A big part of this trip is reassessing myself. What does it mean, for example, to be Canadian? In Japan, I often brushed off the question by focusing on Canada’s multiculturalism. We’re so diverse that we don’t really have a common way of being, acting, or believing, I’d say. Upon reflection though, I think my answer stemmed more from ignorance.
Today we had a full orientation for the Coady participants who arrived through the past weekend including some skits on life here in Canada. We did some role-playing to introduce them to some Canadian conventions that may be different from the norms in their country – greetings such as “how are you” or “see you later” that shouldn’t be taken too literally, the important of showing up (generally) on time instead of too late or too early, and paying the price on the tag instead of bargaining. An eye-opener for me is that we, as Canadians, may greet someone’s dog before the owner (e.g. “What a cute little puppy you are!”) and we may not even address the owner at all. I mean, I know we do that, but how weird are we to do so?!
This wasn’t addressed in the skits, but on a more personal level, I’ve come to the conclusion that the notion of “me time” might be a Canadian or North American attitude as well. I was having a difficult time last week because I felt like I had no “me time” – I was taking classes with the other interns, eating with the other interns, and spending the rest of my time with the other interns living at the dorm together. Many families or groups around the world (as in the orphans in the Stephen Lewis film on grandmothers in Africa and even my mother’s family when she was growing up) don’t place such high value on independence, privacy, or “me time,” if at all.
Some of the reasons I was attracted to this internship included wanting to gain that broader perspective, which I hope will provide motivation for me to simplify my lifestyle, and wanting to serve, which entails putting others before myself. I realized, after talking to my mom, that I shouldn’t be waiting until I arrived in Peru to start working towards these goals. So, I made a conscious decision to change my attitude and welcome the nearly-24/7 group atmosphere. When I started taking the time to just be with others, not only was I learning more from them and about them, but I was also learning a lot more about myself, about being a group member, about socializing and networking. Here’s my chance to practice and soak up tips on improvisation, being witty, and being a good journalist (e.g. asking good questions).