Don’t Panic!

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Hello, Bonjour,

Something I’ve been saying a lot the last few hours as I try to get adjusted to the cultural and language difference here in Madagascar. I use the word “try” because it has definitely felt like work for me.

Air travel by myself was the easy pert, very little language barrier anywhere, excellent hospitality and even better, a ton of room on the flights. Upon my arrival in Antananarivo, however, I had an astonishing realization. This was the first time in my life where I have really felt alone. I have no one travelling with me (yet) and I have a bit of a language barrier, not to mention how overwhelmingly different life is here.

I’ve watched documentaries and television programs about parts of the world similar to this, but have only ever traveled in “first world” nations. Once the initial uneasiness wears off I’m excited to explore some of the many tastes and sights of this country but for now I can’t help but miss home a little bit.

After spending the last few months with intense support and love shown to me by so many amazing people in my efforts to make this journey to Madagascar possible, I’m now on the opposite corner of the world feeling very opposite emotions. I’ve been in this country less than 12 hours and I already miss my family, miss Eric, miss my friends and wish my goodbye hugs were longer

The good news is, this will pass, not the missing of people, but the feeling of loneliness. It’s been a big realization for me how much I depend on my relationships with people, but maybe took that dependence for granted more than I thought. I may be in Madagascar away from everything I know but I am so very excited about the opportunity to keep in touch with all of you via my updates.

One of my good friends said to me before I left, “You get the opportunity to head on a journey that many of us won’t often get the opportunity to do, but it feels like we all get the chance to go with you.” This is something i remind myself of constantly, thinking of all of you alongside me. The picture at the top of the post was taken in the Johannesburg airport and I thought it’s words fit perfectly with the sentiment of this post.

I feel as though I’m in process similar to those at one of the personal development workshops or camps I frequently volunteer at. Being put in a place of emotional and physical vulnerability to be able to release stuff I’ve been holding on to, and rebuild. I guess this is necessary work if I plan to be fully present for the next 2 months of being here.

Sending a TON of love and gratitude your way and I’m looking forward to the next update!!

(Update: I went into the city today to explore for a few hours on my own. The taxi driver I was with decided to put on music, and I smiled, was thrilled, and put to ease as one of my favorite songs came on, putting to music exactly what I needed to hear. See Below. )

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Play Your Part

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I love helping people and for the next week I’ll be “off the grid” so to speak. One of the reasons I feel driven to head to Madagascar is because I feel that one of the best ways to explore the world is through being in service to the cultures you visit.

There are many other ways to volunteer though from social work, to research and conservation to education. I’ll be spending the next week volunteering my time and energy with a personal development camp. A wonderful opportunity for 400 adults to come together in the wildnerness and learn a little more about harnessing their power and use it to create the lives they want. Why is this important work for me? Well it helped me. Those that knew me 5-6 years ago know that I was an angry, depressed, unmotivated, smoking, drinking mess. Those that know me today know me to be quite a different person and one of the biggest shifts for me was through meeting the wonderful people and being inspired by some of the perspectives at one of these events. I owe much of who I am now to those volunteers 4 years ago that helped support me through my shifts. I’m now a new man that wishes to spend his time supporting others to reach a similar place of self love and empowerment if it’s something they choose.

    The quickest route to happiness is to help others. ~Mingyur Rinpoche~

Some people see volunteering as working without getting paid, others know that it means taking responsibility to show up and do the work that would otherwise not get done. It’s being an active participant of this planet to support it’s healing.

I will end this short post with a question. How do you volunteer? How do you contribute? Where do you show up and what do you do? Honestly, please share here. It’s an opportunity to celebrate yourself for showing up and playing your part.

Much love,

-Drew

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission to Support Reef Restoration

P.S. – Remember, Play Your Part

The Game of Gratitude

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Today’s blog entry is going to be a bit different than the last couple, as I enjoy writing for 2 reasons. I love being able to take knowledge and share it with the world, but even more I love to be able to empower people through my own words and experiences.

Philosophical discussion especially is one that always brings me joy because with so many perspectives in the world, these conversations provide such a wonderful platform to receive so many “big picture” moments. There are a variety of lessons I’ve picked up through these conversations, but one of the biggest game changers for me was the understanding that gratefulness is the key to abundance. I have always thought that the only difference between being spoiled and being abundant is my gratefulness for what shows up. If we are not grateful for what we have how can we possibly attract more into our lives?

