Monday, October 26, 2009

The Scarf of Many Meanings

At the end of November the BB Alumni are helping host a fundraising event for the current BB students which will hopefully include potential corporate sponsors. As part of the program, we will be auctioning off items that we brought back from our placements. Although my item is a modest, pashmina scarf, the story behind it is what truly matters the most to me. I hope that the person purchasing the scarf will be able to appreciate the memory and life-changing experience that the item represents. The following will be featured on the back of my favourite Sarajevo post card, and will hopefully be placed near the item during the auction:

The Scarf of Many Meanings

On my last day in Bosnia, I saw things in a whole new light. I had the opportunity to relive a day in Sarajevo- Bosnia Herzegovina’s capital city- and finally experience all the little things I missed the first time around. I.e., I started to notice the countless painted rose petals on the pavement honouring those killed during the war of the 90s, I got to visit the different religious buildings that represented hope for unity and acceptance among diverse ethnicities in Bosnia Herzegovina. Watching the elderly strategically make their move using chess pieces on a human-sized board while finally seeing inside the soul of someone I shared the majority of three months with but never really knowing as a person was remarkable. There in the heart of Sarajevo, while taking in its diverse food, culture, language and markets I was finally able to ‘just be’.

This scarf represents a moment in time. It represents my final day in a country that welcomed and accepted me. It represents a country that was torn apart and is still trying to recover. It represents hope. It represents an experience that truly changed me as a person, making me want a more fulfilled life where capitalistic greed is replaced by true happiness found through love, family cohesion, and continuously become a better and active global citizen through ongoing involvement in local and international organizations and research focused on issues such as poverty, peace and conflict, immigration, sustainable livelihoods, child labour, unjust imprisonment, and environmentally sound initiatives.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The End of One Chapter Means the Beginning of a New One

As the stress of midterms and assignments starts to mount, I find myself reflecting on my experience in Bosnia. Looking at pictures of the summer and things that I have accumulated from my host family and reading my journal entries from my summer abroad makes me reflect and refocus on what's important.

One of the many things is to properly complete my experience. While talking to other BB students, I realise that I am not the only one who, through getting caught up in the hussle and bustle of live back in Canada, has not properly sat down, digest and reflect on the past year. Thus, this past week I have been trying to take time out every night to make sure that I am completing my experience. What does this all really mean?

I have finally had a chance to send out all of my thank you notes and postcards to those who have supported me and who have requested them. It feels really good. In general, I would like to take the time out to formally thank the following people and companies:

  • My friends and family who helped with fundraising, and supported me through thick and thin before, during and after my placement overseas

  • Everyone who helped me monetarily

  • St. Aloysius, Holy Cross HELPS & Knights of Columbas

  • All BB Students from 08-09, BB Alumni, & staff

  • Everyone from Intercordia including the Alumni, students from the 08-09 programs, especially those who spend the summer with me in BiH

  • Zio's Restuarant for letting me host my fundraiser there and all of my regular customers at the restaurant for supporting me

  • The Independent and Free Press for promoting my Event

  • The band (CopperField) who played at my Georgetown fundraiser

  • Everyone who came out/helped out at both the pancake and evenning events

AND the following companies/people who donated auction/door items:

  • Aiden Finucane/Pepsi

  • Benix & Co.

  • Best Western

  • CIBC

  • Curves

  • Glazed Expressions

  • Guardian (Pharmacy) on Main St. Georgetown

  • Jason Rowbottom

  • Metro (Grocery store)

  • North Star Dry Cleaners

  • Ruby from BB

  • Scotiabank

  • TD

  • The Freckled LionThe Power ZoneThe Spa on Main

  • The Wood Heron Studio Gallery

  • Zio's

I also decided to allocated WEEKS of sleepless night on completing a meaningful report documenting my entire Beyond Border experience. I have decided to attach it to this blog. I am sorry in advance for the candid, and at times blunt, stories. I am sorry if I have affended anyone; it was not my intention. At the end of the day I respect everyone and I am grateful to everyone that has been appart of my BB experience.

I hope that I can continue striving for a more fulfilling life and that I can make my family proud.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Nagashir's First Words

If you want to live, live with a smile,

Live with love, don't cry

Don't shed your tears.

There are storms, there are disasters;

In life there are ups and downs.

But don't shed your tears.

Smile- pain is part of life,

But finally you get joy.

If you want to live, live with new hopes,

Live with love.

Live with a smile.

- Nagashir (Me to We, p. 9) is a truely inspiring boy. After everything he's gone through, the years of child labour, THESE were his first words in years.

It made me reevaluate once again what is truely important. That having open dialect, reading and experiencing and LISTENING and then communicating people's life experiences are SO important. AND to LOVE life and live it to the fullest. Thank you Nagashir.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Traveler's Itch/Living in Warp Speed

Since coming back to Canada I have been EXTREMELY busy!

I left for Canada with just over a day's notice, I started working for my uncles a day after arriving in Canada, I have found a house and a job (fingers crossed), and have gone to a concert and seen most of my friends. I am also going for surgery on my teeth and then having a job interview and moving days later. I am mentally exhausted!

