Vicky Collins Online

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Favorite Friends I’ve Never Met

Several of my friends and even my family think social networking is a waste of time.  They won’t Facebook, Twitter or read blogs and can’t really understand what I get from it.  I’ve found the most vehement opposition from my tango dancing mother and my friends who are cyclists.  These are not ladies who exercise casually, but rather women who compete on the dance floor, do 100 mile bike rides in the Rockies and think it’s fun to race up Mt. Diablo in Northern California.  Their buff bodies speak to their passion.  My flying fingers speak to mine.  They are my bricks and mortar relationships.  But because of social networking I have a new circle of virtual friends who I enjoy and respect, even though we have never met or for that matter, may never meet. 

First there is Susan MacCaulay.  She is a Canadian living in Dubai.  I stumbled across her website Amazing Women Rock (http://amazingwomenrock.com) when it was quite new.  What seems to have started out as a place to go for moderate Muslim women has morphed into something much larger and universal.  She is a champion of women around the world and has a large following now.  The first thing you notice about her is her passion for pink, her platinum blonde hair and her trendy get ups.  On one occasion she turned the camera on herself in a Riyadh hotel room and talked about how strange it was being a woman on a road trip to Saudi Arabia.  Then she posted it on YouTube and endured the threats from those who felt they were disrespected.  She has an elderly and opinionated mother who she adores somewhere back in Canada who reminds me of David Lettermen’s mom.  I am such a fan of hers I even contemplated a trip to Africa through Dubai just so I could meet her.  She hollers about injustice towards women and celebrates their achievements.  Susan rocks! 

Second is Dr. Qanta Ahmed.  She is a striking British national whose family came from Pakistan.  What’s interesting about virtual friendships is you often forget what brought you into someone’s universe.  I think I crossed her path doing research on a story for HDNet’s World Report but I’m not sure.  She had written an article about her transformative relationship with a rabbi who made her fall in love with Judaism while she lived in Charleston, South Carolina.  The irony came at the end when you found out she was a Muslim.  She is one of the most articulate voices for connection between people of all faiths.  She told me about her book “In The Land of Invisible Women.”  I ran out to buy it.  She wrote about the time when she couldn’t renew her visa in the United States and had to leave the country even though she was a doctor practicing medicine.  She moved for two years to Saudi Arabia and tells the story of the culture shock for a professional woman under the kingdom’s repressive laws.  Even so, she had a remarkable journey, had great stories about Riyadh and the Hajj, and got in touch with her Muslim faith.  I was stunned by her writing ability.  She has an amazing eye for detail and there was an extraordinary richness in her voice.  I still don’t know how she finds time to practice medicine with so much social networking.       

Third is my filmmaking friend, Zippy (is that the greatest name or what?) Nyaruri.  I met her via email when I needed a fixer for a story on the monetization of food aid in Kenya.  A fixer is a producer on the ground in a foreign country who helps set up a story and takes care of arrangements.  Without a fixer it is next to impossible to handle all the logistics and relationships.  Our story fell through but we have kept in touch through Facebook.  Through Zippy I see Africa.  When I first was introduced to her she was bouncing back and forth between Kampala and Nairobi.  Now she lives in Capetown, South Africa and recently she posted pictures of herself in Namibia.  She is developing a documentary about one of the few women truck drivers in Africa.  She introduced us to a fellow filmmaker named Godwin Opuly who runs sound and second camera for us when we are doing video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  Even though I have never met Zippy, when I considered visiting Capetown for the FIFA World Cup, she invited me to stay in her home.

Fourth is Caroline Jones.  She actually found me when she saw a story I produced about an acid attack victim called Juliette.  She was so moved she asked if she could use a photograph of her as the foundation for a painting.  Caroline’s ambition is to help others through art.  Her inspirations are women facing obstacles and the book “Half the Sky” by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  Caroline has created a body of work she calls Nguvu http://nguvu.artworkfolio.com.  Nguvu means strength in Swahili and her exhibit is this August in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She will donate 50% of the sale from each work to the organization selected by the photographer.  She also builds boats, has a daughter and is a vegan who blogs about tasty recipes for other vegans.  That’s all I know about her.

Finally there is Karen Daniel.  She is a freelance television producer just like me who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She’s loves NASCAR and drives a truck.  She idolizes Dolly Parton and Linda Ellerbee.  She is the kind of person that you recommend even if you don’t know them because you know she gets it.  She’s been described as fearless and like me she wished she moved to New York City right out of college.  She has grey hair and the last time we chatted I told her that models dye their hair grey now.  It’s the new hip thing.  We also have a mutual acquaintance.  I met Ashton Ramsey trying to book Neil Wanless for the Today Show.  He’s the impoverished young cowboy who won a 200+ million dollar lottery in Winner, South Dakota.  Talk about a small world.  Both Ashton and I know Karen Daniel.  Once again, I can’t recall how it came up but imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a small town bar and we both know my virtual friend.

Of course my virtual friendships aren’t anything like the ones I have with those who I grew up with, break bread with, go to book club with, and take Sunday walks with.  Those are the lasting friendships of my life.  But my virtual friendships are enriching my life and broadening my circle and I’m learning and pondering things that I never would have considered if I weren’t running across these amazing women around the world.  My college friend, Margaret Hoeveler’s mother, Griff, used to say at the end of the day you can count your true friends on one hand.  I think that’s wise but I also have a circle of special social networking friends I can count on one hand and they assure me the energy I spend doing this is not a waste of time.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

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The Faith Club

I’ve spent the last two days in temple celebrating Rosh Hashanah but for some reason this year I’m not feeling it.  Perhaps it’s because I only show up for the high holidays and each year it’s the same story of Isaac and Abraham and Hannah and Peninah.  My Jewish experience is so limited.  Rabbi Mo is at the top of his game with sermons about living in the moment and about coming home to family.  I hoped my 15 year old grasped his lesson about how everything you do affects those around you.  But still the year 5770 is not stirring me like Days of Awe in the last few years.  So I decided to do something different.  My friend Kathy, suggested I read the book “The Faith Club” so during these 1o days I’m reading it and really thinking about how I feel about religion.  My friend Susan MacCaulay who has a website called “Amazing Women Rock(http://amazingwomenrock.com) out of Dubai said she’d link to my musings. 

“The Faith Club” is a book written by three women, Ranya Idliby who is Muslim, Suzanne Oliver who is Christian and Priscilla Warner who is Jewish.  It is a very honest recount of their meetings over time and their exploration of what unites and divides them.  I love this book for its candor.  The women are fearless in their desire to confront each other and grow in interfaith friendship and understanding.  They beat down stereotypes and shared controversial points of view.  We are told never to talk about religion but they did and it was transcendent.  As I write this I’m only on page 80.  I have lots to read but I’m inspired to write and search for greater understanding. 

On the way back from temple today my son Kyle and I were arguing.  Why was I wasting his time making him go?  Why can’t we go to the temple by our house where his friends go?  For that matter why can’t he just be Christian?  I feel a great connection to Israel and the Jewish culture but I’m finding it difficult to pass it along to my children.  I was never raised Jewish because my father suffered too much during the Holocaust.  His parents were killed in the concentration camps.  I came back to my heritage and to Judaism when I became a mother.  I didn’t want my children to grow up in a vacuum.  My father tried to talk me out of it because he felt I would be persecuted.  My parents went a long ways to spare me the pain of being Jewish in what they perceived was an anti-semitic world.  They sent me to an Episcopal School and I sang in a Catholic choir.  To this day I love the traditions of the Catholic Church and in some ways I envy born again Christians for the way their faith fills them and for their one way certainty.  At the same time my Jesus envy ends when my kids say “come Lord Jesus be our guest” at the dinner table every time my Lutheran in-laws come to visit or when there is so much hate and dogmatic thinking in the name of religion.  What would Jesus do?  Certainly not kill doctors at abortion clinics.  I don’t believe there is just one way and all religious zealots make me want to scream.  Why can’t we all just get along?

I will continue to blog on this subject as I read the book.  It is my project during these Jewish holidays.  I wish I had a faith club to help me process this so perhaps if anyone reads my blog we can dialogue and learn more about each other’s faiths.  I wish for the courage the women in “The Faith Club” have to speak openly and honestly and I would love to find like minded people who would enjoy sharing their journeys as well.  I’m just getting to the portion of the book where Ranya speaks of the difficulties in being Muslim in America.  Tonight in Denver, Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, were arrested as part of an ongoing terror investigation.  I’m sure it’s making a moderate Muslim like Ranya cringe.  Fear and misunderstanding.  As all faiths go through the year we need more to unite us rather than divide us. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.