Where's Allie?

Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see


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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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lost and found in Toronto

I was in Toronto this week for three days of meetings, and yesterday evening, I met a friend for dinner and offered to pay for our first round of drinks. As I reached into my purse, sure enough, my wallet was missing.

I’m not the type of person to freak out about this kind of thing, so I stayed pretty calm and pulled everything out of my bag and looked at the ground around me, just to be sure. My next step was to mentally retrace my steps:

– I took my wallet out at the office to take out a subway token

– I left the office, and took the subway

– I stood on the subway for 30 minutes.

– I walked West on Queen to University, waited there for my friend for 15 minutes, then continued on to my final stop, Queen and Spadina.

I called my boss, who was still at the office, because I figured that that was the most likely place for it to be (while fervently hoping that I hadn’t dropped it on the subway), but checked and found nothing.

I decided to retrace my steps back to the subway station. I knew that there was no way that it would just be sitting on the ground, but I felt better knowing that I had done everything I could. An hour later, I met up with my friend again – lucky for me, she paid for my dinner!

I started thinking about the next step – what did I need to do about the situation right now? Step 1 was to put a hold on my credit card and confirm that I could get a new debit card in the morning, and step two was to figure out how I could fly home next week without ID. I had no idea what to do – Air Canada tweeted back to me, which was really nice, but only to wish me luckWhen I was mugged in Peru, my situation was much worse, but at least I knew to go to the embassy and get myself a new passport. Does anyone know how to fly domestic with no ID?

Beyond that, there was nothing I could do until I got home, so there was nothing else that I needed to worry about, and I got on with my evening.

As  was lying in bed last night, I started trying to think about everything that was in my wallet, to figure out if i had anything irreplaceable. All I could think of was my credit and bank cards, a couple of gift certificates, and some cash. I was also thinking about all of lost receipts for my travel expenses.

I got up early this morning and went straight to the bank, where they gave me a new debit card after asking a series of very specific questions. I got to the office, and was still hopeful that someone had turned in my wallet. My plan of action was office -> subway lost and found -> Eaton Centre lost and found -> give up hope. My wallet hadn’t been turned in, but I was still hopeful. I went into a meeting, and by the time I came back at 11am, my wallet had been returned! Someone found it late last night, and put it in their desk. She was late coming into the office because of subway delays, but she had it!

Everything turned out really well, in the end! But I still wonder what I would have done to get home.

Just for fun (I’m currently sitting on a train), I decided to figure out what I would have lost, had I actually lost my wallet.

– Two credit cards and one bank card

– Health card + insurance information

– Driver’s license

– $310 in gift/cash cards

– $80 in cash (I never carry cash! This is the first time I’ve had any in months! Figures.)

– $150 in work expense receipts

– A bunch of loyalty cards

– An mystery 8Gb SD card containing 1500 photos, most of which I haven’t seen since I took them. Thanks to my misadventures, I discovered cool things!

This picture from a market in Mai

This picture from a market in Mali

Never before seen pictures of my adorbs nephew!

Never before seen pictures of my adorable nephew

Teaching my Katimakids how to bake bread!

Teaching my Katimakids how to bake bread

My pictures of Key West!

My pictures of Key West

Photos of me at Hopewell Rocks!

Photos of me at Hopewell Rocks


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March in pictures

Apparently I’m making this a thing, posting about things that make me happy. Here’s another one.

Two years ago, I was living in Gatineau and teaching high school. I had the landlord from hell, and had to break my lease and move back in with my parents (Don’t get me wrong – I know I’m lucky to have parents I can live with. But who wants to move back home at 25?). I had just found out that my teaching contract wasn’t being renewed. It was cold. Basically, I wasn’t super happy.

So I started thinking about ways to get out of the house and cheer myself up. Somehow, I came up with a plan called Marchmywords. For the entire month of March, I would be taking one picture per day, based on my interpretation of a word. I made a blog, posted the words, and invited people to email me their pictures every day so I could post them on the blog.

