Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Two days....and then I arrive home after around four months of being 5,000 km away from my family. My patience is wearing thin but I remind myself that I got through it last year so I can do it again this year, but STILL! It's hard being so far away from my family.

My mum is amazing. She claims I've abandoned her and have left her to the mercies of my dad and brother, ie think sports all the time. My dad loves to meditate and is into alternative medicine, which surprisingly seems to work better than conventional medicine! My brother is 17, though to me, he's still a kid. And dear lord, he got his 'Novice' driver's license a few weeks ago. Last time I drove with him was in June and I came out of the car, shaking and white-faced, and vowing never to get in the car with him again. Apparently, he's improved since then but I'm still waiting for him to get his full license. (In BC, there's your 'Learner's' which you have for one year and can only drive with family, and then your 'Novice' for two years where you can drive with one non-family member, and THEN you get your full driver's license.)

My brother and I goofing off at DisneyWorld

I think, for me personally, being so far away from them is what is most hard about being at MTA. Don't get me wrong, I love MTA and don't regret my choice in coming here at all. It's just sometimes when my friend's parents visit or their siblings or they get to go home for the weekend, I get kinda jealous. They don't seem to realize how lucky they are to be able to see their family often and it does get to me.

BUT, that being said, being away from my family, also definitely increases my independence. Yes, I miss them terribly, but I don't have to rely on them for laundry, or food, or other things. I have lots of friends I trust and I learn to cope with whatever problems surface. And when I do finally see my family, it's that much more special and touching.

I remember when I first told my mum and dad that I was going out East for university. It was right after I got back from 'Go Global' camp at MTA and I had fallen in love with it. My mum's response was, "Are you sure honey? You know there's University of British Columiba-Okanagan about two hours drive away. Or there's a nice college just an hour away - you could commute and live at home!" For some reason, that arguement didn't convince me - it made me want to go even more! But once they realized I meant what I said, they supported me 100%.

So this is my last official post until next semester. I hope everyone enjoys the holidays and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Two days....and then I'm home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fall with the MASSIEs

For the past four months, I had the honour of being a MASSIE Conversation Partner of a student from Kwansei Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan. Ai was my partner, and my friend Julie had Maki as her partner. Our goal was to meet for 14 hours over the Fall semester, to help with their English, show them around Sackville, and introduce them to Canadian customs, while at the same time learning about Japan!

The MASSIE (Mount Allison Sophomore Semester in English) students arrived way back in late August after a very long flight. I first met Ai when the entire group got together to do a town-wide scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun, especially with all the miscommunications! What we had to do was split into small groups, and take pictures of us doing the things on the 'list'. This list included spelling MASSIE, hanging from a basketball hoop, feet in Swan pond, cramming into a phone booth, and climbing a tree. Afterwards, we went to Jennings for hot chocolate, and to get to know our partners more. The winners were announced, and our group actually won! It was quite surprising as we had contented ourselves with being 5th or so, but we ended up winning movie tickets and gift certificates to Joey's Restaurant!

The rest of the fall consisted of Ai and I meeting once a week doing different things. We went to Bridgestreet Cafe for a hot chocolate, went to Joey's for lunch, two potlucks at Cuthberston House, dinner at Jennings, and watching a movie at my place. It was much fun getting to know Ai and to see her English improve pretty much weekly (though my Japanese did not!). We also went to TreeGo in Moncton which was a pretty brutal workout, but it was a good time altogether!

Ai, Lauren, Maki and Julie at TreeGo!

Outside of getting together with their conversation partners, the MASSIE students also attended classes, had roommates, and travelled very much! They went to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Halifax, Ottawa, New York City, Montreal, and PEI! They also did many activities here in Sackville such as the Wetlands Centre, Sackville Fall Fair, and Shinerama. Doing all these things really gave them a chance to improve their English, learn about Canada, and have fun!

The Graduation Ceremony and Banquet was two weeks ago, as was the Japanese Festival, where the MASSIE students were given a chance to show MTA students life in Japan and teach them traditional dances. The Talent Show put on last Saturday was amazing! All the classes did group dances, and then all the houses did group dances and they were unbelieveably coordinated! It was hard to believe that they had only been practicing for ten days!

