Monday, December 10, 2012

La Fin de Semaine

My last weekend of 2012 in Halifax is drawing to a close; and it's been a fulfilling one. As most people stress over studying for exams, here's how I spent the last few days:

 On Friday morning I finished my economics exam, feeling confident in how I did. That's where the weekend began. My four housemates next year and I went to view our potential home. We fell in love with 1166 Wellington Street and have since proclaimed ourselves the Wellington Wackos and the Wellington Warriors. To celebrate finding a potential house we popped champagne and went skinny dipping in the Atlantic ocean in -4 degree weather on December 8th. Five girls and frigid waters makes for a fair amount of noise, and so I would be surprised if the entire neighbourhood hadn't been woken up.

At some point during the day I got a decently priced and relatively convenient haircut. Done by the one and only Monique Ruhl in the hallway directly outside the door to my room. Not that I ever had a doubt, but she ended up doing a fabulous job. And even if she hadn't, I have never been able to comprehend why people get so upset over something that will inevitably grow back............ except for that one time it happened to me.

Also on Friday night, was a more somber event. Jesse hosted one final get-together at his place before taking off, back to Victoria, BC. As I wrote in a card for him, "bon voyage au meilleur place du monde". It has been a fortunate occurrence that I have been able to reunite with such a wonderful person I met at Explore. After living for 5 weeks, eating three meals a day, dancing at Échofête, experiencing new French music, struggling through the challenges of learning a second language, travelling to Quebec City and spending countless nights "sur la quai" with such amazing people, it feels great to reunite with them. Jesse said that he feels better about leaving the city he's called home for the past 5 years knowing that he has an excuse to return soon... to be at his friend's wedding this summer. It's been lovely having someone to host me for pumpkin pancake dinners and someone to reminisce about Trois-Pistoles with. I am certain that this was not a "farewell" for us, but more accurately a "see you on the West Coast".

On Saturday morning, Zoe and I headed to the farmers' market in search of Christmas gifts. After a handful of tasters, from sassy salsa to chai tea lattés, I left with a honey crisp apple comparable to the size of a large child's head. Also, I left with a jug of Annapolis Valley apple cider that I brewed up later that night. It was an expedition, but we eventually got access to a kitchen to brew the cider on a stovetop, complete with cinnamon sticks. The kitchen could be described as nothing less than a filthy disaster, but our cider got brewed, so the rest is insignificant. There is nothing like fresh apple cider and some good friends to share it with. Zoe and I then made a stop at the Black Market Boutique where I purchased the most perfect Christmas gift of all. I don't think it will ever matter how many times I visit that store, it will never lose it's charm.

The Beatles and making christmas cards could describe my Saturday evening. I sat in my room, jamming to the rock legends and creating holiday cards with the minimal supplies I have access to. A night of peace and artistic creations was refreshing.

On Sunday, December 9th, boasting a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius, Fiona, Ali, Kelsey and I hopped in a van to Lawrencetown beach for a day of surfing. After suiting up from head to toe, we dove into the water to catch some waves. We were the Wellington Wave Warriors (minus Nicole). Rough waves combined with my lack of talent when it comes to surfing lead to me getting destroyed by the waves. There were instances where I could just see a wave preparing to attack, but by that point it was too late. I'm surprised, actually, that I only got one board to the head. Eventually, when I was tired of being ravaged by the breaking waves, I headed out farther into sea. There, as I lay on my board, the two of us would gracefully drift over the unbroken waves. I looked out over the Atlantic ocean and into the horizon. I had a moment of feeling at home; deja vu from a moment I enjoyed in the Pacific. This past summer, during the Vancouver Pride weekend, I walked along the Stanley Park sea wall past 3rd Beach. None of the people I was with had any sort of bathing suit with them, but the day was too perfect to pass it by. We all jumped in in our bras and underwear and headed out to sea. We were quite a ways out there when I had this realization. It was nothing profound, nothing I didn't already know; but at that moment, my adoration for the ocean was reassured. Floating there, distances from any land formation, looking out at this giant, mysterious pool of water, I felt at ease. And so it came with no surprise that I should have a moment like that while playing in the Atlantic. The oceans, after all, are interconnected. On top of that incredible ocean moment, I also caught the biggest and best wave of my surfing career to date. Riding a wave for more than a second or two was a new experience for me, one that came with a great sense of accomplishment. Even after 3 hours submerged in a December 9th temperatured ocean, I found myself disappointed when it was time to leave. Ditching the board on the beach, we rushed back in for one final wrestle with the waves, a body surf back to shore and a final splash of the Atlantic on our bare faces. The attempt to strip out of those winter wet-suits was an experience of it's own. True teamwork was exemplified by all members of the Wellington Warriors. To sum up the day of surfing; I could have (and probably should have) spent the day studying; however, I wouldn't exchange the experience and the memories from the day for any letter or higher number I will receive on a slip of paper sometime in the future.

