A text message out of the blue on Wednesday afternoon, three weeks ago: “Just to give you a heads up, you will be heading to Tanzania by the end of the week”
The next day, “Actually you have to go to Canada”, specifically Ottawa where the embassies were so we could apply for the appropriate business visa.
The next day at night as I was falling asleep, “Actually, did you just want to go home and visit?” as only our passports needed to be in Ottawa rather than our own selves.
In three days, our travel plans were changed to three wildly different destinations across the globe
…and it was only the beginning.
Flights out of Assosa were fully booked at one point but we found seats when we actually went into the office and asked. Next, there was some last minute mayhem at the airport when we were almost not allowed to depart on our flight but then third time’s the charm when we kept refusing their refusal. On the last time, we told them that we were health and education volunteers and they simply said thank you and processed the paperwork. Then, it was an exhilarating run through the airport, begging to be in the front of every immigration and security line-up, making it to our gate about a minute before boarding. At the last security check before the gate, I asked an older couple if we could go ahead of them since we were in a rush. They said yes and we went through. Deirdre however noted that the couple had been speaking German and was wondering if they were going to be on our flight since it stopped in Frankfurt. Embarrassingly, yes, there were on our flight…and they recognized me too!
Once I landed in Vancouver, Canada and picked up by my amazing in-laws, my passport continued to travel jetting across the country to Ottawa. Things were all going well and our passports were to be returned with the appropriate visa about three days before we departed back to Ethiopia.
Well, keeping things exciting until the very end, my passport was accidentally included with the other volunteer’s passport (read about her shock at finding both passports at her blog here) …and sent to Saskatoon! It arrived late Thursday night in Saskatoon without many options to get it to me in Vancouver with the weekend coming up.
Luckily, she found that UPS could overnight deliver it to arrive on the Saturday. They told her it would be delivered by 1:30pm….the website said by 5pm…which would work though would make it tight for my flight that night! Cutting it close but WOOHOO!
…However, it wasn’t delivered on time, held for “security reasons” though I think the amazing nice weather over the weekend was also a determining factor. I found in my old job that many people seemed to get too sick to come into work when it was nice and sunny out. It was finally delivered on Monday night without explanation or rescheduling of delivery and the wonderful Cuso staff rebooked my flight to depart tonight exactly three weeks from the first text I received.
It has been a whirlwind to say the least, an absolute rollercoaster of emotions especially at the beginning when the situation kept escalating and then the nail biting suspense at the end watching every vehicle to drive by to see if it is the UPS truck. However, this is not a blog post about how crazy travelling can be but rather about learning to go with the flow and the art of finding the silver lining.
Harmonizing with the notes of frantic last minute travel plans and uncertainty is a beautiful counterpoint melody of visiting Vancouver in gorgeous sunshine, catching up with friends and family, spending time with my amazing husband and of-course, feasting on sushi. Salmon sashimi is the Vancouverite raw meat in contrast to the Ethiopian raw beef chunks. We went out for a nice family dinner with both my in-laws, my parents and my sister at a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, I had a spa and shopping day with my mother-in-law and got the second pedicure I’ve ever gotten in my life. I made more definite plans on writing travel books with my friend who may become my publisher and visited another friend in the middle of her first pregnancy. I talked about grad school ideas and discussed plans for a paper we’re writing with my graduate supervisor. I may have graduated about three years ago now but the relationship between us hasn’t changed. I visited the remainder of my graduate cohort in Vancouver and listened to their challenges and determination in writing up their dissertations. I spent a few days with my sister doing awesome fun things like rock-climbing and hiking the Baden-Powell trail from Lynn Canyon to Grouse mountain and having a delicious potluck with her friends. I went back-country camping to remote hotsprings accessible only by 4×4 vehicles with my wonderful husband Bryan. I come back from working in a developing country for a break and what is the first thing that I do? Go into the beautiful nature of BC from hikes on the North Shore mountains to back-country camping by Harrison Lake. Probably not what my colleagues would imagine me doing in Canada!
Well, I also took advantage of the lightening fast internet and did a bunch of work in preparation for a busy rest of June and July in Ethiopia! Proposals, reports, designing educational games for reproductive maternal and child health and more!
I ate a lot of sushi and pho, stuffed myself with bacon and pulled pork (thanks to my awesome roommate Trouton who made a delicious jalapeno pulled pork on the weekend!), did a lot of typing and downloading articles, seeing friends and family and just getting back in touch with the beautiful nature of BC and my preferred home, a tent.
This was an unexpected trip but I made the most out of things and this is what I learned:
- You are never alone in situations. We are just terrible at asking for help when we actually need it and delegating responsibilities to others. This whole situation would have been horrible if I had to figure everything out and deal with it all on my own….but I wasn’t alone. I am very lucky to have such an awesome organization, Cuso International, to work with.
- Live each moment fully. If you are worried about what will happen, you will never be able to appreciate what is happening now. Instead of neurotically obsessing about what could be, embrace your opportunities that you have in front of you right now, seize them, live it up and have some fun.
- The possibilities are infinite and eventually, things will work out if you keep trying. Living the dream (whatever your dream may be) and living in bliss is not just a matter of luck. It is a part luck but also hard work and determination to relentlessly seize the opportunities you get towards your dreams. Maybe the opportunity available to you now might not be exactly be the everything you want but it can help build towards it
- Choose positivity. Every story has multiple sides so perspective is everything. With every situation, there is going to be positive and negative aspects. Evolutionary speaking, we have adapted to pay attention to the negative parts more since they may be more urgent and life threatening but in our world today, this can just lead to more stress on ourselves. It is each of our responsibilities to choose happiness for ourselves and to see the good side of people and situations.
- Never stop dreaming; never stop reflecting. Always have goals and ideas of things you want to do but it is not enough to just dream. You also have to reflect to understand where you are now, understand your motivations and how it affects others, understand the bigger picture but also understand yourself. Nobody is perfect and we all have our ups and downs. The important part is reflecting on both ups and downs to learn more about ourselves and the world around us to bounce back quicker from those downs.
So for now, see you later, beautiful Vancouver….and see you very soon, Ethiopia!!