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!

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!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prairie-girl panic!

I just finished another class - beginning the countdown which includes:

two weeks left of classwork
graduation (which is totally fake, as none of us are actually "done" anything, but still the ceremony and party, which will be fun)
write my actual project
head on home - and go back to work


That is all that I can say about that. What a whirlwind. It feels like the last few months have caused to time just jump into hyper-gear. Slow down, World!!! It is good though.

The class which I finished yesterday, was great. I took a course called, The History of Sexuality - and it was fantastic. I am starting to really look forward to the post-gradschool time where I may actually get to think about all that I have read and really absorb it. :)

My class prior to this last one was on Sustainable Development Education. The course itself left some things to be desired, but we went on a field trip one day, to an area that is working to promote both organic farming and rural tourism. I have a friend who is often telling me to post more pictures - so in case you're missing green or flowers (although I am sure they are starting to come back, wherever you are) here are a couple from the trip.

(one of my favourite songs is still, "Homegrown Tomatoes". It pops into my head, every time I see a tomato plant.)

I have one course left, which is called, "Practices of Conflict Management and Peacebuilding". It looks like it is going to be an intense couple of weeks. One of the assignments is to create a career portfolio - a totally useful activity - but the assignment says it is supposed to include:
  • copy of current resume
  • a sample cover letter for a position you are interested in (including a copy of the job ad)
  • a two page career vision statement (where you see yourself in one, five, and ten years)
CV - got it, cover letter - sure, I can do that, idea of where I see myself in five or ten years - NO CLUE!!! Why do people insist on asking these questions, while you're in the midst of other kinds of confusion. Ah... Wish me luck. I am guessing the assignment isn't seeking answers like, I hope to be happy, living and working in a community I care about, with people I care about, promoting a better world... If you have suggestions - let me know. I am happy to hear them.

I got up early this morning to participate in the Pura Vida Walk/Run for Peace that one of the students here was coordinating. My plan for the afternoon was to work on my readings, and I am clearly procrastinating on what I "should" be doing. I hope all is well with you.

peace to you!