Where's Alex?

Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see


1 Comment

Leaving home, going home

I’m writing this a week before leaving Gibsons, but by the time it reaches your eyes, I’ll already be on my way home, away from home, towards a new home. I don’t know which is which.

The last few months years have been crazy. Moving to a tiny, beautiful town in British Columbia to do this crazy, wonderful, so frustrating but so rewarding job. Getting to travel all over the country, working with some phenomenal human beings, being so inspired that so many people are willing to try to make a difference. Learning so much about myself, becoming (sort of) more patient.

Fast-forward two years later, the unbelievableness of being hired by Doctors Without Borders. Meeting more amazing, inspiring humans who want to make a different kind of difference. Quitting my crazy job. Finding out where my placement will be. Packing up my life, finishing up my program, having last-for-now beers/dinners/walks/knit nights, worrying about war in the Middle East. Everything has felt so huge, organizing so many things, that I never thought about leaving, only getting to moving day.

Well, here I am, 8 sleeps away from leaving the home that I’ve been in for two years, and it’s only just hit me. I started looking for a picture to post on the morning of my departure, and in doing so, I found so many pictures from the last two years. Pictures of this stupid town that I’ve bitched about so many times, because there’s nothing to do and the ferry is so annoying and dammit, I’m scared of bears and cougars. But man, have I loved it. From the ladies at knit night who I’m proud to call my friends, to my neighbours and colleagues who kept me sane in the dead of winter, to my dear, dear friend Karen without whom I wouldn’t have made it here for this long. Pictures of my amazing Youth Peace Network families, people I’ve been so lucky to meet and I know will be a part of my life for years to come. Pictures of this incredible country, and all the accompanying memories of what this job has allowed me to learn and see.

I want to write more, but I’m about to get real depressing, so instead I’ll do two things: share some too many photos of this amazing life I’ve led, and use this opportunity to say thank you and I love you to those of you who have been a part of my life for the last two years, either here by my side or supporting me from a distance. Here’s to many, many more amazing adventures. May our paths cross again. (Especially you, Karen. You’re not getting rid of me that easily. See you in Cyprus ♥ And you, Newton family. Wherever we’re all together next, there’s a game of Cards waiting for us.)


Leave a comment

Where am I?

I just got off a plane, and as I took my first step onto the tarmac, I thought: “Where am I?”. My head reeled for a second until I remembered that I was in Edmonton. It’s not the first time that this has happened to me. I often forget what day it is, where I’ve just been, or where I’m about to go to next. It’s a pretty heady feeling, but I kind of love it too.

Since 2011, I’ve been lucky to have two amazing jobs – first as a Katimavik project leader until our federal budget was cancelled, and then coordinating an exchange program for the YMCA. These two jobs have allowed me to see a large part of Canada – Moncton, Halifax, and Charlottetown for Katimavik, and Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon, Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, Moosejaw, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City with the YMCA. The past year and a half working for the YMCA has been insane, going back and forth and back again between all these cities – sometimes, I don’t have time to unpack before I need to pack again. It’s been an amazing, and crazy, journey. I’ve been so lucky to discover great non-profit organizations in all the cities that I’ve visited, and meet some amazing Canadians along the way. It’s also been pretty lonely – I live in a small town in BC where I’ve been lucky to make a handful of friends, but I travel every other week, which makes it difficult to commit to anything. That being said, it’s taught me to be ok with doing nothing, and it has done wonders for my shopping addiction.

1209051_10153142462665693_1959722867_n

Now, I’ve given the YMCA my notice, and I’m about to head off to my next adventure. There’s one month left to this crazy job of mine. I’m in Edmonton for the next two days, on my last work trip – it’s the end of my two year jet-setting period! I’m off to equally, if not more, crazy settings – more uncertainty, and even less shopping opportunities! But I’m also off to a world of people who simply shrug and say “Yes, I’m on my way to Germany/Congo/New York/[insert country name here]“, and it’s no big deal – I’m looking forward to rejoining the global expat community where I’m not the only one coming and going all the time. Most of all, I’m looking forward to finding a sense of community again, challenging as that may turn out to be.

I still don’t know what accent I will speak my tomorrows in*, but now it’s time to pack and leave the place I’ve called home for the last two years. Wish me luck.

10177347_10154013248065693_1621410030010113342_n

*When it’s time to leave, by Cody Gohl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


5 Comments

On to the next big adventure!

Big changes are happening in my life this year, and I’m so excited to be able to share my news with you!

I had this vision of writing the perfect blog post, to eloquently describe what’s happening in my life right now and what changes are happening. The thing is though, my head is just too full of plans and lists and nerves to write anything coherent, so here’s the quick rundown for now:

msf_association_blog

 

I first heard about Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) when I was in high school. One of our social directors took a group of us to a Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, where we got to learn about life in camps, as well as how food rations and health work. I remember that I kept my ration card for years afterwards. (The Australian side of MSF developed this really cool interactive experience, as well!)

