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Jardin Botanique Montreal

5 June 2016

The Garden of First Nations was cultivated by the Cree, Algonquin, Attikamek, Innu and Naskapi. These people were hunters and gatherers who lived in conifer forests that were near water. These types of “gardens” became community sites for reunions, trade and celebrations. These areas were also designed to be gateways to the country where they can hunt, fish and gather. Miichiwaahps (conical tent), innu-mitshuaps, pikokans and wigwams were also built in these “gardens.” The water was a very important part of the garden because they would build canoes to commemorate the dispersal of families over the territory.

Garden bridgeACather

The Japanese garden was split into sub-gardens which includes a tea garden and a rock garden. The whole point of a garden for the Japanese was to capture the shibui (simple beauty) of nature. This explains why rock gardens were popular because the gravel was raked to represent ripples in water. This also explains why wood parts were untreated, so they can remain as natural as possible. Tea gardens simultaneously captured shibui and defined Japanese culture, as tea was a very important aspect to the culture. These gardens involved tea ceremonies and bonsai courtyards in order to signify a high standard of living while sustaining shibui.

Religious people take gardening seriously because it is a way to express divine will. In other words, people feel like they are closer to their deity/deities when they promote the beauty of the stuff those deities created. An increase of spirituality is also seen, as being able to customize non-manmade stuff makes people feel like they are showcasing the power of their God/Gods.

Using the Bible as an example, we had to take care of the Garden of Eden. In other words, we had to maintain the beauty of a place that God created. This applies to the whole world, as it is our duty to study and care for all living beings, including plants. Using Buddhism as an example, bonsai trees were cultivated in order to represent spirits. These two religions share the common belief that we need to take care of plants.

– Haner Lim

I had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful gardens today. I have a love for plants and flowers and everything green, so this trip was very special for me, considering it is considered to be one of the best gardens in the world! While visiting I went to several different gardens but I really enjoyed the First Nations Garden, the Japanese Garden and Alpine Garden. I started by going to the First Nations Garden, it was beautiful and interesting! The garden was made to create a space where cultures of the indigenous populations of Canada are represented. The beautiful trees, shaded paths and plants beautifully represent or display culture, identity and artwork.

Koi pondAnother garden I went to and LOVED was the Japanese Garden. It was full of some of the most beautiful plants ever. This garden also represents an interesting history of Japanese culture. They have a Koi pond, traditional Japanese art and many other details that add to the relaxing and peaceful environment of the garden.

Religious people have taken gardening seriously because it often helps people relieve stress or anxiety. It is also a way to get close to the earth and God’s creation. Getting on your hands and knees, taking care of the earth is an easy way to focus on God, self-care, and prayer. In the Bible God talks about how he asks us to take care of His creation. Gardening, planting, watering and nurturing the earth is doing exactly that.

– Olivia Resto


Trial of the Big Bad Wolf, The Pentagon and time with author David Hilfiker

Trial of the Big Bad Wolf

05/20/2016: Today we went to The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf which was a play at the Anacostia Playhouse in Southeast DC.  This is a neighborhood which has often been neglected and seen as unsafe.  Many community organizations are working hard to make sure children and families in SE have opportunities to enjoy the arts.  Anacostia Playhouse has a full schedule of plays throughout the year.  This play was special because the cast was children from the community.   The play was put on by the age group ranging from three to twelve years old.  The plot of the play was the Big Bad Wolf was on trial for destroying the three little Pig’s houses.  There were multiple characters that the Big Bad Wolf had hurt, for example, Little Red Riding Hood, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and the lumber Jack. There was even a wolf pack that consisted of about eight little boys. The children sang and put on a wonderful performance that lasted about forty-five minutes.  The playhouse was packed and we enjoyed seeing a community-based performance.

