Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wade Davis

It's been just over a month now, since I started back at work at ACGC. It seems crazy just how fast time has been moving. My feet don't quite feel like they have parked themselves below me again - yet here I am in this whirlwind faking it. I am sure I will manage to get my feet grounded soon... I hope.

This weekend was the ACGC Annual General Meeting. It was fun to get to reconnect with so many incredible people working in such incredible ways to promote a better, healthier, more just world. ACGC has grown and changed so much in the time I have been working there. We went from 1 1/2 staff folks attempting to carry a workload for 10 in our homes - to 3 full time, 1 part time and a whole handful of different contract and sessional folks - in an office, with work that seems so much more do-able, with more hands contributing.

A few years ago the Council started a tradition of a public event on the first night of the AGM to kick off things, inviting the public and some sort of speaker. We've had Maude Barlow, Steven Lewis and this year we had Wade Davis come and talk to us, giving a presentation titled, "Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world". It was really interesting - and I have a lot of things that I want to think about.

The evening kicked off with a presentation by Eriel Deranger (the new interim Executive Director of the Sierra Club Prairies). She was speaking to the Alberta Perspective on the same topic, speaking specically about Northern Alberta, the tar sands, and the impacts on community and environment.

In the near future - part of my tasks are creating a pod-cast for the ACGC channel on the gala but in the meantime - here's a hint of some of what struck me:

  • Wade Davis was talking about languages - how when we were born there were over 7000 languages on Earth - and yet how each day, as someone dies - how languages are vanishing. He spoke about how without those words whispered into the ears of infants and used to tell stories - they simply disappear, not fuss - no lobby group, just gone.
    It got me thinking about this past year at school - a school so rich in diversity of culture but trapped within one, sometimes two languages. Officially things happen in English... so when he mentioned how a universal language would seem less appealing if it were Inuktitut or Cree or Tagalog... it would seem more extreme to those of us as first language English speakers - I started imagining my experiences at upeace done differently. He explained how through the vividity of language - "storytellers can indeed change the world".
  • In talking about the Indigenous of Australia - he was talking about dreamtime - how there isn't separation between past/present/future but a timeless sense of time that flows between the three. Since coming home - I feel somewhat caught up in that race to where - that measuring and dosing of time. What an interesting skill set to learn - how to experience time in a different way, less measured, less quantified...
There was so much to think about... and I think if I start typing it all now - this will become a gigantic post... so I will wait and share more later.

Wade Davis - mid presentation

Peace to you,

Monday, September 26, 2011

International Day of Peace

This is a wee bit late... but that happens, it has been a very busy week. Last year around this time the Peace Ed folks were all scrambling to get our Int'l Day of Peace stuff sorted out and ready. We created the mural and cranes, photos and quotes - so much going on!

This year, I was invited to speak at the event happening here in Edmonton. I am not great at staying on track with my notes, certainly not someone who 'reads' what I write when up there - but I thought I would share some of my notes to myself from the day.

I was asked to speak about my Upeace experience and IRP - this is something close to what I tried to say. Hee hee

Good Afternoon,

Thanks for the invitation to be here today. My name is Diana Coumantarakis. Netta invited me to speak here today about my past year, having recently returned from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica where I was pursuing a MA in Peace Education.


UPEACE is a really interesting place to study. The student body is just shy of 200 hundred students and collectively last year we represented 62 countries. The diversity of the population creates many fantastic discussions and opportunities for learning, with huge variation in experience and knowledge - as well the occasional challenge. My programme had 21 students. While the classes I took were interesting and taught me so much, the amazing diversity of my classmates is what really confirmed for me – what peace education is.

In my class we had a doctor, who works in public health, a lawyer, who wants to change how law works to create a more peaceful system, classroom teachers, community educators, an actor and playwright, environmental educators, physical educators, a physicist … as an example of some of who wants to be a peace educator. It makes me believe that all of us here are indeed peace educators, in a variety of forms. People who are working to seek and build peace in our lives – as well as helping others to discover their own pathways and passions.