The first year was great – 40 people participated in the project! The second year was a bit of a bust – I was too busy working in Moncton with Katimavik to take pictures and run the blog, and not too many other people were playing. The 2011-2012 pictures are still up on the blog, but this year I decided to take a different approach by making it a Facebook page. People can contribute directly to the page, and all I have to do is focus on taking my own pictures.

I just moved to the Coast, and once again I need a reason to get out of the house and explore, so it’s been great so far. Below are my pictures of the first week of March. Head on over to our Facebook page – like us, join us, take your own pictures. I promise you’ll have fun!

March 1 – Soft

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March 2 – Joie de vivre

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March 3 – Intimidation

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March 4 – Clarity

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March 5 – Championship

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March 6 – Friend

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March 7 – Energy

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March 8 – White

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 What other cool photo projects do you know about?


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Kendra – One Woman’s Quest for Everyday Adventures

We’ve almost reached the end of our HERstory blog posts! Today’s post is written by Kendra. Kendra was my supervisor when I worked with Katimavik, and it’s really difficult to describe her, but I’m going to try. Everyone who meets her loves her instantly. She’s got an amazing amount of positive energy. She always tries to see the best in every situation. I’m sure that things make her angry, but I’ve never seen that side of her. Whenever I face a challenging situation, or I’m mad, or upset, my first instinct is to think “What would Kendra do? How would she react?” And I try to channel Kendra’s positivity into my reactions.

1.    If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

One Woman’s Quest for Everyday Adventures

2.    Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I am from Hampton, New Brunswick- the home of John Peters Humphrey, one of the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  I grew up with teachers who valued this human rights heritage.  These teachers introduced us, their students, to concepts of oppression, diversity, and marginalisation.  They taught us to be both passionate and compassionate and they encouraged us to engage in our communities.  Today, I facilitate youth leadership programs that encourage community participation and learning through service.

3.    Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in Charlottetown, PEI.  This is a province full of individuals who, like my grandfather who lived here all his life, appreciate every little thing.  They see blessings in everyday occurrences.  This is the kind of person I want to be. This is the kind of life I want to live.

4.    What is your greatest achievement?

This summer I hiked for one month in Vermont.  This was not the ideal hike for a person that didn’t do any training and who was not physically ready.  I was completely unprepared.  But I did it.  And I kept doing it.  My body hated me for a while, but it came around in the end. This was my greatest achievement to date. To make a commitment that I knew would really hurt. And it did. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time.

5.    What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that I will not learn to lean on others. I worry that I will become too independent.  I worry that I will not ask for help. I worry that I will think that I do not need help.  I worry that this will prevent me from having real, rich, reciprocal relationships with others.

6.    What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Many people do not know who they are or what their passion could possibly be. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find answers to these questions, just keep moving forward. Find something that appeals to you and do it.  Do it unashamedly.  In participating in something that interests you, you will build the person you want to be and you will attract the kind of people you want as part of your community.

7.    What’s next?

What’s next, you ask? Well, these days, I am focusing on short term planning only.  I think that we need to do that sometimes.  We need to think in terms of five days and maybe five weeks, but not five months or five years.  We need to take a break from long-term plans.

So, for me, the next five days will bring a trip to my local butcher, a snowshoeing adventure with a friend, and a hot chocolate at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  Doing these little everyday things and appreciating them for what they are and what they bring to my life makes me feel rich.  Very rich indeed.


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Linda – She tried her best

Linda is Katie‘s mom. Katie was one of my kids in Katimavik, and we got along really well. She lives here in Vancouver, so when I moved here, we started hanging out. And, to make a long story short, I was adopted by their family. Linda is my mom away from home, and I don’t tell her enough how much I appreciate her letting me be a part of their family.

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 1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

She Tried Her Best

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I was born in Burnaby BC, moved to Markham, ON when I was 11 and back to Tsawwassen, BC when I was 14. I don’t really count my time in Ontario as it was so short but the moves were very hard for me. I think that’s why I’ve always been happier to stay put as opposed to travelling far and wide. I have also never had the urge to pick up and move my family elsewhere. (And because I was born in BC I won’t go to hell because I’m too wet to burn 🙂 )

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

I live in Ladner, BC. It’s a small, safe, quiet, farming and fishing, bedroom community that we refer to as a village even though it’s just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The people are friendly and that has helped me to get past my shyness. I feel rooted here and have no desire to live anywhere else.

