You Guat’a be kidding me

Hey there my friends! How is everyone?

So many drafts saved, so few posts published! The saga continues with the tension of this internet space, as I discover more and more about who God has created me to be, think about how to express my thoughts, figure out what I want to share here and ponder what, if any, my influence is through writing. It’s a fun journey but one that sometimes means not much actually makes its way past a draft!! To make up for it, here’s a reallllly long one with lots of pretty pictures!

Anyyyyyway. If you follow me on social media or know me in real life, you probably know that I went on a little adventure last month to a place I’d never been before – Guatemala! Wahoo! This was my first time in Latin America as a “backpacker” (LOL) since previously I’ve visited with my family but stayed mostly on the resorts, hanging out on the beaches. This was a very different experience! I also got to travel with one of my best friends and we had just the most fun time. Fair warning, this post may just be a jumble of photos and little stories!

Last year I decided to stop talking and writing so much about desiring adventure and travel and just friggin’ do it. I went to Iceland by myself and it was a really freeing and wonderful experience that I think helped me grow a lot as a person. It’s that “shut up and go” attitude that I’ve tried to carry over into my everyday life since then, from spontaneous weekend trips to Montreal, to canoeing in new places, to trying out a new hobby, to “adventuring” in my own city to find new places to study and explore.

That said, there is something very unique about international travel that I simply love. I love the process of going from one place to another, the fact that I can sit down in this mental tube and a few hours later be someplace totally different. I love, love, love the process of planning and dreaming, only to find myself totally winging it when I get there.  I love meeting people I don’t interact with in my everyday life whether that means locals or other backpackers. I love the tension and being kept on my toes and having everything just be a little out of my hands. I love trying to practice new languages (I got out a little easy this time because Nick’s Spanish is a lot better than mine and he bailed me out a bit hehe!)

Not to mention, the world is crazy beautiful.

Suffice to say, Iceland lit a fire under my feet and had me checking flight prices all winter and spring. After a while, I realized that my cheapest option was probably going to be Guatemala. So I started telling all my friends that I was going and that they were invited. Some people showed interest, a couple seriously. Eventually my dear friend Nick agreed to come along and we booked flights. Over the next couple months we laughed often about the fact that we were ACTUALLY going to go.

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Friend!! He put up with me being bossy and sick and bad at Spanish for a whole week! What a guy!!

So here’s 10 things I learned over reading week in Guatemala:

  1. You can be as careful as you like, but you still might get sick. Nick and I were pretty careful about where and what we ate and drank because we had heard that lots of people get sick while in Guatemala (and developing countries in general) but OF COURSE, the day we were supposed to go hiking, we both ended up really sick with some kind of brutal stomach bug or food poisoning. It had us out for the count for a full day/day and a half and didn’t fully go away until more than a week after we’d been home. I actually got it worse a second time after we were home and had to take antibiotics. All that to say a) you can’t control these things and b) you can’t be bitter about it and let it ruin your whole trip. I did warn Nick on day 1 that if anything bad could happen, it would surely happen to me/us. Y’all know the deal #samproblems

 

 

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A real-life view of what travel sometimes looks like #dying

2. Travelling with a friend is very different than travelling alone. Not better or worse, just different. When I went to Iceland, I loved that I was totally in control of my own time and that I was only responsible for myself. Travelling with Nick, I suddenly was aware that all my decisions had to work for another person too! There was some tension with that because I had planned most of our trip and felt responsible for whether or not Nick had fun. At the same time, he is an adult and can take of himself. So it was interesting to figure out how to balance those things and how to travel together and how to let each other do their own thing but also be together most of the time. At the end of our trip we had a really good talk about communication and sharing planning responsibilities and how to learn from this trip for future adventures together!

Also, I noticed that I am more chill of a traveller than maybe I realized? I don’t really stress and stay pretty calm in situations that could become concerning and even though I knew that about myself, it was interesting to…notice I guess, what others find stressful about travel. Nick noticed things that I didn’t even think to be concerned about and it was good for both of us to balance each other out in that way because it forced me to consider things more carefully and question my assumptions and I encouraged him to relax a bit. On the flip side (this is going to sound very contradictory), I think I am still a pretty cautious traveller. Like I said, it’s a balance. I don’t act rashly but I also don’t worry once I have made a decision.

Overall, it was super nice to have someone with me along the way, especially since Nick is one of my best friends and he and I haven’t gotten much one on one time since moving out of residence in first year so our time together was really precious to me!

