Monday, 22 June 2015

Lunglei, Mizoram, India

(I had written this post as a draft almost one year ago and stumbled upon it today. Even though it's incredibly long overdue, it's still a wonderful reminder for me of my volunteer trip abroad.)

It's been almost two months since I got back from my surreal month in India. I was in a charming city named Lunglei for around three weeks of my month and spent the last couple days in Kolkata - the other unaccounted for days were spent mostly in airports.  I can't even begin to describe what my journey was like in a way that would do it justice, so I'll just recount the highlights.

After our three day journey (Toronto-Brussels-Delhi-Kolkata-Imphal-Aizwal-7 hour car ride to Lunglei) we were all beat. Our feet were swollen from sitting for practically three days straight; once we got to our home at 2AM we passed out in a hurry!

My team at the airport in Kolkata. L-R: Ben, Casey, Mo, Mae, Rachel, Jess, Beth and Rashan
Our digs were a lot nicer than I was expecting (with a kitchen, bathrooms, showers, and a big room with nine beds and bug nets) and in a beautiful mountainous region. Since the ride there was all in the dark we had no idea what sort of place we would wake up to, but it was gorgeous! We were all in awe. We began to meet all of the people that would become our friends over the three weeks, most of all CJ, RF and LJ. These were three really cool guys that I still keep in touch with and hope to visit again some day! It's crazy how no matter where you are in the world, people are so similar in the best of ways. We Canadians lived in almost different worlds as these boys, but we all knew the lyrics to John Mayer's Continuum album.

My favourite days were spent at the orphanage, which was a short walk from our home. There were eight children staying there, and they all stole our hearts. We were all shy at the beginning, but we eventually earned their trust and the trust of the "mothers" that worked there; we spent most of our free evenings playing with the kids. They all had their own personalities; we quickly learned who had endless energy and could tire us out, and who liked to be left to their own imagination more than anything. The stories of these children varied, but according to the mothers there, they were often left in the orphanage because of rough family circumstances and they were hoping that the children would be taken back by their family within a few months. It was still heartbreaking, but better than some childrens situations.

One of my favourite nights was Jessica, a team member's, birthday. We all gathered in the table tennis room that night for cake, fruit and pop while listening to blaring music. LJ (generally the mischievous one) grabbed some of the cake and started a full blown food fight! We all had cake and icing in our hair and on our clothes, but it was a really fun night nonetheless.

The most I-can't-believe-I'm-actually-here moments happened while sitting in the back of the pick up trucks; the trucks that we drove around in were often too small for the number of people crammed in there, and our destinations were often a few hours away. (Even if the villages weren't "far", it would still take a long time to get anywhere. For instance, the ride from the airport to Lunglei was only about 150km but took us upwards of 7 hours because of the conditions of the roads.) I have so many vivid memories of riding down these twisting roads, with my iPod in my ears and the sun on my face, and looking out at the lush green mountains surrounding me. To this day, when I listen to Boy & Bear's album Southern Sun (the soundtrack of my month), I can still picture those mountains and getting tossed around the back of the pick-up truck thanks to all the hairpin curves in the road.

The story that I tell most often of my time in India took place in Kolkata - another I-can't-believe-I'm-here moment. We were doing some sightseeing for our last few days in India, and decided to take the subway to the Kalighat Kali Temple. Our directions there were a little screwy and we ended up taking alleyways riddled with stray dogs and beggars that wouldn't stop trailing us. We were unsure as to whether we were even going the right way, because this was supposed to be one of Kolkata's major attractions. We eventually got to the back entrance of the temple, and immediately were surrounded by men telling us that they were priests and could give us the best tour for the best price (something that guidebooks had warned us about). In the distance we saw a goat being lead into a little hut just beside the temple, and out the other side of the hut there were trails of blood. We deduced that this was where they made sacrifices, something we weren't expecting! It was just a bombardment of sights, smells of insense, noises of bells and people clamoring to talk to us - it was incredible! I've never been so overwhelmed, it was incredible!

There are so many more stories that I would love to recount, but it's so difficult to do them any justice. Crossing a terrifying, rickety wire and 2x4 "bridge" after spending 4 hours in a 35 degree car; having a group of middle schoolers sing to us in thanks for doing our health and safety presentation; riding on the back of Henry's motorcycle after doing a photoshoot at a helipad; sitting in the audience with the women while my white friends play volleyball against the men residents of the rehab centre we visited; learning to crochet with these women (I was the worst, and I figured out later it's because I'm left handed); waking up on a bamboo deck in the jungle; going fishing for our breakfast; eating our meals in the jungle off of banana leaves; teaching kids in the school the "Banana song"; watching terrible movies in our very private and very cheap cinema; and, of course, being taller than every single person I met.

