Humza reflects of his “forgettable” years in high school and how ASB has changed every aspect of his life to this day!
I remember sitting on stage at my high school graduation ceremony. While everyone was very excited to graduate and were happy to get out of high school, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied. I was disappointed in myself. I could not believe that four years had gone by, and I did not feel as though I had accomplished anything. Albeit, my grades were respectable, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had wasted my time. For four years my days consisted of going to class, then loitering outside the pizza place at lunchtime followed by going home to do homework and watch TV before ultimately falling asleep. I enjoyed my time in high school, but in all honesty, if I had to describe it in one word, it would probably be “forgettable.”
After an entire summer spent working at Tim Hortons near my house, I entered university desperate to find some way of gaining a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. I would not allow myself to waste another four years. I started by looking at all the clubs that Ryerson offered. Being a business student, there are dozens of clubs and organization in any and every aspect of commerce. Whether they are focused on accounting, finance or economics, there are clubs and opportunities to get involved with. Believe me when I say that I investigated all of them. The problem was that even with all these opportunities, none of them could give me what I was looking for. I needed something that could do more for me than teach me a few basic skills and look nice on a resume. I needed something more extreme, more…terrifying. It is around this time that I discovered the Alternative Spring Break which was offering an opportunity to travel to a village in east Africa with a team of complete strangers. I decided that that was sufficiently terrifying.
This being a personal blog, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t simply crank out endless clichés. However, as this paragraph will demonstrate, I found it impossible to avoid them because for the first time, I really understand the meaning of those clichés. With that said, I’ll continue. ASB has changed my life. It has been the most rewarding, challenging, emotional and important thing that I have been a part of. I am a leader of this year’s trip and it is has been an absolute privilege to get to work with such an incredible team of motivated and inspirational people. I am incredibly lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with my co-leaders who have helped me mature and develop confidence that I did not think I was capable of. I am extremely thankful for them.
I will be boarding a plane to Kenya in a few days. There, the team and I will spend a few days in Nairobi before travelling to Dago, a small village in western Kenya that most people do not even know exists. I get goosebumps thinking about what awaits me. It is this anticipation and excitement that I had been missing.
Although it’s still a few years down the road, I sometimes think about my university graduation ceremony. I imagine myself on stage receiving my diploma. I know that there will be thousands of words rushing through my head, desperately trying to sum up my time at Ryerson, and although it’s impossible to say which words I’ll choose, I know that “forgettable” will not among them. I have ASB to thank for that.
Sophia blogs just before our final team meeting. She reflects how overwhelming everything is as we are 8 days away from departure but how in a blink of an eye we will soon be home, missing Dago!
Countdown: 8 days to go.
The excitement is building. Everyone is scrambling to do their last minute shopping, making sure we’ve got all the right medication, the right bug spray, the right backpack… and enough baby wipes to wash an elephant, not that we will be doing that. Despite the amount of preparation we have already put into this trip, I still feel a little bit overwhelmed by the amount of preparation left to do. One week has never seemed like such a short time, and I almost can’t believe today is our last team meeting!
It’s strange to think that we have been working toward this for almost six months now. All that time just flew by somehow, and everything that we talked about and planned for is suddenly very real. Just over a week from now, the fifteen of us will be sitting on a plane, on our way to Nairobi. I am so excited I can barely focus on anything else! I have to admit though, I am a little bit terrified. I have never done anything like this before and I will beway out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been so far away from home or gone so long without seeing my family. I think that not being able to talk to the people I’m leaving behind in Toronto will be the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make –that and having to use baby wipes for a shower. I do know, however that although I may be feeling emotional about it now, my time away will be so full, I will most likely be too busy to miss home so much. I’m sure that the time will fly by even faster than the last six months have, and before I know it, it will be Dago that I am homesick for.
Kwaheri Toronto, nakupenda!
Cathy reflects on our adventurous this far and the excitement as our trip is days away!
