For what’s to come

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“I’m afraid if I don’t choose a path soon, life will choose one for me.”

How much does the above quote resonate with you? This young woman’s photo was taken by HONY a few days ago and, like so much of his work does, it blew up on Facebook and Instagram. Though sometimes I like to think I do, the reality is that I don’t have it figured out. Looking for some inspiration in the comments below, I scrolled through and here are some that I thought were interesting:

“I have this same fear…everyone does. Don’t be afraid. Every single person alive is just winging it, we are all clueless.”

“Even if life chooses one for you, you have the power to decide if you want to stray from it. It took me 34 years to finally follow my passion – and it took me carving out a new path. Don’t be afraid.”

“This is the “quarter life crisis” summed up into one sentence…”

Quarter life crisis is right. Cheers to my friends who’ve completed their undergrad and are looking towards either pursing a post-graduate degree or going into the big-kid world.  As for me and my cohort, we’re eagerly anticipating to hear the results of our placement. We’ll be divided among 5 different countries: Nepal, Vietnam, Botswana, Malawi, and a South American country for Natacha. Where will we go? What will we learn? Where will this experience take us? What will we gain from it? Who knows but here’s my response for what’s to come: Come what may, I’m ready.

Is it possible to pick up a language in a month?

Hello! Bonjour! 你好! السلام عليكم

I have a love/hate relationship with languages.

I hate learning them.  I hate struggling in class. I hate finding a way to wrap my brain around a foreign language for 4 hours a week. I hate how my throat refuses to manipulate itself to make the ع and ح sounds in Arabic. I hate how I know I’m slowly losing my Cantonese mother tongue. I spend 3 weeks in Waterloo and 3 days at home only to sputter out my Cantonese like a 12 year old girl. Scratch that, 12 year olds probably have better Cantonese than me. Let’s settle for 6 year old girls.

Then there’s the love side.

I love talking to people in their mother tongue. I love exploring places and picking up the language I hear. I love spending time with people, learning about their culture and picking up their language. I love that I can walk around and pick up bits and pieces of an Arabic poster. Although it’s a pain in the ass to learn in class, I love learning new languages.

But the real question is this: Is it possible to pick up a language in a month?

Recently, my friend blogged about Duolingo – an app that helps you learn a new language. The best part? It’s free!

So starting April 13, I’m challenging myself to learn one language in one month. My goal is to be able to fluently introduce myself, exchange pleasantries, and count to 10. I’ll document my journey so stay tuned for my weekly progress updates!

Does this challenge interest you? If it does, feel free to join me! Otherwise, be sure to leave suggestion in the section below as to which language I should learn on Duolingo.

Somewhere in America…

What’s wrong with our society? Give these girls less than 4 minutes of your day and they’ll hit you with some powerful truths. Rhiannon, Zariya and Belissa serve as a reminder that age isn’t an indicator of wisdom. Teachers can learn from students in the same manner that students can learn from teachers.

We all have a story that’s waiting to be heard.

What’s behind your label?

Clothing labels are useful to check for three reasons: size, brand and material(s) used. Admittedly, the last thing on my mind when I go shopping is the person behind the label. When you’re caught up in the moment of perfectly adjusted lighting, upbeat pop hits and a selection of outfits that you wish you could buy, it’s easy to put sweatshops on the backburner.

It’s important to know about the fit and comfort of your clothes but it’s equally important to know how people are treated in the process of making it. That’s why The Canadian Fair Trade Network and Rethink partnered up to release three powerful advertisements that outline the hazards associated to working in sweatshops. The ad quickly attracted my curiosity because of the unusually long label that runs down the body of the garment. Just below each image, CFTN challenges us to buy fair trade clothing because it creates safe labour conditions for employees. From a marketing aspect, this advertisement is simple and straightforward: There’s a human cost behind the labels we’ve come to love.

  1. The lightweight blazer that takes you from day-to-night

Fair_Trade_End_Child_Labour_Suit_2000px1 (1)“100% cotton. Made in Bangladesh by Joya who left school at the age of twelve to help support her two brothers and newly widowed mother. Her father was killed when a fire ripped through the cotton factory where he works. She now works in the building across the street from the burned down factory. A constant reminder of the risk she takes every day. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

We’re all familiar about the horrific fire that ravaged a Bangladeshi garment factory in 2013 and injured over 800 people. Despite the promise of reform, current labour conditions still need to be improved.

  1. The timeless, knitted, cozy sweater 

Fair_Trade_End_Child_Labour_Sweater_2000px1“100% cotton. Made in Cambodia by Behnly, nine years old. He gets up at 5:00 am every morning to make his way to the garment factory where he works. It will be dark when he arrives and dark when he leaves. He dresses lightly because the temperature in the room he works reaches 30 degrees. The dust in the room fills his nose and mouth. He will make less than a dollar, for a day spent slowly suffocating. A mask would cost the company ten cents. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

On September 17, 2014,  workers in Cambodia successfully petitioned retailers to raise their wages from $100 to $177 a month. However, despite this small victory, the salary increase doesn’t remedy the human rights violations within. Is an additional $77 worth the risk of death? Can we put a price on a life?

  1. Soft jersey sweater, perfect for a day in or out

Fair_Trade_End_Child_Labour_Hoodie_2000px“100% cotton. Made in Sierra Leone by Tejan. The first few times he coughed up blood he hid it from his family. They couldn’t afford medical treatment and he couldn’t risk losing his long-time job at the cotton plantation. When he fell into a seizure one day it could no longer be ignored. The diagnosis was pesticide poisoning. The lack of proper protective clothing left him with leukemia at the age of 34. He has two daughters. One of them starts at the factor next year. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

With the heavy push for the Asian garment industry to improve their working standards, corporations are looking elsewhere to find cheap labour. In addition to lower labour costs, it’s easier to ship textile from Africa to European and American markets. Under a trade agreement signed in 2000, African countries have duty-free access to the US textile market. As unsettling as it is, the harsh reality is that Sierra Leone is being exploited for much more than blood diamonds. 

Here’s a challenge for all of us. Let’s not keep this issue out of sight and out of mind.  Let’s look past the capitalist façade and reveal the stories about the human cost behind the label.