Sunday, September 20, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

{I penned this reflection/rant/anything while waiting for a flight in an airport somewhere after being grounded due to an on flight illness midway from Lilongwe to Nairobi. So I was sitting in the departures area waiting for the flight and decided to write this. Sort of. Most of it anyways. The writing was kind of... really... okay entirely messy so I had to fill in the blanks a little here and there.... Well most of it.}

Pale soul. Pale with regards to a loss of colour caused by remorse and regret dripping with nostalgia. Pale soul. To opt for an oft used metaphor that "life is a road" it feels as though we're all wanderers, drifters really, and each fleeting moment is really just a step forward to our mutual destination. Perhaps time in Zambia was just spent wandering in about in the fog of the unknown and what lays beyond. A unique blur; maybe I was a blank canvas upon arrival that was painted with the faces encountered and the stories they shared. A unique blur of mere glimpses into the lives of so many - the family who called me their own in Twapia (their love, joys and adversity), the women and men who were interviewed for NGO work (their challenges and desires), and the fellow JFs within Zambia and Malawi (their stories, friendship and support). As return to Canada looms ever closer and closer - counting down in hours now instead of days - I cannot help but feel as though all these faces are drifting away, becoming permanently blurred and lost, especially those from Zambia.

So perhaps the canvas brought to Zambia is finished - no more will the child's call of "musungu! musungu!" colour memories of walking down the street, no more will I dine with Joseph and his family and hear his insights into Zambian culture and NGO work, no more will I receive those late night (which in Zambia was 19:00) text messages from fellow JFs. All the time allotted for Zambia has been spent. On top of the connections created with fellow musungus and Zambians alike I feel that spending the short amount of time overseas presented me with an opportunity to drive bits of change within NGOs and in the field.

Traveling to Zambia gave a different perspective of what the word "life" might mean compared to Canada... It does not feel so different. People still have their share of laughter and joys coupled with tears and sorrows. Hope still drives dreams of different tomorrows and change, but what is different is the opportunity for those hopes to blossom into reality. The women, men, and children of Twapia still dream of a new future for themselves - maybe it's an electrified house - they too dream for their children - maybe it's the chance to go to school -  yet even after working twelve hours a day seven days a week for months and years such dreams aren't tangible. Where's the opportunity? What can be done to create it?

The return to Canada? Maybe it's an ending, but the ending of most aspects of life is the beginning of something new. I feel that there is an immense and overwhelming potential for Canadians to knock down barriers to opportunity without ever setting foot on an airplane. Global citizenship..., responsibility on our part for our actions and the understanding of how we are citizens of the world (whether we like it or not) and that within this complex sphere of the world our actions can have strange and unanticipated ripples. There's opportunity to create opportunity, to catalyze opportunity..., to create change in our homes and in our class rooms, in the coffee shops and in the newspapers, in our governments (of all levels, not just federal) and in our conversations. In the actions we take every day after we arise the potential to make change happen is ubiquitous. Change happens in Canada, not just overseas. Change happens when we as Canadians realize that we can create change by holding our government accountable for its policies or when we encourage one another to take actions as responsible global citizens. Change happens in Canada.

The sun sets every day in Zambia, it sets every day in Canada. Each night the sun sets on a world where opportunity isn't found in every nook and cranny, it isn't flowing through life in places such as Twapia. Wouldn't it be something amazing if the sun didn't rise on the same world every morning, that as light falls to the ground it passes into a world of incremental change? So if each day is an ending and a beginning it's time to make each beginning a different one, a new one - for each sunrise to be greeted from all our actions the day before. Driving small changes on a day to day basis. With each new sunrise, each completion of the endings and beginnings,  let our actions contribute to building a world of opportunity.


  1. There is so much truth behind your words, Patrick. We are global citizens who have a responsibility to all people around the world, and we must always remember the adversity faced by those who don't have the same opportunities. We must do what we can to promote change in places where, no matter how hard they work, change may never come. Their challenges are so great, yet they still hold onto hope. Often, as we go about our daily lives, we forget about the strife they face as they are on the other side of the world struggling uphill, hoping against hope.

    As you looked back, your summation was clearly bittersweet. But we desperately need people like you who understand their plight and can carry their hope back home with you to spread the word.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    Karen Chady