It’s 15:53 Winnipeg time and we’re in the air. This is flight number 2 en route to Amsterdam. My intention for today was to sit down and write my first blog posting. A task I’ve been struggling with for the last few days. I had devoted much time to updating and upgrading a tablet gifted to me for this trip. I was so pleased about having customized it just so in order to make my online tasks seamless… Well alas, in Minneapolis, I turned on the device only to find that it will not start up. The screen with the horrid moving circles (not unfamiliar to me) appeared and I knew right then all was lost.
So here I sit, thankful that I’ve brought my phone, writing furiously on a keyboard no bigger than the palm of my hand. After the initial disappointment, I can’t help but remember where I’m going and feel grateful. A broken tablet takes nothing away from this trip that I have just embarked upon.
If I’m honest, blogging does not come naturally to me. The idea of committing thoughts and ideas to paper is not new, but sailing them off into the online world is a bit terrifying. For those of you that know me, you’ll understand this. I am a fairly private person, and this feels like the equivalent of my four year old self having a huge temper tantrum in public for all to see. Though hopefully I’m a little more dignified now… (right mum?)
So let’s cover the basics. I’m excited, absolutely. Apprehensive, certainly. Scared…somehow not as much as I thought I would be. I think I need to give a lot of credit to my trip mates for that. We don’t know eachother all that well but every time I meet them I become more and more at ease with the design of this adventure. Linda, Jesslyn and Diana all possess strengths in areas that I most definitely could use help with. I certainly already feel like I can rely on them, and that makes the daunting task of figuring out the next five weeks an adventure more than a obstacle course!
I’m eager to meet the CPAR team and get settled in so that we may start working on the lesson plans for the upcoming week. I think if I were to identify the biggest concern about the entire trip it would be about leading the classroom activities. I really like to be organized and I’m pretttttty sure that I may need to become a little more relaxed with my approach to leading activities in a classroom setting. Admittedly, I have little experience facilitating discussions and “teaching” but I’m really excited for the experience, due in part to my knowledge that I have 3 other very capable individuals in the classroom with me. I’m also very conscious that there will be quite a few cultural differences that we will need to be mindful of. I’m hoping to learn a lot in the first few days by observing and bringing awareness to all of my actions.
I will close this stream of consciousness by reaffirming something I hear almost every yoga class (love the yoga). And that is, “Set An Intention”. I intend to keep my mind open, be grateful for everyday and be a good neighbor.
Until next time.
The bags are packed, the tickets are booked, and in less than 12 hours I will be on a plane with a new adventure ahead! Three years ago, around this same time of year, I embarked on my first international travel and service-learning experience to Bangladesh. Compared to my trip in Bangladesh where we did a lot of traveling and met new people each day, I am incredibly excited that we will be staying in one place for five weeks.
Working in the same schools with the same students will allow us to develop meaningful relationships which in turn will foster in-depth discussions. This will be important as we have been invited into the schools to deliver a curriculum that promotes gender equality, leadership and health to secondary school boys and girls. Think discussions about discrimination, gender-based violence and abuse, puberty and sexual development. These discussions are challenging enough between people having grown up in and live in the same society, now relocate this discussion thousands of miles away to a society with a different culture and way of life. I think you can begin to see that challenges are bound to arise. So why have university students, who are not experts in the subject-matter, travel thousands of miles to deliver this program? To that I have a couple of answers.The first being the selfish reason that we are going to learn and grow in ways that we can’t even anticipate. The second reason I have is merely speculation based on experience, that being familiar with only one way of life makes it difficult to explore other ways it could be. What is gender equality? What does it look like? When we lead these discussions we have a different perspective than that of the students and as a results the students are challenged to explain their ideas. This very exercise helps them to clarify their understanding and gives them the opportunity to be exposed to different perspectives. The reverse is also true, where we will be challenged to explain our perspective.
My fear is that what we deliver in the programming won’t be applicable to the student’s lives because we did not take into consideration their perspective, their culture and their way of life. I fear that the messages we convey are messages are only reflective of our own values and beliefs but are not applicable in a Tanzanian context. Thankfully, we have the support and knowledge of the staff at the non-profit organization, Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR), who will be guiding us through this journey.
My goals while in Bunda are to continually challenge my perspective about the subject-matter in the curriculum just as we expect the students to, as well as to work with my group to facilitate discussions that fosters an environment where the students feel safe to explore and challenge their existing ideas on gender equality, leadership and health. During my time with CPAR in Tanzania, I am interested in learning how they address health issues using a holistic approach. I look forward to a new routine, new sights and sounds, and to becoming fully immersed in a different culture and way of life. If the quote, “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” (Augustine of Hippo), is true, then I anticipate that I am about to begin a whole new chapter.
Well, I definitely can’t sleep! I can’t believe how quickly this whole month flew by… and now we are hours away from departing Winnipeg. I think it is safe to say, that this is finally sinking in.
I am so grateful for this opportunity; I never imagined being a part of an experience like this. Through the discussions we have had between our coordinators and group mates thus far, I am pleasantly surprised with how much I have already learned. The girls are wonderful, and I have felt intellectually stimulated with every encounter. I know they have so much to offer, and I am excited to have the chance to learn from them too. This is about to be my very first international learning experience, and I am so proud to have the University of Manitoba, preparation and discussions lead by our exceptional coordinators, and this group of brilliant girls to get on board with, as well as having CPAR awaiting us at the other end.
Many of our discussions have challenged us to think about the way are thinking, and not simply thinking about our actions. From a cultural context, we try to define ourselves by the things we do and see, and not always by the way we think and feel. One of the things that is my biggest goal, and yet my biggest fear at the same time, is to be able to keep this in mind throughout the duration of our visit. We are not professionals in the field that we will be exploring with the students; however my goal is to help build a comfortable and stable learning environment for everyone to grow from, without influence from my own cultural background. This is a concern of mine at the same time because as much as I wish to be a positive role model, I aspire for everyone, the students and myself included, to learn and develop with an open mind, while rooted in one’s own ideas.
I cannot wait to see where the next step of this experience takes us, see you soon!
In 14 hours I’ll be leaving Winnipeg. It seems that this moment has crept up on me. Seriously, where has time disappeared to? I feel nervous, anxious and excited to for this adventure.
For those of you who don’t know, we are heading to Bunda, Tanzania to work along side the Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) to promote leadership, gender equality and health in two secondary schools.
I have had experience traveling in the past, but this is the first time that I am participating in a service-learning program. I feel blessed to be able to be a part of such a unique experience. I am hoping that this opportunity provides me with valuable information on international development work, the challenges that it faces, and experience and education in an intercultural context.
Currently, I am a social work student at the University of Manitoba, and am interested in community and international development. Social work, to me, represents human rights, advocacy, social justice and empowerment. This is what I think a lot of community and international development work does. I am hoping to bring and learn about these components while keeping a cultural humble, empathic, and compassionate environment. It is my hope to use a critical framework in understanding development, the ways and reasons people experience oppression. These are all things I hope to learn through this opportunity with CPAR.