, facilitation skills, consensus decision making. Undoing oppression, sexism, privilege, racism, LGBTQPIA terminology, single stories, microaggressions, sexual harassment. Personal styles and excess (Gilmour Freighley), music as a tool of nonviolence, conflict transformation and frameworks, nonviolent communication. Self-care, trauma. Public speaking, fundraising, CPT policies. Working with partners, human rights documentation, project briefings, truth telling, detention and arrest, death kidnap and torture, security personnel, lethal and non-lethal weapons, white supremacy and cultural appropriation.
Whilst I didn’t always agree with all that the trainers said and did, on balance, they delivered a very good programme and held the space, in what was a challenging environment, away from their usual training base in Chicago. They had some difficult decisions to make and not everyone completed the training or was invited to become a member of CPT.
Endurance test, learning curve or enjoyable experience? All of these, yes. And It is my hope that by participating in this training, I can continue to make some small differences in the fight against oppression in this world. At some point in the future, I’m hoping to carry out some work in the CPT field, but for the time being, I hope to continue reflecting and enjoying our home, making new connections and welcoming many visitors!
With love and in peace,