Friday, April 30, 2010

This Blog Will No Longer Be Active

Should you wish to keep up with my continued adventures and musings on life please check out:

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Last Hurrah!

This past Friday, March 26 was WYA's Annual Blue Gala. It also marked the final evening of my years as president of WYA and the start of Francois Jacob's new role as WYA's 3rd president.

The event was absolutely beautiful with board members from around the world, along with staff from every region, many of our supporters and friends. It was an opportunity for me to thank many of the people who helped me through the moments of greatest difficulty and inspired me to keep going when I only wanted to quit. Not everyone was there, many of the staff alumni and a few of my closest mentors were unable to be there - which was also a reminder of how incredibly diverse WYA's reach is and how lucky we are to have such successful people working with us, scattered around the world.

There were a few minimal speeches. We welcomed Francois with a very cool laptop bag and some notebooks. I had always had a great memory until I became president, by now my memory is about as long-term as a goldfish's. My notebooks have kept me organised and reminded me of many essential and funny ideas over these past years.

WYA presented me with some blue scrubs for my future career in medicine. The WYA logo is embroidered on the front and on the right sleeve is "president, 2007 - 2010" when I'm working with patients I hope that extra title impresses them :) I was so happy to receive them. As I looked, suddenly my future plans began to seem real as I realised that soon I can practically live in scrubs!

On Saturday, March 27 there was a brunch with many of WYA's staff, interns, friends, members and some board members. It was a more relaxing event and another opportunity for us to be together and chat. It was also the first opportunity to hang out with everyone without an official title!

I didn't feel any different yet, because I'm so used to being president that I was aware of all the work that went into the event and that would follow. I also knew all the thoughts Francois *should* be thinking to prepare for staff meetings the next week and also that I should allow him to encounter his new job at his own pace. I held my thoughts inside - as hard as that was!

By now, I've had a week not being president. I still have at least a week's worth of work to clean up files and finish up my projects for Francois. I've also been able to help out a little with various staff or projects. I still feel like I'm working for WYA, and to a certain extent I hope that sentiment remains with me for life, that I'll always want to help out with anything WYA needs.

For now, I've been able to sleep more, relax and hang out with the staff and... go for a jog in Central Park on a weekday during work hours!!!

As I am no longer WYA's president, I must now ditch this blog. Should you wish to follow my adventures and sporadic postings please visit my new personal blog at


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

J'aime Gaufres avec Nutella

Every time I come back to Brussels, I crave the packaged waffles that sell for less than a Euro. Warmed slightly with nutella on top, they melt in my mouth. Finishing a day of waffles and nutella with delicious Belgian beer, some frites with mayonnaise and a kebab is pretty much heavenly. Thankfully I also walk everywhere or would have to bring muumuus to wear by the end of the visit.

The purpose of my current visit is actually not to eat. I'm here to train Francois to replace me as President of WYA. It feels so weird attempting to pass on all that I've learned, and also respecting his own opinions and plans for what he will do as President. He's also still running the WYA Europe office which doesn't leave him a lot of time to sit with me and discuss future plans.

I'm pleased with this trip though, I've been able to spend time with Francois and shout out ideas across the office. Even if we've struggled to sit together each day and work our way through all the items on our lists, we've still managed to prioritise, brainstorm and slowly accomplish all we need to. We're down to an evening and a day at this point. We certainly won't finish everything, but have progressed enough that lots more can be done via skype and email.

In the process of transitioning I'm also getting a sense of how hard it is to let go. I'm so used to planning out WYA's activities and schedules months in advance. I know what the schedule will be for staff meetings, I prepare how the regional meetings will go and I know I'll be exhausted by the end and what can and can't happen.

Instead, I have only one month left as President, the countdown is on! I'll certainly spend the first few weeks of "unemployment" finishing cleaning my files, being an ear for Francois and likely helping around the house with laundry :) I haven't woken up in the morning without something pressing for me to do for years, I'm not sure how I'll cope!

Oh well, in the meantime, I've enjoyed every minute of my stay in Brussels. I arrived to see snow in Brussels for the first time ever! Last Saturday I visited Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, and visited the diamond museum - always good to visit my best friends :) Diamonds are a girl's best friend, right?

Tonight we have a movie night at the intern's flat with a number of WYA friends present. Tomorrow I'll meet up with a friend for supper, and possibly go for one last beer with the staff prior to that.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Safety overkill?

Last night we called the fire department. 5 minutes later we heard sirens down the street and a firetruck, two ambulances and cop car pulled up outside the Brussels interns flat. Within moments firefighters in full combat gear trooped up the stairs and into the flat. We stood awkwardly by.

Shortly afterwards, our potentially hazardous gas leak, which we were concerned might ignite the entire building due to the incredibly pungent smell was nothing more than the overpowering smell of waste seeping up through the pipes and into the flat through the boiler opening.

They smirked and joked as they left.

There are things that are simply taken for granted. That should we smell something strong in our flat and have any concern of its being dangerous we can summon the fire department to investigate. They came promptly in full gear, ready for any emergency. The policemen confirmed that we did the right thing, better to be safe than sorry. And of course, the entire operation is subsidized by the Belgian government to keep the citizens of Belgium safe.

Am I the only one shocked at how incredible that is?

Of course, being from Canada, I also assume that is how such institutions should function. I felt comfortable using it to assuage my mind.

I have also traveled enough to know that to get a government, country and citizens to function, expect and use such a system to the point where all aspects are simply taken for granted is, in fact, a huge achievement.

It is easy to complain about taxes, bureaucracy and the inefficiency of a socialised system. It is also incredibly difficult to take a country from an inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy and lack of any such systems to even a minor improvement.

Enough said, either you are from, have lived in, or traveled to any developing nation or country suffering from corruption and know how difficult the lack of such systems makes everything. From going from one side of a city to another, to planning an event, to seeking information. It would be great if every person in the world could enjoy the comfort of trusting and relying on such systems. Yet, if I had never been without I would never have enjoyed the entire experience so much last night.

Modernity certainly has its pitfalls, it absolutely comes with incredible gifts and perks simply unimaginable until they came to be expected!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Livin on the edge!

Is it sad when filing makes me happy? Yesterday, I spent a few hours getting things done ahead of schedule and organising my files (I am of course, way behind on many other things...) and got absolutely excited looking at my neat files. This is a time of many staff transitions for WYA, and I've been busy interviewing amazing candidates from a number of regions, and trying to remember to keep Francois updated with all I'm doing.

Last weekend, I booked a last minute flight to Los Angeles for an Ultimate Frisbee Beach Tournament!!! It was so great to run around on sand, in the sun, no shoes, no jacket... On Saturday we only won one game out of the 4 which placed us in the C-bracket on Sunday. On Sunday however, we won our first three games, taking us to the semi-finals! We then lost our fourth game after a very close game. I was fine with that, running on the sand is tough and it was cold and rainy by then. So we ate, showered and then I visited with my brother, his wife and their two kids for the next couple days.

Thankfully the hurricane hit after the tournament! It rained pretty much nonstop for the 3 days I was there, except for a few hours Tuesday afternoon when the sun broke over incredibly high waves and I spent hours on the beach gazing at the waves, wading in slightly and taking pictures.

The waves were gorgeous! I am bad at judging wave height, but I would guess they ranged from 5 to 20 feet high. I most certainly would not have survived past even the middling waves and I love riding waves... The water was so clear the waves rose up a wall of green before curling over with a touch of foam and crashing, often with a delayed reaction then a spurt of water like a fountain where it had crashed.

I walked to the edge of the water carrying my camera in one hand and a starbucks coffee in the other, I walked barefoot with my jeans rolled up and felt completely luxurious. How
amazing is it to leave your nephews about to nap with their mother and wander two blocks to the deserted beach on a Tuesday afternoon?

During my stay in Los Angeles, I realised how lucky I am to no longer be three. Life is tough; you're old enough to know that you want something now, but too young to have any control about whether you get in beyond asking (crying?). You're also too young to have much of a memory of past moments when good things came to those who waited, or to be able to rationalise that if you don't get something now, perhaps life will be even better. Life is also awesome because you're still young enough to be spoonfed, wander around all day with a soother in your mouth and naptimes are expected.

