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New Noise

By 2011, Europe No Comments

Everything looks different to me. Since returning home my perspective has significantly shifted. My “Maple Leaf Glasses” have come off and I have begun to view my surroundings from a global perspective rather than an inward focused selfish view. Travelling Europe has broadened my understanding of my role in the world; especially as a Canadian. All of the countries we’ve visited have overcome a vast amount of adversity since the beginning of their establishment. Never in my life have I experienced such nationalism; each country, in a different way, celebrate their downfalls and achievements to such an extent that one can not help but admire. A Canadian visiting Vimy Ridge can not do so without significantly affecting their worldview. To be in a country in which you do not need to earn respect, but are given respect immediately is an incredible honor. Contrarily, to be in a situation in which you must continually fight for the respect of a person or entire people group is a terrifyingly humbling experience. The personal growth that these notions have produced in me during our time in Europe are, and will continue to be, valuable gems in my life. When I feel my old worldview creeping back my now past experiences begin to ring a new kind of noise in my life.


McDonald’s & Food Standards in the EU

By 2011, Europe No Comments

McDonald’shas 6,600 restaurants in 40 European countries. I have eaten at 10. Currently I have dined in restaurants in Barcelona, Nice, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Paris, and intend to dine in restaurants in Brussels and London. The reason me and my fellow classmate, Madi Smith, have chosen to take on such a lofty task is because of the difference in food standards within the European Union.

During the 1990’s American companies decided to approach the government with new innovative and efficient methods of producing food for the masses. Today this food is called genetically modified, perfectly engineered livestock and has been designed on a biological level to produce the most consistent types of food. At the end of the 20th century many American companies set their sight on the European food market while seeking to expand their sales demographic. Farmers and politicians alike immediately banded together to prevent the introduction of genetically modified food into the European Union.

Once one enters Europe, regardless of the country, it becomes immediately evident that food is kind of a big deal. Each respective country prides itself in its own unique cuisine. For France it’s crepes. In Italy it is pizza and pasta. Austria has its unique coffee culture. And of course Germany had sausages, lots of sausages. The way McDonald’s has adapted its policies, store layouts, and menus to accommodate the country that it wishes to relate to is remarkably brilliant. Three of the most notable features I have been most impressed with were the widespread introduction of McCafe, the availability of local beers and wines, and the availability of specific food which identify directly with national identity. The introduction of McCafe to European McDonald’s restaurants has taken the American reputation of the restaurant chain and completely reinvented itself as a higher class establishment fit for the cafe culture of Europe. By offering select local beers and wines in their stores the restaurant managed to integrate a concept we are foreign to in North America, alcohol as a cultural expression rather than a rebellious action. And finally, by offering unique menu selections that are specific to each country McDonald’s became a local restaurant instead of a corporate money grabber.

For a North American, it seems impossible to view McDonald’s in this light. But, after literally seeing and tasting it for myself, my perspective has changed dramatically. The McDonald’s Corporation is one of the most brilliant companies in the world today implementing such strategies that support local farmers of each area they inhabit. In Britain, France, and Switzerland McDonald’s uses organic milk products. The decision to do so was made when the dairy market began to decline in Europe and the corporation chose to support the industries of the areas it resided in. As well, over half of the potatoes used in European McDonald’s come from the United Kingdom.

By the time this trip is over I will have eaten at at least 12 different McDonald’s restaurants in 9 different countries within the European Union and if I could, I would eat more.


The G-Spot ; )

By 2011, Europe No Comments

I’m begining to understand the church on a global level. I walked in to Saint Peter’s Square yesterday and felt what it was like to stand at the center of Christendom. Although I don’t choose to affiliate myself with the Catholic Church, having grown up in an Evangelical denomination, the knowledge and experience that the Catholics have gifted to Protestantism is indescribable. Upon entering the square I made my way to the God Spot, a small one-foot-round metal tile that Bernini specifically designed so that whoever stands upon the tile will see every pillar in the square become aligned. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that this single spot could so accurately depict the fragile existence of the global Church. When the entire body of the Church congregates on the metaphorical God Spot (seeking God first before consulting ourselves and our peers), the Church becomes unified in an unmeasurable way. But, if any one deviates even one foot from unity and order, they are thrust into a world of disarray and chaos with little meaning in their movement and message. The God Spot is where we as Christians should all strive to reside; centered and clear minded.


Rethinking Identity

By 2010, Asia No Comments

Well, I’m home now. Unfortunately I brought a souvenir that I wish I hadn’t. Putting that aside, spending the last ten days in Canada has really put into perspective the Southeast Asia trip.  I find myself noticing things that I would have never batted an eye towards prior to the trip. I walk in and out of stores and see those charity baskets that promise better lives for those living impoverished in third world countries and I think to myself “I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I lived in the midst of it.” I feel as if I could have done so much more to make a difference. I think I’ve begun to realize that simply existing in my own life is no longer an option after this trip. I need to exist with a mindfulness for the rest of the world.

