A Thoughtful Day

As I was posting my traditional Thinking Day picture to Facebook I remembered my other tradition of blogging about my last year in Guiding. Past posts include Thinking About Thinking Day and Thinking Day Thoughts. I have to say that it’s getting harder and harder to think up a punny title.

16865103_10154359727772671_6431182755717062989_n

The biggest change in my Guiding life this year would have to be starting my job at the Québec Provincial office. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been there for almost a year already. I’m really only finally getting a solid grasp on people’s names and faces.

You hear people talking all the time about the importance of finding a job that makes you happy and Kelly will tell you that I walk in every morning with either a smile on my face or stories to tell (or grumbles about the weather, but you know…). Thank you Val for sharing your adventure and responding to emails/texts (and supporting people) at any time of the day or night. I don’t know where you find the time for all that you do! Thank you Sue for giving me this opportunity and for always being thoughtful and caring. Thank you Kelly for being an amazing friend, mother-ful person, funny storyteller, superhero, chocolate provider and solid listener/idea-boucer-off-er.

Of course, I haven’t given up my role as a volunteer either. Lara, Lindsay, Claire and I have continued with our unit in Milton Park that we opened last year and almost doubled our numbers from 6 to 11. Our girls never cease to amaze me. Some days they make me laugh so hard I cry and other days I can’t believe the challenges they’re going through and can only hope that we’re helping to prepare them for those ahead. It’s a good thing they love giving hugs!

Because I can never just do one thing at a time I’m also a Guider with the 85th Montreal Guides with my Mom, Emily, Laura, Irene and our Ranger Isabella. I switched over from our local Pathfinder unit to the Guides after Christmas and it’s done wonders for my mental health. I’m still getting to know the girls but it was heartwarming to hear one of them calling my name and waving at me excitedly as she arrived tonight.

Outside of work and my units, since last Thinking Day, I’ve travelled to Pax Lodge (the Guiding and Scouting World Centre in London, England), volunteered as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and reviewed drafts of the complete renewal of the Guiding program for all branches (Girls First), helped out at the provincial Brownie Superhero Academy Day, attended Camp Wa-Thik-Ane’s 90th Anniversary celebration (and got to spend time at my favorite place on Earth), co-led a session at Guider Symposium on running STEM activities, and participated in a number of of other activities I’m likely forgetting at the moment.

Last year my “I’m extra proud to be a Guider” moment came from the release of the  guidelines for the Inclusion of Transgender Members. This year it came from the release of the Mighty Minds Challenge, designed to “help girls develop positive mental health skills they can use to cope with the challenges they may face in their daily lives, while addressing the stigma that exists around mental health and mental illness in our society.” Nobody call tell me that Guiding is an outdated organization that isn’t keeping up with the times!

I’d love to give a shout-out to all those who’ve made this Guiding year an amazing one but I’m sure you know who you all are (and it would take me pages and pages!). Special recognition to all those mentioned above as well as RoseAnna (You’ve got great courage. Good luck with everything ahead!), Rachel (for absolutely everything), Terry (for listening to all the Guiding conversations and appearing at least mildly interested), Christine (our district’s Guiding Mom), Sharon (for the texts), Kathryn (for making walks home after meetings fun), Gigi and Jessica (I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better recently), Charyl (I miss you!), Patricia (for helping me see things differently) and Rochelle (for program related things).

The only thing I can hope for going forward is another Guiding year that is at least half as great as this one has been!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thinking About Thinking Day

It has been a while since I blogged here, but Thinking Day seemed like the right time to come back to it. I wrote a post titled Thinking Day Thoughts a couple of years ago and it is still my favourite post ever.

Thinking Day is for thinking about WAGGGS and Guides and Scouts around the world, but it is also about thinking about our involvement in Guiding and everything we do right here in our community. The last Guiding year has been a huge one for me, so it’s nice to take some time to reflect on it.

I moved to Sudbury to go to school last year (in part thanks to the Roberta Bondar Girl Guides of Canada scholarship) and one of the very first things I did was find a unit there. Lucky for me, the 2nd Lockerby Guides were very welcoming and they met just around the corner from my apartment. I went to three different camps with them, slept in a tent in the middle of winter for the first time, and even convinced one of my roommates to join Guiding!