4. What is your greatest achievement?

This is going to sound sappy but my greatest achievement is my 4 wonderful, amazing, successful in life children.  I’m also pretty proud of the fact that I’ve been married to my husband for over 31 years.

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

My greatest regret is that sometimes I procrastinate. For example I procrastinated for so long to take the teachers assistance program that now it feels too late in my life. My greatest fear is an easy one to answer. My greatest fear is that something bad would happen to any of my family.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

I would tell her that she is beautiful and perfect. To try to be brave and not let other people make her feel bad about herself. That things will get better, they did for me. I would also tell her to make the best choices she can based on what she knows and feels and try not to regret those choices in the future.

7. What’s next?

Grandchildren 🙂 And helping my children become independent, happy adults.

Here is a picture that Linda sent me this picture for the project. “My sister took it to document me being brave and driving on the ferry and around Pender Island and Victoria. Something that other people do everyday without thinking about it, I know. It was a really big accomplishment for me so I think it kind of fits with the theme you’re going for.”

Linda on Pender summer 2012


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Emilie – She was a crazy one… But boy did she care

Herstory #7… Emilie! Emilie and I met last year at training for Katimavik, and we became instant friends. We haven’t seen each other since training, but I think that our friendship is going strong, and I know that when we eventually manage to meet up again, it’ll be awesome. Read on for some amazing insight… I promise she’ll get you thinking!

Emilie is posting for the HERstory blogging carnival on kickaction.ca on March 4th – be sure to check her out!

1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

I don’t see why someone would do that… I mean, I’m not saying I’m dull, but I’m no hero! Sure, sometimes I’d like to be one. Sometimes I’d like to have my 15 minutes of fame. Of glory. I’d like people to remember me. But I guess what I really want is to live a life that is worth while. So anyway… Here are some ideas:

She was a crazy one… But boy did she care

The fire within

Of mistakes, love, hard work, and finding yourself

2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

I was born in Sherbrooke, Québec. Raised in Saint-Lambert, a cosy town on the South shore of Montréal. In the last 10 years, I’ve lived in Sherbrooke, Québec city, Ottawa, New York, Montréal, Amqui and Chandler. How could this have NOT shaped my life?! You are the sum of your experiences. And experiences depend a lot on where you live. And who you live with, of course…

I consider myself very lucky to have been born and raised in Québec. No, I won’t say Canada… I’m sorry! I’m not from Canada, I’m from Québec. And yes, French is my first language. Why I answer these questions in English? I don’t know! I’m completely bilingual. And proud to be. But if I had to teach one language to my children, and one only, it would be French. Because it is the language of my ancestors. Of my culture. Of my nation. I won’t say country, though! Ha! Ha! You see, being born in Québec has shaped the way I look at my country, its history, its conflicts, its culture. I am proud to be part of this beautiful minority of French-speakers in North America. I am proud to spell my name Emilie, with an IE, not a Y!

Yet I wouldn’t be complete if I spoke only French. Part of me is English. Always has been. I was raised across the bridge from Montréal, where lots of people spoke/speak English. It was part of my childhood and my adolescence. I have friends with whom I speak solely English… even if French is our first language! I like to say I have 2 personalities… And that they speak different languages! No wonder they don’t always get along! Ha! Ha!

So all that to say, that yes, where I’ve lived has shaped who I am. And I believe it’s the same for everyone. I mean, I wore a lot of makeup and I could walk for miles with tiny skirts and high heels when I lived in NYC! Don’t ask me to do the same in Chandler, Gaspésie! I’d much rather take out my Sorel boots and torn jeans! The beauty with moving so often is that you get the chance to live in so many different places. And, in a way, to be someone a little different every time. Then again, sometimes it’s confusing. You feel a little lost. And no matter where you go, your issues will follow you. That, I can guarantee! So moving from one place to another should not be to flee or to run away from yourself. It should be an occasion to discover the many facets of yourself!

