19+30 for BETTER

“Into the unknown… embrace the fall… enjoy the ride…”

These are phrases I kept telling myself while I prepared for a trip described by many, as a trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a trip, it was far from that, it was an experience of a lifetime, and I was not prepared for the impact it would have on me or everyone else, I don’t think anybody was. We were 19 students, strangers to each other, with different backgrounds, different believes and different career paths, put together for one single goal; be better and encourage others to be better. The fact that we all came from such different places became an asset; we saw things differently, we had numerous reactions to a single situation and we pushed each other forward, sometimes by agreeing with each other, others by disagreeing with each other. Each one of us played a key part in this experience, there was something unique of everyone that shone throughout the journey; like Althea’s everlasting smile and undying enthusiasm, Irfan’s playfulness and bad jokes, Nisha’s serene voice and attitude, Courtney’s empathy and charm with the kids, Crystal’s willingness to help, Rohini’s resolve, Mila’s funny craziness… too many to name them all. However, I’m grateful to have shared this journey with them.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

After our time in the mountains, we traveled back to Xichang to meet 30 Fu Hui Girls with whom we spent the next 5 days during the Empowerment Camp. During this time, we tried to give the girls all our collective knowledge and wisdom (as little as it might be since we are all still learning) through the workshops. In return, they gave us so much more, they showed unmeasurable gratitude, joy and love. They reminded me what it is like to see the world through innocent eyes, to be open to change without fear and to enjoy the little things. In our final day with the girls, we were surprised to that none of the girls in our Team Happy was outside to meet us upon arrival like the rest. As we walked inside, we found our girls in the classroom, practicing for our performance. To me, this gesture meant our goal was accomplished. By this little silly thing, a performance for the rest of the class. We saw them working on their own, setting the bar higher and trying to be better for themselves. Those were my last words to the girls before saying goodbye, be better everyday. Everyone has their own version, they pushed us for ours as much as we did so for theirs.

There were too many amazing, touching and memorable moments during this journey. One in particular comes to mind, on the first day with the girls, one came up to me, we chatted for 2 minutes, we got separated into other groups, then after an activity we were back to our places. When I saw this girl again, I greeted her by name, the look on the face was indescribable, she was so surprised, touched and excited that I remembered her name, we connected right there and from that point on whenever she saw me, it was the same joy, excitement and pure appreciation from that first day, right until the last day with her gripping my hand strongly as we were saying goodbye. Her name was Mabel, it will not be forgotten. During this journey, I was reminded to be grateful, to appreciate the little simple things, and to never underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s life. We choose whether it is for the BETTER.

20150621_035313
Centennial College Student Ambassadors
20150622_065456
Centennial College and Fu Hui Education Foundation
IMG-20150619-WA0083
Team Happy
DSC02209
Linda – Limay – Miranda – Yuonne – Monica – Max – Chelsa
DSC02311
With the girls
DSC02357
Enjoy the moment
DSC02267
Mabel

 

– Jules

Coming Full Circle

Stepping out of the metro into the modern metropolis that is Shanghai was a bit of a culture shock having been where we were. We started our trip in the mountains, where many of the sights we saw resembled something out of National Geographic. We had ventured to a secluded pocket of the world where people had seldom seen Westerners. They would stare in awe as we drove by, and let me tell you, our multicultural group was a sight to be seen in Butuo.
Moving back down to the city, I noticed a change in the girls we were working with. They were more adapt to modern day living and the outside world. They were more confident and self aware. The changes were there, however, I was still fascinated by their overwhelming kindness and eagerness to help whenever possible.
From the mountains to the city, the Yi, in my mind, defined down to earth. They were kind and grateful, and happy with what they had; even when that wasn’t a lot. They live a simple life and worship the elements; fire and water. I learned a lot during our time with them.
First and foremost, I learned to be grateful for everything in my life, for my loving family and friends, for my education, for my possessions and for my rights. I think we often forget that we live in the upper percentage and that there are millions of people around the world living below the poverty line.
I learned to be happy with what I have and that I may not need as much as I once thought. There will always be someone happy with less than I have.
I learned not to sweat the little things. Some things really just don’t matter in the grand scheme of life.
I learned that kindness really does go a long way. Even with language barriers, friendships were quickly and easily formed.
I learned to always stay positive. With hard work and determination you really can do anything. How far these girls, and other Fu Hui students we had the chance to meet, have come is an inspiration.
I am confident this GCELE team will continue to work with Fu Hui in any way they can. The girls we had the pleasure of working with may be out of sight, but will not soon be out of mind.