While I was in Sudbury, I continued my involvement with Guides Quebec as deputy program advisor through many emails and conference calls. I’m lucky that Montreal Guiders are so patient and that I have a great Program partner in crime who was able to be there in person. I created a number of instant meetings and a new provincial challenge (Qc Tech & Nature).

I returned to Montreal over the summer and started thinking about the upcoming Guiding year. I knew that I wanted to return to the 33rd Montreal Pathfinders, but I also jumped into something new. Lara and Claire (who I once worked at Girl Guide camp with), Lindsay (who I just met this summer) and I decided to open a new Girl Guide unit. Although we worried at first that we wouldn’t get any members, our unit grew from one to six girls and we have been having a wonderful time!

Other fun Guiding things I’ve been a part of this year include:

  • The Guiding Girl Greatness National Conference in Toronto
  • Evaluating Girl and Guider International Trip Applications
  • A working group for the renewal of Memberzone and a Guiding App
  • Reviewing parts of Girls First — and I’m about to get a lot more involved in that!
  • Travelling to Sangam in India
  • Provincial Guide Camp
  • Symposium
  • The Brownie Thinking Day Connect Carnaval
  • Grad school research into Guider willingness and ability to deliver STEM programming to girls in their units — and making it into the Canadian Guider
  • Got chosen as an alternate for the Western Hemisphere Conference in Curaçao

It isn’t something I’ve particularly been part of, but it’s too big not to mention: Girl Guides of Canada released guidelines about accepting transgender girls and women in units this year. It was one of the most wonderful documents I have ever read and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this incredible organization.

So to all of those telling me that I can’t let Guiding affect other parts of my life or be an obstacle in my path to happiness, I say: Guiding is my life and it is a path to happiness.

Of course, I have many, many people to thank:

  • Thank you Tanya, Jane, Carol, Annette and the the 2nd Lockerby Guides for being so welcoming.
  • Thank Carly for joining in the Sudbury Guiding fun!
  • Thank you Valerie for being the best mentor a girl could ask for and for being so patient and flexible with me in Sudbury.
  • Thank you Charyl for being an incredible partner in Program. We make a great team!
  • Thank you Marie-Eve, Julie and Kaitlin for everything you do with the 33rd Montreal Pathfinders and for welcoming me back into the unit.
  • Thank you Lara, Claire and Lindsay for jumping whole-heartedly into our new unit and making it great!
  • Thank you to all the girls who make Guiding possible and all the parents who sign their girls up for Guides.
  • Thank you to all the Monklands Guiders who make our district wonderful.
  • Thank you to all the Guiders throughout the province and country on committees, councils and in units (I’m sorry I can’t name you all, but you know who you are) who work so hard to plan amazing activities and events. I learn so much from all of you!
  • Thank you Rachel for being a friend and Guider from afar.
  • Thank you to Kelly, Ali, Sue and Rebecca for everything you do at the office to make Guiding as easy as possible.
  • Thank you to all the non-Guiding people who have supported us and bought cookies. You have no idea how much your actions matter and what kind of difference cookie money can make to a unit and girls.
  • Thank you Mom for all the brainstorming and chatting about Guides we do at home. I love Guiding with you!
  • Thank you Dad for putting up with all the Guide talk at the dinner table and every other time and for not complaining too much when Guide supplies take over every part of the house.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Day 8: ♫ Go Well and Safely♫

Today was full of goodbyes. We had our last breakfast all together and then moved into closing activities.

We began worth laughing yoga. It wasn’t something that I had heard of before but an external man led us through various laughing activities that didn’t have much to do with yoga. It was pretty funny though!

Then, we had a recap session where we finished our action plans from yesterday, were told all about he leaving procedures, filled out eval forms and wrote postcards to ourselves that they are going to mail to us in 6 months. They also put on a funny skit about how we can stay in touch and continue to support Sangam.

Right before lunch we had the official closing ceremony where we sang a couple songs and sent paper flowers floating across the pool.

People starting leaving during lunch but our car wasn’t coming until 5pm so we finished packing and went out for some last minute shopping. I never did find a pair of pants I liked but Marie-Eve bought a few gifts and we got some cookies for the trip.

When we got back we had a few minutes to dip our feet in the pool, pack last minute items, settle our bills and say goodbye to Kaitlin before we headed on our way.