How we define peace is a challenge though. One of the first assignments that we did during our orientation at UPeace was to try to come up with a definition of peace. One per group. It doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Especially in a group where you assume that there are some commonalities, like here today. Glancing around, we must all believe in bringing peace… but that doesn’t quite make it the same vision. In our class we had people coming from regions that are still enmeshed in active conflict. The first step for peace, in definition is the absence of manifested violence: fewer guns, better access to medicine and clean water, freedom of voice, access to education… All very important components to building peace. I feel immensely fortunate to have grown up in a place where I feel that I can count on many of those things. I have been blessed with incredible schools, good healthcare, I can gather with you here today – having elected officials join us to mark this event, people who were elected fairly and transparently – but I don’t feel that I live in a place that has achieved peace. What is peace when we start to try and move beyond a definition that simply excludes war?

For my graduating project, I was looking at how educators in Alberta, specifically grade 6 teachers are working to build a culture of peace in their classroom as tied to their language arts programs and storytelling. There are many people who need to be involved in the process for building a culture of peace in our community, but my program was just a year… so I tried to keep my project a bit more confined. I define stories really broadly. To me they span from pieces of fiction to newspaper articles, videos to photos, non fiction factual texts, blogs, picture books and conversations that we have in our day to day interactions. Stories are the way we take our knowledge and share it.

There is a lot of theory in peace education about ensuring access to everyone; the importance of creating space for voices that are often marginalized or silenced. There is this funny dichotomy between encouraging a space for inclusion in the global south – without acknowledging how that can also be sought out here in the global north.

I had the incredible fortune to work with 4 teachers from both here in Edmonton, and in Calgary, who are doing amazing things with their students. Children make up a huge part of our society – yet we don’t often include them in the development of policy, or in discussions about how we will move out of a culture of violence and war into a new culture of peace.

For Canadian Children Grade 6 is a really exciting space of life. It’s this space where you have learned all of these incredible skills. You can communicate your ideas, you can be critical about what you see and read and hear – and yet there is still this belief of the possibility of anything. There is still an ability to dream a desired future and believe in the actions that will make it possible. The teachers I worked with have been not only acknowledging these abilities of students, but actively engaging them to create a culture of peace in their classrooms and by extension, their schools and communities. In this way, they are using their language arts program along with their other subjects to tie in peace themes.

Language Arts, in many ways is all about stories. You read them, you hear them, you learn to write them, and share them… and they provide this opening into a world that you perhaps haven’t yet seen. The teachers in my study are finding books, videos, poems and stories tells that share stories of peace from Canada and around the world to help create a vision of peace. Once this foundation is set for seeking the way that solidarity is being built – it weaves its way into everything. One class was using newspaper articles to follow their municipal election – because those students had spent time learning to read critically and question injustice – the theme that came out of those newspaper articles wasn’t about who was going to win – but why racism had become so entrenched in the discussion – and why adults weren’t actually calling on that, and seeking to stop it.

That brings me back to that definition of peace. How do you work for something you can’t quite envision, something that you don’t have words for, or haven’t yet seen? Part of what we’re doing here today, is acknowledging that we are a part of a larger community that is seeking something. That we’re a part of a collective yearning for a better world that seeks justice for everyone. Not just here in Edmonton, or Alberta, but that we’re a part of a global community of people who want to create something different for the future.

So – I hope you think about your favourite stories; the ones that shaped you, whether they were in books or came to you in a video or over tea with a friend or loved one. Share your stories, of peace, of struggle, of hope, of questions... I believe through sharing our stories of peace – we take one more step forward into helping it form around us.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Home is a beautiful place

Well, I submitted my thesis - and I have been waiting (I could pretend and say patiently, but really not so patiently) for the feedback from my second reader so I can declare my thesis actually DONE and submitted. The next step is printing and binding... SO close. A year ago I was starting at UPeace at this time - and now I am back at home getting ready to dive back into life. Craziness!

So - what do you do, when waiting and trying not to fuss, before going back to work? Go on a holiday! Least, that's what I did. I was in Ottawa (and area) last week. Canada is really pretty. I have all the friends scattered around the world who seem to not seem so keen to come visit... but everywhere I go, there is a part of the country that captures my breath and steals a bit of my heart. If you're a far away friend - reconsider... You know you wanna come visit!

I thought I would share some photos from the camping trip Carly and I went on. We went to Driftwood Provincial Park (a few hours NW of Ottawa). It was SO pretty. Some of the photos are from a hike/walk and some from a canoe trip. Ready? I still love moss and plants... this time with some rocks and water tossed in.

Anyway - it is time to get organized as I start back at work tomorrow (yikes!).

Peace and love to you!