I can definitely say that the home-stay experience that I had while in Laoag and Chiang Mai will not leave my memory. The privilege to live in the home of a local and live life as they did, to a certain degree, is actually indescribable. However, I know that won’t suffice for readers of this blog so I will dive into some detail. In the Philippines I was woken up every morning by roosters and dogs. I hated it at the time but recalling it now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I just need to say that there is something refreshing about an ice cold shower.

While in Chiang Mai I had the opportunity to go with my home-stay family to an eight hour, traditional Buddhist service that has forever changed my outlook on and respect for Buddhism and its followers. Their devotion to their faith is without question the most devote I have ever seen.

So as I try to assimilate back in to Western Culture I’m having a hard time. I see and attempt to do things that were so natural, and even innate at times, and just can’t in right consciousness do it. I’m more aware of my place in the world and how it effects others. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without SSU’s Southeast Asia travel term.


Finally seeing

By 2010, Asia No Comments

I have found myself reminded regularly during visits to historical churches of Matthew 21 when Jesus cleanses the temple. It said something to the effect of the house of worship had become a den of thieves. Both here and in the Philippines it was blatantly obvious that local entrepreneurs we taking advantage of the popular tourist attraction as a place to make an honest buck. But is it really an honest buck? I must also back track and say that it seems that only Christian churches and Hindu temples have supported the prior observations. From my own visits to mosques I have found them to be the exception.

After spending a weekend wandering the city with no intentions or expectations, only anticipation; I discovered the uncanny. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of public transit I found myself comfortable. This comfort was and continues to be the point to which all my thoughts and experiences have originated from and returned to. My home has become wherever I am at any one time. During my time here my home is not just where a bed I have paid for lies. It moves with every step I take.

My final insight gained during my time in Malaysia relates to the country and it’s people as they relate to the rest of the world (and how the rest of the world relates to them). Although I have traveled outside of Canada in the past, I just now am realizing the impact of North America around the world. The customs we were taught before this trip only seem to be practiced, predominately, among the older generations of people. It seems to me, without overgeneralizing the notion and realizing that this is not a universal statistic but only based on my own observations in an urban setting, that language is the only major factor separating one culture from another; although many minor factors exist as well. Globalization has spared no expense in reaching southeast Asia. It has become apparent how easy it s to stay within my own western culture whilst in another country. The temptation to surround myself with my familiar culture by eating and hanging around westernized landmarks such as malls is at times too sweet to pass up.

By pushing myself to surpass my own culture, as best as one can, and embrace another’s culture, without infringement, I have begun to rise to the challenge of the great commission and Saint Francis ” preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.”

Resonating Bells

By 2010, Asia No Comments

Among the crowded streets emerges a significant peace. I saw a bell tower in the distance from the entrance of my hotel. Eroded and abandoned, this bell tower boasted the title of “the tallest in the area.” From a Western perspective one would assume that this would be a sacred place, representing one of man’s most sincere offerings to God. However, as much as I wanted it to cultivate all of my hopes, it could not. Surrounded by supermarkets, resteraunts, and shops this bell tower served a purpose that superceded my expectations. It acted as a central point from which the city would spread out. It was a beautiful representation of the integration of faith and the rest of one’s life in the Philippines.

I found myself questioning why in the West, for the most part, our faith symbols and places of worship are not the central points from which all cities emerge. Why are our churches not as physically present for all to see? The Philippines is primarily Catholic, and has been rooted, in most aspects of life, in Catholicism since the Spanish occupation. In contrast, Canada has never had a strong religious rooting. I am beginning to understand more and more that many of the countries in Southeast Asia were and/or are still predominately rooted in religious faiths. It is interesting to see how this influence affects the political affairs of the country. Here in the Philippines there is a bill trying to be passed about reproductive health and education, which includes national access to brith control and abortion. The main opposer of the bill is the Catholic Church because of their strict reservations about birth control, abortion, and sexual education. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this bill because it is one of a few times the Church and State have come in to a serious quarrel over political policy. But for now I exist to learn and understand the reasonings of this culture while attempting to assimilate into it as best I can.



I’m finding more and more that I am being pushed beyond the very limits I had unknowingly placed upon myself before departure. Bucket showers and a steady diet of rice are not something a typical Canadian experiences on a daily basis. Still, this reminds me of the great commission. If I am not willing to go into all the world and push past my own reservations to embrace another’s culture, then how far will God go for me?

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