I'm sure I'll be back in Asia soon, there's just so much more to explore!
xxxx Jennalyn

Monday, 21 April 2014

I'm going to India!

Hello world, and happy 2014! I know that we're already a third through the year, but things are just starting to get exciting. School is over, the sun is shining, boxes are being packed. 

I've had a relatively good fourth (third?) school year. Nothing really too interesting to comment on. I'm just happy that I have one more year left, although I don't know where that'll take me. But as for my current plans, I am going to be in Mizoram, India in just over one week! Scary, exciting, unknown and new adventures await!

Mizoram is in the eastern part of India, that isn't really connected geographically or culturally to the main part of India. Apparently, it's more culturally like Bangladesh and Myanmar, its neighbours to the west and east, respectively. It was colonized by the British and was never really restored to its roots like the rest of India was; the population is mostly Christian, for example, while the rest of India is mostly Hindu. It's mountainous and breathtakingly gorgeous, or so I've heard. And apparently incredibly hot: the weather forecast for the upcoming week is a high of 42° and a low of 27°

The red part in the North-East is where I'm going to be for an entire month 
I'm going with a group of eight other students, and while I don't know them very well at the moment I know we will know everyone's deepest secrets and annoying habits in a couple of weeks. The volunteer group I'm going with is called Global Youth Volunteer Network and they organize these trips all over the world. My friends have gone to Kenya, Peru, Brazil, and Thailand with this same organization. The trip that I'm going on is largely a relationship building one, meaning that we won't be doing much or any physical labour, but rather working within the community. We are going to have many opportunities to meet new people and speak with them; we're going to be working in a malaria clinic, with farmers, and in an orphanage (what I am most excited for).  I have no idea what to expect in terms of the experience I'll gain - but I think that's better than having ideals already in my head. 

It'll take us three days of travelling there and back: a 7 hour flight to Brussels, an 8 hour flight to New Delhi, a 10 hour over-night layover in Delhi, and then three more flights and a 6 hour bus ride to our final destination. Probably the most travelling that any of us will do in such a short span of time. We'll be in India for one month, and at the end of that month we will be spending a couple of days in Kolkata to do some tourist things. I can't even imagine the stark contrast between Mizoram and Kolkata. I hope to get some photos that can illustrate what my time was like there! Hopefully my camera skills don't fail me. 

But before I do that I have boxes to pack and to move house. Even though school's over, there's no break. 

I'll update you on my month once I'm back. Hope you're all enjoying the warmer weather! 
xxxxx Jennalyn

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Great Times in Guelph

I got back to Guelph a week and a day ago, and I have to say it hasn't been too shabby! I was pretty sad leaving the cabin because I made some great friends at work this summer (who would-a thunk?). I have been told before and am slowly starting to grasp the fact that I tend to have fun no matter where I am or who I'm with, so I need to stop dreading things! To be honest, though, I've been too busy in Guelph to even think that I'm having a bad time.

I went with some friends to Canada's Wonderland on Wednesday (the day after I got in) which was so much fun and soooo hot. I love roller coasters even though they scare the bejeezus out of me. I had recently seen on the news that a mom in the States had fallen out of a roller coaster (and died) while riding it with her family, so that story was in the back of my mind all day...I didn't share this story with my companions until we were safely back in the car. 

This past weekend I went to the Gentlemen of the Road festival with Ilana, her boyfriend Peter, Pete's friend Liam, and Dave. It was such a good weekend full of good music, great friends and couldn't have been any nicer weather wise! Dave lives in Simcoe, where the festival was, so we stayed with him and got to go swimming in his lovely backyard pool both days that we were there. On top of that, I met up with Kelsey who lives in Windsor but I met in Ireland. It was wonderful to see her again! We saw Dan Mangan, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Bear's Den, Hey Rosetta!, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Mumford and Sons. My favourite bands to watch were definitely Edward Sharpe and O.C.M.S. They were such good performers! If either of them are ever in the area again I would not hesitate to see them again (hopefully in a smaller venue). Of course everyone was excited to see Mumford (they were the headliners/organizers of the festival) and they were great as expected, but everyone around me was singing so loud I could hardly hear the music! I had seen Mumford 3 1/2 years ago with Margi and Katie and I liked that show so much more - there were maybe about 200 people there compared to the 15,000 there this weekend. 

Danielle (Kelsey's friend), me, Ilana, Peter and Kelsey

And to top off a great week I got a job! I had been handing out resumes like mad and hadn't really heard anything (because everyone and their brother was handing out resumes at the same time). My roommate, Jamie, mentioned that he knew some people that managed at Fionn MacCool's, so he put in a good word for me and got them to look at my CV. I had an interview on Monday which went really well and the interviewer told me that I could expect to hear back by the end of the week, but he also told me that it was a good sign that I even got an interview. The interview was at 2:30PM; by 6:00PM I had an email in my inbox welcoming me to the Fionn MacCool's team. He was prettttty impressed with my Dublin experience, as it was the first thing he asked me about. I have orientation tomorrow (in the middle of the Central OV training) but I've got it all sorted out. Can't wait, it looks like such a fun place to work!

And lastly, I have my room finally set up just the way I want. I love it; it's so "Jenna"! Here are some photos - how cute is it?!

I just found that perfect frame for my map yesterday - and it's a cork board!
Couldn't be better for my travel dream board :)

The Irish flag that all my friends signed before I left

Look at this wicked dresser I found on Kijiji

My shot glass collection has grown! I'm at 57!

Love you all, hope you're enjoying the last few days of summer wherever you are!
xxxx Jennalyn

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cabin Livin'

Cabin life has been good to me so far. I have only recently been joined by my mom and dad; it's so nice to have some extra noise within the house.  I've been working pretty non-stop at The White House, and I have to admit that it is nice to get back to work and start earning money again. Canada Day weekend was mental and it was nice putting my feet up after each day!  Other than that it's been a lot of barbecuing, seeing grandparents and other relatives, and lots (and lots) of driving.  Probably my favourite thing about being back in Manitoba (besides seeing family) is the weather. It has been sweltering hot and then thunder-storming at night. There's nothing quite like a prairie thunderstorm!

I'm heading in for an x-ray tomorrow because I've messed up my left knee. I knew I never should have started running, working out is not for me! Hopefully I won't get too terrible of news from the doctor. In any case, I'm sticking to knitting for the time being. As well as that, I've been putting my new camera to work. I'm not quite pro yet, but I'm working on it and learning new things everyday. I hope that by the time I get back out into the big, wide world I am able to document it with some nice photographs.


(I made them extra-large so that you can see how stunning they are and how talented I am.)


xxx Jennalyn

Saturday, 15 June 2013

England & Back in Canada

Sorry for the late post, I tried uploading this in Switzerland, Ottawa and now Guelph and for some reason it doesn't want to cooperate with me. Let's try one more time.

England was very jolly indeed. It was a bit of a rough start as I missed my flight on Saturday morning (note to self: don't go to a party, get home at 5AM and try to have a cat nap before you leave, because 15 minutes can easily turn into 3 1/2 hours). In any case, I made it to Brighton thanks to my dear friend Soph going out of her way to pick me up at Heathrow. We got there at 4PM and went straight to the Ladyboys of Bangkok. The show was hilarious; Jess and I even got pulled up on stage to do the YMCA! I had been to a Ladyboy show in Thailand when I lived there in was a bit different seeing it when you're 21 versus when you're 8, though. We were lucky that the Brighton Fringe Festival was on, and we spent the night dancing in a tent that was playing some pretty deadly swing music with the other Fringers.

Unfortunately Soph had to drive back to Cambridge the next day, so Kate, Jess and I wandered around The Lanes in Brighton. The Lanes are the bohemian shopping streets, full of really eclectic things and people. We sat on the rocky beach for a long time, went to the famous Brighton Pier, had some Vietnamese food, etc. Really lovely day! Afterwards we went to a comedy show (for only £5...steal of a deal) - again, hilarious! - and then stumbled upon a tent set up for the festival with a great atmosphere. It was very hippy-ish with more interesting people, music, drink, and a street vendor that I had seen on The Food Network. It was so bizarre, but of course I took a picture with him and tried his PHENOMENAL Indian street food - I have no idea what it was but it was gooooooooooooood. We spent the rest of the night talking to the other Fringers and making tonnes of cool friends.

Beautiful Saturday in Brighton
Enjoying some fresh seafood at the sea 
Angus (the Indian streetfood guru) and I
I'm getting my rabies shot next week, don't worry
Kate and I trained up to London Victoria Station the next day, where we parted ways. I made my way to my hostel and got ahold of my friend John, who I know from high school. I spent most of my time in London with him and his friends. If I wasn't with him, I was with my friends Desiree and Kyle from Dublin. On my last day, Desiree took me to Greenwich Park for a breathtaking view of the city, and to feed some very brave squirrels.

I spent a few days in Ottawa with my grandparents, dad and brother. Murray received his Bachelor of Computer Science last Tuesday, and we're all very proud of him. I trained up to Guelph on Wednesday and moved everything into my new house. I'm still in the process of decorating, so I'll get some pics up when it's all finished. It's been great being in Guelph, even though I was a little unsure of how I would feel. I love seeing my friends again and revisiting all of my old stompin' grounds - I think I might be getting on their nerves, considering how much I reminisce. I'm just sentimental, I can't help it!

