Entre l’apprentissage et l’accomplissement

March 25, 2014 | Arianne, EIL, Italy, Alternatives, ARCI

Depuis mon arrivé à Palerme j’ai travaillée avec deux organisations connexes soit ARCI et Libera qui tous deux luttes contre la mafia. Libera est né en mars 1995, cette organisation a pour but d’impliquer et de soutenir tous ceux qui sont intéressés par la lutte contre les mafias et le crime organisée. Libera à des engagements concrets avec la loi sur l’utilisation sociale des biens immobiliers confisqués au crime organisé, la formation sur l’égalité démocratique, la lutte contre la corruption, les camps d’éducation antimafia, les projets sur le travail, le développement et les activités anti-usure, sont quelques-uns des engagements concrets de Libera. Libera est actuellement un réseau de plus de 1200 associations, groupes et écoles, qui se sont engagés à mettre en place des stratégies organisationnelles entre les réalités locales et politiques culturelles susceptibles de promouvoir la culture de l’égalité. La loi sur l’utilisation sociale des biens immobiliers confisqués au crime organisée, la formation sur l’égalité démocratique, la lutte contre la corruption, les camps d’éducation antimafia, les projets sur le travail, le développement et les activités anti-usure, sont quelques-uns des engagements concrets de Libera.
C’est ainsi que pour ma part, je m’occupe d’un projet gouvernemental sur la réhabilitation sociale de jeunes en difficulté. Depuis mon arrivée ici, je me suis occupée de plusieurs projets en lien avec la réhabilitation sociale et la promotion d’une campagne antimafia. Les étudiants et moi sommes allés visiter les points importants de la ville de Palerme ; le parlement, la cathédrale ainsi que la station de police municipale. En ayant collaboré avec plusieurs partenaires, j’ai pu apprendre d’avantages sur la situation économique et culturelle. Ces apprentissages me seront très utiles dans mes travaux ainsi que sur ma perception des évènements futurs.
J’ai également appris que pour vivre en Sicile, il faut parler italien. Après quelques semaines je suis de plus en plus à l’aise à communiquer dans la langue officielle. Cet accomplissement m’a permis d’être plus confortable dans le cadre de mes fonctions avec l’organisation ARCI et Libera pour la promotion de la campagne antimafia. Je peux maintenant demander et recevoir sans que la barrière de la langue soit trop grande.
N’ayant qu’une semaine avant de revenir au bercail, je me rends bien compte que trois mois c’est bien peu pour accomplir tout ce dont je voulais. Par contre je peux maintenant dire que ma perception des inégalités sociale, culturelle et économique sont diverses. Mes attentes envers l’apprentissage de l’italien sont accomplies et je suis fière d’avoir contribué à deux projets italiens.

Thinking back

March 25, 2014 | Cédric, Uniterra, Vietnam, North Thanh Long Economic

I have completed my internship at the BTL College in Hanoi, Vietnam, and am sitting here, in Canada, trying to process everything that has happened in the last three months.

My last week at BTL was a very busy one, the biggest tasks in my mandate had to be carried out during that week because of pushed back deadlines. I had to carry out a pilot test for a survey, analyze the results, produce a report, finalize the survey then complete some other reports relating to the end of my mandate. When I first arrived in Vietnam the college was going through a transitional period, the person who was in charge of the interns had just left for another job and on top of that the lunar new year was about to take place in a couple of weeks. Although I knew this meant that I probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish much of the work that had been initially discussed for my mandate, looking back at it all I feel positive about the whole experience and am proud of the work I actually managed to complete. Working in another country has been very insightful, I have not only learned a lot of things about the culture in Vietnam, but it has also helped me discover things about Canada that I hadn’t noticed before. I also feel like my internship has also aloud me too acquire more knowledge concerning different topics that at first glance didn’t seem related to my mandate, such as issues concerning gender equality and the problems that students face in rural areas, as well as their relation to economical development in Vietnam.

Living in Vietnam has been an amazing experience. Yesterday a family member asked me what the highlight of my mandate was, a question I believe is impossible to answer! Perhaps in a couple of weeks there are things that will stand out from the rest, but for the moment I can safely say that the warmth of the people (host family and work colleagues), the work atmosphere, the different foods as well as the beautiful sights across the country are the things I’ve been mentioning the most since arriving in Canada. I will miss the noisy streets of Hanoi, never before has Ottawa seemed so calm… it’s actually almost unsettling.

This experience has made me realize that the world is much more accessible than I had previously thought. Working far away from home seemed like an impossible dream, but now I realize that for most Canadian students it isn’t really the case. I am thankful for the opportunity my university and WUSC has given me, and I will definitely spread the good word to my friends and family.

It is impossible for me to synthesize all I’ve been through in a short blog post, so I’ll keep it short and sweet and say that my internship has changed me as a person for the better. I feel like I have become more open and that it I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself as a person. I am definitely looking forward to the debriefing sessions that will take place in April, because as it stand I’m already having a hard time readapting to my own country! I am already looking forward to my next adventure abroad…

Holi: My most colorful day in India

March 21, 2014 | Vanessa, ECH, Canada world youth, India, SPID

Holi- the spring festival of colors- is a tradition known across the world for its colors, beauty, and intrigue. I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to be present in India for this year’s festivities held just this past Monday. The Hindu festival is marked to celebrate the killing of an evil demon king by Lord Vishnu. The traditions that take place on the days both leading up to the holiday and the holiday itself pay homage to this celebratory killing.

My anticipation for this festival began as street vendors began to sell the colorful powders a week ago. My Holi experience began with a colony party in Delhi on Friday night, carried through to a work party on Saturday, to a witnessing of celebratory Holika bonfires on Sunday, and to playing Holi in the streets of Udaipur on Monday.

The work party on Saturday marked one of the greatest days of my trip. In the afternoon, colleagues, organization beneficiaries and community members gathered to dance, sing, eat, and smudge colors on one another. What was once a clean room with white walls and polished tiles, soon became a room with a rainbow of colours along the floor, walls, and throughout the air. Colors could be kindly and softly marked on your face by fellow gatherers, or it could be thrown in the air, whipped into your hair, or unexpectedly smudged across your clothes and skin. One walks away from the celebration literally covered head to toe in colors.

The party was accompanied by celebratory Holi music, along with Hindi party music. This was coupled with gatherers taking turns dancing, showing off dance moves, and dragging the people on the sidelines into the center of the dance floor. I was one of the ones on the sidelines, but soon with enough peer pressure, became one of the regulars in the middle of the dance floor. The heat and movement brings sweat to ones face, creating streaks through the colors already present on one’s face. My Indian dancing, although apparently not too bad as I am told, still inspired chuckles and laughs among the gatherers.

I am told that Holi is especially significant as it is supposed to bring together people from different castes, religions, races, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. The celebrations occur at private parties, in public parks, inside and outside temples, in the streets, etc. Walking through the streets even two days after the festivities have concluded one is reminded by the left over colors along the dirt, street, walls, and from the abandoned bonfire remains, that the holiday was not far back.

Holi has a notorious reputation worldwide for its brilliance, fun and color- and my Holi experience has definitely lived up to this reputation!