3. “Dangerous” is a relative term and a little common sense can go a long way. Speaking of stress or fear or danger and using common sense, I think it’s worth noting that I never felt unsafe in Guatemala. Before we went, several people voiced concern for us because statistically, Guat has high levels of crime. However that is mostly gang related and concentrated in the capital where we did not stay.  There was one situation in a taxi where Nick thought we were potentially in danger but that was more due to a miscommunication in Spanish than anything else and everything ended up being ok. One other time, we were told a particular hike was unsafe unless in larger groups due to reports of tourists being mugged which, just that stipulation made me a little nervous. But honestly, we never felt like we were in particularly dangerous place. On our part, we took some precautions like not wandering around at night or flaunting expensive things around. In general we found Guatemalans to be very welcoming people who were open to sharing their culture (although sometimes they were pushy sales people lol)

4. A week isn’t long enough to appreciate the complexity of a countries history, politics and culture. Honestly, I have little to say about this except to say that I regret not learning more about Guatemala’s history before I went, that I really loved how present and prevalent the Indigenous culture still was and that I am constantly amazed by my own ignorance to other countries’ political climates, even though I am studying international development.  I have so much to learn.

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5. On that note, I’m still learning how studying development shapes my world view. I felt uncomfortable by how many people assumed my trip to Guatemala was to volunteer or do some kind of development work. Aside from the fact that I am still working through how I feel about “voluntourism”, the comments also felt a little accusative, as if my chosen field of study disallows me from travelling in the developing world for my own enjoyment. Yet, in a strange way, it does. Because of my education, I see things differently. I found myself hyper aware of my privilege as a visitor, painfully aware of my relative wealth. Although I am all for tourism because it is a source of income for many people, it’s impossible to visit Guatemala and not see the inequalities, the lack of drinkable water, the poverty.

Yet, as a student of development, I was ALSO really interested in the efforts I saw being made towards empowerment – Indigenous owned coffee companies, a newly opened restaurant that was part of a women’s co-op and vocational school, Spanish schools that teach the language through politics and education on colonial history. I could see small projects and changes happening. On my end, I am constantly learning and travel is just a small part of that. Even though this was a vacation and not an experiential learning opportunity, my education has changed the lens with which I travel and it continues to challenge the way I think and look at the world.

P.s. Like I said I have a lot of mixed feelings but a definition of voluntourism I would feel comfortable with would definitely involve way more awareness and knowledge of Guat than I had and would require longer term investment than one week – but that’s for another blog post.

6. Try to speak the local language. Just try a little. In Guatemala, you kind of had to know at least some Spanish. Although, in the villages, Spanish was actually the second language for many people who spoke one of 20+ Indigenous languages as a mother tongue! Although my speaking isn’t all that great, my comprehension in Spanish is ok and because of that, I got to barter and chat and hear bits of people’s stories – my favourite was talking to our taxi driver about swimming, a favourite activity we both shared. P.s. shout out to Nick for his Spanish skills saving me when I floundered 2 out of 3 times.

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7. Backpacker culture is different in different parts of the world. Previously when I’ve stayed in hostels I have found it easy to make friends and fit into the backpacker culture. In Guatemala I found it more difficult to “fit in”. Many people I spoke to had very different perceptions than I do of what traveling looks like, what it’s purpose is and why one should do it. Although I love talking to people with different points of view, I found the backpacking culture in Guat to be a little toooooo “go with the flow” for me. Not that being flexible is bad but everyone I talked to seemed to be traveling indefinitely, with no plans and no purpose, to the point where some of them were rather rude about the fact that Nick and I were in school – because in their mind, school couldn’t possibly be about anything other than conforming to societal expectations. Along with this, I found many of them didn’t seem to understand that their ability to travel in this manner is not a way of fighting back against the capitalist societal norms but actually a result of their Western privilege – hanging out at a hostel for months on end means you are wealthy enough to travel and CHOOSE an alternative to the corporate world. I don’t mean this as a judgement or to paint all Central American backpackers in a bad light because obviously there are many types of people who travel for various reasons, it was just an overall attitude difference than what I have seen other places. That said, Nick and I did of course meet some really interesting people, from a new friend from Colombia to a group Irish girls on their grad trip to a really cool German couple and an older woman on a spiritual journey. Travel always, always, always opens my mind to the diversity of people.

8. 20 is apparently still too young to be travelling. When I was 19 in Iceland I was “just a baby”. Apparently going to Guatemala at 20 still warrants “awww”s and disbelief that young people can take airplanes without adult supervision

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9. Splurge on some activities but don’t forget that just being present in a new environment is an amazing way to spend time. I absolutely adored going zip lining in a National Park and I am so glad we spent a day in Chichi at the largest market in Central America. But my favourite memory from our trip is when one morning we got up and went swimming in the volcanic lake. Here’s a little blurb I wrote in my journal that day:

“This morning when I got up, I looked out and saw nothing but trees. With only two walls and no electricity, our hostel room feels more like a secret club house than a bedroom. I got up and wandered down to the lake where the sky was clear and the tops of the volcanoes were visible, towering on the other side of the lake. Carefully picking my way along the boardwalk, I went to a quiet swimming place and jumped in, the clear, cold water enveloping me and then buoying me back up to the surface. As I turned back to shore,  I can hardly believe my eyes. Mountains reach up and up, covered in lush, dense jungle and spotted with coloured houses. Around the summits, fog swirls. Nick and I keep laughing because it honestly feels like we must be in a movie, it’s just so beautiful.”