 

Pentagon 

05/17/2016: Today we received a personal tour of the Pentagon.  The Pentagon is the headquarters of the D.O.D., or US Department of Defense.  It is made up of ‎6,636,360 square feet, with several rings/corridors labeled A-E.  We met various petty officers/officers including staff sergeants, captains, colonels, and generals.  Those we met were all part of the Army, but there were lots of soldiers from all branches of the military working hard to defend our nation.  We also visited the area of the Pentagon that was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  It is one thing to have seen the attacks on TV, when most of our group was 6-7 years old at the time, and it’s another thing to be in the actual building, in the actual spot where the plane struck and killed many.  This area of the Pentagon was repaired within a year, and a memorial to those who lost their lives remains there. Our group as a whole felt so much more pride in our country from this experience, and it is one we will not soon forget. God Bless America.

 

Time with David Hilfiker – Brittany McCullock

During our three weeks in DC, we got the chance to meet with Dr. David Hilfiker. David practiced medicine in Washington DC in the 1980s and 90s. During the 1980s, he helped create Christ House, which is a medical recovery shelter for homeless men. Then in 1990, he took part in creating Joseph’s House, which is a community and hospice house for formerly homeless men dying of AIDS and other life threatening diseases. David and his family would live in both Christ and Joseph’s houses for a period of time. David would work with homeless men for many years and noticed that majority of the men he was helping were African Americans, and wanted to understand why. He would let his medical license expire, with little desire to really renew it, and would spend years learning African American history and the Urban Injustice in the DC area. He would even write a book called Urban Injustice, which looks at the history of inner cities and the social structures that keep people impoverished.

While David was in class with us we talked about many things, including, Sundown Towns, African American History and Mass Incarceration. We learned that Sundown Towns were towns that would have signs saying whites only after dark and at dusk they would blow a horn, telling African Americans in the town to leave or else something bad would happen. In these towns there was always a time line starting at the beginning of the Civil War until today showing all the major historical events and he would emphasize what was happening to African Americans at the time. Then on our last day of class we talked about Mass Incarceration, and we looked at a section of The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander.  Our eyes were opened to many injustices and patterns of discrimination that we had never heard about nor learned about from our history courses.  It was, at times, hard to accept that such blatant and persistent racism existed in the past and continues into the present.  David was able to open our eyes to this history.


Montreal Urban Agricultural Fair

  1. May 2016

At the urban agricultural fair, I had two roles; I was security and a replacement.  As security, my job was to let people and cars through the barrier that were setting up booths for the fair and to prevent other cars from driving through the street while the fair was being set up and going on.  I was wearing a green t-shirt to signify that I was a helper, so I had a lot of people come ask me questions about where to go to find certain things or what exactly the fair was for.  A struggle with this job was that some of the people (especially some older people) did not speak any English, so when they asked me a question I could not give a good answer; I would occasionally talk to someone that spoke only French that would be frustrated with me because I could not speak French, LaurenSecurityVolbut thankfully that did not happen very often.  As security I also greeted people as they came and went from the fair, and I counted at each hour of my shift roughly how many people were at the fair.  As a replacement, I walked around the fair for about an hour and asked any of the volunteers if they needed anything like water or a break to use the restroom.  I also went around and counted the number of people for one of the security people so she could record it without having to leave her post.

There were several interactions that I would like to share.  The first interaction was early this morning at around 8 am when there were cars trying to get through so the people could set up their booths.  I approached a car that was stopped in front of the barrier and he started to explain, in French, what his booth was or why he needed through.  I smiled, apologized, and said I am sorry but I do not speak very much French.  The gentleman laughed in a light way and said, “No French, huh? How old are you?”  I replied that I was nineteen years old and currently learning French and he said, “In five years I expect you to be completely fluent in French.”  I smiled and said, “I’ll do my very best!”  The gentleman smiled and laughed, and I moved the barrier so he could get through to set up his stand.  Another interaction I had was with a woman that spoke both French and English very well.  She initially started talking to me in French after I said bonjour, but I apologized and told her that I did not speak very much French.  She smiled and said no problem; she spoke English extremely well, which was really neat after hearing her talk so fluently in French.  Then the woman asked me what exactly the fair was, and I explained that it was an agricultural fair that the Masion de l’Amitie organizes each year.  I said there are presentations, food, and plants that people can watch or buy, and that the fair is just an attempt to make the city a little greener.  She smiled and thanked me for my help and continued on her way.  Although both of the interactions may seem fairly commonplace, they were both similar in several ways and were interactions I had not yet experienced during my time here in Montreal.  First, both of the people were asking for my assistance in some way, and secondly they both initially started out talking to me in French after I said hello in French; fortunately, both quickly realized that I could not understand them.  They were both new experiences for me because I have not actually had a real conversation with any of the people here in Montreal, so it was nice to be able to talk to them and help them with any questions they had.  Also, during my time here I have been so used to asking other people for help when it comes to getting around, so it was really nice to be able to be a part of the agricultural fair and feel like I was helping out.