-Kirstie Keys

Last day in China!
Last day in China!
Shanghai, the Bund
Shanghai, the Bund
Team 3
Team 3
Ferry ride on the lake. Most of the girls had never been on a boat before!
Ferry ride on the lake. Most of the girls had never been on a boat before!
Stop 1: Guangfu Temple
Stop 1: Guangfu Temple
Students having lunch in Butuo
Students having lunch in Butuo
Taking a peek at the village
Taking a peek at the village
Home visit
Home visit
Making our way into Butuo County
Making our way into Butuo County

Into The Mountains

I was told this would be the trip of a lifetime. A trip unlike any I’d experienced before. I believed every word. I just don’t think I understood the weight of those words until driving back to our hotel one evening. Through the valley and up the mountain; passing livestock, children walking home from school, women carrying large woven baskets on their backs through the fields and people grouped together squatting by the roadside.

During our time in the mountains we experienced a world so unlike our own. On our first day we hiked (uphill I might add) to a small village, home to one of the Fu Hui girls. We had the opportunity to not only see where she comes from and how her grandmother lives, but what she endures regularly to get home.

With eyes wide open and a deeper understanding of life in Butuo, we carried out our next few days. We visited different schools where we had the opportunity to interact with the incredible children of Fu Hui. We shared games, songs, crafts and held workshops. In return they shared their dreams, inspiration and genuine kindness.

We headed back to the city, every last one of us feeling motivated and changed in some way. We were excited to meet the girls we would be running our empowerment camp with, knowing we wouldn’t have to say goodbye that day.

The camp turned out to be a bigger success than I could have imagined. The girls were eager and excited to learn. I can’t explain the feeling I got watching the girls put their newfound knowledge to use and knowing we had taught them something. We formed bonds with these girls that will not soon be broken, and had the pleasure of taking them into the city and sharing some exciting ‘firsts’. For everything we taught them, they taught us something in return.

I don’t think the empowerment camp would have had such a deep impact on not only the girls, but on us, had we not ventured to Butuo and learned about Yi culture. Seeing how far these girls had come continued to inspire me day after day. So, what did I learn? Stay tuned.

-Kirstie Keys

Welcoming us into their home on our home visit
Welcoming us into their home on our home visit
Our hike back down the mountain
Our hike back down the mountain
Learning traditional Yi dance
Learning traditional Yi dance
Showing off the puppets we made
Showing off the puppets we made
Beautiful faces in Butuo
Beautiful faces in Butuo
Children on their walk home from school
Children on their walk home from school
Sharing our dreams
Sharing our dreams
Our last day in Butuo
Our last day in Butuo
Team three at Torch Square
Team three at Torch Square

Soupy in the capital city of China: Beijing

BEIJING 2013

Image

A beautiful sunset view from my apartment on the 25th floor.

When I was accepted for an internship in Beijing for my co-op credit at Centennial College, I quickly consulted a couple friends who studied there about what to expect and how to prepare for my 3 month long visit.  Let’s just say you won’t really know until you’ve experienced things for yourself…I guess that can be a general statement as well…but everything so far has been pretty good 🙂

I’ve been here 4 weeks now and I think I have adjusted quite well, except for the first few days when my body had to get used to the 12 hour time difference!  Beijing is half a day ahead of Toronto 🙂

I brought a Mandarin Language hand book to help me with the basics of buying food and finding my way around the city.  However, I’ve resorted to lots of made-up sign language, pointing at things and poorly pronounced Mandarin words in hopes that Beijing locals would understand my wavering hand motions!  Lucky for me there are digital cash registers and calculators that display the amount I have to pay!  So a word to the wise, brush up on some basic Mandarin skills if you don’t have a personal translator following you around 24/7 😉

Please note there are some people who speak English, but very little.  However, when you’re in tourist shopping areas, that’s where you’ll hear more English than normal.  Oh my, the difficulty I had trying to set up my cell phone service.  Fortunately, the person helping me called her friend who spoke some English on the phone and assisted with the process.  Whew!

My monthly plan 132¥ (approx. $23CAD/mo):

-66¥ (approx. $11.13CAD) voice and data

  • 50 min
  • 200 texts (I get lots of promo texts
  • 300 Mb (eeeeks good thing I have wifi at the apt and at work)

-60¥ (approx. $10.12CAD) for bbm service

-6¥ (approx. $1.01CAD) wifi hot spot service

Beijing Subway

I take the subway to work, only 3 stops, takes me about 25 min. including the short walk from the station.  The subway is pretty cool.  It has many lines that practically cover the whole city with buses and “street buses”!  Yup!

Image(Not a street car, not a bus but a ‘street bus’!)

Now the only issue is how insane it gets during rush hour.  The subway is more action-packed than all three movies combined!  (Horrible joke…I know…lol) But just imagine Toronto subway during rush hour times 10.  Some stops are worse than others but people are pressed up against each other like oreo cookies!  There’s definitely some shoving and pushing going on and there’s not much I can really do but follow what everyone else does lol.  Luckily, trains come frequently and without any major delays.

