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

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.

IMG_5115

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.

IMG_4993

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.

IMG_4744

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.

img_3285

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.

img_3222

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.

img_3953

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.

img_3934

“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.

img_3854

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:

On est là.

I used to do this thing as a kid while travelling; once I arrived somewhere, the first thing I would do was always to take one deep breath in and taste the air of the foreign land. The air was always new, unfamiliar to me, and desired immensely.

Once I arrived in France this past week, it was only natural for me to do the same. It struck me by surprise, however, that the smell was no different from where I came from nor where I’ve been.

I don’t know if it’s because I was still inside the airport when I inhaled, but another thought which explains otherwise has crossed my mind. Before I left for this trip, I mentally held the journey, this country, and its people so highly, much more highly than my own life (sort of like a fairy tale experience that only happens in dreams). Because I put it all on such a high pedestal, I made it out to seem almost impossible to feat myself, which explains most of my pre-flight fears.

But as I habituate myself to the area, its inhabitants, and its incredible views, I slowly come to realize that the task was not so unreachable.

Now, that’s not to say that the French are mediocre people and their way of life is seldom unique; on the contrary, the French are quite a relaxed yet active people, a combination which I do not see often. What I’m really trying to say, I guess, is that I needed not to change myself in order to understand where I was going; France and I would merely discover each other.

For instance, I arrived in Lyon, a city just above Grenoble where I currently reside and will reside for the next six months, and stayed there for two days (including New Year’s) to take a look around and prep myself for what was to come in Grenoble. Upon arrival, my arm pits were honestly sweating bullets and I felt lost for a second. I didn’t want to open my mouth and immediately be targeted as an Anglophone, or worse, a foreigner. But it wasn’t like that at all.

Once I got out the airport, I met a too-hip-for-his-age taxi driver who drove me to my hostel, Cool & Bed (if you’re ever in Lyon, pay it a visit – nice place!). The city is absolutely beautiful – a must-see if near the area.

To build a bridge...

To build a bridge…

My trip to Grenoble was very interesting, to say the least. I used the same too-cool-for-school taxi driver who played rap, jazz, and soul music all throughout the ride. While I spoke to him about my life in Canada and he described his love for Snoop Dogg, I finally felt at peace. It’s silly to think that rap music can calm a person, but it did the job!

My residence is on a mountain (literally); Le Rabot is a bit of a trip to get to by foot (my taxi driver was worried we were lost as I pointed him in the direction of the residence) but the view from my rooms is, as I continue to repeat, spectacular. As soon as I reached my room, I was acquainted with a floor mate who has kept me active every day since. Often times, I just want to stay in my room and relax, really ease myself into the area; but at others, I know I should dive right in since this opportunity comes only to so little and only so often. So with that, I am very pleased at our acquaintance.

To sum up the week, I’ve went grocery shopping; ate a crêpe (comme il faut); went on an adventurous trip to Ikea (yes, they have one here, and yes, it’s just as crazy inside as it is in North America); visited my university and today, recently went up further on the mountain which holds my residence, all the way up to the top to La Bastille, an old prison used by the French monarchy and an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Et on marche...

Et on marche…

But all in all, life here is normal just like anywhere else. I think back to the shock of the not-so-unusual scent once I landed, and there comes a point, I guess, when you realize that life is life. We each have our own to live, and that is no different anywhere else in the world. We all need to eat, breathe, sleep, connect, feel; it’s an old tradition, one that’s kept us alive and will keep doing so.

So the next time I sniff, if anything smells differently, it’ll probably be due to a washroom entrance I’ll find myself standing by.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment: