A Few Books, One Map, and a Little Time

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I gawked as I crossed the border into British Columbia and saw the sign read “the most beautiful place on earth”. Nothing is more beautiful than Washington state. I had just spent the last couple nights in my most favorite place in the world, the Cascade mountains. However, as I continued to weave north into the Cascades through Canada, I was shocked I had never been to this place before.

Much of the last two weeks were spent in the mountains with my dogs, and when I was lucky, some amazing women. Walking in the woods with the things I need on your back is refreshing and leaves me feeling appreciative for the things I take for granted. Good conversation and someone to share the experience with makes it exceptional. I was fortunate that, for a whole week, I had this opportunity. I even met a woman with a degree in global studies, a rare find for me!

The memories of solo travel began to unravel the minute I was alone in my first campsite. I thought back to my first extended road trip alone, and the reason for going. I was heart-broken and destroyed but a glimmer of self-worth remained as I took off south to go find something, although I was unsure of what. I’ve spoken about it before: it was an attempt to hide the dark secrets of the years before, and the solitude of my destination would help me find myself again. This time, I wasn’t running, but I was curious and searching.

Loneliness still rears its’ head from time to time, although this time I wouldn’t call its head quite so undesirable. There are trade-offs to being alone, such as being able to make whatever decision you please and being able to move at your own pace. As everyone who knows me knows, I am not one to sit still for too long and it is also nice not to have anyone waiting on me. However, being alone leaves a lot of spare time to think about things as well. I was able to listen to podcasts to think about things that interest me, ponder what truly is my “passion”, and sit with the things that I only blurt out to strangers.

Choosing curiosity over fear was a topic of a podcast that I listened to while on my journey (On Being). They said the interested people make interesting people and I was hoping to meet some. I was also curious what would happen this time around. What would I learn? What would I see? Was British Columbia truly the most beautiful place on earth? Was it still possible to travel with just a few books, a lot of free time, and a map? Would I be lonely and impatient as I had been on travels alone before?

I learned it is challenging to travel alone with dogs. I had imagined myself writing in cafes and sipping coffee, tasting beer from the local breweries, chatting with people within the vicinity, and picking up rideshares and hitchhikers. We all know that I cannot leave the dogs in the car, and Liam makes it challenging to bring them into a highly public place (loves people a lot, hates dogs). So we opted for the introverted option of camping alone. No one on Craig’s List was looking to go where I was heading, so I picked up some of the numerous hitchhikers along the Squamish-Whistler highway. There seems to be something about mountain towns where hitchhiking is a little more on the common side. It was good to talk to someone, even for a little while. Lonely or not, it is weird to not talk to another person for 24 hours.

The plus side of dogs in Canada is they are allowed in national parks, unlike in the United States. Since we were traveling by book (Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies), we were able to explore trails with an unknown visual destination. We were picking hikes based off written descriptions and accessibility, making each day a little bit more of a surprise. The book established a one to four rating, and every hike I did was a two star. Based off what those two star hikes were like, I can’t imagine how the premier ones were. The campground book (Camp Free in BC) was even better for surprises with its’ vague reports yet detailed statement on arrival to home for the night.

I was laughing before I started writing this blog, because I read my journals from one of the nights I opted for a hotel room and drank a little too much wine (camping in the rain still sucks). It reads:

Sometimes you have to sit on the river bank of the Kootenay and savor the remaining minutes of daylight and rainless evening. If I could float around this country, I would be so happy. Like a bird, not like a plane. I don’t want to depend on anything but myself. But what about my iphone… I would trade television, movies, ovens, cans, airplanes, new clothes, to just walk the earth with my friends. Now… if only everyone felt the same way. All I need is shelter, water, food, good conversation, and something to look at. Although books and maps are nice too. Tonight, I’ll just savor every inch of this mattress.

Clearly I was enjoying the map and book idea, but what would I do without that iphone? Canada inspired me in a way that I hadn’t been in a while. It wasn’t all good though. About halfway through, much of my writing became overwhelmed with self-punishment after reliving dismissal and degradation, which I will talk about in another blog.

I left for home a little early to make a layover in Cle Elum, where I got to spend a couple of days with one of my favorite people in my (still) favorite place. Every return home always calls for at least one full day of cooking “gourmet” meals. This was especially rewarding because I had been eating out of a car for the past two weeks. Canada made it pretty easy to eat local and plant-based – I even caught a farmer’s market in Cranbrook – but I was worried about all the little babies at home!

Travel gives me new scenery to connect ideas I have floating in my head, and depending on where I go, new perspectives. My compositional mindset allows me to see things in a way that I may not have before and it forces me to spend more time reviewing the small things, which I appreciate. Being alone gives me an abundance of time to read the books that have been piling up and write down the flurry of thoughts to attempt to make sense of them.

