Lessons

14:24 – May 11, 2017

Reflection from my journal during my hike at Silver Falls

I am currently on my way back to my car, nearing the end of my hike, and decided to take a break. This break came on because I had a flood of emotions. The trail here at Silver Falls reminds me a lot of the trail I hiked near Nogales, Arizona in August 2016 at Me to We’s Advanced Leadership Training camp. It’s weird to think that here, in Canada, the USA and many parts of the world we hike these trails for pleasure. However, migrants from Mexico and parts of South America hike these trails in the middle of the desert to find a chance at a better life. They hike these trails looking for hope, work, money; really just a fraction of all the pleasures my friends and I have in Canada and the US. This search for a better life gets ripped away from the migrants by the American government.

How is North America so corrupt that our boarders are so strict? We descended from Europe! A place where restaurants have boarders running down the middle of them; a place where you can pull over on the side of the road and half your tour bus can be in one country and the other half in another country. It’s kinda ridiculous.

“President” Donald Trump wants to build a wall but a wall is the most unnatural thing on this planet. Environmentally, it would prevent migration for animals and insects. It would cause plants to die surrounding the the wall. There are so many issues I just can’t. Sure we have walls in our homes but we have windows to let air flow. We have doors, which allow us to enter and exit freely. Yes, walls can protect us. Literal walls protect us from the elements, but at the same time these walls can endanger us. They can collapse on us, hold poisonous materials and cause harm. We also build figurative walls to shield our emotions. These figurative walls are good temporarily but if they are never broken down a person will never find true happiness.

Going back to the hike. I learned a lot in a short period time, especially reflecting on my hike in Arizona. Migrants go on the hike almost unprepared. They are wearing dress clothes, heels or dress shoes. They have a small amount of water. They get separated from their families, having to find a meeting place, getting sent back to the place that they are running from and even incarcerated. I went on this hike to see the beautiful scenery. I had easy access to water. People knew where I was. I had good shoes, clothes. I discovered something though… I want to better myself.

All migrants that try to cross the boarder, legal or illegal, are trying to better themselves and their families.

The next time you hike, think of it as a way to better yourself. Use a hike as a way to bring yourself closer to who you are and who you want to be in life. Let the hike bring you closer to what you love. Yes, a hike can be pleasurable but use it as something more. Use a hike as a path to find something greater, in yourself and in the world.

Sincerely,

VP

Adventures · Lessons

My First Year in Toronto

As you’re reading this my journey in Toronto is coming to an end (at least for a few months) and I’m probably on my flight back to Thunder Bay or already here. Leaving the city is bittersweet because I know that there’s an adventure to be had in Thunder Bay and I’m so excited to take it head on. The bitter part is that I truly love Toronto. I’ve made amazing friends here. I’ve experienced things I wouldn’t be able to do back home. Most importantly I actually didn’t mind being in school (even though I complained every single day…). There was something new in every corner of the city, from my first flight in to my flight out. Everything I did in between was something that put me out of my comfort zone.

I was fortunate enough to have amazing people accompanying me on every adventure. From day one to my last I did things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t move here for school. In honour of my list of adventures for the summer, I would like to share with you a few “must do” things in Toronto and the wonderful experiences I had.

