Where I fit in the box of crayons....

Do you ever get that feeling like there's more out there? That's the feeling that brought me to beyond borders. The global community is growing, and I have not yet become a part of it. I want to be a contributing citizen to the global community through participation and action. Over the years, I have developed an appreciation for diversity and difference, and look for other ways that people are doing things. There’s a whole world out there beyond our North American perspective that has the potential to change the way I see things, and to change my life. Gahndi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I think we should not only find the change within ourselves, but also take part in the change we want to see in the world. I hope that Beyond Borders will offer a medium in which I can be the change I want to see in the world, and also take part in that change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Luuuuuuuucy, I'm.... doooooone!

Today was my final official day volunteering at Lucy McCormick School.

(thank goodness because the next 26 days are going to be a bit of a whirlwind!)

While I was there today, I reflected on the last 4 months I have spent with my supervisor, the kids, and the school... here's some of the things I have to say..... (there is good an bad all mixed around. I don't mean any offense, I am just reflecting)

My supervisor – She has been wonderful. She has been teaching kids with disabilities for over 20 years. She is patient, calm, methodical and all of the other wonderful qualities that are required for working with this particular population (don't forget they are also all adolescents!!).
The most valuable thing that I learned from her is that every task can be broken down into simple steps, and all people no matter what their functioning level, can be involved every step of the way – she exhibited this in the Work education art program, and the Family studies program, and also in all of her interactions with the students. This will be a valuable thing for me to have witnessed while I interact with the girls at the Internat.
My only criticism is that I don't think I was used to my full potential. As I did dishes in the family studies room today I remember an experience I had in an SMF practicum session when one of the other students was frusturated that her placement supervisor was unaware of her potential and she was disappointed that she was doing jobs like running a bingo night. I have felt like this on a numbr of occasions during my time at Lucy, but I realized today that that is as much my fault as it is anyone else's as I didn't say anything about it. Sometimes I felt like there was a system, and for the good of the students I should not disrupt anything.
This brings me to my regret in regards to my supervisor – I wish that I could have spend more time at the school with the kids and with my supervisor – and not more time over all because I put in more than double the amount of hours required from beyond borders - but definitely longer chunks of hours, like a couple full weeks. I wish this so that I was more integrated into the daily routines both with my supervisor and with the students. I think that this would have been optimal for me getting involved, and being used to my full potential – this is something that I feel about all aspects of the placement and I think would have had a positive effect on my experience, as well as my impact.

On to the kids!
The positives – I have gained some cultural competence through working with a population I was initially nervous about. In the four months I worked through language barriers (verbal-nonverbal), “rough days”, interaction, connection, and many other obstacles pretty much unscathed! They were the greatest teachers I could ask for.
An interesting point – I realized that I am a HUGE cherry picker. From the very first day I was at the school I picked a favourite. I wasn't obvious about it, and I made an effort to not treat this particular student any different, but I was definitely aware that I wanted to (hahaha)!! this was an interesting experience for me as I didn't think that I was like that. I am interested to see what happens with the girls at the Internat.
Some negatives – I wish that I had interacted more. My initial nervousness precluded me from really getting involved and making connections with the students. I think that more connection and more interaction with the students would have enriched my experience ten-fold!
Same regret – I feel as though spending larger blocks of time with the students would have allowed for deeper connections. Many of them were unsure about me, and forgot who I was from week to week. If I was going to do it again I would do it all in a two weeks or a month. Thinking about it, I think it would be neat to spend time with one particular class at the same time every day (like first period or whatever) and participate in whatever activities they engage in every day for like a month.....

The school/program/pedagogy- I think one of the most challenging things about this placement is that the pedagogy of the school is very much in line with that of Jean Vanier – treat people with respect and dignity to allow them to flourish. I think that this is the take home message from beyond borders, from my placement, and it will also be my greatest mission while I am abroad. The challenging part of this is that in Canada we have access to resources – both human resources in terms of staff and aids and teachers and stuff, and also other resources like specialized equipment, computer programs (Board maker in particular), specialized furniture, but most importantly the money for all of these things. I think it is going to be challenging for me to have a vision of both programs (Lucy and the Internat) juxtaposed in my mind. To give you and example – at Lucy they have a $25,000 Snoezelen Room (controlled multisensory stimulation), the Internat has a doctor that gets taken away to make money on the side. These great divides in opportunity and resources tend to hit me where it hurts and I get angry – perhaps a little bit vigilante. I am interested to watch myself struggle with this issue as I already know how I have reacted to similar situations in the past. I promise to keep you updated on this particular theme... and if I forget, please remind me because I think it'll be interesting to track.

I am glad that I spent the time that I did at Lucy because I think I am more prepared to travel to Ukraine than I was 4 months ago, and a large part of that has to do with my time with these students.

I hope to return to Lucy after my trip if for nothing else than just to check in on the progress and growth of the students I have gotten to know. I would also like to report back to my supervisor and give her heal time examples of how her role-modelling and guidance helped me in my journey.

As of today I'm 26 days away from departure!!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm leaving on a jet plane......it's official!

I just got off the phone with Orbitz Travel - I have officially booked my tickets!

