By Abby Willms
The last two weeks have been full of reflection and connection. As we headed into the final two weeks of program, there was an interesting juxtaposition of sadness and excitement present in the group. Energy was running low for many of us, yet the week of reflection evoked an atmosphere of connection within the group. We started the second last week of the semester at River’s Edge Retreat Centre, where we embarked on a journey of debrief – one that will undoubtedly continue long after we arrive home. We were given a variety of ways to think about the potentially daunting word “debrief”. This time of reflection was a true gift and uncovered many treasured moments and ideas from the semester – ones that may have been forgotten or left uncovered had we not spent this time together. We were encouraged to embrace each exercise with an open mind and heart, and be present to both ourselves and one another.
Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to think of reflection as not only pertaining to the past, but also pointing towards the future. We were given space to reflect both silently and aloud, and were encouraged to continue these conversations as we move forward as a group and as we head home. We explored what it might mean to reintegrate back into life at home with those we hold dear. We learned more about storytelling and how we can begin to share our experiences. We reflected on lessons from this semester and how we can translate them to more tangible goals. Finally, we were given the opportunity to share a five minute testimony with the group – sharing about our personal growth over the first semester. In addition to all the reflection that this week held, we enjoyed participating in a variety of activities together as a group, including high ropes and archery tag.
The final week of the semester offered a chance to relax our bodies and minds after an emotional and busy week. Spending the week in Banff allowed us to process many of our thoughts and reflections. Upon arrival in Banff we embarked on a group hike – exploring the mountains as well as the local hoodoos. We were given free time to spend together exploring Banff – sightseeing and checking out local shops. On Wednesday, the group headed out for a ski day at Sunshine Ski Village. For many, this was a long anticipated day, and it certainly did not disappoint. The weather was beautiful and clear. Experienced and inexperienced skiers/snowboarders alike enjoyed the opportunity to challenge themselves and learn from one another – whether it be the art of falling or how to take on moguls.
We finished off our week in Banff with a trip to the hot springs, where all our 70’s vintage bathing suit dreams came true. The next morning, bright and early, we packed up the vans and headed to the Calgary airport where we said goodbye to six of our friends. From there we made our way back to the prairies as we continued our goodbyes. While the goodbyes were bitter sweet, we very much look forward to reconnecting as we head to Guatemala in the new year!