3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?

Well… I think I answered that in question 2…

4. What is your greatest achievement?

I’m 28! Give me a break! I’m only starting to figure out life… And you’re asking me what my greatest achievement is? I don’t like this question! Living in itself is an achievement. Putting one foot in front of the other. Not giving up. Fighting. Being out there. Trying to figure out what to do with one’s life. I guess that’s what I’ve achieved so far! I wish I could say I’ve climbed the Kilimanjaro. Or that I’ve saved a little boy from a fire. Or that I’ve raised 10,000$ for cancer. That I’ve given my kidney to my sick sister. That I’ve raised triplets. But I haven’t done any of this. I think I’ve done a lot of good/nice things. But it’s hard to pinpoint one and say “yep, that’s it, that’s my greatest achievement”.

But if really you need one, I guess it would be my relationship with my husband. We’ve been together for almost 10 years now. I mean it’s amazing to think that we’re still together after all this time. It wasn’t always easy. He is one patient man! Don’t ask me how he does it… Perhaps he needs me just as much as I need him. Perhaps we’re both crazy and so we’re perfect for each other. All I know is that he is the most precious thing I have. And there’s not much I wouldn’t do for him. So I think that this relationship that we have is my greatest achievement.

5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?

I try not to have regrets. I have some. But I don’t like to be specific. I guess I’m trying to forget my regrets. Or at least to make them less painful. I guess I wasn’t always who I wanted to be. I wasn’t always true to my values, to my friends, to my family, to my partner. I made a lot of mistakes. And sometimes I’ve had to make the same mistake 3-4 times before learning from it. But I try not to regret so much. I’m a human being. I can make mistakes.

So I guess my greatest fear would be not being good enough. Not being lovable. I’m working on it… But let’s just say it’s a fear I’ve been carrying for a long time.

6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?

Boy, do we all want to fit it. We all want to be normal. Skinny. Beautiful. Smart. Lovable. Perfect. Truth is, we’re all flawed. Because we’re all human. And I could lie and say that, as you grow older, you don’t care as much about not fitting in. We all want to belong. To a family, a group, a place. Yet, with time, you learn to choose where you want to fit in. What you are willing to compromise to fit in. You choose your friends more wisely. And you slowly learn to accept that you can’t please everyone. And that the first person you should please is yourself. Because at the end of the day, you, and you only, will have to live with what you’ve done/said.

Also, you can’t win every fight… So go for the ones you really care about. I’m still working on this one…

7. What’s next?

Good question… Any suggestions? A trip to Europe this fall. That’s for sure. Two months of backpacking with my man. Then, who knows, perhaps babies. I’m terrified of them. But I can’t seem to imagine my life with them.

To be honest, the future is just this big blur… I have a life insurance, but I don’t have savings… I don’t believe in retirement. Birthdays are scary. I’ll be 30 in less than 2 years. And, frankly, it scares the shit out of me. Because I’m afraid of wasting time. And there was a time where I had it all figured out. I was going to have a great career, babies, a house, a dog, and a car. Now, I’m not too sure… I have a partner. I guess we have to figure out where we want to go. But, I feel the destination doesn’t matter that much. It’s the road we take that matters.


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This is where you’re meant to be

I’ve been in Vancouver for 3 weeks now. Things are going well. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Victoria, I’m currently planning trips to my work projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as a trip to Toronto in January. I’ve got a few friends in the community, and I’m hoping to get involved in a couple of volunteer opportunities. I’m loving the weather – sure, it rains, but everything is so green, and it hasn’t been below 10 degrees yet. My job is challenging, and once the ball starts rolling, I know it’ll keep me busy. I have friends and family here that I am excited to reconnect with. My stuff has just shipped from Ottawa, and I’m excited because my little apartment is starting to feel more and more like home.

BUT.

You know how things always happen in a weird way? Here’s a bit of backstory.

In March, when we found out that Katimavik was going to be cut by the government, I started looking for a new job. It needed to pay relatively well, and I needed to not pay rent. I found a sick job opportunity :

Job # 1 – Teaching on a tall ship that travels around the world. The interview went really well, the director seemed really interested. In the end, though, my teachables didn’t fit with what they needed. Sad moment – I was not going to circumnavigate the world (not yet, anyway)

So, I kept looking. And then!

