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Columns : Robbin's Nest - Robbin Whachell Last Updated: Dec 7, 2018 - 1:48:46 PM

My Pecha Kucha Experience...
By Robbin Whachell, Editor, The Bahamas Weekly
Mar 14, 2013 - 11:45:11 AM

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Robbin Whachell speaking at PKN Night in Coquitlam, BC at the Evergreen Cultural Center on Valentine's Day 2013. Photo: Jacqueline Whachell

'Pecha what?' I remembered thinking... I was contacted via Facebook by a new friend, David Pachulko who lives in the same city here in Canada.  "You seem to have a lot to say," he said, "I think you'd be perfect to speak at this event".
And so it began.

PechaKucha or Pecha Kucha (Japanese: chit-chat) is a presentation methodology in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total - timed - you cannot pause). The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events called PechaKuchaNights (PKNs) or Pecha Kucha Nights.

I signed up for the challenge after speaking with the event organizer from Arts Connect.  What was so easy to commit to, turned out to be an experience I had no idea would end up being so challenging.

Whenever I am asked to speak publicly I go through all sorts of thoughts (fears) like, Me? What do I have to say?  Will anyone really care? What should I speak on?

The organizer, Mandara Lebovitz helped me get focused when she said, "Keep it simple and come up with a theme or idea." Keeping it simple can be extremely challenging for me. It's like telling me to play soccer and just 'take it easy'... impossible!  Her coaching helped me however, and an idea was born.  I chose to speak on my 'identity'.

The timing of this opportunity could not have been more perfect. I'd been back in Canada just over a year after life in The Bahamas for 13 years. Life back in my homeland still felt new and fresh.

I happened to still be organizing the last few boxes from my move which contained loads of photo albums from throughout my life. For my presentations I had to come up with 20 images, which is a lot! Similar to filling a book.
Thankful that I had not yet moved them into my storage locker, so I began wading through albums and boxes exploring my photographs and began tripping down memory lane.

I turn 50 this month and again, the review of the photos and memories of my life seemed quite poignant. My mother had kept wonderful snippets and photos for me, right down to the telegram message of my birth sent to my father who was away working; notices sent home from school; and notes from my teen years. I realized where I get my desire to save records and memories from, it's most certainly a gift from my mother. 

I ended up putting together some very in-depth images that encapsulated whole sections of my life.  Images were one thing, but then I had to come up with dialogue for my presentation.  Usually that is no problem for me, but this exercise takes any control I thought I might of had, and throws it out the window. 20 seconds only (timed) for each image, and you must move on to the next, was what really drove me crazy preparing. 

I chose a poem as the basis for my theme of identity called "Tapestry." I'd written it long ago in Writer's Circle in Freeport and it's  a comparative poem of moments in my life related to how fabric wears (seen below). I've been using it in my 'About' section of Facebook since I'd joined.

I was born to Bill and Rose Wachell, highway pioneers of northern Manitoba - My father full Czechoslovakian - My mother French, German and Native Indian - Makes me a canceled Czech I figure - We lived among Natives in places called Wabowden and The Pas - My mother says she’s never felt Native - I only felt Canadian.


Thread by thread
Strand by strand
Into creation I came
Woven delicately within her womb
Gentle fibers brushed away
From her strong core
Spun together to create me

Soft comfortable linen
Breezes flowing through
A loose weave
Gazing through to my future
Collecting strands of security
And colors that make me me

Thick embroidered sections
A texture like the earth
Strong, rich and fertile
Seeded with newness
That comes through me
But also leaves tiny tatters
Over the years

Precious softness
Yet large gaping holes
Where time and experience
Have made themselves visible
But if you hold it up to the light
You can still see the stars

The fibers are strong
The colors still true
Some patching here and there
But still so versatile
For warmth, shelter and show
Or use for something new

My tapestry, my life up until now…
Wash on gentle cycle please
I have a long way to go!

Robbin Whachell April 3, 2006

I am the middle child of 7 children - 4 boys, 3 girls - A handful for my mother - My brothers wore brushcuts and I a pixie-cut - Easier for mom I guess - But many thought I was a boy - Since my sister was 11 years older than me - I hung out with my brothers most of the time - I was thrilled to have a new baby sister, the day after my 5th birthday.

I had no idea the process of coming up with the images and dialogue was going to be so cathartic. I felt I was closing chapters of my life. I laughed, I cried, I thought deeply on who I had become and how I got here. As the days drew nearer for my presentation, I had to keep reducing words, which as a writer, feels wrong.  However after a good pep-talk from my friend David, I relaxed with the knowing that I was supposed to participate in this event solely to recount my past, and to use it as a spring board into my future.

