This year I’ve been extremely privileged to get the chance to go on multiple trips. Most notably (and recently) were Eastern Canada and the Dominican Republic. Two completely different trips that I’ll remember for a long time, but for different reasons.
Eastern Canada on one hand was 7 days straight of my friends and I hanging out. Every day included bundling up in what seemed like excessive amounts of clothing, but what proved to be too little, and heading into the streets of Montreal, Quebec, or Ottawa. We did the necessary museum rounds and note-taking, but we also had time to explore the streets at night, go to fancy restaurants, explore the local art alleyways…we even had the chance to go dog sledding (and then meet the puppies!!!). While the trip was jam packed with school-related activities, and it was definitely beneficial to my understanding of Canada’s history, I feel that the trip was more fun than anything. I would happily go back to the -20 weather if it included photographing the streets of Old Quebec one more time.
The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, is a whole other story. In short I can confidently say that Me to We did it right. Just writing this I miss my two weeks spent there. The trip included meeting the locals (including the kids who would be attending the school we were building), exploring the area, practicing their language, seeing the local grocery store, doing an absolutely stellar hike (with the ‘what is life’ lookout at the top), bonding with everyone else on the trip, and some potently thought-provoking workshops in the evening. Our two Me to We facilitators were just fantastic human beings (not to forget about Ronny, our tour guide-doctor-translator-radio show host – among other things) and Julie especially, who’s been living there since January, had such a unique relationship with the people in the baté we were visiting. Everyone we met there had such a positive outlook on life and constantly inspired me. With the kids you couldn’t even tell there was a language barrier, as long as you could point to yourself and say your name, you were as good a friend as any. The culture shock arriving there (and then again when we left) was intense and still perplexes me. Their cultures are evolved in such a different yet harmonious way compared to ours. While here I hardly know the name of our neighbors, everyone there had responsibility for themselves and each other. The kids eagerly jumped on you with smiles when you walked in and the parents of the baté were always pre-occupied with other things, so you were left responsible. One girl I got to know was named Jocelyna. She was 11 years old and had a 17-year-old sister. Her sister had two kids and needed help to cover the responsibiltiy, so Jocelyna would take care of her two year old neice in the mornings and attend school in the evenings, before coming back to take care of her again. This is common there. In fact, girls are having kids at much younger ages and don’t have the resources to take care of them, or themselves. Not to mention families there are usually much larger than they are here (the Asher schools founder, Robert’s, grandpa had 60 kids – and multiple wives). I’m trying not to ramble on about every aspect of the trip, but I just want to remember the energy that was present there. The positivity and hope literally oozed out of you during the late-night Me to We sessions, and I can’t wait to get more involved.
For more about the Dominican Republic trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Ckf_12CDc