Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Perth - Gracias 2010: Canada World Youth Adventure Finale

Wow.  The program is over!!!  We've all gone back to our respective countries, cities, families, lives prior to the program!  It's been a long time coming and I'm sorry about the delay but I think I owe the avid readers of my journey one last update to bring everything together.  Sorry it's so overdue!!  The last couple of weeks of the program were really busy and I didn't have much time for writing a final update until NOW!
Mid - Project Camp:
We had a great mid-project camp just outside of Gracias.  Erin ran an excellent workshop focused on Gender and Equality to expand our views and think critically about the harmfulness of gender stereo-types. Jon ran an activity to improve our group dynamic by having each member of the group sit for 10min with each other member of the group to give critical feedback.  Laura ran a workshop on the issues involved in international development and had us participate in a community development vs international development debate.  The main arguments for community development being that the community knew best what the community needed and would do better to work for and amongst themselves to make improvement rather than become dependent on outside aid.  International Development on the other hand can often bring finances, studies, technologies, etc that may not be available to the community.
For Xmas we were allowed to leave Gracias to travel with our counterparts to their hometowns.  I went with Gaby to Siguatepeque which is where she currently lives and Lago de Yojoa which is where her family is from.  We mostly hung around the house. . .although I persuaded Gaby to climb a small mountain with me one day :)  Lago de Yojoa was really beautiful and small.  Getting to know Gaby's family was also a really nice experience.  Her Dad speaks English very well and her Mom also understands. . .which wasn't really helpful for learning Spanish, but certainly made it easier to communicate.  In Honduras family gatherings and special occasions are usually marked by the making of Tamales (corn flour stuffed with a bunch of things> meat, rice, vegetables and steamed).  Xmas is celebrated at 12am on the 25th by hugging everyone in the vicinity and setting off masses of fireworks!  It's kind of scary.  We returned back to Gracias on the 26th.
New Year's:
On the 31st we celebrated with our host family another Honduran tradition which I didn't understand at the time.  Usually our host family ate very late at night (usually around 9 or 10pm)  So I was expecting to eat around that time, as usual.  However, after 10:30 I was getting really hungry and a bit annoyed because we had to wait for dinner to go out to meet our friends.  Finally we figured out that our family was waiting until 12am to eat dinner!  It turns out that there is a tradition, or belief that you should wait until midnight to do something that you want to ensure for the following year.  So, for example, if you would like to travel in the new year, you should pack up your suitcase and walk around the block with it at 12am!  In our case, our family wanted to ensure that they had a lot of delicious food coming to them in 2011.  Worth waiting for, I think!
EADs and Group Activities:
The next Monday (3rd) was Javier and Jon's EAD where they focused on needs and wants and it's relationship to Quality of Life and Standard of Living.  We also watched a documentary about international development in Nicaragua.
Group excursion to Celaque
That week we were back at work which for Julia and I meant planning an activity for our debriefing!  But I'll get to that later.  That weekend we went as one of our final group activites to Termas de Rio just outside of Gracias which is another Hot Spring location.  It has a bunch of pools of increasingly hot temperatures with one really hot one, onsen style (like in Japan) and I was excited by that!  We had a really good time there together and I got pretty sunburned. . .but it was super fun!  The next day most of us went on a 2 hour short hike up Celaque, the highest mountain in Honduras.  Gracias is at the base of Celaque, so we had an amazing view of this mountain throughout our stay in Honduras, but this was the first time we were actually able to climb it.  We didn't get anywhere near the top as we didn't have enough time and not all members of our group were keen on climbing. . .but hiking for a day was a lot of fun.  We went slowly and took in a lot of scenery while singing a lot of Bob Marley, thanks to Juan Carlos.
The next day we had another EAD by Marie-Filote and Marlon to give a more in depth look at the politics of Honduras.