With every passing moment, the date on our plane ticket draws ever nearer. In the midst of final exams, essays, and other responsibilities, this realization brings my attention to the events that have brought us to this point. A letter, I thought, would be a fitting way to communicate my thoughts about our team, and our trip.
Dear Friends, Do you remember our first meeting on the last day of October? I do. It took place only a few days after the interviews, in the same boardroom that we have been meeting in for the past weeks. I remember feeling pleasantly surprised when I received a call, and a subsequent email, informing me that I was going to be a part of ASB Team Kenya 2013. By the time we board our flight on June 1st, we will have been a team, a group, dare I say a family, for six months. Time does not fly – it passes ever so quickly when the mind and body is occupied. Upon reflection, we, as a group of students, have been through our share of planning and preparation for this trip, which not too long ago, was only an idea. Of course, a trip to Kenya has happened twice in the history of ASB, but this one is our group’s trip. As our departure date draws ever closer, the memories of the past few months, as well as the anxieties and emotions of our upcoming trip, are coming together in my head. For almost half a year we have worked to put together bake sales, organize a mini concert and comedy night, and practice yoga. We have asked our friends and family for support, understanding, love and encouragement, enjoyed team building activities, worked on the Silent Auction, learned to count in Swahili, enjoyed Kenyan cuisine, played, or in my case learned to play for the first time, soccer. We have been informed of the many risks we face, and the many ways we can mitigate those same risks for ourselves, and the group. We have met, been advised, and at this point, the most immediate challenge we face is packing a month’s worth of supplies into a backpack that cannot exceed 50.5 pounds, unless we want to incur additional baggage fees. All of these considerations, all of these thoughts – I am glad not to be alone in thinking and experiencing these pre-departure butterflies. As a former ASB member told me recently, “Once you’re there, just soak it all in – you’ll find it’s impossible not to.” I have repeatedly realized that the imagination can inflate or deflate ideas and thoughts. I am continuing to learn that while the imagination must not be abandoned, it is important to keep my eyes and mind open to what is directly in front of me. As of now, what is in front of me is an exam, followed by an unpacked backpack, and in two weeks, a trip with fourteen people to a place where “rafiki” means friend, and over 80% of the population turn up to exercise their right to vote.
Kenya in 14 days.
He who has not reached his destination never gets tired- Kenyan Proverb
Anna reflects on her first volunteer trip to Ecuador and her return home to Sweden. She talks about the excitement of the unknown, the inevitable growth and change she will go through on the ASB’ s trip to Kenya this May.
Change, new discoveries and new adventures are just around the corner for the team members of ASB. Being so close to departure I cannot help but think back of my last travel adventure.
A few years ago I left home to go to Ecuador and volunteer. I have to admit that at that time I was quite ignorant and one of those people who complained about everything. When I say everything I mean everything! I complained about the political system, the amount of vacation weeks (5 weeks is still not enough to me), that we pay too much taxes, the transit system etc. You get the point. By the way, did I mention I lived in Sweden at that time? If you do not know that much about Sweden, let me inform you that we have free post-secondary education, very affordable child care, hardly no poverty and five weeks of vacation (yes even if you work at McDonalds). So I left Sweden to go to Ecuador to volunteer and learn Spanish for three months. There was not much I did not love about living and working in Ecuador so I decided to stay for another three months, which eventually turned into a year. When the year was over I was ready to return home to Sweden.
I returned home a few days before Christmas that year and met with my family who I had missed so much. Reflecting back on my year abroad and my return home I experienced more of a culture shock returning home compared to arriving in a country far different from what I was used to. Not knowing exactly what to expect when arriving in Ecuador a year earlier I was thrown into something unfamiliar and exciting, but in my mind I was prepared that everything would be different compared to home. The acceptance and excitement about things being different than home probably made it easier to transit into a new culture.
Returning home I had not prepared mentally for the changes that I would have to go through. I just assumed that everything would be the same, just as before I left. Sure, everything was still the same at home, but I had changed. I looked at things with a new way of thinking, a new appreciation for what I had but also with a sadness of having left the place that I had grown used to during the past year. My experience in Ecuador and the change I went through returning home to Sweden pushed me in the direction of my choice of career and that is the reason why I am now finishing up my second year at the social work program at Ryerson.