Life doesn't necessarily get easier but expectations certainly change. Now, I know how to plan for the future and learn from the past, and perhaps the hard part is focusing on the present and doing what needs to be done. And, maybe in a few months I'll reward myself with a nap :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


As I sit in my bedroom in Canada, my nephews have just gone outside to play in the snow, and I'm trying to ignore my stomach, slightly rounder than usual, after a couple weeks at home eating delicious food. Thanks to a week of blizzards and then a security breach at Newark airport my flight was cancelled and I'll remain at home for another week of snow, food and adorable nephews :)

It's amazing to think I have fewer than 3 months left as president of WYA. My life for the past four years, including vacations has revolved around WYA. What needs to be done next? What did I forget to do? What will explode if I don't address it immediately, and what can I postpone doing for a little while longer? I've started to write down all the things I've learned to pass along to Francois who will replace me. I'd hate for him to make as many mistakes as I've made! Haha, although he may not have as much fun as I did, since I've tried to put structures in place to prevent anyone besides me from bellyflopping in so many situations.

I'll never forget my embarrassment when I first took over and people would ask my opinion about what's going on in whatever country and I had NO idea where that country was located - yes, stereotypes of North Americans' geographical knowledge are actually mostly true. Wikipedia was, and remains, one of my best friends!

The first time I gave a speech, I wrote it down word for word and was terrified! I went up to give the speech and was given a mic to stand in front of everyone. My left hand held the papers which looked as though they'd been caught in a hurricane, my right hand held the mic and looked as though I had advanced Parkinson's. Needless to say, my notes got dropped, I gripped that mic in a manner that would have made a Boa Constrictor jealous and passed it off to the MC afterwards flooded in my sweat. I've improved slightly since then...

I grew up vegetarian and encountered most animal innards on the dissecting table. Many cultures worldwide eat animals and parts that are considered "revolting" to a western former vegetarian. As a polite guest, I ate a small fish whole and tried not to think about how the little guy had swum around till recently or how he felt when caught, or about how his scales felt going down my throat, or if his eyeballs liked where they were headed... I've ignored the tendons of numerous animals as I gnawed my way to bone after bone and I've even eaten foods that could not be identified, and after eating them I did not wish for them to be identified :0

There are so many things I will miss about WYA; working with the best people in the world, traveling, working every day to promote something I love and believe in fully - what's not to miss? At the same time, numerous details and extraneous tasks arise that I've barely thought about what I'll spend my summer doing.

And so, since I mostly blog when I travel and rarely find my thoughts between trips interesting enough to share, I will consider these last three months as president a trip in itself. I promise to blog and see what happens as someone else takes up from what I've done and brings WYA to the next level.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is more important than being really really ridiculously good-looking?

How do you do it? You are likely one of the majority of people on this earth who spends most of your time living in one location, at the same job, seeing the same people, eating the same foods, and laughing at jokes so similar to the ones made the week before.

I am back in NY for less than two weeks, have yet to recover my energy from my recent travels and am already searching cheap flights to anywhere, literally anywhere.

I spoke with a friend recently, who travels more than I, who cautioned me. He said that having the experiences I have already by my age means I am doomed to never live a normal life. I don't know if I would consider living an unusual life being doomed, but I think he has a point.

Glancing through facebook photos - always the best way to discover what someone is like - I realised I have pictures of me with Asians, pictures of me with Africans, pictures of me with Latins, pictures from all over the world. Each of those pictures connects me to a period of growth; the first time I saw a baby whose eyes were glazed over from malnutrition, the first time I realised that in most places of the world poverty is insurmountable (due to lack of education, disease, lack of jobs, etc). The first time I saw a woman with leprosy begging and I was horrified in case she reached out and touched me, and horrified at myself for not stopping to see if I could help her in any way. The first time I met hundreds of teenage girls who had all been raped multiple times since a young age. The first time I met a doctor who abused his patients, yet he was their only hope.

There have been other firsts as well, the first time I gave a speech to hundreds of Nigerians, and was terrified and my hands shook. I began my speech with a rhetorical question, which the entire audience answered. I realised my speech needed more audience involvement and changed it on the spot, adding to my fear.

When I return to New York, to a comfortable life where I have every opportunity and option in my daily life and my future I am so grateful to have been born and educated in the west. I am always torn between enjoying my salad, Ultimate tournaments and visiting with friends and the desire I have deep inside to return to these other places and find some way to offer what I've received to more people.

When I think of all the ways my dreams set me apart from a normal life I wonder if I can change my dreams, and I have to remind myself why my dreams are different. When I
remember the people I've met who have changed my dreams I am so grateful I have been given the opportunity to help them, and the knowledge they exist. I'm taking improvisation classes, surely if I ever need to I can act out a normal life. In the meantime, I am grateful that my dreams match my experiences unlike people who have dreams of a normal life with no way of ever achieving it.