I don’t particularly like geography but I’ve always loved looking at maps. Maps have endless possibilities of siesta daydreams of backpacking across eastern Europe, marveling at the opulence of Versaille, or taking the Transiberian train from Beijing to Moscow. I am happiest when I explore places. So, when my students told me about CISV, the lightbulb in my head clicked. I never say no to travel opportunities. I didn’t mind skipping a month of work to go to Finland (who does?) and taking four 11 year old kids under my wing. This was my chance to immerse and get invovled in a major international org, certainly a good way to beef up my network, travel, and fulfil my fantasies of selfless volunteerism and contribute to world peace. Big words, big dreams, I know.
CISV educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world. The various activities done during camp simulates real life. The camp rules, individual and group tasks, economics, and power play as a whole is a microcosm of the world at large.
The Colors of the World Village camp was represented by 15 countries of staff, JCs, leaders and children from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, USA, Norway, Denmark, China, Turkey, Finland, Indonesia, Germany, Columbia, Latvia, and the Philippines.
What I appreciate about our group is that we support each other (which again was awesome considering we were 90% girls; no cat fights here!). When we were unsatisfied with our performance, we did something, we found solutions to make activities more fun, more meaningful, and more suited to our goals. You can never see a healthy mix of candor and open-mindedness elsewhere. The children on the other hand are beyond amazing. They exhibit wisdom and insight at such a young age. It’s hard enough to be away from families at 11 but their openness and courage day after day gives you hope that they will be ok, that the future will be ok.
To say that it was the most meaningful journey I have had in my life is an understatement. There are no words to express the awesomeness of CISV. Yes, awesomeness is technically not a word and it goes against my book as a Grammar teacher to erroneously morph words but like I said CISV equals awesomeness.
My penchant for looking at maps has changed. It won’t be just about backpacking, museums, or train rides. CISV has given it more meaning. I used to think ‘where the heck is Latvia’, now I think of Madara the JC who danced silly with me in the wee hours of the morning. Guatemala is no longer Mayan Civilization but the infectious laugh of Melanie and the endearing thick Spanish accent of Antonio. Finland is not only the land of Angry Birds and Nokia phones but the wonderful village staff. Brazil is not World Cup but Nicky, Gui, Helena, Gabi, & Bianca. Indonesia is not Bali but sweet Riris, Lulla, and Rampa. Germany is no longer German sausages or Hitler but super smart Lino. USA is not New York or Broadway but dear friend Ajleeta. Turkey is not Ottoman Empire but Merdis, Burak & Kutu teaching me Turkish phrases.
All those stereotypes, tourist spots, statistics, and aimless wandering are gone and a whole new set of memories come to life when I look at maps. I see the people and the unforgettable laughs, the silly moments, the tearful goodbyes — the wonderful friendship we shared and built through CISV.