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All Posts By

Lois Craswell

There and back again…again

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

You know how at the end of Lord of the Rings when Frodo just isn’t the same when he comes back to the shire, as if he just doesn’t fit in anymore? Well in a way I feel like Mr. Frodo. There are huge differences between myself and Frodo but I won’t get into detail about that.  I just know that I have been changed from this Europe trip for the better and I really miss it.

I knew that I was going to love Europe and it is evident because almost every place that I went to I said to myself , ” I could live here for a little while.”  I really did not want to leave because it was not reality. I did not have to worry about everyday problems and for two months; I traveled around with people that are amazing; I saw things that I would never have been able to understand unless I saw them first hand; and I have been changed, for the better.

The problem with coming home right after a trip like this is that people here don’t know what I have experienced, and after five minutes they aren’t interested in what I have to say anyway. Also when you change so much and the people back home have also changed but in a different way than you, there is a difference that is hard adjust to. I hope that the change that I see in myself is a change that my friends and family can see in me too, because this trip was one of the best experiences that I have ever had  and I wish that it could have lasted forever.

So maybe I won’t make so drastic of a move as to go to the Grey Haven like Mr. Frodo, but going back to school and to a community that experienced the same things as me, will be just want I need to return to Europe–if only in my memories.

Knowledge= A more passionate experience. Experiences can lead to change of perspective

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

So if you are following all of the blogs so far you might have noticed many of the students writing about an object such as a church, a piece of art, or an event. They are writing in such a way that you know that they are passionate and that when they came to their place or object that it moved them in a way that knowing its history and meaning could only bring. So that is the first part of my title, knowledge equals a more passionate experience and not just for the person doing the presentation but also for the person listening, because it gives me, personally, a personal understanding of things that I just didn’t know. But the second part of my title is more to do with my presentation. I did my material culture project on the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge in France. We went there and with seeing it and having a guided tour my perspectives really changed. As a high school student i learned about the battle and thought that it was the best thing ever; that in the victory, done mostly by Canadians, the country was unified and that no one else could have done it. Ergo, Canadians are awesome.  But doing the research and hearing it done by another person passionate about the same subject made me realize how we romanticize. We take the allies and turn them into the hero and when we see the numbers of dead on the allied side we are sad and full of pride for the lives lost and then we look at the Germans and all that they did as a super villain. But can anybody tell me why WWI started and if the Germans were any worse than the allies, why we see victories of killing more of the bad guys as a good thing? What I have been learning is that Vimy has been, for me, a battle that has made war look to good. There were things done here that helped to save lives on the Allied side, but thousands of Germans died too. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to celebrate the lives lost and not necessary the lives that we took. The victory of Vimy Ridge was a small piece in Canada’s history but not what brought us together. You’re probably thinking, wow this girl is a pacifist and hates supporting war and such, but please don’t read into this too much. For me to write that I am looking at this battle in a new light is a good thing because I no longer only see the good in war, the good done by Canadians, the typical “bad guys” as monsters and I don’t only celebrate the victories instead of the lives lost on both sides.  Instead, my experiences are making me, and hopefully more people, aware of the damaging effects that this war had on the world.

Lois

Understanding Passion

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

So you have probably read so far from many other blogs about certain topics like churches or wars that they seem passionate in writing. This is not a bad thing but just a thought in how having knowledge about something really changes the way we experience this trip. I am no different. Churches and art are not things that I know much about and so when I hear presentations done by other students that are passionate about their topics it is inspiring to learn more about that subject. One example is Tira’s post about her presentation on the Frauenkirche in Dresden. Her passion inspired me to learn more about the church. A topic that I am passionate about is the battle for Vimy Ridge that took place during WWI. It is something that I had learnt about in high school and it is a battle that I personally think is  a very important event in Canada’s short history. But being at the site and getting most of my presentation raisins (information) stolen by our tour guide, it gave me time to take another look at the history of Vimy Ridge, and think differently about how much importance we attach to our victories. I think that many times we take our history and romanticize the good and evil to make battles appear like the best thing that could have happened to a country. But what I have been learning a lot on this trip and throughout my studies at SSU is that we need to be constantly looking back at history from different points of view and see if we can learn something new. Being at Vimy Ridge, and looking at  the broader context of WWI made me wonder why the battle needed to be fought. Viewing it through a different lens has lead me to believe that it was necessary.

