(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.
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.
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.
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
Music of the Moment:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Music of the Moment:
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.
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?
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,
Music of the Moment:
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.
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.
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,
Music of the Moment:
I absolutely adore Latin people and their culture.
I had this perception from while at home, but I had merely encountered Latin immigrants or those of Latin descent.
Interestingly enough, their culture runs strong through their generations and across borders, because in North America or in Costa Rica, their Latin flavour still runs thick.
This may be a general assumption I am making for a vast array of people, but I’ve met Colombians, Puerta Ricans, Pervuvians, and Spanish alike, and there’s an essence to them that I haven’t quite yet found in any other culture I’ve experienced (which I guess is why there are various cultures around the world that have their own differences and is why I’ll keep travelling to discover them all!).
Yesterday seemed to enhance that opinion when my fellow intern and I made our way over to Doña Blanca’s casa, a woman who lives near the station and who is in need of help learning English.
One thing I really admire about the Latin culture, specifically Ticas and Ticos in this context, is that they are very honest and open and will talk you up even if you don’t completely understand everything they’re saying. They are so animated with their words and expressions, and even though I may not be fluent in Spanish, the actions she did while speaking really helped me grasp the main idea.
At a point during our language session, Doña Blanca was comparing the two languages, English and Spanish, as we tried translating a part of a paragraph together. “One word in English,” she said, “can be translated into a whole phrase in Spanish. I guess it’s because Spanish love to just talk and talk, no?” Then she laughed.
What was also refreshing was her intent on learning our language.
She seems to be a woman of the world, dipping her feet in every job she can, and one of them is being a turtle guide, which seems plausible when one grasps the short distance from her house to the Caribbean Sea where the turtles we monitor come to nest.
She knew so much about the turtles and their activities without studying it as a degree in school, which showed me that the Ticas and Ticos that live here are very much in touch with their environment and their home is their livelihood and must be understood and taken care of, which I admire and respect greatly.
Her words became even more animated as she moved onto the art of her pedicures and crafts.
It was a very entertaining visit.
And what made it the sweetest for me was the ending.
As we got up to leave, she offered us some lemonade (“agua con limón en ingles es…?”) and then we talked about culture and why I supposedly have Chinese eyes if I’m not Chinese; and then when we were really ready to leave, she gave us both hugs and kisses and sent us off.
La hospitalidad era demasiado bueno! Comprende?
Gracias Doña Blanca y pura vida,
P.S. Saw my first leatherback turtle (possibly the last of the season) last night, while the moon was bright, and the night was cool. It was perfectly huge and a sight to see!
Music for the Moment:
Eggs. Turtle eggs to be exact.
Last night (well, this morning really), I encountered my third turtle as an intern at the Caño Palma station here in Costa Ríca.
However, the last two turtles my team and I worked with were both less hands on than this one.
This one was special for me in many a-ways.
For starters, the last two turtles were Hawksbills, which for some are a rarity to encounter. But I was already bored with them and wanted something new.
Last night, I finally got a green.
This green turtle, though, was not too happy to get us as her observers.
I was assigned as ‘egg counter,’ which meant I was to have probably the closest interaction with her.
The experience is indescribable, really.
What we must do is place our hands underneath the tail of the turtle and gently cup and then let fall her eggs as she lays them.
I’ll admit I felt uncomfortable at first; and this does not include the fact that my pants were torn all along the crotch and backside, so my bare bottom was cotched in the air. This also doesn’t include the fact that it was pouring rain and I had to tie my poncho, that could protect me against the cold drops, around my waist to protect my tush.
The intense contractions she had whilst my hand was also cupping her tail, could be felt before every egg slowly drops.
For a first-timer, it was a bit of an introduction.
I kept thinking, soaking from head to toe, “When will this be over?” But then the night continued into morning, and as my team and I rushed back 2 miles to return to the station before 5 a.m., we managed to watch the sun rise and sing Sister Act’s ‘Oh Happy Day’ to the rhythm of the waves.
It wasn’t until I was dry, warm, and for the most part, rested, when I gave myself the chance to ponder on the happenings of the previous night, and realize what I had actually witnessed: the birth of anew.
And so this trip continues to be…
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.
Music for the Moment:
So I’m finally nearing the end of my first week here at Caño Palma station, and truthfully, I have never been this doubtful in my entire life.
You know you’re not in a good place when you’re counting down the days just to see them go by.
People always say, “Don’t have high standards and you won’t get screwed over.” For me, I was just unaware of what exactly I had to put a standard on.
I came into this trip thinking basically. Like how I started my last post, I really believed I was just here to save turtles.
As the days passed by this week, I was demonstrated as well as participated in the intricate, rigorous workings that the staff here have to do constantly, everyday, non-stop.
My emotions have never been so roller-coasterish, to say frankly. Some moments I am happy and believe I can make it and it’s really not that bad; but other times, like now as I write this post, my confidence is low and my heart yearns for home which I already miss dearly.
A lot of things are easier said than done; and this internship is definitely one of them.
But thankfully ( and I truly mean thankfully) I think I can do this until the end. I think I can clean this until the end of the three month mark.
Last night, I went out in my third night patrol with two other interns, and I have to say they really brought me up again.
Some places leave a mark in your mind because of the place itself; others are unforgettable because of the people you experience things with while there.
I think this place is one of those places.
In desperate times, all we have is hope; and as long as it’s strong enough, it’s the best you can hold on to.
Music of the Moment: