The Chronicles of Erika…
Vol. 1 - 2009
It has been a long, long, time. I know. Some of you haven’t heard from me in 1 or 2 years… but other’s it’s been more like 3! I know, I checked to be sure… It seems the last email update I sent out was in October of 2006. My god – where have I been? What have I been doing? And could it be possible that I was really too busy to email a little, “hello hello”? No, I don’t have any elaborate excuse that would make sense of it all… But, if, for some reason – you were interested in excuses… I’ve come prepared with gifts. My Top 3 Excuses for not writing for 3 Years: Excuse #1: Life just didn’t seem exciting to write about after my 3 months in Africa – which was just so action-packed in such a short time-span, that I felt I had nothing to deliver once I got back! Perhaps my life story can be relatable to Britney Spears’ career… I mean, life got so exciting for her at 20 – how could it have gotten any better? How do you top it? Well, I didn’t come back from West Africa and party up a storm and try and deteriorate my life for a few years in order to fabricate an amazing comeback for a ‘read’ you’ll never forget… so I will now apologize for setting myself up for failure: this email is not comparable to a sexy Britney Spears’ comeback, as the last 3 years of my life was not filled with drama, marriages and annulments, parading around club-to-club without underwear on, shaving my head, or giving birth to any kids! (Sorry to disappoint! Hahaha…) Excuse #2: After I got back, as everyone does, I guess I just melted back into ‘normal life’. I do recall having a tough time re-adjusting to this said ‘normal’ life… after I had gotten used to months of no running water, bucket-showers, walking around in heels on sand roads, being on time and getting frustrated daily at everyone who arrived late, riding a motorcycle to work, and meeting exciting new people each day that I learned a great deal from – a return to life in Montreal made for a boring few transition months!!!I was back to efficiency, riding subways and buses that were actually built for more people than would ever ride them (which are a whole lot less exciting compared to motorcycles and chicken-buses built for 7 but carrying 15), arriving early for meetings and finishing them on-time… having a clear cut agenda as to what was expected of me for school, extra-curricular activities, and mapping my life out months in advance… I resumed my life in my over-sized apartment in "glamorous" Montreal, feeling guilty about taking lengthy showers, questioning why I needed a private bathroom – and why I had been so ignorant to all of these things before. Normal life seemed to resume when I made compromises, resumed some of my guilty pleasures (long hot showers) and in some essence, I felt like I was blunting the challenges of transition with a bit of forced ignorance. Top Reason #3: How do you re-unite with friends that you have ‘neglected’ for over 2 years??? I honestly started to feel bad! Every season that passed by, I would think at least once, “I’d really like to reconnect with all those people…” but procrastination kicked in. In the last year I’ve thought of starting up my updates again – especially as my boyfriend does a better job of keeping in touch with his friends than I do (aren’t females the superior being when it comes to social-circles and networking?)… and even in the last few months when I actually do have things to update… I’d revert back to, “has it actually been 3 years since I wrote anything?”
So I will apologize for being MIA (missing in action) for the past couple of years, for being disconnected with your lives, and hope that I hear back from most of you and find out what the hell you all have been up to! If anything, I hope this email will kick me off some of the “Black-lists” I’ve undoubtedly been pencilled in on, due to my absence! Let's blame the whole ordeal on adolescent self-indulgence and move on! For those of you who are relatively new to my update emails – you are probably more familiar with my life now in Toronto – Welcome to the email list! You are someone I want to stay connected with! Anyhow, as it has been a long time for others… I have decided to give a bit of a crash course update on my life since 2006 – using my favourite photos and 20/20 hindsight… Enjoy ☺
Highlights from the Year:
Highlight #1 2006 – Spending New Years (Jan 2006 and Xmas 2005) with my Mother and my grandmother… and for the first time in 18 or so years, all three children: my sister, myself and my twin brother, had a family reunion in Japan! This undoubtedly brought tears of joy to my mother and grandmother’s eyes! It was a spectacular way of starting 2006!
The Family Reunited in Japan, New Years 2006
Highlight #2 2006 – Traveling & working through West Africa (Togo & Benin mostly, with visits to Ghana) with AIESEC which led to amazing work-experiences with NGOs like the Red Cross International and the UN. A jointed highlight with the work in West Africa was the pre-lude backpacking trip through Morocco that my friend Benoit and I went on prior to landing in Lome, Togo. It made for a blissful 2 weeks where I achieved one of my childhood dreams of riding into the Sahara on camelback, and falling asleep under the stars next to Berber tents… and waking up with sand ‘everywhere’ – I’ll spare you the details! Haha
Colleagues in Lome, Togo, West Africa
Having morning tea with a family in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Families in Morocco are very warm and welcoming to all tourists. We had invitations to strangers’ houses daily for tea and conversation!
Sahara Desert, Morocco Scuba Diving with Dad in Hawaii Xmas 2006
Highlight #3 2006 – Spending Christmas 2006 in Hawaii with my twin brother, my Dad, Step-mum, and baby brother Adam. I leave just before New Years for work. Going on some great scuba-diving trips in underwater craters, and hiking to the top of volcanic craters on the island.
Highlights of the the Year:
Highlight 2007 – Meeting my current boyfriend, Vince, over New Years (Jan 2007) in Edmonton at an AIESEC Conference. Being Quebecois, he’s given me a great insight into the Quebecois culture (which J’adore!). Vince came to visit the West Coast in April 2007 with me to see if it was as beautiful as everyone says it is (it is!), and I had my first Francophone Christmas in 2007 with his family. He’s currently in the Canadian Forces – deployed on his mission to Afghanistan – as a Psychological Operations Officer. Low-Light 2007 – Working for the most miserable Advertising Consultancy Company on the East Coast… I got paid my current annual salary in 4 short months, but I was so incredibly unhappy! It really made me question my interest in sales as it was a greedy company motivated solely by the financial bottom-line, and paid little attention to the needs of our clients. The turnover of consultants and sales people was ridiculous, but the silver lining was that I got to travel the entire East Coast, working out of Halifax, Ottawa, Moncton, St. Johns, Montreal and Quebec City.
Vince & I at Peggy’s Cove 2007
Vince & I hiking on the Bay of Fundy Trail
Highlights from the the Year:
Highlight #1 2008 – Finally Graduating from McGill University! I packed up my 4 years of life in Montreal last April 2008… graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science (B.Sc) in Psychology and a Minor in Commerce. It was nice to finally have it, and move on to the exciting future: at 22, you really do feel young enough to make some mistakes if you need to, cushioning you with the idea that you really can do whatever you want in the coming years…
2 of my girl friends graduating from McGill. I lived with Andrea and Cat for 3 out of 4 of my years in Montreal… many great memories.
Highlight #2 2008 – And so my first step after graduation was a movement towards: INCREASED DEBT! Haha, as I heard that the Inca Trail and the amazing Machu Picchu in Peru was being closed down to tourists in order to preserve the World Wonder… I packed my bags and planned a 10 day backpacking trip around the beautiful country. On top of it all, I re-united with Rodrigo, my long-lost Costa Rican friend whom I had not seen in 8 years since a development project in Costa Rica had crossed our paths in 2000. I also re-united with my first AIESEC intern, Alfredo, who was starting up his own company in his hometown of Lima, Peru. We hiked around Peru together, went horseback riding, bicycling, boat-riding and dancing… it was a great intro to South America and worth EVERY PENNY!
Me trying the local Peruvian Cuisine: Guinea Pig served Cold!
Scenic Shots along the Inca Trail
Rigo & I on the ‘corner of solitude’
Highlight #3 2008 – Getting the current job that I have now! I applied to work for AIESEC Canada, full-time, after 3 years of passionate volunteer work, and was hired-on as the National Vice-President of Corporate Relations for the organization’s HQ in Toronto. In simple terms, I work for a non-profit negotiating and managing national corporate partnerships and sponsorships, so I have a sales and fundraiser role. I absolutely love my job, I have a great team of brilliant minds working alongside me, have forged great friendships, and expanded my network in Toronto and in the Canadian business community.
The AMAZING TEAM OF INDIVIDUALS I get to work with here in Toronto, ON since April 2008
(Right) Eldon, Marina, Marc, Me, Frank, Emily, Danny & Layial
So that brings us to today. 2009 has been filled with amazing things so far, I can’t imagine a better start to the year. I’ve been working quite a bit on the road which can be challenging and tiring, but I always find a way to enjoy it. A work conference was conveniently located in Vancouver this year, so Vince and I came home (to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island) for Christmas, and spent some time in Vancouver together. It was nice to re-connect with friends and family, and rediscover the beauties of Vancouver Island!
Christmas in Nanaimo, BC (Vancouver Island) with Vince, Me, Grandma, Dad, baby brother Adam, Stepmum: Sonia, and my twin brother Kenji.
Highlight #1 of 2009 so far: Going to The Bahamas on vacation with Vince, prior to his deployment to Afghanistan. We took the first week of March off for a vacay on the beach at a Sandals resort… where we had unlimited scuba-diving each day! Vince got certified, and I put my certification into good use: Going on 2 dives almost every morning - and to many dive sites which were used for Hollywood flicks like James Bond and the like. We saw manta rays, eels, octopus and tonnes of beautiful fish!
Nassau, Bahamas Vacation with Vince in March 2009
Highlight #2 of 2009 so far: My journey in figuring out what I'm doing with my life in the next year: I've received tonnes of emails asking me 'what happened with that job interview in Italy'... and so here's my opportunity to answer the masses and update you others on my plans for next year. It seems I’ve been smitten with the organization that I work for (AIESEC – www.aiesec.ca) as I am applying to work for the Global HQ in Europe, more precisely - based out of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I applied for a Vice President position and went to Rome, Italy a month ago (Feb) for my job interview – and it proved to be an amazing experience. I didn’t get the role I applied to, but the people I met while I was there, and the experience I had gave me an insight as to what working for AIESEC International would be like, even if it was in a managerial role.
I am currently applying for a Corporate Relations Manager role, which is a global sales position. If I get it, I will be based out of Rotterdam and equipped to do a lot of traveling. I’m hoping that for “Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East” as this is where I’d like to gain sales experience… but I could wind up with Europe. Meh, beggars can’t be choosers, they always say. I should know the results by mid-April. If that job doesn’t pan through, I’ve been offered a job in Amman, Jordan at a CSR Consultancy Firm – which I am very excited about. They are looking to expand in the future, and are building a strong leadership pipeline – and the CEO is Canadian! So it seems, either way, I'm looking to go abroad for 2009-2010. Vince was deployed to Afghanistan on March 15th, and he has now completing his 2nd week in Kandahar – only five and a half months to go! He’s in good spirits and is safe – sounds like he’s just transitioning into his job role there. I’m vicariously living through him, as life in Toronto is never as exciting as life abroad! It's been a pretty interesting couple of years being with a military man… learning about how the military works in Canada, how well they train their soldiers, and as of late - how well they take care of the families waiting at home for their loved ones to come back. There are days when I get so caught up with my own work life that I forget that he’s in Afghanistan, and instead, picture him being around the corner in Quebec City or one of the other cities he’s been training in for the past year… and then there are days that it’s hard to concentrate at work because you’ve read something terrible in the paper on the War or seen something on TV. It’s been a year now that I’ve known he’s going to be deployed there, and I couldn’t be more mentally prepared. I know his job role, what the statistics are on the danger he faces and how often he’s expected to be outside of the wire… but the numbers mean very little every time another soldier falls in Afghanistan. It’s been an enlightening process for me – perhaps something that will grow some good ol’ hair on the chest! (figuratively of course!) Well that’s it for me. I hope I’ve redeemed myself somewhat from falling off the face of the planet. I’ll blame it on young adolescent self-indulgence! I’m looking forwards to receiving a flood of emails in my inbox now filling me in on your lives! I’ve been reminiscing of high-school days, basketball days, scouting days, McGill days and everything in between as of late! Please let me know how you are all doing! And if any of you plan on being in Toronto anytime in the next two months – please call (647.668.3682), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), facebook, or skype (Erika.welch) to get in touch for a coffee or anything at all! Love & Hugs from Toronto… xxx Vince & I at Winter Carnival 2009 in Quebec City
Vince & I on Deployment Day in Quebec City. March 15, 2009
"Life is Change; Growth is optional"