If you are super observant you may have noticed that today’s blog post has the same title as my last post from Our Chalet in Switzerland. It seems to be a world centre tradition to sing “Go Well and Safely” as guests leave.

We had a 4 hour drive to Mumbai but we are getting used to the roads by now and it was fun to make the trip in daylight. They wouldn’t let us go through security or departure immigration until very shortly before the flight since we were flying standby so it was pretty stressful, but a staff member accompanied us through the whole process and we made the flight without a problem. They made us go through 2 security checkpoints though so we got pretty sick of pulling out our liquids, taking our shoes off and being frisked by the time we had to do it again in Newark. I watched two good movies on the plane (St. Andres and The Little Prince) and we were seated next to each other with an empty seat between us so we had few complaints except for the lack of food. We only got 2 meals — one 1 hour in and one 1 hour before we landed — so it was a long 16 hour flight.

We are now sitting in Newark, hoping to get into a flight to Montreal in a couple of hours to finish off our approximately 32 hour journey. Fingers crossed!!

IMG_4728.JPG

IMG_4732.JPG

IMG_4730.JPG

IMG_4731.JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 7: Around the World in a Day

Today was our last full day at Sangam. I’m going to be very sad to leave when the time comes. The people have been wonderful and Sangam itself is beautiful (and warm).

Our morning consisted of two challenges they set for us. The first one they called the leadership challenge. They split us up in groups of three and gave us a rickshaw bag with address cards of different places to visit. I travelled around with Agnes (from Mauritius) and Diela (from Madagascar) so we mostly spoke in French. All of the groups had different locations but we saw a military cemetery, a palace where Ghandi was imprisoned and a temple that they called a cave. We had questions to answer about each destination as we wandered around them.

Our third challenge involved lunch. 50% of the Indian population feeds themselves on 30 rupees or less per day (about 65 cents). The challenge they gave us was to buy a single meal for that amount of money each. My team was quite successful. We worried a little about street food but didn’t let it stop us. For 10 rupees we each had a mashed potato and spices concoction spread between two pieces of wonderbread and deep fried. Then for another 20 rupees total we split a flatbread with cumin in it. We rounded our meal off nicely with a tiny container of ice cream each for another 10 rupees/person. Marie-Eve (in another team) was a little less successful (but perhaps played it safer) and had 2 bananas and two oranges.

My team was super speedy and we made it back to Samgam in time for a dip in the pool before our next session. During it we built the beginning of action plans and “problem trees” to take back home with us to “be the change” since that is what this week’s event has been called.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to what they called Indian Afternoon where we got to put on the cultural clothes we bought and try out all things Indian. I got some mehindi (henna) done on my wrist, colored in a Mandala, decorated my dinner spot with Rangoli (colourful sand that you make patterns on the ground with) and debated playing badminton.

Our supper was a traditional feast. We are sitting on the ground from large leaf plates with our hands. There was rice, dahl, chapattis, cracker-like things, potato, and other things I don’t even know how to describe.

We finished off the evening with International night and a campfire. Everyone had brought something to share from their country so we watched many types of dance (and participated in a couple), listening to Hindi singing, tried traditional food from Madagascar, saw lots of pictures and learned a new Australian songs that I’m looking forward to teaching girls back home. We brought chocolate mint cookies from home. They went over very will with everyone but the Indian girls who took one bite and then tried to hide the rest. I guess mint isn’t a typical Indian flavour.

IMG_4654.JPG

IMG_4657.JPG

IMG_4660.JPG

IMG_4680.JPG

IMG_4694.JPG

IMG_4688.JPG

IMG_4723-0.JPG

IMG_4687.JPG

IMG_2903.JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 6: World AIDS Day

Since today was World AIDS Day we took action by attending a community rally. We headed out in rickshaws again and joined 100 or so locals marching and chanting around the red light district. It was nice to think that we weren’t just talking about the issues amongst ourselves, we were actually involved in trying to make changes (how ever tiny our actions were).

IMG_4641-1.JPG

IMG_4629-4.JPG

IMG_4593-0.JPG

IMG_4632-2.JPG

IMG_4630-2.JPG
We then went out for a local lunch where I had what could only be described as a giant crispy crepe with super spicy potato in it. Luckily the way it was rolled most of it wasn’t touching the potato. Natasha kindly offered me some of her pizza but it has hot pepper flakes in the tomato sauce. Today is the day I wished I had been carrying a cliff bar. I stopped for a delicious mango Popsicle on the way back and that cleared my mouth nicely though.

