Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good . . . And The Bad

I need to preface this entry by saying that I am very much looking forward to my summer in Ecuador. I cannot wait to see what life is like in another country, to spend time in a culture totally unfamiliar to me, to make connections with new people, and begin to learn the language. I have loved getting to know the others in the program, and know this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Things are starting to come together for me, and in two and a half months I will be on my way.
However, I am starting to learn about things I will be missing while I'm away. Two of my coworkers, two of my friends, and two of my cousins will be having babies between April and September. I know I will be able to meet their newborns when I get back, but somehow it's just not the same. Another friend is getting married, and I will be missing out on the road trip to New York to see it. I am missing mother's day, father's day, my mother's 56th birthday, my grandfather's 89th birthday, and probably a few more birthdays and other special occasions. Though I may be able to spend one week at camp when I get back, it isn't the same as other summers where I spent many weeks there and was able to visit a few times throughout the season. And I will also be missing out on the three best months of weather that we will have all year here in Canada.
Like I said, I know it will be worth the trade-off. But it's hard not to think about the things I will miss while I'm gone.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How I Ended Up In The Beyond Borders Program

I am so sorry I've gotten behind in posting on my blog. I've been dealing with OSAP nightmares and other various administrivial nonsense. As of now nothing at all is worked out. It has not been a good semester in that respect. Hopefully most of it will be ironed out soon.
Anyway, I was talking with Kate and she mentioned that she thought she'd post the story of how she came to be in the Beyond Borders program, and I thought that was a good idea. So I am going to borrow her idea and tell my own story of how I got to where I am.
At some basic level it began in 2001. When I was in 10th grade, I spent my March Break on a mission trip in Toronto. I know that sounds kind of silly, but there is actually a surprising amount of poverty and other problems there. Anyway, the point is, that was my first experience volunteering for an extended period of time to try to help out and do some good for others. I had volunteered in a classroom, retirement home, hospital and camp before, but not quite like this. In 2003 I joined approximately 70 other people for another March Break mission trip, only this time we headed to the Dominican Republic. The minute I landed, I fell in love . . . with the place, the people, the palm trees, the language - - everything. I know this sounds a bit over the top, but I truly felt like my soul was at home there. Our main projects were construction. We made a few sidewalks, helped construct a chemistry wing, and cleared a sidewalk of dirt and debris. It wasn't much, but it felt like progress. Then, last spring I was invited back to the DR for another March Break trip, but this time as a leader. This time we had a smaller team, maybe about 20 or so total, about 8 from my church, and some from other cities in Ontario. Again the focus was construction, making cement curbs, painting, and constructing sidewalks. As much as I enjoyed these short trips, I never felt as though I had enough time to truly connect with and understand the people there, learn the language, or make much of a difference. The truth is, a week-long trip is more about what you learn by going. The little bit of work you get done while there is pretty much inconsequential.
In my first year at UW, I took an SMF class at SJU, and Scott Kline was my professor. I really enjoyed the class, both because I loved the subject, and because Scott did an excellent job of teaching. It actually led me to add an SMF minor/honours option to my degree. I heard about Intercordia and saw posters a few times, and I always thought it sounded like a great opportunity. When I had the chance to take another course with Scott over this past summer, I jumped at the chance. Again he mentioned the now revamped Intercordia/Beyond Borders program, and I knew I had to give it shot. I missed the deadline, but Scott told me to apply anyway. But when I didn't hear anything all summer, I figured I didn't make it in. To my surprise, though, I heard from him near the end of the summer, and my interview was set up. In my opinion, the interview went absolutely wretchedly. It was one of those times where you are asked a question, and you literally have no answer whatsoever to give. You can't even make something up, your mind is that blank. So you start thinking "Oh my gosh, I don't have an answer. I really don't have anything to say. Nope, nothing. Wow, this is bad." And then your mind starts to wander and everything seems to fall apart. But I guess Elyse and Scott felt differently, and I got an e-mail welcoming me to the program on the Wednesday before our first Thursday class. The biggest hindrance for me was (and still is) that of finances. Though the program in and of itself is offered at a very reasonable cost, there are other expenses to consider, such as tuition for the fall term following the summer away. But I am trying to stay positive and reassure myself that somehow it will work out.
So that is pretty much how I got to this place. The most exciting part for me is that I actually get to spend a considerable amount of time in Ecuador. With this gift of time I plan to work hard at learning the language, and making meaningful connections with poeople that will not be severed at the summer's end. I know I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will do my best not to let it pass me by.