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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.)

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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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Travel Tuesday

This week, I’ve been lucky enough to discover the world while staying at home.

The YMCA has a great program called the Youth Peace Network – every year, a dozen or so volunteers from around the world come and spend a summer in Vancouver to learn about Canada, and share their culture with us. I got to spend the last week with these wonderful people, from Kenya, Ukraine, Argentina, China, Brazil, Czech Republic, Zambia, Mexico, Senegal, Egypt, Belarus, Hong Kong and Colombia, and I’m excited to get to know them better as the summer progresses. I’ve learned a couple new words (my favourite so far is shlopentcy, Russian for flip flop), and made new friends that I will surely visit on my RTW trip!

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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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Go West, young (wo)man

Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.”
“That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.”
“It is all room away from the pavements…”
I got a job. A real live grown up one, at that. With a pension plan and all the bells and whistles. My oh my, things is changing.

It all started ten years ago. *cue rewind noise* When I was 17, I heard about a program called Summer Works Student Exchange, where Canadian youth aged 16 and 17 get to go to another province for the summer to learn about different parts of Canada and improve their other official language, and they get a job and a salary and a wonderful experience. So, without telling my parents, I signed myself up. You see, this exchange involves actually swapping places with someone your age – you go to their house and they come to yours for six weeks. You never meet them, but they effectively take your place within your family for a short period of time. My parents weren’t too hot on the idea, but by the time I got accepted, somehow they ended up with two kids, even though I still don’t think they ever agreed to anything.

Regardless. I went, I saw, I conquered. Imagine this: the day after graduation, 17-year-old me takes the train with 500 other 16-17 year-olds for a six day train ride across Canada. Epic, to say the least. I was placed at YMCA Camp Howdy, just outside of Vancouver, BC. I had a fantastic summer, and I made friends that I am still in touch with ten years on. The following summer, I returned as a full-fledged staff member, and then various decisions, university programs and job opportunities took me everywhere around the country and the world, but never back to BC.

Which brings us to June 2012. After Katimavik’s funding got cut (see previous post), I was actively (read : desperately) looking for work, when a supervisor from Camp Howdy (where I worked 10 years ago!) told me about a summer postion that opened up at the last minute at YMCA Camp Elphinstone, on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. Things worked in my favour and I got the job, and a great experience in a beautiful place. The summer ended, and once again I was looking for work… And once again, opportunity struck!

You are now looking at (the words of) the new Coordinator for the West, for the Summer Works Student Exchange program. That’s right – the exchange that I took part in in 2002 has led me full circle to a job coordinating the very same exchange program. Sometimes, I sit back, I look at my life, and I wonder how this is all possible. And although I can’t figure out how or why it’s happening, I’m going to take everything as it happens!

So here I am, roughly 48 hours from leaving home (again) to head out on a new adventure. This one doesn’t have an expiry date, and that’s equal parts scary and exciting. The idea of permanently moving across the country is also equal parts terrifying and exciting – I can’t wait to call Vancouver home, but I haven’t been settled anywhere in the last three years or so, and I’m not sure how that transition is going to go.

In the meantime, before Vancouver becomes home, I will be taking a 6 day road trip across the country, but that’s a story for another blog post. Stay tuned for pictures and stories of Alex’s next great adventure!