Fish, Chips, and the Meaning of Life.

One of the reasons I encourage everyone (especially students) to travel is because traveling, I’ve found, helps you to discover yourself; and my latest adventure – to the East coast of Canada – proved just that.

Since calling this country my home, I have longed to visit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and other must-sees of the Atlantic. Still, it took the end of a master’s degree and a need for something new and inspiring to push me over the edge and towards the other side.

IMG_6454

Point Prim Lighthouse, Point Prim Road, PEI.

Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island are capital cities for a reason. Both tell the stories of the greater pieces of land they represent all too well: Halifax, a bustling city, guarding the history of many cultures beyond its surface; and Charlottetown, as quaint as it gets in the best way possible, and the tip of the iceberg of a beautiful island.

In addition to the change of scenery, the timing of this trip coincided with a very deep train of thought that took over my mind: what is the meaning of life?

Without much explanation, once my studies terminated, I began to contemplate the point of it all: the purpose of living; a reason for having dreams and goals if, at some point, life ends anyways. Very morbid to say the least, but I thought a getaway from my current world of endless job applications would help me find an answer. And surprisingly, it did.

What helped me find that answer was a brilliant non-fiction book I purchased before my departure called, Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. In it, Frankl describes his time during WWII in Auschwitz, the people and things he lost while there, and the power and inner strength he relied on to survive inside the camps and later, back in the world. There were so many quotable parts of the book, so many “ah-ha” moments that I wish I could copy and paste here. But a few of them really stood out, not just for their message, but also how they seemed to coincide effortlessly with my travel discoveries:

By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche”.

Charlottetown taught me quite well that our purpose lies beyond the interior. The quaintness of the city is lovely but limited. Eventually, we rented a car and immediately experienced the benefits of going beyond our (financial) limits. Point Prim lighthouse, Anne of Green Gables, Brackley Beach, and Cow’s Creamery – we saw so much! Even better was the fact that our trip took place at the cusp of tourism season; so it felt like we had the entire island to ourselves! Bliss.

IMG_6394

Anne of Green Gables, North Coast, PEI.

“We can discover [meaning in life] by creating a work or doing a deed”.

I saw the purpose and passion of a community – Africville, Halifax, one of the oldest settlements of Black Loyalists and freed peoples in Canada – in the fight for land ownership and cultural reclamation.

IMG_6240.JPG

Map of Africville, 1964, Africville Musem, Africville, Halifax.

In 1958, the Halifax government began a process of forcibly removing Africville residents to use the land – located by ideal waterways – for commercial industry and transport uses (one tactic included placing a garbage dump right by the community). Though most residents have now left the area, one resident remains: Mr. Eddie Carvery, a former resident of Africville, has continued to protest the extradition of his community for decades since its redevelopment. On entering the on-site Africville Museum (which is highly inaccessible due to negligence by the City of Halifax), it’s hard not to notice the big sign that reads “AFRICVILLE PROTEST” in all white letters.

IMG_6197

Just outside Africville Museum, Africville, Halifax.

Finally, love.

Of course, Frankl spoke of love, one of the most powerful qualities of life that continues to pull us through:

“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.”

Relating back to the first quote, one can find meaning outside of themselves, either through a cause (like Africville) or a person. I traveled to clear my mind, yet from that, I also realized that the world is much bigger than me. There are so many other people on this Earth that are familiar only with their own lives, their own community and their own problems. Traveling exposes us to other cultures, other people and other hardships unlike our own. It creates space for patience, understanding, empathy … and love.

Since finishing Frankl’s book, I’ve had several conversations about this heavy question with close family and friends – some of whom have lost loved ones or come close to losing their own life – and for the most part, it seems everyone is still trying to figure it all out.

The Maritimes is a heavenly part of the greater beauty that is Canada and, over other adventures, it’s surprising to learn what you can discover in your own backyard. There is meaning outside ourselves and in the world. And there is purpose in one’s passion for a cause or one’s love for another. Eddie Carvery found his.

And I continue to find mine.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Advertisements

att.

Have you ever dreamed of doing something? And it comes to pass and still feels like a dream?

My week-long journey to Vancouver, British Columbia has temporarily come to an end and I’ve just begun to resettle. Though the purpose of my visit stemmed from a sustainability conference, it was rooted much more simply in discovery.

IMG_2854

#EELF2016 – Leading Change: the future is sustainability!