La vie de Palermitaine

March 17, 2014 | Arianne, EIL, Italy, Alternatives, ARCI

J’entame maintenant le dernier parcours de mon stage à Palerme, la capitale régionale de la Sicile. Cette ville possède une atmosphère très distincte, presque tangible; elle comporte des lieux de mystère où la réalité surpasse souvent l’imagination. Je suis très choyé de pouvoir vivre dans le cœur de cette ville soit le centre historique. Palerme est également le centre méditerranéen bourdonnement de un million d’habitants comportant des caractéristiques apparemment contradictoires. Pour continuer, l’histoire de Palerme a été toute sauf stable. La ville avec sa position stratégique au milieu de la Méditerranée a eu des vagues successives d’envahisseurs, dont les Phéniciens , les Carthaginois , les Grecs, les Romains, les Arabes Sarrasins , les Normands les Souabes , les Français et les Bourbons d’Espagne, pour nommer que les plus influents. Le résultat de cette histoire matelassé est évident aujourd’hui dans le vaste éventail de styles architecturaux, la fusion intrigante des ingrédients utilisés dans de nombreux plats locaux et dans de nombreux noms de lieux qui ne sont évidemment pas d’origine italienne.
Malgré le fais que la Sicile soit une Île, et qu’il soit difficile de voyager, il y a plusieurs villages environnants qui contiennent des paysages à couper le souffle. J’ai eu la chance de visiter Céfalu, Agrigento, Messina et ma prochaine destination sera Catania. Pour moi, Palerme est encore un peu une aventure chaque jour, car c’est un labyrinthe, il ne faut surtout pas oublier le plan de la ville et peut être plus utile de l’acheter en plastique (ne se brise pas). C’est alors qu’il y a beaucoup de ruelles qui sont tout juste ouvertes à ceux de l’extérieur et il est encore souvent difficile d’obtenir des informations qui en valent la peine.
J’ai bien de la chance, car ici je vis avec plusieurs personnes, j’habite dans une commune avec 8 autres personnes. Il est très normal en Sicile de vivre avec tant de personnes dans les maisons, car les propriétaires peuvent se faire un peu plus d’argent. Personnellement, je trouve cela très agréable, car nous pouvons échanger sur nos diversités culturelles et en apprendre davantage sur les autres nationalités et non seulement sur celle de la Sicile. J’ai également pu être en mesure de pratiquer mon portugais, mon espagnol, évidemment mon français et mon anglais et même mon allemand. Cette commune est une très belle expérience pour une personne réservée comme moi. J’ai donc pu sortir de ma route et avancer dans l’inconnu. De plus, je me suis fait beaucoup d’amis avec lesquelles nous échangeons notre histoire, nos cultures et nos rêves. Palerme est une ville où elle réunit une diversité culturelle très importante. Cette diversité permet de rendre cette ancienne ville agréable pour moi. J’espère pouvoir en tirer de très beau souvenir au retour au Canada.

Les points forts du moment

March 10, 2014 | Marie-Andrée, DVM, Alernatives, Cameroun, Protège QV

Déjà moins d’un mois avant le retour à la maison! J’ai hâte de revoir tous ceux que j’aime au Canada mais ce sera certainement difficile de changer si radicalement de contexte.

Durant les derniers trois jours, nous avons eu la chance de donner une formation à une vingtaine de femmes sur les bases de l’agriculture urbaine. Comme nous avons aussi engagé 3 animatrices pendant mon séjour, ce sont elles qui ont eu à préparer ces séances de formation. Bien que mon rôle n’a été que minime, je suis heureuse d’avoir pu observer comment se déroule une formation dans le contexte camerounais. En effet, les intonations langagières sont très différentes et je n’aurais certainement pas pu bien communiquer la matière. De plus, l’information transmise a été répétées à plusieurs reprises et de nombreux exemples contextuels ont été utilisés par les animatrices afin que le groupe capte l’essentiel. Pour ma part, mes capacités étaient plutôt au niveau technique, maitrisant mieux l’informatique que de nombreuses personnes ici (mais moins bien que la plupart des canadiens). Je crois que la formation a été efficace mais, comme l’on me l’a dit à plusieurs reprises, on ne saura le succès que par le nombre de femme qui mettra vraiment en pratique ces nouvelles connaissances.

Le weekend dernier, nous avons voyagé à l’ouest avec mes parents d’accueil pour assister à une cérémonie d’entré dans une société secrète. C’était pour le père à ma sœur qui se trouvait au village depuis déjà quelques jours. J’ai sût que nous avions développé un attachement réel quand nous nous sommes précipité dans les bras l’une de l’autre à mon arrivé au village. Malheureusement, il s’est mise à pleuvoir quelques instants après notre entré dans une des maisons et l’on ne m’a pas donné la permission de sortir me promener tant qu’il y avait de la pluie par peur que je ne tombe malade. La soirée a été longue (les gens ont quasiment peur de la pluie ici) mais le lendemain, j’ai pu voir l’initiation des enfants de la concession, un rituel habituellement réservé à ceux-ci seulement. Après ce premier rituel, les hommes, qui avaient apparemment passé la nuit à manger, boire et danser, ont revêtu des masques et des habits et ont fait une danse sous le soleil radieux du matin, afin de célébrer l’entrée officielle de cet homme dans la société secrète. Il est dit que les problèmes de santé de ce dernier serait dut au fait que son entré s’est fait tardivement après la mort de son père, lui-même membre de cette société.

Le 8 mars, c’est une fête importante au Cameroun. C’est la journée internationale de la femme et il semble qu’il y aura de nombreuses festivités. J’ai bien hâte de voir en quoi cela consistera et j’espère que j’aurai le plaisir d’y participer en revêtant un tissu pang conçu spécialement pour l’occasion.

Falling for Turkey

March 10, 2014 | Rebecca, DVM, AFS interculture, Turquie, TÜRK KÜLTÜR VAKFI

Time is flying by and I cannot believe I have been in Istanbul for a little over 2 months now. I really should have listened to everyone when they said time would go quickly. Now, with so much to do and see still, I am not ready to leave. I have fallen in love with this city even though I do not think I could ever get used to some things such as the traffic and constant busyness, as well as the language barrier. Nonetheless, it has been an invaluable experience that I would recommend to anyone.

I feel like something happened to me during the second month. I will not lie; the first month was extremely hard. For a whole week I was jet-lagged and became more exhausted trying to adapt to a new culture and figure out how to live with a host family. It was hard to learn the cultural norms and what was acceptable and not acceptable behavior. I missed Ottawa and I still wanted to feel very connected to all my friends and family back home. The language barrier was hard and I felt like I was not going to make any friends.

During the second month however, I really feel like I have connected with my host family and people from work. I have gotten used to the pace of work here and spend my weekends touring this beautiful city with all its historical richness. I do not miss home as much now and it almost feels like this is a new life I am living. After talking with my AFS colleagues, I learned that feeling disconnected from home is normal and an important part of the adaptation process. I can only imagine how much I will learn and continue to adapt during this third month.

The majority of my time I spend in the office. Things have picked up and I have been lucky enough to work with great colleagues who try to include me as much as possible. I have been able to act as a trainer and observer in two training sessions. The first session was a four day event that took place in a summer resort area called Polenezkoy about an hour from Istanbul. The goal of this event was to train previous high school students that participated in the one year exchange to become volunteers for AFS. Workshops included AFS mission and vision, intercultural learning and overviews of various theorists relating to culture and intercultural learning. I was a little apprehensive at first as the sessions were all in Turkish but it proved to be a great weekend and learning experience. I was able to meet a lot of people and even participate in the workshops by leading games. This was such an invaluable experience as I really got to see what AFS preaches and what AFS does on the ground. This past week I was able to attend a one day event at a local University where we held two workshops – one about intercultural learning and another about team work. Luckily the workshops were in English so I could understand and learn some new things. Next week, myself and a few other colleagues will go to a local high school to provide workshops on culture and intercultural learning.

On weekends, I usually try to see as much of this vast city as I can. I have been able to see various tourist attractions such as Topkapi Palace and go shopping at the Grand Bazaar. I have been lucky enough to travel to Ankara this past weekend and although there is definitely not as much to see there as Istanbul, it was great to get away and experience a new city. Next weekend I will go to Izmir to see the famous Ephesus which is an ancient Greek city built in the 10th century BC with ruins that can rival ruins found in Rome. We will also take a day trip to Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, which is a world heritage site that contains natural hot springs. As enjoyable as it is visiting other places on the weekend, I think one can get just as much enjoyment sitting outside in a busy cafe drinking chai by the Bospherus. On top of everything, I have been to learn more about and understand the history of Turkey, Islam, international relations and the government.

After a difficult first month, I can honestly say that the second month has improved. I can guarantee that these last four weeks will fly by and leave me with experiences that will last a life time.

Working at LAWA-Ghana

March 10, 2014 | Heather - Ghana, AFS interculture, LAWA, Project Intern

I am doing my internship at LAWA (Ghana) Alumnae Incorporated, also referred to as LAWA-Ghana. This non-governmental organization does advocacy and promotes law reforms on issues relating to the rights of women and children. Nine female lawyers who participated in a program run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) established LAWA-Ghana in 1998. LAWA stands for “Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa.” I work with Meg, another student from the University of Ottawa. The main topics we focus on at work are property rights of spouses, domestic workers, and child domestic servitude.

There is currently no legislation regarding property rights of spouses, the current laws come from the Marital Property Act. This Act leaves too many loopholes, and women are left at a major disadvantage for property distribution in case of divorce. We have written articles, and are working on a questions and answers segment to be published in the newspaper to educate the public on why this bill is important and should be passed.

Another major project at the moment is to put together a book on domestic workers. LAWA-Ghana has been working on the issue of domestic work since 2003. Domestic workers are widely used throughout Ghana and since it is a very unorganized and invisible form of work (done behind closed doors), it falls through the cracks of current legislation and the women participating in this employment are abused. Many women travel from the North to the more urban areas, lack proper training, and are unaware of the rights they have as employees. LAWA-Ghana has done many projects since 2003 regarding domestic work, and this book is an attempt to collect everything we have so that scholars can get a full picture of the situation for domestic workers in Ghana.

Our third major focus is child domestic servitude. This problem is closely tied to that of domestic work, because this is a common form of exploitation suffered by the children. Many children are trafficked from within Ghana to more urban areas (often Accra), to live with extended family, or strangers. The children are often told that if they go live and work for this person, they will be able to go to school. Sadly, the children are often not enrolled, and if they are they are too tired from their work to fully participate and develop in school. What we are doing at LAWA-Ghana is preparing slideshows for both adults and children to inform them of the dangers of child domestic servitude. The presentations will outline children’s rights, parent’s and employer’s responsibilities, define human trafficking and domestic servitude and explain the punishments for offences and abuses against children. Our boss says that should the presentations be ready in time, we may have the opportunity to go to different regions of Ghana to present our slideshows to children so that they are better aware of their rights.

This type of work is very interesting to me as I study Conflict Studies and Human Rights. I am enjoying working with issues that relate to the human rights of women and children and am thankful to have the opportunity to organize information so that the general public is more aware of abuses faced by women and children. I especially like the days our boss drops us off at different areas of the University of Ghana to do research because its nice to be back in school even if its so far from home! Its interesting to see a new University, we meet people from all over and the campus is just beautiful.

Life in Dédougou

March 4, 2014 | Valerie, DVM, WUSC, Burkina Faso, REVS +

Coming into my eighth week over here in Dédougou, I’d say I have developed a pretty routine lifestyle. I’ve become accustomed to the frequent stares and being called the ‘tobabou mousso’ – the white woman and occasionally ‘la chinoise’ as well as of a diet of constant leafy gooey sauces with milled millet and rice platters along with my daily Coke to settle any complaints my stomach expresses. I’ve also learned how to be resourceful with the availability of water. As the weather gets hotter (up to a high of 38 C), water shortages are more frequent, sometimes up to 24 hours. I initially made the
mistake of not keeping enough water in stock, but now take advantage every time running water miraculously appears at volatile times of the day.

The majority of my time is spent at work where my daily interactions with my colleagues have lead me to build a somewhat closer relationship to them than in the initial month. This week was particularly interesting, because I finally had the opportunity to attend an HIV/AIDS outreach session in a village and in a school. I didn’t understand much, as they were held in their local dialects, but it was always amusing to witness people uncomfortably laugh and some covering their faces at the distribution of condoms. Even though the rates have significantly improved (approximately 1.2% off the population in 2009), questions about HIV/AIDS remain, and the stigma around it continues.

A beneficiary came to see us because she wanted to refer her sister for the test to see whether she was HIV positive or not. With loquacious characters in small villages where everyone knows everything about each other’s business, she had heard from someone that her brother in law was being treated for HIV/AIDS. Her sister was referred to what we call the ‘Centre de ‘Dépistage Volontaire’ and took the test – the result: HIV Positive Type 1. The husband omitted this from his relationship with his wife, pretty sly if you ask me. This anecdote gives you only a slight idea of how relationships are over here between men and women. The fault will always lay be upon the woman, if a couple is unable to conceive a child, it is without a doubt that the woman who is infertile. This is a patriarchal society, where the woman is believed to be inferior to the man, she is a gnat. She must submit to him, because she was created within the man as mentioned in the bible that the woman came out of the man’s flank. Note that the main religions here are Catholicism, Muslim and Animist, though regardless of their faith, they all believe the same thing. Religion over here peacefully coexists, where inter religious marriages are not uncommon, but everyone here practices to some extent animist rituals.

