¡Hola!

The last 2 weeks have been one of the most memorable experiences in my life. I traveled to Ecuador with my school and Free the Children. I visited Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador, as well as the Amazon. The altitude in Quito was amazing! I lost my breath after taking two steps! However, the Amazon left me speechless. The relationships that I developed with the community and the people I was travelling with made it hard to say goodbye. It makes  it even harder to write this blog post.

Since there are about a thousand things I could talk about, I will only write about my favourtie moments.

First I have to be honest. Before leaving for Ecuador I was unsure about the whole no electricty, no makeup, no tight clothing. But soon into the trip, I realized something. Our appearance doesn’t change the person we are. Though I was not allowed to wear my typical clothing due to cultural respect, I soon began to not care. Life without makeup was great! I could rub my eyes anytime 🙂 ! But the best thing was the minimal access to electricity. I never realized how much I miss out on just because of my phone. The things I learnt about other people and our Earth would have never been possible if I had my phone. Describing my trip to Ecuador is so hard. It is something I cannot put into words. Just being there changed my whole life and I am so thankful that I got to experience this amazing journey!  (p.s. Sorry for the pictures, I have no idea why I can’t turn them. Oh well!)

The travel time was about 7-8 hours including our stop over in Panama.

Plane flight!

Plane ride!

Sunset ☼

Sunset ☼

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Good morning!

The next morning, my friends and I woke up bright and early to see the sunrise. The pink colours were unreal! It was worth waking up at 5am. After that we headed down to have some breakfast. I swear, I have never tasted sweeter fruits anywhere else! Our stay in Quito was fabulous from morning to night. During the day we walked around, visited a museum, met a local, ate exquisite food, etc. But I have to say, walking in Quito is hard. Quito is 9350 ft above sea level. I lost my breath just by taking one step!

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<3

 

night time

night time!

Quito was breathtaking! (And not just from the altitude). Seeing all of the amazing structures was fascinating. But my favourite part was how they managed to keep the raw beauty of Ecuador and still have a city.

 

 

At night my friends and I stayed in our rooms talking. But then, around 11pm, we decided to go up to the roof to see Quito at night. Seeing parts of the city lit up, and then a black part where no electricity came, was beautiful. Just as we were about to go back down, fireworks started going off. We had no idea what celebration was happening. But just standing on the roof, 9350 ft above sea level, with fireworks going off, and the wind blowing, it was the first moment when I realized at home we don’t take time to appreciate the beauty of Earth.

The next day, we travelled to the center of the Earth! I also accomplished an amazing thing, I took a selfie with a llama and it didn’t spit on me 🙂

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Middle of the world

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Llama

Visiting the center of the world is for sure in the top 5 of the coolest things I have ever done. Standing right on the red line is so weird! You feel a pull trying to push you into either the north or south side. You also lose your muscle sense and your sense of balance. It was so cool and weird at the same time.

 

 

Now ever since that episode on Modern Family where Phil brings home a llama, I have always wanted to meet one! I got to meet a llama. Now this guy was pretty evil, he looked ready to spit on us at any time. However, the minute a camera came out he posed. It was the cutest and the sassiest llama I have ever seen!

 

Now onto the journey of the 9 hour bus ride to the Amazon. During the duration of the ride we stopped at the highest highway in North and South America. It was so windy!

Highest highway in North America

Highest highway in North and South America

As you can see my friends and I were very happy with our harem pants 🙂

Harem Pants (comfiest things you will ever wear)

Harem Pants (comfiest things you will ever wear)

Now lets skip by the 9 hours of singing and eating and head straight into the Amazon. We stayed at Minga Lodge deep into the jungle. Minga means family and or a community in unity. For this reason, the group I was travelling with referred to ourselves as a Minga. One of the directors I became so close with is Miguel. He is a local from Ecuador and he guided us through the Amazon. He showed us the hidden secrets of the jungle, introduced us to kids, and dared us to try new things. Miguel soon became a person I trusted on this trip. I keep in  touch through email everyday!

