Sunday, March 28, 2010

Me, but New and Improved

Whew!! I just stepped in the front door from 10 hours of driving today and 8 hours yesterday and man I am exhausted, but at least I get to plop down and fall asleep in my own, familiar, comfy bed! I can't imagine what it’s going to be like to go through the 2 day trip to India, just to arrive somewhere completely foreign and have to be awake and alert. All I want to do is sleep right now!! lol

We always love the drive down to Hilton Head. The mountains are beautiful to drive through and it’s so nice to watch the season change from snowy winter here to summer there! This year I got to share the journey with my boyfriend Michael for his very first road trip down the US east coast. I was so excited to show him all my favourite stops, like the Fayetteville Bridge and the Morgantown Cracker Barrel we stop at every year. But this year I noticed more so than ever, that the mountains, although they offer beautiful landscapes, are also spotted with trailers, and falling down houses and lean-to type shelters. Even in Hilton Head, which is dominated by beachfront mansions and resorts, I noticed houses fallen into disrepair.

Now I don’t know if this is due to the downturn in the economy, or if these things were always there and I just didn’t notice until now but it definitely reaffirmed for me that there is need everywhere, even in the places we associate with beauty or luxury. Personally I have a feeling that a lot of what I saw this time was always there, but when you are a kid all you see is gigantic houses and fancy pools. Now as a university student and as a Beyond Borders student, I am seeing things differently. I have mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again to make my point, after last semester a lot of my friends commented that I had changed. Not in a bad way, or in a way that they could even put a finger specifically on, but I think my outlook is what changed and a lot things came into focus for me. Coming in to this program I was expecting that I would be changed and moved by the experience, but what I really thought, was that I would go on the placement and it would completely change my perspective. But what I wasn’t expecting initially was the impact the courses would have on me. It has really been throwing me off all week - was this always like this or am I just actually looking for the first time? I like to think that I always socially aware, I mean I always volunteered in my community, donated where I could, tried to be environmentally conscious, but it now it seems like I’ve been just as good as anyone else at putting on the blinders. Not so golden as I thought…

To some extent I am still expecting that life changing placement, but reflecting on Beyond Borders so far I can really see the journey and the progression. It’s not about just getting on a plane and having the blinders ripped off the moment you get there and blowing your view of the world out of the water. For me at least, it have been about opening my eyes to the things that aren’t so nice to see, and about becoming comfortable – or maybe confident is a better word – in my own view and my own opinion of the world around me. I so loved the fact that this program didn’t set out to make us into anything other than globally aware and that everyone has a chance to get something different and their own out of the program. Part of me just can’t wait to be back from India so I can tell people about my experience and tell new BB’ers just how amazing it is and help them on their journeys!! Hearing from BB alumni, listening to Joanne’s crazy adventure stories or thoughtful lessons, hearing everyone’s insight into topics I’d never brave on my own, it has made all the difference for me, and it would be just as meaningful as the whole experience for me to share my passion with others!! Until then however, I’m going to do what I can with the new and improved me that I’ve already got – AND follow everyone’s blogs wiiishing I was there!! xo

Friday, March 19, 2010

19 Going on 30-something Soccer Mom

Welcome to the end of one of the most hectic weeks of the semester, but also one of the most rewarding. My parents left last Thursday for Hilton Head, SC – and I am currently on my way to meet them - and left me to fend for myself for a week. Monday involved a luncheon presentation to Rotary on Beyond Borders that – gulp – I had to write, practice and present without any parental guidance. Tuesday I stayed late at work to make sure everything got done before I left for vacation. Wednesday night I ducked out on a St. Patrick’s bash to do laundry. Thursday I spent my lunch packing instead of eating and running errands to pick up all the last minute stuff I needed for Hilton Head – sunscreen? CHECK! , advil? CHECK!, gravol? CHECK! Bathing suit? CHECK! And today I narrowly avoided 2 meltdowns trying to get everything done in time to go, not to mention I work all day!! …. Ok now read that back…. I sound like my MOM, who, the last time I heard from her, was having partying it up at the beach… role reversal much??

