Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ghana 2013: Departure day and Arrival day

Departure day was hard. Jeremy and I both had our fears that came out during the days leading up to Departure day, so leaving him was especially difficult. Leaving my loved ones has always been difficult; it was during the days leading to this one that I realized I love Jeremy very much. 

I kept crying throughout the day because I kept thinking about how much I would miss him. I am only gone for a month, but Jeremy leaves for his own adventure about half way through my trip: he is going to Kimberly to act in two plays until sometime in August. Before he and I started dating, he went to Fairmont with his family for 3 days. I didn’t get to talk to him for those 3 days. I remembered how that was torture for me, and that memory filled me with panic and tore me apart. I knew I would miss him dearly.

Before I knew it, it came time for him to leave me at the airport. I fell apart. I just wanted him to come with me, or for me to stay, or something. I didn’t want to leave him. But in the end, we let each other go, and I pulled myself together for the group of students who had never before been to Africa and who were all of the emotions I felt when I first left for Ghana two years ago.

This time around, I am travelling as an assistant to the professor and 8 English students: 7 ladies and 1 gent. They all seem very proficient with regards to English courses from what I experienced in the classroom seminars before leaving. I am excited and interested to know how the trip will go, given that the group had some time to get to know each other better before leaving to a foreign land. Culture shock is a given, and adjustment is an individual process, after all.

Everything went smoothly through customs. My only loss was a pair of leopard-print scissors that I had forgotten was in my pencil case. I got my last Starbucks for a month and chatted and joked with the students for a while. And before I knew it, it finally came time to board the plane. I sent Jeremy one final text message before doing so and then I was off to Ghana.

The trick about being a student, especially one that keeps as busy as I do, is that I spend 8-10 months of the year not doing mindless or fun things like watching TV and movies or playing video games. Thus, that is how I spent my airplane rides to Ghana. I watched the pilot for “Once Upon a Time,” which seemed really interesting. I wanted to watch more, but they had no other episodes on the in-flight catalogue, so I watched an episode of “How It’s Made,” followed by an episode of one of my favourite shows,  “The IT Crowd,” and the movie “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Then I decided sleep was a good an idea as any and partook in it for a few hours.

First, we stopped in Amsterdam. We had a 7-hour layover there and so we intended to spend it on exploring the Centraal and seeing the Red Light District. A few hiccups later, we finally did… briefly. 

The first hiccup was realized when we were on the opposite side of the airport. The professor had forgotten his copy of the book “Faceless” on the plane. By the time we returned, all of the airplane staff for our flight had gone and the doors that partitioned the airplane from the terminal was locked. We spent about a half an hour trying to figure out how to retrieve the book. It appears that the Amsterdam airport doesn’t really have a help desk, let alone a kiosk specifically for the needed airline, and the locked door couldn’t be accessed by anyone who worked at the airport… but staff for the airline. We managed to catch the attention of a groundsman who retrieved the book from the plane from us, but even he couldn’t get through the door from the opposite side. So, the book was on the floor on the other side of the door with no way of retrieving it. We all tried to talk to people to find out how to get the book when one of the students accidently hit a button that made the alarms go off. Perhaps it was my lack of sleep that made me so amused by this, but I just laughed while she freaked out and said, “Well, we’re bound to get someone’s attention now!” And we did. A couple minutes later, someone came by, opened the door, retrieved the book for us, and insisted we run away from the area before security came. So we did. 

The first hiccup was a minor setback. We then got ready to go into Amsterdam Centraal by putting our carry-on luggage away in lockers and buying train tickets. Then comes hiccup number 2. We got onto a train only to realize it wasn’t the train we needed just as the doors locked and the train started driving away. So we wound up in a random place, having to take another train to get to downtown (by the way, the word ‘downtown’ means nothing to people from Amsterdam). Finally, we got downtown, had some lunch, had a very short time to walk around and look at the Red Light District before going back to the airport. I did get to try croquette for the first time, upon request by my beloved, and I loved it! I’m going to try more food on my way home. 
Menu from the restaurant we ate at.
Croquette and chips! Though I think I'm cheating because it's not from the street...
Then before we knew it, we were off again, this time to Accra. I was pretty tired, but knew if I slept the entire flight to Accra, my sleep schedule would be messed up when I got there, so I spent half of the 6-hour flight sleeping and then watching two more movies: “Broken City” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Both were really good, especially the latter. 

