It’s Been A Hoot!

When you’ve spent as much time as I have on a bus you learn a few things. For example you learn how to sleep in any position on any surface and at anytime of the day. You also learn to appreciate your iPod and, most importantly, you learn how to hold your bladder for “just one more hour”. When we first embarked on the western Canada tour I was nothing short of ecstatic. Being from Vancouver, BC and having spent a good deal of time touring Alberta in the past, I had my own assumptions as to what it would be like. I elk.jpgthought I was prepared. So it’s a good thing Canada is such a beautiful place because from my window seat that’s all I had to look at. Cities and towns, mountains and prairies, it was as if the window was my TV and I’d lost the controller leaving me stuck with one channel for 4 months. We saw tons of wildlife. Anything from elk in the Rockies to prairie dogs in the…prairies. Justin (the bass player) was our self-appointed wildlife tour guide. While everyone else was sleeping in their seats he made it his duty to maintain peeled eyes so not too miss even one moving thing. Occasionally we were all awoken by Justin yelling “Wild turkey! You all missed it!” or “Another white-tailed deer!”. It’d probably be more pleasant to wake up to a gun shot. Nevertheless I appreciated getting to see all the amazing creatures I did wake up to look at.field.jpgEven more wonderful then the nature though was all the people we got to meet along the way. All the different styles of clothing, humour, and music – of course they all had something to say about Justin Beiber. Gotta love YouTube. We must’ve taken thousands of pictures and for every one of those pictures there was a conversation. I think its amazing how little time we take nowadays to get to know others. Notice how in all those old movies people would never pass a stranger on the street with out at least saying hello. Now we just turn up Micheal Jackson in our headphones and cruise on by. I don’t think the world got busier, I think we just changed our focus. Whatever the excuse is I can’t use it anymore. It’s these kids and their stories. I feel like I’ve heard more then most people do in a life time. We live in such a beautiful country but there’s so much more beauty that’s so easily missed after first glance. It’s crazy to think that ten years from now there will be celebrities and politicians that are in high school right now. Then I’ll get to say “I met that person before anyone knew”.You have to imagine spending three days straight in a little room on wheels with the same ten people. It can get intense. It’s like a family you have no real relation too. Lucky for us we’ve been privileged to have spent a lot of time with some really amazing individuals. I can remember so many good times already. Snow ball fights at Alberta truck stops, suntanning on top of the bus in Saskatchewan, endless episodes of The Office, pranks – you know who you are. It’s been a hoot! I guess were lucky though. We got stuck with a bunch of extremely funny people. Although there is one thing that we all have in common. We all want to effect others, to make a difference, and show people that there’s so much more out there than what’s on your iPod (although I hope what’s on your iPod is Bondless!).Now were back in Hamilton, ON making food and filling time. Just weeks from the end of tour, I can’t help but look at this experience and what it’s done for me, and to me. I’ve gone through things that I can honestly say will have shaped me into the person I’m going to be. There’s something about seeing an entire country through the window of a bus that makes you think really hard about what is and isn’t possible.josh.jpgJoshua Anderton from the band Bondless

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 6th, 2011

Day 4 – Playtime

Today we continued our building project. Returning to the work site after a nice restful sleep, we admired the progress that was made long after we left on the prier day. So we started where help was needed, we reformed some assembly lines and got to work. We started by moving sand so it could be sifted to mixed for concrete. We helped pass the time by singing and making up games to get the work done faster. As we were finishing up with the sand we heard a truck coming up the mountain, we looked over and noticed it was carrying the lumber and roofing sheets that will be used on the roof of the school.  Due to high spirits the team worked steadily through out the afternoon and was able to move the materials from the truck to the work site. While three quarters of the team worked on moving material there were also a few members who helped with mixing cement so that the smooth coat could be applied.  Anticipating up to 600 people for the community party on Sunday it was decided that we should remove the pile of the rocks that had accumulated from the excavation.Filling a few bags with candy and coloring books we traveled to the work site.  It was decided that we would travel to Calvaire in two teams so that we could still be productive at all times:Team 1Including kids of all ages we were able to bond through basketball, football, patty cake and duck duck goose. Besides the physical interaction there were moments to just hang out with one another. Even though we could barely speak there language it was comforting to see how a simple wave, high five or hug could bring two people from other cultures so close.  At the end of the time together we were able to hand out “silly bands” as a reminder of our time together.Team 2The second team got down to the kids and immediately broke out the skipping ropes, basketball and football, the kids were so excited! Then we brought out the coloring books, and everything dropped. There was a mad dash for the crayons and a picture to color in. When they were finished all the kids were so proud to show off their new colorful creations. At the end of all the coloring and fun was over we headed back up to the work site to finish up the day.The work day was finished so we started our trek home eager for showers and a bed to take a nap in. Upon finishing supper we busted out the many suitcases full of donations collected by the team. We sorted them by gender, then age, and then by who it would be going to. We will be giving some of our donations to the community we are building for and some to an orphanage in Port Au Prince.By Chad, Liz, and Shannon

Author: LiveDifferent


Day 5 – Beach Day Labadee

Today was a slight change from our usual routine of hiking up to the school and getting to work. But it was a welcomed change in pace. After a hearty breakfast we boarded our usual bus – which is similar to a large van – and headed on our way to Labadee. We went through the town of Cap Haitien and up the mountains to our destination. We routinely passed smiling and waving locals who were amused at our passing. The farther we headed up into the mountains the more beautiful the view became. Many of our group were quite shocked at the steep incline of the cliff face beside the road; but we were always safe with our experienced Haitian driver. It still amazes me how the roads in Haiti work; theirs systems for allowing passage around each other in the narrow one lane roads with heavy foot and occasional animal traffic.

As we reached this new coastline and its view I was awestruck with the potential this country has to become an outstanding tourist destination. The beautiful crystal clear water, the coconut and palm trees, the wildlife and most of all the kind and smiling locals. As soon as we approached Royal Caribbean International’s private beach resort/dock at Labadee we realized this potential has been realized. Unfortunately it was also selfishly guarded behind a barbed wired fence. With it’s own miles of white sand beaches, a 50 million dollar dock, its fleet of sea-dos, water toys, tour guide boats, a massive multi-wired zip line and a rail slide. Yet all these luxuries and more were cut off from the Haitian people who could little afford or imagine it. It is located just 7 hours away from Port-au-Prince; the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake and its devastation and continued to bring in guests while others were struggling to survive. RCI does bring in 6 dollars per client to the Haitian government; but I just find it to somehow not be enough to this country that is in such great need and provides them with such an amazing destination. I feel it should instead be used as a Haitian vacation spot run and benefited by the Haitian people. But it is a complex issue and nothing is black and white.

We arrived at a small beach located beside the fenced off resort section on the Haiti side. We unloaded off of our bus and onto two water taxi’s. In our two groups we left shore and got a better look at the RCI beach and it’s massive dock. We quickly continued with our journey towards a beach farther down which we had all to ourselves. Everyone quickly stripped down to our bathing suites and went into beach mode. Whether it was playing king of the hill on our own little float pad, canoeing around, or just swimming out – everyone had a blast. After finding and admiring various wildlife (starfish, sea urchins, fish, chameleons, turtles, snakes, and even jellyfish) we took a lunch break and ate some delicious pizza the hotel had prepared for us. We broke into two groups and began playing Frisbee. After some final suntanning and photo taking we packed up onto our boats and departed. We also had to carry our two translators Franzo and Joes – who are not the most “confident” in water situations – their boats.

We arrived back at the hotel in time for dinner and a bit of down time after an exciting day away. After dinner we all got together to watch a slide show of pictures from Cole’s travels and adventures. It’s heart breaking to hear about the suffering and pain the country has gone through; but also inspiring to hear about the things the Haitian people have gone through and how they persevere and continue forward towards something brighter. We also discussed LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s various trips and the great things they do.

Overall it was a truly beautiful day where the entire team continued to bond and become greater friends. Although truthfully I felt slightly guilty at being able to enjoy myself to such an extent while so many others cannot. But that thought made me look forward to getting back to work tomorrow even more. Thank you Hero Holiday for that truly exotic and beautiful beach day. It was a side of Haiti I am very fortunate to have experienced and hope others get to also in the future.


