2010.06.02

CUSO wants 500 words of Why? to go with your application, so I sat down and this came out. (So fast I didn’t even proof it. Just the one typo, I hope.) I think I did my degree in English literature because I knew a 9 to 5 job wasn’t for me. For the longest time I wanted to be a writer, and I knew there wasn’t any money in that. So I would be a teacher, write in the little moments. That’s the kind of life I see the CUSO offering. Not just adventure and travel, but freedom and purpose. During my university years, I tutored English on campus. What began as a service for students confused by Hemingway and baffled by essay structure turned into a learning opportunity for me. Vancouver attracts students wanting to learn the English language, students from all over. I met kids and adults alike, from India, Korea, Syria, Portugal, Mexico, and so many more countries I’ve never seen. They wanted to ask me all sorts of questions. One girl from Japan kept a little notebook where she wrote all the idioms she didn’t understand, and once a week, we went through them together. The kinds of phrases I use every single day, but never thought about until I had to explain them to someone lacking the same reference points. I wanted to know why they chose Canada, and Vancouver in particular. I wanted to know more about their homes and what they had left behind. The mother from Syria told me hers was the country to visit, if I wanted to see the Middle East. Every woman from India chose Vancouver because this is where the rest of the family settled. Now they wanted to improve their English because their children were advancing beyond their parents. But every student I asked, every single one, claimed they would return to their home country if given the chance to go anywhere in the world. I’ve been home long enough; I want to explore anywhere else. Travelling when I was young was done in our minivan, bikes, and canoe strapped front, back, and top. We camped, hiked, paddled every inch of the British Columbia wilderness, and the best parts of Alberta, too (the parts were the dinosaurs lived). Even living as close to the United States border as I do, I haven’t seen enough of that country. I’ve been a west coast girl my whole life, leery of those landlocked places, the places where it snows up to one’s knees. But I’ve done this part of the world. I need to see the rest. Sometimes, books, movies, and the internet can make you feel like you’ve seen a place, a people, an ocean up close. And I’m grateful for what my education and my natural curiosity has exposed me to, but I want more. I want the other senses, too. Hear the language spoken on a street corner, feel the sand under barefeet, taste the food cooked by proud mothers, smell the air on the other side of the world, and see it all through my camera lens. I hope the world wants to meet me, too.