All Posts By

Raymond Funk

life on preservatives

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I feel like I sometimes live life on preservatives.
I’m home. I’m back in north america, or what I used to know as home and hopefully still do.
I feel different but I don’t see different. I’ve been here for three weeks, trying to adjust my body to a different time, to different foods, and funny enough trying to adjust myself to what I had been used to.
what am I doing? I am trying to adjust back to what I am used to?! what am I used to?
I stop.
everything has changed but everything is the same. 3 weeks ago I was on my way to new brunswick from Bangkok, a place I guess that few people from new brunswick have been. 8 weeks ago I was in a rainforest, and I slept in a house with an old man who spoke only Malay and offered us nescafe 3 in 1 and cookies and biscuits. now I am in my room, checking facebook for messages and preparing for summer in alberta. time has lapsed 10 weeks since I was in my room, checking for facebook messages and trying to prepare myself for southeast asia.

3weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks. what does time do? I am still myself from one moment to the next. what I decide to do carries on with me into the next moment and continues, yet I am the same person who was here 10 weeks ago. but I am a different person. I’ve written assignments on what I’ve experienced and learned while on my term on Southeast Asia, and I have learned much about the history and culture of people and places that were previously unknown to me.

how has this changed me? how has this made me a different person? the history, the culture, the communities, the food, the homestays, my classmates. I have grown closer to people. I hope. I’ve been learning over the past few months that people are not something to be afraid of. but rather it is not knowing people that brings fear. I’ve also been learning that time is something to be less afraid of. it is through the passage of time that growth happens. rather it is not being available to live and grow in the passage of time that brings fear.

I’ve been finding new joy in the people around me and the days as they come and go. I have a greater appreciation for each person as I get to know them better. And I hope that I will find I’m learning to live less on preservatives. I don’t want to be kept in the same place and in the same state.

“As I see the day stretched before me

in all of its mystery and predictability

I give it to You

and ask that You would walk with me

through the minutes and hours

keeping me awake and available

to You

and to whomever will cross my path”

~ from morning prayer by Joel Mason

Conversations and “Conversations”

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We are down to the last few days of our long trip in Southeast Asia and I honestly cannot say that I’m glad to be leaving.  I am looking forward to some of the comforts of home. The stability of staying in one place. Familiar foods. A place to take a rest from the realm of moving,waiting, engaging and engaging again with moments of cultural elation and cultural frustration. Though I’m not looking forward to completing the coming assignments I do look forward to the prospect of gleaning from my experiences.

There are a lot of things I could say stand out about what I’ve experienced of Asia: Bartering. Food. Interesting lectures on culture, politics, and contemporary issues. Rain forests. Mountains. Rats… the list can go on. I don’t want to sound idealistic or cliche but one of the best parts of this trip has been the relationships made with the local homestay families and local students. I’ve been invited into people’s homes, into their family and their everyday life. I’ve shared in their wealth or their lack of what my North American self would think of as normal standard of living. There is nothing else that has broken down my feeling unfamiliar with my surroundings like the genuine welcome and friendship of people I have met in the Philippines, Malaysia or Thailand… and it happened for me in each of these countries. The sharing of a name, a meal, of a conversation or the struggle through a conversation.

I’m becoming a greater believer in the idea of the “conversation”. It seems ironic to think of “conversation” when you have two people who are trying to talk to each other slowly and dumbly in two very different languages. But it’s more that we were there, we may have been laughing at each other but we were trying. Barriers seem to break down when people allow themselves to be vulnerable and open-hearted. The best conversations I had were simple. But they happened when I was willing to say “hello” or ask a name. Looking back, I hope that I will remember the hospitality and openness of the people who took care of me while I was a stranger in a far away place, and how even simple smiles and hellos can break barriers as wide as the ocean.

Experiences Experiences

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The challenge seems the same whenever I travel somewhere new. How do I take my experiences I’m gaining and make them a part of how I view the world and the way I live within it?  I’m finding that as I have been traveling through the Philippines and Malaysia I’ve been having so many experiences, but somehow I seem unable to take it all in. I’ve climbed a mountain, wandered through the rainforest at 3 am in the darkness and rain, I’ve helped make a bamboo fence, have stood in the back of a mosque for evening prayer. I’ve spent hours discussing politics and history with my homestay family in the Philippines, I’ve spent hours  in broken communication trying to describe my home-life in Canada.  I’ve had the opportunity to live in opulence and the opportunity to live in simplicity.  Sometimes I feel extremely comfortable and familiar with the strangers I’m with and other times I feel like a tourist and a foreigner, someone who is on the outside.