Author: LiveDifferent


Day 3 – First Project Day in Haiti

We started the day awaking eager to get to work. After a group breakfast the team hiked up to the top of the mountain to see the school for the community we are working with. The school is situated with an amazing view over all of Cap Haitien but also makes the terrain even tougher. We immediately set off to work and put our gloves on.

We began by dividing the group into two teams; one was delegated to mix cement Haitian style; which is conducted on the floor and with shovels. This cement was used for the rough coat of the classroom walls and smooth out the cinder blocks underneath. The second and larger team formed an assembly line to transport cinder blocks and sand from farther up the mountain. This was quite the production line and took up several hours of labor intensive hauling over rocks and passing down a small cliff. This venture went extremely smoothly and fast thanks to amazing teamwork and the help of two Haitian children K’Vincent and George who were extremely kind and helpful… and only 14. The cinder blocks and sand being transported was to be used on the production of the walls inside which the first team was constructing.

The ultimate goal of our group and the community is for the completion of at least two classrooms. This construction will allow many of the children in the community to attend school as it will allow far easier access to education instead of forcing the children to walk down the mountain to the schools farther in Cap Haitien. This school will also be more affordable and allow child sponsorship to those children and families who are in greater need.

The cement team inside experienced a different interaction with the local workers as they patiently demonstrated how to mix the cement and slap it on the walls. The local Haitian construction workers were quite impressed and surprised with the fact that the majority of our group is females who were working just as labor intensive as everyone else. This is due to the fact that in local Haitian culture the only manual labor women ever do is to fetch water. It was a great exchange of culture and also gave the group inside a taste of local working songs.

Outside the rest of the team really bonded together and created an efficient method of transporting the cinder blocks and buckets of sand from the top of the hill to the school. The team was even able to keep a positive attitude and integrate fun into the hard work at hand. The group would tell jokes, sing songs, and even dance during our production line. We may have made our two local helpers think we were a bit crazy but even they became great friends and joined in the fun with some beat boxing.

Later in the afternoon after we had finished most of the jobs we were able to complete at the time, we split the group in half and took turns walking down to the community to play a few games with the children and talk with the people in the community. We brought a basketball and a football and quickly the kids started to come and play. Although the basketball became a soccer ball in no time at all. Word quickly spread that the “blancs” were playing and several more people arrived; we were then able to play larger games. The second group was even able to teach the children to play ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ which the community found extremely entertaining… although it had multiple mishaps while being learned.

Today was such a powerful experience. The entire group bonded through the labor, learned through the sweat and the laughs and bonded through the mutual experience. It was a day I wouldn’t trade for anything and I cannot wait for the rest to come. Thank you Hero Holiday, thank you Haiti for your hospitality, and thank you to everyone in this great group for working so hard and becoming such great friends in such a short time.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 5th, 2011

