2018 Year in Review

2018 is a year I want to remember. Thank you for all the support on the Blog and Vlog this year. Here are my 2018 highlights.

2018

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Happy New Year Everyone!

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Two Months in Vancouver

November 1 marks two months of living in Vancouver. The last blog I posted was back in September indicating I had moved. Learning to balance school and other activities I enjoy are very important. Here is an update of my life here two months in:

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Classes

We just passed midterm week and I can still say I love my classes. The reading has become completely manageable and the material is very interesting. I was always told that being an athlete would teach me effective time management for the rest of my life. Now I get it. It seems like there are so many hours in the day to get my work done and explore the city. Monday is my busiest day – Marathon Monday – because I have Leadership class and a foundations class that are both three and a half hours a piece. Tuesday is a research class and Wednesday is a class about well-being. There is also a class every other Saturday on ethics, which I enjoy since it was one of my undergraduate minors. Our cohort tries to make brunch plans every other Saturday when possible. We are constantly giving presentations and doing group project to learn the material. Everything is tying together really well and I still find myself being able to build off of the information I learned in undergrad.

Fun

Something my dad said to me before I moved here was make sure I actually do stuff. I will be living in such a beautiful place, I better experience it. When I made my budget spread sheet, one of the categories was “FUN”. On Monday October 22, one of my friends came with me to watch a Capitals Game after Marathon Monday. The Capitals were in town so once I saw the schedule, I knew I was going to this game. I had never been to Roger’s Arena before so I added it to the list of Arenas I have been to. They won 5-2 and I am so happy I went.

As a cohort, we have gone out to different brunch locations and some of us do weekly fitness classes together every Wednesday before our evening class. We got together after Marathon Monday last week and had a chance to get to know each other outside of school.

Tommy works at the aquarium now and I get to hear so many stories about what the animals do every day. I have never been to the Vancouver Aquarium and I am excited to go when he is not working.

Living Downtown

We live in a very convenient location and have a Costco and many grocery stories within walking distance. We have found many restaurants and other locations to explore. We live very close Canada Place and took a walk on the Canadian trail to see the sunset. Coal Harbor is still really beautiful and Stanley Park in Autumn is amazing. I have not gone in the direction of Gastown in a while but, that is definitely possible now that the weather is clearing up again. Yaletown is not too far either and has some great brunch places. I have never heard of Earl’s, which is a popular Canadian restaurant according to my Canadian classmates, but the brunch is great.

There is also a garden called the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classic Chinese Garden I want go see. I found it on a discover page for Vancouver and want to go during November for sure.

Filming Sets

Vancouver is a filming location for countless movies and television shows. In fact, I watch many of them. To name a few, The Flash, Arrow, and The Man in the High Castle. In the middle of October, I decided to start following what was filming around Downtown just in case there was something nearby on a day I did not have class. On October 19, The Flash was filming for the annual crossover in and around the Vancouver Art Gallery. I could not pass this up, so I went and watched the set up and sat in the square surrounded by the Central City Police cars. This was awesome. I went back later that night because that is when the filming was actually happening and it was PACKED. There were lights and cranes and so many people. What a production.

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Walks

On September 22, Tommy and I took a walk to a BestBuy to buy a laptop and in doing so, we walked across the Cambie Bridge. The views were beautiful. We could see the Science World building that reminds me of Epcot and the mix of nature and city. I loved this walk.

I took a walk one day through Canada Place and found a great place to watch the sunset while looking out at North Vancouver. I did this for three days in a row at the end of the week. Walking with no clear destination got me here, so I am doing it more. Coal Harbor is still one of my favorite places to walk to. The buildings and boats always l look different based on the time of day. With the leaves changing, Coal Harbor and Stanley Park look completely different from when I first got here.

Vlogging and Photography

Since I moved here, I decided to start Vlogging my days and I am wondering why I never did this any sooner. I was thinking about how I would travel to meets as a swimmer and took a ton of pictures. Even my previous trips to London and Italy, I wish I had filmed more. But, I wanted to enjoy these experiences and now I am learning how to film without neglecting the experience. Taking pictures of the leaves changing and Stanley Park remind me how beautiful this city is. I am going to ride the sky train for the first time in a few days and I am going to see so much more since I have only been getting places by walking.

