Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First dinner at the Abbey.

By Michelle Newlands - written February 19, 2009

“If you need anything, ask and we will do everything possible to get it for you... we love you all even though before today we did not know you.”

These were the words that that Sister Alejandra used to greet us at our first diner in the Abbey.

Before we had even arrived, I remember Garry referring to the monastery, not as an abbey or a hostel, not as the place we will be staying, but as our home. After being on the grounds for no more than six hours, I could already understand why he chose this word. And after 15 hours of typical international travel, we're finally here.


Our group of 13 left Loyalist College Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. and began our journey to Mexico. After a two hour bus ride to Toronto, six hour boarding wait, flight and switch over in Charlotte to Mexico City, another three hour flight plus an hour and a half bus ride, we were finally able to unload and begin our stay.

When entering the abbey through the iron-gate that led us to our home for the next two weeks, we noticed the brown grass, evidence of the dry season. Looking around the property, the Abbey itself is so amazing, the people, the property and the atmosphere are nothing short of beautiful. There are green plants and colourful flowers scattered throughout the grounds, our rooms are clean and comfortable, and monuments reflect the sisters’ love for God in numerous forms of art.

We were given about an hour to settle into our rooms. I unpacked my clothes into the closet they provided, put my toothbrush and cleansing supplies in the bathroom and set my photos along my window sill. Gary, professor and founder of Quest, and Lauraine, our translator and Mexican based facilitator, sat with us outside our rooms and discussed safety issues, including dehydration, contact information and harmful insects- like scorpions - as well as our different responsibilities. We have three different committees we are divided into: health and safety, steering, and reflection. I chose reflection with three other students. Andy was feeling a little ill so he did not join us today.

Next was dinner time.


The Sisters prepare our meals during our stay but they do not eat with us. The rest of our group sits at a long table in a dinner hall that has been pre-set with plates, beautifully hand-made water vases, and napkins with Canadian flags. I was hungry, but not going to lie- I was nervous. However, for this meal nervousness wasn’t necessary. Everything they gave us was grown on the property or made from scratch and tasted delicious. Once we had eaten, Sister Alejandra spoke to the group on behalf of the Abbey and the other Sisters. This was by far the most magical moment thus far.

She spoke of how pleased she and the other Sisters were to have us and told us if we needed anything at all, not to be afraid to ask and they would do everything possible to help us. She told us how she loved each of us, even though before today she hadn’t known us – and we believed her.

The sincerity in her words and the gratitude in her eyes radiated a positive vibe. Everyone in the room believed in her words. She is a beautiful lady with a beautiful soul and I understand why Gary chose for us to come here.

“You go where the love is,” he said.

Religious or not, the Abbey is a place of safety and acceptance. The energy is positive, the people are lovely and the opportunities are appreciated.

It’s amazing.

Related Links: Ideals


Blog's back in action!!!!


Hi Friends!!!

I hope you've all been enjoying your holidays and my apologies for the extreme delay in updated content, I understand how heart-broken you all must be.

Since the latest blogs, my interests in international development have continued and my involvement has grown. In addition to my travels with non-profit organization Quest Internacional in February of 2009, I now sit on the Program Advisory Committee for the International Support Worker program coming to Loyalist College and plan on taking the program in the fall of 2010. I will also be traveling to Mexico again this February for 5 weeks to continue my education and broaden my experiences dealing with international and economic development, fair trade, human rights and other topics of similar value.

In order to raise funds for the organizations we visit during our stay in Mexico as well as to help cover costs of travel on our behalf, we are throwing a fundraiser event in Cobourg at the Orange Hall January 9th. This is a social event where people can meet, mix and mingle, look at photos and journal entries from previous trips, play games, win prizes, learn a little about the Mexican culture and have some fun. The goal of the night is for everyone to have a good time and leave with a few new friends and for us to raise a little money while doing so :) !!

In spirit of the event, I will be posting daily blogs from last February's trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico. These blogs talk about different daily activities, people we met, challenges we faced and my personal experiences and reflections. If you're interested have a read and leave some comments!! Ask questions and challenge the things being discussed.

During my 5 weeks in Mexico this February I will be posting blogs with photos and videos and I hope to get people involved in my experience. I want to teach people about what I'm learning every day and help answer their questions and teach them about a different culture and the people in it. Through these blog postings I hope that people of similar interests will interact with me on a personal and professional level and help in making this one of the most valuable and educational experiences of my life this far.

Thanks for the read, stay tuned and hopefully see you January 9th at the Orange Hall for our Mexican Fiesta!!! :):)


*Michelle & -Think G l o c a l -