Friday, August 18, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
We met up at the American Cancer Society Island, just outside the main building. But sitting down at a table proved slightly complicated, "(laughter) I don't like it when there are so many sitting options. Just give me a sit for goodness sakes."
When I asked her about how she found out about Second Life, Grace answered, "Oh my gosh; that's a long way back to remember (laughter). I was playing 'There,' and friends started talking about a new place to check out: Second Life. You had to sign upm it was still in Beta. I didn't make the BETA cut but I got in soon after and made a short, squat little woman named Edna Thereian. I lasted a month (laughter). Then I left for awhile, and thought one day, 'Let's give this another try,' and I never left!"
I asked her, "When did you return, and what was the difference?" Grace told me, "I started Valentine's Day in 2004 - I remember I had such a hard time figuring out how to move around and function...and yes, I got a box stuck on my head...that I decided it just wasn't for me. I'd say maybe 2 months later I came back, made a new avatar and dived in. Had to have a little more patience. I also had to have a little money. Seemed to make it more of an amiable place to be in."
"How did your first days after your return go?" I asked. Grace answered, "Oh great! I don't think my experience was any different from any other person new to Second Life. When I was new, there were no regions. It was all mainland and it was very small. The population was a fraction of what it is now. There were maybe five shops, four clubs. It was easy to make friends and just hang out and goof off all the time. It was fun."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I responded. Grace went on, "Yeah, it was pretty heartbreaking. She was only 23. From that, I learned about the American Cancer Society. And a friend was involved in Relay For Llife, and she asked if I would help out with a couple of things. And viola - sucked in!" "So you came in around 2011?" I asked. "Yep," she answered, "right around them. Just finished my 6th year with Relay"
My next question was, "How did your first season with the Relay go?" Grace replied, "My first season, I was asked to build a Designer Region. So I did - and I remember that there was some fuss over the fact I built a castle (bottom of page) and it was right in front of the water region where activities were going to be held, (laughter) 'and Grace makes her entrance.' But it all went well in the end and it was great fun. The next year, Charlene, who took care of the track setup, asked me to be her assistant and I said 'sure, what could go wrong?' (laughter)"
After a chuckle, I asked, "Heh, so what happened next year?" Grace answered. "The next year I ended up, through a series of circumstances, being the person in charge. And thus I became the "track boss" for the next few years. This year or this past year I ventured into being a part of the Steering Committee. Though I still got to be on the track, which I love. 'On the track' meaning I made sure it was there, along with all the tools and fun things. And (I) coordinated the Designer Regions, as well as Activities."
"For those who don't know," I inquired, "what is your position on the committee?" Grace replied, "I am the Relay For Life of Second Life Co-Lead ! That means I'm like Nuala (Maracus)'s (The Lead) assistant. One of them, there is also Leala Spires. We are both Co-Leads. So we're backup, the posse, the crew (laughter). Relay this year was split into three areas - Bring the People, Bring the Fun, and Fund the Mission. I was the 'Bring the Fun' person. Or as we like to refer to it: 'Bring da Funk.'" "So there was lots of funky music?" I asked. She answered, "Every chance we got! (laughter)"
Grace added, "I have to give a lot of credit to my real-life/Second Life partner as well; Sean. He put up a lot of the funding that came up for specific script needs that were above my pay grade. He created some tools for our use and generally exercised a great deal of patience and understanding the entire season." "Nice. Did you both come to the Relay together?" I asked her. She answered, "We did! He doesn't like titles or being held to a position of responsibility so he has always been my background support. Doing what he needs to do to help and watch over things when I ask him to: Big, strong silent type (smile)."
"Going back a bit," I told Grace, "you described yourself as into building and roleplaying. What kind of building did you do, and what roleplaying group and area?" She answered, "Well, when I got my first region I created a place called Laura, which is a location known to those who roleplay Gor. I played a panther chieftess. If you're not familiar with Gor. it's sort of a female native/tribal type. I was one of the first to play that role too by the way - little feather in my cap. Anyway I did that for a long time, and during those couple of years I learned a lot about building and terraforming. Then I got pretty good at it, so I started building for other people. Eventually, I switched my own roleplay to Medieval Fantasy and built a place called Everwind, which became wildly popular. By then I was building outside of roleplay quite regularly for a fee. Roleplay regions for other people, shopping districts, started my own business of prefabs and furniture, etc. Then got into the building that I told you about with my friend who passed."
"There was a time I was turning business away!" Grace told with enthusiasm, "Then Second Life grew and grew and before you knew it, there were twenty of 'me' out (in) their building regions." "Twenty people who were doing much the same work as you?" I asked. "Well, they may not have built in the same style I did," she answered, "but there was suddenly a lot of people building and it was not longer me among a few. It was now me among a whole lot. So the competition to get business increased, as it does regularly in Second Life, and eventually I lost interest. Especially after the death of Katherine (my friend), I just lost the zeal for it."
I brought up, "What happened with Everwind"? Grace answered, "I closed Everwind after a couple of years and created a Steampunk Roleplay Region called Rivet Town! This also had some moderate success and I really enjoyed building it. I can't sit still most of the time - my mind is always thinking about what I can do next (laughter). After Rivet Town, I did Everwind 2 - again, had a lot of success. But eventually I grew tired of roleplay and just stuck to Relay." "Sounds like some events, such as the Fantasy Faire, bring back some memories," I suggested. "Oh yes indeed," Grace responded, "I'd love to create for that. Maybe this, next year."
Grace then told. "In fact, as far as big-scale building goes; this island, ACS Island, is the first I've done in a long time." "So you made the builds for ACS Island?" I asked. "Yes," she answered, "What you see here I did. I asked to do it, and yay! I was allowed." I panned around, looking at the various structures, "Which of these places required the most planning and work?" "The Memorial Garden, she stated "by a landslide. It was so important to keep it subtle, yet significant. To make it a place of importance, but not the main feature of American Cancer Society (Island)." "The Catt Gable Garden?" I asked. "Yes," she answered.
Grace explained of the memorial garden, "Catt started the garden on ACS, and she did a lovely job of it. The problems we ran into however were the abundance of gifts that were left in memoriam. Also, people felt like the setup created a bit of a maze, which was not intentional but the space was small for it and Catt worked hard to achieve that subtle aspect. She didn't want it to be so obvious when you landed. So I tried to keep a lot of her idea when I re-did it. And I had to create a system to pay respects with flowers or candles, but not have those items just remain indefinitely. I also wanted to ensure it was a place to reflect, remember, to sit and feel at peace. And of course, memorialize Catt (smile). If you notice, along the path as you walk on the region, there are small portraits lining the walk. Those portraits are all of survivors. To remind anyone who visits or comes for support, that there is hope. And it doesn't become about a memorial garden or a tribute to those who have passed. Because many are still here - surviving!"
I then brought up, "Also, for the first time in a while, the theme for next season wasn't announced at the wrap-up. When will it be announced?" Grace confessed, "Well honestly, I don't know! We truly don't have the answer yet. There is a lot that we want to put on the table and sort out for next year. A lot of responsibilities, things that we do or have done that are somewhat unnecessary or obsolete. We want to try to knock out what takes a lot of time with no real measurable results. And want very much for the people involved in putting it all together to be able to step away, sleep, not stress (laughter)." "Sounds like there may be some big changes next year," I wondered. Grace responded, "Stingray is an important part of that decision making so at this point we are all just taking a breather then we'll get together and sort it out, figure out the structure for the next year and how/when to proceed. Some changes may be big, and there could be only one or two small changes. It's just really, really up in the air at this moment. But decisions will be made very soon. I'm sure we'll have a theme! We just might ask for suggestions later than the norm."
I then brought up the two off-season Relay-related events later this year, Making Strides for Breast Cancer, and the Christmas Expo. Grace smiled, "Absolutely! Strides is planning a walk soon and I know Nuala already has her Christmas Expo laid out (laughter)." I smiled, "What does she have in store for us?" Grace answered, "Oh gosh, I have no idea! I don't think I'll be working on it this year, unless she plans to surprise me with a request to help. We may just have to wait and see!"