Miguel es mi mejor amigo!

Miguel es mi mejor amigo!

I posted the video of Miguel and I dancing below 🙂

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One day it started raining heavily and we had to come back from the worksite. However, Miguel was ready with a backup plan. He took us on the most beautiful nature walk to see the sunset. The sunset in the Amazon is stunning. The pink in the sky just before the darkness of the night settles over, hearing the buzz of the animals still alive, and seeing the current of the water. The picture does not do it justice. While pictures may be worth a thousand words, standing there in the humid air can never be replicated on a picture.

 

Sunset

Sunset

The sun and my frizzy hair

The sun and my frizzy hair

The hour that we were there made everything come alive. I realized how huge this Earth was and how tiny we are. But it was in that moment where I felt connected with everything. And I knew everything will be alright.

 

Before we head into what this trip was all for, I just wanted to share my favourite photo. We got to do weapon training, and below is a photo of me throwing a spear.

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The kids, the communities, a better life. That’s why I wanted to go on this trip. We weren’t allowed to take pictures on the first few days of working. We worked for 6 out of the 10 days on the trip. The other 4 days were mainly travelling from one place to another. I have no idea how to put this in words. Taking that 45 minute boat ride every morning to the worksite was the most anxious moments in my life. I was ready to see the smiling kids and ready to start working. My group and I worked in the community of Bellavista. The minute we walked off that boat we would be greeted by locals of all ages. When I returned from Ecuador, someone said to me “Wow, that looks exhausting. Working everyday. I couldn’t imagine doing that.” And honestly, neither could I before I left. But the minute you see the smiles on the kids faces, it no longer becomes working. It becomes enjoyable. Every muscle in your body that ached meant that those kids will have a better life. Every splinter, broken nail, and sweat, means that the community will be able to become independent one day. I pulled both of my calf muscles and was told to sit out. But I refused to. People always asked me “Why?” I replied by saying, though I was injured I wasn’t incapable of working. I was still able to lift the sand bags, shovel the sand, sandpaper the wood. But if I had to sit out, it means one less person on the job. I also thought that if I was capable of working, why sit out? I saw a pregnant mother, holding one child in one hand, with 2 fifty lbs sandbags over her shoulder. That’s when I realized that they never stop not matter what the circumstance is. With that in my head, I stood back up and went back to shovelling sand.

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Pictures cannot explain the experiences that I had in Ecuador. Nor can it show the bonds I created with everyone there. I became a Minga with the group I travelled with. I got to meet Miguel, a person who changed my view on a lot of things. And I also got to meet Carlos and Emma, our Free the Children directors. But most of all, I got to meet the kids. Words cannot describe my desire to work 24/7, nor can it describe how difficult it was to leave. Ecuador was an amazing experience and I would go back in a heartbeat.

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Take me back

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with Carlos and Emma

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I guess all that’s left to say is, take me back! Thank you for reading

-Neha ❤

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Hey everyone!

It has been a crazy few weeks and I finally have the chance to sit down and blog. From doing a spring runway at Eatalia, to speaking at a Hard of Hearing conference, and to organizing an event in my school, I have had no time!

On Sunday, April 12th I volunteered as a model at the Spring Runway at Eatalia. All the proceeds went to The Education Outreach Program for children at the Burlington Performing Arts Center. I also got a chance to give a speech during this event. I modeled for Mirella’s Ladies boutique, Anise Apothecary, Forever Summer, Fits for You, Lingerie D’Amour, and Joelle’s. I want to give a huge shout-out and thank you to Mirella’s Ladies Boutique. Mirella sponsored my gorgeous gown for the Miss Teenage Ontario pageant, and she also is the one who got me involved in these amazing events!