With this in mind I hope that the adventure in Kenya will bring a lot of opportunities for learning and the creation of new knowledge to each individual on the team. An adventure such as this one is a time for change and a time for discovery about the world as well as about yourself as an individual. But remember, the opportunity for change and new discoveries does not end when returning home, it is just the start.
A member from Team Ghana 2012, Tyler Webb, truly captures the essence of what Alternative Spring Break is through this animated film. Thank you for capturing these special moments and sharing them with us!
Iza writes about Cliques and how to avoid forming one while abroad. Best advice she gives- open up and be yourself! While sharing personal failures, she disgusses the importance of trust and the fear, yet excitement of the unknown.
A small exclusive group of friends or associates.
intr.v. cliqued, cliqu·ing, cliques Informal
To form, associate in, or act as a clique.
Clique, it’s a common discussion topic in our meetings. A way to solve the issue is to provide everyone with an equal opportunity to get to know you so they don’t feel excluded. Get personal and share with everyone. So that’s what I’m going to do, get personal. Why? Because I’m sure I want to get to know all of you as much as you want to get to know me. Sub-groups are great for making bonds because of the hours spent outside of the meetings, but the double edged sword cuts off others members and creates a window where exclusion can creep in. In order to trust each other we have to break down the barriers and be vulnerable to one another. In the beginning we only projected a version of ourselves because we were uncomfortable and worried about judgement and this projection may still exist for some members. But it’s time to start letting our true selves show, it’s time to get personal and I’m willing to take the first step.
So here goes nothing. Recently I failed. Four years ago I had set up a goal of where I had planned to be. I had hoped to have my degree at 21, my Bachelors of Education at 22 and hopefully had the chance to find employment in my field during the same year. As of a few weeks ago this planned had been ruined because I had failed. I had failed to get accepted into teachers college because of my lack of experience. I think I was surprised on how much it had affected me because I was halfway there; I am after all graduating on time. My hopeful thinking had gotten the best of me and I was fantasying about the future. I think what upset me most was how quickly all those plans, hopes and excitement vanished because of one letter I had received. I am still disappointed and not particularly proud of myself because I had failed to reach my own goals. This has left me in a state of confusion because for once I have found myself without direction.
Direction. This is what I seek. For once I do not have a have a solid plan; I am not sure where I am going to be this September. But I think what scares me the most isn’t the fact that I’m anxious about uncertainty rather I am scared of liberation. I realize what I must do is keep an open mind, that is why I have vowed to not make any decisions until I have returned from Kenya. Secretly this is going to kill me because even my backup plans have back up plans when it comes to my future. However, I cannot begin to rationalize how this trip will affect me; all I can hope is that it will provide me with the direction that I am desperately seeking. The discouragement from my rejection has me questioning the career path that I had originally chosen but perhaps this rejection will serve as a disguised blessing.
As I mentioned earlier to build trust you have to make yourself somewhat vulnerable. Not only did I share with you a personal failure, I have decided to take this one step further and share my vulnerability as a writer. One of the reasons why I had decided to pursue an English degree was because I loved writing fictitious short stories; I hope to find inspiration abroad to inform my new stories because this hobby currently feels a little bit foreign to me. My current feelings coincide with a poem I had written a couple years back and I have decided to share it with you. Again, I’d like to mention that this requires me to be brave because writing is personal and it is one area where I am not overly confident in. Perhaps the poem will reside with you, perhaps it won’t but at least I will be satisfied knowing I had put myself out there. As a final note to my group members, I challenge you, be vulnerable.
Drunk On Change
Reality reflects illusion,
drunk on change
and lost on perception.
Confused about knowledge and
morals made to misguide you.
Opposites tackle and surpass,
traumatic in a hectic head.
One desperate awaking,
correspondent to peace
and a satisfied organ.
A bittersweet finale,
a constructive obsession,
a cue to close curtains on bliss.