-Lauren Harris

 

In our neighborhood, La Maison de l’Amitié was responsible for organizing the urban agricultural fair. As a volunteer, my job lasted from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. The work consisted of getting tents and four water bottles to the proper areas, setting up the stereo for the microphone, putting the tents up, providing a chair at each tent, and cleaning up the front of La Maison de l’Amitié. Basically, I was the right hand man for one of the people in charge. Though I do not know why I was chosen, hopefully the person felt my help was sufficient. Whenever he needed something completed, he would always look at me. The fair was ready for attendees, and it did not disappoint. There were probably hundreds of people in line for free plants, free compost, and mango.

AgricFestVolunteersAfter my shift and breakfast, it seemed like the best thing to do would be to see if additional help could be provided. This must have been a good idea, because Lauren and Alli needed assistance greeting people into our event. It was the perfect opportunity to practice my French speaking skills. Most of my conversations were basic; however, like “hello”, “how are you”, and “have a good day.” Most people appreciated my attempt to speak in their language. They would say “merci” or use another phrase that I did not understand. At first, I could not pronounce “bonne journée,” but I figured it out later on in the day.  A vegan lunch was provided for volunteer members at 11:30 am.  Overall, the urban agricultural fair went well for the street of Duluth, in my opinion. It made the city even more green and beautiful. The atmosphere was light-hearted and everyone seemed happy.

-Jared Jordan

Baltic capitals and memorials

  1. May 2016

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement since we’ve arrived in Lithuania. From getting to know the other students who are studying with us, to figuring out how to navigate around the city of Klaipeda, our journey so far has been amazing. We have class each morning for 3 hours, and then are free to explore Klaipeda, edit photos, or just relax. We’ve just returned from our week long trip to the 3 capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The past week was tiring, but also filled with so much learning and beautiful views. A few experiences that struck me in particular were focused around the Holocaust and the history of the Soviet regime. Our first experience was visiting IX fort, which is where Lithuanian Jews were killed during Nazi occupation. Visiting this site and realizing it was exactly where so many people were killed was surreal. This fort was used as a place for mass murder and then later on as a place to house political prisoners who were on their way to the gulags of Siberia. The emotions we all felt during this tour are hard to describe. It was certainly something we’ll all remember because it had a deep impact on us as individuals. A few days later we then visited a memorial site where 70,000 Lithuanians had been murdered by the Nazi Security Police. Being at this site was also heartbreaking. As we walked around though it was hard to know how to feel because the sun was shining and it was in the middle of a beautiful wooded area. The police used this location in order to be able to disguise what they were doing. Along the way we also visited a few museums that provided personal stories, facts, and pictures about the impact of the Soviet regime and the Holocaust.

Though it’s difficult to visit sites like this, I feel that it’s also so important. It forces me to take a step back from my own life and consider what these people went through and the tragedy they faced. Learning about this history in our class was intriguing, but nothing can compare to standing in the exact spot where so many people’s lives were changed forever. That is something I won’t ever forget.

-Amy Nussbaum

See a larger collection of images on Flickr.


