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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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An Internship in Ottawa, Season 6, Ep. 1

(Late Post: Summer 2017)

One of my all-time favourite TV shows is NBC’s Community, from creator Dan Harmon. It remains the only show I’ve ever willingly bought the DVD box set for. I remember randomly coming across the pilot episode one evening and thinking to myself, “This is hilarious!” A group of diverse characters who attend the same community college and who themselves form a community. Brilliant!

Like typical TV viewers, I generally just watched Community to be entertained; and it did that very well. I recently came to realize, however, that there was more to the show – a big fat (important) travelling message – that I had never quite clued in on until now, in doing a four-month internship away from home in Ottawa this summer: The key to discovering where your place is in this world lies in discovering where your community is.

And no, I’m not saying to go to community college. I am however suggesting that the people you’re with can really make a place you’re in.

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Be it the country’s capital, Ottawa is a beautiful place: very clean, close to nature and outdoor activities, and very family-friendly. All great features which would seemingly make it the perfect place to live. Yet when people continually asked me, “How are you liking Ottawa?” I could only tell them the truth. It’s a great place – but it’s not for me.

For most of this summer, I’ve struggled to understand why I’ve felt this way: I rented a beautiful apartment on the edge of downtown, not too deep in the mix but not too far from it either. I have a fascinating job that has taught me lessons for my professional (and personal) career which I will carry with me forever. And I’ve been given the chance to relax and get in touch with my own self-care after a year of doing a lot that wasn’t always the best for me.

Yet, all I can recall feeling every other day this summer was just a strong want to return home and be with my loved ones. Shocking for me, the self-proclaimed lover of travels and eternal wanderer. Still, the feelings were there, and, as much as I tried to go out, meet new people and discover new spaces, they never went away.

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Things became a bit clearer after attending a party with an old schoolmate. While there, I got into conversation with a young woman who reiterated to me my exact feelings, but from the opposite end. Unlike me, she had moved from Ottawa to Toronto to do her schooling. And unlike me, her core community of friends and family were here, not in Toronto. She proceeded to tell me how difficult it was for her at times to stay positive in a city where you can’t find your place or your people.

And so, it all made sense. Being a part of a community wherever you are is so important, even when far from home.

I had never truly understood this before because I had always been at stages in my life where I was open to discovering new places and people, and developing new, deep – though brief – friendships. However, I realized this summer that I’ve taken a shift in how I develop and maintain relationships, and I’ve come to realize a lot of who I am and my sense of belonging really flows from those who I love and surround me.

And that’s what it was like in Community too. Though the characters were in a community college overflowing with new, different people to meet and get to know, the dynamic energy between Troy and Abed was unbreakable. When Troy (aka Childish Gambino) left the show, things weren’t the same and Abed wasn’t his full creative, loony self. Furthermore, when Piers got sick, the mood of the group changed because one of their own could not be fully present.

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Community is a hilarious show. It’s got wit, oozing creativity and a weighty moral of the story to boot.

If you’ve got a community, cherish it. If you don’t, keep searching to find yours.

À la prochaine. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
Moi

Music of the Moment:

An Ode to the Trips

You know those friends that always say they can’t chill because they’re “busy”? Well, travel blog, sorry for being that friend for a while.

This year has indeed been a busy one. Still, I did manage to get in a bit of site-seeing and linguistic exercise when I could catch my breath. As such, before the year starts afresh, I thought it best to take a look back at some of the traveling I forgot to mention but which were nevertheless unforgettable.

The last time we spoke, I described my beautiful adventures to the #westside in Vancouver, B.C.; yet, that hadn’t been the rest of the best.

Just after that trip, I was whisked away by my knight-in-shining armour (boyfriend) to the wonderful island of Hawaii (Boston, Massachusetts) for a relaxing vacation (a week-long business trip). At first, I was less than enthused: “You mean the place with those donuts, yeah?” Craving for more adventure, I went along anyways.

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Downtown Pier: Best clam chowder ever.

Surprisingly, it was an absolute blast! Our Airbnb was near to everything: the universities; historic monuments; and the various downtown cores. Boston is also very walkable, a feature we loved and took advantage of.

But the best part of the trip came right at the end.

One of my favourite podcasts to listen to, made in part by the New York Times, is produced at a local Boston radio station, WBUR, called Modern Love. Earlier in the week, I had the idea that maybe we could drop in to say hello and fangirl for a few minutes about how great the show is to the show’s host.

