conflict resolution in the Philippines?

By 2010, Asia No Comments

International Crisis Group monitors conflict and potential conflict situations around the world and makes recommendations to governments regarding effective ways to address these situations. For those of you who have travelled to and become familiar with the insurgency conflicts in the Philippines involving both the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), check out this recent recommendation from Crisis Group that gives an historical synopsis on the situation and immediate recommendations to all parties involved.

The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines: Tactics and Talks, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses why, after fighting for more than 40 years, neither the army nor the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has been able to win militarily.


By 2010, Asia No Comments

Q: How was your trip?

A: It was great.

A generic answer to a generic question, but there is so much more to my trip than that.  Once people dig a little deeper and show some genuine interest in my past two months, I open up.  “It was great” then turns into “Well, this one time when I was in Thailand…”, and things start to get interesting.  People then start to find out about all the awesome experiences I had and all the great people I met.  As I get going more and more stories pop into my mind which lead to more stories and more stories and… well you get the picture.  A lot can happen in two months, and a lot did happen.  New friendships were formed, old ones made stronger, life lessons learned, and stories stories, stories.  Besides all of the “fun stuff”, there was also that little tiny part of the trip called education, which really wasn’t a little tiny part of the trip.  It was a HUGE part of the trip.  I am pleasantly surprised with how much I remember about the history, economics, politics, social structures, etc of the countries I visited.  I know for a fact that unless I had experienced what I learned it would mostly be lost by now.  We all know how it is.  You learn something in a lecture and then a few weeks later it is gone.  But with this trip it was like information was forced to stay with me before it had a chance to leave.  I would learn about Thai culture and then go live with a Thai family.  I would learn about the different hill tribes and their struggles and then go live with those very people for a few days.  This trip has shown me the value of experiential learning and that it is a more holistic approach to learning.  I learned so much academically, but I learned equally as much about myself and others.  So now all that is left to say is… Europe trip here I come.


sixty-four feet

By 2010, Asia One Comment

I am afraid my thoughts are scattered and won’t form a proper sentence. A thought-spewed-sort-of-poem will have to suffice:

sixty-four feet meet hundreds of other feet;

hundreds of dirty, large, clean, deformed, well-traveled, small, pedicured, hidden and smelly feet;

cross-cultural feet.

some feet walk here; a long time ago, over there;

in this house the feet do this,

and over there they go like this.

time’s passed now.

four feet were sick; two feet were burnt; fifty eight feet are tired of rice;

SEA’s been seen, learned, and studied now;

SSU’s sixty-four feet are tired now.

sixty-four feet are happy though;

thankful for the other sixty-two feet

while remembering all the pairs that were met along the way.


I wonder if people could recognize me if all they saw was my hands?

By 2010, Asia No Comments
[- This was my last journal entry from the trip, although edited slightly and I thought it was fitting to share it in parting. I hope you have enjoyed our updates thus far, and that some of our “imperfect words” will have stirred you in some small way -]

The Sukhothai part of the trip was terririce. The ruins are so impressive, and one cannot help but wonder about the poeple who inhabited it and what they and their lives were like. We saw the hundreds of spiders that build their webs deep in the porous stones, towering stupas shaped like lotus buds, and some really awesome trees (yes, i climbed them – this is me we’re talking about). My goal is to have my backflip functional by Europe. That way, I’ll be able to flip off of all the most important monuments.

One of the very coolest things I’ve seen on the trip was a wat containing the Speaking Buddha. The story goes that a prince resisted the Burmese occupation of his city by hiding in the temple and climbing behind the massive statue, and tricking them. He shouted threats and warnings from behind the statue, in Burmese, while he had learned after being captured and enslaved when he was younger. We went inside and I could see that the whole building was designed for a voice to resonate, especially if it came from the area behind the head of the Buddha. Quite interesting.
Our guide told us that there are 38 points of difference between the human form and the Buddha, thereby making each statue into a representation of the Buddha as “a being unlike any other”. This is done to balance the feminine and masculine characteristics, and set him apart as special and unique amongst all religious figures. Personally, I find great comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was very much a human. Identifying with our savior is a powerful idea. Furthermore, I think the Christ figure is the most intriguing, complex, and revolutionary  figure ever, in any history or religion. Of course, this is because of my bias, which is finding my whole life and faith rooted in that person, but I still think it’s true. I want to know more of what he looks like. You know? I bet his hands were amazing to look at, strong and tanned. Jesus probably had wonderfully human hands. And so will I be, as part of his body – Fearfully and wonderfully human. And so is his desire for all people, to be alive, from Bangkok to Calgary, Kelowna to Manila, Chiang Mai to St. Stephen.