The sheer joy of being a new place, seeing beauty I had never seen before, floating in blue water and laughing with my friend is a wonderful as any activity I could have planned. When travelling, make sure to take time to just be present in the place.

10. Travel always revives my sense of wonder and reminds me of God’s glory and creativity. Wow, wow, wow you guys. Guatemala is seriously incredible! And it just makes me want to see other places all the more. Seeing natural beauty and diversity always just makes me want to draw close to the Lord and praise Him for all He has created and blessed me with. One morning when I couldn’t sleep because I was sick, I went down and sat on a dock around 4am and sang worship songs as the sun rose up from behind the volcanos ringing the lake. It’s as beautiful as it sounds. Traveling around  and exploring Guatemala revived my child-like sense of wonder and made me grateful all over again for the world God created.

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SO that’s about all I’ve got for now I think. I guess I had quite a bit to say! I’m just so grateful for the opportunities I have to explore and live life to the fullest. Thanks as always for reading, for putting up with my ramblings and for following me along on this ever changing, ever challenging, ever exciting and ever grander adventure.

Until next time,

Sam

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Beauty that breathes

The world is a beautiful place

 

My soul lights up at the colours of the trees

and the sunlight pouring down through the leaves

like harp strings made of gold.

Land and sky twist in time,  making music

that only my heart can hear.

 

When my fingers trail through lake water deeper than imaginable,

the Holy Spirit tangles more wildly into my mind and heart.

The way sunflowers run towards the sun despite their roots,

I will myself to become one with the water and one with God in heaven,

despite being made of dust from deep valleys.

 

Though I sometimes wonder how I fit into the beauty of this world,

I can’t help but look at everything else God created;

the world is made up of breathing art pieces,

each it’s own exhibit of the Artist’s endless talent.

 

I feel peace settle into my bones like a much needed sleep,

reminding me that I have the same Creator

and that I too am art to be seen and valued.

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Passion Tea

GradPromJuly2015 309Hey friends,
It sucks that you all are so far away
(or maybe not, if you’re in Ottawa lets grab coffee).
I really love sitting with people and hearing about their biggest dreams.
The ones you don’t talk about so often, the ones that matter so much you don’t dare tell people, lest they don’t understand.
I want to invite you into my room,
pour you a cup of tea and sit with you on my couch by the window.
You’re lucky; I don’t clean my room very often but I always try to tidy it for guests.
Today, all the pillows are in place and the plants have been watered and the kettle is on
I want to hear what you’re passionate about.
I want you to explain to me things I probably won’t understand,
the things that make you talk a little too fast and gesture with your hands a little too much.
The things that make your eyes light up
and then keep you up at night, in awe of the beauty and complexity of the world we live in.
Tell me about how plants duplicate their chromosomes,
about how science exposes the miracles of creation
Explain how to find the best lighting for a photograph, how to set up the perfect shot,
to balance reality and creativity
Let me read bits of your soul on paper,
poetry and stories that capture the world and wrangle it into squiggly lines,
tell me how words beg for lined paper homes and pitch tents in old notebooks
Show me how to make a good cup of coffee, latte art and all
Share the secrets of the sky, the constellations and the nebulas;
whisper their stories, as if you lived each legend yourself. You, storyteller of the skies
Explain math to me, not in the way my 3rd grade teacher explained it,
Instead explain how the logic clicking into place explains the subtext of the way the world works together in I way I just don’t see
Tell me how you see colour and make paints and pencils
somehow recreate the world I can touch but never see the way you do,
let me into the exhale you feel when you do what you were created for.
Tell me what makes you feel alive. Tell me what you do to feel most you.
Who are you friend?
What makes you tick?
I only get one life, one set of eyes,
one mind to ponder with.
Let’s chat
and see through each other’s mind for just a little while.
I’ll sip my tea while you talk

 

Quiet Moments in the Crazy, Busy, Goodness of a Life Being Lived as an Adventure

I can finally breathe.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the student neighbourhood beside campus, drinking tea, listening to the classic coffee shop music and enjoying watching the people come and go.

Today is the first day since the middle of August that I have nothing I absolutely have to do. No commitments and no responsibilities. Yes, I should study. And yes, if my residents ask me a question I’m going to answer it because that’s just me. Yes I could prep for my interviews next week or I could finally get around to balancing my budget for a trip I led or I could do the research I haven’t had time to do for my volunteer project. But honestly I’m going to take full advantage of this unexpected time off.

Let’s be real, if you know me, you probably know that I would never have planned a “nothing day”. I absolutely thrive when I am busy and productive and surrounded by friends and adventure. And so, that’s what I planned for this weekend. I planned my third Outdoor’s Club trip in three weeks. I planned to take 10 people to the Adirondack mountains in New York state, my first time to go there. I spent three weeks planning logistics and signing people up and running around collecting gear and making sure everything was ready to go and I packed my bag, ignoring the fact that I was tired and my weekends off were meant to be restful, not stressful.