Lois Craswell

This is strange

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

So for many people that know me, i have been talking about the Europe trip since i found out that SSU did a term in Europe. I have been looking forward to this trip more than anything–like when we were going to Asia last year i was almost more excited about the fact that very soon i would be going to Europe, even though i was stepping on a plane and leaving for Asia. But now that i am in the last week before our class leaves to go to Europe I am blindsided by the trip. It is not as if I forgot about it, but i want things to slow down a little so i can get my bearings. I have been continuously overwhelmed with feelings of angst and doubts and not really knowing where it is coming from. I feel more comfortable now that i have been at SSU and seeing the things that i was learning by myself being put into place and that gives me comfort, knowing that i was on the right track most of the time. And my excitement is coming back and I really want to go and experience Europe for the first time. I desperately want to know Europe more because for some reason I feel it is a home away from home, even though i have no close family or friends living there; maybe this is because it has been where all my focus has been when studying at SSU.  I just want to be as excited as I was when i first heard about the trip, or when i was about to board the plane a year ago to go to Asia. This strange feeling please go away.

There and back again…

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Well I have been back in beautiful Canada for almost two weeks and sometimes it feels as if I haven’t actually left. But looking back at the past few weeks there is an obvious change that has happened in my life. Other than the fact that I am mufflerless, there are signifcant changes that have happened and to my surprise it is a spiritual change.  During our debriefings there was a sense of spiritual connectiveness as well as class connectiveness and even if we only had three Celtic prayer services there was a real spiritual community that was built while in Asia and when I came back there was that fear that I wouldn’t be able to find it. Brianna said it right that sometimes, or a lot of the time, the spiritual side of school gets pushed to the far corners of our mind which make us apathetic to the things around us and only caring for what goes on in our personal bubbles/circles. But I think one major thing that God taught me on the trip was to be open to other people that are outside of your normal circle and that as a traveling spiritual community you need to be open and willing to talk to “strangers” in the group. And I think that I did.  There are four beautiful girls, Crystal, Ariel, Cara, and Bethany that I have gotten the chance to get to know a lot better and see that they are beautiful, spiritual women and willing to be spiritually vulnerable. Also being home I have wanted to get to know the other people that weren’t on the trip that I have always been afraid to get to know because they were in a higher year or just not in my circle of friends, but there could be such great relationships made if only we step out of our comfort zone. Another fear is that while being home I will lose this “getting to know other people” attidude and fall back into the old way I meet people, which was take a long time and not even talk to certain people. But I think that there are enough people feeling the same way and our God is a good God and maybe it will be something that He places on the hearts of all of the students at SSU! Who knew it would take a trip to SE Asia to figure it out!

Is becoming “green” a global idea?

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As a “Westerner,” I thought I knew so much about the importance of global warming to governments, schools, businesses and organizations in Canada. When I came to SE Asia and saw smog, garbage-filled everything, unnecessary burning, and just nothing noticeably “green,” I couldn’t help but think that “Westerners” were on a better track than SE Asia when it comes to “green” issues. Don’t get me wrong; coming here I did not expect SE Asia to be completely out of the loop when it comes to green issues, just not practising everything to the degree the “west” has. I have seen so many people, promotional commercials, ads, and articles telling the people of Thailand the importance in changing or learning how to adapt to these global issues. But are these ideas being embraced and practised? Just like in the west where we decided to make a change in our lives to help out with these issues but don’t really act on our words, the same applies in Asia.  But when I am here seeing countries that are economically not even close to Canada (like the Philippines and Thailand) doing what they can to try and improve the awareness that this world needs to change environmentally, I am encouraged.  For examples, in the Philippines we visited a beach that was dotted with the most beautiful and enormous wind turbines. North Western University has a green campaign. In Thailand we learned about the harmful effect that dams will have on water supplies and the whole country. We also learned about ways Thai farmers can adapt to the new changes in the weather. One of our guest lecturers, Jeff, who has an experimental farm, had a great answer to face this critical issue – learning to change the way people farm and view the land that will actually help the earth and environment heal itself. He does this by acting green and helping locals understand the issues at hand.