(since i am gushing about Canada - probably best to end with a maple leaf, no?)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A prairie girl wanders home

Time flies. When you're busy, when you're having fun, when you want it to slow down... pretty much any time 'cept for when you're waiting for something. :) I can't believe a year has pretty much passed. I returned home to Canada this week. It seems incredible to think back on all that has happened this year. I have made some really incredible friends, had some great classes, visited beautiful places... But it is good to be home.

My thesis is so close to done - which is both exciting and frustrating (cause well, close isn't quite done now is it?). I can't wait for it to be a completely done bound book on my shelf. I am ready. :) As much as I have loved this year and the chance to be studying, I don't think I am designed for the world of academia. Least not long term.

During the last month - Tia came to visit, which was great. We went on a beach adventure trying to hide from the rain that plagues Ciudad Colon during rainy season. We started out with a hope to visit the Osa Peninsula and headed to the West Coast, spending a night in Manuel Antonio. We went out for dinner - hoping to watch the sunset, but the clouds were just a bit too present for that - so instead we watched the intense colours of blue change.

The beautiful Ms. Tia - travel buddy extraordinaire.

Unfortunately, when we woke up in the morning the bucket style rain followed - so we turned around and headed off to the Caribbean. It was great.

Trish came to visit in January and we spent much of our time looking up, admiring and trying to identify the flying friends. Tia's journey shifted focus from up to down - as we admired the small creepy crawly things. I have friends with such neat knowledge.

So here begins the photos of:

(if you can't read that - it says, Diana and Tia's Awesome Beach Adventure 2)

Tia had learned just prior to coming that the Entomological society she is a part of was running a photo contest - so our critter friends became well photographed. I however, do not share her skill set - so while I can tell you something like, 'it's a spider' if you wanna know what exactly they are - you're going to have to ask someone else (or let me know - and I will check with Tia). Some of them are super pretty - many of them I am thrilled were somewhere outside - and not in my home - cause I would NOT have been okay with them in my home.

Spider - I think they just look more daunting when they have stripes or spots.
This one was pretty small.
This dude - not small. HUGE. Really HUGE - and brightly coloured.
It causes my nature instincts scream - DANGER - DO NOT TOUCH. :)
The flip side of this one was pretty neat too - lots of colours. Giant web.
Pretty, but I am happy he was outside.

I loved these little dudes - and there were hundreds of them, everywhere, but for all their brandishing of pincers - they're cowards and dive into little holes.
My picture doesn't show it well, but their tops are bright blue, with the bright orange bellies. They can sure move fast for such little creatures.

The hermit crabs were also everywhere - and just too much fun.

This little dude was digging out his hole.
I loved watching him pop up - toss out some more sand, check out the audience and
dart back into the hole, to emerge about a minute later with another load of sand.

What a great colour huh? He (she? who knows) blends well!

The little lizards that are everywhere move super fast - and are often more sound than sight.
It was fun to spot them in pockets of sunlight.

We had a great time - beach time, chatting time, reading time, and then - of course, eating! We ate some great food - and some of the decor was great. Tia was quite pleased with the epiphytes as decorations. They're are everywhere.

mmm desert!

Anyway - I hope you are well - I send you much:

Peace to you,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Graduate School Disease

Before I came to UPeace a wonderful person told me that the secret to grad school is not to believe your own self doubt. To not let yourself begin to think that you aren't as smart as the other people, or that they are doing better, or even that they are less confused... cause we'll all be faking it. Wise advice - but hard not to do. Doubt can fester like the most disgusting infection.

This is my month-o-thesis and I feel like I have embarked on the most insane of emotional roller-coasters. Each morning I pack up my knapsack and head off to school, walk through school and go to the peace park, where the internet doesn't function - in the hopes that will help with focus. I have a day where writing comes easily - and I feel like I am on track for meeting my goals, that really finishing is indeed possible, that I am clever, that this project is interesting, that I can do something with it! And then... the other days come and I feel like I can't get it right, that I have no idea what I am doing, that I must be doing it wrong, I am clearly not smart enough to be in graduate school and that what I am working on is of no use to anyone in the universe... and I pray that the morning will make graduate school seem possible again (I hear the wisdom of my grandmother, spoken through my mom's telling, that all things will look better in the morning).

I don't remember the last time where I spent so much time bribing myself to complete things, the: if you write (fill in a number of words or pages) you can go for a walk, or read a bit of a magazine or... My month-o-thesis is rapidly coming to an end - and there is still a lot to write... but hopefully tomorrow wakes feeling optimistic. If you have any tips on writing or editing - now is the time to share them.

