I have always enjoyed Chinese food. In recent years, travelling to a few cities in China, I have been fortunate to taste more authentic Chinese food than I knew existed from my limited Canadian examples. I have learned the incredible variety of it, and the pride associated with the various regional cuisines. For instance, the Szechuan cuisine that I am fond of here in Canada is quite unlike the Szechuan cuisine I have eaten in China.
The defining element of the real Szechuan thing – at least to my palate – is the unique pepper used in the dishes. I enjoy spicy dishes in general, but the peppers used in Szechuan cuisine are not only spicy, they are numbingly spicy: after sampling a Szechuan dish, the mouth has been heated, for sure, but it has also been numbed – quite a strange sensation. This more accurate knowledge of cuisine is one of the mind-expanding benefits of travel.
I shared these comments with some students today, while on the larger theme of travel. I was also observing how different travel is for them than it was for me at their age. It’s safe to say that when I was sixteen, travel was mainly about seeing the world, expanding my horizons, or learning a new language. It had quite an impact on me. After our March break I received a few observations from students who had done some major travelling. The impact on them was of a deeper sort.
A couple of students visited Nicaragua. Here is what one of them said of the experience:
I worked extensively with HERO – or Humanitarian Efforts Reaching Out – a group of humanitarian doctors running mobile medical clinics to serve the needs of remote and impoverished communities. I helped as an English-Spanish Interpreter between doctors and patients, treating dehydration and nutrient deficiencies to severe burns, diabetes, pregnancy complications and broken bones.
HERO saw almost 1000 medical patients over the course of five days, providing over 120,000 prenatal and children’s vitamins to the local people, as well as general medical service, nutritional support and vision testing. We supplied solar cookers, clothing, glasses, and shoes. We traveled daily to remote villages that had never known any type of medical assistance and witnessed extreme poverty, malnutrition, disease and chronic illness. I am filled with the greatest of respect for this inspiring group, and am humbled by their tireless efforts to improve the health and life circumstances of all people.
Another student said of the same trip:
After going to Nicaragua, I realized how much I enjoy language and communication and how I loved working with the kids in Nicaragua. I have now started to look into International Studies/Relations and later go into International Development. I have been inspired to help abroad and want to return to Nicaragua to see many of the kids that have touched my heart there. Learning about the poverty in a developing nation really opened up my eyes as well, and has taught me to appreciate the things I have here in my home. The living conditions and standard of life are another driving force to do more service. My experience was truly amazing and has really influenced me in a positive light and given me memories and stories that I will bring with me throughout my life.
The SMUS Vision is “To learn, to lead, to serve; discovering the promise in our selves and the world.” As I said to the students, I am a late bloomer when it comes to viewing travel through the prism of our vision, but I am happy to follow in their footsteps.