Day 2 – We Walked…

This morning we woke up and got to greet the final member of our team. Now complete we walked to the job site to see where we would be working this week which involved a steep up hill climb filled with beautiful views and what seemed to be endless dirt roads. We got to the school and had the chance  to look around at what progress has been made so far. Although it may not look like much yet we know it will have an amazing impact on this community. We saw the retaining wall and what has been started of the walls of the school and were told that it has taken 6 months of work by hand to get to the point it is at today. Tomorrow we get to start work on the two classrooms we will be finishing this trip.Once we were done at the school we filled up our water bottles and headed into the community eager to meet the children we will be providing a school for.  Turning ourselves towards the opposite side of the mountain we rejoiced in the thought of a downhill trek into the community. Standing on the pavement steps Cole (our trip leader) told us he was going to take us to a home where a single mother was raising 5 children, as well as another home where the father is unable to work due to an injury which prevents him from walking now. While visiting these homes Cole had wanted to show us where they got their water so we grabbed some buckets from both houses and starting walking, and walking, and walking. In the beginning we could never fathom how hard a little walk for water could be. Standing at the top on the paved steps in the community we thought the most difficult part was behind us but then we continued into the mountains. Along the way we stopped for a quick game of soccer with the local children in a flat patch beside the path. Following the excitement of the soccer game we got our second wind and continued on towards the well. Looking back on the walk for water it seems too easy to say, “it took us 20 minutes just to reach the well”.  In this country you don’t “just” do anything.  You have to compensate for the sweltering heat and the unforgiving terrain. Walking up and down hills, on paths that when you take a step you wouldn’t know if the rock you just stepped on would move from underneath you, or if you would slip on a slight decline in the ground, or look up at the scenery and trip over something protruding from the ground.We reached the ‘well’ only to find out that this well was a spring from the side of the mountain. Standing on the rocks watching as one after the other filled their buckets from the spring it was hard to see that ten feet away there were people washing their laundry and themselves. Finding out that the blanco’s we here to carry water back to the community we were greeted with more containers and enthusiastic children. Having the jugs full we turned back to the community.  If we thought the walk was challenging before, we were in for a treat! We didn’t know it then but as we carried the water we realized, this isn’t just a one time thing for them. The people of this community have to do this all the time. It was at this point that the buckets didn’t feel so heavy. Each one of us picked up a bucket and start the hike into the community along side many of the local children doing there everyday walk for water. As we were huffing, puffing and struggling to get through rough mountain paths the kind eyes and warming smiles of the children as they passed us on their way gave us a second wind. At the end of the hike we were thanked by the families for what we did, it showed us how grateful they were for the fact they had water today.In the afternoon we drove into Cap Haitien to look around a little. We had the opportunity to see some of the Cap Haitien Cathedral, as well as some of the french influenced architecture and historical sites. When the day was over we sat down for dinner and discussed how excited we were to start our project tomorrow.By Chad, Liz and Safen

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 4th, 2011

The Beginnings Of Another CMU Group! Nice To Have Them Back On The Baja!