See I’m not that good at saying “no”. And apparently I’m not that good at listening when God is trying to tell me to “stop”.

Let me tell you all the things that went wrong while I was planning this trip:
– People didn’t show up to sign up and we spent days running all over campus to collect money
– A driver dropped out
– Then we found another driver
– Another driver dropped out
– Then we convinced another exec member to come and be a driver
– Then we realized no one had sleeping bags or tents and all the club ones had been rented out
– So we spent the day before the trip running all over the neighbourhood, posting on Facebook and tracking down as many sleeping bags and tents as possible.
– Then we couldn’t find the stove we were planning to take
– Finally at 10:30am the DAY OF THE TRIP – a driver cancelled because they were sick. After everything else, I almost wasn’t even surprised.

So, I took one for the team and I didn’t go. We managed to squeeze everyone else into the remaining two cars and I stayed home, after three weeks of thinking, planning and preparing for the trip. I was really sad but after running through all the options, this was the only one that really made sense. I’m not looking for praise for sacrificing my trip for everyone else to be able to go (which is what I’ve gotten from a lot of friends) because honestly, it just reminded me of all the things I’ve learned about being a leader over the years. A leader puts the team before themselves – I wasn’t necessary to the trip and I didn’t HAVE TO go. There are two other leaders still there and I was the least necessary to the well-being of the trip because I didn’t have experience in the location. And as the president of the Outdoors Club, I put in so many hours of organization to allow other people to experience the wonder and transformation I’ve always felt outdoors. I didn’t want to take this experience away from anyone else and so it made sense for me to give up my adventure so others could have theirs. That’s what a leader does sometimes.

So here I am.

And last night and today as I was getting ready for my unexpected day off, I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, that God the Father knows what I need long before I do. Although I thought what I needed was a day in the cold mountain air, a day spent pushing my body to it’s limits and climbing and doing something new, God had other plans. I have to continuously remind myself that when you surrender your life to God, you surrender the right to be angry when plans change. A long time ago I surrendered having total control over my life and I asked God to led me down the paths that are the BEST for me. Not just good or better but BEST.

Trust me, I thought the mountains were a good path. I still think it would have been a great weekend. But I can see God’s hand in this. If I truly believe that God knows me better than I know myself AND that He cares for me and gives good gifts (I do believe that), then I also have to trust when He changes plans on me. That belief also means trying my best to take changed plans with a positive attitude and an open heart to learn from whatever situation I find myself in. I think it wasn’t so much the mountain adventure that wasn’t God’s best for me – it was the constantly being responsible for others that I needed a break from. I didn’t even realize it before now but I think I needed a weekend to be just Sam. Not a CA, not a leader, not a student, not a friend or anything else. Just me.

I’m taking this “weekend off” as I nudge from God that I need to slow down. That I need to remember to do simple things, to have Sabbath times in my life, whether or not that ends up being a Sunday morning. I need to be taking time to breathe.

Today I am drinking coffee and taking time to blog. I’m going to go finish my book in the park and I’m going to go to the mall and buy new jeans. I might do some readings for class but only if I feel like it. I’m going to go for a long walk and listen to worship music and maybe see some friends. And tomorrow I’m going to go to church which I haven’t done in weeks because it’s been a month since I’ve been in Ottawa on a Sunday.

And come Monday, I’ll be back to my crazy life; don’t get me wrong, I love it. This semester is full of light and life and goodness and excitement. I’m actually really thriving in the busy, crazy goodness of it all. For the first time in a long time this season feels like I am exactly where I need to be. I feel like I am doing the Sam things and that God is preparing me to springboard into even more exciting seasons. I’m truly so so happy. I’m taking six classes in three languages and I’m in my favourite residence with amazing first years, I’m running a club that I love and am so passionate about and I’m volunteering with a food security project at the university. I’m applying for coop jobs and spending time with people who I am incredibly blessed to have in my life. I’m spending lots of time outside and lots of time with Jesus and my heart feels happy and full.

I just need to remember that it’s ok to take a break from the chaos, EVEN WHEN the chaos is GOOD. Life is crazy and busy and above all full of goodness and sweet, simple gifts from God. I just need to remember that it’s ok to say “I can’t sorry. I just need to go have a coffee and be Sam.”

Thank you Jesus for knowing what I need long before I do. I’m so blessed.

 

(Don’t) talk to strangers?

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I met these friends just two days before our adventure to Gatineau Park

Every little kid knows the rule growing up: don’t talk to strangers. And fair enough! The world is a dangerous place. Kids are vulnerable. You never know people’s true intentions. However as we get older, the narrative continues. Especially as a girl, I am continually encouraged to keep my guard up around people I just met, not to trust too quickly. Stranger danger becomes a way of life, a way of looking at the world.