Oh well, I am sure I will survive - and my writing companions are pretty cute, in their funny little waddlely ways.

I hope you're well!
peace to you,

Friday, June 10, 2011

24 thousand words and counting

Well - it's here, Month-O-Thesis. Can I do it? Cross your fingers ok?

Last week, I had the fabulous opportunity to talk to some AMAZING teachers - about their classrooms and work with 6th graders. It's part of the adventure of my thesis - and incredible as those teachers are... I am discovering transcription is not something I have a passion for. I have been listening, typing, pausing and rewinding all week. I am almost done with the transcriptions - and have just topped 24 000 words but I have decided that before I can finish this lovely thesis there are a couple things I should seek out. Ready?
  1. A keyboard - that is not the one on my laptop, so that the screen can sit at one height and my hands and arms at a lower height. Why you may ask? I think my thesis has actually hurt me... or at least my shoulder - and I haven't really done any of the writing of 'my words' yet... and my body hurts - so - item 1 - keyboard.
  2. Stretches so that my constant state of sitting also doesn't kill me. My self entertainment has been handstands - but I feel I should probably branch out. :) It is kind of fun to spend a certain amount of time upside down every day though.
  3. Sometimes leaving the house... I have resolved that as great as the theory is that I have the designated 'work' space in my house... I still should leave my house - least for a little bit each day. My life has felt much happier since instituting this on Wednesday. Hee hee.
So - in possibly my most concise post, in quite some time - wish me luck... Month-o-thesis has begun!

peace to you!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Graduation to road construction- what's next?

I “graduated” this week. I put it in quotations, as I haven’t completed, much less submitted my thesis, so my ‘graduation’ seems a bit false. I mean – we were even presented, with all sorts of pomp and grandeur a piece of rolled up cream card stock with a blue ribbon around it – that didn’t have a single word on it. The smart-ass in me wonders about what that signifies, graduation that comes with a blank sheet… There has to be some sort of profound symbolism in that. hee hee :)
William and me with our graduation "moose" look

“Graduation” was however, a lot of fun. Many of the students are now leaving: going to do internships, or research in other places, or are returning to ‘home’ to do their writing. So, it was great to have a chance to celebrate with many incredible people. Each program created a speech (they were supposed to be 2 minutes) as part of the ceremony. As Peace Ed students, we have been teased all year, about the ‘frivolity’ of our learning, teased that all we do is sing or dance or colour pictures… so we decided to use our speech to tell a different version – and do it via video, so many of our classmates could participate. This is our speech if you want to watch it.

Most of the Peace Education class, cued up to convocate!

The fantastic Ms. Revati!

It is interesting being far away for these kinds of celebrations. There are so many different ways to celebrate and mark transitions. The cap and gown, for example, which seem to be the dominant dress at the graduations I have been a part of, were completely new to many people. My mom surprised me with the most beautiful bouquet. We were all gathering around for pictures, dressed up in our costumes and one of the people from the administration said, ‘Diana, you need to come with me’… so off I went – and was presented with this giant bundle of the most beautiful flowers. Those who know me, can guess what comes next – yep, I burst into tears, causing a small panic amongst the staff, but they were just surprise tears – and coming from a place of joy. I got so many kind wishes that day, and I felt totally surrounded in love – the flowers were simply icing.

Aren't they pretty??

Following grad there was a meal and in UPeace style a dance. We ditched our caps and gowns and came out in our finery. With this comes another one of my UPeace firsts though. I was part of a flash mob!!! If you haven’t heard of a flash mob before – they’re pretty fun. It’s a pre-planned and choreographed dance that happens when no one else is expecting it. It usually begins with one person dancing – and then others run to join in, and then more folks, until you have a large group of people dancing, and then the song ends – and they all go back to what they were doing… SO MUCH FUN! Someone recorded us – so have a look, if you like. It's kind of like where's waldo... but I am in there. Honest! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ejMwKSIwQ8

We ate and danced and generally had a blast. There was laughter and tears and promises of visits and letters...

With Virginia, part of the heart of peace education -
and inspiration to continue onward (and finish our projects!!!)

Marvelous Maeve!
(it was a night of hugging - most pictures have people all cuddled up!)

Colette and me

Carly, Sara and Paola!

