Dank je wel 2015, Salut 2016!

2015 will go down as one of the best years of my life (to date). I can’t believe that for the past 12 months I was able to go places, obtain another degree, meet new people, and acquire new skills.

Probably the icing on the cake for me was being able to travel to Europe – something which I have been dreaming of since I was a kid. There’s something about that continent which always drew me to it, and now that I’ve visited a part of it already, I understand why. It’s not really the destination that mattered but the people I meet along the way and the cultures I have been able to immerse myself into. And thanks to that, 2015 helped me become more of a traveler, a global citizen.

If there’s one big lesson I learned in 2015 it is this. It pays to understand the world from a different perspective. The traveling year that it was, 2015 has taught me to appreciate the world I live in before it is too late.

So bring it on 2016, surprise me! Take me wherever I have to be.

Advertisements

Een nota aan mijn jongere zelf

Jongere Geo,

Hoe hebt je zijn? Ik hoop dat je doen goed bent.

Ik schrijf om jou te vertellen dat je hebt een veel te bieden, maar je moet alles ontdekken. Veel uitdagingen komen op je weg, en moet je klaar voor hem. Maar wees niet bang; er zijn veel mensen dat jou zullen helpen. Je zal nieuwe vrienden ontmoeten, en zij zullen de reis met jou maken.

Hoe weet ik? Het is omdat ik zag het. Ik heb ervaren wat je zal ervaren. Er zijn veel ervaringen dat jou zullen maken jou een beter persoon. Klaar zijn voor alles. Verwacht het onverwachte. Op het einde, je zal vliegen en je zal jouw merk in dit wereld maken.

Je bent bestemd voor grote dingen.

Met vriendelijke groeten,
Oudere Geo.

P.S. Het is mijn eerste schrijftwerk in Nederland. 

A teaser to my AIESEC story in Poland

It’s been more than a month now since I returned to New Zealand from a very wonderful AIESEC exchange experience in Wroclaw, Poland (plus a month of travelling through Europe). Well yeah, you can say that I still have the travel bug. I miss the places, the cultures, the food, and especially the people I met along the way.

Wroclaw2

A bit of a backgrounder: I went to Poland through AIESEC Global Citizen. The project in Wroclaw was called International Summer Semi Camps, which ran parallel to a similar project called Global Semi Camps. The combined project is a six-week programme where volunteers from all over the globe got to mingle with Polish kids, sharing with them their own cultures while learning a lot about Polish culture. Specific tasks included sports, arts & crafts, and English teaching. There were 24 of us volunteers in the project, and we were divided into eight groups of three. Each team was assigned to a different town per week, so while doing the project we get to travel around the Lower Silesian region of Poland (of which Wroclaw is the capital).

Our team, labeled the “Commonwealth Team” (because I was from New Zealand and I was teamed with a volunteer from Australia and another from Canada, and everyone knows all countries are part of the British Commonwealth lol), were assigned to the towns of Olesnica, Zmigrod, and Popielow, for the first, second, and third weeks, respectively. Then our final three weeks were spent in Klecina, a southern district of Wroclaw. The kids we worked with were from different age ranges, different backgrounds, different experiences. But all of them were eager to learn not only what the NGO’s had in store for them during the course of their summer camps, but also what we volunteers could share to them about our respective countries. In turn, we volunteers learned about Polish culture and the cultures of our co-volunteers’ respective countries. It was probably one of the best and most amazing learning experiences I ever had.

proj5

Of course our AIESEC experience wasn’t all work. We all had our weekends off so we took the opportunity to either travel around or explore Wroclaw. And those weekends included arguably the best weekend of my life: I celebrated my 28th birthday in another country and with new friends and while living out my European dream. I really couldn’t have asked for more. Then there’s the usual university life parties, hangouts, chill-outs (Wyspa Slodowa is now my new favourite chillout place in the world!) and dinners (Polish food, yummeh!).

Overall, my AIESEC experience in Poland has been one of the best, if not the best, experiences in my 28 years of existence. Until now I’m still giving myself a pat in the back for eventually deciding to ditch Makimono for Illot Cafe. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known AIESEC. Otherwise, this life-changing experience wouldn’t have happened.

If I get the chance to do it all again, I’ll be willing to jump at it and relive this experience all over again.

P.S. More of my European experiences in subsequent posts…

Back to blogging

I’m back! Yes, finally after three months of absence, I’ll start working on new posts for my blog.

Apologies if I haven’t posted anything since June; I was away on an overseas exchange experience in Poland – so far the most amazing experience of my life; however I had limited to no internet access hence this blog has been sleeping for the past three months. I’ll detail my experiences in Europe in the next few posts.

But yeah, that OE experience is definitely a life-changing one. Met so many new people, saw so many places, experienced a lot of things, tasted a lot of food… Obviously I wanna do it again, and I hope it will be soon. But for now, I’ll just share all my experiences in the coming weeks.

I’ve missed posting here and I am definitely excited to share all my experiences with you. But bye for now, see you all in the next post!