Accra coast line and my busty reflection.
And then we started our decent into Accra. I’m pretty sure I squeaked when I saw the city lights from the plane. Stepping out into the warm, humid air was so refreshing for me on many different levels. It reminded me of the last time I arrived in Ghana and also the times I went to Florida. The cool thing about landing in Accra is that you walk off the plane on steps and take a shuttle to the airport from the tarmac! I always think that’s the neatest part of the flight. We whizzed through customs, collected our bags, turned down proposals of all sorts, and then were out of the airport. Osei, our driver from last trip, saw me and ran up to me! I hugged him tight. Then Kofi, the other assistant also from last trip, hugged me too! It was such a wonderful feeling… I was filled with joy and a feeling of love.
Leaving the airport was met with some resistance. There were many men who overwhelmed us with trying to help us with taking our luggage to the van. Despite our denials, they forced their way in helping us and then demanded that they get paid for this help. We tried to explain to them that we didn’t ask for their help, nor did we want it, and that we shouldn’t be expected to pay. We even gave them some money and they asked for more. This seemed to really upset some of the students, and it wasn’t a good first Ghanaian experience, but I feel it was a necessary first lesson towards teaching the students about an aspect of their culture. The ordeal left me with some bruises on my right leg, as I had fallen into a gutter due to these men crowding around the students and me. Some of the other students had some injuries too from carts pushed into their ankles and whatnot… not fun.
My wounds from the time I got in a fight with a Ghanaian gutter.
We had dinner at the restaurant outside of the airport, which was the same place we had dinner the first time that I came to Ghana. I should have remembered that they would not have most of the food on the menu available to us for various reasons. The time it took to prepare the food was also a lesson to the students. It always takes more time to prepare food in large groups, but in Ghana, it takes time for everything in general, so oftentimes we are waiting twofold for things. But after a bit, we all had our food, made it to the hotel, and the evening was quiet. Nobody knew I was here and safe. I knew from my previous experience that the rest of the trip would be fine, but the first few days always seem the hardest, being so far away from home and so disconnected. I didn’t take time to set up my room, as I was exhausted, so I just put on my pajamas, looked at Jeremy’s picture, cried, and went to bed

Monday, April 15, 2013

Going to Ghana... again!

As some of you may have read from my last post, I mentioned I was given the amazing opportunity to go to Ghana yet again, only this time, I get to go as an assistant to the professor. The professor had mentioned the opportunity to me back around October, and of course I expressed interest in going again. However, that fell through, as the International Education program felt it would be better that someone with better qualifications (ie: a degree in teaching) went, so they hired someone else. Luckily for me, that arrangement fell through and I was presented with the opportunity yet again.

I was asked to attend an interview, as there was another friend of mine who went on the trip 2 years ago with as much eagerness and qualifications as I had. I prepared as best as I could and sold myself at about the same... a day later, I received an e-mail informing me that I was accepted as the new assistant. It was a bittersweet feeling. Yes, I was chosen, but I knew my colleague was equally, if not more, qualified than I was. Why I was chosen... I'm not sure. But I'm grateful all the same.

While I don't get paid to be on the trip, I have about 90% of the trip paid for by the school; I have found other ways of making money in the interim through the Calgary SCOPE Society and through craft making. I will also try hosting a fundraiser event for some extra cash to bring with me. I hope to bring home gifts again. =)

I guess the most important part of the trip for me is what I'll be hoping to accomplish while there. Last time, as a part of my course requirements, I had conducted research on an aspect of Ghanaian culture. I decided to look into the disability situation. Some months after returning, my professor sat me down to talk about my final paper with regards to the research. He said it was an incredible paper, but more importantly, he was curious if I wanted to do anything about the situation... I agreed, of course. And when the possibility of me returning came up the first time, he asked me again if these were still my intentions. They were.

So... I've been working hard in an attempt to continue the research I had started 2 years ago in Ghana. One of the events I took part in this year was the Arts Research Day symposium, where I read a heavily-abridged version of my essay to a group of people. It was at this symposium where I discovered I would likely need HREB (Human Research Ethics Board) approval if I wanted to take my research beyond the classroom. Of course, I didn't think of this when I was excitedly planning out and practicing my speech. But it was good information, and as such, I have my HREB application nearly finished for submission. My only hope is that I can get it reviewed and approved in time for the trip.

Awareness at this symposium was one of the first steps towards my goals. I also want to set up a sister school partnership between MRU and a school in Ghana (I'm hoping the Nkawkaw Unit School for the children with disabilities that I visited the last time). This is still in it's conception stages... but it is a dream I hope to actualize. As well, I would love to gather all the information I can in Ghana to write a paper ready for publications and presentations at conferences. I feel (for many reasons that I may divulge in at a later time) that this is a situation that needs awareness and attention. So... I'm hoping I can be some sort of catalyst for change with that regard.

