Reflection by Benjamin Ryan

As much as I’d like to thank my teachers and mentors from Westgate for preparing me for the world and what it brings, I can’t. This statement might seem harsh at first glance, but I truly mean it in the best way possible. It has been less than a year since I graduated and I find myself constantly missing the warm smiles that always greeted me in the halls, classrooms, and cafeteria – from Mr. Durksen’s bacon paraphernalia, Ms. Dirks Tim Hortons doughnuts, Mr. Rempel’s deadpan humour, and so much more. The only reason I say that the amazing teachers of Westgate didn’t prepare me for what to expect after graduation is because no one could have.

During my final year at Westgate I constantly looked forward to graduating, to become an ‘adult’, an individual. It was something new and exciting. I was going to get to decide what I wanted to do next year. Instead of school I could work, make money, pursue a career in university, travel the world, anything I wanted. How naive I was. Nothing had prepared me for the trepidation of not knowing. I went from a set schedule of thirteen years to nothing. The idea of taking a ‘break’ was far more exciting before the break actually began.

Only a couple months after graduation was I beginning to rethink things. It became daunting not knowing what would happen when and how. While all my friends complained about the prices of university textbooks I pretended to be content with working day to day, not knowing what next month held other than logging more hours. This all might make me sound fairly miserable. It felt like that sometimes. But then I was given a way out. Something to look forward to.

The way out was a two month adventure with my father. The plan was for me to be his assistant as he travelled to Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. The best part? He offered to pay for most of it! I was sold as soon as he finished that sentence. I had plans. Something to work towards. It was a father son bonding moment and adventure all wrapped into one. The two of us would work together creating media by taking pictures, video and writing articles. Personally, I didn’t know what to expect. My father and I had never been overly close. So this would be a first.

ben_ryan_2We are now halfway through our escapade. We’ve grown to know each other better, communicate properly, and function together day to day.

What my father, or even my teachers from Westgate, could never prepare me for is the blatant poverty and the horrid treatment of the environment. Yet despite all these ills, I am constantly amazed by the overwhelming kindness we receive every day. The people I encounter daily have so little, yet are so happy. It is something that I find very admirable in any culture.

Before the trip I always found myself looking to attain new items, to keep me amused. After seeing these people I realize that I don’t need whatever I wanted. I can, and should be content with what I already have. But the major thing that struck me from the start of the trip and does every day is the horrible pollution. I’ve already made multiple resolutions for when I return home. Like relying more on public transport, wasting less, reusing as often as possible, etc. You get the gist. It is something that is hidden from us in North America. We need to realize that every little action contributes and helps in the end.

So far this trip has been eye-opening in many ways, and will most likely continue to be. It is turning into something that I will never forget and always cherish. I do thank my amazing Westgate teachers for teaching me many lessons that have been invaluable on this journey, such as caring, and being open to new experiences. These I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.

– Ben Ryan

If you are at all interested in my adventure with my father, you can keep up to date on Facebook.