MASSIE students performing at Talent Show

And then, yesterday, at 7:45 am, the MASSIE students left to go back home to Japan. Every roommate, conversation partner, and close friend was there to see them off. Most of us arrived at 6:30 and it took an hour and a half for the MASSIE students to board the bus as no one wanted to! It was heart-breaking and everyone was in tears, even the bus driver was crying! Promises of keeping in touch, visiting Japan, coming back to Canada, could be heard everywhere as well as sentiments of being so happy to get to know each other, thanking each other for the good times, and words of comfort.

The MASSIE students may have left Canada, but I doubt they will leave anybody's hearts, nor we them. It was an amazing experience to see the MASSIE students dramatically improve their English over the semester, as well as forming new friendships. As you know though, Canadians don't say goodbye, we say "see you later", which I truly hope and believe will happen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sept, Oct and Nov Review

As I sit here writing this blog, it's hard for me to believe that it's December 1st already! It seems like yesterday that I just arrived and there was no snow on the ground. Since most students reading this have no idea what happened in the last three months, I thought I'd give a little re-cap and get you up to date!

In September, one main event was Spirit Night! This night consists of the houses competing against each other for the 'Golden Shoe' which is awarded to the house that shows the most spirit, cooperation, energy, and best costumes. This year the theme was "Batman Begins" so naturally, Edwards House had the villains, Batman and Robin (though Robin was quite literally a bird), and everyone else were buildings or signs saying "Ka-Boom!" or "SHAZAM!" - we looked quite good, if I do say so myself. All the other houses were also very creative and everyone really showed their house spirit. Competitions included relays and dance-offs, and if even your team wasn't playing, you were supposed to cheer anyways! And cheer Edwards did because we ended up winning the 'Golden Shoe'! Not bad for one of the smallest houses on campus!

Edwards House on Spirit Night

Lester Brown also came in September to give a speech on student leadership and the concepts in his new book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization - it was a very full house for that speech! Another event included a play called "Charivari: Sounds of the Tantrmar", which was about Sackville and the surrounding area (history, weather, the people). Homecoming weekend was also in September and it was amazing to see all the garnet and gold colours at the Mounties football game! And one final main event in September was the debate of all candidates running in the Beausejour electoral district, in which students were free to go, ask questions and see first-hand a political debate.

And now the month of October included the Federal Election Day, where MTA had the first on-campus voting station, Relay for Life, and a fantastic show by an acapella group, 'Cadence', part of the Performing Arts Series. There was also the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and as I'm from BC, I stayed behind and had a wonderful dinner with 24 other people at Cuthberston. Edwards House had their first coffeehouse, where residents performed their various talents, which included a wide range from Irish tap dancing to singing ballads! 'Coming Out' Week was also held in October which was put on by the Catalyst Society and they held a 'Positive Space Seminar' to promote awareness of homosexuality on-campus.

In November, the Campus Climate Challenge began in which houses compete against each other to see who can lower their emissions the most - water, electrical, heat, etc. This means getting dirty as less laundry is done, less showers are taken, and less dishes are washed! The winner will get an awesome prize and the satisfaction of knowing they helped the environment.

The Rights and Democracy Delegation brought the Panties for Peace Campaign to MTA to support the women in Burma and had Mika Levesque who founded the campaign in Canada speak about Burma - we managed to send off quite a number of panties to Burma! This campaign plays on the superstitous belief that if a man touches a women's panties, he will lose his power or his 'manhood', thus by sending the panties to the militia who abuse, torture, and rape the women of Burma, awarness can be raised.

As well, Tom Fun Orchestra came to George's Roadhouse and put on an amazing show that lasted until 2 am! Free the Children had their annual dinner and dance, and finally, Argument was performed in the Windsor Theatre which was a bilingual comedy about family, friendship and conflicting lifestyles. With a cast of 31 and a crew of 20, it was quite a big production but everyone in it did amazing and brought tears of laughter to the audience.

Argument's cast (or a bit of it)

Well, that's quite a summary! Of course, these are not the only events that happened at MTA and in Sackville these past three months, these are just ones I happened to attend or the ones I consider the "big ones". Other events included various concerts at George's, UNICEF Halloween Party at Uncle Larry's, Edwards House Floor Crawl, various speakers at MTA, Thalloween, Harper Havoc, and much much more! And because it is Mount Allison, there is going to be much more to come!