A Look Around the Bend

Travelling is a gift, I’ve said it time and time again.

Travelling is also a task. I recently read a brilliant book titled, The Geography of Bliss, where author Eric Weiner describes his mighty adventure in search of the happiest place on earth.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Deep into the text, Weiner explains the history of travel: “The word “travel” stems from the same root as “travail”, the word for ‘work’ in French. For centuries, traveling was equated with suffering. Only pilgrims, nomads, soldiers, and fools traveled.” To think that travel was an unfortunate destiny for many in the past is an odd thought for this generation; travelling is deemed a luxury, a dream, something only the rich and lucky can do often.

When I say that travel is a task, I don’t mean the same tedious measures as it was back in the day; travelling demands commitment, dedication and enthusiasm. Travelling tests you to see how much you will do to make it work: will you wake up early on a Wednesday morning to get the best flight prices? Will you suck it up to stay in nothing more than a budget-hostel? Will you turn down expensive transit for sole sight-seeing with bikes? on foot?

Politics isn't always pretty: L'Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luzebourg City, Luxembourg.

Politics can be pretty: L’Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then travel is what you want.

Travel may seem like it also tests your finances (which it does, sometimes), but there are ways to get around that: travelling to work.

Old habits die hard, yes, but the burden they bring are long past. With the development of technology, travel methods are no longer a burden, but quick and easy, allowing work and travel to go hand in hand. I mean, you get to discover while you get paid; it’s genius! And if your dedication still runs thick, the task of finding outlets to do this that meets your needs can be tricky but possible. To help with your search, check out these sites:

International work and travel organizations – http://www.gointernational.ca/work-and-travel-abroad/overview.aspx, http://www.swap.ca/out_eng/index.aspx
For the environmental worker – http://www.wwoof.net/
For the Canadians looking for work – http://www.international.gc.ca/development-developpement/partners-partenaires/avail-internships-stages-dispo.aspx?lang=eng
For those who want to work without the cash reward – www.lattitudecanada.org

So travelling is work, but it’s fun work; and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Comme les Éléphants

While wondering the halls of the musée Dauphinois right by my French residence, I happened upon a quote by mountaineer, Caroline Villeneuve, that read, “Mon rêve, c’était de faire comme les éléphants, de revenir où je suis née” or in English, “My dream, it was to do as the elephants, to come back to where I was born.” For some reason, this has resonated with me since then and I did not really know why until now.

I recently returned from a fulfilling trip back to Jamaica. It was the first time I travelled for the holidays since moving further north, and I have decided that travel during the winter season to a warmer destination can cause some painful withdrawals, upon return, which I do not admire at this time.

Uptown Kingston at primet-time: Hop on while you can!

Uptown Kingston at prime-time: hop on while you can!

Still, though I have taken this trip before, I had never taken it like this. The fragile innocence of youth can blind one to the realities that they have lived, and this trip exposed me to many of these facts and figures I had not concretely defined before.

Simply put, it was a family trip to celebrate the start of the end and the end of the start.

Nevertheless I went into this with an agenda; comme les éléphants, I knew that there was much to rediscover and I only had two weeks. I prepared myself as I had during last summer’s European adventure: I made a list of destinations after a quick search on TripAdvisor and I made a promise to myself that no time would be wasted; at least once every day, the sun would shine on my face. Soon I came to realise that my agenda was becoming of something more.

Negril: Rick's Café at sunset is a must.

Negril: Rick’s Café at sunset is a must.

It is quite difficult to explain exactly my experience; to analogize, it is as if I have been telling a story I once remembered so clearly as a kid, as clear as real life. Every time I retold this story, something was added to it or taken away; and so everytime I retold this story, it felt less true, less authentic, like I had never really known it before. So once I began seeing characters and objects from this story again, things slowly came back to me, still faint but ever so familiar.

Unlike my European escapades where walking was a must, we drove everywhere; it was a blessing and a curse as the heat could kill, but I had to absorb everything in 5 seconds or less. Even so, for the things that took more time, like going to the supermarket or meeting my father’s friend from high school, I was like a sponge in water.

St. Catherine - Flat Bridge: on the road.

St. Catherine : on the road to Flat Bridge.

Conversations had more depth, people and places had more features, and my memories had more flavour. I concluded then that, in all my denial as a proud immigrant against acclimatization, I could now properly justify my multinationality as the proof was right there.