With that said, I have the volunteering/teaching/going to a developing country ITCH! I feel like I want to do more for my local community. With my friends leaving to volunteer around the globe, and no prospective opportunities for me to go, as of yet, I am starting to get very itchy! lol There is so much that I want to do... if only there were more hours in the day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It Feels Like it was All a Dream...

I feel like I was Dorthy just dreaming about going to the Wizard of Oz because the past few days have just gone by SO fast!

This morning I woke up thinking, "I know I have to wake up for something but what?! I don't have programming at the Omladinski Centar anymore... wait I'm not in GVU anymore. What do I need to do?! OH YA, I have to start working at my uncles' camp today... in Canada!"

After prepping my L.A. and Math lessons, I went downstairs to copy my class list. A little boy was making a dog out of large Lego pieces. We started having a conversation about his Lego creature and I was helping him make ears and a nose. Then I thought, "Oh my, it is SO strange yet exciting; I can actually understand what he is saying and have a full on conversation!" It's funny how little things can affect you so much.

I also caught myself saying c(ch)eki and pazi NUMEROUS times today to the children. I'm suprised that they didn't look at me like I was crazy. lol When I got back to my baba and deda's house I said, "one minute I'm just getting my c(ch)erape" (sp?), AKA socks.

Typing, I keep forgetting that the y is not longer where the z is, I don't have to press Ctrl Alt V to make an @ sign, and I can actually type ' without a hassle/going into Word.

Moreover, whenever I hear a plane I smile to myself thinking, GVU is only a plane ride away, and that we are all looking at the same sky.

It's funny how I can get back into the swing of things, i.e. teaching at my old camp, but that I am still holding onto memories and habits from GVU.

It was also interesting that today felt so much shorter and teaching was so much easier, for the most part. (I guess it's because everything is so fast paced, which was definitely an adjustment for me at the airport yesterday.) It was nice to be able to teach the children English again, and I found that making lesson plans took a fraction of the time it took last year. I think a lot of it had to do with prepping in GVU, and learning from Bridge that sometimes it's just more efficient and easier to DO something/highlight key points rather than write out full blown lesson plan.

I miss all the GVU people but I am grateful to be able to spend two weeks with my grandparents, see old and new faces at the camp, be around like minded people, AKA aspiring teachers, and earn some much needed money.


Monday, July 27, 2009

My Blindfold is Off

Disclaimer: The following is merely my experience. I hope that it does not offend anyone. If it does I am truly sorry and it wasn't my intension.

Going into this placement I knew that there was a division between the ethnicities but I didn't realise the extent. Upon arriving, I could see the physical separation: the Muslims lived on one side of the front line and the Catholics lived on the other. However, after having the chance to converse with numerous people and families I started to realise just how real things were.

After work one day one of the children told me that a girl from the centre begged her friends not to leave because she was worried that more people from the other side would come. Around the same time I found out that some of the parents from one side were uneasy about letting their children go to swimming lessons because they would be taught by people from the other side. Others did not want to go to the Yoga classes offered at the centre because they thought the money was solely going towards the other side. (We forgot to include both the Bosnian and Croatian versions of some of the words on our promotional posters.) This was only the beginning signs that there was more to the town than physical separation. I was starting to realise that it was too soon for some people to forgive and forget what happened over ten years ago.

It was also shocking to hear that the school systems and government are doing so little to resolve things. There are still separate elementary schools, and there are separate entrances and floors for the Muslims and Catholics in the high school. A teacher was even suspended for refusing to go through her designated entrance. Moreover, some of the teachers are trying to convince their students to refrain from going to activities were the two religious groups interact. The government does not show much effort in trying and bring the sides together. The local government could not even hold their promise to clean up a park so that the children from both sides could safely interact with each other.

With that said, a book that I am reading, hearing stories and reflecting with the other ICVs has shone a new light on the issue. For instance, I am currently in the middle of a book called ´Empire Lite´ by Michael Ignatieff. It is the last book in the 4 part series about the Bosnian conflict, among other global conflicts. He brings up a good point: who are we to decide when it is good for people to heal, forgive and forget the past? We weren't there, and we never experienced the conflict. In a way everyone in Bosnia was affected. The government officials, teachers, and families most likely knew someone that was affected. Thus, although the optimistic me wishes everyone could live in peace and harmony, I have to realise that some things take time.

Moreover, I have to hope that while some organizations are pulling out their funds and resources, organizations such as Intercordia, Beyond Borders, the American group and the German organization will continue helping support the Omladinski Centar. I also hope that new organizations will be inspired by the OC and want to contribute to their amazing mission. I wish them future success and I hope to visit again soon.

Expect the Unexpected...

So my plans for the end of the summer unfortunately keep changing and it is SUPER frustrating! Initially I was supposed to see my extended family in Croatia with my grandma. I was EXTREMELY excited. However, after a health issue at home it was decided that it would be best for her to stay in Canada. Then I was excited to spend time with my family here in GVU. But, after a lot of persuasion from my family in Canada I decided that I should go home earlier and take a job at the summer camp I have been working at for years. Then after finalizing a job, plans with friends and family, I have been told that there are no flight home. My only hope is to get on the same one as my IC friend, Bridge.

Expect the unexpected right?!