Exploring more of Canada has been on my bucket-list for a long time; Vancouver was right on top. Before I left for my latest adventure, all my loved ones and friends who originate in B.C. told me of all the wonders of the area. Above all else, they warned me that I would love the place so much, I would no doubt want to live there – which was a first for me.

I had never been told, before I could discover for myself, that my unknown destination might be my final one. Though I took the remark lightly, I noticed it grew into a small but ever-present fear: how could they just assume this place is for me? Is that even possible to have a place so lovable exist?

Unconciously, upon arrival, I began to search for all the things out of order with Vancouver that would prove my comrades wrong.

Of course, the beauty of the landscape is undeniable so there were no faults there.

IMG_2851

A View: North Vancouver.

Other things were not as easily dismissible: a lack of diversity and the surprising contrast the poor, dispirited East End brings to the classy downtown core were difficult to turn a blind eye. But then again, nothing is perfect.

Later in my stay, however, I came to realize that my judgements were in fact made too quickly. I soon had a tribe of friends from all walks of life; and a friendly conversation with a stranger at the bus stop reassured my heart that not all was as it seemed. To think of how much these judgements could have inhibited me from fully experiencing what Vancouver has to offer, had time (or I) allowed it, is a shame.

IMG_2806

Lynn Canon Park!

Yet,what I am most grateful for from this trip is how much it made me realize where I do belong: right at home. And that can be anywhere; after all, our adaptably is what makes us resilient. I told my wonderful friend, who helped guide me during this adventure, that my dream is to always go somewhere else, but at the end of the day, come back to the same place. And this trip just proved it.

IMG_2723

Canada Place: Home away from home.

Vancouver is a wild dream and a great time. And I loved every minute of discovery.

Once again, it never hurts to learn what you already know.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Lost & Found.

You’ll come to realize that sometimes when lost, we find things we never thought of looking for.

I came to this realization this past weekend whilst traveling on what I thought to be a simple journey to Niagara Falls, but which turned into quite an adventure.

The theme is Fall.

The theme is Fall.

My father’s birthday was this week and my entire family booked a trip to go down south to spend some time in luxury. Beyond my hint of jealousy, I was disappointed that I could not go because I had work. I finally decided to beg my boss to let me go and off I was on Friday morning.

Everything was planned and I left home for a doctor’s appointment before the journey really started.

When the first bus was late, I knew things were not going to go as planned. An hour and a half later and I’ve missed my first bus on the route to Niagara.

This isn’t good.

Frustrated and hungry, I walked to the bus stop with all my things and emotions and slouched onto the bench in the bus shelter. Along comes a woman, who I soon discover is Jamaican, and we begin to talk about everything we miss about the island and what we don’t understand about it.

Casino: class is in session.

Casino: class is in session.

Once the bus comes, we both hop on but it’s a full bus so I sit where I find space: beside a man who I soon discover just moved from India. After asking him if I’m going the right way (and getting a confused response because he didn’t really know), we talked about India and Canada and everything we love about it and what he understands about English.

Once at the next bus station, we part ways. In a flurry, I’m on my next bus going to where I should be. Things are looking up.

But this is where I get (properly) lost.

Thanks to terrible signage, I miss my stop. “Hi, Mr. Bus Driver,” I said. “You’re still going here right?” He gives me a dazed look. “I already passed there; were you sleeping or something?”

Panic flows over me. Unlike the stress that comes with being lost in an unknown country as I’ve experienced many times before, there’s something about being lost in a place you thought you knew that can throw you off just the same.

“Here, get on that bus over there and go back to the stop you missed.” The bus I should get on leaves before I do. Damn.

So I wait.

And then a girl comes up to me and asks if I know when a different bus is coming. And so I tell her my whole story and I soon discover she comes from where I do and we talk about that place and how it’s special and what I understand about buses to Niagara.

Then my bus comes.

I get on and ask specifically where my stop is and what the sign will say to get off. The driver tells me a slightly-less wrong answer but I manage to get off at the stop I initially thought was my stop that is my stop.

Almost there.

I ask a girl in the bus shelter when the next bus is coming. She says she doesn’t know because she’s not taking it. I soon discover she’s going where I just came from and we talk about my difficult trip, the bus company’s confusing signage and what we don’t understand about it.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

She leaves and it’s just me. Alone in that lot, waiting until my bus finally came and I’m reunited with my family.

Sometimes when you reach your destination, you get just that: exactly what you were expecting. But rarely is every two journey the same. My trip didn’t go as planned, no. But think of all the people I met and their stories I heard. I can’t recall if I’ve ever openly spoken to so many strangers before in a day. It’s as if I traveled the country (and a bit of the world, too) just through their words.

This very short trip taught me a lot; but most of all, it taught me to speak up and to listen. There’s a lot going on out there, beyond ourselves. A lot.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

hustle and flow.

Travelling is useful for a boundless amount of reasons: it helps you discover new places, wonderful new people, new cultures, new foods and even a new life!

Just the same, travelling can also help you discover what isn’t for you.

This past week, I’ve been visiting one of the world’s top cities in one of the world’s greatest states, New York, USA, and I’ve never more in my life concretely justified that I can never and will never live in a place.

A trip down...

Carr: A trip down Madison Avenue?

That’s a hard thing for me to say as I am a traveller at heart and a strong believer that there’s the good and the bad in every spot on this Earth. However – and I say this after deep consideration – this state (and country, for that matter) is not for me.

From the struggle to find a store that would trade dollar bills for quarters to get on the bus (because apparently change is really hard to come by for shop keepers) to the lingering smells and polluted sewer drains throughout the streets that made me sneeze at every intersection to the countless-hours search for a parking spot somewhat near your cousin’s house or spending an hour (or more) just getting onto the George Washington Bridge, being a tourist in New York state has been my life’s current greatest challenge.

No trip will be perfect, if there’s anything I’ve learned from all my recent travels. Yet, no matter what we tried to do to minimize issues, others always appeared. But that’s the beauty of travel, too: it continually puts you out of your comfort zone, out of normalcy, which makes you appreciate it even more.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

Still, then came the thoughts of how others function in such a society. Entering a 5-lane-merging-from-all-directions highway which takes at least half an hour must increase one’s stress levels somewhat, and on a daily basis, this is probably not very healthy. To add to that, the long, continuous work hours and the every-man-for-himself mentality, people here must seem to take every day as a literal survival course. But then again, it matters how you look at it: coincidentally on my way home, I was reading a book given to me by a friend entitled, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by twentysomething author Alida Nugent, in which she described city-living in New York. One quote she mentions specifically stuck out:

“There is no open-armness about city life, no kind voices to tell you not to take a certain route at night or where to get the best sandwiches at 2 A.M. Instead, there is concrete. […] You become part of a big, uniformed fish school with no one destination but an underlying thought: keep going.” (p. 181)

Keep going.

Whether in New York or New Caledonia, keep going. Back at work after a week’s vacation, keep going. With all the ups and downs in life, keep going.

The Bronx: all the way up!

The Bronx: all the way up!

So, who is not to say that what I consider organized chaos another considers a comfortable routine? Like people and practices, some places take time to get used to, and New York is no exception. I will admit that even my home away from home was not an absolute haven at first glance. Time Square was bright (as expected), Central Park was right green (as ever) and Jamaica Avenue had deals I’ll never find again in my life. West Village has a piece of my heart and Wall Street, a bit of my change. Some of the people were not the nicest, but others sure put a smile on my face. The pace of the city keeps even the weakest in shape and all of these things are what make this place what it is.

Jersey read my mind.

Jersey read my mind. It was fun, NYC!

It all depends on perspective, and this time around I saw all sides of the coin. I’ll visit New York again, but I’ll never live there, and that’s okay. To finish off with Nugent’s just ending: “I hope you find your ‘here’ someday. I hope you know you’re already there.”

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Backyard Fun for the Undone

Here’s a not-so trick question: where is home to you? Is it where you are now? Or is it where you want to be?

Upon returning from my trip, this question has been the most frequent and frustrating thought to ever take rest on my brain. Home is where I am now; home is here where I am, where my family is, where familiarity and history is. Yet at this stage in my life, I am in the midst of deciding where my own home will be, separate from my family’s but inclusive of my career and goals.

To be truthful, I don’t know where that is – still. I went away not just with the intention to imporve my language skills, but also to find out if my place was someplace over there. I still don’t quite know, which is what continues to fuel my drive, my need to travel. Traveling is a dream, it’s a gift I wish upon the world; but it’s also something that must be taken in moderate doses.

I can’t keep trying to “find” my place; a never-ending search isn’t really a search after a point.

Algonquin Park - Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

Algonquin Park – Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

My level of quiet frustration has grown even more whilst talking amongst friends who share similar tales of wanting to go away, away to the “Land That is Not Their Own”. These could be permanent displacements or temporary ones (i.e. an exchange, vacation). And that brings me to my next question: what is so bad about one’s own backyard, absent from terrorful wars and violence, that pushes them away from it?

