SAP Community Cares

Thursday, January 24, 2008

8 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Me

When tapped to share “8 things you probably didn’t know about” James Farrar he noted that blogging is quite the “exhibitionist” activity. Much of my blogging experience these past years has been more in audience capacity; a vicarious blog explorer, rather than an active onstage character. Vicarious means I observe certain events by “imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experiences of another”.

Others’ blogs expose me to great examples of: storytelling, journalism, innovation and when done expertly well, art. While exploring, I’m often wondering what it would be like to write as prolifically or as creatively or as knowledgeably as the bloggers whose contents I follow. Fair, although hardly shy, I do feel a bit the wallflower while the nimble waltz me by with dizzyingly and dazzlingly clever insights, observations, perceptions and opinions.

I’ve imagined what I would write on the off-chance that someone might tag me for the “8 things you probably don’t know about me” meme. But I was caught off guard (gobsmacked as the brits would say) when I happened upon my name in James’ blog: the Wisdom of Clouds. It’s like someone asked the ungainly girl at the school party to dance to be nice. Thanks James.

Eight is a lot. I’ll start chronologically.

1. When I was 4, my sister was born on my birthday. For years afterwards I assumed that all families had that same arrangement, meaning siblings who were not twins also shared a common birthday. The realization that my belief system was faulty was very traumatic.

2. When I was about 8 years old, I separated from my parents while on board the Sternwheeler (steamboat) called the "The American". We were visiting an ill-fated and short-lived amusement park in the Bronx (New York) called: Freedomland U.S.A. There is a certain irony to all this. The year was 1960 and the civil rights movement was coming into its own with the Greensboro Four staging a peaceful sit-in at Woolworth’s in North Carolina, breaking down the segregation walls in the south. Back on the steamboat, my parents found me quickly. I was staging my own sit-in of sorts, in the steamship’s bandstand. There they found me sitting entranced on a trumpet player’s lap. His name: Louie Armstrong. I’ve always loved his voice and music.

3. When I was 10 I decided to have a “penny fair” and created an amusement park in my yard. I gathered $5.57 cents from all of our neighborhood children (a great many pennies). Although rather pleased with my entrepreneurial success, I wound up donating the money to a school for mentally handicapped children. The principal sent me and the neighborhood children a very nice thank you letter.

4. When I was 16 I discovered that although my sister and I shared the same birth date, it wasn’t the one recorded in our birth certificates. My mom had changed them both by a few days to give us the opportunity of starting kindergarten early. I think it was a shocking revelation that documents could be misleading or doctored.

5. At 20 I took a road trip across the US. It was the summer of ’74 and in California, after a day of many driving mishaps; I got pulled over by the police. I had gotten a ticket earlier that day for speeding on the freeway. While paying my speeding ticket, I parked in a no-parking zone. I then proceeded to run a stop sign. It was a bad-hair driving day.When I saw the flashing lights in the rear-view mirror I was baffled. Couldn’t think of a single additional infraction I might have committed other than the fact that our car was a real jalopy with only one workable door, totally dust-covered and we (my future husband and I) looked a bit like ’70’s hippies after our 6 weeks on the road. I roll down my window (I’m the driver) and ask: “yes officer?”, failing to notice the growing number of squad cars accumulating behind us. The policeman looks oddly tense. “Did you hear about the bank robbery?”, says he. “Oh sure”, says I., “I’m Bonnie and this” (pointing to my future husband) “is Clyde”. The policemen weren’t particularly amused as they pulled me out of the car thinking I was the fugitive kidnapped newspaper heiress turned militant, Patty Hearst .

6. I studied theater directing in the Tel Aviv University drama department. In 1979 I turned down an invitation by the national theater to assistant direct and work with theater luminary Joseph Chaiken on “The Dybbuk”. What we do for love. I was expecting my first child.

7. In the early eighties, before “Glastnost” and the subsequent transparency policies of Gorbachev, I went on a small mission to meet with prisoners of conscience and human rights activists in a number of cities in the Ukraine and found myself and travel partner “interviewed” by the KGB concerning our activities in each city. I think I’m a “persona non grata” in the former Soviet Union.

8. In the middle nineties started a grassroots movement of citizens concerned about environmental hazards and the rights of local residents and was invited to speak in the Israeli Parliament, together with my Bedouin neighbors.

Now, grannimari is quietly and sedately working as an online community evangelist for the Business Process Expert Community. And looking to the community members who inspire and challenge her thinking. In that spirit of letting no good deed go unpunished, I’ll tag: Jim Spath , Eddy De Clercq , Jen Robinson, Thomas Ritter, Dick Hirsch and Ram Tiwari

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chendamangalam - My kind of Shangri-La

November 24, 2007

Two days before the start of SAP TechEd Bangalore '07 we set out to visit Cochin in Kerla. From my scant knowledge of the history of this coastal town, we would find an amalgam of culture; Cochin having been home during various periods of history to Chinese settlers, the Portuguese, Dutch and English. We went to the bay to see the Chinese fishing nets and fisherman, learned from them of the inability to make a living from this activity beyond being a tourist attraction, visited a spice factory, tried unsuccessfully to book a homestay in the house where Vasco DaGama ended his days and took a cab out to the nearby village of Chendamangalam, which we had heard was home to four major houses of worship and disparate communities living side by side.