Gown from Mirella's Ladies Boutique

Lingerie D'Amour

 It was a great day and I had an awesome time modelling for the Spring Runway! Check me out in the SNAP Burlington newspaper! https://burlington.snapd.com/event/822304#/ 

The next event I attended was VOICE Hard of Hearing annual conference on May 2nd. I had the opportunity to speak to teenagers about how we shouldn’t let our disability stop us from doing anything we are passionate about. It was great speaking with teens who are going through the same disability as me.

VOICE conference

All of the teens and kids out there, keeping on going and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t. If you want to do something, believe in yourself and you will be able to accomplish anything. “Working hard is important, but there is something that matters even more…believing in yourself.”–Harry Potter

To end off this blog post and my crazy few weeks, the last event that I’ll be talking is the event that my best friend, Shreya Singh, and I organized at our school. We organized the event called the Art Face-Off. I organized this event to fund-raise money for Free the Children, my charity for the pageant. There were 11 artists from White Oaks Secondary School that competed in a live painting competition.They each had thirty minutes to create a piece of art work. Guest judges such as Puneet Kohli (winner of art battle city Mississauga, winner of Golden Horseshoe region, is on the board of AGM) and Arti Tanna (sketch artist, graduate of commercial arts, India and art restoration, Italy). Rogers TV and Oakville Beaver also came to feature this event. The Art Face-Off was a fantastic event. Check out the newspaper article here! http://www.insidehalton.com/whatson-story/5606742-oakville-school-holds-arts-faceoff-for-free-the-children/

Art Face-Off

While the last few weeks have been busy with all of these events and the fact that exams are coming soon, I had a great time planning and volunteering!

Love,

Neha ❤❤️

Written by: Neha
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Hey guys! In this blog post I have decided to talk about something that is very close to my heart. In my very first blog post I talked about being born deaf and getting cochlear implants. I touched upon this matter very quickly. However, cochlear implants have been a huge part of my life. In fact it is the reason why I am sitting here on my couch, typing this. When I was born in 1999, there was no auditory testing done at birth.

2 months old

However my mom always felt that I couldn’t hear. Everyone told my mom to drop the subject, that I might just be late in speaking, etc. But she didn’t give up. She fought with the doctors and finally got me tested in 2000. At 10 months I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, meaning I had no hearing in both my ears. This news was devastating for my family, they had never experienced this condition before. No one else in the family had it then. The doctors asked my mom to choose between spoken language or sign language. If my mother chose sign language I would have never gotten my cochlear implants and I wouldn’t have been able to speak and listen. My mom chose spoken language. At the age of two, I underwent a 4 hour surgery to get my implant on my right ear. From there I did many years of therapy with Margaret, Warren Estabrooks, and Karen.

Karen and I

However I would’ve never made it this far if it weren’t for the help of my family. My mother spent every second trying to teach my how to speak and listen. My sister, who is 14 years older than me, was 16 at the time. Since my mom spent a lot of time with me, my sister didn’t get as much attention.

My sister and I

My father worked hard to support our family. During this time we lost a lot of friends, however we gained our closest friends. This news was devastating to my family when they first found out, but soon they learned to see the bright side.

Thanks to all the hard work of my family and friends at the age of two I started piano, then came Indian dance, violin, competitive tennis, competitive ballroom dance, figure skating, and swimming (I will be a lifeguard in November!). I was also able to be in the IB (International Baccalaureate) in my high school. And of course, age 15 I was crowned as Miss Teenage GTA. Never let anything stop you from doing the things love!

 

-Neha ❤

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Hi everyone! Sunday, March 8th was International Women’s Day. To celebrate this day, I had the opportunity to attend an event to help and support for the ladies from Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter (http://www.ernestines.ca/). The event I attended was called W.I.N.G.S. WINGS was founded by Sanjukta Das,with the goal of connecting and inspiring women to overcome their challenges. Some of the challenges these women may have faced are violence, yelling, hitting, sexual assault, etc.

