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Janell

The Best Text Book

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

It was an incredible experience to travel and learn this way over the last two months. Yes it had its challenges and unpleasant moments/days, but looking back at the big picture, it was amazing. I have learned so much academically, as well as personally. Most days I was so excited to learn more, (although I didn’t intentionally think of it as learning), to face the day and whatever it may bring. It was usually a new city, a new historical site or a new museum filled with magnificent pieces of art. It was challenging at times to do this alongside the same thirty people, but in my opinion, there was more good than negative, especially when feeding off of each others positivity and excitement. Their excitement was contagious even in the academic scene, it was so inspiring and encouraging to see what my fellow students were passionate about in their presentations or simply in general conversation.

Not only did I learn academically, but I learned personally about myself and personally about others. In this kind of group setting we’re bound to have to learn more about each other, even if sometimes it’s more than we want to learn. There were the challenges of cooking a meal together, whether there was tension or rain or both, but there was also fun times admist it. Packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down, cleaning or sitting on the bus for hours, living in the rain… the list could really go on, but we persevered through it all. Others encouraged me and I encouraged others. I leaned on the Lord for strength and encouragement in my own time of need, but we also spent times as a group to seek out the Lord. There were also many many times of laughter, games, silly conversation, tricks and relaxation and this was school! At times, yes I did have to intentional remind myself I was there for academic purposes but I would not have had it any other way.

Even though it was challenging at times to really engage with the culture, sites and museums, to sit down to journal or write a short paper, it was this that made the trip academic. That’s what made it more than just vacationing. I was, and we were, traveling intentionally in order to experience culture, learn history and participate in the present day happenings of other nations. Travelling intentionally deepened my understanding of my studies done before the trip, as well as in past years. I was able to see these artistic masterpieces for real and understand its style, oppose to just seeing a picture and reading a description that meant little to my non-artistic brain. This experiential learning also occurred in Dachau, the Eagle’s Nest, Tyne Cot Cemetery, the Coliseum, Versailles, Dresden, Prague’s Jewish quarter and more. We weren’t just playing beach volleyball, swimming, camping, eating out, shopping or living the life of a tourist; we were students, using the world as our text book.

Janell

 

 

A Picture Book

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A Picture Book:

Walking on a battle field from WWI.

Looking up at the domes of massive cathedrals that all point upwards to God and realizing the Swiss Alps do the same in the most magnificent and natural way. 

Passing through Hitler’s eery bunkers at the Eagle’s Nest.

Turning my head from left to right to take in the palace of Versailles, the Belvedere or any other elaborate building from history.

Facing the close German front line from the allies trenches at Vimy Ridge.

 Exploring medieval walled cities.

Tasting the food and drinks of each country.

Standing in the crematorium, that halds the chambers and barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp.

Walking through museums to enjoy the pure talent of so many artists I’ve been studying – Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Sisley, Turner, Van Gogh, Ghiberti, Monet and the like , oh the many styles they portray!

Walking past headstone after head stone at the Tyne Cot Cemetery of the many lives lost in WWI.

These words portray the images of a  picture book. You know the saying, ” a picture says a thousand words.” The world wars is what has stuck out to me the most. I’ve always been interested in learning about these times, as terrible as they were. I’ve been so discouraged from learning more in depth about them and seeing the remains of these horrors for myself. Dachau, now a memorial to remember those that survived, was especially difficult. Walking through the grave of the many dead prisoners moved me to tears. But as I’ve felt the pain (as much as one may be able to) of the horrors, I’ve also found hope in the good moments, the good people – Sophie and Hans Scholl and the White Rose Society, the survivors and the sense of care and community the inmates had – the many glimpses of hope in past history. I’ve been able to find God amidst the injustices and evils of the world.
Janell

Rich Travel

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Florence, Italy has captured a piece of my heart, as cheesy as that may sound. There is something magical about this city, I felt it in my first moments of wondering the streets. I was awestruck and overwhelmed right away, in the best way possible! This city is filled with so much history and character, it has a story to tell of the people who have gone before us. It is bits of this story that I’ve learned through doing my prep work, bits I’ve learned while here, bits that are still to be learned and bits that are a mystery and may always remain a mystery.

