Transitioning…

 

When a woman in her late twenties is described, it is most often a description of waiting for a ring, an engagement, a wedding and a marriage, or a pregnancy announcement, accompanied by all the excitement that goes along with that period of a woman’s life. I, a woman in her late twenties, am nowhere near where I am ‘supposed’ to be at this point in my life. I am an undergrad, and I could not be happier.

When I graduated high school, I went directly to college. I did what I was ‘supposed’ to do. I followed the linear developmental path that society expects, but did not know my direction; consequently, I decided that it was not where I belonged after one semester. I broke away from the linear developmental expectations of society. My parents were far from impressed. I was instructed to get a full time job if I would not be studying, and to their shock and dismay, I did. Within six months I had saved money and was headed overseas – there was no looking back. Instead of going through school in an expected linear journey, I realized my need to address my personal flourishing first, and embraced it. I came back with anticipation for the next trip.

On my next trip to Europe, I fell in love with an Australian. What followed during the next year was a long distance relationship, while working full time, and studying. I was in an Educational Assistant program, due to my parent’s insistence, and me feeling some monochronic societal pressures. One might think I would continue my submissive behaviour, and get a job after finishing, but following monochronic time, which Helman (2005) describes to be “something tangible, as well as linear,” (p. S54), is not I. Instead I saved and headed to Bangkok on a one-way ticket, with a year’s worth of travel insurance, alongside my two best friends. Allowing myself this freedom from the monochronic path I expected myself to be on, which is so frequently prescribed and followed, created an opportunity for me to flourish in finding myself, become stronger, and more clearly directed, all in my own developmental time.

After six weeks in Southeast Asia, a million laughs, a few cries, a stolen wallet, and a new appreciation for the people of this region, I headed to West Australia for a beach Christmas. A month later, I ventured over to the east coast to spend time with friends, and journeyed down to the land of Kiwis for a quick jaunt, before deciding I wanted to be able to make money while living this nomad, and non-monochronic lifestyle. I enrolled in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course in Prague and was headed back to Europe!

For one month I was part of an extreme factory model program. It ran like clockwork and if you could not keep up, you were out. It was the most intense educational experience I have encountered, with some of the most dedicated educators I have witnessed. This experience allowed me to reminisce on all the pressures students face when expected to perform. I feel this was important, and is important for educators to be brought back to that level periodically, so they can relate, and are more accessible to their learners. I left my new life long friends with some anticipation to put my lessons to work, and headed home to surprise my family. I was on the hunt for a teaching job overseas. Within a month I had an incredible job offer in Sharjah for the coming school year, and had two months to prepare for my imminent departure.

My year teaching in Sharjah changed my outlook on learning environments. I arrived with my background in special needs and English, but was faced with a structure that allowed no room for students who needed adaptations: a strict factory model. I completed the Cambridge International Teaching and Training Diploma, which forced me to reflect on my own classroom practices. These combined experiences allowed me to come to the realization that I truly love teaching. I came to this conclusion in my own polychronic time, which Helman (2005) describes to be “a ‘point’ at which relationships, social interactions or events converge,” (p. S55). I love being in the classroom, seeing sparks go off in children’s eyes when they finally grasp a concept, seeing their excitement and anticipation for knowledge, putting together new ideas and the anticipation of trial and error, and having the chance to be silly. I love the learning process.

I came home after my year overseas ready to settle down. I got a job as an Educational Assistant, and a skating instructor, and bought my own place. I was satisfied for a period, but continued to question whether I should go back to school. This internal itch I had was continually scratched by administrators, teachers I worked with, and by my mom, all who thought I should go back to school. So after working as an Educational Assistant for four years, I decided to take the chance and enrolled in university, but first I would go on one more adventure.

In the summer of 2012, I headed to India for two months to volunteer at two different projects, one in northern India and the other in the south, both teaching English. Between all the teaching, eating, shopping, and sightseeing I fell head over heels in love with this magnificent country. The children I was privileged enough to spend time with were so incredibly inspiring; their determination to learn this language that can allow them more opportunities was amazing. This experience caused me to arrive back in Canada for a new school year, at work and in university, more determined than ever to succeed.

So here I am, in my late twenties, single with a mortgage, a cat that I brought back from the Gulf, a full time job, a full time course load, and against all Western societal expectations – I am happy. It may not be my monochronic time, but it is indeed my polychronic, developmental time. I am living my good life. I am following my passion when it is right for me. I am allowing myself to flourish in my own time, my polychronic time.

Since returning to the world to of post-secondary education with an end goal, I have been an extremely determined student. I want to be here, and I want to absorb as much as I can. I want to be an active student. I feel that I have life experience that can bring something to my classes, and opinions with merit. I am intrinsically and extrinsically motivated; intrinsically, since I am interested in what I am learning and take great pride in knowing more about what I am doing, and extrinsically, since I want to be accepted into the Paraprofessional Linking Program at Simon Fraser University. I am getting a true education right now in university, as I am tying together my experiences in the workplace with the lessons I am being taught and the ideas I am being exposed to in the classroom at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I am driven, and motivated to be here, and look forward to a lifetime in the classroom – at the front of the room, or as a one of the pupils. I do not believe one should ever stop expanding their horizons. 