Unfortunately, once we got there, we were told that the host was busy. Instead, they invited us to meet the show’s producer, Anne Marie Sivertson, who spontaneously gave us a tour of the station. Cool!

But it gets better.

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Harvard Stadium: the American Dream.

She then proceeded to sit us down and offer us the chance to ask her anything about the show, a great treat as I had so many questions. To top it all off, she offered us free tickets to see a live taping of another popular podcast, The Moth, and gave us her contact info to stay in touch.  Much better than donuts. Awesome.

The next destination took me just across the border to Connecticut (pronounced /CONNECT-IT-CUT:/ according to my ever stubborn, Jamaican mother) for a cricket tournament. Boy, was that a trip.

Though it coincided with my birthday, the trip was anything but celebratory. Stuck on a bus full of country, city and “farrin” Jamaicans all-in-one from morning till night; I can still hear the slams of dominos echoing in my ear drums to this day. Between the cricket matches and discount shopping stops, not much time was left to explore the city.

Again, what a trip.

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La chute Montmorency: une belle vue.

Fast-forward a few months, it was as if I took a trip back in time to visit the place where it all began: Vieux-Quèbec, Quèbec.

My travel bug really took its first bite when I worked at a musical camp there in Gr. 11 for five weeks, away from anything I really knew. That trip was the first, since migrating, that really made me feel different, and which forced me to open my eyes to the differences between cultures; even one that was just about a day’s drive up north.

This was probably the best trip to end on, too, for this year, as it brought back a few of those feelings and thoughts of discovery I experienced during that period of my life. In fact, as I write this post from my family home for the holidays, I recall a night a few days ago I spent going through some of my old creative writing pieces and chemistry quizzes, stuffed in my closet, from high school.

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“The more they search, the more they doubt.”

High school was definitely something, but it was a lot of other things too. Please leave the acne, “emotional turmoil”, friendship break-ups and all other unnecessary (though entertaining, now looking back) drama in the past. But do bring back the excited nervousness of school plays; the joy of vocal classes; the passion to complete magnum opus projects and english essays.

2016 was not a bad year, though it was definitely uninspiring. And so with that, 2017 will be The Year of Creativity.

It will be the year where I do the absolute most with the things I love: singing, dancing, cooking, baking, traveling, writing. When we are our most creative, I find, we are our best selves. It’s human nature. All that we do that is different, innovative, transformative, and progressive, is creative.

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Quèbec Pride Week – allons-y les gars!

This year, I allowed myself to get lost in the popular societal, adult habit of focusing on what I have to do and how to do it, severely neglecting what I love to do and when to do it. But not this round.

Next year is gonna be good as hell.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of 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:

Why You So Obsessed with Me?

Things are looking up.

They always were, actually; there were just a few clouds blurring my vision of my personal and academic goals whilst here that made it seem otherwise.

I’m not saying that everything is now peachy clean – I’m only two weeks in, so that’s too soon to say – but to finally grasp even a portion of the rhythm of a new environment is just such a relief.

After getting over the hump of an introduction, I’ve started to make other observations while busy-bodying around here (which we do quite often).

One very prominent aspect is the blending of cultures.

Caño Palma is a Canadian biological station situated in Costa Ríca and open to volunteers and interns from around the world.

Luckily for me, I get to experience cultural bits and pieces from people all over while staying put in one place.

So far I’ve encountered Germans, met a few close-to-home Canadians (of course), acquainted myself with a Belgian, befriended a Britain, and joked with a few Dutch.

I also can’t forget the Costa Rícan interactions I have been able to grab ahold of with the station’s weekly cook, Cenia. She is absolutely wonderful, and helping my español greatly (gracias Cenia!).

It’s a bit of a shocker to experience so many different accents and customs so quickly, but fascinating nonetheless.

Still, if there is one thing I can say that is consistent throughout all the cultures at this station (and it may be due to the purpose of the station itself) is the persistent characteristics of passion and dedication.

Whether volunteers or interns, the people from these cultures are all very passionate about what they do here. Even more inspiring, they are all genuinely passionate about life, which a young person like me needs to be surrounded by more, I must say.

Their passionate spirits are really pushing me to be in the same mindset.

I can’t honestly say that I am around such passionate people all too much in my daily life; nor can I say that I am just as passionate about something as my fellow comrades.

I want to be.

But it’s a leap becoming so passionate about something that one will do whatever it takes to accomplish it.

Still, you can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.

So I think it’s about time I start flying, soaring, until the only thing I can see is the sky.

And there’s no where else to go but up.

Pura vida,
Moi

Music for the Moment: