What to do with my Timebank Credits?

There are so many news stories within Wellington Timebank a volunteer reporter can certainly make a profit!

I joined Wellington Timebank back in January 2016, principally as a volunteer to write the stories of people’s exchanges for the newsletter. During the last 8 months I have met so many great people and covered some really interesting trades. Spending all this time liaising with Timebankers, arranging meetings, conducting interviews and writing up stories, meant that I hadn’t had much time to take part in any of my own trades.

I have enjoyed Marion Leighton’s muesli and meeting up with Mark Hodson to gratify my curiosity about the amazing life of the honey bee. I continue to wish that I knew a young child here, in Wellington, so that I could gift a credit for Linda Hansen’s Shadow the Storyteller offer and just more time to spend learning about quilt making with Liz Jackson. These trades aside, I found I had built up an alarming number of time-credits!

As my year in New Zealand was fast coming to an end I realised I’d better get a move on and at least spend some of them. But how to spend them …? ‘Spending’…  um, something I usually don’t have that much trouble with. The trouble is, though, when you are living abroad for just 1 year, you don’t build up the same kind of ‘little jobs’ that always need attending to.

What did I really need help with? What did I need to learn about?

Since the beginning of the year I have taken a couple of photography courses and presently I am trying to learn all I can about portraiture. Of course, being abroad also means that all of your family and friends – the people you know really well and could ask to sit and pose for you, for hours, whilst you fiddle about behind the little black box working out f-stops and white balances - are thousands of miles away.

Aha! Finally, the penny dropped, or perhaps I had just learnt to focus! Timebankers! That works – I get to have people prepared to ‘be’ for an hour and they get to earn a couple of time-credits to put towards their own up-coming trades.

Anyway, I thought I’d try it and, after carefully considering the wording in the request, submitted it to one of the August Trading Posts. I must admit that I was surprised to get a response almost immediately and even more surprised to count up nine responses within a four-week period. I managed to successfully link up with six of these generous traders and am really glad I took the plunge!

My first photographic model was Phoebe, who, ironically, was someone I had seen numerous times before, generally cycling past the front window of my accommodation! Originally from Auckland, she now lives not far from me and had very little trouble finding the shoot location. She probably had the raw end of the deal as, least practised, I was still pretty nervous and getting the light right was a lengthy process. However, she was very patient and keen to use the credits for some more Spanish lessons.

Rose, featured in my first Timebank story on ‘Flapjack Bears,’ so there was no need for introductions. Just back from India (a very special place for me) we had lots to talk about and some of the mystique of that far away land seemed to work its charm! The light came right to capture a beautiful image.

I met Guadalupe at the Railway Station. A place recommended by my tutor and really convenient for my ‘model’ who was coming from a yoga lesson. Guadalupe has been in Wellington since 2013 having studied psychology in her native Chile. She often does trades involving vegan cookery, but she was interested in photography and her positive feedback gave my confidence a boost!

Sophie, recently moved to Wellington from France. Another example (myself included) of the numerous people I have met who have joined Timebank on arrival, to get to know people in their area. Sophie loved the notion of being able to exchange skills without having to use money and is happy to give French lessons, so that she can learn to play a number of musical instruments.

By the time I got to photograph Fey, a former semi-professional artist, I was feeling more at home with the technical aspects of the camera. However, trying to put people at their ease whilst concentrating on framing the image, still required work. Luckily Fey so ‘loves witnessing people getting in touch with their creativity,’ she proved to be a truly calming presence. I loved the pieces of art Fey brought with her and only hope I captured something of her response towards them. A truly creative exchange.

Finally, I met up with Clarissa – another Timebanker whose trade I had covered earlier in the year. My tutor suggested I now needed to widen my repertoire of ‘locations,’ and knowing Brazilian born Clarissa as a photographer, she said this was an ideal opportunity to go ‘urban!’ So we set off into the streets of Wellington one Saturday afternoon! We had an exciting time and the clock certainly ran away with us before we were done.

Did I say ‘finally’? Well my tutor had other ideas – pointing out that all my ‘models’ had been female! I needed to widen the repertoire once again, this time to ‘male’ and ‘urban.’ Luckily, Russell, a Timebanker I had met in another walk of life, was kind enough to oblige. This time I set off into the streets of Wellington with Russell … and his violin. Classically trained at the age of 5, he now concentrates more on improvisation with the fellow musicians he meets. I hadn’t counted on musical accompaniment, but it was beautiful and certainly caught the attention of those passing by.

My thanks to all the ‘models’ I met up with. Your patience, generosity of spirit and positive vibes have really helped me to develop my skills. I am becoming more adept at reading the light, utilising technical features and framing my subject. My tutor is certainly pleased with my progress, but most of all, through the co-operation of these Timebankers, I continue to learn about Timebank values. We are generally eager to give, but sometimes learning how to receive can deepen your understanding of a better way of giving.

Story by Sue Jenkins