“This Meal Makes the Denny’s Grand Slam Look Like a Carrot”

Let me just disclaim that this is an extremely messy, spur-of-the-moment post that I feel the need to write for the sake of rejuvenation. After mustering up the courage to remove myself from the couch and finally post on update on life since landing on home turf in May, I just want to break the ice by wishing you all: a happy new year. May 2014 bring you all good energy, success, and new opportunities 2013 failed to do (namaste). Generally, I’m not one to have any resolutions for the new year, but more so for every month. However, it being a new year makes it extra fresco and makes me more inclined to live up to those new goals. Oh my god, what a boring and cliché way to kick off the first blog post of the year; let’s talk life from May to present, and that nagging desire that still sets up camp in my noggin to go places.

LIFE (AT A GLANCE) SINCE MAY:
So, as tradition holds, I worked (though it certainly was way too fun to call it that) as a group leader/counsellor this past summer. And – again, as tradition holds – met some very cool people along the way, some who I – without naïvety – claim to be some of my closest amigos. Not only that, but I had the most unique and genuine opportunities to get closer to mates that I formerly had done training with, worked with in past years, or gotten to know throughout the year, All in all, a really good summer made it that much more difficult (boo hoo, I am such a wimp) to adapt to the new school year. Here are some shots that only capture a glimpse of the summer:

July 27_0021On the job (part I).

August and September_0003On the job (part II).

July 27_0009On the job (part III)… just kidding, this is totally off the job.

August and September_0009Off the job (part II).

August and September_0018Having the honour of co-counselling with a long-time, long-distant chum. The most blissful days of my life.

August and September_0038Brother from another mother. Seriously considering NZ this April.

August and September_0046Sister from another mister. Mal, if you’re reading this, it’s embarrassing how little we see each other considering: (A) we live right beside each other, (B) we work as curry vendors outside at the same joint of working as counsellors, and (C) we now go to the same uni. Respect.

Now this may not pose as a big deal to some, but it’s very important to myself considering the transition from point A: my lack of knowledge of not having a single clue in this entire galaxy of what I wanted to do, to point B: finally getting my foot in the academic door.

LET ME RANT FOR JUST A HOT SECOND:
Having entered a new and larger educational institution as such an emotional wreck (yes, there were some shenanigans that happened during the last week of summer that scrambled my brains to a delicate pulp), I can say that I didn’t have the best start to my first semester at this new university. Further, in comparison to how I kicked off things at my former college (i.e. a newly formed self confidence, determination, and an all-around drive that allowed me to get shit done and get to where I wanted to), I was (stupidly) getting down on myself and just not living up to the potential I knew I could.

Though the catalysts in this weren’t clear, I think I can blame no one but myself. I don’t want to resort to issues such as family health, social relations, etc., because in the end, I always had such a good network of friends and family – maybe even better than I had before. As I sit here now, I’m thinking it was me who was closing off help or just being too damn stubborn (who knows!).

Anyways, don’t want to get too personal/intense about this little snippet of my ever-changing youth; just merely want to paint the picture of how poorly I kicked off the school year, and allowed the bad to trump the good.

So anyways, fast-forward to the end of the semester (we’re talking mid-December), and I’m fairly pleased with my final exam performance that I must celebrate with a huge-ass pancake from Jethro’s with my life-long guru (dadi) and bruva. Sitting with the two lads that I’m honoured to call my family allows me to start the winter break, and end the semester on a high note.

August and September_0048My fellow pancake munchers.

However, my winter break pretty much consisted of either recovering from hangovers or watching Anthony Bourdain’s travel series No Reservations or Parts Unknown. Picture this: a couch potato watching this ultra bad ass just travelling the world one country at a time learning all about the history, people, culture and food of every one of those places. And yes, the title of the post is indeed from one of his episodes – specifically when eating a series of deep-fried meats in Colombia. This juxtaposing image essentially portrays my time off in a nutshell, and not surprisingly made me nostalgic as equally as it made me long for future travels.

Now for those of you who don’t know, I’m an intended International Studies major. What I’ll do career-wise: who the fuck knows; but what I can say from the heart is that any title with the word “international” in it sounds pretty damn alluring to me. I hate to come off unknowledgeable about the job opportunities and ignorant about my education, but let me clarify this: during my past semesters at both schools, I’m always learning new things, and with that, learning about myself and how little I know. That being said, I don’t want to be blindly picking careers and not considering the ethics behind it, and this has been a constant theme in the course material shared with me and other students. So folks, although it may take me eons to where I’m going, I’m sure it will be somewhat worth it in the end. And hey, who knows, maybe I’ll be getting my income from being the next celebrity traveler, roaming the nooks and crannies of our globe (i.e. the next Bourdain).

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE:
I have a fresh new semester to look forward to starting tomorrow. Although I’ll be pulling out my hairs for the next couple of years getting this lousy certificate that we are largely dependent on to get anywhere in society (we’re just lacking the creativity to get anywhere without it, really), I’m doing this because I feel like by getting some sort of an education, I can contribute – as minuscule as it may be – something to our crazy planet (Kumbayah, am I right?).

But let’s get real here: the best lessons I have ever learned have been through hands-on experience, listening, and stopping to smell the roses, AKA the marvels that naturally come along with gallivanting in your own backyard, to jetting to international turf. Note that these marvels consist both of the good and the bad, but it’s from those very unique experiences that I think have allowed me to be the broad I am today. Additionally, I think I owe a lot to my family and friends (holy shit, what a pompous bitch! I sound like I’m accepting an award or something. Pardon me), especially my pa, in allowing me to exchange a set of open ears for theirs. Some of the greatest lessons to be learned are often found in social transmission (I don’t have a study to back this, but it certainly has been an experience of my own).

July 27_0004My rock – who also rocks my world.

So, I leave you, my readers with a very general, pretty bland and uninteresting update of Gonzo’s vida loca since May. More updates in the future to come (and more frequently at that, I hope).

Yours truly,
The haphazard-yet-determined-nomadic student, Amira

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Picking Fruits off the Tree of Life

Well it’s that time of the year again: September. A month of jumbled emotions, tasks and above all, minty memories from the summer that by brain is always occupied by.

Now let me set my intentions straight… I don’t want to be a pessimist and make this a post about me bitching about the memories that I’ll probably never relive, but I’d like to relish in those little delights and hopefully by writing a blog post about how amazing those times were, it will help me once again find myself in the utter bliss that I was prancing around in.

It all started when I dropped out of college (just kidding, but now that I ponder more on the idea, the truer it is. (Love ya’, education, but I got some genuine experiences these past months that will effect my life in a way that a textbook can’t). I really shouldn’t say “dropped out of”, because come Tuesday, I’ll be back in the realms of the academics. Anyways, did the homestay, teaching and backpacking solo gig from January to May. It was an incredible experience, and I’ve never craved Asia more since my arrival until tonight while sobbing over a cigarette (I’m not an emotional wreck, I swear. Tears of joy, people, tears of joy).

Fast forward to mid-May and I’m back on home turf. Saddened and confused, yet somewhat enlightened. I look back on the adventures that I had abroad, the unique cuisine, the near-death experiences, the locals, and what fascinated me most: the travelers. I’ll get to that later and how that particular tidbit is making me expand my ideas of what “success” is now.

A couple weeks after landing, some chums and I head south to Quincy, Washington for Sasquatch – essentially a modern day Woodstock. Do I remember most of it? Yeah… no. What do I remember vividly? That I had a wicked time.

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The Gorge Amphitheatre.

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Our home.

ImageCruising around Quincy.

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Reunited.

Okay, where are we now? Late June. I begin round #2 of staff training at a camp just a ferry ride from home, of which most of the staff have been going to as campers, and now, counselors. Essentially, it’s a whole bunch of awkward encounters with everyone: forced socialization, meals where strangers sit with other strangers (and pretty much everyone is playing around with their cutlery or starring at their food, avoiding conversation), doing skits of dos and don’ts at camp, and more. But now that I look back on it, I do miss it. Because in the end, we became one insanely large family (aw, how cute). In all seriousness though, some of the folks that I’ve met here have become life-long friends… the people that your meet in this field of work are like no one else you’ve ever met. Everyone is unique in their own way, and I don’t mean that in a cliché manner. Really. They’re either well-traveled, international workers that have a bazillion stories to tell, or have specific personality traits that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you like it. Not only that, but you have the coolest adventures with them. Whether they may be simple or extreme, they’re just all around good times.

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After the awkward stage/wasn’t really awkward all along. We were just delusional.

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Classic photo depicting an aimless wander around town on days off.

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Another day off tradition: cutting each other’s hair.

Now, here we are. The first of September, and reality has taken the biggest slap to my face. After procrastinating/sweeping the matter under the rug, I’m only enrolled in one course this semester. Coming back from travelling, I thought I had it all put together: went to the college to have a chat with the guidance counselor about career options; did my research into courses; and organized my books from last semester into how they would help me in the semester to come. Nope! I lived in a fairytale this summer, had my head in the clouds thinking that everything would be just peachy, and let life happen while I was chasing it as it sped away. Come late July, and I finally register for courses. My bad. Now I’m kicking myself in the stomach because I was talking the talk, but not walking the walk – one of my biggest pet peeves. All I can look at for this semester is potential to capitalize on other things: working, getting back into guitar (did I mention I played for 8 years and stopped as soon as I started going to school?), and working on an art portfolio. Again, these are just words, but I feel like that by somehow electronically submitting these plans, I’ve made a promise to the world-wide web and myself that this will happen.

Ah, now here’s the perfect opportunity to tell y’all how I found meeting other travelers when I was trekking overseas, one of the most fascinating aspects of my SE Asian experience. What I observed was that everyone was coming from different backgrounds, and as part of those backgrounds, came a different set of ideas of “success”. Just for example, when meeting other explorers, whether it be at the hostel in Laos, a beach in Thailand, or a restaurant in Cambodia, when I gave them the low down on my education background, the responses were “wow”, “cool”, “good on you”, etc., and I loved it! Finally… a world where picking at the fruits of the academic tree and taking a little bite of every one wasn’t shameful or didn’t label you as “undecided” (and even so, “undecided” shouldn’t be a bad thing). I was lucky enough to meet people who were workers at grocery stores back home in Sweden, doctors from Alberta, art history students in Dusseldorf, NGO workers from Australia teaming up with Cambodians, and everything else in between. What I’m trying to say is: who says that the 10 years that you “wasted” of your life on learning more about the world around you, meeting new people, following your passion(s), doing personal research on a global issue you want to change, studying abstract courses as opposed to the classics/traditional, will not benefit you in your life to come? I’ll fill you in on the way I look at it: no one will tell you that if you don’t let it get to you.

My mistake? I do let it get to me, and I’m torn between doing the things I find appealing or the things that society, for the most part, finds appealing.

So… tree of life, let me pick at your fruits. I’m ready to dip my toes in.