While we definitely need to be thoughtful, wise and aware, I think that the intense and immediate distrust of strangers, the assumption that people are bad or dangerous until proven otherwise, is a communal mindset that drives us towards a more individualistic and frankly, more boring society. As children, yes, a blanket rule of thumb is required for safety. But as adults? I would argue that we all could use some more stranger “danger” in our lives. Not literal danger y’all, just a couple steps outside our comfort zones will do!

Choosing to interact with people you don’t know in a genuine and engaged way brings so much joy and interest to our day to day lives. It teaches teaches us about what true hospitality looks like and helps foster an encompassing sense of community that humanizes the “other”.

Friends have, I’m sure, heard me say it before, I may have even written it in the blog, that “strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet”. I don’t say that to be naïve. I’m not assuming everyone will like me and I’m not disregarding the fact that there are indeed dangerous people out there with malicious intentions. However, that is not the majority. Everyone you have ever known was a stranger at some point. Maybe you were introduced by a friend or had a class together and you got to know each other in what is societally considered a safe space.

But

Who’s to say that guy reading a book in the park isn’t also going to be super cool and share your love of skiing?

Unless you ask her, how will you know that the women sitting next to you on the bus has walked the entire Great Wall of China or that she has her pilots license or that she and her husband have the best love story you’ve never heard?

If you don’t talk to strangers you may never hear why someone would want to be vegan or how one goes about building their own sailboat or what it’s like to work in a brewery or what it’s like to be a diplomat in Syria. My parents always told me, “you can’t do everything”. They were right! But SOMEONE out there has done everything. Don’t you want to hear their stories?

Aside from being purely interesting, it also teaches us how to love more fully. Inviting someone into your life and into your space isn’t always easy and it may require a little bit of sacrifice. But choosing community and choosing hospitality is SO WORTH IT.

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In the woods, exploring with Remi, Jess and Mike

As many of you probably read last week I ended up going to Montréal by myself. While we’re on the subject, thank you all so much for the support! I received countless messages of encouragement after my plans got flipped on their head. Spontaneity and risk taking y’all, it pays off.  Now I could have spent all weekend exploring by myself but where’s the fun in that? I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and so I couldn’t wait to get to know these people that had been unexpectedly thrown into my life. Getting to know people and hearing their life stories was one of my favourite parts about my trip to Iceland and I didn’t see why Montreal had to be any different!

 

I ended up meeting people from all over: Scotland, England, France, Germany, China, Australia, Brazil, etc. Everyone had different reasons for traveling, they were of all different ages and we spoke about all kinds of things, from music to politics to language learning to sailing to what it’s like to be Canadian. I wasn’t just talking to strangers. I made friends. 

And although it might have made my mom uneasy, I actually ended up inviting a couple of guys, David and Frank to stay at my apartment back in Ottawa with my roommates and I as they continued their Canadian adventures. You know what? It made my week having them there. Aside from the fact that they were completely respectable houseguests, they were also fun guys! We took them to see the light show on Parliament Hill, went to a karaoke bar, went to Blue’s fest and also just chatted. My roommates and I felt a little lonely when they finally moved onto the next leg of their trips, after each having spent 4 nights sleeping on our couch!

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David and Frank, our couch surfers. They were trying to see if the cucumber would scare our cat?

They were strangers. Who quickly became friends.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made fast friends about people and welcomed them into my life. There are a couple of people I’ve met through blogging/Youtube who I’ve actually met and hung out with in real life. There are a couple of girls I connected with on Facebook before coming to university who are still friends of mine. My host family in Switzerland were total strangers and they were some of the most wonderful and kind souls. Speaking of exchange, my current roommate is a girl I met in the airport on my way to Switzerland 3 years ago. Our other roommate was literally a stranger.  And you know what? I love them both so much it’s crazy.

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Roomie love

I’ve made friends with strangers in the park and random people on buses and in coffee shops. I’ve had fantastic conversations with people I will never see again. I’ve gotten to go on outdoor adventures with friends of friends of friends because I decided to talk to them.

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More strangers turned friends!

It’s scary to talk to strangers. They represent a total unknown. They could be rude. They could be having a bad day (in which case maybe a friendly banter with you is exactly what they need?). Maybe they re someone unlike anyone else you know – and maybe that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they have incredible stories to tell and maybe you’ll find them incredibly boring.

But try. Invite someone to have coffee with you. Treat acquaintances with more warmth and hospitality than they are expecting. Smile at the man standing next to you at the cross walk. Take time to step outside of the individual bubble we’ve all taught ourselves to walk about in. Start seeing people as the complex, puzzling, dazzling pieces of art that they are. I promise that your life will become infinitely richer with each story you tell, each face that becomes familiar and each human being you choose to call friend instead of stranger.

Until next time

 

Sam

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Ready for an afternoon paddle – with a bunch of total “strangers” as per the usual!