  1. Wonderland! Sure it’s in Vaughan and not Toronto, but it’s close enough that if you don’t at least go once in your life then you’re doing something wrong. Also going on rides that scare you allows you to move out of your comfort zone and I’m an advocate for always living life on the edge.
  1. Nuit Blanche. I don’t know why but this will forever be one of my favourite nights. It’s a sunset to sunrise art exhibition throughout Toronto. My friends and I thought it was a cool idea to go and explore. It was cool but we saw next to nothing, art wise, and the things we did see, we were confused about (there were glowing orbs and dancing birds at one point). We stayed out looking for bagels most of the night and then when we finally gave up and decided on pizza we headed home. We walked for about 2 extra hours through Yonge and Eglinton to Bayview and Lawerence (we let an Italian be our tour guide). We finally made it home at 4 AM. Still wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  1. Ripley’s Aquarium! I love water, any animal that lives in water, the ocean, Poseidon and Ripley’s brings out your inner child! My favourite part of the aquarium was definitely the jellyfish! The neon lights, how they glowed – it was beautiful!
  1. My absolute favourite one… THE CHRISTMAS MARKET! I felt like was at the North Pole, with Santa and his Elves. I was absolutely in love! No matter if you love or hate Christmas, you will love the market. The lights, the trees, the knickknacks that you find. It’s all so beautiful and worth going at least once while you’re in Toronto.
  1. I didn’t do this one because I don’t know how to do it but… Skating at Nathan Phillips Square. No matter the season seeing the TORONTO sign is something everyone does. I liked going just to people watch during the fall. There’s just something about skating outdoors, at a crowded rink I think is hella cute and everyone should do it.
  1. Any and every coffee shop. If you live in Toronto and don’t have a coffee addiction then you’re not doing it right. There’s a new coffee shop at ever corner and a Starbucks in every direction. I personally like the non-franchise coffee shops because baristas talk to you, they aren’t as busy and they have something unique to them. There’s this one shop, near King and Jarvis, I promised a barista coffee beans from Kenya… gotta keep that promise I guess.
  1. Trying random restaurants. I loved going downtown without a plan, roaming and coming across random restaurants. It was so much fun and allowed me to try different foods, but also more authentic foods.
  1. Toronto Light Fest! This was cool because it was free and almost two months long. It’s similar to Nuit Blanche because it is an art exhibition, but strictly lights. Most exhibits were interactive and I thought that was cool because you add yourself to the art. I highly recommend!
  1. One thing that I personally got to experience was going to WeDay in Toronto. It was my fourth WeDay but my first in Toronto. It’s a day of inspiration and I got to share the day with my best friend of 14 years. If you ever get the chance to go to at least one, I suggest going.
  1. Finally, taking the subway. I don’t care how stupid this sounds but the subway is so cool in my opinion. It so easy to get around but it’s mostly because it completes my “Living in Toronto” experience.

I know that most of these are typical tourist things to do when you’re in Toronto but they are tourist attractions for a reason! They are fun and create memories. The way I see it is that if you didn’t have fun or remember it for more than just a picture, it wasn’t worth it.

As a little bonus to this list, I’ve decided to make it my tradition to get gelato from Touti Gelati on Queens Quay W every time I enter the city for a new school year and every time I finish because that’s exactly what I did this year and it’s so good there! If you go some of my favourites are: Coconut, Tiramisu, London Fog, Lemon and Basil, and the always timeless Chocolate.

I’m so very thankful for every experience I had this year and even more thankful to have shared them with such amazing people and friends. Toronto, these 7.5 months have been so memorable and I’m looking forward to another amazing year in the city. As for right now, I’m living in the moment and working on my list. First up, I’m thinking Rabbit Mountain.

Sincerely,

VP

Lessons

A Message to Future First Years (Part II)

My time as a first year university student is coming to an end and exams are coming full throttle but I enjoy ignoring my school work (or maybe I’m self medicating with this blog to relieve stress – who knows!). As promised I’m writing my advice to future first years, but first I want to give you some insight on the school I am enrolled in.

I’m currently stu(dying) French and English at York University, Glendon Campus and studying Education at the Keele Campus. I’m apart of a 6 year program – 4 year honours bachelor in arts and 2 years bachelor in education. York is a big school with approximately 53,000 students enrolled in 2014. Although Glendon on the other hand is very… quaint… with enrolment at approximately 3,000 students. It is 100% a bilingual school and profs take french very seriously here (hence why I have to take summer school to get to their standards). It’s a chill environment but I do have a problem with how small it is at times. Class sizes are at the most 60 kids, very few kids stay on campus during the weekend and you see the same faces everyday even if you want to avoid human interactions. Nonetheless, I have very much enjoyed my first year of university but it did take work especially because I am studying away from home and living away from everything that was familiar to me. I guess I’m writing this in hopes of helping those with their transition into university next year.