I want to give a huge shout-out to Lovel Dhir who gave me an opportunity to attend this amazing event. Lovel Dhir is an outstanding citizen because she never misses an opportunity to give back to the community.

Lovel Dhir and I

I also got to say a little speech at this event, meet the mayor of Mississauga Bonnie Crombie, meet the out-reach coordinator of Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter Khadija Kathy Ali, and so much more!

With the out-reach coordinator of the shelter

 

Saying my speech!

With the mayor 🙂

 

This sunday is not over yet! After a busy day, I ended Sunday by celebrating my culture. My family, best friend, and I went to our temple to celebrate Holi. Holi is an ancient Hindu festival known as the festival of colour or festival of love.

Holi with my best friend ❤

During Holi, participants of all ages chase each other and colour each other with powder and coloured water. Anyone playing will be coloured >:)

My hair is purple 😐

It was a perfect and crazy busy day! I’m still washing colour out of my hair and this was last Sunday, March 8th!

Love,

-Neha ❤

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Hi everyone! These last few days have been super busy. Between school, extracurricular activities, and of course pageant planning, I haven’t had the time to do anything else!

But I was able to break away from my busy schedule to attend an amazing event put together by CIA. For those of you who don’t know what CIA is, here is all the info you need to know. “Children in Action (CIA) is an organization of young social activists who are passionate about children’s rights.  What started initially as a small group of 5 friends who shared a desire to make this a safer and more just world for children everywhere, has today grown into an active group of more than 40 socially conscious youth aged 9 – 16 years old who attend 15 different schools.” I am proud to say I am now a member of CIA!

CIA team

The event I went to was Skate it UP. It was fantastic! There were people skating, a silent auction, hot chocolate, and special guests (me included)!

With Ana Golja (Actor in Degrassi)

 

 

I would like to take a moment to recognize Vishal and Ishan Vijay. Vishal is 14 and Ishan is 12. Because of their hard work and dedication, they were able to raise $10 000 from Skate it UP to build schools with Free the Children in India and Africa.

The Skate it UP was such an inspiring event. I am so proud of the work that Vishal and Ishan have done! I am also very proud of the CIA team members. It is because of the hard work and dedication these kids put in has allowed kids in Africa and India to get a school. But not just a school. They get education, friends, community, knowledge and a chance. Keep up the amazing work guys!!

Skate it UP 2015

Love,

-Neha ♡

ps. check out the CIA website! http://childreninaction.ca/

 

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Hi Everyone! My name is Neha B. and I am Miss Teenage GTA 2015-2016. Just so everyone can get to know me a little bit better, here is my story! I was born deaf in both of my ears on November 2, 1999 in Oakville Ontario, Canada. My parents had to choose a mode of communication for me.  They chose spoken language instead of sign language.  With the help of my parents and my therapists, I started my journey of learning to listen. Once it was determined that I was a right candidate for spoken language, at age 2 I got a surgery to implant a cochlear implant in my left ear at the Hospital for Sick Kids, in Toronto Ontario.  This was followed by an implant in my right ear at age 10.

I was introduced to music and dance at the age of 3 and today I am playing piano at the Grade 8 level. I love Ballroom and Indian classical dance.

I am looking forward to taking the lifeguard exam this year. In school, I am a honor roll student and I enjoy learning different languages like French and Spanish. I am enrolled in the accelerated learning program/International Baccalaureate at White Oaks secondary School, Oakville ON, Canada. I met my best friend at White Oaks Secondary School, Shreya Singh. She has been with me through all the ups and downs we have experienced in the past year!

I would also like to thank my entire family, my sister, mom and dad. They spent hours, days, months, and years helping me to learn to listen.

I would like to especially thank my sister who is the best sister anyone could ever have. She stood by me even when times were tough. We are close despite the age gap of 14 years. I dedicate this crown to my sister Nikita Banerjea ❤.

Thank you to all of my family and friends who supported me from all around the world. I love you all!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story,

-N

 

 

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We’ve been so busy these last 2 days that I haven’t even had a chance to blog!

