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Dan Snyder

Take Risks. Live purposefully. Love unconditionally.

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Why do we travel? Why is it such a big selling point that at St. Stephen’s University I got to spend 2 terms going around the world with my class? Well, it could be the Belgian waffles, Austrian schnitzel or Italian gelato. Or it could be Michelangelo’s David, Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace or the rugged hike in the Swiss Alps.

It’s also been the moments like: forging deeper friendships while in conversation on the beach in Barcelona; swing dancing in front of the Eiffel tower; interviewing a kind older couple in Strasbourg (in French!); learning about international law from a PEI-er working in Paris; standing au naturel under a cool, refreshing waterfall at Lauterbrunnen; missing the last bus in Vienna and walking back to the campsite with a friend.

But I think most of all it is the formation of deeper relationships. I found that after being with a group of 40 people camping in 10 different countries over 8 weeks, it was a really humbling experience that showed me at my weakest  at times and brought out my strengths at others. I’m not usually an emotional person, I tend to keep to myself, so it was really unusual that there were moments of laughter and tears, pain and ecstasy. (Just kidding, my life is always a roller coaster!) But in the midst of this, I’ve had friends around me that I could rely on and in turn I found that by passing along encouragement and being available to others, it made the trip a really rich time of building friendships and caring for each other.

I believe that community is made stronger by reaching out and intentionally making better friendships with people you’re not as close with. This requires sacrifice, time and it also means not expecting anything in return, otherwise it wouldn’t truly be giving. I think that might be what Jesus is getting at when he says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It may not involve taking a bullet for someone or literally dying for them, but it does require selflessness and constantly trying to value others above yourself.

And just as I am imperfect, I am realizing that I need to love people where they are at, not where I want them to be or, if only they were different. I also learned that time is short and you need make the most out of every moment; you never know if you’ll have the opportunity next week, next month or next year to have a great chat with a friend, so have it today and don’t live with regrets!

Take Risks. Live purposefully. Love unconditionally.

-Dan Snyder

Paris: c’est magnifique, c’est fou, yet I still love you.

By | 2010, Europe | 2 Comments

7 July 2010. 22:30. Eiffel Tower, Paris.

In retrospect, we should have taken heed of the red flares as they released clouds of amber apprehension into the air. But as twilight encroached on that balmy summer evening, impending peril was the last thing on our minds. The day started out innocently enough. My intrepid partner Sophie and I, Robert Langdon, had just caught our breath after a surprise run-in with the French gendarmes after we tried to burn down the Louvre to see if the charred embers would settle into a treasure map showing where the Knights of the Round Table hid the real James ossuary—no, not James the brother of Jesus, James and the Giant Peach, obviously. Oh shoot, I just blew my cover of using that Dan Brown pseudonym…

Back to the Dan Snyder adventure:

So Tira and I appraised Delacroix and mimicked Michelangelo’s models at the Louvre, gazed at the grandeur of the Parisian skyline from the top of a Ferris wheel, and window shopped the showcases along the Champs Élysées. So far it was your pretty average, mundane day as university students. But, as the evening wore on, our stomachs begged for nourishment and we yearned for sustenance. We then made the fateful decision to turn left and leave the lovely lane of luxury, questing after more thrifty fare. Apparently, our meanderings were not meant to come to fruition. Perhaps the change in the air was provided as a premonition, but we were presently only perceptive towards any potential purveyors of provisions.

After finding no such establishments (in what we later realized was the business district) we stumbled upon the Eiffel Tower. There, a throng of thousands of Parisian youth were passively filing into a motivational talk entitled, “Geriatrics and Geraniums: Rediscovering the Joys of Gardening with Grandma”. Some of the more uncouth jeunes were calling it by its more commonplace soubriquet, “World Cup Semi-Final between Spain and Germany”. So after we all had our interest piqued in getting botanical with Grandma (many in the crowd seemed to read a nationalistic subplot into the speaker’s message and were either really excited for or mad at Spain) nevertheless we all tried to calmly exit the venue amidst controlled explosions of fireworks, limited jubilation, and a hushed murmur that only added to the tranquility of the evening.

It was a good thing that Parisians are renowned for being so orderly and courteous, otherwise Tira and I might have been clutching each other’s hand, dodging unruly gangs of rabble-rousers who may have been inciting senseless violence, and running to safety away from a frenzied mob back to our group on the other side of the Eiffel. But instead I say, kudos to you Paris for making Public Courtesy courses mandatory for all secondary students—worth every euro cent!

All in all, a gloriously unforgettable day, which finished with swing dancing beside the Eiffel. And to paraphrase the Bible: swing dancing covers a multitude of sins. So Paris, your slate is clean, no hard feelings. Well, maybe a few for only getting chips and a muffin for supper…

Lesson learned? Europeans are to the World Cup as Canadians are to the Stanley Cup playoffs; different sports, same crazy fans. Some things really are the same after all!

Dan S.

From tourist to pilgrim(?)

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Tourism. Adventure. Journey. Pilgrimage.

Any one of these could describe the Europe trip so far. Depending on my attitude and the place that I’m at, one of those classifications could be accurate at any given time, other times it is all of the above. Seeing the pope today falls into the latter of the two.

First off, tourism. I’m not going to lie, the first thing that came to mind when I found out about the opportunity to hear the pope in the Vatican City was how awesome it would be to get a picture and then go back home saying how I’d seen Benny 16 himself.

Then the adventure began. I hunted down the details online, went to the Vatican the day before and got 20 tickets for those in our group that wanted to go. (Where my Swiss army knife was nearly thrown out by, ironically, the Swiss Guard – ask me about it if you want  to know more.)

The morning of, we woke up a bit earlier than normal and set out on our journey – tickets in hand … or pocket. Arriving in St. Peter’s Square, the crowd wasn’t as massive as I had anticipated, but even worse than a crowded square was the relentlessly blazing sun. This definitely raised the stakes – if I were just in it for a picture, I probably would have left after 2 minutes. But alas, I was there for over 2 hours and stayed for the whole address (8 languages later – does that make the pope octolingual?)

What drew me into staying was the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just me, my pictures, and this trip. In the moment all I could think about was w0ndering how many languages the pope DIDN’T know and how long one bottle of water could sustain multiple people in the brutal heat. After the fact though, it hit me how much seeing the pope meant to the people there and that to some of them, this was the culmination of a lengthy pilgrimage from distant lands.

Even if seeing Benedict XVI wasn’t any kind of grand epiphany for me, it showed me yet again how important it is to try to see the world through other people’s eyes. By doing this, maybe I can come to appreciate the rituals and traditions of others in order to help me discover more of who I am as I travel along on my own pilgrimage.

After all that, my pictures of the pope weren't even that great - but here's me in St. Peter's Square right after the main event! -Dan S.

Beauty from Ashes

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

So tomorrow I’m supposed to be flying off to Europe with my class from SSU, that is if a certain unpronounceable Icelandic volcano doesn’t decide to spew its tephra and ash again and bring air traffic to a halt…

Eyjafjallajokull

Although it’s not too likely that our trip will be directly affected, the volcano’s eruptions over the past month are a great reminder of how it’s not possible to completely control or predict what’s going to happen in our lives. In preparing for this trip, especially during the past week, I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up with the minutiae of what to pack, which classes are when, etc.  What I need to remind myself is that just like volcanic eruptions are initially destructive and yet form new ground, the stress of the assignments and studying that I have done in the past few weeks will form the foundation for a rich and fulfilling Europe trip over the next two months. If I have one hope for this time, it would be that I wouldn’t get lost in the mundanity of all the campgrounds, paintings, museums, and bus rides, but instead that I could really thrive in all situations, even if that means putting the “dan” back in mundanity!

The Dangerous World of Politics

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Politics has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. During my time here at SSU, although there are no outright political science courses per se, I have managed to weave the thread of politics into many of the papers I have written in the multiple disciplines. Whether it is contrasting Aristotelian and modern political theory in philosophy, or discussing the social and political ramifications of James Joyce’s literature, as much as possible I like to find the “political angle” within my studies.

This past term allowed me to gain a new angle: discovering the world of Southeast Asian politics. I was excited to learn about the way governments operated in a different part of the world and what involvement the citizens had with their political system. It was fascinating to see the different influences on each of the countries that we visited and how they had shaped the country’s political history. The current government of the Philippines has been modeled mainly upon that of the United States with some evidence remaining of the previous Spanish colonization and the effect of the Catholic Church in that country. In Malaysia, the Islamic religion plays an influential role in the governance but there are also clues that point to the British presence there. Thailand is unique among the Southeast Asian nations for having never been officially colonized; there the role of the Buddhist religion and the institution of the monarchy greatly influence the politics.

When looking into the politics of this region, the majority of the countries in Southeast Asia seem to be rife with corruption, bid-rigging, ethnic conflict and military intervention. From a Western perspective, it was all to easy to approach these issues with a bit of a superiority complex, thinking: “Wow, it’s a good thing we don’t have it this bad back in Canada/the U.S.” I’ll admit, before I went on the trip and at the beginning of my time there, this is how I felt. By the end of the trip though, and after being home for a few weeks, I have come to a different conclusion. We in the West should not be so smug about our system: it is not perfect. Although in theory it looks good when compared to the blatant corruption of officials in some of these other countries, we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that there was no corruption over here. The fact is that it’s more covert and sometimes more insidious.

This conclusion was confirmed for me after I read an article just the other day that I thought could have been a page from one of my Southeast Asian textbooks. The headline was: “7 Ottawa tech firms charged with bid-rigging”. Now the difference is that in Southeast Asia this would be front-page news whereas in Canada (where this supposedly doesn’t happen) it is buried in the news. (Type “bid-rigging” into Google News and there are 2 results for this story).

Although we should be thankful for the relative peace that we experience in the West, we should not allow that peace to let us to slip into complacency but to always be striving for better, at home and abroad.

Fighting for Freedom from Fear

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During our study abroad term here in Southeast Asia we have had a lot of great lectures on a variety of issues. Although a lot of the issues we’ve discussed have had an impact on me, the one that has affected me the most has been that of Myanmar (Burma).

Amidst the tyranny of the military junta ruling the country, there has been a voice of hope: Aung San Suu Kyi. For the past two decades she has been championing the cause of basic human rights and dignity for the Burmese people. It is not an easy fight, and as she says:

“It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that “might is right” to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”

She embodies this courage that she speaks of by backing up her words with her actions. She has been under house arrest for most of the past 20 years with extremely limited contact with the outside world. She has sacrificed her freedom and liberty for her fellow people and for a cause that she believes in so passionately.

She has been able to communicate her message through writing books which can in turn garner worldwide attention to the plight of the Burmese people. Unfortunately, her advocacy is needed now more than ever because not much has changed in recent years. The military junta is still receiving funding from nearby countries who are eager to capitalize on Myanmar’s extensive natural resources.

What can be done in a seemingly hopeless situation? Suu Kyi puts it this way:

“I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.

During this trip, Aung San Suu Kyi has truly been an inspiration to me, and I hope that I too can have the courage to back up my ideas with action.

Filipino Family = Fantastic Fun

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Dinner - Filipino StyleWhat impacted me most during my time in the Philippines was the concept of family life. From the moment that I arrived, I was accepted as a son in my homestay family. I participated in all of the family activities and even met their large extended family. For a couple meals during my time there I ate at the grandmother’s house, also known as the family house. This house was still run by the matriarchal grandmother who was in her 80’s and she had some of her children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild living there. Although she was not as mobile as she once was, I could still see how much she was respected and revered. To illustrate this point, when her daughters wanted to renovate the family home, the grandmother would not allow them to since she preferred the tradition and the attached memories that the home contained. This is very similar to many situations in Canada that I know of where the decisions of the elders are respected; often times the older generation prefers tradition and the younger prefers change.

What is different in the Philippines though is that the families take care of the grandparents within the family homes. When I asked my family if there were any nursing or retirement homes, they said that there weren’t any in their province, but maybe there was one in Manila. I think that this is something that North American culture misses out on for the most part and I really admire the way Filipino culture places such a focus on the family.

Through food, fellowship, fun and most of all family I learned about and experienced Filipino culture. I am looking forward to getting to know more families and cultures as I continue on this travel term!

Hesitant Hiccuper

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I’m finding it hard to try to put into words how I’m feeling about going to South East Asia for 2 months. It’s completely outside of anything I’ve ever experienced before. There’s no framework for me to fit this into, or other situations in my life that it is comparable to. I guess you could say that I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life.

I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian elementary school and attended a great church back home (the Cambridge Vineyard). As for international travel, I’ve been to Florida a couple times and around Europe with my parents the summer before last. So, not much in the way of interaction with foreign cultures or developing nations. I’m sure that I’ll adjust once I get there, but right now it’s the great unknown!

Probably the thing that I am worried about most is the food. I can’t eat spicy food. It’s not that I don’t want to eat it, it’s just that any time I do I have to be prepared for violent hiccups. I get hiccups after eating anything hotter than mild salsa … and mild salsa isn’t even that spicy!  I’ve had people suggest things like yogurt or sour cream to help mask the spices, but that doesn’t work when you’re lactose intolerant! Other unhelpful advice from websites has been: “avoid spicy food” – not completely possible in SE Asia! I had never heard of this spicy hiccuping phenomenon happening to anyone else, but apparently there are others like me: (http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/Link-really-Spicy-Food-Hiccups-t222347.html) (See?? It’s not that weird after all!!)

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I’ll let you know in the next post how I’m fairing with the foreign food fare!

Signed,

Hesitant Hiccuper