I finally asked, "Was there anything else you wanted to add?" Grace thought for a moment, "I think there is just one more thing. I think that everyone gets tired. We get tired of staying up late, we get tired of trying to make everything right and perfect, we get tired of trying to work with the different personalities of everyone involved in Relay. We get tired of doing things certain ways, we get tired of changes, we get tired of fighting, of dealing with pain, illness, losing loved ones. I know that tired - I feel it too. But the moment we give up because we're tired, is the moment everything we have worked for and want to continue to work for becomes to big to defeat. I hear this said in a movie once: 'What can you expect to accomplish if you are just one drop in an ocean?' he answer was 'But what is an ocean but a series of drops all together.' That is Relay, and that is us. We need to never stop being those drops in the ocean." She paused for a moment, "I may not have gotten it word for word but close enough!"
It was about then we parted ways, "Thanks, Bixyl (smile). I appreciate that you wanted to hear from me."
Image Credits: IshtarAngel Micheline, Softpaw Sommer
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
Not long ago, I traveled to the Faravari sim on the mainland to meet up with Cleopatra Xigalia, who wanted to talk about the Ephesians Four Christian community that she was part of. Cleopatra was one of a group of people at the spot I arrived at, a resting place with some pillows and chairs and a hammock under some palm trees. I had been there earlier for a live music event, and Cleopatra welcomed me back. Cleopatra told me that conversations at the place could be in voice, chat, or both. We decided on chat so I could take down more information.
One of the women there offered to record the conversation. Another responded, "need to fix my hair and make up (giggle), just joking." "I haven't started the record. Now.run and make your make up (giggle)." A third girl grinned, "need to put on a longer skirt ... funny in real-life I spend all day filming people. Now ... there is cam crew filming here." A fourth lady commented, "I trust you *name), I am sure you'll make me look cute *giggles*. Okay I'll be quiet (laughter)." More would continue to drop in as we talked.
It was about then that one person, Jamiela1, dropped in and greetings were exchanged. Cleopatra told me she "was drawn back in to Second Life, and then found us right after logging back in. It seemed that in Second Life, there are Christian sims. But for us ... um, they didnt meet the full need. We saw a gap, sort of, if you know what I mean. There were classes, bible studies, but not really place for us to meet and spend time together building bonds in such a way as Christians."
Ckeopatra explained, "Here is a passage from one of our studies on fellowship.last week. 'Ephesians 4 is a sim founded on the idea of fellowship. But what does that word, "fellowship" really mean? Is it swapping life stories about ourselves? Is it sharing the Gospel at campfires with visiting nonbelievers? Is it keeping to our own Christian community, growing ourselves to the exclusion of other believers?' It is a critical part of the Christian life. It is essential for new believers. It is a direct call from God for us to have unity." Jamiela1 commented, "I think this is a Christian Hangout that welcomes fellowship along with Bible Studies and open discussions. We welcome the curious of faith....the new in faith and the experienced in hopes to help us all in our journey of the Written Word (Bible) and to what God plans for us all."
Cleopatra mentioned the people in the group were from around the world, the United States, Scotland, England,Germany, Holland, India, France, Philippines, Denmark, Mauritius Island, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, Israel,Canada, Jamaica, and probably a few others. "We have many discussions with many all over the world," Jamiela1 told me. Cleopatra nodded, "We get some interesting visitors, we have lots of interesting discussions." "Yes, we learn about everyone's experiences all over the world."
Jamiela1 stated, "We study from the King James Version of the Bible so we have many who come curious, and many faithful." I asked if they used more recent translations of the Bible. Jamiela1 answered, "Many people use different translations, but we follow and are guided by King Jame Version." Cleopatra told me, "We use the NIV too, any translation that helps us understand, also going back to the Greek. One way we learn is in discussions of the Bible, so usually yeah, KJV is the go-to. Butour style of teaching is more discussion type, Bixyl, very participative. Some people here are very new to their Faith and understanding. Some people have been believers for decades." Jamiela1, "Some other versions give more modern terms and translate to modern usage, but can loose somewhat the true translation. so we always refer back to the KJV."
Cleopatra added, "We learn about God from reading and studying the Word, and from living and gaining experience applying His Word to our lives directly. 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, we also learn from each other. Proverbs 27: 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Jamiela stated, "The core of this group sticks to the teaching from the KJV."
