Category Archives: Travelling

Little adventures of mine

Smiles

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“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”-Henri Miller

It was past midday now, and the sun beating heavily. The rumbling of the people and the peaceful chaos of the markets were different then they were back at home, but I felt more than welcome in this city as the heavy air swirled around me. To the west, the soft waves of the Pacific nipped the Nicaraguan shore, while on the east, brick walls painted by the locals contrasted heavily against the backdrop of the mountainous terrain.

 

Granada featured an astonishing amalgamation of Spanish, English, and French architecture. And as I passed the pastel coloured shops, I couldn’t resist the rich taste of coffee that spiraled its way around the road. As I entered Café de Las Sonrisas, rusty voices and the sound of spluttering car exhaust outdoors were the only disruption to the silence of hard work. All workers were engrossed with serving customers or threading hammocks. but still enthusiastic to converse with me despite my broken Spanish.

 

“Buenos, comment éstas,” my conversation would begin and from there I could pick out some main words from the worker’s lives. During the brief time I spent at the Café of Smiles, something magical happened, I discovered the language of empathy. I had thought that if I couldn’t speak the language it would be a barrier for me to help in the community, but through exchanging smiles, something clicked within me that allowed me to understand the worker’s lives. The workers here were different in every aspect compared to the workers I knew at home. Despite having physical restrictions or being born with limitations, they did not let it get in their way of happiness. As I left, all I could remember was the tinkering laughter and the joyful smiles in response to my smiles.

 

The magic didn’t stop there, just across the province of Managua in the rural city of El Trapiche more smiles anchored me back down. While I communicated with the children by teaching them how to draw Snoopy, they answered back with their gratitude by smiling. Doing silly faces to make them laugh and see their frowns turn upside down may be such a simple thing, but to see how its influence on others can bring such joy means the world to me. This is why when I first met little Mario all I could remember was the way his eyes lit up when he talked about what made him happy.

 

“Hola, mon numéro y Cecilia, y tu?” I hesitated slightly when I approached him. At first confusion clouded his eyes but he quickly recovered, “Mario,” he grinned. He was a smart seven year old to understand me despite my mistakes! His teacher even told me that he wanted to become a teacher so he could help other people in his community. Just like Mario, I also wanted to unlock potential in others but if I hadn’t gave him a reassuring smile I would have never been able to make that connection.

 

In hindsight, the prospect of visiting the country I was helping was exciting but frightening at the same time. I wasn’t sure what to expect in a developing country but I am so fortunate to have a familiarity with smiles that allowed me to feel at home. Because whether in the sunny Nicaragua or rainy Vancouver, a smile is a smile.

 

A smile paints so many beautiful characteristics in the people around me. I see courage when my friend decided to keep living despite abuse in her home. I see a passion for learning at the local church and where I teach art. I see acceptance for life’s circumstances among the seniors at the city senior center. And I can see that under the surface of every smile there is the want to love and to understand.

 

For me, genuine smiles will always be token of remembrances as they exemplify true happiness beautifully. They are the pursuit of warm fuzzies, and most importantly, they are my home.

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Reintegrating into Canada ( Nicaragua 2015)

Reintegration:

As I’m sitting on the plane back to Vancouver, I can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment. Disappointment in the society I currently live in and the way we spend money. The way I spend money, the way I live. The fact that even though I won my electronic devices from contess or competitions doesn’t justify my life style. I am changed and I can’t ever live my life without having flashes of the face’s from the El Trapiche community and their lifestyles. I can’t stop thinking about the entirety of my life everywhere I go. I see so many people who live comfortable lifestyles. The thousands of people I pass by in the airport, the mall, restaurants, libraries, and on the road. All these people have the luxury to satisfy their needs, wants, and desires by acquiring entertainment, vehicles, advanced education, and unnecessary appliances or materials for their daily lives. How many affluent people are there in the world? I know there aren’t many, no matter how many masses of people I see each and every day, it’s no feat compared to the millions without access to clean water, food security, financial stability, health sanitation, education, or human rights. Just the fact that North America has only 10% of the world’s population but has twice to three times the amount of food, health resources, and wealth than many of the world’s continents makes me sick. Places like Africa, has 75% of the world’s affected people with HIV/AIDs, uses 3-4% of the world’s health and food resources, and most sickening only 1% of the world’s wealth. The list could go on with the absolutely disgusting distribution of the world’s wealth and resources; the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting even more neglected.

Even though I am re-energized by seeing the suffering of the people I have tried so desperately to help the past few years become a little alleviated, I am ashamed to say that I will never know what they go through until I experience exactly what they’ve gone through. There are feelings of despair when one is not able to support their family because the weather failed to cooperate despite the year round toiling in the sun. There are feelings of helplessness when one’s mother is pregnant but they have to watch her suffer because they can do nothing to help her get access to the proper health care. There are feelings of exhaustion when all one wants to do is to break out of the cycle of poverty by bettering the future with education but after long days of working in the heat for their family and then needing to walk 10km through a dangerous cliff just to get to school is impossible. Then there are feelings of thirst for water yet not having any so one goes without water for days until the days there are water, it is not sanitary… but does one drink to die or die of thirst?

All these raw feelings were described to me by members of the El Trapiche community I had the wonderful privilege to visit. I am blessed to go back home and start taking even more action but I have an aching heart to leave this amazing community and country. The people who have so little are the people with the biggest hearts. The adults, teenagers, and children that I met welcomed me with warm hearts, bright smiles, and their willingness to share their stories. I have never felt so loved and appreciated by strangers. These strangers who in such a short period of time have become my family. They have such humble hearts, resilient courage, and noteworthy determination that will forever inspire me. Even though we couldn’t carry a conversation more than a few sentences, our hearts spoke the words that were the most important and that was love.

Love speaks volumes and if it’s anything I learned from my role models is that it doesn’t matter how much you give, it’s how much love you put into giving.

I went into El Trapiche with the thought that I was going to “help” with building a school. Even though I spent many gruelling hours in scorching heat pick-axing, carrying buckets of dirt, shovelling, making cement, and piling bricks, I wasn’t just building a school, I was building sometime much bigger than that. I built on the foundations of what I believed in. I wasn’t helping these people, instead when they thanked me all I wanted to say was that they couldn’t even comprehend how much they were impacting me and not the other way around. They were the ones who taught me what humility, humbleness and love really mean.

I have the responsibility to do what’s right once I know what is wrong… we all have that responsibility.

“When we use our intelligence and knowledge to serve people, humanity has hope. We are the hope, we are the future.”

Detours @ El Slavador

Sometimes things go unplanned. Or actually most often times then not they do. When getting to Toronto from Boston my flight was detoured and then getting to Managua, Nicaragua our flight was cancelled. But I think these detours are great! Even though it will take longer to get to our final destination, if its anything I learned from the past week and a half is that detours should be looked as opportunities. And it’s true. Whether you’re trying to get to where you’re going, sometimes it’s good to take the road less traveled by. I’ve got to interact with so many different people and immerse myself in cultures I’ve never immersed myself in. While riding through the streets of El Salvador, I was amazed at the unique beauty this country has to offer though so different from Canada or the US. This detour has allowed me to learn a lot more and experience a lot more.

So if things don’t go asplanned, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!

P.S. I will boarding for the flight to Managua soon so no WiFi for two weeks:)

Can’t wait to update you all when I come back

Xoxo,

Cecilia