GLOBAL SIS Playground: Meeting Without Walls

We are together in a room without walls, yet we feel connected. We are women from eight different countries engaging in online “embodied play” in the spaces of our own homes, offices, or classrooms. We are from China, Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States listening to our body wisdom, moving, and telling our stories. We are Global SIS: InterPlay, and we are gracing each other’s lives across various times on the world clock in the internet’s ethersphere by engaging in InterPlay!

GLOBAL SIS PLAYGROUND: MEETING WITHOUT WALLS. December 2019 "Last Saturday was my first time participating in an online Global SIS meeting and also my first experience with InterPlay. One word comes to mind when I think about these moments shared with women around the world: beauty. Women from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultural identities, sharing, learning, and listening to themselves and others. It felt tribal in a way. In a great way. I felt like the spectator and participant of something beautiful and unique." – Diana Elizabeth, Argentina

For me, co-facilitating this second online Global SIS fills me with peace, light, love – and ultimately – the kind of life I desire to live. It is fulfilling work to shape and hold a space for women worldwide so they can be more authentically themselves while getting to know other women who are both different and similar to them. 

I am an InterPlay leader, artist, educator, and a SIS — Sustaining International Sister — co-founder with one of my former students, Canan Arikan. A talented woman with super powers of love, organization, and intelligence, Canan, who is from Turkey, has become like a daughter to me. Now, she is training to become an InterPlay leader. What began as a teacher student relationship has transformed into a dear friendship with the sweet  fruit of collaboration. How? We both share a profound sense of play!

OUR PLAY SPACES FOR ONLINE GLOBAL SIS. Our dream fulfilled! Canan and I are celebrating the magic of our shared vision manifesting! Here our are computers, mine in Decatur, and hers in Alpharetta. We are co-facilitating online Global SIS: InterPlay from our homes - me at the dining room table and Canan at her desk.

We also both believe that women thrive in the company of one another and that InterPlay forms and tools offers us a way to be with one another respectfully, joyfully and creatively. With this shared belief, we envisioned bringing together women seeking asylum, those international women visiting the U.S., and women with American cititzenship. In October 2018, we co-founded SIS, three hours of “play and potluck” in spaces with four walls, real chairs, floors, tables, and food.

What we didn’t expect were the strong bonds that we would all make with one another through these shared hours of play, body-to-body connection, listening to each other’s stories, witnessing each other’s dance, and eating together. In one year, of meeting together only once a month, we became inextricably connected. So much so that we asked how we could continue to “play” together as our international “sisters” left Atlanta. We are a community in perpetual transition. Asylum seekers who first came to Atlanta move to other cities. Scholars, students and visitors return to their countries or elsewhere in the world. 

Thus, Canan and I gave birth to our “playshop” without walls – Online Global SIS: InterPlay!  The internet was the answer! Now as 2020 approaches we have had two online gatherings (read about the first Global SIS). Like magic, we were able to reconnect with Hussah in Saudi Arabia, Yue and Tianqi in China and Chiara in Italy. Yue, who is a mathematician and basketball player, is a natural InterPlayer. Now, at home in China, she is recruiting some of her university colleagues to be in this wall-less, computer-accessed SIS gathering. As the months go by, other sisters will be returning home. Laura from Brazil leaves us at the end of January. Radina, who pops in and out of Atlanta, is home in Bulgaria now. This flux is predictable in our Atlanta SIS community. How marvelous that the SIS “dance” is being perpetuated through internert Zoom platform with its galleried classroom, breakout rooms, and chatboxes!
 “Dancing, singing, telling our story, and playing, propel the unstoppable force of life in human community. Though we may be afraid of looking silly and of humiliating ourselves, it might be worth it. Instead of running to the far corners of the earth looking for something new, the exotic truth is right in our own skin.”

These are words from InterPlay co-founder Cynthia Winton-Henry. All of us in SIS may not have known about this “unstoppable force of life in human community” at the start of our time together, but we know it now through our own experiences. We may have indeed looked silly in our warm ups, dances and storytellings, but we have it done together in community with loving “witnesses.” Those witnesses have practiced watching us without making judgments and held the space for us to create and just be ourselves. We sisters may come together in Atlanta from the far corners of the Earth, but it through InterPlay that we have the opportunity to explore the “exotic truth” in our own bodies.

Read what Sara writes about her online InterPlay experience with SIS. She comes from Iran and is completing a doctorate in mathematics at Georgia State University, where she is also teaching math to undergraduates. She has been participating in InterPlay for more than a year.

“During InterPlay, we reach out to our deepest feelings that we are probably not aware of. Yesterday, it was my first time to experience the InterPlay warmup online. I found that my laptop is the window to connect to other people, who can be anywhere on the Earth (who have an internet connection). During this time, I discovered a very unmatured child inside me. She wants to do crazy things out of view of the camera! She wants to break out and shout and laugh loudly. It was after a while she was showing herself to me. My crazy baby is very shy. She is afraid of the judgment of wisdom. Yesterday during our online Global SIS, away from the camera, she found more freedom to express her existence. I am still letting her talk to me. As I let her show her feelings more, she gets calmer! I think it's okay to be mad or angry sometimes, and I shouldn't suppress these feelings. These emotions are a part of me and I love it. I love and accept myself. This online InterPlay was an experience for me to discover myself better!” –Sara, Iran

Perhaps InterPlay co-founder Cynthia Winton-Henry explains some of what Sara writes about in the rest of the paragraph I quoted from above: “The leap over fear and self-consciousness into our own body wisdom is not as big as we think. It is so accessible, it stares back at us from the mirror; we are already dancing. In spite of ourselves, we are invited to take one curious step toward grace, to offer just one hand or one deep breath at a time – small acts of faith for incredible inconceivable rewards: joy, ease, fullness of life, and yes, even world peace!”  

We Sustaining International Sisters, no matter where we are in the world right now, are experiencing these delicious rewards Cynthia writes about! Yes to co-creating world peace through our international sisterhood through play! The world is our playground. I will meet you there.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Sincere gratitude goes to InterPlay for supporting online Global SIS: InterPlay. Cynthia has supported Canan and me by meeting with us to share her copious loving wisdom and experience about facilitating InterPlay online. The quotation that appears in this blogpost is from Cynthia's book, Move: What the Body Wants, with Phil Porter. Thanks to InterPlay, which gives SIS the use of its Zoom account for our playshops. Thanks are also offered to Yue Cao, who has taken InterPlay back to her university campus in China and is enlisting future InterPlayers. I am always grateful to my husband Tony, who makes me breakfast before SIS and assists me with my computer needs for this online playshop. A deep bow to my collaborator, who dedicates herself to supporting and connecting women in whatever way is needed. Last, big hugs to all the international women who come together online to play with one another despite their fears and vulnerabilities. I admire your courage to play and dance across time and space.

YUE'S INTERPLAY SIS RECRUITS IN CHINA. LiPing is on the top left, and RuiXue top right. Below you see Yue, Saba, and Bing.
“I feel so lucky to know SIS and become one of the SIS members. After coming back to China, I attended the first online Global SIS. This month is the second time for online SIS, and I invited four of my friends to it. Bing is my roommate; Liping is a friend from college who is working Chengdu; Saba is an international student studying in China; and Ruixue is a graduate student working in Shanghai. I have three friends who want to join us next month. It feels really great to invite people to join SIS. I feel like the world is bigger. Most important of all, that I am closer to myself, the truth of myself. I am Yue. I am one of SIS. I know myself more after becoming a member of SIS. I believe SIS has this kind of power to affect a person. I will invite more people to join SIS to share this joy with them.”  –Yue, China


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