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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101 Week – I survived!

So if you weren’t already aware, I MOVED!

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10 days ago (was it that few days??) I packed up all my things in a van my mom rented, said a heartfelt goodbye to my friends and puppies and drove 5 hours north-east to the capital of Canada, Ottawa! I’m going to school for International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa and after a week and a bit, I can say that there is nowhere else I would rather be. You know that feeling you get when you have just complete peace with knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time? I was in my orientation for my program on my third day, listening to the President of the School of Development speak and I was just so overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation and this strong sense of being exactly where I’m meant to be this year.

So far, I have had an easy peasy transition to university. I’ve made lots of friends right off the bat, my dorm is small but cozy. I love my floor. Most people seem to be very social and we all hang out and study together almost every night. There are a couple of other first years in my program living on my floor so the three of us have ben hanging out a lot, buying books together, studying etc which is cool to have that support system built right into where I live. There are also quite a lot of international students from the US, Morocco, Nigeria, France etc. I love getting to learn about other cultures!

And campus is so pretty! I love the architecture and the vines and ivy growing on the buildings. One of my favourite parts is that the school is really integrated with the city around us so I can basically walk off of campus and right into downtown, instantly having access to museums and restaurants and I can practically see Parliament from where I live! Also, my res is the only one connected to the “skywalks” or “tunnels” that connect various buildings on campus so we don’t even have to go outside to access the dining hall or library which is kind of cool. Speaking of the dining hall, it has a waffle maker, a chocolate milk dispenser and a latte machine, so it’s basically my favourite place to go. The salad bar is cool too, don’t worry guys!!

Frosh week has come and gone, so now it’s time for the real work to begin. 101 week was fun, to an extent. It definitely introduced me to a lot of people. My program has their own student federation which means we got our own frosh week and I met a ton of people in my specific program and therefore in my classes so that was great. My favourite activities were probably a fundraiser we did called Shineday doing silly things in downtown to raise money for cystic fibrous, a camping night, exploring the city and jut getting to talk to other first years and the guides. A lot of the other events were not really my cup of tea, like parties and stuff. I’m glad I did it though, it was good experience.

Turns out, my high school teachers were not exaggerating about how much reading there is in uni! I feel like all I do is read  pages and pages and pages of my textbooks. And those things are not cheap, let me tell you! I’ve never been so grateful for education than I am now when every second I’m here costs me money! So far, I’m very excited about the classes I’m taking. It’s such a breathe of fresh air to feel passionate about the things I’m learning, to want to engage with the material and to have real opinions about the content. High school was basically pretty cookie cutter but now I’m in a program tailored to my interests and I already love it so much. The french immersion, honestly, it turning out to be easier than I thought it would be. I had my first “cour d’anthropologie” today and I understood pretty close to everything the prof was saying! I think a big part of that was that I had done the reading in advance (took 5 billion years) so I had the vocal already but still, it definitely relieved some of the fears I had. And today just kept being a good day to learn because my other class was Arabic! After the first day, I can admit. This is not going to be easy. But, I don’t need easy. I just need possible. That’s a Bethany Hamilton quote I believe! Anyway, ana ismii Sam, please pray for me in that classe!

The hardest thing about this week was Sunday night. In the morning I went to a church near the school with some people from res and it was pretty similar to what I’m used to at my home church. But even though I know my God is the same anywhere I go, it sucks not being with my church family. Like seriously. It’s weird being surrounded by people but having not one of them actually know me, or to be honest, care about me. Not yet anyways. That night I sat in my room and wished I was in Barrie, at Mapleview, worshipping with the Young Life. They say you take things for granted until they are gone and I am seriously missing the community I had back home. I’m praying to find a place here in Ottawa where I can connect and find a way to be involved. And I know, these things take time. I see a few friendships here with the potential to bloom into long lasting ones, and I’m sure I’ll meet more as time goes on. I’m going to try more churches too, and find one that fits! Just one thing I’ve noticed about being here that makes me miss home. Shout out to all my TSL people, love and miss you guys always!

That’s all for now, it’s getting late and I have class tomorrow. Have any of you started school the las couple of weeks? How has it gone? What are the best and worst things thus far? Let me know!

  • Until next time, Sam

First dorm room selfie hahaha

First dorm room selfie hahaha