Save Mary Jane from the chains of economic oppression

While I am still hoping against hope that Mary Jane Veloso is saved, we have to be reminded that neither Indonesian President Joko Widodo nor the Republic of Indonesia is at fault here. We do not control their laws, nor are we in the position to interfere with their policing and laws.

Let us remember that the biggest faults here are the lack of socioeconomic accessibility in the Philippines, human trafficking, and our very own government’s lack of firm, decisive, but diplomatic and legal action. France was able to at least defer the French citizen’s execution because of the French government’s firm, decisive, yet diplomatic and legal action – steps were made to ensure that their citizen would have a strong and substantial defence while not breaking any law – local or international.

Furthermore, socioeconomic conditions in the Philippines are stagnant, if not deteriorating, forcing thousands to leave their homeland in search for a better life overseas. Not exaggerating here, but I actually fear that the Philippine diaspora is already reaching the levels of the biggest diaspora in history – the Armenian diaspora. Neoliberal economic policies such as privatisation, which cater only to big businesses rather than the people itself, coupled with corruption, lack of political will, and an ill-managed populace, have made the lives of the ordinary Filipino more miserable. And this scenario has actually emboldened human traffickers to take advantage of the Filipino’s miserable situation. In the end, it’s the ordinary Filipino like Mary Jane Veloso who falls victim.

The Aquino government boasts of economic gains? Trickle-down economics? Those are just economic indicators on a neoclassical scale. But all these “economic gains” will be useless if proper development does not take place – development that ensures all citizens are entitled to freely exercise their own socioeconomic rights, development that protects the people and not the big businesses, development that ensures proper political systems are in place and will not be taken advantage of by corrupt officials.

We just don’t call to save Mary Jane from execution. We must continue to call to save Mary Jane from the chains of economic oppression.

Why wage war?

I can’t believe that there are some people in social media suggesting that the government should wage a war against the BIFF after the Mamasapano ambush. I’m throwing these questions to them:

1. Do you guys think that the Philippines is in an economically viable position to wage war against a smaller, non-state actor?

2. What about civilians that will be entrapped? Do we already have evacuation and emergency plans in place?

3. Do we have conflict resolution and rehabilitation mechanisms in place?

4. The clincher: Isn’t the Philippines a charter member of the United Nations, whose charter renounces war as a first option for conflict resolution?

While the conflict in Mindanao is a complex web of social issues, war is a simplistic but destructive solution to an otherwise complicated issue.

Connecting to the Rest of the World in New Zealand

When I was a kid, probably around five years old, our grandparents gave us a Childcraft encyclopaedia set. It has 17 volumes plus a child’s dictionary and a child’s atlas. Being the biggest book on the set, I took on the atlas straight away. I was amazed to find coloured maps of all the countries in the world, together with the national capitals, the national flags, and especially coloured pictures to give the kiddie reader a feel of what can be seen in that country. The atlas gave me an appreciation and fascination for different cultures at a young age, and ever since I always wished to meet people from around the world.

Indeed, we are now living in a highly globalised world. Television channels show a wide diversity of programmes from all over the world. Radio stations play songs from different countries. And social media has allowed everyone to connect with each other. Each person in the world has an opportunity to not only learn about different cultures but also find a way to bring cultures together under one common goal.

But what is it like to be united in a truly diverse, globalised society? I have accidentally acquired the answer to this question when I enrolled in Victoria University for my postgraduate studies. I have hoped (but not expected that much) that I would meet at least one person from a different country other than the Philippines or New Zealand during my stay in Vic, even though I have already made contacts (mostly business) with some people from other countries even before I moved to New Zealand.

But surprise, surprise. When we were asked to talk to our seatmate during the postgraduate orientation programme, I shared experiences with a psychology student from Colombia. Then more get-to-know-each-other activities came and I was able to meet with other students from parts of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. When I arrived at my first class, I’ve met more international students that are taking the same programme, mostly scholars from South East Asia.

As the first semester went on, I’ve met a group of international students in a jazz bar in Te Aro. I was introduced to the group by my classmate and good friend Vincent, an exchange student from the Netherlands. Ever since that night I’ve been invited to their music jams, parties, and other get-togethers. Despite coming from different countries, different cultures, we really clicked together, united by friendship, fun, academic life, and, to an extent, the FIFA World Cup.

And with the bond I formed with these international students, I saw that there is so much power in connection and unity that should go beyond obvious diversity. Having a friend from different countries opened new horizons for me. Knowing their cultures and traditions even opened a plethora of wonderful opportunities. And with these horizons and opportunities, I realised that the key to a united world is one that is made of respect and open-mindedness.

Some of my international friends may not know it, but they definitely changed my life forever. And because of these wonderful experiences I will never see that atlas book again the same way I did when I was a kid. I shall see it not with amazement anymore, but with reminiscing and probably a Grinch-like smile on my face, and say, “Oh that’s where my friend lives!”

Indeed, Louis Armstrong was right. What a wonderful world!