Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bond...James Bond

     When we had our first reflection conversation in Trinidad and Tobago, we were asked to share one word that encapsulated our experience up to that point and I jokingly said, “Bond…James Bond.” It was a joke because in Tobago, we visited  a house (and by visited, I mean we swam out to the house and got to go inside it because it is no longer inhabited and is owned by the government) where Ian Fleming may have secretly lived while writing some James Bond novels in the 1930s and 1940s. As everyone on the trip now knows, I had a geek-out moment and got really excited about seeing it. Needless to say, it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
     However, I think the word “bond” outside of the context of 007 does a really great job of encapsulating how much this experience meant to me. The bonds I made with my fellow U of L students, staff and faculty and with the people we met in Trinidad and Tobago were the best part of the trip. 

     I want to start by talking about the bonds I made with my fellow U of L colleagues. When I joined the trip, I was not sure what to expect. I knew that some of my friends from the program would be going, but I did not know any of them too well (except for a coworker, Ashleigh). So, I wasn’t quite sure how I would function with the group. And, to be honest, I still didn’t know everyone very well before we left. But, during the short week that we were in Trinidad and Tobago I gained some friends that I think I will have for life. I learned about Kristen, a quiet education masters student who has a passion for service and for UK (but I won’t hold that against her); I had a heart-to-heart with Sarah, a fellow CSP student, about relationships and life paths; I stayed up until 5am with Kheo, another fellow CSP student, talking about philosophy, psychology and behavioral intervention; I met just about everyone on the island with Raqueal and Naomi, two undergrads who are best friends and the most beautiful social butterflies I’ve ever known; I got to know Dondra, another CSP student, who has the most service-oriented personality and a vivacious son who she missed dearly; I learned how to whine (a fun Trinidad and Tobago dance) with Nikki; and my coworker and roommate, Ashleigh, a fellow CSP student, showed me how to work hard and play hard. I’m not sure what the experience would have been like without these women, but I don’t want to think about it because they made it so amazing for me.
     I also enjoyed hanging out with the faculty and staff on the trip inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. Cuyjet, Dr. Jackson, Pam, Shirley and Joy made sure our experience was meaningful. Dr. Cuyjet prepped us by teaching us all about tertiary education in the Caribbean; Dr. Jackson helped us learn some tricks of the trade for presenting and working with colleagues; Pam not only helped us understand Trinbagonian culture, but also made sure we had all the great experiences we did (the service project, the work in the school, the tours); Shirley made sure we had food in our bellies, a roof over our head and wheels to take us where we needed to go (needless to say, we would be nowhere without her); and Joy gave us her unique perspective of being from the Caribbean. All of these people took the time to give us each individual attention and created an experience that allowed us to grow and learn from them and from one another.

     Lastly, I want to highlight just how wonderful it was to meet everyone in Trinidad and Tobago. From the locals in Tobago to our co-presenters in Trinidad, we would not have gotten to know the islands the way we did without them. As soon as we set foot in Tobago, we got to meet some locals at the hotel who taught us about living there. That was soon followed by the amazing tour of Trinidad that Chandar Supersad gave us. That was closely followed by working with other students from the University of Trinidad and Tobago and with the folks from It’s Up to MEnvironmental on our service project. Then, we got to meet our colleagues from the University of the West Indies who taught us even more about scholarship, service, and having fun. After that, we got the chance to meet some secondary school students in Trinidad who were some of the brightest and friendliest young people I have known.  I can safely say that working and limin’ (relaxing) with all of these people created the best bonds of all. 

     So, now that I am having serious withdrawals because it is snowing outside in Louisville, I’ll leave you all with my own personal form of blogging and reflection: photography. Below are two links, one to my photos on Flick and one to my photos on Facebook. Check them out to get the a firsthand account of my experience there!
Facebook photos: Trinidad and Tobago

Taylor McGovern U'Sellis
Residence Life Coordinator for Residence Education and Sustainability Efforts
-University of Louisville International Service Learning Program

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