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Maasai Mara Zebras

22 Sep

Kenya Painting ZebrasCheck out the canvas I painted inspired by the acacia trees and zebras I saw on my Maasai Mara safari. Such a gorgeous landscape!

Kenya Painting IMG_5277 Kenya Painting IMG_5282

My Free The Children Adventure: Experiencing Community in the Maasai Mara

14 Sep

I first learned about KPMG’s relationship with Free The Children in November 2011 when I was conducting interview research for my current position of Senior Marketing Coordinator with KPMG in Saskatoon. I promised myself I would go on a Free The Children trip to Kenya if I was hired. I received an offer letter from KPMG in late December and 18 months later I found myself volunteering in the beautiful Maasai Mara with Free The Children and KPMG team members from across Canada.

My Kenyan volunteer adventure was truly an indescribable experience. I don’t believe people simply go on a Free The Children trip; they are called to join a Free The Children adventure and take part in something much bigger than themselves. In Kenya I experienced firsthand Free The Children’s mission in action. I saw young people achieving their full potential as agents of change. I met Kenya’s future leaders, community builders, politicians, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, journalists, and famers.

Upon returning to Canada after my whirlwind adventure friends and family had a million questions: what did you do, who did you meet, where did you sleep, what did you eat, were there lots of mosquitoes, did you get sick, what animals did you see, did you cry? Every day Free The Children coordinated amazing experiences from dawn to dusk. With so many questions and so many incredible stories to share, where do I begin?

SalabwekKidsA dear friend asked me what my biggest take away was from my adventure. Without a doubt my most memorable and powerful experiences were spending time learning about community from the youth at Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School and Salabwek Primary School. The youth at both schools were so inspiring; they were so eloquent, confident, and community oriented. I’ve never been more impressed by a collective group of teenagers. At both schools youth performed traditional song and dance for our KPMG team. After the performances we spent time visiting with these young adults learning about their childhoods in Kenya and sharing what life is like in Canada. Luckily the children learn Swahili and English in school and we communicated effortlessly. These intimate conversations were so touching. It was so inspiring (and heartbreaking) to learn how hard the children work to attend school, achieve good grades, and build a better life for the future. I know at 13 years old I would not have been comfortable talking to a stranger from the other side of the world about my post secondary plans and what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Salabwek-DancingMore impressive than these youth’s confidence and determination to have a good education is their sense of community. Community is an essential part of life in the Maasai Mara. Kisaruni Secondary School describes community beautifully. Community is “a place where each individual experiences the family feel, is responsible to others and the environment, is heard, is appreciated, takes care of each other no matter what and where we are all peacemakers”.

KisaruniGirlsWhile visiting Kisaruni I sat down and had tea with two students, Naomi and Masi, who shared what life is like at their all girls’ boarding school. These young women explained how they set aside time each day to help their peers struggling with classes, take turns leading their student representative councils, and that no one is every left behind. If one person fails, everyone fails. These girls gave the impression that there is no competition at Kisaruni for valedictorian, most valuable player, or lead singer. Everyone is a leader and a member of the community who has something valuable to contribute. This sense of selflessness was so incredibly refreshing, especially in comparison to North America’s focus on competition and success.

My biggest learning from my Free The Children adventure is to value community, be more selfless, and take care of those around me. A valuable lesson learned from youth who are wise beyond their years.

*All the views expressed on my blog are my own*

What’s In My Bag – Africa

9 Jun

My vaccinations are up to date, my passport is current, and my bag is almost packed. I’m feeling invincible and ready to immerse myself in the culture of the Masai Mara on a Me to We volunteer adventure.

I will be building schools, hauling water, planting trees, and meeting incredible people in Kenya, Africa. My heart is so full and pounds with excitement every time I daydream about this world wind adventure. Africa has always been a place near to my heart. In high school I organized many 30 Hour Famines, hoping to make a positive impact on the lives of youth in Africa. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to fly around the world to learn from these resilient people in person.

I am so excited to see what the beauty of Africa has in store for me.