These sights and ideas have had a huge impact on me because if they take the first steps in their situations why can’t we help bring more awareness to our part of the world and to our daily lives at SSU. But there are huge issues that really hinder green movements from being more widely spread. Brianna and Lindsay did a news presentation about the upcoming world meeting on climate change. Thailand’s stance is not a very good one because they say they will not follow recommendations until the major first world countries do their part. Due to political instability in many SE Asian countries, I fear that there won’t be anything put in place by the governments that will help regulate the greenhouse gases or put in place any green movements.

By being in these countries where “green” thinking isn’t totally noticeable, I have been proven wrong. By having the chance to see many people and countries doing their part, I have learned that a part of my duty is to help spread the word about what we can do to help make our communities aware. If cause and effect actually works, then green issues can be spread around the world.

New experiences that I will remember forever!

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When they tell us to do a blog on one particular subject that we have observed while traveling, it sounds easy enough, and then when we try to think of a subject to write about nothing comes to mind.  But then you realize that there is so much to write about!!! Asia is so different, even from country to country, region to region.  Looking at the two countries that we have been to so far, the Philippines and Malaysia, the difference in culture, lifestyle, language, so many things are different. But there is definitely one thing that I have noticed that they have in common and that is in every home that I have been to, they are so hospitable.  I have had people giving up their rooms for Katie and I, change their plans to do what we have planned, give us western food when we are missing it, and I think that the most generous act that my families have done was just to share about their faith, their lives and their culture. So far on my trip I have had three host families; one in the Philippines and two in Malaysia. They have been so different and wonderful but  there was one that was totally new to me – Keningau Malaysia.  For a girl that was born and raised on the East Coast of Canada to experience a village like Keningau was a true blessing for me because I got to experience what it was like to live in a “100% Muslim Village”. When we got divided into our home families we were told that most of us would be in groups but when our names were called Katie and I were all alone and at first I was a little nervous about this but I think that we have had the best experience out of the entire group. It wasn’t like I was afraid of where I was it was just I had no experience with living in such an environment. But I have learned so much but just scratched the surface of what it is like to live in a Muslim environment. Their close knit village had some similarities to SSU which I found surprising. For instance, the community has a cleaning day where every family has to take part in cleaning the soccer fields, public buildings and roads, and/or their own property. And if they miss or do not part take then the family gets a small fine; it’s like the SSU cleaning days on Monday.  Another thing that makes it a lot like SSU is just the sense of community that I felt and the unity in their faith. With the knowledge I have learned about their faith and how it applies to their family and community life I would like to compare it to other Muslim communities and see if they follow the same set up or see how they are different.  This has been a cultural experience that I will never forget and am truly blessed that I got to be a part of it.

Here I come Asia! Gulp! – Lois Craswell

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One, if not the biggest reason for first coming to St. Stephen’s University was for the fantastic chance of traveling the world with a small number of people and studying history actually IN history.  But to be completely honest, it was the trip to Europe that seemed to only catch my attention and not Southeast Asia.  Not knowing practically anything about the countries that the school traveled to, let alone the history of the country you can only imagine the tremendous feeling of being overwhelmed with learning about something that was so foreign to me.

But I have to say that my school is one of the coolest places ever. I am truly blessed to have understanding and very insightful teachers that are preparing my mind with the important history, the culture and the different religions that we are going to come in contact with. And also the knowledge of those students that have been on the Asia trip before, who are more than willing to share of their past experiences have been a great source of knowledge to tap into.  All of this great knowledge and insight has helped me to get a better grasp on what was such a foreign place, but with every passing class and with every day getting closer and closer to Asia I can’t help but get a little nervous. The biggest fear that I have, and I know that I am not alone, is to do something while in Asia that is offensive in their culture but totally respectful in ours. Also the language barrier is going to be difficult because every place that I have travelled to English was more or less the major language that everyone could speak well.

But with having said that, I am overly excited to go on this trip and I can’t wait to go! I think that it is a normal and a good thing that I am a little fearful of going into the unknown.  The best thing about this trip is that I am going with great people that will be there for me so how could I not want to go for we are going to experience good – no great times, hardships (hopefully nothing too extreme), and new experiences that will be uniquely ours. I just ask for prayer for the entire SSU class and faculty that is going on this trip for safety in travels, that there will be no physical illness, no homesickness due to culture shock and that all things will go smoothly.  I also ask for prayer for the community that we will be leaving behind, friends and family that will be feeling some anxiety for their loved ones.