Urban issues, Non-profits and Community Recreation in DC

Three weeks initially seemed like a long time to be in DC.  The first week we were learning how to navigate the city, open ourselves to a history of African Americans that most of us had never heard before, and realize that there are many perspectives about economic development, affordable housing, homelessness, mass incarceration, education and gentrification that we would have to sort through personally.  By the end of our time together we reflected on how much we had learned, how easy it was to find our way to the next event and that the time actually flew by.  Here are some of our highlights and significant moments over the three week period we lived on Taylor Street, NE at the Washington Community Scholar’s House.

Statistics:

Miles Walked – Approx 120 miles per person

Hours at Local Rec Center – 3 hours every day ~ 63 hours

Basketball games played – Over 130 games.

Service Hours at Capital Area Food Bank – 210 hours

Kids Meals packed- 407 boxes

Seniors Packets – 2160 boxes?

Sorted 1 huge pallet of 50 lb bags of potatoes

Different Types of Restaurants- Peruvian, Ethiopian, Greek, French, Chinese, South African, Thai, Italian.

 

Non-profit Visits and Advocacy Day

Capitol Area Food Bank – We spent 15 hours volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank, which was within a 10 minute walk from the WCSC house. At these volunteer sessions, we packed over 400 boxes of meals for children to take home with them for weekend nutrition, and about 2160 boxes of meals for seniors which would be delivered to supplement their food supply. These meals went to people in the surrounding D.C. area, as well as in Maryland and Virginia.

MANNA – was one of the many non-profits that we visited during our time spent in Washington D.C.  On our very first day in DC we joined with MANNA and many other non-profit housing groups for Advocacy Day sponsored by the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) in the DC Council Chambers.  We were surrounded by an ocean of yellow shirts.  During advocacy day, we learned about the different city budgets for the various affordable housing programs and how these non-profits were meeting with council members to encourage them to support and increase funding for affordable housing.  While DC is experiencing tremendous economic growth many long-time residents are being displaced because of rising housing costs.  Many units of affordable housing have been lost to redevelopment of upscale housing.  After advocacy day, we went to MANNA to learn more about what they do.  We learned that MANNA is a non-profit program that buys and renovates houses and then sells them to lower-income families for an affordable price.  All throughout the trip, we met people who are involved in MANNA and also people who have purchased housing from MANNA.  MANNA is one of several non-profits that are committed to help solve the D.C. homelessness problem.

Sitar – Sitar Arts Center offers after school and summer programs for children around the city. They offer different kinds of classes to take that help them improve their art skills and express their creativity. Some of the courses that are offered include dance, writing, music, visual arts, digital arts, improv, and many more. Sitar gives students a safe place to go after school or in the summer where they can be in a positive learning environment.

Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys –This school focuses on helping educate low income boys, mainly African American, grades K-6. The school is funded by donations from people and organizations in the community. The school’s curriculum is unique because the first six weeks they do not follow a strict lesson plan. The first six weeks, the boys learn to know each other, develop relationships with their teachers, work on basic respect and getting along. This school is special because they require the parents to be active in their child’s education by attending required PTA meetings and helping them at home with homework. The teachers and staff all have a passion for not only making sure the boys get a good education, but also are concerned with helping them deal with situations outside of the school.

Joseph’s House – On May 18, we were able to visit Joseph’s House, a live-in home for those who are homeless and suffering from terminal illness.  It was truly inspiring to see how passionate and committed the staff are to providing community and support to those who are suffering and in need.  Although Joseph’s House is not a large organization, it has been able to touch many lives, most often in the most vulnerable moments.