Walking through the streets and coming into the Piazza D. Signoria for the first time was striking, as it’s continued weaving lead me to the bottom steps of the Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). I was so awed by this that it was a while before I turned around, once I did I was facing the East Baptistry doors of the Battistero Giovann. The next day my amazement continued when I found myself standing, quite literally, at the feet of Michelangelo’s magnificent David– this experience was so unique and rich, there are no words to describe it.

It has been quite incredible to see and experience so much history; history that I’ve known about for years and have recently researched more in depth for this term. What a rich experience I am in the midst of, an experience of a lifetime.

Janell

It’s Always a Joy

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

I am not a person that enjoys not knowing. I strongly dislike the unknown, I am uncomfortable with it, frustrated with it, it exhausts me and even scares me at times. I struggle when I don’t know; I search and sometimes forget to be patient and trust. When I say the unknown I mean not knowing what time we’re leaving, where we’re going, how my friend is really feeling,  and what God has in store for me this day, week, year, for my life. Most any unknown I do not enjoy. But, I’ve learned that for me, living in the unknown is a huge challenge for me. In my opinion challenge is one of, if not the greatest, opportunities for growth, and for this, I appreciate every challenge that comes my way, (even if at the time I want nothing other than to escape from it).  If you have any idea what the Asia trip is like, you will know that it is very much the unknown, in the big and small ways.  Most of the two months I spent in Asia, I was living outside of my comfort zone, WAY outside.

Living through the Asia trip pushed me. It pushed me beyond what my limit was, it stretched my limit to new areas of exploration, adventure, knowledge, emotions, friendships and my spiritual walk.

Through the grace of God I was able to let go some of my fears and embrace the experiences and challenges that were placed in front of me.  I have been challenged all the way through from the intensive classes during the month of September, constantly through the two months abroad and now this past week trying to write papers as well as process what I have experienced and how it has changed me. I have been challenged academically, emotionally, relationally, physically, and spiritually, frankly, I am exhausted. But as difficult as it has been, I believe it has all been worth it, well it will eventually all be worth it.

To finish I just want to say that I don’t believe I can take credit for how I handled everything that came my way during this experience. It wasn’t me that tackled the many barriers along the road through Southeast Asia, it was God working in me, it was ALL God.

James 1:2-4

“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for JOY, for when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”

My hope and prayer is that you too shall see the opportunity in challenge and not let challenges keep you from living the life God wants for you.

Blessings,

Janell

Verbal Vomit

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

I’m sitting on a balcony in the warm sun, I can hear the familiar sounds of birds chirping and passing vehicles on the road near by. Nothing really out of the ordinary, right? Wrong. Warm sun I say, well it’s nearly December and where I come from the sun is not this warm at this time of year. And hearing a foreign language come from the loud speakers of passing vehicles is not ordinary. Not to mention that three Buddhist temples can be seen from this balcony alone.

I’m in a place where I’ve experience so much. So many sights, sounds and smells. How do I even put it all into words? It’s not even possible.

In the last three weeks I’ve felt God’s omnipresence in a Thai Lana Church, but I’ve also felt him lacking in many Buddhist temples. I’ve sat in many lectures on the eighth floor of the humanities building at Chiang Mai University. I’ve lived with a Thai family for two weeks – I became a Canadian daughter, granddaughter, big sister and cousin to a Thai family just as they became family to me. I’ve spent a few days in the mountains in a Karen Hill-tribe Village. I’ve climbed a mountain, eaten rive for breakfast, lunch and dinner – not to mention that bug I had for a snack. I’ve seen God’s incredible creation in the mountains, jungle and animals. I’ve fed, pet, sat on, ridden elephants. I’ve seen them walking along the street or crossing a river in the mountains. Elephants have become ‘normal’ so to say. I’ve jumped into a river at the bottom of a waterfall and let the current take me down stream a little ways. I’ve sat upon, stood on and even steered a bamboo raft down a river. I have walked through so many markets. I’ve experienced and taken part in Loi Krathong festival.