On Tuesday I will turn 20, but honestly this week felt like I was 19 going on 30-something soccer mom - minus the kids, I was busy enough on my own! This is coming from the girl who learned how to do laundry via skype in rez in first year, who’s mom picks her up for lunch everyday, drives here wherever she needs to be, and makes sure she get everything done she’s supposed to. (thanks mama!) But as odd of a sensation as it was to be in completely responsible for maintaining a house and packing and getting everything ready to go, it felt great!! On top of that, I had a great week at work AND Mike and I re-did our room with new furniture and bought gorgeous houseplants! So this is what it feels like to be grown up..... I can do this!

Ok so I realize that the moment I turn 20 people aren’t expecting me to all of a sudden have it all figured out and be able to do it all on my own, but this week was really a confidence boost for my independence. I know that the thrills of responsibility will fade with time and it won’t be nearly as exciting to buy plants, but it really felt great to realize I guess that I really am growing up and not just getting older lol.

So how does this relate to Beyond Borders? Well, for one thing I certainly attribute a whole lot of my growing up to the reflection and self-awareness that this program has forced out of me, and it has certainly matured my view of the world. But also it relates because as different as living at home by myself and living in India by myself will be, I feel that much more strongly about my ability to be alright on my own. It’s a really strange feeling, almost a physical feeling of being that much more grown up. Does that sound weird? Probably but its true. All week I just kept thinking about India and I considered, possibly for the first time, that no one is going to be responsible for me except me. I need to make sure that I’m safe, that im fed, that I know where I’m supposed to be, that I’m on time that im healthy. Just me and me alone. And this week was just a small glimpse into what that feels like… so far so good!!

Maybe I’m just imagining it because I’m nervous about being 20, or maybe I’m just proud of myself for not burning the house down, but I will take it, because it feels great!

Sorry for the short post, but I have an early morning and a long drive ahead of me and I need to get some sleep… I promise I will update you soon!

Friday, March 12, 2010


From some of the blogs that I have read this week it feels like the passage of time is dawning on a lot of my fellow BB'ers as most of them will leave in less than two months. You are all vamping up for departure, making sure deadlines are met and all of a sudden it’s really real. But months away from my trip and 3 hours away from all the action, I’m feeling a little different.

Last semester Beyond Borders consumed so much of my time and energy and I was feeling so focused and driven, but these past months I’ve been so busy with work and family that when I do surface for air, I feel disconnected from the whir of activity that is going on back in Waterloo. And as frustrating as sitting in front of this computer looking for blog inspiration is some weeks, I am so grateful that I get to do this because it's really my only Beyond Borders connection right now. I feel bad that I haven't been there to support all the hard work everyone has been putting towards fundraising, I feel out of the loop when I can't be at impromptu meeting or group events because I have to be at work, I feel frustrated at not knowing how to change it and I feel like I’m missing out on the best part of beyond borders - the people.

And to bring this back around to my favourite semester 1 read, Becoming Human, I have to admit that I feel like my sense of belonging is under siege. Here at home I have belonging in my family, I have belonging in my relationship and I belong to many great friendships. As far as belonging is concerned here at home I have a comfy place to fit right in. The problem is that now the groups that I belong to aren’t all in the same place, and once you have formed a community you’re in. But when that feeling of community dwindles even a little, whether because of time, or distance, there becomes uncertainty where that security used to be. And that’s really scary.

And if this is what I'm feeling from three hours away what is it going to be like when I’m on the other side of the globe? There are a few things of which I am certain – 1. India will challenge my faith in myself and in my independence more than anything I have gone though yet; 2. It will mess with my sense of belonging; and 3. That I will be a better person because of those challenges.

So yes I started this post in a bit of a low mood – I swear this weather is getting to me – but reading back what I have just written I realize that I can change the things that I’m worried about. I can stop myself when I get down and realize that the communities that I have built will be there when I come back, and just because the world keeps turning while I’m not looking doesn’t mean I don’t belong in those communities anymore, it just means I can contribute something new and different when I get back.

I apologize for the long, drawn out ramblings, and thank you for reading as I worked out my latest dilemma. It might not make as much sense to the rest of you as I would have liked, but it helped me mull through my thoughts just a bit and I’m feeling better already. Next week I will be writing to you from the sunny south and hopefully in a much better mood! It’s this crummy weather, I swear!! So hello Vitamin D here I come!!

xo Jenn

Friday, March 5, 2010

When At First I Don’t Succeed, Cry, Cry Again….

I’ve been meaning to write this since our last class when Joanne talked about needing to recognize our triggers and since Nev asked me what I thought the challenges for me going to India would be. So here goes…

I’d like to tell you all about my latest adversary - cross country skiing. Now before you laugh I would like to qualify this by saying that it involved far more hills than “cross country” would imply and its way harder than it looks. I found myself at the bottom of a rather large (probably not that large at all but seemed big at the time) hill. I got half way up only to slide all the way back down and land on my butt. Eventually I managed to get stranded halfway up the hill unable to do up and unwilling to go back down. For anyone else I’m sure it would have been hilarious to see me, skis crossed, one pole up one pole down, just barely hanging on, when I’m sure kids could figure their way up that hill, so I commend Michael on not falling down laughing at the sight of me. But somehow I managed to get untangled and up that hill and managed to hold back the tears of frustration welling in my eyes.

About a half a kilometer later I found myself at the top of an even bigger (I think? It seemed like it…) hill. More than slightly afraid I made Mike go down it first, and as I watched him sail down the hill with ease I felt a little better. But about half the way down things weren’t going so well and I fell the rest of the way down on a combination of my back, knees, and shoulder. That was the last straw for me and the tears came flooding. Partially from the many scrapes and bruises, partially from embarrassment and mostly from frustration. And not just little a little bit either big, messy, sobbing tears. (Sooo attractive on my skiing date) But honestly! What’s wrong with me?!? I felt like such a baby. I wasn’t crying because I was hurt, I was crying because I couldn’t do it. Try as I may I am NOT good at cross country skiing. And that is endlessly infuriating to me!

This is a weakness that I have been aware of for some time. I don’t handle failure very well. Not like sore loser temper tantrums but I get frustrated very easily when I am not good at something. I work myself up to a point that I’m so upset that I can’t even make myself try again! I get so frustrated when I feel out of my element and even to a point that I would rather not try again than be bad at something! Umm Whew! That took a lot to actually write down and admit, I tried a couple of other phrasings but no, I just needed to say it. Also, WOW that sounds even more horrible when it’s out there in the open!

But now that I’ve said it I have to deal with it! And I have realized that I’m just going to have to suck it up if I want to do well in this placement. Trying to get up that hill it felt like the skis work a handicap and I just couldn’t make them work, but wakeup call!! EVERYDAY in India is going to feel like that for a while. I won’t know how to get myself where I need to be, I won’t be able to communicate effectively whenever I want, I won’t know the proper way to go on a bus, to greet people, or pretty much the proper way to do anything when I first get there. So what am I going to? Cry, give up and go home? NO WAY! So I’m going to have to find away to be okay with struggling. I instantly felt silly for crying and pouting and that is a big step for me to be able to admit it, even to myself. GIRL! You’re going to be twenty in a couple of weeks! Get yourself together! How am I ever going to make not being able to communicate if I can’t deal with not being able to ski?

I need to fix this, and fast! So I am setting a goal for myself – when I am getting frustrated I am going to consciously will myself to take a step back and breathe…It’s not the end of the world if I can’t get to the bottom of the hill without falling! It could be fun to slide all the way down on my bum! There are much bigger problems than my own.

Preparinf for this trip is a lot like climbing up that ski hill. Some days I gain a bit and feel unstoppable – put me on a plane today, I’m ready!! And some days I slip a bit and feel like there’s no way I will be able to do this by myself. It’s hard, and it’s going to take work and willpower … but I’m determined to make it to the top of that hill!