Written by trip participant – Mark Rosvold4:12 am, Saturday night, or Sunday morning. In the hotel lobby I see my cohorts standing around, bleary eyed, but filled with a undeniable energy, a silent excitement, and a bewildered look that can only come from the exhaustion of travel coupled with a mid-night wake up. We are leaving shortly, catching a shuttle to the airport. The air outside the hotel lobby is tight and chilled, our anticipatory breath hanging visibly in the air as we shuffle out onto the bus. A kindly gentlemen gets out of the shuttle bus and begins to load our luggage. His face bears an amiable countenance and his hair is slicked back, white as the snowy north from which we are leaving. After a quick ride, the airport looms in front of us, a behemoth of modern technological prestige. We have met the other half of our crew at this point; they come from UBC Vancouver. New faces; however there eyes are identical to ours, beaming with excitement. Check in a security flows smoothly for all of us…well, Adam has his body wash and sunscreen taken away, but apart from forcing the rest of us to share our anti lobster lotion with him, it all goes well. On the plane we are much like small children. Not that we behave as they do, we are not childish (not mostly), but childlike. A stewardess comes by and says we have bright cheerful faces. I do not disagree. A little romanceTouchdown. Safely landed. God has brought us to San Diego. From the dreary cool Seattle to the north we have arrived in the southern United States, and the sun beams down on us like a smile from God, welcoming us to the warmth of our trip. Shortly after, Matt and Andrew arrive along with their wives. Bob and Sarah are there as well, from Hero Holiday. With the six of them, and Andrew and Dawn’s son Anthony, we students from the north pile onto a bus and begin winding our way south through the beautiful summery city of San Diego. Andrew informs us we are going to stop in south San Diego right before the border. We will be going into a posh store called (phonetically) ‘tarshay,’ he announces over the bus’ intercom. It is actually the superstore ‘Target’ that we stop at. This reminds me of the power of pronunciation, and simultaneously shows Andrew’s rather clever sense of reality.After spending some time buying supplies at ‘tarshay’, and having lunch in the surrounding area, we get back onto the bus, better acquainted with one another, and with no division of campus’ remaining. From here, it is but a quick vehicular jaunt to the border. As we close in, there is that slight tension in the air: will we be stopped…hassles, large guns, it is on our minds.  No issues whatsoever!Now in Mexico, the reality is devastatingly clear. Opulence and prosperity give way to sharply visible stratification, where mansions dot one part of a hill and structurally unsafe slums ensconce it. This Tijuana is real, it is not the poverty of studies or of textbooks, it is the poverty of reality, and it is a shock. But the colors are vibrant and Andrew informs us that these people we see sitting about looking dejected and sunbeaten, are warm, kind and loving people, with an inherent cultural altruism. I would find out later that evening, that the majority of us were fairly touched and shocked by this disparity, one created by a fence and a notion of non-united nations.The trip down from the border to the hero holiday compound was nothing if it was not beautiful. For me, it reinforced the idea that beauty is not perfection, but that it is the essence of the truth of reality, and that was what the day trip through the baja was. We stopped at a beach at one point and took our first steps on Mexican soil. The wet sand squished between our toes and the waves lapped up against our feet, powerful but soft. That night as we sat around the fire discussing our day and debriefing for the week ahead, someone would bring up the issue of cultural differences, specifically one that was manifested in the beach. In north america, we go to the beach with friends, and to project an image of self for others to gauge and judge. At this beach though, we mostly saw families spending a sunny afternoon together laughing and eating in unity. Before we headed to our home to be for the week, we stopped to meet the family who we would be serving this week. They had kindness in their eyes, and poverty around them. Again, the reality of our trip struck us all. We were impacted by our shared humanity, and by the desperate economic separations.After a long day where we were all up from at least 3:30 am, until 10 pm, we all happily shuffled off to bed, with brains, soft, like porridge, and hearts grateful. I personally must interject here ( into my own writing..) and say that i was unconscious of my own sleep. I must have passed out of regular consciousness and laid still like a sack of extremely exhausted potatoes. Basically, the sleep was wonderful.Building Orientation A new day. Monday, the first day of building. It was hot, it was dry, the wind was whipping strongly around us, and the sun lotion and water coated our insides and outsides…respectively. There is so much I could say about this day that I am finishing as I sit here and type with a semi groggy mind, but for the sake of concision I will mention just a few amazing points from our day. Sitting around the fire as the hot day descended into a cool night, reflections on the day were shared. There were many comments, but a few recurring themes. We were all struck by the reality of what we were doing, and how blessed we are to have the wealth we experience as north americans. Not that we necessarily relished our large homes and myriad vehicles and gadgets, but we did recognize the opportunities this wealth affords us. We are all in extended programs of education and most of us have cameras that cost more money than these families make in a month. It is hard to tell whether these realizations were high points or low points, perhaps they were simultaneously both. Personally I am being humbled and being shown a truth that can’t be recognized in the snapshots we see in magazines, but must be experienced firsthand.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 3rd, 2011