"The hillocks at Kottayil Kovilakom are unique as the site of a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all within 1 km of each other." (Wikipedia)

"A popular account goes that the town of Chennamangalam was planned ... by a liberal and tolerant Maharajah who wished to have four major religious faiths equally represented in town. He designated a site on each of the cardinal points for the construction of a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, a Hindu temple, and a Muslim mosque. At the crossing of the axis, so the tale continues, was the palace for his minister set on a hill."

Truth or fiction aside, we visited 3 of these sites and were warmly greeted by parishioners in two of the places where we found activity: the mosque and the Hindu temple. The synagogue was recently reconstructed but its worshipers were long departed and unfortunately we did not see the church.

I was particularly uplifted by the fact that these communities had for all intents and purposes, managed to exist side by side despite the religious strife and discord found in many other places in the world at the exact time that these house of worship were erected.

A ray of hope for the possiblity of peaceful co-existence...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Beyond holiday - putting a little "community care" in the luggage

Just as I was putting finishing touches on my personal end-of-2007 vacation itinerary and finalizing SAP TechEd '07 Bangalore plans, I met with James Farrar, who is VP of Corporate Citizenship at SAP and author of the sustainability and CSR blog: Wisdom of Clouds. This coincided with a growing interest of the SAP community members in such matters and plans for the launch of a new area under the Business Process Expert Community called Corporate Social Responsibility.

I was very excited about the inauguration of the website: SAPfeedingknowledge and our SAP Community initiative to help provide "Food for Points".
But here I was ending the 2007 year with personal plans for a full month's break/vacation itinerary and the longest hiatus ever from my engagements with the SAP SDN and BPX community....or was it to be so? Was I to be a voyeur or an emissary in my travels, or a bit of both.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2007, my 16-year old son, Dahn and I set out for Bangalore with further plans for Cochin, Madurai, Vietnam and Cambodia. Upon arriving in Bangalore, we had arranged to link up with my dear friend of (gasp) 35 years, Naomi Tocher. Naomi is a Kiwi who, ever since we met volunteering together on a kibbutz in Israel those many years ago, has dedicated her life to working in social services and of late heads support services for interpreters and translators in New Zealand. Naomi, Dahn and I had been formulating our travel plans together. Naomi had almost apologetically suggested we detour a bit from the usual tourist stuff and get to interface with locals. She had many personal contacts from within the Cambodian and Vietnamese refugee resources she worked with, and so was able to broker some "home stays". She also raised the possibility of our visiting a Children's home outside of Madurai and perhaps a rehabilitation hospital in Cambodia and made the tentative arrangements.

We agreed, never guessing how the worlds of exotic adventure travel and a more humanitarian and human set of experiences would coincide.

What follows are some journal notes from one of the most intriguing, disturbing, inspiring and moving trips I have ever had the privilege of taking. And truly, thanks to all those that contributed to this enriching journey: family, friends, work colleagues and the SAP Community, which in this hyper-connected world of ours is also a combination of all those entities.Especial thanks to the generous, brave, kind and helpful people of all those places we visited. I hope to tell some of your stories.

December 1st, 2007

We call the Illam "Children's Home" (orphanage) in Nilakottai near Madurai and ask if we can visit and what we can bring. School supplies? Books? They modestly say fruit. So armed with the only shopping bag at our disposal we head off for the market to buy 70 kilos, one for each child we visit.

We are greeted by Mr Khader, the head master of the school. We are welcomed and introduced in the most delightful way. You can see more photos of our day with the students here.
Everything resonated goodness. The foundation DHAN associated with the school has a microfinance program at work helping empower women in the community. The school absolutely indoctrinates the children with the goals of professional achievement. And these children, many of whose families, if they have any, are so destitute that they cannot afford to have them schooled, are also imbued with a pay-it-forward education. Each child successfully completing this program has vowed to help another child achieve those goals as well.
And if I understand it correctly, this whole project started through an individual's vision and dream. Her name is Jean Watson, and she is a 74-year-old Wellingtonian (New Zealander) who spends some of her time with her community in India. I've just finished speaking with her by phone in Wellington and thanking her for the gift she unwittingly gave us as well. As I write this, my friend Naomi shares her correspondance with Jean.
Naomi writes to Jean:
"We received a beautiful welcome from the children, Gero, some teachers and Mr.Kadher. After a traditional welcome, the children danced for us, showed us around their home and talked with us. We sang them a song and began to teach it to them. We had a scrumptious lunch - the cook is a real find. We also visited the lush garden at the back of the Ilam and learnt of your future plans for it.
I promised to bring back love to you from everyone at the Illam and let you know about the visit. They talk about you all the time and are looking forward to you being back with them.Jean, you are a real inspiration. I am so impressed by your foresight and your commitment to follow through on your vision. And what a satisfying result it must be to have a houseful of such lively, happy and talented children. I am particularly impressed by the encouragement given to each child to be successful in their life, and even more by the "obligation" that they will help another child."

Genromani volunteers as a teacher and Mr. Khader encourages the students who engage with us, to share with us some of their dreams and aspirations: computer engineers, teachers, health-care givers abound in the breathless and excited gaggle of grins and curiosity about us. These kids have lofty goals. And they make us believe they will attain them. We came to bring gifts. The truth is we received them. Amazing what ordinary people can do....feeding knowledge.