IPU New Zealand faculty chapbook unites people with shared experiences
Offshore is a recently-published collection of short stories, artworks and poems from almost a dozen IPU New Zealand academic staff, the inspiration for which came about during last year’s COVID lock-down, when international travel was first halted, and thoughts of distant lands, where friends and families still lived, helped light those dark days and nights, therefore it’s appropriate to read these reflections now we are in a position where New Zealand’s international borders are beginning to, slowly, but surely, open again.
The chapbook Offshore succeeds a prior previous publication (Life Without Touching, 2020) which focused on faculty’s creative responses to lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic. On that occasion, two writers and one painter from IPU New Zealand mobilized a range of texts that generally resonated with feelings of isolation, fear, and disjuncture. Offshore marked a change of tone in two respects: first, the dominant thematic elements were nostalgia and reflection – with contributors being asked to ponder questions of belonging and separation from their origin countries and cultures; second, the call for papers (poems, stories, essays, illustrations, etc.) was opened up to include any and all of IPU New Zealand’s diverse faculty members. Offshore speaks, thus, to personal notions of absence, presence, distance, and the yearning to be reunited with one’s past – a yearning that, we all know, will never be met but that, throughout life, will constantly be sought.
You may know the quote: “They say travel broadens the mind”, and it’s true, but did you know the next part? It’s “but you must have the mind”, and it came from the pen, and mind, of G. K. Chesterton. The same could be applied to reading, although I also remember the section in Reader’s Digest, “It Pays to Increase your Word Power, and this collection will certainly achieve both of these objectives, as it gently guides you through the traveller’s tales of lives spent in other countries, and in many cases, why the author’s journeys around the world have led to Palmerston North, and this Land of the Long White Cloud, seemingly adrift in the South Pacific.
Dr Hayati Abdul-Jalal, who contributed one of the stories to Offshore, saw it as a way of expressing her homesickness for Malaysia, and the friends and family she left behind: “My family and I are very happy to live in New Zealand, however we would like the chance to visit Malaysia, but until it’s safe, and possible, to do so, I saw writing this story as a way of not forgetting my homeland, and more importantly, who I am”.
Dr Junko Yamamoto wrote about her experiences of living in Japan, Australia and Korea, before settling in Palmerston North, describing it as a cathartic experience, one where she used her contribution to Offshore as a “Method of self-reflection, a way of providing feedback to yourself, and using it as a way of establishing what she has achieved, and to help plan for the future”. Dr Yamamoto added it was the first time she had been involved with such a project, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
Full of gems, all neatly presented in bite-sized morsels, Offshore is perfect for picking up when you have a quiet five minutes, and then putting down again when today’s pace of life reminds you there are other more pressing needs, but we should never forget the joy of reading, and more importantly taking your time, and if you’d like to get back into the habit, well, Offshore, is an eminently suitable place to start.