4,000 Pesos and the Power of Hokey Pokey

ag-1.jpgWhen money passes quickly through your fingers, it can be easy to forget its value. It’s almost as if it magically (and sometimes, thankfully) drops out of the ABM when you punch in that not-so-secret code. It shows up in our accounts on payday, and disappears a few days later. Our laissez-faire view of money can even be seen in the way that we rarely bother worrying about the difference of a few cents or dollars on costs, as it can become almost an insignificant amount in our daily lives. We are very private about our wealth, or lack thereof, as we feel that we are the ones who have worked hard for it and we are the ones who can determine how it is spent. Whether we work minimum wage jobs slinging French fries or we look down on the world from the penthouse office on the 23rd floor, we still have to do something to be able to afford the lives we have created. But what if we couldn’t get out of a cycle that we were a part of? What if controlling our finances and increasing our wealth was beyond our own limits?ag-2.jpgThe Dominican peso is about 37.5 to the Canadian dollar right now. 4000 pesos is worth about $110. In our world, $110 is a cell bill, a pair of jeans, a really good night out, a couple of new video games, a down payment on a new laptop, a Saturday afternoon at the mall, or even a tank of gas in the car. It’s not a lot, really – except if you are a teacher in a little unknown village inside the port of Puerto Plata – because 4000 pesos is what each one of those teachers make each month. For real.Each of them teaches in the morning, the afternoon – or both, for the same amount. If you break that down to a daily amount, it is around $5.50 per day. No matter where you live in the world, that is not very much for someone with that kind of responsibility.When I stand in their classrooms with different teams that come to visit, I always watch the teachers. They are so awesome. Each visit we teach them the Hokey Pokey song or some other deep and contemplative English number for the kids to have fun with. They all go nuts with laughter, but for me, the best part is watching the teachers. They join in with such passion and craziness that we can never keep a straight face watching them. And every time we walk out of that school I think about what they so willingly put out every day – because they really get it.ag3.jpgWould I be able to do that every day for 4000 pesos a month? Would I be able to have a vision for my life and my world if every day was a struggle to just be able to eat and stay healthy? I don’t know if I could. They amaze me. They are not perfect or even necessarily altruistic – but I realize that I can learn something from all of them. They love their jobs; they really do. They don’t have computers, a real desk or even a staff room to relax in. But they love their jobs because they love those kids, and they love what they represent. They represent the future, and to be able to be a part of that now means a lot to them. They are far more wealthy than their 4000 peso salary, because they have investments in the future that are worth more than any of us will ever understand.And lucky me: I get to sing the Hokey Pokey with them every time I go to their school.This summer we are going to be working in their community, helping to build homes and be a part of something amazing. To find out more about how you can join us, check out

Author: LiveDifferent


Day 1 in Haiti – Travel Day!

We set out this morning from Hamilton nice and early at 2am to start our adventure, we drove from Hamilton down to Buffalo, and flew to JFK in New York to meet up with some of our team members. From there we flew down to Port-au-Prince,where we got our first taste of Haitian life. We could literally throw a stone to the next airport where we were to transfer planes, but the crowded and crumbling streets made traffic ridiculous. Between dogging other cars, buying refreshing Gatorade from Cole’s friend and trying to avoid the massive crowds it took us more then 20 minutes to travel a couple blocks.Once we arrived at the second airport to take a short little flight to our final destination, we met up with two other members. We were told it would be just a few minutes until the final member of our group would arrive. We got off the bus and immediately noticed the simplicity of the Haitian airport compared to our North American standards; the one door on the back wall that was both the departure and arrival gate, the one check in desk for the 5 airlines you could fly with, and the fact that we could inform our pilot when we were ready to take off is quite different then any major airport in North America to say the least. After 3 and a half hours of snacking, talking, and people watching we were told due to many delays that our team would be meeting our final member the next day. When we were informed about this we gave our pilot the heads up that we were ready to go, and packed our plane full of luggage, donations, and our team members.Traveling through the clouds above Haiti was incredible. Getting to see all the mountains and landscape was beautiful but eye opening compared to the deforestation happening so close by. Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien was only about 45 minutes, where we truly got our first real look at poverty. On our way out to the bus that was to take us to our hotel, there were people hoping for some sort of handout. The trip from the airport to the hotel was the first glimpse of everyday life in Cap Haitien. Even something simple like driving over a bridge and looking down, seeing the reflections in the black mucky water that people bath and swim in really showed us how great the need is in this city.We got to our hotel and settled in, had a delicious supper, hung out, and talked about whats ahead got us really excited for the days to come.Chad Dalley and Liz Dorey

Author: LiveDifferent


“Friends” – Final Thought From School Of Leadership Community Build In Mexico

smooth coating Thursday was our last day of building and consisted mainly of spreading and smoothing skim-coat on the walls. We had a late start and then spent the day filling all the corners and cracks with cement, of course there wasn’t much to do so we got off track a few times. Onesimo and I got in minor water fights all day. I decided to end the day by dumping water on Onesimo and then running to the van as it drove off, I got him nice and soaked and then ran off. However, we realized that we had taken all the drills and they needed one for the door. When we got back Onesimo was waiting with a bucket but got more water on himself than me. A great end to a great day.  It was a honor to work along side the community of Zapata and to get to know these incredible people as our dear friends!

Author: LiveDifferent