 Journaling

As usual, I journal almost every day and have started making a list of Vancouver destinations and other cool places I want to see while I am living here. Whistler is at the top of the list along with making it over to North Van and seeing the night markets.

In addition to journaling about my day and how I am feeling, I started making a list of things that make me happy and adding to it every day. Being gracious and being mindful of what makes me happy and stressed is helping me live a healthier life.

 Living my best life ~

I MOVED… FOR MORE SCHOOL.

I have moved to Vancouver British Colombia to continue my education. And yes, I still wanted to be a student because honestly, I just love to learn.

This transition has been very exciting so far and I have met some great people. Thankfully, my mom and dad flew out here with me and three fifty-pound suitcases later, were here helping with moving in and creating a functional living environment. There was a ton of exploring going on while they were here and I took so many photos and videos of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Taiwanfest, the Vancouver Lookout, and many other amazing sites that are in my new city.

Tommy moved in on September 8 and we have been having a great time walking around different parts of the city and setting up the place to be ours.

I have just started my second week of classes and though things have barely begun, the schedule seems manageable. I have class exclusively at the start of the week, including marathon Monday 1-8 pm, which results in a nice chunk of time at the end of the week to read, rest, and start retaining the information. So far, I enjoy the field, which is good since it is a graduate program I selected and am willingly participating in. I find that a lot of what I studied during my time in undergrad has given me a solid foundation for what I need to know morning forward. I have come in with a strong background of the topics we have been discussing and feel I can contribute and add to my knowledge.

The last time I had anywhere near this much reading (was never) but existentialism class was the class that had the most reading in my undergraduate time. I have spent the last week reading everything to get caught up from when I didn’t have my books and now I feel like I am getting into the flow of things. My cohort is awesome so far. I have met some great people from other parts of Canada and even some from east coast United Stated. We are learning about connectivity, well-being, balance, and positive leadership aspects to ground our entire learning experience. We also get brunch together every other week.

I also, had a chance to meet other international students too which was a new experience for me since I have never been an international student before. Funny to say, sometimes I forget I am in another country. I’m sure it will hit me soon enough in different aspects.

Living in a different time zone has been a big adjustment. Having all my friends and family back home asleep before I even think of going to bed is new and kind of weird. So far, I am enjoying my time here in this beautiful city. We have walked through Stanley park

In other exciting news, I have started posting Vlogs on my YouTube channel. I wanted to have some video documentation of my move and how I was adjusting to my new life on the other side of the continent.

Stay tuned! There will always be more pictures and videos up as often as I want.

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo1usKrGwFaT-i67Aeh1lcQ

Travel Instagram: @talicia_travels

Summer Highlight Reel

What have I been up to since the Canadian Road Trip? … a lot

 

Capitals Win the Stanley Cup!!!

        After returning from the Canadian Road trip, I decided what the hell, I am going to go to DC as often as I can to watch the Capitals play because who knows when this will happen again. Stanley Cup Final Game 1, I was in Capital One Arena for the viewing party. Game 2 and 3 were watched from home in entirety. Game 4 was a home game so I watched of the arena, on the streets, with my dad. I watched game 5 from outside and was barely able to see the screens but it was worth it to be in the city. This was an unbelievable atmosphere in the city. I went back into the city with my cousin to watch the parade. This was so much fun to be a part of and for a team I have been watching for a while, it s exciting to see it all come together.

Coaching at Regency

        For the third straight summer, I had to privilege to coach at Regency Estates Swim Club once again. Growing closer with a community and being able to coach swimming has been unbelievable. Swimming has always been such a big part of my life and the appreciation for MCSL has grown more and more since I still get to be a part of it after graduating 4 years ago. All of the amazing activities I have been a part of because of Regency have been amazing. Coaching meets, food trucks, watching the Incredibles, Crab Feasts, 15-18 dinner, and of course getting to spend time with Erin again.