On Tuesday, we woke up bright and early again because we were appearing on Global News! It was so fun being on television again 🙂 Click here to see our local segment! After our local segment, we went on air again nationally! How amazing is it that people all over Canada saw us on TV?!

After our interview, we went to the most visited tourist attraction in Toronto- the CN Tower! Thank you so much to Hi-Tec Footwear for sponsoring us and providing us with comfy shoes to wear at the CN Tower; it was a much needed break from our high heels! I kept the shoes on the whole day haha! The CN Tower was amazing as usual, but I wasn’t as starstruck as some other girls because I live in Ontario, so I’ve been up it many times 😉

Ontario ladies!

We love PINK! A PINK worker kindly took a photo with us!

After a well-deserved break in our hotel room, we were out and about again- this time to the Eaton Centre (Can I get a YAY for more shopping?)! Just like at Yorkdale Mall, we got many looks from people, and many people wanting to take photos with us. I’m getting really used to being a celebrity. Thank you to the Eaton Centre (my absolute favorite mall) for giving us $10 for us to buy dinner in the food court (which has 1 billion options by the way). I loved my Greek food from Jimmy The Greek! 😀

To end the night, we finished with rehearsals! We practiced our walking, both for swimwear and evening gown, for almost the entire night! My feet didn’t hurt too much because I stayed in my Hi-Tecs 😉

Today was one of the best days I’ve had to far. To start off, we had a later wake-up time so I got a full 8 hours of sleep! 😀 We went back to High Park and ate some yummy breakfast and I bought myself coffee, so I was energetic for the entire morning!

Then….rehearsals! Jillian helped us with our walks before Shawn came to finish the opening dance number with us. She did a fun activity with us: she told us to walk like a 5 year old who wants to be a model! It was so much fun; I really strutted my stuff (I embraced m inner 5 year old). This was to loosen us up and get us to show some personality in our walk. I practiced my walks so much; I think I almost perfected them for preliminaries tomorrow!

Me with our hero, the Red Knight

Tonight was the best night. We all went to Medieval Times, cheering on the Red Knight (who ended up winning!). What a perfect place for us- kings, knights, princesses, and pageant queens! Great food, amazing show and….I lost my voice! Haha, that’s hw much I was cheering for our Knight 😉 We really had an amazing time. When we got on the bus, we were so energetic so we blasted some music, sang out hearts out and fist pumped! Hopefully my voice comes back before Saturday!

See you soon!

xoxo, Odeta

 

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5am selfies!

Wow, what a day! Day 3 was packed full of excitement from start to finish- and when I say start, I mean 5am… Yup, that’s right; 5am! The ladies had to be ready to go at 5am, so most of us woke up at 3 or 4am to do our hair and makeup.

Why? Because the Miss Teenage Canada candidates were appearing live on Breakfast TV! We traveled to downtown Toronto, to the set of BTV and got to watch the hosts talk about everything from gadgets to Rob Ford 😉 And then it was our turn! It was so exciting to be on live television- I made sure to look my best and give a great smile 😀 (Check out the segment here!)

On Breakfast Television!

After BTV, we traveled to High Park to eat a delicious breakfast prepared for us by the Grenadier Cafe! It definitely fueled us for the day! Soon enough, it was go go go again! We went back to our hotel, where it was time for eve more fun- Schwarzkopf Professional Canada prepared a hair tutorial for us, where we got to learn different quick, easy, but very cute hairstyles. They gave us great tips and tricks too! We then had a hairstyle challenge that was a lot of fun 🙂 Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

I’d like to thank Schwarzkopf Professional Canada for preparing this for us, and for giving each of us gifts! I can’t wait to use the Salt Spray and Dust It Flex 🙂

Lunch was sponsored by Panera Bread (my favourite)! Thanks to Panera Bread for my delicious Sierra Turkey sandwich and my strawberry, pecan, chicken and poppy seed salad- delicious!