Also today, I was blessed with the opportunity to light Sandy's menorah. At eighteen years of age, I feel as if the cultural experience of setting fire to the wick of any of those eight candles was overdue. Now, before Hanukkah is over, all I have left to do is play a game of dreidel.

Later on this evening was a long-overdue Skype date from coast to coast. Computers in Halifax, Calgary, North Van and North Van participated in the event; technical disruptions occurred only ever few seconds. Skype is a handy device to reconnect from distant places, but I cannot wait to see these girls live and in-person in just a few more days!

But now, all good things must come to an end. I am sitting here on the second floor of the Killam library, studying (or attempting, at least) for my human geography exam tomorrow. And so, against my professors suggested study techniques, I memorize facts such as Malthus developed his theory in the 18th Century and Environmental determinism was easily disproved by the idea of possibilism.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A toast to my parents

It's been 25 years today since my parents were married in Taber, Alberta.

December 5th, 1987

At age 18, it's difficult for me to fathom that they have been married for two and a half decades.

There was one drunken night in my dorm room, that my roommate Sandy, Holly and I were talking about our parents.  We thought, genuinely, that we each have the best parents in the world. Technically speaking that is not possible, but in each of our own paradigms, our parents are unbeatable. We talked about how much we have taken for granted what our parents do for us on a daily basis. We talked about how much shit our parents put up with. We talked about how unbelievably hard our parents work for us. We talked about how much constant love and support our parents shower us in. We talked about how our parents would go to the end of the earth and back for us. We talked about how none of us would be here at university without our parents. And most of all, we talked about how much our parents mean to us, even if we don't always show it.

Here's a toast to my amazing parents, and to 25 happy years of marriage!

25th Anniversary trip to Greece, Spain and Turkey.
A Hawaiian luau.
On their daughter's grad night.

Father's Day Quarry Rock Hike 
Rollerblading the Sea Wall
New York, New York
With the Statue of Liberty.
A cute selfy!
Whisler, BC

 I love you Cheech and Terr! See you in 10 days.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Constant Reminders

This is a piece I wrote for the Catching the Spirit blog:

For obvious reasons, every time I spend a substantial amount of time in the wilderness, Catching the Spirit comes to mind. I have just returned from a long-weekend excursion to the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two nights, three days and 38 kilometers of being immersed in nature later, and I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. As my three friends and I pitched our tent in a small clearing in the woods, I thought of the luscious grass beside the nature house at Burnaby Lake. As we filled our bottles with water from Frederick Lake, I thought of the pristine glacier water that flows down the Capilano River. As we told stories around the campfire, I recounted all the amazing people I have met around the campfires I’ve enjoyed with Catching the Spirit. Unfortunately however, we did not sing the “scat song” or entertain ourselves with a friendly game of mafia.

It’s amazing how a program that runs “outdoor experiences for youth” continues to prove itself as being so much more than that. Catching the Spirit comes up in my memory with so many things that I do. It felt strange almost to be camping without waking up to people singing “so glad about it”, without getting our hands dirty working in the BCIT community garden and without canoeing alongside the beaver dams of Burnaby Lake. This camping trip was however, extraordinary. From the moss-covered forest floors to the stretches of birch, oak, beech and spruce trees, the granite bluffs overlooking the many lakes to the giant boulders just asking to be mounted. Nova Scotian landscape is different from anything you’d find in a Metro Vancouver Regional Park, but it is breathtaking in it’s own unique way. I think I can attest much of my love for wilderness to this program, which has instilled a passion within me to be a friend of nature. It may have been CTS that persuaded me to buy that “Campsuds” biodegradable soap to wash my dishes in the lake with instead of polluting the lake with Cascade dish detergent.

