Our building project was parallel to an already established community classroom and everyday we were met by young students and the teacher. The value of education becomes most noticeable when we see these tiny islands where aspirations do not go much further than a birthplace.
The children, dressed in uniform and bright smiles attended the free elementary school. If they choose to continue on with their education they will have to travel to the main island and pay a price. What really became apparent to me was the complaining I have developed surrounding my education. Whether it be a teacher who I do not prefer, or several large assignments at once, I need to stop and ponder the blessing of free and quality education. If we put effort into our studies and have solid results, they can take us to terrific post secondary institutions. There are even college options which give you a second chance at entering these schools or give you the necessary training and experience for a job you hope to have. Opportunity is plentiful in Canada, and looking back at the Tongan students, it astounds me to think that their education will lead them to the same life. They all seem to be putting great effort into their studies, I can only hope that it serves them well in the future, and our classroom can facilitate this. Seeing the children’s diligence, its a reminder to preserver with this life directing resource that falls into our list of complaints. The financial standing of these families will likely not be sufficient in propelling the children into further education, and the only students in high school we saw return from the main island were form the resort family. Across the fence from the resort is where the poverty is and the limited education. Canada provides education to everyone, and if you are unable to pay for post secondary, there are many aid programs. The place we live in provides us all the necessary components to a “successful” life.
The children and people of the island have truly changed our perspective.
It has been a while. In my blogging absence, there was the trip, and a plethora of emotions throughout and upon returning. Although there are a multitude of awakened realities in the comparisons between life in Canada and in the South Pacific, one that really stands out is water.
We left the airport, got onto a bus and immediately we had bottled water in our hands (the brand was called Parker’s Water!!). Before the trip I had been trying to enter the habit of at least 8 cups of daily water consumption. When the sun first hit our Canadian bodies I realized that this habit would come quickly and be vital. On the first night I made the mistake of using the tap for brushing my teeth. From then on I ensured I always had a full litre of water in my room for emergencies and for hygiene. The next realization came when we showered and to our surprise the water was BURNING hot. Using this water scantily, my room found appreciation for adjustable temperatures. Everyday large bottles of water would be brought in, and our refilling hub existed on the worksite and in the hotel “lobby”. We had to learn to be strategic with water usage and also be cautious with our levels of consumption. Many people suffered from the heat (including myself). The body only functions when it is provided this precious resource.
We also had to be considerate that we were not wasting any water. For the locals, purified water is uncommon. It was touching when we had expended all our bottled water and a local man offered up his collection of “Tonga’s finest bottled water”. Suddenly we felt stranded as out purified water reliance became apparent. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s provided to you. When our shower temperatures were fixed, and the sweet relief at the end of the day flowed down onto your sweaty skin, it was difficult to not stay in for a long time. However, many students were conscientious and ensured we were being respectful to this luxury the locals do not share in.
On returning to Canada, I see the clear water flowing from the taps and am always reminded of our mirky sinks with water dripping from lack of pressure. I try and shower more quickly, use the tap only when necessary, and constantly ponder the inhabitants of Atata Island. They never complain despite their lacking resources. Nourishing my body with this blessing, I see how easily it falls under our radar of appreciation.
Tonga, you have taught me to be revering towards this life necessity that often goes forgotten.
March is here and Tonga is here. While the concept of the trip existed for a long time, we are at the point where it’s becoming real. I feel a bit of a mad rush as the packing list sees some blank spots of purchases that need to be made. Small things like electrolytes, working gloves, and wide mouthed water bottles are of great importance. Firstly, I would like to thank my Richmond High sports experiences for providing me with several long sleeve shirts!
While days shred by, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to even become acquainted with this forthcoming venture. From the time we enter the airplane to first steps on island ground, it will be a struggle to fully appreciate everything.
(Intended to be published March 12)
As the trip is only two weeks away I have really began to feel the anticipation, but I have also been reminiscent. Throughout my whole life I have spent spring break with my family, and this will be the first time away from them. Although I look forward to the next stages of life, I am truly going to miss all the memories and bonds we share. That’s not to say they will disappear at all, but it’s true that some things will be different.
This trip will be eye opening but also marks moving into a new life. It’s also a reminder to cherish the moments we have, because everything moves so quickly as we get older. While on the island, I will try to take at least one minute during each activity just to absorb the moment, and all the unique surroundings that I will likely never see again. Appreciation has been a goal of mine as of late, as I fear living a passive life and looking back with regret.
As a side note, I have just pulled out my travel backpack, thus beginning the process of fitting two weeks worth of necessities into one bag! I’m honestly looking forward to practically everything, I’m even excited for the long plane ride as I will be on the Boeing 777!!
This past week marked the beginning of ultimate season!
Going from very minimal cardio exercise to all out sprinting and conditioning was a great shock to my body, and the following morning my whole body ached with tense muscles. The next days of ulti have only mounted my soreness but each time I am so caught up in the quick pace of the game to notice. Unfortunately at the final tryout of last week I pulled a muscle in my leg and had to sit out.
Immediately my thoughts went to Tonga. This exertion will be no match for the hard long days combined with the hot island climate. I consider this to be a wake up call. I’m thankful that the season has begun and I can recondition my body so I won’t burnout during our time overseas. There has been much anticipation and it would be dreadful to not be able to contribute because of lacking stamina.