Anyway... I leave for Ghana in a little over a month, on May 22nd. I'm excited to be back, to see familiar faces and to meet new people and make new friends. I'm also excited to share experiences and gifts from the country. And, of course, I'm excited to see how I do as an assistant. After all, one of my bigger dreams is to become a professor... so I can consider this is a test, of sorts.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My goodness, it's been a while... Update!

I can't believe I haven't written here in almost 9 months... I suppose that's what a busy life can do to a person. And what a busy life it has been...! School has claimed most of it (surprise, surprise), but I have also been trying this whole "social" thing I kept hearing about. In fact, I tried it back in November, despite the voice in my heart saying "Please don't do this to me. I really don't feel like being awkward at a party where I only know one person..." and it was the best decision I had ever made. For that day, I had met the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful man. A man I never thought I would meet after so many failed attempts at the whole "finding happiness" deal.

It's true what they say about things like that happening when you're not looking. I just wanted a break from my everyday life of school, so I accepted the seemingly random invitation to a wine and cheese party where I first saw this sweetest, kindest, most wonderful man.

Anyway. I could continue to be mushy, but enough people in my everyday face-to-face interactions deal with that and I don't need to plague the interwebs with such dribble, too.

Things have been good, needless to say. School has been very good... I've been pulling exceptionally good grades, have been taking up many unique opportunities, and even decided to go into Honours next year. The professor I did a directed readings study with this year agreed to be my honours supervisor, too, which both flattered and humbled me. As well as that, I won a couple scholarships (one worth $2000 for my work in the area of disability advocacy and awareness), presented my research that I did in Ghana at a symposium, presented my directed readings research experiment in a poster presentation, and then did much of the same in my Advanced Research Methods class.

Oh... and Ghana... Did you know I'm going back? This time as a teacher's assistant, all expenses paid by MRU, where I will be helping students with their course and research work and elaborating on my own.

So hard to believe that almost 9 months ago, I felt the way I did. Before I started to write, I looked at the last couple entries I had made.. depressing would be an understatement. But... something tells me I needed to hit that rock bottom to realize what I needed to do. Many of my dreams were actualized this year on account of feeling so low and wanting to climb my way back to normalcy. So I did... and I have no regrets.

As well, I have started this wonderful job working for the Calgary SCOPE Society. A job in my field, doing what I love: working with and helping those with disabilities. I have been a volunteer with the Hispanic Cultural Club at MRU as a the English Conversation Club leader for exchange students at the university. I met so many wonderful new friends from Venezuela as a result of doing this... I had helped them practice their English, and they taught me how to make a traditional Venezuelan dish: arepas.

There was a moment yesterday when I thought about all that I had accomplished this past year. Yes, it's been just shy of a year since I felt like ending it all. And in that moment, when I reflected on all that I have accomplished, I thought of my mum, as I always do in moments like that. I always wondered if she would have been  proud of me. I know now in my heart that she would have been-- rather, is, proud of me.

I know this because I'm proud of me.

I have many more endeavours to look forward to, too. I am running for president of the Psychology Student Society at MRU. I'm also going to volunteer at the CCEE, this time with my friend Daniel at his booth for his company, NewGame+. I will also be selling my crafts at another friend's booth... and I will be volunteering for a friend's fundraiser for her own trip to Africa in the summer.

My niece is so big now, and brilliant and funny. I can't help but think about how in love with her her grandmother-- my mother-- would have been. My kitten-- now over a year old-- is the light of my life. Her tiny, squeaky voice and the way she looks at me with so much love fills me with such joy.

Esperanza... engaging in what we like to call "cuddle o' clock"

My Valentine's day gifts from Jeremy, minus the neuron (far left) and add a stem cell.

My wonderful friends from the PSS... I don't think I could have survived this semester without the joy they brought to me every day...

Christmas with the Klaassen's.

Some of my research: snail embryos and their various treatments.

Me beside my poster for Student Research Day at MRU.

Me making arepas with my friends, the Venezuelan exchange students!

My baby... adventurous, curious, and not a baby anymore...

I don't know what else to say... my life is... good.

I hope you all are doing awesomely... 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My life as of late...

The other day, I was filled with an unyielding amount of sorrow uncharacteristic of my life as of late. I know I haven't written for a while, and I wonder how many people still bother to check for updates, but rest assured my life has been very good lately. I've been doing more with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), including sword fighting, archery, armour making, costume making, chain mail classes, and the occasional event. The people I have had the pleasure of meeting through the SCA, I can say with confidence, have made a huge impact on how I've been recovering from my break up. Of course, my other friends and family have helped significantly, too. All of the help, support, love, and distractions have helped immensely.