I in no way disclude myself from this statement when I say that we, in the days of increased globalization and accessible shared medias, have the urge to move – it’s in our nature as once nomadic creatures. Before, however, we moved for survival; now, we move for convenience. Don’t get me wrong, many of us are in the position and the right to do so; but have you not ever wondered of the the wonders that are your own?

I recently visited one of the many national parks in this beautiful country just three hours north, and my experience was spectacular, to say the least. I may have explored almost an entire continent, but I would never consider myself a world traveller – and that trip proved I had much more to see, and not too far from home either.

Algonquin Park - Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

Algonquin Park – Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

The Earth is too beautiful a place to have what goes on within it taint its appearance; the grass is just as green wherever you go. We were rooted in our origins for a reason; where we come from has treasure all of its own, even in all its surrounding rubble.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

The Feels.

So I’m back home from my semester-long exchange in Grenoble, France; have been for about a month now.

At first, even actually before I returned, I longed for the familiarity I was once surrounded by day-in day-out. I longed for my family, my friends, my school, my old life while still holding tight to the memories of the near past.

But as time came and went at and around home, a certain feeling grew on me, one which felt inexplicable and unnatural.

Then, tonight, I read this article by Kellie Donnelley, and my feelings not so much subsided, but in themselves, felt comforted at the thought that they were understood; that I was not alone in these series of feelings, and that it was in fact somewhat normal to feel such a way.

Here’s the link to the short but ever so sweet article: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kellie-donnelly/2014/07/the-hardest-part-about-traveling-no-one-talks-about/

À la prochaine,
Moi

A Hug for My Teddies

To feel ecstatic and all the while solemn, that is to live out of a suitcase.

Even when staying at a home, and not a hostel; with family, and not strangers; in comfort not unease, I still can not shake the feeling of wanting to finally settle, to be home again.

To sit or to settle?

To sit or to settle?

While I was on my exchange in France, things were different: my residence room was mine – temporarily, yes – but still, for the time, mine. I also had a family; not blood-related, but close enough; and I knew I had to settle since I would be there for such a long period of time.

Now that I have been constantly on the move for about two months, the need to return home is ever-pressing.

But I’m conflicted: I want to go home so badly, in desperate need to hug my family, friends, and teddy bears, but I’m also saddened to distance myself even more from the family I have made as well as discovered over here. Before I left, I had the fear of missing out on the fascinating changes at home, but now more than ever, I mourn the loss of chances to experience the changes and growth of my family abroad.

Yet, there really is nothing to mourn about. Thanks to certain technologies like Skype and FaceBook, I am able to easily stay in contact with others miles away – so long as they are willing. But that’s the thing; how many of those which I have befriended are actually willing to keep it so?

I recently watched a Tyler Perry video, a clip from one of his Madea plays on broadway, and in the clip Madea spoke of something very important. She said,

“Your life is like a tree. Some people who come into your life are like the leaves on the branches, only there to take from the tree and give shade every now and then, that’s the only thing they can do. Some people are like branches on that tree: you think that they’re a friend who will stay but the minute you step out, they’ll leave you high and dry. But if you find two or three people who are like the roots of a tree, they’re the kind of people that aren’t going anywhere. If those roots weren’t in there, that tree couldn’t live.”

Thanks to travelling, I understand who are the leaves and branches in my life, and I know who are the roots. I know that once that plane takes off, many a hands will be waving goodbye, until next time; but I also know that once that plane lands, even many more arms will be open to take me back.

Brighton! - where the sun shines in the name alone!

Brighton! – where the sun shines in the name alone!

At the start of this trip, a reflection came to me and I’ve been using it to head this trip ever since: I’ll always be up for the adventure as long as home is the last stop. So yeah, it’s been a blast, but now I’m ready to go.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

On the ride

“So this cousin is your dad’s fourth cousin’s daughter-in-law’s brother’s uncle’s wife’s neighbor’s dog’s friend’s sister’s mom…”

I previously spoke of my background; where I come from, how I moved from there, and how I do not know my exact roots. I also spoke of becoming cultured by travelling and learning the cultures, and in turn, histories, of these new friends and “family”. I always thought my family to be a small one: my mom’s side was big, yes, but that was due mainly to extra family brought in by marriages, etc (I can count the number of cousins I have on her side on one hand – nope – let’s make it two fingers). But then on my dad’s side, what I thought to be just one cousin not even my age, I am now discovering is immense.