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Food, Capitalism, and GMOs

I just listened to a podcast that got me thinking about our food system and access to information again. They were stating that we already have enough food to feed the world, which I have heard before, and it is an access and allocation problem instead of a lack of food.
So much money is spent on scientific research to find an answer to world hunger. Is it possible that if we used this money to teach sustainable farming and changed access to food deserts by building roads and infrastructure that the problem would subside, at least a little? How much do we really know about the research that happens in our country or around the world and why aren’t we more informed?
The podcast was on GMOs (an interview with Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein) and they mentioned the genetically engineered mosquito recently tested in Brazil. This mosquito is killing the offspring of mosquitos potentially affected by Dengue and Zika, which is great for the current status, but what about the future? What will this do ecologically speaking? It seems every time we intervene in nature, something else happens (superbugs…).
I was also thinking about education and motivation. As I found out in my research earlier this year, it can be said that people don’t want to continue to learn about farming (no matter how sustainable) because it isn’t always looked at in a positive socioeconomic light. It was said that if people are going to receive education, they want to learn about a job that is considered more advanced. Is this all perpetuated by a capitalist world? No one has time to consider growing their own food if they are trying to make a million, right? Why would anyone want to if it is easier to buy what they are selling? What do we need all that money for anyway, what good does it do? Is this why don’t people have more desire to know about their food?
To me, it would seem that our current system maintains ecological destruction, segregation, and dependence on big agriculture. What is there to be done about this? Education? What if people don’t want to listen? Do we all just give up and let things take their course? We will only be around for so long anyways?

Information thought about and gathered from listening to:

Rich Roll Podcast: Consumed by GMO: Daryl Wien and Zoe Lister-Jones on the Future of Food

Notes from Nicaragua (plus some..)

My internship is finally complete. The trip to Nicaragua was successful at developing new ideas, enhancing existing ones, and connecting recent education with the actual world (although it doesn’t take traveling to do that). There is something to be said about exploring how American foreign policy affects other nations. I haven’t quite figured out how to put it into a simple sentence.

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I have pulled some of the main realizations from my journals, to put into one post. It was very effective to have a bit of knowledge to boost confidence when navigating research in another country. As I previously stated, I truly think travel is better when you know a little about the culture and the history that made it that way. However, on the note of navigating, it has been interesting to navigate relationships and identity recently as well.

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Being in Nicaragua got be thinking further about my identity and privilege a bit more. The continuing education focused strongly on One Health; and the recent devastating news internationally and nationally has me feeling more lucky and shameful than ever. I can’t seem to grasp the idea of me ever changing anything, and who do I think I am to try? How can I even sympathize with what people of the world are going through? Isn’t it a privilege to have to opportunity to think about addressing issues that don’t directly affect me? How is this perceived by the people affected? Does this even matter? Will anything ever change?

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Even in that paragraph – I am asking questions related to me. While the biggest question I am asking is “how can I help?”, I can’t help but notice the self-consciousness that goes into it. Even seemingly selfless acts can turn selfish. I want to educate, and I want to act, but I don’t even know where to start. Then it seems I go into these cycles that end up in me not accomplishing anything. Even though my intention seems to be in the right place, nothing of purpose seems to come from it, except for maybe a little guilt, and sometimes inspiration.

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The ideas I am talking about still boggle me, so if you are reading this and you are confused, don’t worry… so am I. For now, I will go into some of the journaling I turned in for my global internship. I will skip the history, write me if you are interested in further readings:

World Vets provide free medical care for all types of animals to families who cannot afford it, and free spays and neuters to all animals regardless of economic status. Run by two local veterinarians, and one from Canada, they encourage use of other local veterinarians, but will take referrals for procedures not able to be done elsewhere.

The history of Nicaragua is still  evident in the culture today. Daniel Ortega (leader of the Sandinista party in 1980’s) is currently president and many posters he is in mentions the Revolution or Sandino. There are people that have told me that Sandino was a great hero, and FSLN can be spotted everywhere from graffiti on street corners to flags to stickers on taxis.

Every book store I went in had many books on revolution and history, unlike anywhere I have ever been before. While browsing one particular bookstore, I came upon a wall dedicated to social movements throughout Latin America, separated by country. At first I got really excited for more information but was then overwhelmed with emotion to the point of tears, because I was looking at proof that everything I was reading was true, but change is real and possible. That is one of the reasons I am so interested in history, because there are so many incidences where people fight for change with varying degrees of success against extreme oppression. Although it is tragic that the need for revolution is there, it is moving that success can be and has been possible.

There were art galleries in Granada, art being a part of Nicaraguan history that I knew little about until this trip. Art has been used as a rebellion against the elite class since it was introduced in 1946. It seemed to be very prevalent in Granada throughout its’ galleries and cultural places for people of all ages to express and sell their art. A yearly festival celebrates Nicaraguan fine art, known as Berrinche Ambiental. And of course, Masaya especially, Nicaragua is known for its’ handicrafts such as pottery and hammocks.