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to Montreal. Alternatively titled: When things don’t go as planned

Hi friends,

This morning I managed to SOMEHOW sleep through THREE alarms, not by 1 hour but by, count ’em, THREE. 9:38am…my alarms were set for 5:45, 6 and 6:15

And this did not mean I was late for work. It meant my trip group left without me for THREE days to paddle the Petewawa River. If you know me in person, you’ll know I’ve been talking about this trip since May. It was going to be my first whitewater trip, my second (and probably last) canoe trip of the summer and a real challenge. I took a day off of work, spent all of last night packing and organizing, and spent a night earlier this week at a planning meeting.

So when I woke up this morning, not only did I feel incredibly guilty for the inconvenience I caused my group (they waited for two hours and then someone volunteered to paddle solo) I also was incredibly sad. After I got off the phone with the trip leader, I sat on the back porch and sobbed. Being in nature and in a canoe is not something I get to do very often and it is something that makes me feel really, truly alive.

I was so upset.

However, as I sat on the back porch, I though about what I would tell me if I was one of my friends. What truths can I speak into my own life?

  1. You’ve missed the trip. They’re gone,  it’s over. You can’t change that.
  2. It’s ok. This trip is not the last trip you’ll ever go on.
  3. Everything happens for a reason. If you’re going to believe that God has control of your life when good things happen, you need to lean into it even more when stupid mistakes happen. Yes it’s not a tragedy but God still cares for your heart. You’ve learned by now that He always knows what you need.
  4. Don’t waste this weekend. Redefine your definition of a good weekend. It now can’t involve canoeing, so get creative.
  5. I’m going to Montreal.

That was basically my train of thought. I thought about it again, if I really wanted to do it.

And I decided why not?

I made a “summer bucket list” in April and one of the items I thought I was going to miss is “Go on a weekend trip to somewhere new, maybe alone or maybe with friends and stay in a hostel and have that travel experience right here in Canada.” Montreal isn’t exactly “new” to me but I can still go and have an adventure and meet cool people and wander around the city.

So that’s that. I just booked a Greyhound that leaves in two hours. I have about an hour to unpack and repack and then off I go. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m not going to edit this before I send it out, I just really needed to get it out there. Adventure is out there friends. Life doesn’t always go as planned but that doesn’t mean we should sit and sulk. Have a good cry (I definitely did!) and then get up and make the new reality work for you.

Until next time, Sam

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I optimistically got dressed even though I was sure I had missed the trip. As you can see, I was pretty upset. 

 

Canoe with me

There’s something about sharing a canoe with someone.

You’re in each other’s space.

Moving forward as one, you can’t leave this person

behind.

Sometimes there is silence.

Except it’s never really silence because

your paddles are swishing through the water,

sending droplets flying and crashing down,

making noise in nature.

But when the other person says nothing, not even the biggest splash

can break the barrier.

Other times,

the banter flies back and forth without effort.

You make each other laugh and share silly stories

about the time you fell in a mud puddle at a school cross country race

or when you melted your compass into the plastic map case,

leaving it too close to the fire.

Voices echoing into the wide wild that surrounds,

two people connect

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Praise and Puddle Jumping

Rain is often seen as a negative weather phenomenon. Something that ruins plans, keeps people inside and destroys things that weren’t supposed to get wet. It’s dreary and miserable and people pray for the sun to come out again.

Yet for me, so many times in my life, the rain has been a sign from God that He is doing something GOOD. I look back and the amount of times I was caught in the rain, only to have God grab hold of my grouchy attitude and teach me something beautiful are too many to count.

When I used to a camp counsellor, rainy days were dreaded, especially when they came back to back with no end in sight. It meant cancelled programs and sitting inside face to face with 10 little girls expecting to be entertained for hours on end. Let me tell you, there is only so many bunk bed forts and games of “Werewolf” a girl can take! One day, I was walking back from a staff meeting, rain boots on, head down to keep the droplets of rain out of my eyes. I was annoyed because skills were cancelled and I knew my sailing students were going to be behind, maybe even fail the class if the rain didn’t let up soon. Just as I turned the corner to my cabin I heard laughter and shrieking. Crossing my fingers that no one was hurt, I saw my campers, 13 years old at the time, jumping up and down in their bathing suits and barefoot, kicking up water and sticking their tongues out at each other. Almost on it’s own accord, my face broke out into a smile. I couldn’t even remember the amount of time’s I’d gone and stood in the pouring rain on the warm sidewalk in my home town, dancing and laughing as the puddles grew around my ankles. So much fun! Instead of hiding inside, my girls and I spent at least an hour, running around in the rain. We were the only ones out and there was so much joy and fun to be found when we stopped fighting what seemed like bad luck and started making it work for us.