So the other day, when the heart-wrenching feeling of sadness came over me, I was many things: confused, guilty, depressed, negative... It hit me first when a co-worker and I were just making idle chit chat and the topic of my ex came up. I was making the pastry case pretty when suddenly I was stopped in my tracks.

"Krista, I don't understand why someone would break up with you... you're such a nice girl. You don't seem like the type of person to go looking for conflict..."

I fussed over the positioning of the pastry plates for a minute before replying,

"To tell you the truth, I don't know why he did it either... I have my speculations, but I don't know... I don't know that I'll ever know."

I forced cheerfulness then, telling her that it was okay because if it hadn't been for him doing so, I wouldn't have done and accomplished all of these wonderful things. The rest of the shift went by fine and the feigned happiness helped in making me feel genuinely better. It wasn't until I was on the bus ride home when the feeling hit me again.

All too familiar, this feeling. Under similar circumstances a few years ago... head rested against the glass of the bus, gazing out the window, keeping mental note of the here and now... something in those actions triggered a deja vu response. A few years ago, it was my mother I thought of, how fleeting life could be... why was this happening to her? Why was life so random? I felt it again the other day, staring at the cottonball-like clouds, taking note of the feeling of the air on my skin-- made thicker now as the temperature declined. I was overwhelmed with loneliness. A few years ago, I had the ability-- luxury-- of seeking comfort and solace in the arms of my ex... I needed that then, but I had no one to turn to.

It seems as though autumn has come early this year. The skies have been gloomy and the temperatures have declined, triggering the early onset of some trees losing their leaves. It's autumn that I treasure the most but fills me with the most sadness. I spent the most time-- valued, precious time-- with my mother before she died at the end of the season. I suppose something inside of me unconsciously triggered those feelings again...

Interesting how sad situations are all interlocked by an invisible spiderweb of (debateably) loose connections.

I'm feeling better now, but might this be a fair warning to all that this season brings out the worst in me. I'll do my best to maintain happiness... but if I'm sad and emotional, you'll know why.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Keep on dreaming, even if it breaks your heart

My mind has been cruel to me for the past little while, plaguing me with what I perceive as sadness, disappointment, defeat. I have been busy living my life, being with the people I love, helping the people I love, things like that. So today, when I had very little to do (some plans fell through), I decided to make the most of the day and continue doing some of my crafts. Because keeping busy should help with the whole... idle mind wandering away from me situation... right?

I had a lot of memories weave themselves in and out of my mind throughout the day, weeks, months (dear god...)... I realized that, honestly, the thing that hurts the most is to realize I did nothing but work my ass off. Try hard. Keep trying. And the hardest part of my life right now is to force myself not to try hard, work hard.

I thought of days spent trying to help you feel better about yourself. I would rack my brain trying to brainstorm ideas and approaches that may help... because even though I didn't realize I had loved you yet, I guess a part of me already knew. You asked for help, and I wanted to be the person to help you reach your potential. I wanted to see you happy.

I see silly things in my everyday excursions and I smile, but not for long. Because when I see these things, I think of how much you would have thought it was funny. I think of you laughing, and I smile, but I stop because.. I don't know if you're laughing. I guess I can only imagine that you're fine without me. Because you did this, and this is what you wanted... right?

Maybe I went wrong in thinking that things could get better. I could get better. You could.. You wanted... but maybe you never wanted...

I realize now that maybe I should have talked to you more... we used to talk all of the time. So... it's weird not talking any more. I didn't talk because I felt you could have tried harder to try to talk to me sometimes, too. Looking back, you were trying. You were asking me to talk, and I wouldn't. I do remember feeling scared to talk sometimes. Moreso after a while because I was scared you were going to choose everyone else over your (best?) friend.

Can I predict the future? Or was this just what I drove us to...?

So when you came into my dream last night, and when you come into my dreams sometimes, and I wake up hurt and scared to go back to sleep, I guess it can be chalked up to me being hurt about the failure I've caused. I'm hard on myself on the best of days. So... yes, this is kind of normal for me, sadly, but I'm trying not to beat myself up so much anymore. I know that most of what I did was what I normally do for anything or anyone I love as strongly as I do (did?) with you. I don't feel I have closure, either... I feel as though I'm still reaching in the dark for answers that you just.. couldn't/wouldn't/shouldn't provide me.

Some people say that I deserve better. That I can do better. And while that may be true, the same can be said for you, right? I was always trying to be better... but then that wasn't good enough (or was it too good?), and here we are (here I am).

So... all of this came about because of the necklace I was finishing. Memories are interesting things. Someday, thinking about how hard I tried won't hurt. Some days, thinking about how hard I tried makes me angry... and I guess I look forward to the day where it won't make me feel either extreme...