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Bibliography

Helman C. G. (2005). Cultural aspects of time and ageing. EMBO reports, 6(Suppl. 1), S54–S58. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400402

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How to Create a Katie Kate Kay

  1. You need to start with your young women, slowly adding more and more of the pressure filled life onto her. While adding the pressure, add the university acceptance letters in quick succession.
  2. Your young woman will start to have a sleepless existence, full of indecisiveness. Throw on the urge to escape from it all and the passion will grow.
  3. By now you have a young woman who is itching to get out, when you fold in a trip to Greece – your creation will start to present itself before your eyes. She won’t want to go back.
  4. In quick succession, toss on 18 European nations in summer and a young Australian man to enjoy the journey with. She will fall in love and live in a lonely state once home.
  5. Once she’s back, stir in a year of college to become an educational assistant. She’ll love it, but she’ll start to itch to go again. The passion is now inside her, blossoming each day.
  6. Put her in a pub, with her two sister-like best friends. Pour the three litres of wine into them, allowing only 2 hours for this. Sprinkle the idea of travel together over them. The result will be: three one-way tickets to Bangkok and a year of travel insurance for each of them.
  7. Once she’s through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and New Zealand, and relaxing on an Australian beach with her Australian man, sift the idea of teaching overseas over her. The idea will grow and be researched – be sure to drop the TEFL Program in front of her. It will mix in nicely and a flight to Prague will be booked.
  8. Before you know it, it will be time for you sauté the job offer in the United Arab Emirates. She will glisten in anticipation.
  9. Toss her a class of twenty-two children – three and four year olds work best. Let her simmer for a year in the Arab heat, with short flavourcations to Singapore, Oman, Indonesia, and South Korea. She will begin to find herself and learn to enjoy time alone, just in time to return home and apply for jobs. Let three years pass in this job, adding pinches of passion for teaching every so often and a dash of heartbreak, by allowing the Australian man to go through the sieve. She will decide she wants to go back to school.
  10. Her passion for travel that has developed will steam out first with a summer in India backpacking and volunteering, before returning to let herself be educated again.
  11. This is your end result. Eight long years later, but well worth the wait. You’ve created a driven and compassionate older young woman excited about the life that lies ahead.

 

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A Story Come to Life

In a city of twenty million: is one consumed in their one, out of twenty million’s, world, or are they absorbed in the twenty million world’s going on around them?

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As a tourist in Mumbai, I was in completely taken in by both types of absorption. Let’s start with the fact that Mumbai is gorgeous. I was honestly in love at first sight. Let’s put aside that I had barely just gotten over the nightmare that was the bedbugs at the end of my time in Bangalore, and the horrifying sunburn, acquired in Kerala, covering the front of my body (caused by the Malaria pills I was on that cause sun sensitivity – I forgot) and that my stomach was completely rejecting me (I was spending a grand amount of time in the toilet). I was still in love. 

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Shantaram was coming to life before my eyes. It was surreal. Sidenote: if you haven’t already caught on that I think this is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read and put it on your list of things to read – well you really should already, you will not regret it. The colonial buildings, the boulevards of trees, the old black and yellow taxis, the ocean breeze, the parks, the churches, the temples, the mosques, the people – all the people everywhere: It was all exactly as he described it.

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I went to Leopold’s and had a sprite (I didn’t think my stomach would like me if I had enjoyed the beer I wanted). I walked to India Gate and was swarmed by beggars and street people. I got henna stamped by a woman, who was surrounded by her ten children. I strolled through Colaba, wandered around the University grounds and chatted with a local who wanted to take me for a drink, so he could practice his English….

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I wandered emporiums, admired churches and visited my favourite Café Coffee Day for an iced coffee. I was approached by a group of young Indians, they asked if they could video interview me for a school project – I obliged, had my coffee and chatted with them for a while about women’s rights and the differences between them at home in Canada and in India. It was interesting seeing their points of view. 

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I went to the slums. I walked through where everything for all of Mumbai is made. I strolled past where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed – the railroad tracks and tunnel at the beginning… I watched kids having their morning shit there – just like in the movie. 

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I had Shantaram and Slumdog Millionaire both coming to life all around me. The two most visual depictions of India that I had encountered, I was in the midst of. It was amazing. You see things and wonder if they are really like that? They were, but in many other ways they were so much more than I could have imagined.  

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I’ve been home for a while now, am back to work and have started back at University (what am I thinking?!) Life is back to normal, but the kids and people I’ve met and encountered this summer aren’t ever far from my mind and won’t ever be. This trip changed the way I think about lots of things. Indians are survivors. We could all learn a lot from them. 