Hershey Park

        Another day trip for the summer brought to you by Regency Estates Swim Club. Erin was kind enough to drive the coaches to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a day trip to the amusement park. I do not ride rides, however, I went on one ride where there was a large waterslide and I felt pretty proud. Like most summer days, there was a huge rain storm that concluded the day a little early but, we still saw many of our swimmers there and having a great time.

Tommy visiting for a week

        I always love having Tommy here for any amount of time and this year, he came earlier in the season which meant he could be around for more of the meets and activities. We went to Mckee Sunflower fields sunflower fields and took a lot of pictures. We spent some time on the trail and are looking forward to spending more time together.

Kristen living in my house

        One of my best friends, college teammate, and lane companion for 2 years, happens to live about 20 minutes away from me. This summer, Kristen coached the summer team I grew up on which meant I had plenty more opportunities to see her. She has basically lived in my house. One day, when Erin came to visit, they danced in the rain in front of my house until I came home. Honestly, they bring out the best and goofy parts of me. We spent so much time swimming together in college that still having them around for a little was so nice.

Beach Day

        Erin drove Kristen and I for a celebratory beach get away in honor of the end of the MCSL season. A regency family kindly let us stay at their place so we would not need to drive there and back in one day. Unfortunately, there was not much beach time at all because it was raining all day but, still so nice to get away. We watched Friends and went to the Bethany Surf Shop and even met American Ninja Warrior, Joe Moravsky.

Nationals Games

        I have not been to a baseball game in YEARS. I actually cannot remember the last time I was in a stadium watching the Nationals play. Erin invited me to go to a game on August 1 and once again I decided, what the hell, I don’t appreciate baseball enough. I also went to Swim Night at Nationals Park with Regency on August 22nd.

Spending time with Cooper

        Cooper just gets me. My angel. Anyone who has a dog understand this I am sure. But man, having not grown up with a dog, I am like a child and everything he does is the cutest thing ever. The novelty has not worn off at all. He is just the best part of everything. I have been spending more time playing with him and watching how he lives his life because he is so happy all the time and radiates such positivity to everyone who sees him.

Family dinners

        With all the different schedules people are on, we still try to find time as often as possible to eat together. This is important. Enjoy the time you have with family because you do not want to look back and wish you had spent more time with them while you are away at school or out living your life. I LOVE my family. 

family dinner

Lifeguarding

        We all have to make money when coaching ends, so for the first time ever, I sat in the lifeguard chair to make some extra cash. We don’t always love what we need to do but, I was getting paid to watch a pool. Getting a little time to yourself like that is a luxury.

Ashlee came home!

–   We spend every other day together for about 2 weeks and always with our dogs. Cooper and Miso are really great friends and love spending time together. We watched movies and even took a hot yoga class together. 

ashlee comes home

Visiting Saint Francis

        I took a day trip to my Alma Mater during move in day and the first day of classes. I was met with so much love, big hugs (some attacks) and surprised faces all around. I was so happy to see some of my old teammates again and some of my professors. I loved every minute of being there. I have met so many amazing people throughout my time there and I will always keep in touch with them.

 

 

 

This summer gave me the chance to just do things without overthinking. I started to realize that being a little spontaneous every once and a while is a good thing. Seizing opportunities and trying new things give you the chance to make memories with great people. I have done so many different things with my time this summer because I just decided to go with it. I used to spend so much time overanalyzing things that really did not need that much thought. Going out and having fun does not need to be a complicated thought experiment. Other aspects of life require a lot of planning and preparation and serious consideration, but finding the time to spend your summer with great people doing new and exciting things should be something to gravitate towards.

I have hilarious and great friend who just remind me that it is important to enjoy everything you do as much as you can. When I surrounded myself with positive people and found a way to enjoy everything I needed to do, I realized that I didn’t need to have any limitations on myself and what I thought I was capable of doing with my life.