A round trip on the subway is 4¥ (approx. $ 0.70CAD) and buses are 1¥ (approx. $0.17CAD).  Another cool thing is cellphone service underground!  But I believe it’s only for 4G phone users (which I’m not L).  The first time I heard someone answer their phone in the subway train I was astonished!  For all the Toronto subway users, you know what I’m talking about lol.

Check out the subway lines:

http://www.explorebj.com/subway/

Image

My prepaid subway pass.  No cash or change used unless its putting credit on the card or you can buy single passes.

Image

Jinsong subway station on line 10 right outside my apartment, how convenient!

Image

Entrance to Jinsong Subway Station

Image

The stations are huge, lots of walking required to get underground, hence the long escalator ride.

Image

A busy transfer station to another subway line, also a lot of walking required.

Image

I can’t remember what station this is but some stations have exterior guard doors, and lots of advertising!

Image

Tian’anmen Station where you get off to visit their famous Square and the Forbidden City, pics and more info to come!

Other things I though were really cool…lol

Image

 Tennis ball gum!  Delicious!

Image

If I brought these on the airplane would it be considered a weapon?!

Image

A talented wax sculptor making a cartoon figure of a person live!  Amazing…I totally have to get one done of myself!

Well that’s all for now folks.  Thanks for taking the time to share my journey in Beijing.  I am grateful for this experience and will cherish these memories forever 🙂  Thank you Centennial College!  Stay tuned for more…

Soupy

Canton Tower!

I never expected myself to say that I want to go up the Canton Tower! Having worked 4 years at the CN Tower, to me going up these towers were not a big deal. However, something about the Canton Tower fascinated me making me actually wanting and looking forward to go up! I have finally decided to go up last week on a random day last Wednesday. To my surprise, I spent quite a few hours up at the tower enjoying the beautiful view. However, I subconsciously started to compare the both towers: CN Tower & Canton Tower.

  1. The moment I stepped into the elevator, I noticed that there were operators! Everyone got in the elevator and the employee stood outside and told someone to press a button to go up to the 83rd floor
  2. There was hardly any staff around the observation levels to guide you or to even answer any of our questions, so if you have a question… you better hope that its nothing related to the tower! Otherwise, it will be pretty hard to find someone to answer that question!
  3. The tower lacks customer service! It surprises me because I know a lot of places in China have very poor customer service, but to see that even Canton Tower lack customer service was a little bit of a disappointment for me. I entered the tower expecting the service to be like CN Tower, but I was shocked that it was nothing compare to it.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the tower very much. They have many different options for tickets and of course, I choose to buy the best ticket that includes all the observation decks as well as 2 attractions: Bubble Train and a mini drop zone! When I arrived to go on the bubble train, the manager pulled me out of the line since he saw my wristband that includes the mini drop zone, he told me to do that first. So I took his advice and went on the drop zone. I was speechless. We went up high (not as high as drop zone) but as we were going up, I can see the whole city right beneath my eyes and it was just an incredible sight! Just when you are too focused on the beauty of the city, the drop you back down in a heartbeat!

After that, since the bubble train line did not subside, I decided to go up to the highest observation deck, which is at the 488m mark. It was an outdoor observation area. When I went up, there was no one else up there except for me. I felt like VIP being up there by myself. I found the peace and joy being up at that point by myself. The view was spectacular and the wind was blowing into my face and I really have no words to describe that feeling. It was actually quite windy up there but it was a nice breeze. It was such a peaceful moment. Not much later, other became came up and it was about time for me to head back down to the bubble train.

Wind blowing at my hair at the highest observation deck!

I couldn’t wait to get on the bubble train since it was solely the reason that has drawn my attention to go up the tower. It took us around the tower, 360 degrees giving us a panoramic view of the city. I must say, the thing that I was looking forward to do the most, was a little bit disappointing for me. The view was beautiful; don’t get me wrong, just the fact that there was no air condition inside the bubble was very unappealing to me. There was a fan however; it was still hot and humid inside.

Mailing at the TOP OF THE WORLD! =D

Overall, it was a great experience and I did not feel that my money was wasted! I bought lots of souvenirs and gifts from the tower because I felt that it is something unique to give as a gift. I mean… there’s nothing in china that we cannot get in Canada. So I decided to buy all the gifts for my friends and family from the tower. It represents china, and most of all, it represented the city that I was working in! So it will be a great piece of memory! Also, what I really liked is the fact that the ticket itself is a post card! If you live in china, you are able to mail the postcard anywhere in china for free. But in order to send the postcard overseas, you will need to pay about $6 RMB which is $1 CAD to send the postcards overseas.

P.S.

If you’re interested in viewing more pictures from the tower, you can visit the link below!

www.photobucket.com/mchen27-cantontower

Free picture that was included in my ticket package 🙂