The following morning, after very little sleep, Carly, Mayuri (and her brother Malay), Sabrina, Dani, Lauren and I headed off to the beach for a couple days. We went to the West Coast, in Santa Teresa, which was beautiful. I have days when I think, ‘I could live near the ocean!’ I love the sound of waves crashing up against the shore, and still have a lot of awe at the rhythm and power of such a large piece of creation. Generally, this prairie girl loves the big open skies and rolling earth; waving with ‘home’, but moments, like in the morning, being right near the water and listening to the ocean greet the earth, while still in bed make me wonder…

We had a great adventure. Two of our travellers had connections which landed us into breathtaking places to stay, still within a student budget (which almost feels like a miracle in itself). I am a bit of a wimp, perhaps just excessively cautious (they are similar - at times), but a lot of what I adore about the ocean, when I am on the shore, scares me when I am in it. I love splashing around, but having my feet be able to touch down feels important, especially in areas with (this is one of my new terms from this holiday) there is a ‘beach break’ and the waves feel all chaotic and aggressive, fighting between pulling me in or spitting me out.

Anyway - to the adventure part of this story. We were travelling in a small car. This is a key point in this story. For those who have done some adventuring in Costa Rica, small cars - not a good idea. ESPECIALLY if you are leaving the central valley - as we did. Happily we headed off, blissfully excited to make it to our second house (which is practically a castle, but that part of the story is still to come). We turned off the main road, as directed - and the road should have been a clue - it practically screamed, "this is likely a bad idea.." but we tried it anyway - and got stuck. I have a fairly constant soundtrack running through my head - and as this adventure continued, Corb Lund's Truck Got Stuck totally was on a loopin my head. We had people trying to dig out some of the surrounding rocks, others trying to prop up the car, some seeking planks.... for the silly little Yaris that didn't belong on the road in the first place. Carly and I hiked up the hill and found a charming fellow with a Dodge - and we eventually got tugged out... but then - what do you do? It is clear the car couldn't go up the hill and going back down looked treacherous... the solution? Road construction!!

The road (at this point in it anyway) was challenging for the giant trenches in it mixed with giant rocks and a low little car. Our solution was just to re-arrange a bit. I mean, if you have a giant hole and you have a giant rock - they could become a solution together, no? We patched up the road and eked our way out - found a place to park at the bottom and taxied to the top. Somewhere in the midst of this kind of adventure, you kind of always ask yourself, 'is this worthwhile'??? the answer - undoubtedly was YES.

So - the castle...
It's on the top of a hill, looking out over the ocean and it just grabs your breath and steals it. You can listen to the ocean - play in a swimming pool (swim into a living room - which is just insane!!) and pretend like all that is not idyllic in the world, doesn't exist. Long-term, probably not a good fit for me, short-term - little bit of heaven. Here's new vocab lesson two: infinity pool.

For those of you, who are like me - and this is a new or completely strange concept - it is designed to part of the pool just flows over the edge - and at the right angle looks just like the pool falls into the ocean. Really pretty and a little ridiculous.

We flew home, rather than the 7-9 hour bus adventure and again - I was in love with the ocean, again. So here are a couple shots from up in the air. It was great apart from a desperate need for a bathroom (which doesn't exist on tiny tiny planes), but that's a story for another time.

Costa Rica really is a rich coast. A great way to launch into the 'focus and write the thesis now, Diana' phase of this program.

I hope you're well.
peace to you,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

sopping wet, green fire, endings and beginnings...

You know that tendency to try and jam everything possible into an astounding short period of time, because suddenly you look at a calendar and it feels like all the time you had has vanished... and regardless of how much you attempt - you're behind? That's where I am at.

Today was my last class. As soon as I finish the paper I am having a hard time not procrastinating over, I will officially be done the class portion of my MA. How did this happen so fast? In many ways it feels like I just got to Costa Rica, that I am just starting to get to know people, that I am finally feeling a bit more grounded here - and shwoosh - we're done.