I’m also struggling with balancing the academic with the experiential.  Much of this trip is experiential in learning and we are to take what we experience and communicate it effectively for our benefit and knowledge as well as for others understanding.  I haven’t yet found a balance “experiencing” and taking the time to “communicate” my experiences for myself.

We’re on our way to Thailand and I’m finding that I’m longing for more personal time to myself rather than looking for more and more to experience. I think this final leg of our trip will be the time when I will be able to begin sorting through my experiences and drawing out conclusions.

Unfamiliar Pilgrims

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Driving through the evening darkness tonight, four of us were on our way back from Saint John. Most of my thoughts and efforts over the last few days, even the last few weeks, have been consumed with our nearing departure for the far off countries of South East Asia. The only difference between the few weeks and the few days has been the concentration of the reality that we are leaving soon. And even though I have learned so much about the history and religions, about the empire of Srivijaya and the temples of Ankor Wat or of the colonization by Europeans, I can’t help but think of how geographically and culturally far apart I am from these soon-to-be-seen countries.

Rather than last minute mental preparations to keep myself calm and collected, ready to face the emotional and mental challenge of stepping into a new and completely unfamiliar place, I have been doing last minute preparations to make sure that I have the right shoes to wear to class, the special kind of socks so that my feet don’t smell, a tooth brush and toothpaste. And so I found myself in a car on my way to Saint John with four friends, pilgrims, who were looking for the same preparedness stepping onto the plane when the bags are packed and inaccessible in the cargo hold underneath. I’m sure I would be tricking myself into thinking it not important to have enough underwear or deodorant. And I’m sure that my classmates and trip leaders would soon agree. But as good as it is to have my physical self in order I hope I will have my non-physical self in order for when I step off the plane into a different place. I may be stepping out somewhere different but I hope that I will find that the grandest of unfamiliarities will speak of some distant part of myself or my way of seeing things that I had not noticed or seen before. Because while I am separated from South East Asia by thousands of miles and by centuries of time, when we step off the plane a defining moment will have occurred. All the events of history and religion will culminate in my reality by having arrived. Oh goodness, I hope I’m ready to no longer try to be prepared. But instead I hope I will be open and willing for not my belongings to be used or broken into, but rather my understanding.

Some final reflections – Raymond Funk

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I have a hard time believing that I have just seen some of the most important places and works of art of the Western Civilization. It seems humanity is captivated by these places and these things, at least the many of us in the western hemisphere. Is humanity moved by these pieces and places? Yes. But, these pieces and places were moved by humanity first. And so humanity itself is captured through and captivated by the amazing cities, churches, sculptures, paintings and cultures we have experienced through this trip.

I have stood in places where humanity has shown its ability to function at its worst, and in the same place where humanity functioned, though suppressed and struggling, at its best (Dachau). I saw how wealth and power applied in the right way can bring a flourishing of colour and expression in art, but in the same place have seen where wealth and power applied in the wrong way can bring oppression and division (Italy, the Vatican). I have sat in a huddle of tents, completely frustrated by the friends around me, and have sat in that same place completely amazed by the friends around me.

There is both a problem in us and a solution in us as well. We have a great capacity for creating pain, for taking away life. But we have also been given a great capacity to give life. How do we become better at giving life to the world around us?

how to describe europe trip 2008? – Raymond Funk

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It maybe best to list some words to describe it:overwhelming- the places, cultures and ideas I have encountered have been so rich in history and events. We focus on many of the famous people like Michaelangelo, Gaudi, Dürer and Hitler, but these are representatives (brilliant or famous as the may be) of the people of that time. They are both shaped and shapers of that time. How does one weigh and separator the influences of the past without feeling a sense of injustice in not being able to account for so many influences. And how can we not be amazed at the paradox of feeling small, shaped by our culture or circumstance, yet at the same time have so much potential to create change.That may be one of the great aspects of this trip. Understanding the potential for influence and the creative potential for change.Shoot, that is just one word, and only one aspect of it. But like our trip there is so much in it it cannot be easily described at once.