Here are the departure details:
Monday, May 10, 2010
Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) to Chicago O'Hare International (ORD)
Departure (YYZ): May 10, 12:30 PM EDT (afternoon)
Arrival (ORD): May 10, 1:12 PM CDT (afternoon)
change planes
Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) to Warsaw Frederic Chopin (WAW)
Departure (ORD): May 10, 5:25 PM CDT (evening)
Arrival (WAW): May 11, 9:50 AM CEST (morning)
Change Planes
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Warsaw Frederic Chopin (WAW) to Lviv Snilow (LWO)
Departure (WAW): May 11, 11:50 AM CEST (morning)
Arrival (LWO): May 11, 1:50 PM EEST (afternoon)

Here's some more fun facts:
Flight Distance: 7,264km (4514miles) from Pearson Airport(yyz) to Lviv Airport(lwo)
The equatorial circumference of the earth is 40,075km
I will be travelling almost 1/5 of the way around the earth! (18%)
Flight cost: $1284 round trip (plus travel insurance and booking fee)
Car fuel cost: $675 (one way) $1350 (round trip)
Flight Direction: northeast (44 degrees from north)
Flight pollution: 1,691 lbs (767kg) of carbon dioxide (shitty!)
Direct flight time: 9 hours 2minutes
Actual travel time: 18 hours 20 mins (Yikes!)
Lviv Arrival time: 1:50 pm (6:50 am Toronto time) May 11 2010

In other news - the ticket is booked from May 10 till September 21 allowing me a full 135 days in Europe!

This also means that I must get a Visa! I'm racing against the clock a little bit so I"m going in Monday to arrange all of the details. I"ll keep you posted.

Something wonderful happened today! I found a LANGUAGE TUTOR! Felix and I went on a wild goose chase around the city to every Ukrainian place we could think of trying to find SOMETHING! We finished our search feeling pretty defeated because no one knew anyone who would be willing to help. Then a couple hours later, one of the women that we spoke to called me up and said that she thought it was very important that I get some language training before I go - so her and her husband would arrange to do what they could in the short amount of time I have left!! So far I am loving the kindness of the Ukrainian people!

It has been a very interesting, exciting and kind of exhausting day!

18 days till the party!
34 days till I leave!


Friday, April 2, 2010

The Ukraine vs Ukraine

It's Friday, and my final blog for this semester is due today (I will continue to blog but this is a benchmark I felt like sharing).

In one of my previous posts I talked about being inclusive in language, and in this post I'd like to exend that to being politically correct. I've been struggling with adjusting my language to omit the "the" in front of Ukraine. I was corrected last week, and when I asked why it is that it is inappropriate to say "the Ukraine" the only answer that was offered was "you don't say 'the Canada'!". I've been digging around ever since to see what I could find.

Ukraine, when translated mean "at the Border" (as in at the border of Russia). Ukraine has a rich history of giving and taking land from Russia. Until final independence came with the fall of the Soviet union Ukraine played a significant role in the USSR. “Ukraine” has been part of the English language since 1187, and did not appear first along with its article (“the”).

I came across many ways of explaining the incorrectness of “the Ukraine”. I will explain two of the most salient reasons why this is incorrect.

Grammar. Trying to understand English grammar is like walking a path over grown with rose bushes – tangled and thorny. There are rules, and exceptions to rules and exceptions to the exceptions, but it seems like the rules on articles are pretty straight forward. “The” is an article. Articles combine with nouns to indicate the type of reference being made: either definite or indefinite. “The” is a definite article which indicates that a noun is a particular one (ie. the dogs indicates a specific group of dogs, where dogs is a generalization). Looking at it this way when you say “the Ukraine” it implies that there are other Ukraines. Grammar also dictates that there is no use for an article in front of the names of most countries. There are only two groups of countries which require the article in English: Those with plural names (the United States, the Netherlands), and those that have names with adjectival or compound forms (the United Kingdom, the Dominion of Canada, or the Ukrainian SSR). English grammar does not require a definite article before the names of singular countries such as England, Canada or Ukraine (which is why we don't say “the Canada”).

There is also a political reason for not using the article when referring to Ukraine. In English we refer to geographical regions using the definite article like the Arctic, the Atlantic, the North, the West, and the prairies Ukraine, on the other hand is an independent country and has had definite borders since 1917. referring to Ukraine using the definite article reduces the country name to it's meaning as a border region. Some political writers have promoted the use of “the Ukraine” as a way to undermine the political status of Ukraine.

It could be that Ukrainian immigrants, with little or no grasp of the inner workings of English grammar, mistakenly used the article and it caught on, but now understanding the implication of such a tiny word, I think it is time to change!

It is really tough to break a language habit - I had a friend in highschool who had grown up with English as a second language parents who would refer to a "hamper" as a "humper"; needless to say his rendition of the word was not so popular in highschool, but despite the razzing he was subject to, it was a challenge to break the habit. I think of all the times I have corrected someone when they use “gay” or “retarded” as synonyms for dumb or stupid (as I wrote about extensively in last week's post), and now here I am with a taste of my own medicine. I have tried my darnedest to break myself of adding "the" to my placement country, but never really understood why it was an issue. Now I know why “the” is such a problem and how it undermines Ukrainian Sovereignty, and status as a nation. I am now committed to changing my language and explaining to everyone why it is inappropriate to refer to my placement country as “the Ukraine”.

In May of 2010 I will be volunteering in Ukraine for 4 months to work in an orphanage for girls with mental and physical disabilities.