I’ve been challenged. I’ve had hard times and good times. I’ve cried till I’ve been nearly sick, I’ve laughed till I nearly wet myself. 😛 I’ve seen other’s hurt and other’s joy. I’ve felt other’s pain with them and joined in other’s laughter.

Great conversation.

Special friendships.

Incredible growth.

This is an experience.

I don’t even know where to start…..

Janell

Country Girl gone city????

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

As I sit outside in the central area of the capital city, Kuala Lumpur (KL) of Malaysia I am surrounded by the sounds of city life. I am settled at the corner of the YMCA facing the crazy traffic filled streets. I’ve been trying to imagine the noise of passing vehicles, honking horns, squeaking breaks, chattering people, and crowing crows to be the calming sounds of the rapids of  St.Croix river at Dover Hill. The wind here is the fresh breeze of nature, the ledge I am sitting upon is that of the rocky edge of the river, the constant flow of traffic and passing people could be the river right? No, this is not my peaceful, calming and beautiful spot at Dover Hill, this is KL.

The breeze is hot, muggy, polluted and smells bad. The ledge is dirt with  garbage, chewed gum and who knows what else. And those loud passing vehicles simply add to the noise, pollution and craziness of city life. This is no peaceful river, this is city.

It is a city where I see people of all kinds – Muslims, monks;  Chinese, Indians, Europeans, Australians, North Americans; Men, women and children walk the streets. Those that are deaf, blind and mute are seen living independent lives. Colourful dress, multiple languages, and diverse cultures are seen all over. The streets are lined with markets, coffee shops, convenience stores, restaurants and  roadside stalls. There is something or someone on every corner. The noise and business doesn’t stop – lights don’t go out and stars are scarcely found. This is city, this is KL (in a nut shell).

It’s been quite the fun and adventurous experience for me living in the bustle of city. I’ve never spent more than 4 days in a city. This has almost been a wholly new experience for me – city and Malaysia life. There is always something to do, somewhere to go. It’s been a learning experience, of city and Malaysian culture. I’ve enjoyed our stay here. But I am a country girl and could never really get used to or enjoy city life.  But I appreciate this experience.

Janell

Living in a Broken World

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

This is a country where poverty and wealth live side by side – quite literally, and I have found this difficult to accept. It was in Manila where I found this especially evident. All through the visits to museums and historical sights I’ve learned the Philippine story, and it hurts. There has been so much corruption, so much pain. But as I step out onto the hot streets of Manila or look through the glass window of the bus, I see it doesn’t look much better in it’s present state. Sure the government has improved, the city has built itself up again since the WWII bombing but there is still so much poverty. The streets are lined with squatter houses. Cardboard is used as houses or simply beds. People are wandering about the streets trying to make a living selling sunglasses, hats, fans, marionettes and the like to anyone who will even show the slightest interest. The river too is lined with squatters. This has had a major affect. Once a beautiful clean river, it is now polluted because those living there have no where else to dispose their garbage.
These few short sentences hardly begin to describe the sad sights of this Mega city. Next to this poverty are massive buildings of businesses, offices, banks, shopping malls and more. There is so much wealth living alongside those living on $10 a day or less.
How can this be fixed? I found myself wondering, how can I help? how can I fix this? What can I do to make a difference? My only answers were hopelessness. Nothing will fix this problem immediately, nothing I can do will fix it. I became so discouraged as I looked out at the flooded streets of Manila I couldn’t help but shed some tears. As the rain came down and I watched the people and array of vehicles make their way through the water filled streets I felt so hopeless. So useless. So discouraged. Where is the justice? God where are you? your children are suffering.
I am living in a broken world and it hurts.
But despite the destitution the people here are all smiles. They seem to be so happy and content with life. They’re so friendly and willing to lend a helping hand. For them, this is life. This is how they live and they may not even know any different. Even though life may be hard I sense that these people still live in a positive attitude. This to me is a reestablishment of the saying “money does not buy happiness.”
After finding some encouragement, I still wonder what I can do to help, how I can make a difference, and how I can live justly.

Janell