The notion of MSF kind of always floated inside my head after that. I went on to take various international trips, and I studied development at university, thinking that I wanted to eventually work in refugee camps but not quite sure how to get to that point, or how to work for MSF since I’m not a doctor. A few years ago, I read 6 Months in Sudan, an amazing book that just blew my mind wide open, about a doctor who spent 6 months working for MSF in Sudan. That’s when I looked more closely at who can work for MSF, and realised that there are non-medical positions in the field as well, for logisticians and administrators. I set my sights on one of these positions, and began a certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management.

In the meantime, I’ve had some pretty amazing jobs that have allowed me to develop skills in HR, administration and management – all things that MSF looks for in their field administrator. MSF holds recruitment sessions a few times a year, where you get to hear more about what they look for when they’re recruiting field staff. I went to one last November, and was heartened when they said that anyone can apply, and then you get feedback from an HR manager, telling you what’s missing from your application so that you can better prepare for next time.

So, I applied in February, with little expectations, but hoping that they would point me in the right direction in terms of what experience I still needed to gain. To my immense surprise, they got back to me pretty quickly with an interview request!

Now, after two interviews, some tests, some references, and two days of pre-training, I just got my official welcome e-mail :)

 

There still isn’t anything set in stone, but I have an HR manager who is looking for a contract for me, likely for a 9 month posting. I’ll most likely be going to one of their projects in central or eastern Africa, at some point in September. There’s a lot to do between now and then: wrap up the program that I’m currently working on, get a variety of shots and medical tests, drive my things across the country, and a million other little things that are involved in going overseas for a 9 month contract!

So, as you can imagine, my head is pretty full. I’ll write more soon, about the preparation process, but now that I’ve officially told my employers that I’m leaving, I’m finally free to share my exciting news with the rest of the world!

 

 

 


Leave a comment

2013 in numbers and pictures

So, I haven’t been really good at posting this year. Constantly travelling made it harder for me to sit down and write, and travelling to places like Saskatchewan and Alberta made it difficult to find the motivation. Maybe that’ll be my 2014 resolution! In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of my year, in numbers and pictures!

200: Nights spent in various hotels, houses, buses, trains and airports around the world
165: Nights spent in my own bed. It’s kind of insane that I spent more nights away than home!20131231-132305.jpg

33: Number of airplane rides. It’s come to my attention that I have flown more times this year than most people do in a lifetime. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired. But I’m still, as always, itching to go on my next adventure.20131231-131446.jpg

100: Number of hours spent on trains. Taking the train across Canada does that! What a great experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next summer. My job really does come with awesome perks!20131231-131407.jpg

50+: Number of awesome new friends I’ve made, lucky me!20131231-131417.jpg

20131231-131428.jpg

4: Number of new countries visited

Looking back, I realise how great this year has been! I got to go to California twice, once with an old friend and once with my mum, I got to spend an amazing 10 days in Amsterdam with my bestie, I got to visit Ukraine with some awesome new friends, I met my all time favourite singer Passenger, I had a job that allowed me to really see and get to know my own country (like hiking around Lake Louise for work!), I got to visit family and friends across the country more than I ever thought would be possible, and I had a cozy house to come home to at the end of it all.

Happy new year to all of you, and here’s hoping for an even better 2014!

20131231-131359.jpg

20131231-131435.jpg

20131231-131442.jpg

 

20131231-133602.jpg


Leave a comment

Going to Southern California? Take a detour! Don’t miss Joshua Tree

My mum and I just got back from a week of holiday in Oceanside, half an hour north of San Diego. First of all, 7 days is wayyyy too short. My mum and were both sad to leave, and would much rather still be on the beach (although she’s in Paris right now, so I don’t know why she’s complaining!)

I’m going to write some more posts shortly, about how to spend a day in San Diego, and how to spend a day in Los Angeles (Ugh! Short answer: don’t)

In the meantime, I’m going to post a few pictures of one day trip that you should make: Joshua Tree National Park. We hummed and hawed about it for a while, and finally decided that we really wanted to go. And boy, were we glad we did!

Our day didn’t really go according to plan: we had planned on going in through the North entrance, driving through the middle, and leaving through the South entrance, then going to a town called Indio, the so-called date capital of the world, on our way back to Oceanside.

We started our day by driving to the North entrance, which was a 3 hour journey from Oceanside, only to be told that it was closed due to a flash flood. The South entrance was also closed, which meant that we wouldn’t be driving through Indio either. We turned around, drove 16 miles back to the Joshua Tree entrance, and went to see some amazing, nothing-else-like-it scenery. We drove right down to the Cholla garden, which was just incredible, then straight up again, back to our same entrance. This detour added an extra two hours of driving to our trip that way.