...because honestly, as badass as this whole... tapping into the rage thing is, it's still weird to think I occasionally ask myself to leave my usual peacefulness to get out the bottled emotions I have. I always wanted to be more like you, did you know that?

Finally, as the song the title of my post is named after goes, I need to remind myself... to keep on dreaming, even if it breaks my heart. Because the dream last night wasn't all bad. I got to see my mum and one of my favourite teachers dressed up as a gangster. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finally.. an update!

I have to apologize to everyone lately. The past little while has been a gong show in the life that is mine. It seems as though every time I get ahead in some way, I get knocked back in a different way. It for sure sucks, but I think I've been dealing with it well.

Besides, I suppose this blog is called "The Zany Adventures of Pixel Chick," so what good would it be if 'crazy' wasn't on the menu?

Anyway. I have been doing a lot of awesome things lately, despite things going downhill. At the beginning of May, I enrolled in a kickboxing class that, sadly, is ending tomorrow. I really enjoyed the class and I learned a ton. Not only that, but I was kicking the living daylights out of pads, so that helped. It made me look forward to Monday's, needless to say. It got the frustrations out for the rest of the week... =P

I've also been playing archery once a week lately. Well... I've been trying to go once a week. Things are still a little crazy for my schedule, so I've been going as often as I can and ideally, I'll be going once a week. My friend, Nicola, got me back into it. I had tried it in high school and loved it, but never really went beyond high school. Now I have an opportunity to go with Calgary's (Montengarde's) division of the SCA. =3

... On that note, I've been giving a lot of serious thought into joining the SCA (What is the SCA? Click here to find out more). Again, my friend Nicola asked if I wanted to go to an "event" a couple Saturday's ago. I did my best to object, claiming I had an assignment to do (I actually did have an assignment to finish), but I went anyway. It was a day-long event, 2.5 hours out of the city, and I had a blast! I got to dress up in a medieval dress and I ended up playing archery for most of the time, but I also watched a couple of my friends and others fight in a heavy fighting tournament. I loved it so much that I talked to someone about learning rapier combat. I will start those sessions on Thursday. =3

I also got a necklace from the baron and baroness for it being my first event. I got really sunburned... but it was awesome. =)

The first thing I did when I finished my final last week was I went to the library to take out books on the history and culture of gypsies. I determined that when I do join the SCA, I would like to dress as a gypsy, as they are of period. Even better, one from Spain. And then that would encourage me to learn how to dance Flamenco. I've done Latin American dance before, so learning a dance from Spain would be really awesome. <3

So yeah. Rapier-wielding gypsy from Spain who will soon know how to dance Flamenco. <3

I've been playing a lot more Magic: The Gathering lately, too. I went to my friend's place on Friday and he taught me how to play Commander. I won. It was awesome and it made me feel like a badass. =D

Other than that, not much to report... I've been recovering slowly but surely. My run club has been revived and I've been doing that as well as everything else. Crafting has been going well. I've been doing lots of things that I've always wanted to do or try, and that makes everything a bit happier in my little world.

I hope you all are doing well... <3

Monday, June 4, 2012

Meet my new kitten, Esperanza!

Yesterday, I added a new member to my tiny immediate family (tiny = me). Her name is Esperanza, and she is a Maine Coon/Persian cross kitten. <3

I ran into a friend of mine while having dinner with another friend. After some chit chat, he asked if I would like a kitten. At first, I felt pretty uneasy at the idea. Someone before had suggested I get a cat, seeing as I wouldn't have Buster anymore. I honestly got pretty offended at first ("I can't just replace Buster!" I would protest before sobbing), but after a night of thinking on it, I decided to give it a go.

For me, I've always loved caring for things... people, animals, plants, secrets... things like that. After the breakup, I realized that I had nothing really to care for that I could call my own (other than myself, of course). So I took the plunge and decided to care for the kitten.

The choice for a name was between "Querida," which means "loved one," or "Esperanza," which means "hope" in Spanish. I decided on the latter given the recent turn of events. Honestly, I was at a low point in my life. I didn't believe I had hope... I didn't believe I had anything left. After many long nights of thinking and days of soul searching, I realized I have a lot going for me... a lot of hope. So I believe the name is fitting.

Coincidentally, I received Esperanza on what would have been the 3 year anniversary of mine and John's relationship. The day has a now positive twist on what would otherwise have been a day of sadness.

I also realized that Esperanza is the name of a song that is on a dancing game I used to play a ton years ago, called In The Groove. I didn't often play the song (it was usually custom songs that I played), but it's a nice connection nonetheless.