Anyway, whenever engaging in a conversation with a man on this topic, I can never get any cogent response to my inquiries as to why they think women should not have the same rights as men. I listen to them with incredulity and abhorrence and they look at me with a disagreeing countenance as I explain that in Canada, women and men are equal and have the same rights (not to say that we are post gender equality, but at least the concept resonates within the majority). I thought with this country celebrating Women’s National Day coming this 8th of March as a national holiday, there would have a certain consideration for gender quality within the society. As previously mentioned, I do live in a village (I was definitely mistaken about the population, it is actually closer to 80,000 than the previously mentioned 30,000) and the perspectives are very different from ones from the capital city, therefore it is not to say that the perspectives over here are representative of the entire country. Beside this irksome mentality and obstinate attitude, people do have a funny sense of humor. There are various ethnicities in Burkina Faso and over 60 spoken dialects, where I am presently, it is the village of Boamo, where the Chief of the Village himself is Boamo. As Dédougou is a becoming village/city, there is an eclectic mix of ethnicities.

The most common pleasantries that I have heard are between the Samo and Mossi where the former
will call the latter his slave, as it once was. Or one will comically harangue the other about their incompetence; most problems get solved through these seemingly cantankerous pleasantries. It’s interesting to witness as I’m never sure as to whether they are being serious or not since the ambiance does get intense, until there is that loud outbreak of a heartily laughter.

The month of February has been an interesting one for Dédougou. At this time of the year, it is considered as the New Year for the Boamo, as they start to pray for the rain to fall. Men of Boamo ethnicity will dress up in masks (masks over here mean that the entire body is covered, and not the just the face) made of leaves and branches. During the entire month, there are hundreds of them peregrinating the streets barricading you until you give them money that you throw on the ground. They run after those who provoke them, and hit them with a wooden stick that they carry around with them complementary to their whip. I wouldn’t say that they hit very hard, but I have heard stories where in some cases, people have been beaten because of provocation.

The last week of February also came to know a week full of excitement as biannual the Festival of Masks – FESTIMA began. Many countries of West Africa gather here in Dédougou to perform and show case their masks made of resplendent tissues and fibres. I feel fortunate to have been able to attend the festival, as many foreigners travel to Burkina Faso solely for this event. I’d say it also brings a moderate amount of revenue for the village as well as more visibility. On that note, Dédougou will also be hosting Independence Day this coming December, which means that there will finally be paved roads and less of the omnipresent red dust! There is definitely a lot of potential for Dédougou, which I hope someday I could return and observe its transformation.

My weekend in Volta

February 27, 2014 | Heather - Ghana, AFS interculture, LAWA, Project Intern

Upon my arrival in Ghana, my host family let me know that the mother’s father had died, and that during my stay I would be attending his funeral. This had me a bit nervous, but I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness such an interesting cultural experience.

The funeral was a 3 day event in the Volta Region. Both my host parents are from this region, and grew up in small villages just 20 minutes apart. My host dad is from a village called Tafi Agome, and my host mother from Biakpa, a beautiful village along the mountains and near Mount Gemi.

Friday, everyone went to Biakpa at the home of the deceased. Everyone was cooking, dancing, and socializing. There were two other funerals happening the same day along the street, and the local school kids were bringing water up from the river for the three families to help. Everyone was wearing black (to mourn) and red (to ward off death). Later that afternoon, the body of the grandfather was brought from the mortuary. The car bring the body stopped half way down the road and the closest family members, and a small marching band went to meet it and then make their way up to the house.