One of the many lochs of Scotand...

Scotland: Lochland

The opening line for this entry is exactly the sort of thing I have been hearing over and over for the past few days here in London, and I am absolutely loving it.

While living with my immediate family up north for the past decade and a bit, I always loved our closeness and small family-gatherings since all we have are each other up there; but now, to discover that I have a whole pool of people I can call cousins, second cousins, friends-of-seconds-who-are-like-family, it’s just such a heart-warming feeling!

Oslo Opera House: a view..

Oslo Opera House: a view..

I have changed my ways as I’ve grown and come to appreciate the same quality of love in smaller numbers, but for a time, I used to get really jealous – yes, jealous is the right, true word here – when a friend of mine would brag, if you will, about her weekend family gatherings, another wedding she had to go to or her new baby cousin. I kept wishing that I could experience a big family like that where the head count went on for hours if not days, but I never thought I would.

And now I am.

This just proves how much one can discover by getting out of one’s shell, from under one’s rock, and just giving the world a big hello.

I’ve been trying to meld well into life’s new adventures as I cope with the end of the last one: it’s been hard, I’ll admit, but these past few weeks venturing to Scotland’s gem highlands, the ABBA museum of Stockholm, and the statues of Oslo’s Vigelandsparken, and now discovering the extent of my blood have shown me that there is so much more to come.

What a rush!

Stockholm: What a rush!

I won’t forget yesterday but I must still look ahead to tomorrow.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Ahoj

There are just some moments in life where you need no explanation; no reiteration; no visuals or tell-all’s. They have been lived and experienced; enjoyed and appreciated; loved and remembered and that is enough.

This exchange was absolute bliss and I know it is imprinted in my memory forever.

Merci la France, vous tenez pour toujours une pièce de mon cœur.

À la prochaine (il y en aura bien sur une),
Moi

Music of the Moment:

A Brothaman from the Mothaland

If there was one thing I could wish for that everybody could experience, besides life’s necessities like available food, unlimited clean water and genuine happiness, it would be the opportunity to be cultured.

I am physically cultured by way of birth, tracing my ancestry back to many different origins; but since I am unfamiliar with my exact roots, I have found the need to become cultured otherwise: through travel.

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown...

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown…


Though I have not seen all that is to be seen, I have gained so much more knowledge of the world in which we live and the actors that make their marks on it. I have been exposed to various means of communication between myself and the foreigner, the local and I, me and my distant family and friends. I have observed the different ways of survival, our main goal in living: some survive solely on the basic needs, others with the need for something ‘more’. And I have also come to appreciate how our differences, beyond borders and oceans, are what really make us quite similar.

Now, with all of this in mind, one thing which I had not really been exposed to in a while but which I came across during last week’s visit to the beautiful state of the Czech Republic is the behaviour of those less cultured. For the most part, my origins are of a minority race, thus, I hold a more flavoured appearance so to speak. I had been jokingly forewarned that due to this, I may receive a few double-takes or extra-long stares here and there, which I found understandable due to the restrictions of the nation’s past. However, once I was actually in the position to see it happen with my own eyes, the level of my self-comfort dwindled, and my frustration grew.

I know how it feels to witness something unfamiliar, unique, and foreign; I know how it is to be surprised by something new and different. But quite frankly, I also know that I am not the first black person to step foot inside this country, which made me the most confused. Black people have been exposed to many parts of the world, and there are various iconic members of the Black community who appear on global TV, in politics, and elsewhere which makes it quite hard for one not to be exposed to this culture. So when I received an extra-long stare or a double-take, I kept asking myself, “Have you really never seen one of me before?”

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!


Which brings me back to the start: I wish culture upon everyone; whether it be physical or mental, knowing or sharing cultures is what helps keep this world as one. I am not mad at the behaviour of some of the people there. I myself had not previously been exposed to Czech culture, and besides the uncomfortable feeling of difference, the place itself is marvelous. The landscape is wondrous; I was surprised at the amount of green everywhere; and the food is one to remember (when ordering a side-dish, definitely go for the “dumplings ;” and for dessert, some “zmrzlina” or “lázeňské oplatky” goes a long way). Still, I am absolutely grateful for that trip; I had the time of my life with those who really mattered. And now I can say I know some Czech – so I’ll take that to the bank, thank-you very much.

It only makes sense to end this one off with a cliché quote from Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Brzy na shledanou,
Moi

Music of the Moment: