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Roman observations

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I find myself in the eternal city, the one which all roads lead to, the city of Rome. Equally so, I find myself sitting atop a white marble bench scribbling notes into a journal. What makes this particular event interesting is that I have previously scribbled notes on this very bench in 2007, and 2008.

The Roman experience isn’t an exactly new experience for myself. As I look around I see that the city hasn’t changed greatly over these past few years. The workers at my favourite cafe are still the same, though with some grey in their hair now. The Indians still run the food and drink carts, and the North Africans still sell fake designer goods.

These observations force me to question if anything has changed at all amidst these experiences in the former capital of the world. After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that it is I in fact that has changed. Each visit has broadened my worldview and has increased my experience of travel and all the little tricks that come along with it.


Karen guide: “You guys are good…you…you move at Villager’s pace”

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Blog – Monday November 29th 2010
Chiang Mai Thailand
Greg Rickard

With this blog I wish to comment and put words to the intangibility of mutual accomplishment. During our stay in the mountains with a Karen tribe, our group had the opportunity to take part in a jungle trek. Needless to say I was enthralled at the idea! Long had I dreamt of far eastern jungles, the thought of stumbling upon some ancient ruin that the jungle had reclaimed was, and is still, a very colorful aspiration. This thought returned to me as I tried to sleep through the incessant rooster calling that provided the lullaby to our village. Indeed, as the morning mist began to dissipate throughout the village, the smell of wood fires and boiling teapots filled in the ambiance. Soon after, the students began to gather.
The trek was on, through tall grass and over streams. Uphill we began to climb, slippery mud and hanging vines. Breath heavy and burning thighs. Further and further, upward we walked. Soon we reached level ground, though a satisfying view was nowhere to be found. Though this was acceptable at the moment, as any continued angling of our path would have been quite strenuous indeed. But wait! After a quick translation, we soon discover that our young Karen guide is indeed taking us to the scenic lookout/summit. Excellent!
From solid gravel to sliding pine needles we press on. A series of switchbacks laden with loose dirt is now our trail. Motivation sets in, a driving need to stay directly behind our Karen guide. My legs suddenly feel fifty pounds heavier. Further, faster, quicker! Go go go! The ground levels out…we are now on top of the Thai landscape! I immediately look behind me and find Daniel Beaudoin, who too has just arrived at the summit. I smile and throw out an open palm to him, which he receives and grips with equal intensity. In this moment, this holy moment, there is no need of words. All that we wished to say to each other was shared in a single moment of intangible communion through our suffering and accomplishment. It is this conquering, and this unspoken communion that I wish to continue to search for in the finally days of our trip.

We’re in Malaysia….so where are the Malay’s?

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Malaysia, and more specifically Kuala Lumpur, has presented a playground of history and culture. To be honest, the experience of living within little India has been a baptism of fire pertaining to Indian-Malaysian culture. Especially the food, after taking mere steps one can find ten different eateries all serving the classics of Indian staple foods. As well, from a particularly cheap and delicious restaurant, you can enjoy your meal while only steps from four local brothels. Indeed, Kuala Lumpur is a city that hosts everyone and is prepared to meet his or her needs.
Without breaking your wallet, you can easily enjoy Arabian tea for breakfast, Chinese delicacies for lunch, and conclude with excellent Indian dishes for dinner; all within walking distance of each other. These options are merely waiting for us to come and find them. Kuala Lumpur is a well spring of opportunities to expand one’s own personal boundaries whilst being within a single city.
To lean towards a historical point of view, in which to look upon my time in Malaysia, no point has been so significant as the day trip to Malacca. Through scorching heat I climbed the steps from the lower streets to the heights of St. Paul’s Church. Upon reaching the top my eyes were bestowed with a view that has been shared by many. Shared with people from ages past and empires long gone. Though they still viewed the same waters and the same winds cooled their flesh as it did mine that day. As I stared out onto the Straits of Malacca I was overcome with a sense of being within history. That view, that water, and that wind; that is history.
Kuala Lumpur is: Roti canai, Mango juice, G n’ T, Brickfields, Sahara Tent, impromptu dance parties, exploration, “Next stop…Imbi?”, sign language laundry, your fingers are your utensils, finding new friends you never thought you’d meet.

Pacific fantasies and present realities

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Gregory Rickard

My views of Southeast Asia have been deeply rooted in the images of jungle-covered ruins, humid city streets, and in the solace and beauty of an electric fan cooled poorly stocked bar. These personal views have been realized during this trip; however, they have also been widened and enlightened. The 2010 St. Stephen’s University Southeast Asia program has been providing an environment that has allowed me to grasp onto a new culture that I had only witnessed in film and in my own thought. I was now fully able to taste, touch, and smell the culture that surrounded me. Indeed, I could now feel, appreciate, and begin to steep myself into the people, the food, the language and the unique place that Southeast Asia is.
More specifically, our current stay in the Philippines has been a significant moment in my own global enculturalization. To expand, I once used The Philippines as a setting for a short story that I wrote in Grade Five. The selection method that I utilized to choose the Philippines as the setting was by simply examining a globe for an extremely remote set of ‘backwater’ islands in the Pacific. Needless to say, my vision and knowledge of The Philippines has grown in leaps and bounds from that time mainly due to this trip and the wealth of learning that it provides. In the past week I have sat in Ferdinand Marco’s own personal office chair. I have ridden motorcycle sidecars down worn and crowded city streets. Lastly, I have viewed and interacted with the physical points of historical significance in a first hand and tangible manner. All these points culminate into what The Philippines has to offer, and what this program is able to offer all its students.
I look forward with great anticipation as to what the rest of the trip holds for our team in the future. If the rest of Southeast Asia can offer up half of what The Philippines has already provided, then we are indeed in for a truly eye opening time.