We decided that we still wanted to go to Indio, even though it was a 30 mile detour (each way!) for us on the way home, in the hope that Shields, Indio’s famous date store and café, would be open.

Well, it wasn’t. And then the GPS took us home on the sketchiest, mountainiest road ever. So, that part sucked. All in all, we could have skipped Indio and saved ourselves a lot of driving for nothing, but hey – live and learn! Hopefully you’ll research your trip more than I did. (All I did was think “Hey! Let’s tell the GPS to bring us to the centre of Indio!)

This awkward, unplanned, annoying detour notwithstanding, Joshua Tree is an amazing place to go. Do it!IMGP9406

IMGP9409

IMGP9565

Mum and the Chollas

Mum and the Chollas

Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden

A dead cholla...

A dead cholla…

IMGP9535

Keyes view. Scared my mum by sitting (not really) close to the edge

Keyes Lookout. Scared my mum by sitting (not really) close to the edge

Actually pretty scary!

Kinda scary!

My mama, on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail

My mama, on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail

Mum wanted to go to Shields to buy dates. I wanted to go and see a movie: The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.


3 Comments

On being impulsive and deciding to go to Ukraine

When I was in college, my friend and I always used to laugh at how different we were – she always spent a lot of time thinking things over, and making sure that the decisions that she made were logical, practical and cost effective. I, on the other hand, have always been known for my impulsiveness. Does something sound fun? I’m there!

I decided to go to university in Ecuador over the course of an afternoon. Sure, I’d been thinking about studying abroad for a while, but one afternoon I was bored at work and I googled what my study abroad options were. Within an hour, I decided on Ecuador (for reasons I absolutely cannot remember, likely because I knew nothing about it), and chances are that by the end of that week, I had signed up to the program. While I was there, I met Marina and I believe that our friendship was forged based on this impulsiveness – Marina can always be counted on for adventure. Want to fly to the beach for the weekend? Decide at the last minute to book a hotel downtown London? Take a 24 hour bus to spend a few days in Bolivia? Marina is your perfect partner in crime. A few years ago, Marina and I decided to go to New Orleans. This happened during a brief email exchange, that probably went something like this:

18/10/10, 11:00am Alex: “Hey, Marina! What about New Orleans for New Years?”

18/10/10, 11:07am Marina: “Hmm, I don’t know. I promised my parents I’d be home for Christmas this year.”

18/10/10, 11:20am Alex: “Ok! Why don’t we meet on December 26 then? Flights are cheap!”

18/10/10, 11:30am Marina: “Let me think about it”

18/10/10, 12:00pm Marina: “Ok, let’s do it!”

18/10/10, 2:00pm – Flights purchased

This year, one of Marina’s goals is to start a family. Long term, I don’t think that this will get in the way of our adventuring, but I do think that things are going to slow down for a bit, and I might have to spend a few more holidays with her and the fam in the UK over the next few years (boohoo). In the meantime, until Marina gets pregnant, this year might be our last chance in a long while for a solo trip. Because I’ve gone to London every year for the last 3 or four years, my only condition was that we go somewhere else, so that I could scratch off another country from my travel map. Marina suggested Holland, and I’m super down, since I haven’t been and I hear that they make great cheese.

Now, here comes the impulsive part! Marina reckons that she can take one week off work, but I’m getting two, and I figure that while I’m in Europe I might as well cram in as much as I can! Over the last two summers, I got really close with a group of international volunteers, and it means that I have a lot of places to visit around the world. Based on how cheap flights are, and how cheap travel within the country is, I decided on visiting Ukraine, where I have four friends to see. I made that decision on Monday night, and I just booked my flight (today is Wednesday)

Based on the little bit of research that I’ve done so far, it’s super easy to travel around Ukraine, but only if you speak Ukrainian. I’m equal parts super nervous and super excited about that, and my friends have already said that they’ll help me with buses and trains. And I’ve just ordered my phrase book. Eek!

Now, here’s where the travel blogging community can maybe help! I land in Amsterdam on November 2nd, and am planning to be there until about the 10th of November. Therefore, I have from November 11 to the 18th to make my way to my flight home from Kiev. I’m really excited to see how things will unfold, and what options will be presented to me. I have places to stay in Western Germany, Prague, and Vienna, not to mention cheap accommodation options pretty much everywhere. My options currently include going through Dortmund (Germany), Prague, Warsaw, Vienna or Dubrovnik.

Thoughts, or recommendations? I have 10 days to spend in and around Holland with Marina, and 7 days solo, to spend getting to Kiev. I’d like to spend at least 4 of those days in Ukraine, so that I can see my friends. SO MUCH DECISION MAKING, SO EXCITING!!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 803 other followers