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:

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:

adventureception.

In the most uncertain of times, it is often best not to judge the moment, but just let it be; that is something that travelling and being away from any and all things familiar gradually teaches you, I find.

This past weekend brought about my first adventure within an adventure as a couple of friends and I went a bit north from our current city of residence to a smaller, quaint ville called Aix-les-Bains. Our number one destination there was the grand Lac du Bourget, a beautiful lake by the mountainside. But of course, like every adventure, there was a lot of extra stuff in between where the journey started and where it ended.

The start was a little shaky.

We were running a bit behind schedule but luckily we weren’t found running behind our train. The ride was smooth and the trip not very long. Once we arrived in Aix-les-Bains, we attempted to look for a nice café to dine in for lunch. The search was endless as many shops were closed (you’ll often find yourself question when people work and how they make any sufficient income over here).

Once we found what seemed to be a reasonable stop, we eventually realized its unsatisfactory menu items and decided to leave after sitting down, taking a look at what was offered and quickly using the washroom. The latter was our worst mistake as the owner of the shop decided, right after we left her shop, to come from behind her counter, storm outside  to where we had stopped to take a look at the shop across hers and yell at us for occupying her washroom but not her business.

After we had lunch at the wonderful restaurant Au Bureau, the endless search for an open bakery started. Once we retrieved our goods, we went on our way to the lake.

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Lac du Bourget is an absolutely stunning sight to see. The way the sun glistened on the water ripples was near indescribable (but luckily captured on photo). I highly recommend this destination to anyone  desiring to visit the lower France regions.

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As I sat there admiring Mother Nature’s softer side, I  couldn’t help but think of how much  little thought went into this trip. It  was really more of a point-on-the- map-and-just-go sort of thing and it  worked – it really did work.

That’s why whenever someone asks me what I want to do with my life, I always think it should be rephrased with, “What does life want to do with me?” Now, of course that is a question I cannot answer as I have yet to completely break through the surface that is my life; still, I find it best to just sometimes let it be. Let it be and you will see.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the moment:

Back to the Future

William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but use worst,” and that is one of my greatest fears. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about time; how much I have, how much I’ve used, and how much others have in comparison to me. It’s a world-wind of thoughts that involves too much math and not enough positivity; but alas, it is a difficult task to stray the mind from a topic with which it is already determined upon.

Today marks exactly three months since I returned home from the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sometimes I feel like I literally just came back; other times I feel like I never even went. It’s strange when I look back on the mesmerizing photos from that time and think, “Did I actually do that?” But then, I recall the itchy hives I currently suffer from since coming back, and reassure myself that yes, I did indeed go.

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Even more so, I look back at some of the photos I’ve taken within the three months of being back at home, and I’ve done quite a bit also: volunteered at a renowned international film festival, went to a Tori Kelly concert (she’s the bomb, check her out!), took a boat cruise with friends around the heart of downtown, and performed some songs for the first time in a long while in front of a crowd of students at my university.

And now, as I nervously organize myself for exams the end of this semester, my mind occasionally wanders to the plan of next semester: six months in France.

It’s funny, really; I tell people about my plans and they say, “Wow, look at you. You’re doing it all!” But that’s not how I feel, no. I feel like I’m doing some stuff, yes. But not all. I don’t even feel like I’ve done much. Then I look at other, more successful people my age or younger and think that I definitely have not done anything compared to them.

That’s where the want for time comes into play. I keep wishing that I could rewind the time; do a few things differently, keep a few more the same, and then live life over again using my time more effectively. But reality never likes to change now, does it?

It’s also the thought of what I will be doing once I return which frightens me. A bit more of school then what?

But as my thoughts continue to roll around in my head, I’m starting to realize that I have time – plenty of it. And the more time I can say that I’ve used, the luckier I am. There are quite a few others out there who haven’t even reached my age yet with not much time left. Unfortunately, we tend to be very blind to what we have been blessed with when we are so focused on what we want.

So the future? I don’t really know. But that’s just it: I don’t really know. And that is the beauty of the future I guess, that little element of surprise. I’m sure the Me five years ago would be surprised to see what I’m doing now. I’m still a bit shocked and there’s more in store. But since I don’t yet know what to expect, might as well just enjoy what the present can give me here and now.

As long as the book is still open, time will tell.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment: