For most of his life Brian has worked for development agencies and in developing countries. After graduating from Lincoln in 1959 and gaining an MA 38 years later Brian is still learning how best to apply himself but has reached a point where it seems important to reflect on what has happened so far.
Is there ever a point, when we are young, when we know what we want to do in life? Do we choose jobs or do jobs choose us? Do we just morph from one thing into another? Do we just hope to be somewhere else in the future to where we are now? Is there a pivot point out there somewhere when we suddenly realise that this is the path we want to be on?
I’m not sure what the pivotal moment was for me, or when it happened. All I know is that it did happen — because I have ended up doing what interests and satisfies me most.
Maybe it was my geography teacher at school, a very good communicator, a returned serviceman from WW II who made the subject interesting. Amongst other things we learnt about significant river basins of the World - the Yangtse, the Mississippi, the Danube and the Po River valley in Italy. Maybe he had been to some of those places and could make them seem real. I know I decided I wanted to see those distant and interesting places. Maybe that was the first step onto my path.
Or maybe it was a chance meeting on a bus once when I sat alongside a stranger who turned out to be Charles Wright, a New Zealand soil scientist, who was living and working in Chile. He told me about his life there and how his work helped the Chileans achieve what they wanted to do. I wanted to go there and do the same sort of thing.
I had trained to become a farm adviser for the Department of Agriculture; was stationed in Dargaville, and maybe it was there I realised that it wasn’t the farming technology and business management skills I had learned at Lincoln, as such, that excited me, but it was the way these were just instruments to help bring about social and economic change in the lives of farmers, their families and their communities. To help them achieve what they wanted — that was the nub of it all.
I was lucky enough to be sent to the UK to study their advisory service to see how we in New Zealand could benefit from their experience, and on the way back to NZ was diverted by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate some requests for development assistance in Uganda and Zambia. Maybe it was then that I became interested in other cultures and the sort of help that could be offered. Maybe it was standing at the source of the Nile in Uganda contemplating what could become a viable “New Zealand project”, and the challenges I would face personally if I were to become involved that convinced me.
Maybe it was……………….?
All I know is that I have had forty years of living and working within societies and alongside interesting people in situations as diverse as the Peruvian altiplano, the mountains and lakes of Chile, Pacific island atolls such as Kiribati, The Philippines, the steppes of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, the savannah lands of Tanzania and in Nepal, Lesotho, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I have been challenged to the edges of my professional and personal capacities in ways I would never have thought possible at home. It has been exciting, all absorbing and completely satisfying. It’s disappointing that age brings an end to such things.
I would urge others to search for their pivotal moments, and I wish them well.
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