This particular visit to Latin America led me to interact with the locals much more than I had in the past. This is partially because I had to in the clinic and through outreach, but also because I figured out that it is not as scary as I thought it was going to be. As many people mentioned, many Nicaraguans do not blame the US citizens for the atrocities committed by our government. As mentioned by Brody, the guide at the museum, Dr. Steve, and Enrique, many People believe that if US citizens would have known about the history, it could have ended much earlier. However, as stated in “Empire’s Workshop”, media manipulation did not allow for any of this information to be leaked easily.

In addition, my confidence in trying to practice my Spanish grew, which led me to conversing with people, including Enrique most nights at our house. He truly made my experience here in Granada better, with his patience and stories to tell.

One of the biggest learning experiences of the trip was certainly field medicine. It was interesting to say the least to work with a group of strangers in a high volume and high stress education center. There were language barriers, lack of high volume medicine knowledge, unknown placement of supplies, illnesses I wasn’t familiar with, and all the while teaching someone veterinary skills. Throughout the day, it proceeded to get increasingly hot and humid, especially in the confined space we were working in. Overall, it worked out very well, and we all walked away with more knowledge we arrived with.

One Health is the main focus of Dr. Steve’s continuing education at the IVM center in Granada, Nicaragua. Currently, One Health is an idea being used by educational facilities, and it is talked about in many others. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of any real structure which results in lack of implementation. This is partly because it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. One health focuses on the idea of community-animal-environmental health as one unit instead of veterinary, ecology, and human medicine separately. We cannot look at the health of the animals without noticing the health of the people that care for them or the environment they live in. In order to address any one of those issues, they must all be addressed, preferably together.

It is always interesting to meet people that you instantly connect with. It is amazing actually. It is always a little heart-breaking knowing that you may never see them again. It is hard to let go of things that you know aren’t working, as well. Learning when I need to practice self-care over fulfillment for other people has been a huge learning curve throughout my life, because I naturally want to please, but it is getting a little easier.

Once again, I must add, that these are my experiences and this is information I gathered from people and readings. History can be found in all parts of the world, but it is interesting to connect what our country has done that many citizens have no clue about.

It is interesting how life unfolds the way it does. Things seem to lead to something ekse. This trip was somewhat unexpected and unplanned, but ended up with new ideas,continuing education for work, and a global internship. I never had plans to go back to nicaragua, but I fell in love with the colorful city of Granada and all of the people I met on this trip.

US Imperialism in Latin America

My final: for informational purpose

Repression, genocide, thousands tortured and executed by US trained counter-insurgencies, all in the name of economic interests. This is just one example of United States imperialism in Latin America. For the past two centuries, the US has had much involvement in Central and South America. Economic intervention has led to political and military intervention in almost every single country.

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Spanish Colonialism

My Mid-term: for informational purposes

Nations are invented with symbols that are put in place and enforced by the elite to benefit them, what they want, what they think is best for those imagined to be in the nation. Often times, the peoples’ true needs are not taken into consideration, because they may not even have a concept of who they really are. This is what Benedict Anderson meant in his book “Imagined Communities” when he said that nations are “…imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson).
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La Revolución de Nicaragua

Tomorrow night, I get to go back to Central America, Nicaragua, to experience and relate a majority of the things I spent the last 6 months learning about. While I am going for veterinary medicine, I have the opportunity to complete my global internship with the help of my faculty advisor, Jesus Pérez. He has asked me to further my reading on history with a book titled “Contra Terror in Nicaragua”.
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SUBURBAN NATION: A Book Review?

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As the quarter in school comes to a close, I have a lot of information to process. In addition to all of the depressing knowledge I gained about corporate globalization, I am stuck on what I will be doing this summer (a distraction maybe?). Work on a reforestation and education project outside of Cusco? Try to get on the raft documenting deforestation in the Amazon? Travel with a friend to Costa Rica or go solo somewhere new? Or just take summer quarter and work on research on how to make a change locally? Probably. I’ll talk about all that another day.
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The Realities of Picking a Research Topic

oh my, that book reading last night got me thinking. I’m thinking of empathy as a radical movement. How did it get to be that way? I care deeply about people, and suffering, and joy. Empathy needs to stronger hold in the people who have given up, the people who think that the answer is not within reach. It’s there. Find it. One person can turn into thousands. It’s how protests start. Even if they fail – damn it feels good to be around people with the same beliefs. Effervescence. It might be powerful, one day. “People over profit”. Once again, I would like to give credit to my instructors for these ideas: Dr. Ketcham and Dr. Perez.

I have had a hard time deciding on a research project. After attending the book reading last night, I was presented with yet another topic to debate. Here are the 3 that I have been researching:
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There Is No Skating Through School This Time

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This quarter of school has presented me with more mental challenge than I have been faced with in a long time. My English and Global Studies class has forced me to use critical thinking skills and it has really opened the doors to new opportunities (as if I needed that). Intermediate algebra has me doing back work to understand the new concepts I am learning in the class – a sign I placed too high on my placement exam.
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