Absence

Greetings from Lebanon!

I owe you all an explanation for my extended absence from this space. I haven’t written on here since I was in South Africa, which is due to several factors. First, my final 6 weeks in SA was a very strange time. It was important for me to wrap things up properly at work, with my friends, with the student I was tutoring and with my adopted family. I spent every last moment with people I cared about, and had little time to write about it. Second, I didn’t want to write about it. Those last moments with the country and people I’d fallen for seemed way too intimate to share online. Third, I wanted to be selfish. I relished living fully in those moments, knowing that I didn’t have to share them with anyone… that they were for me, and me alone. I dreaded my return home by the time December came around. After months of stumbling, I had finally found a rhythm to my work, my social life, and was tuned in to the local culture at the right frequency.

My contract technically ended after arriving in Canada, because of a week-long reintegration debrief in Victoria, BC. I knew I wasn’t ready to face an onslaught of family and friends in Toronto, especially since Christmas was quickly approaching. The thought of everyone asking, “SO, HOW WAS IT?” made me apprehensive… mostly to how I’d react, so I came up with a ploy. Under the ruse of travel, I convinced my people in Toronto that since I was already going to be in BC, it would be ridiculous not to stay and explore since I had the time off. So yes, I spent Christmas with a lovely Russian family, I rode the sky train to all the corners of Vancouver, and I spent a weekend in a cabin on the gulf island of Galiano with my dear friend Alex, her dog, and her gracious family. It was the perfect descent back into reality, and looking back, I would do it exactly the same.

There wasn’t much to write about after that, since I was home for 4 days before taking off to Australia for all of January. My flight was booked 9 months in advance, so the excitement wore off, and I was still on a BC high until landing in the Melbourne heat of January. I didn’t blog about my month down under because once again, I was treading on personal territory. All I will say is that my month was absolutely perfect… I caught up with my dear family and friends in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. It was honestly the most wonderful trip I’ve ever taken. My parents were with me for half of the duration, which facilitated a necessary catch up after 7 months of my absence. As for my friends in Gold Coast… what can I say? I truly believe that I won’t ever find such precious camaraderie anywhere else. No shade to my friends worldwide, but there’s something about my GC lot that makes me all warm and fuzzy every time I reminisce.

I made it back to Toronto, which according to my timeline, places us in the beginning of February. The first two weeks I was busy working on the two photography exhibitions I was co-hosting for international development week. I also created promotional material for 18 exhibitions across Canada, which I probably should have blogged about because it was an incredible Canadian youth effort! I’ll include a photo below, should you have a case of FOMO. The rest of February I was applying for jobs [mostly abroad], and interviewing. I kept a relatively low profile and only caught up with my inner circles (no cults!) after 8 months of being removed from Toronto life.

This went on for several weeks until I found myself in Beirut, Lebanon on March 23rd. I’m still not quite sure how I got here, but I can say with certainty that my internship in South Africa almost single handedly helped me land this awesome gig. I’m currently working for an International NGO that I cannot name (thank you, HR policy!) as a Project Manager and a Communications Advisor. It’s a 4-month contract, following the project duration. More on my job and life in Lebanon in the following posts, stay tuned!

Below I’ve shared one photo from each month of my why-I-was-absent timeline.


My last week in SA… I wanted to say goodbye to everyone so I hosted a farewell, which was meant to be an afternoon picnic, but went on till midnight. The three pictured are AJ, Percy and Troy, 3 strangers who hit it off like brothers. A few of the girls and I met AJ at a local concert, Linda and I met Percy at our friend’s birthday party, and I met Troy at a bar in Durban while I was on a tinder date with his buddy. #OnlyInSouthAfrica


One with the wind, after a beautiful hike to the cliff on Christmas Eve. #GalianoIsland


Surprise ambush by my Gold Coast family, after Rachael tricked me into thinking we were having an Aussie “Bush Tucker.”


One of the two photo exhibits for “CLICK!” an IYIP photo exhibition for International Development Week.


Greater Beirut as seen from my apartment. That’s the mediterranean in the back, and the yellow haze? That’s the smog. #noemissionstests

 

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10 months optimistic

I’m not one to use many cliches, but today you must forgive me this much. So it seems, the mother of all cliches is completely appropriate for my predicament. These past 10 months in Australia have me thinking how much ‘time flies’. It feels like only yesterday that I was drinking Mill St. Organic, and eating poutine like any other day of a Canadian’s life. In retrospect, everything and nothing has been accomplished in this timeframe. I like to think myself an optimistic person, always looking for a silver lining, preferring a glass half full, etc. But if you know me well enough, I’m a pessimistic optimist. Contradiction? Not really. I’m optimistic at heart if that makes any sense, I always want the end result to be wonderful, but my skepticism (passed down from a generation of skeptics) always makes it first in line.

This is the side of me that suggests I have accomplished nothing in the past 10 months. Sure, I’m closer to my goal of graduating, I’ve managed to make a few friends along the way and I’m generally content with life. Bit of a gloomy undertone, right? Well recently, a friend of mine shared the most inspiring post on Facebook about a similar situation, only she skipped the nonsense and took the optimistic approach. The post was about her father approaching her, having the “you’ve accomplished nothing in the last year” talk. And her brilliant response left me encouraged, and stirred something in my heart.

Though that skeptical side of me still exists, I am happy to say it has dulled down immensely in 2014. It would be dishonest to say I am an optimistic person to the core, because let’s face it, I listen to way too much Smiths to be jolly. What I can say with confidence is that my optimism has flourished, and with the help of my dear friend who was brave enough to share her journey in a Facebook status, I can share my accomplishments in these past 10 months with absolute dignity. If you don’t think much of them, that’s perfectly fine. At this moment in my journey, personal reflection matters a fair deal more to me than anything else. Sidenote, if you’re a woman and you’re feeling the same way, I recommend watching Disney’s Mulan, she had similar challenges and she’s an absolute legend/badass/ninja.

Accomplishments since arriving in Australia (all equally fulfilling might I add):

  •  I arrived in Australia unscathed! There were Canadians on Air Malaysia’s Flight 370. I can’t help but count my blessings.
  • Got a tattoo! And a Harry Potter one might I add, truly a fulfilling moment in my life.
  • I’ve survived 3 run-ins with snakes. Australia is dangerous! Apparently they only come out for me, many of my friends who have lived here all their lives have had no such encounters.
  • I joined a netball team. Might I add, I youtubed ‘how to play netball’ an hour before the first game. 15 games later and no wins, but who cares! It’s a ball (pun intended).
  • I’m in the Coffee Master program. For Starbucks die hards, you know what this means. I never managed to get my foot in when I worked for Starbucks in Canada. Only 22 stores in Australia, makes me feel like a valued partner, not another number.
  • I survived a vegemite ambush. My friend sneakily put it in the gravy sauce that she made to accompany our steaks. Thankfully, a few glasses of water and laying down did the trick.
  • Wolfmother has come out of their hiatus. Honestly, I never thought the day would come. Not to mention, their new album is incredible. I count this as an accomplishment of answered prayers.
  • I’ve finally read ‘that’ book. All readers have that one book that changed the game for them. The book that they will always remember, the one that spoke to their hearts, recommend to everyone, etc. Well I can finally say that I read that book during my time in Australia.
  • Australian slang integration. I no longer address customers with my signature “Hiya, how are you?”. I’m all about the “Hey, how ya going?” Who would’ve thought. Also, “far out!” has substituted f***… which is great on a number of levels haha. I’ll let you know when I’ve used fair dinkum properly, gosh that will be a sight.
  • This blog! I’ve wanted to get one up for years, but surely it wasn’t meant to be until I started this incredible journey in Australia. Life in Markham would have eventually turned it into a food & bubble tea blog.

Hmm that’s all for now, I will be sure to follow up with a similar post at the end of the year!