So I've had my last day in Europe for about a year and a half. It was bitter-sweet (mostly bitter), because I have grown to love the continent and all the amazing people I have met there. It makes me sad to say that I probably won't get to travel much within the next two years, but after that I have all the time in the world to see other wonderful places that I have missed this time around.

Until later,
xoxox Jennalyn, no longer abroad

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Der Berliner Fernsehturm und Norwegen

I went up the Fernsehturm (TV Tower auf Englisch) a week ago with some of my peers from the Goethe-Institut. We had phenomenal weather for it, and had hands-down the best view of the city. It reminded me a lot of the CN Tower, which I guess is to be expected, but it was smaller and didn't have one of those wicked glass floors. It was another way for me to get my bearings in the ever-confusing Berlin, and was really cool seeing the famous sights from another perspective. 

Pretty wicked photo, if I do say so myself
The photo below is of Unter den Linden, which is a boulevard in Berlin. You can see the Berliner Dom (the big green domed church), which is on Museumsinsel (Museum Island); further on you can see the Brandenburger Tor just before the big park begins; the big park is called Tiergarten; and then in the middle of the Tiergarten you can see the Siegessäule. It doesn't really look like much if you don't know what you're looking at, but I think it's pretty neat-o! (Click the links if you want to see what you're looking for).

After class on Friday I caught a flight to Oslo for my first trip to Scandinavia.  I was only there for about 48 hours, which seems a little ridiculous now that I think of it, but it was a great (and expensive) trip. I got there on May 17th, which happens to be their National Day, so I was greeted by a lot of drunk Norwegians wearing suits and traditional dresses. In any case, it was a great atmosphere! I spent the weekend with Zenon, who (whom?) I hadn't seen in 9 months. I didn't do too much in terms of touristy things, but it was a relaxing weekend in the sunshine. On Saturday I mostly walked around the city looking at buildings and stopping every once in a while to read on a bench. I went for a lovely lunch near the cathedral, and only when the bill came did I realize that I needed to cough up €20 for a salad (to be fair, it was a damn good salad). Zen and I went to the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park and saw lots of naked people in compromising positions, but it was unlike any park I'd ever been in. 

One of the more famous statues in the sculpture park of a very angry baby 
Tower of people in the sculpture park

On Sunday I went with Zen, Ian (from Guelph, doing a semester abroad in Norway) and Zen's friend Andreas (Norwegian) to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, where we got some great views of the Norwegian country side. 
At the ski jump
Bearded & dreaded Zenon and I in Norway...he looks thrilled to be with me, as always
After such a short while, it was time for me to catch the flight back home (or rather, to Berlin).

I'll leave you with this photo of these happy trolls.
xoxoxox Jennalyn

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Too Few Photos of Berlin

I admit it,  I have been terrible at taking photos of my time in Berlin. To be fair, what it has mostly consisted of is taking the S-Bahn to school, doing homework, admiring the Sehenswürdigkeiten from the S-Bahn on the way home, and sleeping. I have been hanging out with my friend Ben (from high school) who has lived here for a year and a half, but (unfortunately?) the only photos I have with him are on my disposable camera.  

That being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Berlin thus far. I have done a walking tour, which was for me to learn the history of the city as well as get my bearings; I have done a German tour of Mitte (which is the area my school can be found in); I have gone to a club in the middle of the day (full on techno music, dancing, drinking at 3PM on a Sunday); I have gone to a yoga class (like I said I would); I have shown my parents around KaDeWe (aka Kaufhaus des Westes)... and I have so much more on the to-do list.  

Here are a few photos that I have taken of things that I have done. Expect more later on! This week I am going to the top of the Fernsehturm, which I'm sure has the best view of Berlin. I am also going to Oslo this weekend because...why not? It's a long weekend (again) so I am going to make advantage of being in Europe until I-don't-know-when by seeing somewhere new. Zenon is going to be in Oslo with his Norwegian friend that weekend, and it'll be good to see him/celebrate his 21st with him :)

Saying goodbye to mom and dad at the Basel Airport once again -
I was only with them for 1 1/2 days before I was off again!
Soviet Socialist mural in East Berlin, depicting everyone happy and working together 
This was my favourite part of the walking tour - there are tonnes of beanbags, hammocks and book shelves full of books. This square is where the books were burned by the Nazis on May 10th, 1933, so around the anniversary they set up this "Stadt Lesen" centre as a reminder that now we are free to read what we want.  
Check out this wonderful weather we had! This is the Berliner Dom or the Berlin Cathedral
Mom and dad visiting me for the past weekend. This was our German breakfast on the first morning
Quite literally the best Thai food I have had outside of Thailand - come visit me and
I will take you here! I was almost licking the plate at the end of the meal

I'll see you in Norway!
xoxox Jennalyn