This week my heart has become especially open with gratitude for the people that have shown up in my life. As many of you know, I have been spending a lot of time working on fundraising for a voluntouring trip to Madagascar, (check out the fundraising link below,) and the people that have shown up to support has inspired me to write.

I dozed off last night while planning this post and how I would execute it, I had a dream. It was my birthday party (which I’ll actually be celebrating tomorrow) and the party in my dream turned into an episode of “This Is Your Life.” Now, I should preface this with the fact that I have a large family and still keep in touch with many friends from high school, previous jobs, volunteering, spiritual retreats & workshops and my circle of bar buddies (to name a few.) This dream was full of faces, old and new, that have peppered my life over the years with laugh, love and support. It reminded me of just how much joy these people have brought me. So this post is to say THANK YOU. THANK YOU for being a part of my life, THANK YOU for showing unbelievable support and THANK YOU for simply being you. I have acquired to many wonderful relationships over the years that have shaped me into the individual I am today.

Immediately after waking up from my 1 1/2 hour long cat nap, I received a message from a very good friend of mine.

In honour of your awesome and inspirational self I have decided to donate all the tips I earn the night of your birthday! Your birthday is supposed to be a lucky day for you AND as I find the universe often works in amazing ways when it comes to financial support and serving…who knows what will happen 🙂

This is an example of the kind words and support that have been showing up.

Why am I sharing all of this?

I can sometimes not say “Thank You” enough. It’s easy for me to become caught up in my day to day life and forget how important it is to stop and let people know how much I appreciate them. Since the people that are a part of my life are the reason I am who I am today, It’s important to me that they know how much I appreciate their presence in my life and that I also understand that I am fully grateful to have them in my life.

Tomorrow, when I celebrate my birthday, my celebrations will be dedicated to the people, past an present, that have shaped my life. Those I have laughed with, cried with and most importantly, those I have danced with.

Much love,

-Drew

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission to Support Reef Restoration.

Food for thought.

Life on the water

Some of you may be familiar with the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” This statement is accurate for Malagasy life in Southwestern Madagascar. In my previous post, Oh The PLaces You’ll Go!, I discussed what “Voluntouring” was, why it’s important and some of the “Voluntouring” I will be participating in with in a few months time, supporting the reefs off the coast and the Vezo people who depend on them for survival. I’d like to take an opportunity to introduce you to this Malagasy tribe and show you what makes them such a beautiful and inspiring culture.

    Who Are Vezo?

The term Vezo is defined as, “the people who fish.” It’s the term used to describe the semi-nomadic people of Southwestern Madagascar that have adapted to a life of depending on the sea for food. It’s also important to note that the term Vezo is not intended to identify an ethnicity, but rather a way of life. The ocean is important to their survival. Since they are less an ethnicity and more of a culture, it’s impossible to know their numbers and so their populations are estimated by the number of dugout canoes found along the shorelines.

Family and tradition are both important to Vezo culture. Typically they depend on the strong and healthy to take care of the old, sick and dying. Family is important because it’s how Vezo pass on knowledge of fishing areas, access to resources and equipment. Ancestry is also important to their livelihood, as it is ancestors whom are responsible for the success and failure of obtaining a good catch so it’s very important to give appropriate thanks through ceremony when a catch has been particularly favorable, especially when catching rare species like shark, dolphin or whale.

Vezo not only depend on the ocean for food, but as means for sale and trade. Typically the men will spend their time on the water in search of fish and the women will harvest the sand flats for invertebrates as well as sell or trade the catches the men have brought to them.

    Why do Vezo need support?

Over fishing is something that affects all of the world’s oceans. Regulation is hard to enforce around the world and although many first world countries have developed fishing regulations, Madagascar is still developing as a nation and doesn’t have many similar regulations and rarely enforces them.

Vezo have been the main navigators of the channel that separates mainland Africa from Madagascar, but currently more and more commercial boats are showing up to reap the benefits of these waters that are home to a diverse collection of marine life. As such, Vezo have had to adapt their fishing methods to better compete. Sometimes these methods can deteriorate the family and community culture as many Vezo will to isolate themselves & families to find fishing space not dominated by commercial fisheries or other locals. Sometimes these fishing practices are unsustainable.