So here are Vince Pelaia’s tips to a smooth and fun first year!

  1. Do Frosh (or whatever your school may call it)! I was my highlight because I got to have fun, embarrassed myself and meet friends. We still laugh about the lip-sync battle and how amazing my performance was (he said sarcastically). In all seriousness it’s so much fun and friends you make during that time will become your best friends.                                                  img_0713
  2. Try to have Fridays off! I was lucky enough to have one morning class on Thursdays and Fridays off and that extended weekend made my life so easy! It gave me time to do school work but also have fun.
  3. Get one of those big calendars from the school bookstore. I didn’t and that was an honest mistake. I tried a day planner but only used it for like a month and then moved on to my phone which becomes a distraction. I need a big visual of things that I have to do so I’ll be investing in that next year.
  4. If you don’t do the readings make sure you go to class and take lots of notes those days (there will be a lot of them). BUT! If all the lecture notes are posted online you don’t have to go (but still go if it’s discussion oriented or if attendance is mandatory).
  5. Stay on top of your work if you have three essays due the same week but have three weeks to work on them make fake deadlines for them and then you’ll finish them on time but also stress free (unless they are philosophy essays, those are stressful).
  6. Don’t focus all your time on school. We are still kids and kids need to have fun so go to a party, pub night, game night, coffee shop. Remember you don’t need alcohol to have fun (although it may make for fun stories).
  7. You will go through some kind of weight change (my now formed double chin is proof of this). Don’t stress about weight gain. Your body is readjusting to a new routine and the important thing is to make sure you eat well (or as well as you can if you’re on meal plan) and try to exercise. The same goes for weight loss. Your diet is very important because it’s what gives you energy and if your not eating well it will reflect in all aspects of your life so eat those veggies, get your protein and all the important nutrients you need.
  8. Say good-bye to your sleep schedule! Some days I found myself asleep at 11pm and other days 4am but I had to wake up between 7 and 8:30 no matter what! On the plus size you have 2 new designer bags right under your eyes!
  9. Due to your lack of sleep you’ll probably start drinking tea, coffee, energy drinks whatever it takes (don’t drink energy drinks). I found the the best thing was green tea and lots of water though. This goes back to trying to stay healthy! Also water makes your skin look great!
  10. You will probably get sick often, especially living on res. I shared a nasty washroom with dirty people for just under 8 months and the cleaning team did not clean well… it’s safe to say that that was a bacteria culture and I’m gonna have to do an immune system fix.
  11. Again have fun! Go on that tinder date (you may get a free meal out of it)! Go break the bank on a new outfit! Go explore your surroundings! Every city has a new adventure just a few blocks away so put those books down and enjoy it.
  12. Go to the formal events your school offers. It may be program based, residence based or in my case just school based (it’s small remember that). It’s fun to dress up and dance! (they are also usually open bar).
  13. Explore new music! Music helps me study and my taste has grown so much in the last few months and yours will too. Grow an appreciation for all genres because they can change your mood or even motivate you so much.
  14. Open your heart. If you find someone you genuinely like take that shot in the dark. If things don’t work then you either have a new friend or you don’t. It’s no big deal.
  15. A 4.0 GPA is not the end all be all. Sure some people need it and I understand that so try your hardest in school, but always remember that there’s always a lesson to be learned with a bad mark.
  16. You don’t need a MacBook to be successful. I mean I am slightly guilty of owning a MacBook Pro but mine is about 5 years old and there’s a green pixel that shows up on the screen when I watch Netflix (It’s very distracting). Any computer will suffice in University. Also don’t rely on computers. I actually took most of my notes in a note book and found it quite useful. On your first week of class bring both because you never know which you’ll like more. (I used my computer in literature but note books in linguistics and french, that’s what I felt more comfortable with).
  17. Join a club or two. I love being involved and even though I’m not apart of any clubs right now I have a few that I want to be apart of. They are also an easy way to make friends because you all already share a common interest.  
  18. If you move away you’re gonna do things behind your parents back and probably tell them about it after the fact…
  19. Understand that you might not stay in your program and that’s okay! The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re studying and if you don’t make a change. If university isn’t your thing don’t force yourself to stay because the most important thing is your own happiness.
  20. You’re going to make amazing new friends that’ll last a lifetime but also form closer bonds with your old friends.
  21. At the end of the day studying is very important. I know I said that you should have fun but the important thing is to actually do your work because this is your future and it’s all in your hands.
  22. Finally, remember that it’s okay to be selfish. Do things to make yourself happy and not others. This is your life and your future that you’re working towards and you shouldn’t have to try to make others happy if it means you’re sacrificing your own happiness.                 