Christ House – On the first day of our cross-cultural trip, the group was split into three smaller groups and sent on a scavenger hunt around the city. One group took a walk by Christ House and figure out what the statue was that was outside. On Wednesday May 28th, the whole group visited Christ House to learn more about what they do and their mission. Christ House was opened in December 1985 as the first 24-hour residential medical facility for homeless men and women. Patients are sent to Christ House from area hospitals, shelters, and clinics when they are suffering from a variety of illnesses like cancer, hypertension, kidney failure, diabetes, amputees, etc. Patients tend to stay at Christ House for roughly 45 days. Some leave sooner, and some stay much longer depending on their health condition. Several days during the week, Christ House provides services to other homeless people, like allowing them to come take showers and also providing them with clothing. Christ House focuses on the holistic aspect of nursing by really trying to get to know the people and gaining that nurse-patient relationship while also providing medical care that they need. The mission of Christ House is to provide comprehensive and compassionate health care to sick, homeless men and women in the District of Columbia, and to assist them in addressing critical issues to help break the cycle of homelessness.

Restaurants

We have been to numerous of restaurants around the District of Columbia. The foods here in the city is really great! For example, one of the Ethiopian restaurant called Keren Cafe and Restaurant is an utensils-free sort of place, and the food is so good! The food variety is amazing from Ethiopian to Greek to French, Chinese, South African/Portuguese, and other diverse foods. We have stepped out of our comfort zones and tried something new and we loved it! The places to check out in Washington, D.C. are Keren Cafe and Restaurant, Chinatown Express, Tsim Yung, Sala Thai, Zorba’s Cafe, and Nando’s Peri-Peri.

Turkey Thicket Community Recreation Center – 1 block from WCSC house

After class for the day, majority of the group would go to the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. At the recreation center, some members of the group were involved in numerous basketball games with members of the community. The most popular games played on the court were 2 v. 2, “Pig” and “Horse”. Brian, Travis, Kim, and Bailey were so competitive with the game, that they kept a running scoreboard at the house. The girls were able to hold their ground and were able to bring home the win. Throughout the three weeks, the students became friends with some of the children and learned about each other. Other students played other sports, including soccer, football, and Whiffle ball. The Recreation Center became a part of our everyday routine and we enjoyed getting to spend time there with the neighborhood children.

Highlights – Nationals Game, Pentagon, Shaw Tour (S. Street), Armor of Light, Time with David, Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.

Nationals Game – Friday, May 13th we attended a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.  The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and seventy-four degrees!  The game was a very low scoring game with a final score of 5-3, Nationals.  Almost everyone in our group sported the Nationals with different t-shirts and hats.  Everyone enjoyed watching the game, taking pictures of the field, eating the usual ballpark food such as hamburgers and hot dogs, catching baseballs during batting practice and of course everyone left the field happy with a Nats win!!


Mont Royal and more


Washington, DC Haiku

Week 1

 

Washington DC

Cultural society

There are poor and rich.

 

Those who are oppressed

Working to make a living

Sometimes get the boot.

 

Things that happen here

Are sure to make history

For good and for bad.

 

– Aaron Cook, Mirella Rodriquez, Kylie Crawford, Stephanie Stoner, Brittany McCullock


 

Colorful flowers

People praying in church

Huge basilica.

 

Loud red flashing lights

Candles burning everywhere

Rain falling from sky.

 

Beautiful murals

Diversity in D.C.

The metro was fun.

 

– Brian Vinniski,  Lauren Seale,  Erica Hevener,  Kimberly Heatwole,  Haley Thomas


 

Seventh street walking

Good friendship is at arch

Coffee fills the air.

 

Concrete surrounds us

Multi-language signs and sounds

Connects the city.

 

People everywhere

Everyone was very nice

Met many along the way.

 

– Travis Dull,  Dixie Alexander,  Bailey McInnis,  Lauren Braithwaite


 


 

Lithuania 2016

Lithuania 2016 summer cross-cultural seminar has begun posting a few photographs from their explorations in and around Klaipeda. Pictured above is a group of the students on their first trip out to the beach on the Baltic Sea.

