The Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Be sweet, and do awesome stuff all the time

Living A Double Life February 3, 2011

Filed under: Ottawa — themadmadmadmadworld @ 11:23 am
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At our volunteer base in Haiti, there was a group of us who would semi-regularly go up onto the roof in the evening to practice yoga under the stars. It was there that I was introduced to Bikram, a modern yoga style in which you do everything twice. The first time you do a posture it can be difficult to coerce your body into such an awkward and unnatural position, extending it outside its normal comfort zone. In your second set of the same posture, the improvement is noticeable – your muscles have warmed up to the idea of stretching or contorting in this way and are much happier to be doing so.

Now that I’m back in Ottawa, I’ve been thinking about Bikram a lot. (Not just because it’s -20°C out on a regular basis and Bikram is done in a hot room at around +40°C.) I’ve moved back into my old apartment with most of the same roommates, I’ve unpacked all my old clothes that my sisters had been wearing all last year, I’ve reactivated my old cell phone, and starting on Monday I’ll be back at my old job at the YMCA. I have the same boyfriend, same friends, almost the exact same neighbours…did 2010 even happen, or was I just on a quick vacation from my adult life?

Clearly it happened, and I definitely learned from everything I did over the past year. So I guess 2011 is just my ‘second set’. I was quite happy with the way my life in Ottawa was when I left it in December 2009. Obviously it wasn’t exactly what I needed at the time, seeing as I was more than happy to peace out like I did and stay away for so long. But after a year of running around, never having four walls to call my own, and watching my bank balance steadily decrease to nothing and beyond, I think I’m ready to give the whole adulthood thing another try.

Not that I intend to sell out to the man entirely (retirement savings? home/boat ownership? Please!), but I do think it’ll be good for me to spend some time just in one place. This time around I’ve had a year to get used to the idea that I will likely live to see my 25th birthday (which, may I remind you, is only 10 shopping days away) and beyond, so I am allowed to get a bit comfortable and let everything I’ve done in the past marinate for a while. I’m excited about the things that come along with having a proper home, like a mailing address and a fridge, and also about doing stuff that can be hard to do while on the road, like taking classes in awesome stuff, owning ice skates, and maintaining long-term relationships.

I’m happy to have this sort of cosmic do-over presented to me, and I’m excited to make my new old life as awesome as possible. Come visit me anytime…I now have a couch you can crash on, a neighbourhood I can show you around, and a toilet you can actually flush. Life is good!


P.S. – At the request of some of my friends and family, I’ve decided to continue writing regularly even though I’m no longer in Haiti. For those of you who read for the Haitian content, I recommend Se La Vi Ayiti or On the Goat Path. For those of you who read for the Madison content, I’ll never understand you, but I will do my best to keep you entertained!




Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? January 22, 2011

Filed under: Haiti,Opinions — themadmadmadmadworld @ 11:56 am
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Despite Haiti’s best efforts to keep me there, including the suprise arrival of former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, I arrived back home Wednesday night. This morning Louis and I are driving back to Ottawa with a bunch of my stuff, to start the slow process of “settling in” to my new old life.

Every time I come home from an adventure, people ask “How was it?” Depedning on who’s asking and how much they actually care about my experience, I’ll usually have a few stock answers ready and a maybe a couple of entertaining anecdotes (of varying degrees of PG-ratings) to give an idea of what I got up to while I was away. But with Haiti it’s a different kind of answer. How was it? Well…

Spending time volunteering in Haiti didn’t exactly lend itself to the tidy adventure stories or cute cultural mixups that everyone likes hearing about from other people’s travels. When people ask me how Haiti was, I feel like there are several scenarios that play out:

1. “It was crazy, I really enjoyed my time there, I met some amazing people and got to see and do some interesting things.” Done in under 30 seconds. Not exactly representative of how it really was, but perfect for casual acquaintances or people just asking to be polite.

2. We talk at length about what I did, who I met, and how I felt about things. This is usually reserved for people who know me well and are genuinely interested in my experience. The downside to this conversation is that it can take up to 3 days and often ends in Creole hip-hop on YouTube and tears.

3. We have the “Solution For Haiti” converstaion. I completely understand why people want to talk about this, and it’s probably the conversation I would want to have if it hadn’t been me that had gone there. This usually happens with people who are somewhat knowledgeable about development issues and the situation in Haiti, or who are just genuinely interested in learning more. It’s also the conversation I most dread having. I feel like since I spent half a year in the thick of the “development issues” facing Haiti, I should be in the know and have well-formed opinions about how things are going and how we can help things go better. The truth is, I feel like I know much less now than I did before I went. I could tell you lots about Leogane, my friends there, some of the ways that “The Issues” affect their daily lives, and some of the ways that various actors are trying to “fix” these things. I could tell you a bit about NGO stuff, but mostly just what was going on around me. I could tell you a bit about the local government situation, but again, only what directly affected what we were doing in Leogane. As far as the grand scheme of things, you probably know just as much as I do. We got a lot of our Haiti information from international news sources like the BBC just like everyone back at home. And as far as “The Solution For Haiti”, your guess is as good as mine. I figure if there was A Solution and I knew what it was, I’d be down there implementing it. Wouldn’t I?

I always feel like a jerk having these talks, but I figure the more time I have to process my experience the better I’ll get at it. I don’t want to make people feel like they shouldn’t ask me about Haiti, because I do want to talk about it and I do want to answer everyone’s questions if I can. I’m glad that people are interested in what’s going on in Haiti and want to know what can be done to improve things. I apologize in advance if you’re not happy with how I respond, but give me time and hopefully I’ll come up with something that will satisfy both of us and make me feel like I’m doing justice to an experience that I really can’t describe. In the meantime, I’m going to get reacquainted with my friends, family, my matress and my old friend cheddar cheese.