Sincerely,

VP 

Lessons

A Message to Grade 12s (Part I)

My first year is winding down (not really – the end hits you like a train) and I learned a few lessons this year that I would like to share with you but also would like to share some tips on how to enjoy your last few months of high school.

Let us begin

Enjoying high school. People either absolutely LOVE or haaatee high school, for me high school was amazing! I was super involved, it was a loving and open environment, and I tried to be at least friendly with everyone. It’s safe to say that I lowkey miss it, things were very simple. The end of high school is bittersweet TBH. I was so excited to start my new adventure in Toronto but I was sad that the faces I saw on a day-to-day basis would only become once every 6-12 weeks. Therefore, I want to give you tips on how to enjoy your last few months as much as possible. Here are some suggestions I have for you:

  1. Grades aren’t everything! You may feel as though you need that 95 to stay accepted into your program but let’s face it – you worked hard, you got in, you can maintain your acceptance very easily.
  2. Go to that club meeting you never went to in grade 9. Like I said I was involved in everything in high school. I don’t think there was a week where I didn’t miss at least one day because I was planning, organizing, or apart of some school activity. I met new friends and grew closer with my friends that way (This would help you a lot if your friends are leaving next year and you’re staying home). It also led me towards my career goals of being a teacher. It may sound cheesy but I learned a lot about myself through the clubs I was in and that’s why I suggest going.
  3. Befriend your teachers. Wanting to be a future teacher I know that befriending my students is going to be so important to me. Your teacher’s are like your second set of parents, they want the best for you, they watch you grow, and they genuinely love you. My favourite thing is seeing a text or a friend request from a former teacher or even a like on one of my tweets (follow me on twitter @vincepelaia). Teachers are your friends and they are humans and they grow connections with their students – they do see you everyday for 4 years (@MyFrenchImmersionFriends).
  4. Go to as many parties as possible! I don’t have to explain this but like it means you’re having fun. Who knows if all of you will be there again next year to celebrate again (you also might see me there TBH)  Image result for party gif
  5. Go to your graduation ceremony and prom. Convocation was boring… but fun to cheer on your friends as they walk across the stage and get their (fake) diploma. Also have fun with your outfit that day. I wore bright red converse because why not! My friend wore pink stiletto heels and was the talk of the night (she could walk in them… don’t wear something you can’t walk in). Prom is just a fun time to enjoy you last night as a high school student and to dress up. Most importantly go to the after parties. I was the “Mom” of the after parties; bring water, a first aid kit, a chair (maybe two), blankets and paper towel. I’m not gonna say why… but you’ll find out. 
  6. Participate in all those grade 12 activities. Yearbook ideals (I’m most likely to travel the world), grade 12 pranks (My school did a charitable prank where we collected money for Our Kids Count to get pink flamingos taken off the football field) and any other activities your school plans because it’s a blast!
  7. Finally, do not stress about next year. It may seem like a big change but it’s really not. You’ll make new friends and get good grades. Live life in the moment and always make room for fun.

Sincerely,

Me

(Part II: A Message to Future First Years)

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