In the desire to get all things squished in, before school finishes and people head off in different directions, last weekend we decided we would hike up to the Mirador, bring a guitar and camp for the night. It sounds like a good idea, no? We had a nice group, good food, the guitar... but we were a bit slow getting going and half way up the sky decided, "this doesn't look like enough of an adventure" and sent down sheets of rain. Now, granted - I am a bit of a weather wimp, I don't like being really really cold, I don't like being really really hot - I am my father's daughter that way - but the sky really did open up! Within 5 minutes everything I was wearing was plastered to my body - and within about 8 minutes my shoes were squelching their displeasure. Onward we trudged (or at least, I trudged - it is quite possible, if not likely, that the people I was with were coping better) to the top, to pitch some tents (happily under a roof) strip off the wet things, put on the still mostly dry things from the knapsack and have the sky clear into a beautiful night. At this point in our adventure we were four. Others were supposed to be coming, but there was some doubt if they would actually come - following the deluge. Slowly but surely however, people began to appear! Two brave adventures went out to find "dry wood" and ended up felling a tree - with swiss army knives! Surrounded by wet earth, wet wood, and some damp people we worked on getting a fire going. I think, if were to be honest, we would have to admit it was mostly paper... but it was also the discovery of yet another use for UPeace readers. :) Over our tiny fire we roasted marshmallows for 'smores with lots of laughter and sangria. It was fun. Lots of fun. Waking up to sunshine streaming into a tent, little bird singing their morning joy and the rustling of friends in their morning-ness.

This week has flown by - and I think time is going to keep on flying. Tonight is the farewell party (cause how can anything pass without the celebration of dance??) and then Tuesday is graduation. Then time for that lurking thesis. To quote the little engine... ithinkican, ithinkican, ithinkican...

I hope all is well with you.
in peace,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Colombia - near and far

Last year, at this time, I was in Colombia with the Youth United for Peace programme of the United Church of Canada. In some ways it feels like it was ages ago. For example, since that time - I have left the realm of what the United Church thinks of as "youth" crossing that funny boundary into what I guess is now "adulthood". Seriously though, it has been a big year, with much movement and questioning - my soul doing some stretching and wiggling as I try to figure out who I want to be, in this next phase of 'me-ness'.

In many ways - this recent cycle has felt like a lap on some sort of journey that is preparing for a launch off into something new. Do you remember that moment in a gym class where they get you to run like mad and then do that hop, skip, launch thing? That's the feeling. I am still somewhere in the run like mad - but I can feel the anticipation of the hop, skip, AHHHH!

Last May, I found out I had been accepted to UPeace and then the next day, hopped a plane to Ontario to meet up with the Youth for Peace folks - and then moved on to Colombia. I came home, worked on presentations, tried to finish up projects at ACGC, tied up some logistics and found myself moving to Costa Rica in a somewhat disorganized manner. Now - a year later, I am in Costa Rica, still feeling somewhat disorganized, thinking about planes again - and reflecting on some of the incredible people I have met in my lifetime.

I was having a conversation recently about some of those people - those moments in your life, where someone says something to you - that perhaps they didn't even mean to be profound - and they grab at your heart in some way and encourage a shift in who you are. Those people who help you to see your potential, your aspirations, your opportunities and responsibilities and also help you find that place within yourself to dig out the courage to try. I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible people in my adventuring, both at 'home' and living away. It's interesting to think about them - and how much I have seen myself change though the time of knowing them. It's amazing to think of the power of interactions - how such short meetings can set small things rolling in your life, whether they are thoughts or actions, that become a giant part of your journey and questions.

Last year, travelling with the Youth for Peace people - I had the chance to journey with some incredible youth and facilitators, engage with leaders who are shifting the world for so many others through their conscious and kind actions for peace, and meet oh so many people who in spite of living in situations which present frequent challenges welcomed us all with incredible hospitality and grace. It was an interesting experience being the oldest "youth". My first experience, internationally - seeing the world with eyes seeking to learn solidarity, I had been the youngest - and having had the opportunity to experience both of those - is something I can't quite express my gratitude for.

A year has passed since I was in Colombia - and the people I met there are still resonating in my heart, and teaching me things each time I reflect on that experience. So - without sufficient words - I send my gratitude out to the world, to all of you who have touched my heart, been a part of my journey. To those who let me rant and rail against the things which bother me, cry when my heart hurts, and to all of you who help me see the things which cause me to laugh, love and dance - with that deep, deep happiness. Thank you.

Here are some of the incredible people of Colombia - who took time to welcome us - and share some of their journey, wound into ours.

Bishop Juan Alberto

Amparo y Jim

Some of the awesome kids at CEPALC

Lilia and some of the other's from Justica y Vida

Small people - who inspire me, the world round.

Peace to you!