I hope you all enjoyed my emails. Until my next journey…. xx.

Canadians and Americans Abroad

A paper I wrote for my English class – American friends please don’t take offence, as I know you are well traveled! I thought it went well with the theme of my page – all be it a tad more formal than the rest of my writing.

“Welcome to Vancouver, Canada, ladies and gentlemen, it’s currently 2:55 Pacific time. The outside temperature is fifteen degrees Celsius and we have a slight drizzle. We hope you enjoy your stay in Vancouver, or enjoyed your time away.” Many of us Vancouverites have heard this announcement many times in our lives. At this point you stand up, grab all of your carry-on items, and wait in the jammed airplane aisle before walking off the plane, and taking a deep breath of our amazing, unmistakable Vancouver air. You’re home, and though you may have been traveling for two days by this point, had a crying baby driving you crazy on the plane, left a loved one in tears on the other side of the world or are just getting home after an amazing and life changing time away, you can’t help but smile at this point. We love to travel in Canada, we love to travel to the south, and we love to travel overseas. This is not the same as our North American counterparts, to the south. Canadians travel abroad more than Americans, are generally viewed in a better light, while also having more open minds in the new places they are visiting. We may live right next to each other, but we journey in very different ways.

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Do you remember your first trip outside of Canada? There’s a good chance it was across our only land border, to America. Canadians’ number one travel destination is the USA, while American’s number one pick is across their southern border to Mexico. A much larger percentage of Canadians have been across their southern border than Americans. Only twenty-nine percent of Americans have passports, according to the State Department Report put out in 2011. On the other hand, there are Canadians, of whom sixty-four percent have valid passports, according to Passport Canada’s 2010/2011 Report. Obviously, there are many more Americans than Canadians, so there’s still many more of them traveling, but percentagewise much more of our total population journeys out abroad. Canadians and Americans both travel most on home soil; road trips, camping, cottages and cabins are high on our lists of favourite choices. Both nations like to explore new places, but Canadians like to explore many more places than the Americans to our south. Why don’t Americans have the same desire to see the world as the Canucks to the North of them?

It might have a great deal to do with the fact that Canadians and Americans are viewed very differently by the world. While Americans might be seen as warmongers, Canadians are often thought to be peacekeepers. We live in our igloos and play lots of hockey. They rule the world and live in the ‘Land of the Free’. We proudly sew a maple leaf flag to our backpack before heading overseas, while many Americans don’t like to share that they are indeed American while away. While some of these might be stereotypes – they are the stereotypes that are believed by the world outside of North America. Clearly, Canada and America are admired and disliked for different things, but since America is constantly in the spotlight there are many more reasons for the world to criticize their ways. Would you want to cross the world, only to be looked down on? Americans do things, and the world takes notice, which may be why many Americans are quite happy just staying home, where they don’t have to explain or defend themselves. Canadians, on the other hand, are loved nearly everywhere they go in the world and want to see it all. We don’t stir the pot; some would offer up the idea that we don’t stand up for anything enough, but we Canadians are quite proud to be our neutral selves, and the world seems to appreciate it. To the world, Americans appear to be strong and powerful, while Canadians are viewed as quiet observers. Obviously, this is not the case where all Canadians, or all Americans are concerned, but it does seem to be the perspective from the outside.

North America is a multi-cultural haven. There are people from all parts of the world represented in both small and large ways. Canadians have always been open to having minorities represented – just look at Quebec. This piece of our history has created an open-minded nation. Canadians enjoy learning about different cultures, many of which are represented in Canada. We aren’t scared to do things in different ways when we venture away. Canadians are open to change and embrace differences. We want to learn and know about those who are or could be our neighbours. Americans like to do things their way, no matter where they are. They have had issues with many countries, throughout their history, who view the world different than them. This history is reflected when they travel; they enjoy the comforts of home, and have a harder time adapting. I’ll be honest; I, a Canadian, have had a hard time adapting while traveling – bed bugs in India, a hole in the ground for a toilet in Laos, and over fifty degree heat (while by Canadian standards dressed for fall) in the Emirates, but I jumped into life in those places, with both feet, and went with it. I got out of the bed bug infested house, carried tissues in my bag at all times, and sweat like a Canadian in the Middle East! Not all Canadians would have reacted the way I did, nor would all Americans have reacted differently, but when such a large percentage of your total population isn’t seeing anything different than their everyday, you’d have to guess it wouldn’t have been pretty! When really, all the differences are what make the world such an amazing place to explore!

We’re right next to each other, we have many things in common, think about many things in the same ways and have similar work and social lifestyles, yet when it comes to traveling abroad – it’s not parallel. A large percentage of Canadians venture overseas, while only a small percentage of Americans do the same. Canadians are appreciated overseas, and appreciate all overseas has to offer, while Americans have a harder time being admired in many places, and don’t adapt to new environments as easily as Canadians. Though we originally came from the same places to get to where we are, we don’t journey out in the same way anymore.