Unsustainable fishing means fishing practices that will be unable to sustain themselves if they continue moving forward the same way they have been practiced. Currently unsustainable fishing practices, local and commercial, are having an affect to the marine life in Southwestern Madagascar. These negative affects are seen in the devastation of coral reef systems, the platform of which entire ecosystems are based. The negative effects are also seen in the dwindling numbers of species that have a hard time repopulating themselves. Species like Sea Turtles, Sharks, fish and even invertebrates.

Enjoy this video of an interview with a local Vezo talking about why marine conservation is important to him. Videos like this provide great perspective, which is important because with perspective we provide a basis of fair and balanced judgement. Not judgement of others but judgement of our actions and how we can best serve these world cultures, the lifestyles that sustain them and the ecosystems that sustain us and them.

    How can I support Vezo and the ecosystems they depend on?

ReefDoctor is a non-profit organization in Madagascar that is working to educate Vezo on sustainable fishing methods and how to respect the populations of these species so they can continue to provide food for their communities. Through conducting water quality and fish population research as well as cutting edge artificial reef restoration techniques and their education efforts, Reef Doctor is a major contributor to the marine conservation of the area while still preserving the culture of the people who live there.

You can support ReefDoctor through the support of those that wish to volunteer their time and energy on these initiatives. One of the reasons I will be heading there is that I know my volunteer fee will support the operation costs of their organization and the work I will do with them will compliment these costs. Please take the time to head to my fundraising page below and check out what I am fundraising for and some of the rewards granted to those supporters. Or you can simply share this blog or my fundraising page in your circle of influence if this is work that you feel passionate about supporting.

Drew Mac’s Madagascar Mission To Support Reef Restoration

Another way you can support Vezo and their food sources from another corner of the world, is through sustainable seafood choices. For example, the Vancouver Aquarium is another non-profit organization that started a program in Canada and the surrounding United States called Oceanwise Through labeling menu and marketplace seafood items with it’s logo, diner’s know that what they are choosing to eat is seafood that was caught sustainably. It also provides a cohesive list of seafood choices on it’s website and Apple App that lets browsers know what seafood species are sustainable or not, empowering people with the knowledge to support marine conservation and still enjoy the food they love.

Life on this planet starts and ends with the world’s oceans and the better we take care of those oceans the better we can preserve the life that lives in them and the life that depends on it for survival, which includes us.

-Drew

You Know You Best

Happy 2013 everybody. It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything as the last 6 months of my life have been spent growing, exploring, settling, hibernating from the world and of course having fun. As the holiday season ended, so did this little part of my cycle and with it brings a newfound zest for life, health and expression.

This is a time of year that typically brings Resolutions. Promises we make to ourselves and friends to start a new year on a new leaf. I have never been a fan of the term “resolution” and prefer to use the term “commitment.” 2012 was a big year for me, a year of change, growth and appreciation. People I had spent years building relationships with are now no longer actively part of my life, and experiences have shown up to allow me an opportunity to better identify and appreciate the things that I want to surround myself with on a daily basis. I have a man in my life that means the world to me. I discovered that I am going to be a first time Uncle this year!!! All this learning and growth and all the things I have to look forward to in 2013 are the things that have inspired the lifestyle commitments I now am working on

As part of my self commitments of course are the usual “active living” and “healthier eating” show up. I mean the holidays can definately be a time of over indulgence and it feels great to get my body back to feeling like a temple. Of course there are also small day to day ones regarding how I choose to conduct myself in conversation and interactions with friends, at work or at home. Making sure I am present, attentive, open and supportive of those i am spending those moments with or the task I am spending time on.

All this being said, the biggest commitments I have for myself are the commitments of ME. There are a few things I know about myself:

1) I am going to Travel the globe, seeking adventure while all my basic needs and comfort levels are met, with great company and to be able to share these experiences……which brings me to…..