As a side note, it has also hit me that this will be the final tryout sessions I will ever attend in high school. Sports have been part of my entire life and It’s definitely easier to be involved when you are younger and have more free time. Richmond High has been plentiful for opportunity.
looking forward to the spring break and the season…
Something that came as a shock to all of us was the recent cyclone that hit Tonga. I remembers the surge of panic that emerged both for our trip, but most importantly the inhabitants of the islands. A report stated that over 70% of the population was affected by the category 4 cyclone and many homes have been severely damaged. Government agencies and relief organizations have thankfully intervened, and our trip is not affected by this turn of events.
When we go through day to day life in Canada we never have to cower at the thought of potential destructive storms, and shelters are not extensions of our homes. It’s often difficult to see all the gifts we have, but news stories such as this awaken appreciation. Seeing Tonga in the news was a shock in itself, but now our efforts have a documented purpose. As we labour to create the classroom and storm shelter, we will be reminded of this event and the people who inhabit this extremely isolated island. It’s an entirely different way of life on the island and difficult to comprehend.
As as a side note, walking through the main hallway of our school and seeing the numerous flags hanging above I found myself pondering the final flag that will be hung. It’s an honour to be the last year, and each day brings more and more excitement!
Only three more weeks…
Febuary has been a full month, flying by like all instances at this point of life. Winter, not yet in hibernation, has shown its white hues once again, making spring seem distant. However, the release of the packing list and the confirmation of flights has validated the season and our excursion. I’ve found myself often exciting at the thought. The past few weeks have heard small cries from typhoid injected shoulders, as Global students take one of the final preparatory steps. We are now battle ready for the world across the ocean, and our bodies can hopefully keep pace with determined minds.
In viewing my expansive portfolio of past vaccinations, I have found intrigue. I think it’s the thought of this world we all share, and the many puzzle pieces that are continuously shapeshifting that we have to adapt to. A substance within a small needle has the power to protect our figures, but only for limited time. As the world enters progressions and regressions from mankind the pieces change form, and once again we are faced with new realities. A vaccine protects us as we venture through the unknown, but functions as a shield to the well acquainted land of home, a place not immune to change. As antibodies can be overthrown, our comfort cannot stay stangmant in this undulating world.
I am grateful for our access to healthcare, and the protection from our shots as we face foreign waters, a place where familiarity is distant.
Reading other students blogs in the past, I have seen the theme of food waste be the topic for many of them. Having worked at McDonald’s for almost a year now, I have seen three restaurant managers come and go. I find it intriguing when they are all under the same fast food umbrella company, but each has its own take on procedures and rules. Food waste has also varied between them, and with the example they set for the employees, or lack of, I have seen food waste levels fluctuate. There is also a correlation between the age groups and quality of work.
When I was first hired, there were several managers on the floor at one time bearing down on rules and cutting waste. It was as if there was always a set of eyes on everything you did. At this point the team operated most smoothly, and I honoured the organization and the value they held on the gift of food we often take for granted. Food waste was calculated attentively, and employees were guided into being conscientious workers, with both respect for the company and the resources.
I often need to remind myself of all the blessings we share.
When the surge of young adults died down, and they moved on to better jobs, there was a great need for employees. I remember first beginning to work and everyone would comment on how young I was (16…not that young I thought). As more people of similar age entered in, there seemed to be a stark difference in the quality and respect that was held before. It saddened me to see food waste and negligence for rules and procedures. Respect and perspective are two points that often seem to be lacking in this generation, and my workplace has been an first hand example of this. Attending class with all these terrific students, I have hope for us. Despite what work may have proven, there are so many others that go against this reputation and will in fact better the world!
Last week was my first time driving although I have had my learners licence for quite a while now. I couldn’t help but think of the danger I would be putting myself into if I chose to go on the main road, but it would be perfectly legal! My first driving lesson from my mom mad me think back to our Global class, and the ways safety is measured.
For developed countries like Canada, the licensing system could appear to be slightly flawed with the potential for dangerous driving in young teens. You can obtain your license fairly easily, and at at a young age the ability to join in the accident prone flow of traffic. I often find myself thinking back to Thailand, and remember the lack of driving regulations that existed there, and all the risks that are alive in daily life. No sidewalks, seat belts, and taxi drivers who had machetes at their side, by Canadian standards, this was not a safe place. My parents, obviously very aware of this, kept my sister and I safe, but did not shroud our cultural experiences. I am thankful to them for not being overprotective at this time in my life. I saw the realities of the world at a young age, and have carried those memories up until the present. After spending time overseas and returning home, everyday you can find a point of remembrance. Sometimes I catch a scent or hear a distinct sound, and I am immediately brought back to an old memory from across the world.
Travel stays with you.
I seek to build upon those vivid memories in Southeast Asia, and further develop an understanding of this vast world. I know that this trip to Tonga will stay with all of us, both in fond memories, but also in a newfound demeanour.
Something I have been concerned with lately has been my lack of physical activity!
Amidst demands from mainly school and work, I have become quite worm out. With ultimate and volleyball throughout last year, I was in terrific condition. Unfortunately I didn’t do volleyball this year, or any other sports for the matter and have fallen behind. Thinking back to the application for Global, one of the questions asked what I did to be physically fit, and at that time I was very involved. As the trip date comes quickly, It is a necessity I get back into it! This past week I have gone to the gym before school, and I have found it to be quite rejuvenating as well as strengthening. I hope to continue this and develop a habit for the weeks before the trip, as it is going to be very taxing on the body. I don’t want to fall behind because of a lack of fitness, I want to play the largest role I can in the completion of the project. This is the new goal, I will keep you updated.