This afternoon we debriefed about the rally and has a session with a leadership coach who talked about different ways to prioritize your life and then led us through a relaxation session where a good third of us fell asleep. I think that’s a good thing…

This evening, we joined in on a BBC debate/discussion being streamed online (called “100 Girls”). There were quick videos to watch and questions to discuss relating to women and jobs, relationships, government and feminism around the world. We even made it onto their website with some of our answers.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day but I am really looking forward to getting my Punjabi back from the tailor and trying it on!

The Internet is being annoying but I will try to add some more pictures later!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 5: Three Intelligent Girls and a Rickshaw Bag

This morning we went out into the community to visit one of Sangam’s partner organizations (Deep Griha) that is part health clinic, part dental office, part daycare and part educational centre. We headed out right after a quick debrief of yesterday’s movie and pancake (with real maple syrup) breakfast.

IMG_4574.JPG
They put us in groups of 3 and we took rickshaws to get there. Our driver was a fair bit more aggressive in his driving than our past ones had been which lead to our quote of the day. He was driving like crazy and we had no idea where we were heading so we got a tad worried. Marie-Eve turned to us and said: “we’re three intelligent girls, we’ll get there.” And I just looked at her and said “we’re three intelligent girls — with a rickshaw bag (a bag that Sangam gave us with money and directions in English and the local language) — that’s why we’ll get there.” We all agreed that the bag was the key.

IMG_4573.JPG
While there we got to take a walk around the centre and they gave a presentation about HIV/AIDS which included stats, myths, and exploding a condom with coconut oil.

IMG_4571-0.JPG
We headed back to Sangam for lunch. Since its meatless Monday and Sangam takes it one step further to vegan Monday, we had delicious samosas. It was very hot out so most of us went swimming in the pool before our afternoon sessions started.

The first one was led by an Indian woman who works as a community liaison here. She had us play some communication games, told us a bit about Indian culture an answered any questions we had about life in India. It turned into a giant discussion about marriage in different cultures and I revealed scandalous information about my parents not being married that baffled one of the Indian girls (Sweety) beyond belief.

Our second afternoon session was all about advocacy. We learned all about WAGGGS’ campaign for the 17 days against gender violence and took some pictures to tweet to join the #GirlsAreValuable because… conversation. Check it out on Twitter!

IMG_4575.JPG
We had delicious falafels and hummus for dinner (dinner tends to not be Indian) and then talked about plans for tomorrow. We’re going to be participating in a rally for World AIDS day so we made banners and discussed social media plans. You should be able to follow along on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Day 4: All of the Feelings

IMG_4549.JPG
This morning started bright and early when we climbed to the top of the water tower to see the great view. It wasn’t a staircase but rather a ladder inside a grated-in tube on the outside of the tower so it was somewhat scary. I ended up with bruises all over my knees from banging them on the rungs.

IMG_4548-3.JPG
After breakfast, we spent most of the morning discussing the state of HIV/AIDS in the countries that we represent. We got off topic and talked about sex ed and women’s issues as well. It was very enlightening. We had a new girl (Shrishti) join us from Nepal in the middle of the night so we have grown to a group of 9.

IMG_4552.JPG

IMG_4553-0.JPG
After another Indian lunch we had a session about leadership and communication with Kaitlin. We played a bunch of games and did an activity where we wrote down the skills and qualities of a good leader.

IMG_4556.JPG
Then, we watched part of a heartbreaking documentary called Half the Sky. We only saw 2 sections out of 8 but here were about female genital mutilation in Somalia and generational prostitution in India. We tried to connect up to a live feed of a Girl Guide event in Oman but either our internet or theirs wasn’t working well enough.

IMG_4563-2.JPG
Kaitlin’s grandmother has been here visiting and she, Kaitlin, Marie-Eve and I got invited to Sangam’s yoga teacher’s house for dinner tonight. It was about a 15 minute walk and it was very interesting to see different parts of the community. When we got there she took us to see her cow so she could feed it before dinner. We also got to meet her sister in law who is from Columbia and who used to work at Sangam. I loved hearing all of their stories!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment