Have fun when you can. Think all the time.

Music, Trees, Environment, BBC, Hardwood floors, Storytelling, Adventures, International development, Learning new things, Getting new perspectives, Writing essays, Water, Road trips, Photography, Spaghetti squash, Art, Books, Getting involved, Gingerbread lattes,(Not)Sleeping, Reading, Poetry, Falling leaves, Aging, Monologues, Prickly pear tea, Making lists, Politics, New ideas, Exploring, Traveling, Dinosaurs, Killer whales, Sushi, Pop Culture, Meeting new people, Barbequing with friends, Tubing down the river, Waking up early, Discovering new things, Trees, Empathy, Believing in the Power of Love

February 23, 2011

Good Work or Good Times? Discussion on Expectations

It has been difficult for me to articulate my expectations going back to my first experience(s) in El Salvador (2008, 2009) because of the evolution I have undergone from a 19 year-old relatively ‘fresh’ student to the student I am now after having been able to experience some amazing opportunities leading up to my most recent 5-month Students for Development Internship in Honduras, and as I think about my expectations for my upcoming internship with RDRS in Bangladesh this May.

When, in 2008, I traveled to El Salvador with a group of students from the University my biggest expectation was simply that I wanted to ‘help’ people. I wanted to put some of the theories I had been studying in textbooks and tossing around in my classes into action, and I wanted to see a different part of the world. I’m not sure that before I left I quite realized how deeply I would be affected, and how this first introductory experience would have a very dramatic impact on the rest of my University education (and likely the rest of my life).

I had the opportunity to return to El Salvador in 2009. This time as a leader of a new group of students to the same communities I had visited the year before and instead of just wanting to help people, I wanted more. I wanted to start figuring out if the project in question was as efficient and effective as it could/should be, and I started to ask (a lot) of questions...about the project, about the Universities role in El Salvador, and about development in general. I expected to be able to make changes, to shape the program to be able to push the program to be as effective as possible and work with the communities involved the most efficiently.

In September 2010, I was accepted for a 5-month internship and set off for Honduras. Solo this time to work for five months with a non-governmental organization. This time I wanted to work for a longer period of time with an organization and be able to start utilizing some of the skills I had developed over the years. I expected to be able to share some of my techniques, skills, and ideas, while learning a whole lot at the same time, and I expected a practical application of everything I had studied and experienced over the last four years. At this point, my expectations were less about where I was going (I could handle the bugs, the violence, the food, the heat, the people, the changes) and more about taking more than a two-week vacation that again raised a lot of questions and left me without answers.

As I think about my expectations for this May, when I will be facilitating a 5-week program for four undergraduate students in Bangladesh with an NGO called RDRS, I hope that I will be able to share some of my experiences, some of my questions and help the students go ‘deeper’ and see beyond the resilience, kindness and smiling faces. To explore their own philosophies of development, and to realize that there is more to these experiences than returning to Canada feeling grateful for all that we have been given. That continuing the dialogue, that sharing stories, pictures, and enthusiasm helps makes us all global citizens and that just because we are countries apart doesn’t mean that the connection (between people, between countries) needs to and should end.

February 1, 2011

The Buried Life by Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, if even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!

Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be--
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity--
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;

A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know

Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well--but 'tis not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.

Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.