I did indeed live a part of this story, but a long time ago; when trees grow, their roots stretch out, reaching ends once unknown to that same trunk. So I may have lost my accent, and I cannot easily differenciate between uptown and downtown as other locals; but my roots all started from the same spot that I can and will always return to.

It never hurts to learn what you have always known.

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:

Vingt-et-un

If anyone told me as a child what my life would be like now, I would never believe them.

The mystery of life is so enticing; we go on about our days not really knowing what lies ahead (no matter how much we try to plan every move) with a strong thirst for finding out where we are going and how far we’ll get.

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about it all: how I got here, what I am here for, and who and what will I discover. That curiosity has led me into some trouble, I must admit; not everything needs to be understood, I’ve learned, but just accepted. On the other hand, that curiosity has led me to some of the greatest moments of my life thus far, and this exchange has been one of the greatest.

IMG_5233

La Tour Eiffel: ya d’autre si belle comme elle?

I honestly could not have predicted how this exchange would change my life. Looking back on it at the beginning, I was scared, frightened; I just kept assuming, imaging the worst once I got on that plane from home onward. I knew that change was coming, but as life’s mysterious ways play, I was not quite sure how or if I’d like it.

Yet, as Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we aren’t living,” and that is my ultimate goal in life – to live; so with that, changes must come…and I must grow. I have slowly watched myself progress in academics, social and professional settings, but this exchange, like my previous travel endeavors, has shown me more of myself than ever before, and I do quite like it.

I like myself.

I feel some find it hard to say, to admit with humility that they appreciate themselves. But I do, I really do. And when I say I appreciate myself, that comes along with everything that makes me me. My mother, my father, my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends, co-workers, even my laptop that I’m using to write this with.

I owe all that I have accomplished to everyone and everything that has helped me get there, and I am forever grateful for that support – there is nothing stronger.

So with that, I shall celebrate today by celebrating the lives that give life to my own.

With love.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

xoxo

If you dig a little, you can find treasure in your own backyard.; and this week, I got a little muddy.

Every North American that comes to Europe, in my opinion, has the mentality that they must explore. No matter how much it takes, nor by what means, as many countries must be visited and checked off while you’re here because it’s EUROPE (also, reading articles like these just gets the Dora the Explorer in you even more hyper:  http://themindunleashed.org/2014/04/visited-201-countries-world-without-using-plane.html ).So naturally, when I found out that I would finally be crossing the pond, I quickly made a list of all the wonders I had to see on the other side.

One thing that has been difficult for me to check off my list is Italy, Italia, the land of all things Vatican and pesto. I almost had a chance to go this weekend, to start off a week-long vacation at uni, but my plans were thrown off by travel doubts and too many inquiries into the means of getting to the ends. So, I had no choice but to stay in Grenoble, which frustrated my plans and ruffled my feathers a little too.

Funny enough though, when things don’t go right, we can always go left.

I like to keep up with life’s pace so doing absolutely nothing this weekend was a definite ‘no’. However, I did end up discovering a piece of France’s beauty that was only a few kilometers away in a town called Vizille. There is a chateau, a mesmerizing park, and an atmosphere of exploration which necessitated but only a half hour’s drive.

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders...

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders…

There’s a line in the American Idol winner, Fantasia’s first ever single, “I Believe,” where she questions, “Ever felt like you were dreaming, just to find that you’re awake?” As I take in everything that is happening in my life at this time, it is hard to believe that I am awake; that this indeed is not a dream. To have your dreams spring to life almost feels as if it’s someone else who’s living them and you’ve just got the best seat in the house, watching tirelessly as you stuff a handful of extra-buttered popcorn into your mouth with every new scene.

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard....

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard….

She continues to sing, “And that magic that surrounds you can lift you up, and guide you on your way.” That magic that surrounds me is my family – and that includes all; blood relatives, friends-so-close-they’re-family, and my residence family, living here with me while on exchange. The love and support I receive in my life for no matter what I do is astounding, and like Fantasia as she sings in the spotlight on the eve of her Idol title, I too feel like I have won, and that feeling is bliss.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:
Pour mes amours, ceux qui me donnent leurs coeurs et qui acceptent gracieusement le mien…

P.S. Happy Birthday Lexi :*