That week we finished our work projects and had our 8pm curfew extended so we could watch movies and sing karaoke on week nights as a group! yay!  All the while Julie and Dayana were working hard (the rest of the group also helped!) to organize a charity concert set for Saturday.  The concert was put on in the fort to raise money for underprivileged children in Gracias.  We had Nelson Pavon (a "Resistencia" protest musician), a local band from Gracias, and DJ Angel from Tegucigalpa.  The concert didn't attract as many people as we would have liked, but it still went well.  Some of the attendees were upset by the political ideas of Nelson Pavon and left early, which was unfortunate but was a good learning experience for us.  The concert ended a bit early because some people were drinking in the parking lot and the police were advising us to end it.
The next day we went to a small community in the mountains to do surveys for the sector project of ASONOG and CWY.  We had to interview women from the community to find out what their knowledge was about different issues regarding health and nutrition, reproductive health and hygiene.  The information will be collected and analyzed by the 2 organizations to determine what kinds of development projects would be suitable for the regions we surveyed.  Unfortunately we ran out of time and had to delegate an organization in Gracias to complete the surveys for us.
Debriefing and farewells:
Farewell Party
The last week of the exchange we did some debriefing activities so we could start to analyze our experience and think about how we will communicate it to people back home.  We want to make sure that we are not creating stereotypes or generalizations as much as possible while educating and sharing what we learned.  This can be very difficult, especially when few people really want to listen to every detail and the entire story of your experience.
And in no time at all we were having our community thank you dinner.  Saying thank you to our host families and the community of Gracias, giving thank you gifts to our counterparts and project supervisors, crying a lot and saying good bye.  We left Gracias on the morning of the 22nd after tearful goodbyes from our host Mom and Dad and sisters (our little host brother refused to get out of bed and was too sleepy to cry!!).  In Santa Rosa we met up with the other CWY groups and made the final split from our Honduran counterparts.  Everyone cried.  I even shed a tear!  It was a really sad hour between when we got to Santa Rosa and when we left for San Pedro Sula.
Que Lindos <3
The Canadians all spent the night in San Pedro Sula, sharing shocking rule-breaking stories from the exchange and reflecting on the good times we spent together.  The next morning at 4:30am we left for the airport and while checking in we heard a horrific scream from the front of the airport.  When we all turned to look we saw our HONDURAN COUNTERPARTS running in!!!!!!!!!  They had lied that they wouldn't be able to come to see us off so that they would be able to surprise us at the airport!  sneaky!!!  So we had another picture and crying session before we left to get on the plane.  It was a really nice surprise :)
Back in the Motherland:
Back in Canada on the 23rd we were ROCKED by the -20 C temperature outside the airport!!!  Winter in Canada is COLD!  We had 3 days of debriefing in the hotel airport with Tracy, who coincidentally also ran our training before we started the exchange.  It was a really interesting session that helped us to reflect on the exchange and put the skills and knowledge we had gained from our experience into more concrete terms (that would be helpful for interviews and employment).  Alot came out in debriefing as well about our group and things that had been going on behind the scenes.  There was a lot of drama that was previously unknown to everyone that was finally shared with the Canadians.  I think this allowed for a lot of closure and a lot of realizations about why some things happened the way they did.
Personal Reflections:
For me, the CWY experience was amazing all in all.  I watched a lot of people go through the experience and come out as much more informed, confident and stronger individuals.  We learned to work and live and think as a group, but even more, as a family.  It sounds kind of sentimental, but it's really true.  I believe that the CWY experience is a kind of paradigm for the world we live in.  We are all a part of it and we all play an important role and are equally responsible for making it work in a harmonious way.  All of our actions are connected.  There are limits on what we can and can't do and if we push them too much (like the environment currently), there will be consequences that will affect everyone.  When we think only of ourselves and fail to think of the impact our action will have on others everyone suffers.  When we push our boundaries and leave our comfort zones far behind, we will surprise ourselves of what we are capable of.
No Siesta! Just Fiesta!
Our family's pet Watusa!
I strongly encourage anyone who is still eligible to apply and participate in Canada World Youth!!!  It's a great experience.

and in the infamous words of our Perth-Gracias group: NO SIESTA! JUST FIESTA!!! :)

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