So be alive my friends.

Until Next Time,

I am terrified of what is seemingly inevitable…

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I don’t want to do it.
I don’t want to forget.

From my experience, coming home from a trip overseas is so bittersweet. I am always happy to be back with the people I love, in a place I know, but I am always heartbroken to have to leave my beautiful new home behind. I loved Thailand, I could live in Thailand, and I learnt so much there! How could I ever forget all the new things I’ve experienced, the new things I’ve learned, and the new memories I’ve made.
Yet it always seems to happen. Slowly, the passion fades, the new ideals slowly get lost, and you end up in the same routine you had before you went on this life-changing adventure.
This time I want it to be different. I want my to keep my memories fresh in my mind. I want to stay passionate about the injustice I’ve seen. I want to remember the people that I’ve met and the friends that I’ve made. And I think this time it will be possible, because I am in a community (sorry, had to say it) of people who have experienced this alongside me, and we will be there to remind each other, reminisce with each other, and relate to each other.
Initially, I was NOT looking forward to travelling with such a large group of people, but now I am realizing what a treasure it has been. I now have over 30 people who I can share these memories with. That’s 30 people who won’t let me forget anything I’ve learned or experienced over the past two months, and I’m not about to let them forget either.

Love you guys. Thanks for the adventure,

back to hobbit holes

By 2010, Asia No Comments

Leaving home to attend to a traveler’s dream is one thing

but returning home is a different thing altogether.

You dream about hot showers, grilled cheese and texting. But the thing is, the moment you land on Ontario soil you begin to miss Pad Tai, 3$ massages, and the hot hot sun. The saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ rings true in my ears. I can’t say that culture shock is the right word for what I have gone through in the past week or so. Considering everyone is buzzed on Starbucks coffee and Ho Ho Ho The Holidays I find myself disgrunteled and feeling slightly superior to others. I feel as though many people will never experience the things I have nor will they understand them. I look in the mirror, ‘Is my face turning green?’ Have I really become that much of a North American Grinch?

I find the cool Canadian breeze as it airs out some of my memories of the trip. I am brought back to the moment I caught Joaquin looking through my suitcase, as I walked into the room, I asked him, ‘Joaquin, what are you doing?’ he replied, ‘Snooping’, as he continued to look through my makeup bag. I almost laugh out loud at the memories I built with 4 complete strangers in a completely foreign country. It is amazing the bond you can create with someone through a shared experience a shared culture. People took us into their homes and made us a part of their family. It is something I treasure, something that will remind me of my stay in Asia. Through this experience I have had to create a family on the road, whether it be through the travelers who sweat, bled and laughed alongside me or whether it was a stranger who eventually became a friend. It seems strange that we have all reached our little destinations, our little hobbit holes that we call home, the place we dreamt about while sitting in buses on planes or driving about Chiang Mai. It is these moments that led up to us being reunited with our families that makes leaving Asia that much more bitter sweet. But hey, someone’s gotta leave the cookies out for Santa…


Post-Asia Withdrawals

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It’s been nearly two weeks since our time in Thailand ended. We parted ways in two groups in Hong Kong, and slowly lost each other on connecting flights along the way home. Instead of going straight home after Asia, I opted to first stay for a couple weeks in British Columbia, as i’ve never been before.

One of my first experiences in Vancouver was figuring out the transit system with Nygel. It is quite similar to Kuala Lumpur’s, except that it costs nearly 14 x the price. We payed $7.50 each to take the skytrain into Vancouver city from the airport. In our Thai pants and t-shirts, transfered from train to train to bus, and walked in the 5ºC weather another few blocks to Sam and Megan Wollenberg’s. I crossed a high-traffic road, dodging around cars, completely forgetting how things work in Canada. I am so accustomed to darting across traffic that i didn’t even give it a second thought.

One of the most immediate differences here in Kelowna is the difference in poverty. Though there are homeless people living here, they are living in different conditions. There are food and sleeping shelters, along with street churches geared toward the homeless. Though not all of the needs of the homeless can really be met, this system is much more helpful and considerate than anything i ever witnessed in Asia. It also pains me deep in my conscience to see teenagers spending $15 to go to a bar show, and choosing Starbucks over the rampant cheaper local and fair trade shops.