Job # 2 – A position as a tour manager, based in Cuba. Full time, permanent, benefits. I even drove to New York City (24 hours of driving in a 48 hours period) for the interview. It went SO well. They loved me. But then, they had a problem with their license renewal. I kept getting encouraging e-mails, asking me to be patient. And I tried! I kept looking for shorter contract positions, and hoping that Cuba would come through. Imagine! I could live in Havana, and actually put my Hispanic Studies degree to use!

But, as I said, things always happen in a weird way. At the end of this summer, I heard about a new position at the YMCA of Vancouver, running a cool student exchange program for Canadian teenagers. I applied, and lo and behold, I got the job! Finally! After months of interviewing and coming So Close, I finally got a job! I set everything in motion – bought a new car, shipped all of my stuff, drove across the country, and started working at my new job.

Oh! Wait! I forgot something. Three days (three days!!) after I accepted the position in Vancouver, I got an e-mail from the Cuba job. That’s right. “We got our license! Let’s talk!” I regretfully told them that I had just accepted a new job. We promised to keep in touch – you never know, and I’m not one to burn bridges.

So! Where was I? Oh yes, I was moving to Vancouver. So, by the time I’d been here for two weeks, I got another e-mail! (Whaaaaat?!!!!!), this time from the tall ship! That’s right! “Will you come teach for us? We need someone to meet us in the Canaries, mid-November” Same deal – I made a commitment here, yadda yadda, keep me in mind for later.

Still good – job in Vancouver is taking shape, starting to get a better handle on my responsibilities, and then…

YOU GUESSED IT!!!

“Hi Alex! Just e-mailing you in case your new job isn’t working out, can I tempt you to come to Cuba from mid-December?”

Uggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

So! What’s next? Here’s my thought process :

– It’s not a black and white question of Go or Don’t go. It’s Don’t go, and continue to have an amazing experience here in Vancouver and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Or Go, and maybe have an amazing experience in Cuba or on the ship and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Honestly, if it was Cuba or nothing, the answer would be obvious. It’s not that easy when the flip side is something completely different, but just as awesome in it’s own way.

– Please don’t tell me to go. I mean this in the least bitchy way possible, but you’re not in my shoes. I understand what I’m missing out on, I really do. But I also know what I’d be missing out on (and who I’d be letting down) if I left.

– “Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” Yep, that one’s eating away at me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will always regret not going to Cuba. I mean, come on! I would get to live in a communist country on the brink of change, interact with locals like I never could otherwise, get to live in Latin America again… It’s heartbreaking. It really is. But, I also know that if I left Vancouver, I would regret that too. Live on the Sunshine Coast, participate in a program that helps young canadians learn about themselves and their country, get to know various canadian communities like I never would otherwise. The bottom line is that while I would love to teach on a ship, or live in Cuba, I believe in this job in Vancouver more than any other. I really feel that I can make a difference, by staying here. It doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving, but believing in what I do makes everything easier.

– As I’ve said, things happen in a weird way. But I’m also a super, super strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that life will always take care of you (gotta thank my mama for that wisdom). There’s a reason I didn’t get those jobs in the first place, and there’s a reason that I got the Vancouver job when I did. I’m ok with not knowing what that reason is, but I feel better just knowing that there is a reason. (For more on my beliefs, read The Alchemist. I love the idea that the universe has grand plans for your life.)

– I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so proud that I not only found, but applied to, and GOT these two  three jobs. I think that we don’t spend enough time feeling good about ourselves. So I’m going to take these minutes to think “Wow, I’m pretty fucking awesome. Check me out – I put myself out there, and I got all of these amazing opportunities.”

Which brings me to my final point. I don’t believe that the world has a finite amount of amazing opportunities. Some just fall into your lap (like this job in Vancouver), and some you work for (like the job in Cuba), but there will always, always be more. I’m excited to see what life is going to continue to throw my way.