My decision to become an MDP student has lead me into a path of new experiences and delightful moments, as well as deep self reflections and some hard moments. Here are some thoughts on how my personal experience has been, as well as a little background on my life.
Before coming to UW, I was working in a rural community embedded in an evergreen forest region. I used to actively participate in a highly practical setting, where my main role was to guide and coordinate an apprentice workshop for those willing to learn on different sustainable practices. This place is a cooperative focused on producing food and essential materials while respecting other forms of life, and where our “bible” were the principles of Permaculture (a way of thinking directed to design livelihoods that acknowledge socio- environment´s dynamics, as well as our existence as another -and not the only- component of the planet).
Picture your self in an scenario where fossil fuels are almost non-existent because people prefer be coherent with their principles; imagine spending your time in growing food for your community and for the animals you rely on to get some delicious commodities (dairy products, eggs, some meet), teaching and learning from people that disagree with the way societies are “developing”, and practicing all kind of new ways of doing. Breaking paradigms, acting, sharing, living, producing, enjoying, solving disagreements, celebrating, sweating, harvesting… and so on…
How was my experience there? It was awesome! The truly expression of radical simplicity, the effort and joy involved in been part of a dynamic community whose purpose is to live a simple life with enough to have fulfilling experiences and without risking our environment. The best of all, I was sharing that life with my “Amore, my life partner and best friend. It was a dynamic and evolving socio-environmental system, full of beneficial balancing loops! Also, one year before coming to Canada, me and my life partner started a home made preserves local brand called “Casa Madera”. This was a great small project by which we would go to nearby rural areas, climb fruit trees, harvest, and prepare uncommon and tasty jelly´s recipes.
What pulled me out from that context? Looking back, I think it was curiosity, a desire to know what I could find in a total different situation and environment (I guess that such feeling might be the one driving those crazy guys willing to colonize Mars). Any ways, I checked the MDP outline, and I said to my self –Why not?, let´s try, let´s get out of my comfort zone…- I have a desire to learn from new people, willingness to expose myself to new surroundings, to learn about development from an entirely different perspective, through the lenses of the so called “developed” part of the world.
So, I applied for the MDP, as well as for a local scholarship. Once I knew I was accepted and got the scholarship, a tremendous anxiety covered my whole body. My mind started to fear… Should I be a student again? How would it be in Canada? Will I be able to even communicate properly?! What if… what if working in the country side had made me forgot how to be a student… Oh God!!! My Amore… my family and friends…., should I stay and continue with my already ongoing small projects? Oh!! All kind of emotional and mental shocks!!
Then I came, and here I am. From the field and back to a classroom; from Spanish, salsa, cumbia and quesadillas, to English, poutine, Carlsberg and Jamaican Jerk chicken. Although I faced very difficult moments during the first months, I found such a great learning and social environment! Awesome people, plenty of knowledge, contrasting and interesting lives. Perspectives that I would never had the chance to know if I wasn´t here. I met colleagues that I am happy to call close friends.
Too many new topics and concepts, more knowledge than I was expecting to acquire. I laugh of my self when recalling me trying to understand my sustainable energy professor ideas about insulation, triple glazed windows, polyurethane and effective furnaces… Why would I have to know these things? What am I doing in this class? There is no need for me to know this if I wont ever use it in my context (Mexico)!! That is what I used to think. Now, that experience had made me understand what I see as the whole point of development practitioners! There is no single context, but many realities. To break paradigms and get to know people beyond what they seem to be, understanding their background and specific environment situation… that I think is the development practitioner strength. That is what makes us able to communicate and facilitate actions that appeal what people want to achieve in their own realities. Been in such contrasting scenarios, has allowed me to understand a little better the social complexity embedded in this globalized era. Acknowledging different livelihoods here and there, gives me an idea of the relationship between these “two worlds”. Awesome professors with varied stances, many (maybe too many) great readings, and truly awesome friends.
How do I feel right now?
A little rushed with all the final papers to be submitted soon! Nevertheless, as I aim to get the most of this experience (Larry, 2018), I also want to keep absorbing more knowledge, sharing whatever I can offer and avoid procrastination!!
In the other hand, I feel eager to share what I am learning in this “new reality” with my friends and colleges back home. And of course, I really want to bring my MDP friends to México.
Although missing home I am also very excited for what these coming terms will bring to me…
Some links to the agroecology cooperative´s initiatives and apprentices workshop: