Smooth Sailing – in the Canals of Amsterdam

Would like to note that the reason that I haven’t really been posting so much is because my power converter for my USA chargers broke! The only reason I have any charge on my laptop still is because I’ve been borrowing the chargers of other people in my hostels while they aren’t there… you gotta do what you gotta do. So yeah, limited power = limited posts.

Okay! So we left off on a very unfortunate day coming into London. I would now like the record to show that London was indescribably fantastic. I have never been to a more lively, exciting, and diverse place in my life. Even out in Oxfordshire, it was just gorgeous. Most of the people that I met were so wonderful and helpful, and I’ve already made a lot of friends along the way. I also last-minute was able to attend the Hero Round Table leadership conference in London, thanks to some friends who are involved in the organization of it. I also met some very interesting people there and was able to network a little with individuals of similar interests. All in all, London was beautiful and alive and amazing and I’m already looking forward to spending more time there.

From London, I flew to Denmark, and then got a text from a friend studying in Sweden, so instead of taking a train to Copenhagen, I hopped onto a train to Sweden. My weekend in Sweden was filled with biking, beer, viking castles, dancing, good pals, and tons of sunshine. I really lucked out. I wish I had planned better, because I honestly would have loved to just stay longer there, but I foolishly had already bought a return ticket. Sunday night, I took a train back to Copenhagen. Copenhagen was a very old, very wealthy city that I was only able to spend 48 hours in, but during that time, I saw a lot of really interesting things, such as Christiania, the rogue civilization that basically just does whatever they want. I also somehow met a couple people that just graduated from Michigan State University and are moving to Ann Arbor in the fall, incredibly close to me. I spent most of my time hanging with them, and I’m definitely looking forward to hanging with them when we’re all back in the states. It really is a small world.

I arrived in Amsterdam on Tuesday night, and this city does not disappoint. Again, lots of new pals. Feeling the personal growth and getting out of my social comfort zone is so good. Went out for a few drinks with a German girl and a Russian girl the first night, and it was honestly so funny and cool to all come from such different backgrounds but be having an awesome time together, drinking Abuelo rum (Yes, KY pals, I found it in AMSTERDAM) and hanging with a few Dutch dudes on the patio until the place closed. Then, when I splurged and went on the Heineken Experience VIP tour, it was just me and a huge group from Florida together. There were eight of them, all family and significant others, and we all immediately got along. This family was hilarious and dynamic and totally out of control in the most fantastic, enjoyable way. They invited me to dinner, and then to breakfast and a canal cruise with them the next morning. I am still blown away by their generosity.

So today is Friday, and of course I’ve hit some art museums and just enjoyed this beautiful city. I will say that, as far as canal cities go, Amsterdam over Venice any day of the week. A slight bump did come up when I realized that I had lost my backup credit card in Sweden, just as my limit was approaching on the one I was already using for most things. I’m running out of money now due to that very silly mistake on my part, but seeing as I go home in less than a week (WHAT???), I think I should be okay. Not a huge deal; just have to eat most of my meals from grocery stores, rather than restaurants! Luckily, I prepaid for all of my hostels and transportation. Good work, Dest.

Anywho. I have a few days left in Amstie, and then I move on to my one day in Switzerland to visit an old friend! Very stoked. Very happy. Very chill.

Good vibes, my friends xx

Advertisements

Integrating Back Into Society

As most of you hopefully have figured out by now, I have been back in my quiet little Michigan home for nine days now, far away from the jungles of Central America. Too far away, if you ask me, but life happens.

Leading up to my leave from Kalu Yala, I was talking a lot about take-aways and learning experiences and opportunities for growth. As grateful as I was that I had experienced anything like that at all, an actual change, I was anxious to see how that would translate into my “real life” back home in Michigan. I wasn’t sure if what I had gained would still be a part of who I was or if those gains were to be left in Panama. Either way, it would be what it would be, but I obviously wanted to keep with me the things I had learned. So you can probably imagine my delight, nine days in, that I am so different about everything.

Probably the first thing that I had noticed right off the bat was my attitude,, demonstrated almost too clearly at work. Us baristas like to complain about literally everything to make ourselves feel better about having to wake up at 5am every morning to serve some man in a bad mood a much too complicated drink that probably tastes like ass anyways. This definitely used to make me feel better, too. However, upon coming back, I realized that there are so many more important things to be angry about that the grumpy man with the ass latte should not matter at all. My coworkers will sometimes irrationally freak out about the wrong size lid accidentally being stocked in the holder or the fact that, yes, we are unfortunately out of the sandwich that you ordered and now we have to awkwardly ask you if you want a different thing once you get to the window, which takes an unnecessary amount of time. Little things like that can somehow ruin someone’s day the way it used to ruin mine, but I just can’t bring myself to be bothered by it anymore. I’m honestly embarrassed by how I used to empathize with really stupid problems like that. If running out of a sandwich at work is the worst thing that happens to me in a day, then I can assume that it was a pretty damn good day.

However, a change of me getting angry at work also happened. Coming back, I became hyper-aware of how unsustainable a lot of the business practices we employ are. Why do we double-bag trash cans, rather than just get stronger bags? Why do we throw away so much food when we can just donate it? Why do employees use the disposable cups when we have glass mugs that are free to use already, reducing an enormous amount of waste? I  began to question everything, as we were encouraged to do at Kalu Yala, to open up that conversation of Why? Going back to my no-complaining point I made previously, I don’t intend to just sit on these questions and grumble about it under my breath. I’m beginning to keep track of these questions, write them down, and research deeper into the practices. If I am unable to find an answer to the why, I intend to channel the little Clare Bassi that lives in us all and write a letter to corporate, asking them why and hopefully be able to work together and come up with a solution. Starbucks has a long history of actually listening to the partners, even at my level, so I have high hopes that, if the information is compiled correctly, I can really change some things around my workplace.

I’ve also noticed in myself a patience that was not there previously. A lot of things are a very different at home due to some challenging events that took place within my family while I was away, and dealing with that has been hard for me. However, I take one day at a time, as we all do, and continue to keep a positive outlook on everything, even when things are hitting that figurative fan. Actually, I’m not even sure if patience is the right word; maybe “centered” is more accurate, being able to come back to that place of mental stability and solidarity when things become too much to handle, however patience is definitely still a key factor in many other ways these days. I don’t know how in depth I can go into this without airing the dirty laundry of my personal life, so I’ll leave it at that and trust that you will understand.

And as far as being centered goes, I am very proud to say that meditation has been helping me a lot since I returned home. That was something that I was almost sure wouldn’t carry over, but ended up being instrumental in my transition back into the American society. No, I don’t know anything about crystals or constellations or drink weird green blended concoctions that may or may not scare me — it makes me sad that a wonderful thing like meditation has such a weird lifestyle stigma around it. You don’t have to lead a specific lifestyle or be a certain way or wear certain types of clothing or jewelry to take a moment every day for yourself and recenter your mind and thoughtspace. It’s so important to be able to just take a breath and clear your head sometimes, and that has been one of the most incredible things I have been able to bring home with me. (DISCLAIMER: If you’re into crystals and constellations and weird green concoctions, you know I love ya and would never knock on a fellow human for an interest that simply don’t partake in.)

One last specific thing that has changed is definitely my diet. I find myself making most of my own food now, just because I now feel more comfortable knowing exactly what is in my food and where it’s coming from. I also realized how simple a plant-based diet actually is and  have implemented a lot of those meals into my schedule, as well. No, I’m not a vegan now or against eggs, but I will never again argue with a big plate of veg! My food is now super colorful and involves several different food groups for balanced nutritional value, and I only eat meat once every couple of days. If you had asked me to do this a year ago, I would have told you that it was impossible, but all those delightful meals in valley showed me that a flavorful vegan meal is much simpler than we tell ourselves. Don’t let the V-word scare you, my friends.

Some things just don’t change, though; I came home and reveled in all of my wonderful cold-weather clothing that I had missed too much. I cannot begin to express how happy I am in my pants are cardigans and sweaters and scarves again, as much as I do miss the valley. I was too excited to put on perfume and throw on some makeup, and probably looked a little too good to just be going to Kroger, but it was so nice to feel like myself again. Jungle Dest was definitely a lovely version of myself, but I feel like a happy compromise between the person I was before Kalu Yala and the person that I have become because of Kalu Yala.