Another time I went for a walk around the city with a couple of friends. It was our first week back from summer vacation and we walked and walked and talked for hours, catching up on everything we had missed. On the way home, we wandered past Parliament, where our country’s government sits. Suddenly the rain came DOWN. There was no escaping it. Even if we had wanted to go inside, there was nowhere to go. We starting laughing and running around, kicking water at each other, holding hands and turning our face towards the sky and letting the rain pelt our faces. I’ll never forget the beauty and pure joy of that night.

And once, just a couple of weeks ago, I got lost after taking the wrong bus. It was absolutely pouring rain and I was so far from where I needed to be. I angrily got off the bus, and started walking. Soon enough, my jeans were soaked through and there was no point even trying to stay dry. I pulled my hood back and stared at the sky. I was not happy. And yet, I felt a small voice inside tell me to start praising the Lord. Although I was walking down a street in a major city, no one else was around. I started singing the first worship song that came to my head, hesitantly at first and then really giving it, praising God with all I had as the rain pooled on the sidewalk, filling my running shoes and making mascara run down my cheeks. It was one of the most beautiful and intimate moments I had had with God in a long time.

As I walked home that night, I heard God’s voice reminding me of truths I have known for years but seemed to have forgotten in the chaos that is university. He reminded me that I am called to praise him through all circumstances. He reminded me that there is beauty in ugly things, in endings and in struggles and in rain. He reminded me that rain will always end, the sun will come. But he also reminded me that I do not have to hide. Rain will not melt me. Neither will the rainy seasons of life. If we choose to praise through the gray seasons of life, how much more quickly they will pass!

Someone I went to high school with died a couple of weeks ago at 19. I don’t know how many more days God will give me on this earth but I yearn to fill each one of them with joy and adventure. I will not risk being kept inside by rain. I will not give up mountain climbing, but I might get there by puddle jumping. And I’m telling you, splashing and dancing in the rain really is fun.

Now, as I sit in the sunroom at the back of my apartment, I listen to the rain fall and the thunder roll. God is quietly reminding me that He made me to be a storyteller and a writer and that I have neglected that dream to follow others. I hope to make a place here, on this blog to dream, encourage, write, praise, pray, and learn. I pray that I continue to pursue being more Christ-like and more Sam-like each and everyday.

After all, growth can only happen after it rains

-Until next time, Sam

(p.s. I listened to the Wanted On Voyage album by George Ezra while I wrote this if you’d like to listen along <3)

 

Books and Bike Rides

I’m supposed to be studying Arabic. After a couple of weeks of stalling, my tutor has promised a vocabulary test on Tuesday. Instead, I am sitting on my back porch watching the streaky pink clouds created by the sunset. So much beauty in something ending eh?

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My actual view at this exact moment! Yay for the back porch! Yay for blurry photos!
I’m thinking about what it is like to have a different kind of summer than the ones I am used to. I am used to morning dips and constantly having no voice from singing songs all day and watching kids thrive and succeed and being tired and happy constantly.

Now, I’m remembering how lovely and foreign it feels to have down time. I literally cannot think back to a time (probably grade 8?) when I wasn’t happily but exhaustingly overcommitted. It’s funny because my roommates joke “you’re never home!” and I feel like I’m home more than I have been in years.

I am remembering the joy of sitting in a public library and drinking in an entire novel in one night. I am making last minute plans to ride bikes along the canal or sit and chat in the park at dusk.

I am challenging myself. I wrote on my (very long, because I do love being busy) summer bucket list that I wanted to “learn a new skill….leaving camp doesn’t mean leaving behind that curious, inquisitive and eager to grow part of me” Every summer at Kitchi I chose one new skill to learn. Some of them I took to more than others – last year I really truly committed to improving my solo canoe skills. I didn’t want that to end this year. Surprisingly, I’ve realized that I really like rock climbing. Despite being unarguably terrible at it, there is something wonderful about having so much room to learn and improve.

I’ve also thrown myself head first into improving my outdoor skills. I’ve already gone on my first canoe trip to Algonquin park, assisted with teaching a beginner canoe course, and spent a day running a river in Quebec down big rapids, qualifying myself for the “white water list” at the Ottawa Canoe Camping Club; now I am able to go on more whitewater trips and continue to improve my eddy hopping and ability to “play” in rapids.

I’m remembering how to say no. To go to bed early and not feel like I’m missing out on my one and only chance to socialize. To be ok with not going climbing tonight because I paddled all day yesterday and not every day has to be crazy and full. I’m remembering that it’s ok to not have plans for a night, that sometimes reading on the porch and eating a good dinner and having a shower and going to bed is a perfect and wonderful and happy evening. I’m remembering how it feels to not have 20 things “to do” hanging over my head and how it feels to have plans that are flexible. I thrive being busy but I am also embracing quiet downtime (especially since I know it will disappear come September). This season of freedom and flexibility is rare.

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I’m meeting with an Arabic tutor and for the first time, I feel as though I can actually speak Arabic. Some days I leave our sessions wanting to sing and dance because I am so proud of myself and others I’m so frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress that I feel like I could cry. But I am learning. I am actually talking. I am listening to music and reading Arabic poetry and pinning cue cards with tricky words up in my office. I am pursuing language for the sake of it and I am finding more beauty and skill than I have in two years of classroom learning because I want to be able to excitedly explain to my tutor (who is such a gem of a human) that I saw Justin Trudeau at work rather than stressing about getting 62% on a midterm.

Speaking of work – holy cow, I am learning so much. Some days I come home and wonder why I am bothering to sit in a cubicle and reclassify files. But most of the time, I am overwhelmed by how much I am learning and how applicable it is to my studies. For those of you who don’t know (hi new friends!) I study International Development in university and this summer I am a Jr. International Development Officer with Global Affairs Canada #blessed. In my first week, I was tasked with assessing project proposals from Civil Society Organizations looking for funding for youth internships. In on of my classes last semester, I had to write a project proposal for the final assignment and 3 weeks later I was assessing REAL LIFE PROPOSALS. It was kind of surreal and has made me that much more excited to go back to class in the fall.

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On top of that, my team is full of welcoming people who are genuinely passionate about their jobs. I think it is easy to see the government as an faceless institution filled with paper pushers and people who just want to make money. However my experience at GAC thus far has been mostly that of meeting people who believe in the work they are doing and are passionate about Canada and the countries Global Affairs works in. Last week I had the chance to sit down with a manager from another team because I’m really interested in the field of food security and wanted to know some more about what that team does in our branch. The managers are busy all the time but this man took almost 1.5 hours to sit with me and discuss his career path and what he loves about his field and his job. He was so passionate! I left inspired and grateful for the opportunity I have to interact with people who are at the government not because it’s always fun (hello bureaucracy!) but because we need people who care about their work. And the actual team I work with on a daily basis are fantastic. They are always encouraging me to go to presentations, listen in on conversations and trainings and helping me to make the most of my time there. I don’t always love sitting in a cubicle and I miss the island, but I have no doubt that I am blessed to be exactly where I am meant to be this summer.

So that’s where I’m at this summer. I am waking up early to read my bible with my morning tea and riding my bike to work. I’m drinking wine on a Tuesday with a friend and having hours long conversations about compassion and justice with my roommates and making curry and playing with our (Nicole’s) cat. I’m out on the water as often as possible and I’m speaking Arabic as often as possible. I’m reading and watching Netflix and growing herbs on my windowsill. I am meeting new people and spending time with friends I lost track of through the year. I am both incredibly busy and  overwhelmed with free time.

I am learning to embrace change and challenge and sleeping in on Sundays. How is your summer going?

Until next time,

Sam

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Grateful II

Things I am grateful for today:

  • the back porch of my apartment, twinkly lights and a place to laugh with friends

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  • canoe tips, muddy water and the exhaustion that only comes from spending all day outside.

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  • new and old friends, telling stories and learning what makes their eyes light up with passion

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  • pictures of my dog, floppy ears and confused eyes

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  • hot showers and lavender scented soap
  • warm rain and a warmer cup of tea
  • dancing in my living room, singing at the top of my lungs
  • the feeling of breathe going in and out of my lungs, reminding me I’m alive

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  • a challenge, being the learner rather than the teacher. I like learning: at work, in the canoe, at church, everywhere.
  • the frustration and ultimate joy that comes from willing my lips and tongue to form words in foreign languages, chatting with my Arabic tutor and practicing French with friends
  • walking home and noticing that the  sky is streaked with colour and the streets are lined with green as all the sun sets and trees start to bloom

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  • grainy skype calls, laughter and updates on friends in Australia, Cambodia, Switzerland and sweet Barrie, ON
  • peace that surpasses all else
  • learning more about my personality, how God made me and how I can be the best me I can be
  • plant sitting over the summer for a friend, my cute office filled with growth and life, albeit prickly!

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  • red wine and fancy cheese
  • hugs that speak a million words of love
  • a job that makes me eager to continue studying the field I grow to love more and more all the time, kind co-workers, opportunities to learn everyday
  • a bed, clean sheets and food in the fridge.

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  • a fleece sweater on a chilly day
  • walking to work, colourful buildings I pass along the way, listening to an audiobook about Nepal that sometimes makes me cry. Breathing fresh air before I get to the office

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  • my Marmee. I’ll call her from a canoe for the second mother’s day in a row. Knowing beyond a shadow of doubt she has my back.
  • my roommate’s cat, the nicest cat in the world. My roommates, my first roommates who are lovely and loud and funny and kind.

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  • books and blogs about countries I pray I’ll someday visit, photos of mountains and descriptions of chaotic marketplaces

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  • for home, for feeling at place in Ottawa. For having a church and a job and friends and community and a place in this large and busy city.

For Jesus, for giving me every blessing above. I am so grateful, so at peace, so filled with awe and wonder today at how much good is in this world and in my life. 

Until next time, Sam 

P.s. read Grateful part I here