Cleopatra then moved on, "Some things we do though are very very serious. People bring real problems to us and issues." One man commented, "We had a woman share her story about losing her children.It was moving to see and her. That's the key in our fellowship to build each other up and comfort each other in the word of God." "It is very real here," Cleopatra told me. "We truly are here for and with each other," Jamiela added. Another stated, "That is the point! We are real and our faith is real. It's not a roleplay."
Cleopatra told me, "We dont have a 'pastor' or have sermons in the church. We are here for each other in fellowship. We aren't a church. We are *the* Church." The man commented, "We are the Church as it was intended originally." One girl commented, "Sometimes we also just hangout without doing something, just sitting around in silence and enjoy not being alone alone ... brothers and sisters in front of God." "We are safe here and are secure in our silence," Jamiela added, "We are together for one another."
I asked about some of the challenges the group has had over time. Cleopatra told me, "We have only been here since May, so we didn't know what to expect. We had to get more chairs for one." She also mentioned griefers, "I think there were seven of them at one of our first events. ... Last night we had a couple trolls." I asked how often they show up.Cleopatra told me, "Less than I expected actually." One other challenge was the group was getting larger in size, "growing kinda fast. So we just take this one day at a time, and look to God's word for what we are to do and how to handle things. We have struggles daily. We look to the word for how to handle them. The Bible gives us instruction on how to handle these." Jamiela1 added, "We seem to be able at the end of the day handle through God what we deal with each day."
"If you know what I mean," Cleopatra told me, "in the end it is *all* for God. So we are here for each other, yes, to grow together, but of course in the end our mission is the spread the Word." She pointed to a nearby structure, "The lighthouse is on the sim in the corner. We are here to be light."
It was about then that Cleopatra and I parted ways, "I hope you had a good time visiting us."
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
By Wesley Regenbogen
DeafLegacy Resident, "Someone who I used to know in real life was the one who told me about Second Life. I got interested and asked him how I can join. He helped me out. When I got on Second Life, I met some peopl,e and that was how I got started here."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question two: How did you get involved in Virtual Ability and how did that reflect your experience here in Second Life?"
DeafLegacy Resident, "The same person who introduced me to Second Life was a member of Virtual Ability. I met Gentle Heron, and I found out what Virtual Ability is all about. I asked to become a member and ever since then, I've been with the group. It reflects my experience in Second Life a great deal because I'm disabled and as far as I know, there had been no misunderstanding, which is fantastic."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question three: You are also a reporter for SL Newser. How did you get involved in SL Newser? As I understand you are a writer in real life as well."
DeafLegacy Resident, "Well, there is one person I'd like to give credit to for introducing me to the Newser. It would be you, who introduced me to Bixyl Shuftan, and I asked him if I could be a reporter. Bixyl said yes, and on that day, I've became a reporter. It is true that I am a writer in real life as well. So far, I've written two stories, and hope to write a third story soon."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question four: Was it difficult for you to get started in Second Life, because of your disability in real life? I understand Virtual Ability helps people with disabilities in Second Life and does a great job at doing so."
DeafLegacy Resident, "I met Gentle Heron on the first day I was on Second Life. I became a member on that day. It wasn't hard because someone who introduced me to Second Life was a member of Virtual Ability. That helped me a lot, even though I have no idea if that person is still around in Virtual Ability."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question five: How long have you been member of Virtual Ability ?"
DeafLegacy Resident, "I have been on Second Life for two years now. So I've also been a member of Virtual Ability for two years."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question six: What role do you have in Virtual Ability or are you just a member of it ?"
DeafLegacy Resident, "I'm just a member."
Wesley Regenbogen< "Question 7, If you would meet another person in Second Life that has a disability, would you introduce them to Virtual Ability and guide them around SL?"
DeafLegacy Resident, "Yes, I would."
Wesley Regenbogen, "Question eight: What plans do you have in your Second Life in the near future?"
DeafLegacy Resident, "I hope to continue renting the land parcels I have now until it's no longer possible. And I also hope to continue being a reporter and a photographer for SL Newser."
Wesley Regenbogen, "I wish you all of the luck and hope you will do what you like here in Second Life. Thank you for taking the time for doing this interview."
DeafLegacy Resident, "Thank you, Wesley."