When the night finally arrived it sunk in that I was the only 'writer' on the panel, which I felt was a challenge, as writers like to share "their writing / words", yet most of Pecha Kucha is visual.  I realized quickly that I should have simply 'taken it off the page,' and spoke impromptu about my images. It did not go off as I'd hoped as I got behind on one image and my 20 second allotment, which gave me less time for my next slide (less than 20), and so I had to madly scramble for the rest of my presentation. I also had missed out one of my slides!

However, the beauty of this exercise for me was not in the presentation, but in the creation of it, as I had an 'aha moment' during the process when I felt like giving up. I knew I would take the process further. That I would share it again here, or anywhere I chose, and I wouldn't have time ticking against me!

This recounting of my life, was a gift to myself, and will be a gift to my children and their future generations. I walk on in gratitude for the opportunity. Thank you Arts Connect!

( NOTE: Images seen here are 'segments' of my full presentation which can be seen on my Facebook page)

The ideal environment, nature at our doorstep - I homeschooled our children for 4 years - I played and coached soccer, studied Reiki, and helped form a writer’s group - It was the early years of home computers - I began doing something small, that would later blossom into something big - I started sending out information about the island - Emails turned into a newsletter - Contacts turned into a database. I was putting out Freeport Announcements, a weekly newsletter giving updates on Grand Bahama Island's activities

Everything I’d been doing ‘innately’ for years, finally made sense! - David Mackey and I poured hours into our new baby, providing a platform for all things Bahamian - I was now the Editor and Co-Founder of a leading news site - But each year I had to prove to the government, that I was not taking away a job from a local - And I had to ‘pay’ for that right - And they increased my fees each year, finally, to that even higher than a hotel manager or doctor - There were those that wanted me gone - They kept digging and I kept working - My soul/sole purpose was do good, and 'survive' doing so...After years TheBahamasWeekly.com has become its own entity averaging over 6 million hits per month - Now it's easy for many to not 'know' that I helped birth her...

My youngest and I packed up our flip flops, and headed back to our homeland, to reunite with my older three children - We left perpetual summer to enjoy sensational seasons - It was time, and I have no regrets - My moccasins are warm and inviting - My memories of youth in Canada are finding new songs to sing - I welcome all that Canada has become, and feel lucky, that I know where she has been.

I am a Canadian with aboriginal bloodlines (Metis - Sioux/Cree) who lived in The Bahamas for 13 years, and I was proud to call it my home - I was reading the book 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee', And I had a strong identity awakening - Ironically it opens with mention of The Bahamas - And Columbus killing off their first peoples, the Indians - Somehow it made me homesick - I weighed my life, my priorities - I missed my parents, siblings, and my children who had migrated home - I knew I could work TheBahamasWeekly.com from anywhere in the world - It was time to put that to the test - There would be no more fight, or hassle to work in The Bahamas - I would be free.

The circle of life sustains us - As soon as our youngest is ready to fly - It is our parents that need our parenting - I am joyful to be home to do my part - To ensure the safe passage of the ones that showed me how to love - 'Worn Out sections but Precious softness - Large gaping holes Where time and experience have made themselves visible - But if you hold it up to the light, you can still see the stars...' (My father Curt Whachell and my mother Corae Hionz)

It is with remnants, that strong nests are built - "My fibers are strong - My colours still true - Some patching here and there - Still use for something new - This is my tapestry, my life - I have much more to sew - Wash on gentle-cycle please - For I have a long way to go!"

Robbin’s Nest is now high up in the clouds... From my 32 floor perch in Coquitlam I have a bird’s eye view of The Bahamas - Social media and many years of networking has made me sharper than ever - Longer work days with the 3-hour time difference gives our business the edge - The skies the limit... And I am seeking new ways of expanding my horizons.

About the author: Robbin Whachell is a publicist, writer, photo-journalist; and co-founder/ editor of one of The Bahamas' leading news sites, TheBahamasWeekly.com. Ms. Whachell is a successful entrepreneur and pioneer in online marketing. Aside from being a recognized media personality and community builder, she is known for her networking and social media skills, and has a background in information management and film. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype. Reach Robbin by email at Editor@thebahamasweekly.com

Related articles:

Robbin Whachell and the History of The Bahamas Weekly

Crossing Borders

Woman in Action: Robust Robbin

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