Take time to make sure the people who are important to you know that they are. Spend as much time with them as you can. Do not look back and regret anything because you wasted your time on something that did not need it.

Go with the flow, stop overthinking, enjoy the ride.

Avicii

Before I finished my last few weeks of college, one of my favorite artists, Avicii, passed away at the age of 28. Everyone has that one artist with music that resonates with them and the lyrics are deeply relatable.  I have been listening to his music for a long time and even went to his concert with a few of my friends back in July 2014. 

Avicii’s real name was Tim Berling. He was a Swedish musician. To remember him, I decided to compile some of my favorite lyrics from some of his songs and what they mean to me. All of these are lyrics in his songs. A lot of these songs were famous for how they sounded and the catchy rhythm is what made them popular. It is very easy to listen to these songs without actually hearing the words and the powerful message they have behind them.

Avicii

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Hey Brother

“There’s an endless road to rediscover”

My favorite line of the song is this one because it means that people before you have walked a path but you do not have to do the exact same things others have done.  So there is this endless road out in front of you and yet, nothing has to be set in stone with how you decide to walk through life. You are allowed to do something different and rediscover what has already been done by doing it your own way. You may have a new perspective to offer to the world or just are content with the happiness you find you are capable of within yourself. Go in the direction you want.  The choice of where you want to go is your own. For better or for worse, you get to decide that for yourself.

Sunset Jesus

“My dreams are made of gold. My hearts been broken and not alone in the road.”

Countless people will have similar battles in live and similar journeys where they will need to overcome adversity and challenges. But you are not the first person to go through what you are going through. Now, that is not intended to make you feel like just a number in the world.  Instead, it should remind you that it is okay to ask for help because it is not uncommon to fail on the path to your dreams. No one becomes who they are all on their own. You learn and grow from being around and interacting with other people.

“Breathe for minute, breathe for a minute, I’ll be okay.”

Simple but, effective. I was always told to count to 10 as a child when I would get upset or angry so I did not continue to lose my temper. Good one to remember for everyone.

Trouble

“I’ve seen trouble more than any man should bear but I’ve seen enough joy, I’ve had more than my share and I’m still not done I’m only half way there. I’m a million miles ahead of where I’m from but there’s still another million miles to come.”

Though my life has just begun, I know I will experience so much more than I already have. However, I feel fortunate enough to be able to see the growth in myself and how far I have come as a person and I am excited to grow and learn even more about myself and the world I am going into. The journey has just begun.

Wake Me Up

“All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.”

Sometimes you feel so sure about the path you are on and what you are doing when one day you sit back and think, what hell am I doing. That moment when you realize that you want to be doing and what you are doing are completely different and you wake up for a second to realize that you lost track of where you wanted to end up.  But that is okay, because in the end that teaches you more about yourself. That is part of being a person and growing. I experienced a lot of this in college and I know that it will happen hundreds of times in the future.

“I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where it starts.”

This is very powerful because you have no idea what will happen in your life. But you can open up a world of possibility by just starting something. Whether it is speaking with someone or applying for something that seems out of the league, it all starts with action. It starts with you. 

Broken Arrows

“And sometimes you lose it, sometimes you’re shooting broken arrows in the dark.”

Sometimes it feels like you are trying so hard to do everything you can and you aren’t seeing the impact you want. You’re stuck. Sometimes it seems like you pour everything into something and nothing comes out of it in the right way. The world can break your heart in so many ways but can also be where you find the parts of yourself and the people who make you feel whole again. Those will build you up and give you the tools you need to succeed (metaphorically and physically). 

Waiting for Love

“If there’s love in this  life, there’s no obstacle that can’t be defeated.”

Knowing and experiencing different kinds of love really open you up to seeing the world in a bigger picture type of way. There is nothing you cannot do. There is so much power within yourself coming from both yourself and the people who care about you, that there is nothing you cannot conquer, overcome, or achieve. Put you’re heart out there and open yourself to new experiences that will add to you as a person. Do not be overly compassionate and be taken advantage of, but at the same time, do not assume everyone will take advantage of you. It is about balancing. 

