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Alyssa Hazzard

Pompeii Sleeps; Vesuvius Weeps

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments

In my retrospective reflections of the Europe trip I consistently find myself settling upon one day in particular in which Dan, Steven and I took a day trip to Naples, Italy to explore the ancient city of Pompeii. The experience is worth sharing, I think, and the following is a revised excerpt from my Europe travel journal, describing my initial reaction.
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Pompeii is strange to me. Upon walking through the gates I was faced with a mixture of emotions; it’s exciting, of course, to be somewhere so famous and spend the afternoon exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization, but every now and then little things would attract my attention. Insignificant details would offer themselves as reminders that this was once a functioning city with real people.
A water-well conjured images of people collecting water; an oven of baking and cooking meals. Tables, chairs, pots, jars, all perfectly preserved acted as gateways to imagining these people’s lives – these human, feeling, breathing beings living ordinary, mundane, day-to-day lives not so terribly different from our own.
And then, as I wandered the streets of this vast city, I would turn a corner, and there, beyond the end of the road was Mount Vesuvius, rising above it all just as it always has and in that moment I’d remember how it ended.

Pompeii is a city of death, pain and tragedy. This is its legacy.

People flock to see the ashen casts of long since dead Pompeiians, twisted and contorted in ways that make it clear they suffered greatly in their last moments. A man lay on his stomach, covering his face; a woman crouched with her head in her hands; a dog lay on its back, feet in the air, kicking at the hot dirt as it was buried alive. This city represents destruction of an enormous scale, the painful deaths of its inhabitants forever frozen in time, cast in hardened rock.

And now they lay in a display case; they will not rest in peace.

Pompeii is a terrible, wonderful, hideous, and beautiful place. It stays locked in time forever, sleeping now in the open air, once again introduced to the sun. And Vesuvius sits, watching over the sleeping city, abandoned and alone, mourning for what it has lost and weeping for what it has done.

 

Dear reader,

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments
I have been sitting in my tent for the past hour trying to figure out what to write – trying to brainstorm ways I can promote my school, promote this trip, be insightful, sound learned and earn a good grade all at the same time. Writing a blog to be published on my university’s website is daunting – there are expectations, naturally. For this reason, I thought the best course of action was to put my best efforts toward making my school and this trip sound appealing. Sadly, my ‘Look at all the fun you could have!’ attempts at blogging all sounded phony and unrealistic. I have gone through several drafts depicting the experiences, joys and successes I have been blessed with on this trip, and then quickly proceeded to scrap them all.
Instead, I’ve decided to be honest. (After all, SSU teaches us to think outside the box, so hopefully I’ll be forgiven for throwing the rubric out the window.)
The truth is, this trip has been mentally and emotionally draining. On many occasions I have tearfully uttered the words, “I can’t do this anymore!” and “I just want to go home!” (though most of this wishful energy has been spent dreaming about having a real bed.) Difficulties I couldn’t have even imagined have reared their ugly heads and forced me far out of my comfort zone.
But really, why would I expect any different? Living in a tent for two months and traipsing across 8 different European countries is not something casually done, just for the fun of it. This adventure is not for the faint of heart. We have learned the hard way to expect the unexpected (this includes two hailstorms in one day with hurricane strength winds. Featuring: a leaky tent and a lot of rain-soaked clothes) and that even your best friends, the ones you love the most, will inevitably become your punching bag when stresses are raised too high.
This trip is hard, much more than I could have imagined going into it. It’s hard (literally) sleeping on the ground every night; it’s hard to be around the same people everyday with no time to yourself; it’s frustrating having to cook your own meals with very few options or appliances; it’s stressful to pack up camp and move to a new country every 2-5 days and adapt to new language or currency; it’s sad leaving behind the friends you’ve made so soon after meeting them.
But despite all the difficulties and beyond the physical/emotional/mental stresses we have to deal with on a daily basis, I can’t help but believe that it’s worth it. I can feel myself gaining renewed insight on this trip – a broadened worldview brings me one step closer to seeing the other and becoming a global citizen (and for this I do have SSU to thank; yay! promotion!)
Will I ever again spend two months living in a tent? Probably not.
But maybe once is all I need.
Much love,
Alyssa

“I Shot An Arrow Into The Air…”

By | 2012, Asia | No Comments
Greetings!
We have been in Thailand for several days now, and it’s taken up until now to feel like I am actually in Asia.
Perhaps it was because we were in such a large city, but Kuala Lumpur felt like it could have been a large city anywhere in the western world. There was plenty of English everywhere and almost everyone I met was quite fluent in it. In the Philippines, English was the second language of the country, so it was everywhere there too. The culture itself was also quite westernized due to American colonization. Life in our homestay families, or at least the structure and expectations of them, was similar to life at home. There was very little about our daily routine and actions that we had to adjust to.
Thailand is different. While I truly enjoyed my time in Malaysia and the Philippines (especially the Philippines), I already feel like my time in Thailand will be more of the cultural experience I was hoping for when I left Canada. Our homestays are no less loving or hospitable than out Filipino families, but there is a sense of formality found here that was not present there. Here, when greeting someone, we must wei (bow to) them, we are expected to speak their language as much as we can (sah-wah-dii-kah!), and we are taking Thai language classes. Serious adjustments must be made in our daily activities in order to adopt Thai ways and be respectful of them. This is a good thing, for sure, but I now feel very very far away from Canada, and quite outside my comfort zone. I think all of us are feeling this way. Some more than others, as some have homestay placements with families who speak no English at all.
We’re all struggling through the adjustments and basically flailing our way through, hoping to not offend everyone at once and get ourselves kicked out of the country. While it is difficult, I am very grateful for these difficulties. Not only is it “building character” in us all, it is building stronger relationships between the members of the Asia team. Of course, we still have our issues and drama, we are inevitably overcoming them and becoming closer as a community, a team, and as friends. This is encouraging, and I think we have a chance of becoming an even closer group as long as we continue supporting each other and ‘putting up’ with each others’ insanities. Some smart guy once said, ‘I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I know not where.’ This applies to a lot of things, but on this trip it’s most evident in the small acts of kindness. You never know how far a compliment, or a smile, will ricochet and how many people it will affect. You really can completely turn someone’s day around with just a little positive energy. And this, obviously, applies to everyone, not just those of us on the Asia trip. So I encourage all of you, when you see someone looking a little down, whether it be a friend or a stranger, give them a little smile! Maybe compliment their outfit, or their face, or their toupee, anything you can think of. Not only will you brighten someone’s day, but you’ll be showing just a spark of godly spirit in one of the best ways possible.
With that, I leave you. Thank you for your prayers. (Many thanks also to the small groups for the lovely cards! It brought smiles to all our weary faces.)
Less than three weeks until we return!
Peace and blessing,
Alyssa

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

By | 2012, Asia | One Comment

Hello everyone, Wanna hear something crazy? The Asia team has been gone for over a week already! How did that happen!? Almost crazier is the fact that being here doesn’t strike me as strange anymore.

Yesterday a few of us visited a rainforest a few minutes outside Kuala Lumpur. There I was, sitting in the midst of the jungle listening to the Muslim call to prayer playing from a mosque in the city below. It suddenly hit me just how extraordinary this experience is. South East Asia seems so unexplored (and often ignored) by North Americans; it’s virgin territory, or at least it seems so to me. It’s a shame really. I have never in my life been stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty of a place as much as I have here in the past week. Not just the beauty of the city, either. The people here are beautiful. Everyone I’ve talked to has been so helpful, and so friendly. It has never been this easy for me to have lengthy conversations with strangers!

One of the most beautiful things, for me (and I didn’t expect this.. at all) is the Call to Prayer. It plays several times a day, and is audible throughout much of Kuala Lumpur. I am lucky enough to be able to hear it through my hotel room window at approx. 8:20 pm every night. This eerie melody lasts for about five minutes, and it has been the soundtrack for my watching of the sunset every night since we’ve been here. It gives me new chills each time and renews my sense of awe in this experience that I am blessed to be having.

I am a Christian in a Muslim country. This sounds scary when the concept is first introduced, but the reality is much easier to handle; in a strange way, it too is beautiful (this seems to be my word of the day.) I feel as though I’m a part of something completely new, completely different. And I love it. It is exciting and terrifying simultaneously, creating an odd feeling that I admit to never having felt before. But, at the same time part of me greatly misses Canada and the people I left there.  So, let it be known that I miss and love you all (well, most of you… kidding!) and soon enough we shall be reunited. I will then drive you so crazy by telling stories that you don’t particularly want to hear that you will wish you could put me back on a plane destined for halfway across the world. On that note, I leave you. Have a fabulous day.  Until next time, Alyssa Lynn Hazzard