2) I love to express myself verbally and on paper. I am going to write more often as well as find and use a medium that allows me to talk (radio) or be on camera (web blog?) or both 🙂

3) I love music. Love isn’t even the right word for it. Music is just PART of my life. I also love to share my knowledge of music with the world. This is one thing I am committed to doing more in the new year, via public playlists or radio or whatever way shows itself to be the best. On top of this I am also committed to learning, practicing and expressing myself through my own music, not just the music of others.

4) Culture, spirituality, food and art are things that fascinate and inspire me on a regular basis. Why people do what they do and how those traditions are important. How beliefs and practices can shape a spirit. How something that simply provides sustainance can be so sensory filled in many other ways. How people have so much to express in the world that could never possibly be put into words. These are the languages of life

5) I see life as one gigantic classroom and I love to share the lessons that it teaches me.

On top of this, of course are my commitments to continuously lead a healthy, active, exciting, passionate, empowered, influential life filled only with relationships and experiences that do the same, are the most important because they are what make the journey.

I could easily write all of this down privately, but upon knowing myself, I know that I do express myself best when I’m expressing myself publicly. It’s when I am most honest with myself and say all the things that I am really feeling. I also share this because I feel like it is important to understand oneself, your passions and what you do well (sometimes they go hand in hand.) These are all examples of things I know about myself and they are all things I know I wish to expand upon the most. I may not know exactly what that looks like as an end result but I do know that I have to start with what I know.

That is one of the most profound takeaways for me from this whole process. I have come a long way in my life and have had many experiences, but instead of feeling like I’m walking through the mud towards where I want to be, I am able to identify what it is I like to do, what it is I’m good at doing and remain open to how it shows up for me in life. That way when I am moving towards something, it may not be a direct route, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.

It’s been an interesting morning too, I’ve written these thoughts and been sitting with them for a while waffling in the “to post or not to post” stage after writing, worried that my ideas aren’t flowing making this an uninteresting read. As life tends to do I end up reading just the right thing before posting this and so I’m going to share it with you.

This is something shared by an aquaintence (and a bit of a Spiritual Mentor) of mine, Chris Grosso, when he was interviewed about his writings recently:

If you want to be a worthwhile writer, be willing to get raw, vulnerable and authentic. Fuck writing for praise, acknowledgement or any other self gratifying reason… write because you have no other choice but to write! Write because it’s demanded of you by something far greater than your own self. Write as if you were on your deathbed and it was the last thing you’re going to leave this world with. I mean, you never know, right? -Chris Grosso

On that note, i have a few more notes for you. I always like to accompany a string of thoughts with some music to tie it all together and this particular video has been stuck in my mind for some time.

Enjoy & much love.

My life in music

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo

That was the quote i chose to commemorate my high school life in my grade 12 yearbook. I find this quote just as prevalent in my life now as ever before. It’s the soundtrack to our lives. The first 3 chords of a song can take you back, back to that specific feeling you had in that specific moment when you were creating that specific memory. Those sounds are forever cataloged in our subconscious just waiting for that random moment in a store, in the car or at work to show up and bring us back.

10 years later so much about myself has changed, but not my thirst for new audible pleasures. Sure my tastes have changed. I now hunger for the discovery of new and exciting sounds, and also the appreciation of notable (and unnotable) relics. Since music is such an important piece of my life, I’ll probably be frequently attaching songs to my updates, just to help enhance their quality a little bit. So, since music will also be a part of this blog, I’m going to use this time to briefly share music’s impact on my life, and  tomorrow I’ll leave you with some new artists that have kept me drooling for more this last year.

Music was always important as a child growing up. From Fred Penner (who I met!!!) to Raffi, Charlotte Diamond to Sharon, Lois and Bram (which i missed seeing in person due to a stomach bug! haha) these were some of the artists available to a 3-5 year old child. My parent’s tastes in music had a big influence on what I listened to as well. I remember road trips with Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits, Bony M and Garth Brooks when my mom was around. When she wasn’t is when the AC/DC, Sabbath, Floyd and Zeppelin among others that my Dad favored, made its appearance. Getting older I gained an appreciation for “Weird Al” Yankovic and his comedic polka stylings, which, surprisingly, launched me into the world of “Alternative Music.” It was this very point in my life I would never be the same.