After having a small break in our hotel rooms (yay for this!), we were out and about again! We went to one of my favourite malls- Yorkdale Mall! We got a lot of stares…who wouldn’t stare with 60 beautiful Canadian teen queens walking down the mall?!

We were each given a $25 gift card to Bench, so all the girls went wild! What can we say, we love shopping! Bench was so kind in sponsoring us for this and I’m so happy with my purchase! I bought a dark grey tank top with the Bench logo on it that’s going to be perfect for my workouts 🙂 We took Polaroid photos, danced to their awesome store playlist, took photos with many people (fans? ;)) at the mall, and had a great time! Thanks again to Bench!

Yorkdale Mall was kind enough to give each of us a VIP package for us, filled with a $10 gift card to the mall, and a discount card to select stores! Now I feel like royalty 😉 We used the gift card to buy some yummy food at the food court (#dineon3) and after taking some more photos and talking to our “fans,” we were headed back to the hotel for….rehearsal!

Still smiling even after dancing in heels for hours!

What can I say about rehearsal? Best moment of the day for me! Our choreographer Shawn definitely knows what he’s doing; he’s preparing us, and he’s preparing us well! We practices our stances, walking, and started learning an practicing our opening dance!! I love the song we’re dancing to- I couldn’t stop singing along and shaking my hips! The dance is truly amazing and I can’t wait to see it all played out on the stage during final night 🙂 Though my heels were on the whole time (gotta give it my 100%!), and my feet are so sore but it was worth it!

But lucky us, our Hi-Tec Shoes arrived! Thank you once again to Hi-Tec Footwear for sponsoring us with these adorable and super comfy shoes! The shoes will definitely give my feet a break from the heels haha!

What a day! Stay tuned for more of my Miss Teenage Canada adventures!

Xoxo, Odeta

 

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Day 2 of Miss Teenage Canada was just as excited as Day 1! Except today gave all the contestants just a tad bit of pressure- we were getting judged! Today we all did our photo shoots, video shoots and interviews, all of which count towards our scores, a part of what will decide if we’re in the top 20 or not!

Let me tell you, we did a lot of waiting! With 60 girls doing individual shoots and interviews, we had to patiently wait our turn. I can’t imagine being a judge and having to sit through 60 interviews; props to them!

Taking some cute selfies while waiting!

I loved my hair and makeup!

Nonetheless, it was all extremely exciting. We got our hair and makeup done by our sponsor Motives Cosmetics, and it was flawless! I definitely felt like a beauty queen! My hairdresser gave me loose but voluminous curls that fell gently down. I have naturally curly hair, but trying out a different type of curl was fun 🙂 Plus, I don’t have that volume all the time haha! I then went on to my makeup and left it all to my makeup artist Lilo; I trusted her to make me look camera-ready! I ended up with a very dark and dramatic look- heavier than my everyday makeup (of course), but perfect for the shoots! I felt beautiful! Thank you so much to Motives for getting all the girls ready- you rock!

I changed into a mint green lace cocktail dress for the photo shoot and video shoot, and after a little more waiting, I walked into the photo shoot room, met my wonderful photographer and got to work! It was so much fun and he directed me very well. I did many different poses, and felt very comfortable in front of the camera 🙂

Soon enough, I was off to do my video shoot! The videographer was very funny, making a lot of jokes the whole time, so he made me feel really comfortable. We answered three questions into the camera, posed a little bit showing our personality and attitude, and before I knew it I was done!

The next part was the interview. Many people get nervous when in an interview, speaking directly to someone, but I felt calm all day 🙂 I was very confident in myself for the shoots, and remained confident for the interview as well. I showed the judges my bubbly personality and did everything I usually do at a job interview 🙂

Overall, today was a wonderful experience and I’m very proud of myself; I feel that I did great in all aspects, simply because I was confident in myself! Tomorrow is a new day and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Until next time,

xoxo, Odeta

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