“For every dreamer a dream we’re unstoppable, with something to believe in.”

I find this quote very inspiring because everything just starts with an idea and taking a chance and finding the motivation and drive to dream big and do great things. There can be a lot of support within the friendships you have and the family you have. Don’t be afraid to dream big and know that there will be failures. But, that shouldn’t kill the dream if the dream is important and special to you. Ground yourself to something that failure cannot shake. 

The Nights

“One day, you’ll leave this world behind. So live a life you will remember.”

Live. Do everything you want to do. Take chances, travel, have positive experiences and be happy with what you put your time into . Surround yourself with people who make you feel happy and bring out the best in you. Live in a way that will make you smile when you look back. This was the lyric that circled the internet when Avicii passed away and rightfully so. 

There are so many more songs he has on his Stories album, True Album and others that I did not include that are also amazing. I would encourage you to listen.

I have picked lyrics from the most meaningful songs for me. However, I clearly love so many of his other songs. Aside from the ones I listed, Levels is one of his classic without words. Other songs with really powerful stories within the lyrics are Shame On Me, The Days, Dear Boy, Without You, Somewhere in Stockholm, and You Make Me (which has been my phone alarm for over 4 years).

I hope some of these lyrics have inspired you. They really have given me a lot to feel and think about.

 

Canadian Road Trip

Today is the one year anniversary of my first post on this site. It has been a great year with so much support and development in my writing. It just so happens that I also have something to post today as well!

I just got back from a family vacation. For 10 days, my family and I have been on a road trip through some of western Canada’s national parks. This trip was filled with long car rides sometimes 7+ hours (where we would pull over and take pictures wherever we wanted) to each destination.

We started in Seattle. Seattle is where we rented our home on wheels and drove to Vancouver right away. We spent 3 days in Vancouver before starting off into the national parks in British Colombia then Alberta. This was a true road trip because we drove over 100 miles every day, lived out of our luggage’s, and only spent one night in each given place after departing from Vancouver. It was a very eventful vacation indeed

Day 4: Vancouver to Kamloops

To kick off the trip, this drive was over 8 hours. Route 1 was the roundabout way that gave us a more scenic route to Kamloops, BC. We saw our first glimpse of the pretty clear blue-green water at Schkame Lake and this was the first time our car died. We met a nice man from Ontario who jumped our car twice (after I shut it off the first time) and got on the road again. We found some waterfalls and other overlooks that looked like a post card.

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Day 5: Kamloops to Jasper

Jasper National Park. This drive took over 8 hours and was the longest drive on the trip. During the drive today, the time changed from pacific to mountain time. We stopped again at another blue colored lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park. Tonight, we arrived at the hotel in time to watch the last period and a half of game 6 (go caps) and stayed in what looked like a split-level ski lodge room.

Day 6: Jasper to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge Banff

Banff National Park. Today was the most eventful day as we saw and did the most. We woke up this morning with the car dead again which set us back about 3 hours from the time we were trying to leave for Lake Louise. (road side assistance said we weren’t allowed to be in Canada after recommending the vehicle for this specific trip and hung up – don’t rent Fox). We got the car jumped and then were on our way again. The entire drive took place on route 93 Alberta.  Everything was within walking distance from the roads and after we saw what we wanted, we hopped back into the minivan. 

  • Athabasca Falls: a really powerful waterfall in Jasper National Park 
  • Athabasca Glacier: Hiking up a glacier through snow, on an incline, was entertaining.
  • Moose Lake: The second we saw the color of this water, we pulled over right away.

We ended up driving 30 miles past the hotel and had to turn around. Our hotel was on Bow Lake which was frozen when we drove past and decided not to stop. This hotel was called the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and it was a hidden treasure. We met an old couple that has been coming here for 40 years and they called it paradise. I would highly recommend this vintage lodge experience to anyone because of the relaxing vibes. There was no service, only moderate speed WiFi and our rooms did not even have televisions. It did not really matter because the views were worth it. The reflections of the massive mountain on the water outside our window were spectacular.