I remember it well, the summer of ’97. That summer we not only took a road trip to Terrace, BC to visit family, not only did we head south to Disneyland to visit Mickey, this was the summer my musical eyes opened. I remember it well, it started with 2 bands. Our Lady Peace and Moist. 2 Canadian “Alternative” artists (who, ironically, can now be frequently heard on the adult contemporary & classic rock stations) that had a sound i had never heard before, and loved. It was louder than anything I had heard before (don’t worry, i soon discovered much LOUDER music, haha,) my parents hated it, and it was readily available on the radio!!! When we weren’t traveling or enjoying usual summer activities (swim lessons, parks, etc) my time was spent either i my room, or in the tent i set up on the back patio, with my radio and a stack of discarded cassette tapes my mom used to give away for promotional use of products she sold. After carefully placing scotch tape in the right spots, so I could successfully record over the voices on the cassette, i would anxiously sit there glued to the radio, waiting for the opportunity to press “record” so I could capture this music i was slowly discovering. This is when i discovered classics like Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins or flashes in the pan like Veruca Salt, Poe and Bush “X.” There was even some amazing local talent like Age of Electric, Zuckerbaby and Econoline Crush. This is when I started to connect to music emotionally. Creating important ties to it and constantly hungered for continuous exposure to it.

Then along came those “rebellious” high school years. Back in those days, the gleeful strums of “punk” and “metal” resonated deeply with me. As wonderful as the music was as it carried me through most of my high school years, it was the sense of community I found at the later part of those years, that I grew very attached to. Sharing live musical experiences in small intimate halls and basements with close friends and new acquaintances was a highlight, or also the gleeful excitement when a favorite artist released their latest. I’m also proud to say, that some of the closest friends of my whole life came from these experiences. The 3 or so years that followed music was the central point of my social life. These were the days of spending every afternoon & evening driving around the city just as an excuse to listen to, and sing along with, artists like Sublime, Incubus, Bob Marley, Rancid, etc. Laying out under the stars to whatever “slow” song that could be justified as “stargazing music.” The days of concerts twice a week and used CD shopping (saving money building the CD collection, so concert tickets could be afforded.) This was living (hence the many videos.)

New music had felt uneventful to me for a good 5 or so years, and although every year I’d discover a few new artists I found exciting, most of my musical discoveries involved traveling to the past. Big Band to Glam Rock, Industrial to Outlaw Country and the smokey crooners to Bruce Haack. These are the times when the CD collection took a backseat, and i started to discover the joy of VINYL RECORDS! There’s something about the low hiss and crackle over the speakers, the large cover art, or maybe the overall tangible nostalgia of them that completely captivated me. That collection still sits with me, and periodically gets added to when the occasion calls for it.

Then in 2009, new music started to twist for me. The sounds I once found too obscure, became catchy and rhythmic. The radio hits I once ignored, soon had artistic integrity and became playlist staples. I discovered an appreciation for music that seemed to drop boundaries and become transcendent. I am now again doe-eyed in a world of art that I was once too jaded to pay full attention to. Inspired artists like WU LYF, Tuneyards, Yeasayer and Delorean, to name a small small few, brought flavour, variety and excitement to my musical catalog. Artists that aren’t afraid to showcase their love for varied genres, world cultures, lifestyles and unique instruments is what now inspires my ears.

Combined with this love of progressive new artists, comes a new love for Electronic music, which has fully blossomed in the last year. I’ve always been a fan and an indulger, but for some reason a wide variety of samples, beats, tempos and ambiance has new meaning for me. It connects somewhere deep and sends me to other places. I now see how a computer, synthesizer or musical samples can take just as much talent (and sometimes more) to create beautiful music, as Eric Clapton has. Because isn’t the real purpose of music to evoke that special somethign in us, no matter what the genre or intrument.

Hope that you’ve all thoroughly enjoyed this homage to my musical time line. It was a “just for fun” trip down memory lane, and still provides an important lesson. No matter what is going on in the world, be it political, social or whatever, never lose sight of the gifts that people have to share with the world, and always remember to stop and “smell” them. These are the gifts that create beauty, function, or insight to our planet, and every one of us does have something to offer. Take the time to not just appreciate them, but also remember to keep sharing your own and, as always, keep singing and dancing like nobody’s watching!

Much love,

-Drew