The open nature of the Thai (and Lanna) people, combined with their desire to share their culture with us, were drawing features to cause someone like me to want to spend an extended amount of time there. Think about it: If you asked a SEAsian immigrant living in North America why they moved here, would they have the same impression of North American people?

Southeast Asian people have something real good going on. Watching their interactions amongst their families, and how close they hold each other to their heart (and very being), has really made me miss my family. I can’t wait to fly home to my family tomorrow.

being in Canada only changes the temperature.

By 2010, Asia No Comments

So, what’s different in Canada that I couldn’t get in Thailand? Snow; lots – and lots – of snow. I’ll admit, I was used to the sun setting earlier in the tropics, but 4 o’clock in the afternoon is ridiculous. I presume this winter will be difficult for me to handle after the course of this three month venture, and not simply because the temperature differential will be over 60 degrees.

In Thailand, I remarked that the greatest failure we could achieve whilst at home was to ignore the things we learnt in the process of re-assimilating. Whether it’s a good thing or not, my first thought as I saw snow-covered Ontarian soil was ‘how do the poor live in this weather?’ Now, the poor of Canada are likely perceived differently than those of Thailand, Malaya, Luzon or Myanmar, but the fact remains that they live in comparable inequity from us.

Of course, that doesn’t need to be as depressing as it sounds – a reminder of a sad thing is most disappointing when it is acknowledged and then ignored; I intend to act on this reminder, as there is a fairly large bloc of homeless in my home city. And whether we see it or not, from BC to NFLD, there are people in our communities who could use assistance.

The snow was instant visual catalyst to remind myself I was in a different place than where I just was. For me, the next five months are about Canada. I hope you can find your own catalyst to remind yourself that you have the choice to be an innate part of your community, or a live one.


In the year 2553…

By 2010, Asia No Comments

This year has been absolutely insane for me. A winter in Oakville, a summer in Europe, a fall in Southeast Asia, and they expect me to “process” this with eloquence in a blog ten days after it’s all over. I honestly haven’t had the time to sit down and just rest in my thoughts these past ten days. What to say?
I find myself watching Asian waiters in restaurants, and noticing they have some of the same cultural tendencies that I picked up in SEA. I find myself still using small cultural tendencies that I picked up in Thailand. I find myself watching Canadians, and how disgusting some of our habits are. With the excessive spending at Christmastime and the leftover food getting thrown out, there is more to Christmas than that.
People keep asking me what the best part of my time is SEA was, or what I learned while I was there, and I find it hard to give them a twenty second answer, because, well, you’d have to read my entire journal and then look at all my pictures before you’d even BEGIN to understand what I saw and how I felt when I experienced these things.
I have noticed a change in myself since I got back. I spend more time listening and watching than I do talking; I’d rather hear about my friends’ past couple months than share about my own experiences. I’m quieter, I check myself in order not to culturally offend those around me. Things I was looking forward to when I came home have not fulfilled me now that I’m back; I no longer desire those things. What I desire is to be back in Thailand, or to be somewhere else, travelling, soaking in the culture around me, being a part of every single tree and person and market stand I pass by. I’m addicted to travel, the unknown, the adventure.
But I am here, in Oakville, in St. Stephen, and I cannot be placing my dreams and thoughts elsewhere for now. I hope I can slip back into culture here, back into 2011 with grace, but never to forget what I have learned and seen elsewhere.


…the end.

By 2010, Asia No Comments

Everything is rushing in; memories, emotions…water.  Yes water, can you believe it?  I was expecting to come home to snow instead I get a flood, in December!  Even so it is good to be home, where I am able to process the last two months in a familiar and comfortable environment.

Although in the beginning I had no desire to go to Southeast Asia with my classmates, I am glad I did.  I will say it was difficult being on the other side of the world from home, staying in the houses of people we had never met and who barely spoke English (Thai home-stay), and spending all day nearly every day with the same thirty people.  I am thankful to those of you back home who did pray for what I asked you to pray for, patience.  It is obvious you did, because if you hadn’t I wouldn’t have made it past the second week.  Although I do seemingly have a lot of negativity, I can say with one hundred percent certainty I enjoyed this trip.  The experience is a once in a lifetime chance I am extremely thankful for, and given the opportunity I would do it again in a heartbeat (with some minor changes :)).


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