Day 7: Lake Louise to Kamloops

Today was the actual Lake Louise visit. Lake Louise was beautiful. Though it was still frozen, we found places to see the blue color and the huge glacier. The hotel itself was pretty impressive so we decided to have lunch at the Fairmont Chateau. This was something else. They even gave us a window seat so we could look out and see the whole lake and mountains right there. After a nice long lunch, we set off on the ride back to Kamloops which was still about 6+ hours.

I used some of this time to stream game 7. Absolutely thrilled with the outcome. I am really happy as I am a caps fan and will enjoy watching more hockey. We spent the night in Kamloops once again and the same hotel from a few days ago.

Day 8: Kamloops to Vancouver

Today was not a long drive at all. We went adventuring some more because the weather was really nice. We found a bakery near the hotel called Breka Bakery & Café and it was really yummy and inexpensive. Tonight, was just a relaxing night to recover after so much travel in such a short time.

Day 9: Vancouver to Seattle 

Driving back to Seattle felt like it took a lot less time because it was nothing compared to all the other drives we have been through this trip. When we arrived, I got to see a good friend again who I only met very recently. Sarah Lee <3. We spent some time together at her house and had a great little catch up. She even gave great recommendation for what to do tomorrow!

Day 10: Going Home!

This was just a really amazing day. We started by going to the Folklife Festival. This festival is located near the Space Needle. There were so many booths and amazing artists, we could not believe this was free to the public. In the park, there is a fountain that is sunk into the ground where you could go in on a hot day. performers were very impressive and all unique. There was one girl specifically who was really good and played the violin. Towards the end of this festival visit, we saw some guy playing bagpipes and he was with a band. Man, that was just impressive. I could have stayed longer.

After this, we walked to the iconic Pike Place market and got pictures of the signs as we walked in the same way we did the last time we were here in 2011. We even ate at the same restaurant in the same spot on the balcony. We walked through the actual market and appreciated some flowers, art, and food. Someone had the same backpack as me that I bought back in Cabo. I should have asked him for a picture. We saw the famous throwing of the fish! I didn’t remember it well last time so I am glad I just saw it this time. 

 I would recommend any part of this trip to anyone. Jasper National Park and Banff Nation Park are two very well known tourist spots in Canada and we found a lot of other hidden treasures along the way. If you want recommendations or to see other pictures, you can reach me with the information in the about section. I am so thankful for all the travel opportunities I have had because of my family. Can’t wait for the next family trip. 

 

Graduation

When I arrived at Saint Francis University four years ago, all I heard was how quickly time would fly by and how I should soak up every moment because before I knew it, it would be over. However, all good things that you are a part of teach you about yourself and make you a better person. I do not feel like time has flown by. Rather I feel like I had just the right amount of time to become all I can be here.

I could say something cliché like I am ready for the next chapter and all (because I am) however, if there is anything I have learned in the last four years, it is that moving forward is good. I can see how much I have grown as a student here, through athletics, study abroad, and being involved in various academic departments. I have loved running orientation and having the opportunity to work with so many different people. I have met students from all over the world and teachers with experiences I hope to one day have.

I fully absorbed every minute of the time I had as an athlete. I fully took advantage of all the free time I had for the last few months without any practice at all. I reflect on my college experience with pride and feelings of accomplishment. Goodbyes are never easy and leaving the comfort of home for four years is stressful. But these are not goodbyes forever. Rather part of what university is intended to prepare you for. Had it not been for this experience, you would never have found the ones you will love for the rest of your life. The beauty of growing into the person you are going to be and learning more that it is okay to not know the answer all the time and what it means to be open to learning and understanding. My daily photo project ends tomorrow and I will look back at each day of this year with the memories of my final year of undergrad.

As our guest speaker said, none of us reached this point alone. Our success is our own and also thanks to the actions of others who have given us the opportunities to succeed. Thank you to all the teachers who had such a positive influence on me. I will always stay in touch. Thank you to my parents for giving me all the support and love in these four year. Thank you to my brother for making the drive and surprising me. Thank you to all the friends I have made. I know I will see you all again.