Start Packing – Me to We Trips

While in Africa I will be spending most of my time in a rural area of the Masai Mara. We are encouraged to pack as lightly as possible. Many bloggers like to share “what’s in my bag?” (Snunk BoyA Beautiful MessJustina BlakeneyBycelina). Packing for Kenya is much more interesting and challenging than packing for everyday life. The below photo includes everything I’m taking to Africa except shoes, undergarments, pyjamas, and jackets. The most luxurious item I am bringing is my Tarte mascara!

In my Pack - Africa_LRThe most interesting items I am bringing are medicinal: Ultrathon insect repellent, grapefruit seed extract, Homeocan jet lag, and melatonin. The most important item I am bringing is my camera. And I guess things I need to enter and survive Africa: my passport, Malaria pills, and record of immunizations.

643256_origIt is hard to believe I will soon be in Kenya, volunteering with Free The Children and Me to We. I cannot wait to feel the heartbeat of Africa!

Study of Ocean Hues

14 Apr

On a wall of my childhood bedroom is a framed description of the meaning and origin of my name. This description states, “a fondness for the ocean will emerge”. For this particular Brianna, this is an understatement. I love water, especially the warm, emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea. In high school I was a lifeguard. In a past life, I must have been a mermaid.

MissingOcean004This February my wonderful parents took my brother and I on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic. It was amazing, my favourite part was spending time near, in, or on the ocean. I’ve been missing sunshine and turquoise waves, constantly daydreaming about warm waters and warmer beaches.

My mom took some fantastic photos of my brother and I kayaking along the coast. These photos are the inspiration of an ocean hued painting I started working on last weekend.

MissingOcean002Inspired by my mom’s photos and Pantone’s 2010 Colour of the Year I decided to pull out my brushes and attempt to capture the waves of the Caribbean Sea on canvas.

MissingOcean001I’m not sure what the final product will look like – but I’m excited to turn idle daydreaming into something creative. I started out using an old credit card to spread paint around an old canvas (top images) and layered blues and greens on top of my original painting (bottom images). I’m not sure if I’ll try to replicate my mom’s photos or do something more abstract. Either way – it is nice to be painting again.

MTL & NYC Food Diary

29 Aug

Okay, okay, okay. I know you all hate looking at instagram food photos. But this is different, right? Because I used a real digital camera, not instagram. And I’m allowed to take food photos on vacation, right? Because the food tastes better and I am experiencing new things.

Whatever, this post is totally justified. Food was an important part of my Montreal/NYC vacation. We took lots of photos of it. We ate lots of it.

It was delicious!

Le Gros Jambon Diner.

Les Glaceurs.

Juliette et Chocolat.

Schwartz’s.

Olive & Gourmando.

Tacombi.

Wafels & Dinges.

Artichoke Pizza.

Other wonderful food places (sans photos): Eataly. Le Pain QuotidienSpice Market. Ippudo.

Every single place we ate was fantastic. I recommend everything!

My First NYC Musical

26 Aug

To see a Broadway Musical in New York has been a dream of mine since high school. Growing up in a small, farming community the big metropolis of New York City felt very far away. My worldview was small. I never knew if I would make it to New York.

In high school I was a total drama nerd. We had an amazing high school theatre program. I was involved in five shows; acting in grade nine and taking on the role of stage manager for the remainder of my high school theatre career. Being a stage manager consumed my life; I attended all rehearsals at noon, after school, and on Sundays. Being a part of these musicals was a special experience. I worked with so many talented students, teachers, and parents. We put on spectacular shows. We received standing ovations every night. Not because our parents were proud of us, but because our shows were great. I can confidently say my high school’s drama club was better than your high school’s drama club.

I know this to be true because we were the first high school in North America to receive the rights to perform Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. What an amazing feat for a high school in rural Saskatchewan!

I loved being a stage manager. It was a great learning experience. It was an introduction to a world I never knew existed. So much hard work, creativity, talent, and time went into our shows. The evening of the final performance was always bittersweet. I never wanted the show to end.

To see The Lion King in New York with my best friend was the most overwhelming and memorable experience from my epic summer vacation. It was an incredible show. It was everything I imagined a Broadway Musical would be. This musical brought the cartoon to life in such a beautiful and elegant way. It was stunning.

My heart was filled with happiness after seeing The Lion King. I am very fortunate to be in a position where I can have these experiences and make my high school dreams a reality.

More Osheaga Love!

18 Aug

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