I have never seen so much raw emotion. The whole family went from singing and dancing, to sobbing, throwing their hands in the air, crying and wailing, it was incredible to see such honest and open emotion and was like nothing I had ever seen. They brought the body into a room and throughout the day members of the family paid their respects and said goodbye. That night, the family did a “wake keeping” where they stayed up all night, drinking, dancing, sharing stories, a pastor came to give a prayer, everyone was to stay up and remember all they could about the deceased until he was laid to rest the next morning.

Saturday, everyone met at the church. It took me awhile to catch on but I soon realised that it was a funeral service for all three of the people who have died. The families were facing their grief as a community. Everyone from my family had matching fabrics, my family had a dress made for me which was really very sweet. The fabric was white and black, (white was to celebrate his life since he lived past the age of 90). That day, the bodies were buried, each family attending the service of the 3 deceased.

Sunday, the funeral rites were practised. Since the father of my host mom died, my host dad (and every spouse of the grandfathers children), were asked by the elders of the maternal family to provide something. Every single one of my host fathers siblings (11), attended to show their support for the family, and my host dad presented a large amount of gifts for the family to show that he can provide for the family now that the patriarch has died. He gave drinks, alcohol, yam, meat, and plenty more. What I found interesting was that it was not just the husbands who had to do this, but also the wives, and had it been her mother that passed the same ceremony would have occurred.

It was a very fascinating weekend. I had been very nervous to attend since it is such a personal thing, but my host family wanted me right in the middle and I am thankful to have seen such an interesting part of the culture.

Time flies by

February 27, 2014 | Cédric, Uniterra, Vietnam, North Thanh Long Economic

Two months have already passed since the day I first arrived in Hanoi, and in less than a month I’ll be back in Canada… So little time, so much to do!

My second month in Vietnam has been a very different experience from my first month here. In a way, I feel like I made a transition from a tourist to a short-term volunteer. I arrived in Hanoi during a very festive time (Têt), work had slowed down and I had plenty of opporunities to visit new things, do plenty of new activities, meet new people etc. During the first three weeks of our internship me and two other Canadian volunteers would go to the Old Quarter every evening to hang out with friends, try new foods and experience different things. During the two weeks that followed, Bac Thang Long College closed down for Têt which gave me the opportunity to visit Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) and explore a little bit of Cambodia! When the college re-opened on February 10, things started to pick up at work and I finally started to settle into my own routine, thus my transition from tourist to short-term volunteer!

Outside of the traffic, living a day-to-day life in Vietnam hasn’t been that much different from living in Canada. I have access to the same appliances (stove, fridge, microwave), hot water, home entertainment (laptop, television) a reliable bus system (actually, it’s much better than the one in my town), an office with all the material I need, access to a gym, a park, coffee shops with wifi etc. Outside of a few minor things, the transition has been a very smooth one.

My biggest problem so far has been the language barrier, this is something that I encounter from time to time while at work. In order to communicate with most of my colleagues, I am really dependant on the help of my two supervisors, as they are the only ones who fully master vietnamese as well as english. This hasn’t been an obstacle to getting work done, as I never have to work with people outside my supervisors, but is more of an inconvenience at times where I find myself having tea or eating with a group of people with whom I can barely communicate with. My second biggest problem would probably be the notion of time, which is something that benefits me at times and inconveniences me at others. On one hand, I work an 8:30-4:30 job from monday to friday, but I’m allowed to leave earlier (to catch a bus when it’s less crowded, go see the staff at the WUSC office) if I want to, I’m aloud to work from home, take long breaks for lunch-time, I’m encouraged to take as much time as I see fit when I’m working on a project etc. On the other hand though, whenever I send work to my supervisors a couple of days may pass before I get any sort of feedback. The notion of time is still something I need to get used to.

Living with a host family has been a blessing so far. I have the same freedom as I had living in Canada, but also the opportunity to discover more about the Vietnamese culture. I really enjoy the moments I get to spend with them, whether it is over a delicious meal (inside the home or outside in the street) or while doing fun activities (a couple of weekends ago the whole family went to a place called Ceramic Village, where you can buy all sorts of traditional crafts)!

All in all, my second month has been different but still as enjoyable as my first month. It also made me realize how short three months really is!