Our school has a saying: “Become That Someone” and a story that goes along with it that we all know well. I have had four years to reflect on this saying as it started with simply being an athletic moto. Become that someone goes beyond just becoming a good person who wants to help other people, though that is a very key part of it. It is also about remembering have integrity, to be connected to others and those who are important to you. In order to be this person, it starts with you. It is good to have idols and people you aspire to be like, but do not be just like anyone else. Become that someone means to become the person you aspire to be. Become that someone means to become you.

I can say with absolute certainty, that here, at Saint Francis University, I have Become that Someone.

 

 

Speaking about Guinea

I have taken advantage of the multiple opportunities, extended towards me, to talk about Guinea. I have given small presentations on campus and talked with friends for hours about my trip. I decided to record some of my thoughts just by talking to my phone and read them back. Those who know me, know I love to talk. Those of you who have been around me the last two months have seen first hand how I can speak about Guinea for days. I feel that recording myself  has been a great way to jot down my feelings and give me an opportunity to wrap my head around my experience and what it gave me.

I am aware I am not the first person to have these feelings of being awake, aware connected and fully of happiness in the presence of a new culture, however, this is the first time I am personally feeling this way and want to record the experience. I want to stress that I have experienced a lot of happiness in my life. This experience has just expanded my love and emotions to more people and culture.

About a week ago, Rachel asked if anyone wanted to speak about a presentation our Guinea group would be giving on April 23. I volunteered and tried to plan a speech but ended up spontaneously throwing together a talk for the World Drum and Dance performance on April 16. I asked my friend Annette to help me out because she has a lot to share as well. Rachel told me to speak from the heart and that is what I intended to do. I love speaking with people about this experience because I can see what it has given me and I want to try to convey it to others. This is my best interpretation of what I said and what I will add more to this as I come up with better ways to put it together. Four of my teammates are also in this class and it was so great to watch them. I have been looking forward to this performance for a long time. Hearing the music just brought me back. I also had the chance to dance with Annette and Rachel again which made my heart so happy. Wearing my lapa again felt awesome!

 

Last night’s presentation:

I still do not have words for what this trip did for me. For those of you who have not been to a third world country, it is not what you expect. You see people with poverty and sickness, yet they are so rich in their culture and ability to be compassionate towards one another. The humanity you see is empowering. To see people who have so little yet in another sense, have such a rich culture with respect and community was amazing. Their culture deeply values community and music. The dance moves you see in this performance all come from Guinea. Guinea is also the birthplace of the Djembe drum you see many of the drummers playing tonight. We had so much to learn from them. I never would have thought that taking this West African Dance class with Rachel two years ago would end up bringing me to Guinea with her. But, I am so thankful it did.

They are so happy, present, and grounded all the time. They showed such compassion towards one another and us. Sometimes we forget to be kind and care about one another. We are caught up in what comes next and the plan we have for the future that we forget to direct our attention to what is happening to us and around us right now. They care so much about the happiness and well-being of everyone, it does not matter what you look like or where you are from. They loved seeing new people come and visit their country who cared about the culture enough to learn and listen.

As a culture, we spend so much time and energy planning what comes next that we forget to actually be aware of what is happening to us now and be present within ourselves. We hear the saying all the time “be present” and we think we understand what it means. In my personal experience, I did not fully understand what that meant until very recently. Just before I left for this trip I started to understand what it meant to be aware of myself. Guinea just showed me I was headed in the right direction about self-awareness. I am not saying you have to go to Africa to learn to be present. But, seeing people who already have this built into their character and do not have to think about being this way, really showed me that I have the conscious choice to be this way too.

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This is something I have had to improve upon exampling and think I have gotten somewhere. I came back feeling like I had added to myself as a person. everything I had learned and everything I was feeling inside was already there, I just woke up. The compassion and kindness I am capable of is something I have always had, I didn’t just learn to be nice, I felt what it meant to truly care about people I had just met. All of the pieces were already within me. Being around people so rich in spirit helped that part of me shine through. I use the analogy, I feel like I left as a glass pretty much full. I felt no deficit in my life with love or sense of meaning or happiness. Upon returning, I realized I was adding to myself. I wanted to integrate the part of myself I learned about and have always had because that is the person I am. I either needed a bigger glass or more cups. I do not want to say I am overflowing because that implies I have to replace parts of me that were already there and I do not believe I need to. I have made room for all the new things I have learned that are part of who I am now. The friends I made and the family I found are part of what is helping me create the person I have always wanted to be.

We did not go over there to superimpose our own cultural standards and solutions on them. We did not go over there to ‘help’ them in the way anyone would assume. I cannot stress enough that they are the ones that taught us something and made us feel full-filled. They taught us a whole new way feel and to be a more whole person.

I have a quote in my University’s Study Abroad Newsletter that reads, “This was such a humbling and expansive experience that brought out the best in me and gave me a new perspective on the privilege I have and the kindness I am capable of.”

Our Guinea group will be giving a presentation about our trip next Monday April 23 and we have a lot to share. I cannot wait to have another opportunity to speak about this trip and share what I have learned about myself. We will be sharing photos, videos and also teaching a rhythm, song, and dance. I am excited to share this amazing culture with more people and spread the joyful messages they shared with me.

fam

As they say in Guinea, “You have left your home and have come to your home.”

Easter Break

Easter break (aka Spring Break part 2) was so much fun. Since my university has an Easter Break, I had the opportunity to return home for six days and not have to think about school. This was a nice mini vacation to recharge and come back ready to finish the year.

Thursday and Friday were both relaxing days where I watched television with cooper and enjoyed the nice(ish) weather. Saturday was the day my dad and I took a small road trip to pick up Tommy from a meet at Susquehanna University.

On Sunday, Tommy and I went to the C&O Canal and did our biking and running 13-mile excursion. After that, we used some of our free movie tickets to go watch Black Panther with my dad. Great movie. Loved the music. I know I am late to the party, especially given how big of a fan I am of Marvel movies, but it has been a hectic month and a half and I got there eventually. I am really excited for Infinity War later this month and will be seeing that one as close to premiere date as possible.

Monday was a very exciting day. Tommy and I took the metro into DC to go see the Cherry Blossoms and the Renwick Gallery. The Cherry Blossoms have a peak blooming time and because of the weather this year, it will not be as long as usual. Luckily, even though it was cold, we still had the chance to see the Cherry Blossoms and take nice pictures. We walked all the way around to the Jefferson Memorial and back to where we started. The last time I saw the Cherry Blossoms was about two years ago. Even though I live so close, I have not seen them as often as I would have liked.

Of course, we got lost trying to find a grilled cheese place I saw on the map near the Renwick Gallery. After getting off at Farragut North instead of Farragut West, and walking in the wrong direction multiple times, we finally found the GCDC restaurant we were looking for. The food here was amazing and we found a seat inside where my dad could meet us. This was a lucky find.

After lunch, we walked across the street to the Renwick, which is at 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. Tommy and I have been here once before, about a year ago over last Easter Break, to see the WONDER exhibit in the big show room. Everything was new and different this time so we spent a good amount of time seeing all the new art. The newer exhibition was The Art of Burning Man. I would highly recommend seeing these exhibits because the Renwick Gallery is free! A lot of these exhibits are interactive where you can touch or look inside. One room has chalkboards all along the walls where you answer the statement “Before I die…” to which I wrote, “Go back to Guinea.” The new temple room allows you to write and leave notes around in different places. The giant mushrooms change shape when you step on the platform below. There were rooms with light patterns on the walls and you could even go inside these installations. There was so much to see here and it was all amazing. There were even rooms with music playing where you could lie on the ground and look up as the colors changing with the music. We were probably in the Gallery for close to an hour.

I am really excited to plan more fun spontaneous weekends like this one and live it up.

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