 


 


Myanmar 2016


Bet Sahour and Bethlehem

Delayed post from 23 February 2016

As we walk through silent, little Bethlehem, I can still hear the three wise men roaming through these narrow streets with their donkeys’ rhythmical clack of hooves fading into the flagrant symphony of commerce and daily affairs that takes place in Palestinian suqs (markets). If anything elevates Bet Sahour over the archeological sites we have visited so far it is the liveliness and musicality that hardly occurs within the granite walls of temples erected for the sun-baked gods of antiquity. The schools, churches, mosques, food shops and other ‘normal’ businesses fill the town with an air of that everyday festivity that is characteristic of small, picturesque towns. And it is this ‘everydayness’ that especially brings to life the miraculous events of old that occurred in this area: there are still flocks of sheep placidly grazing in Shepherds Field where the angels first announced Jesus’ birth, there is still a manger in the hypothetical ‘stable’ where baby Jesus was born, there is still an olive tree where wee, faithful Zacheus climbed just to take a glance at the famed Jesus in his ministry. The divine merging of ancient and contemporary life vitalizes the area and adds an entirely new dimension to Sunday school stories. Proclaiming clearly and loudly the existence of a people, these ‘temples and ruins’ of old have managed to preserve their ‘colors’ nearly to perfection.

What has also been preserved nearly to perfection are the ‘vestiges’ of a 50-year-old martial occupation in Palestine. Hebron, the anointment place of merciful King David, withstands today the strength of Israeli military control. Embedded in Area C (West Bank territory under Israeli Civic and Martial Law), Hebron is a crystal clear example of a slow but steady socioeconomic strangulation. This town is surrounded by Israeli settlements, which are illegal Jewish colonies within Palestinian territory, and therefore experiences a deflating desolation that makes business next to impossible. Yet enterprising micro-businesspeople refuse to leave their homes and refuse to venture into more fertile markets abroad by raising their flag of resistance: to exist is to resist. In silent, little Bethlehem there is still that 2000-year-old hope for peace on earth and good will to women and men, but, since peace belongs to those that can keep it, to Bethlehemites peace takes the shape of a 13-metre-high concrete wall and numerous checkpoints where Palestinians sometimes wait for over three hours to cross in and out in order to get to their daily activities. Yet workers, university students, mothers, fathers patiently wait in these never ending lines in order to build their families, their nation, all while raising their resistance flag: to exist is to resist. The monumental temples and obelisks erected to appease the irate, ever-scowling gods evidently did not suffice in this part of the world because the lords of war are still collecting their entitled share of suffering and despair. And as we move through these people’s struggle, with no more help to offer than our condolence and companionship, we raise their flag of resistance: to exist is to resist.

We planted grape vines at Mr. Daoud Nasser’s 100-acre property. His grandfather owned the property since the Ottoman occupation, and unlike most Palestinians, he possessed documents to legitimize this ownership. The Nasser family has been farming the land since then, passing it on from generation to generation, but as settlements encroach around his property, this generational continuity has come under threat. After the overnight destruction of his 1,500 olive trees, numerous threats, and countless legal quarrels, Mr. Nasser still remains faithful to the struggle: to exist is to resist. Today he runs the Tent of Nations, an organization responsible for proactively building a better future for Palestine by strengthening the productive sector of the nation. The resistance, according to Mr. Nasser, must be built from the ground up emphasizing the role of individuals to achieve the liberation and sustenance of the Palestinian State. This idealistic and perhaps futile hope is what strengthens an entire generation that powers through a decade-long national endeavor. This reality-defying ideal is what inspires an entire country that refuses to leave the ancestral homelands clinging to that 70-year-old maxim: to exist is to resist.  And as we prepare to set out, let us say a prayer, of hands and not of mouth, to work for a day when the mass robbery of lands, the 13-metre-high apartheid walls, the excruciating checkpoints, and all the other vast and varied forms of oppression–here and everywhere–will seem as ancient and Ozymandian as the few ‘pebbles’ remaining for the rock-silent gods of power whose worship-filled reigns crumbled long ago with the resounding liberation shout: to Exist is to Resist!

-Diego Barahona

20 March 2016

Charlie Good compiled a video recording of stories from independent travel last week. It can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/R_Iqu6RqbEA.