When we were isolated from any form of civilization, hungry from the 11.7 kilometers of ground we covered that day and we realize that we had forgotten to bring our camping stove, I knew everything was going to be alright. Many of the people who have been role models and mentors to me over the course of my time peer leading at CTS taught me that every obstacle you run into can be overcome. No matter what misfortune occurs, if you attack things with a positive attitude, they are going to result in better outcomes. Although at CTS we never had to resort to eating solely cold food for an entire weekend, there were times where we had to get creative with our meal plans. Sometimes an ingredient was forgotten or we incorrectly estimated proportions and had to re-think our plans. Catching the Spirit taught me that having to change your plans when things are not working out is not the end of the world. At CTS, when we overestimated our campers’ oatmeal consumption ability, it resulted in the epic Jake vs Mason oatmeal eat-off. With my friends, forgetting to bring our stove resulted in eating oats in cold water... crunchy, and actually quite delicious.

The toughest part for me was at the end of our weekend, not concluding with a tap circle and a big red hug. I have come to the conclusion that no matter where I am in the world, no matter what my age, there will always be things that remind me of the best stewardship program I could have chose to partake in.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Today was a good day.

Just to check in; I am alive and well.

Today as I made my way to the library, I came across an outdoor, secondhand clothing sale on the fallen autumn leaves on the King's campus. Since it's already getting cold here and I can only pretend to be prepared for the winter ahead, I decided that another knitted cardigan couldn't hurt. It's black and white and I love it. And what's even cooler is that the tag on it read, "We are all kinfolk."

It's been a great day, all around. For my sustainability lecture today, we watched a documentary titled, "Peace Out", which examined issues related to alternative energy sources in the North Western Canadian wilderness. A large chunk of the film was filmed in Vancouver; Robson Square, the Olympic Cauldron, Lions Gate Bridge, the Harbour Centre, and even a scene of my backyard mountain, Mount Seymour. The film touched on the universal issues of the growing demand for energy and even compared humans' thirst for energy to the vicious cycle of a drug addiction. The film was thought-provoking and the cinematography was stunningly beautiful. Then, in our Skype discussion after the film with director Charles Wilkinson, he was quoted saying, "The economy should take a hit to our grandkids' future." Bold statement.

Today I turned down a potential summer job opportunity. And after hanging up the phone, I sighed a great sigh of relief. Although I know this job would have been a great experience, I also knew that I would not enjoy working 55-70 hours per week throughout the summer. I knew that this job would develop my managerial skills and would put me "ahead of my classmates", but I also know that I am young and I would like to live a little. There has been talk of a road trip through the Rocky Mountains this summer with Patrick. I have been dreaming of doing the West Coast Trail or the Juan de Fuca trail for ages now... maybe this summer is it? They were claiming I could make $16 000 this summer, but at this stage of my life, I would rather just live.

Today I enjoyed some fresh air and sunshine. Today I ate quinoa. Today was a good day.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

No More Baked Alaska

... that was an Irish Rovers reference. 
♪ "There was green alligators and long-necked geese,
some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees.
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born,
The loveliest of all was the unicorn."  
I jammed to this so hard when I was a child, back in the days of CD's.

I love my sustainability class because this is what I am assigned to read:

This is an excerpt from an New York Times article written by Michael Pollan titled, "Farmer in Chief".

"It will be argued that moving animals off feedlots and back onto farms will raise the price of meat. It probably will — as it should. You will need to make the case that paying the real cost of meat, and therefore eating less of it, is a good thing for our health, for the environment, for our dwindling reserves of fresh water and for the welfare of the animals. Meat and milk production represent the food industry’s greatest burden on the environment; a recent U.N. study estimated that the world’s livestock alone account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined. (According to one study, a pound of feedlot beef also takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce.) And while animals living on farms will still emit their share of greenhouse gases, grazing them on grass and returning their waste to the soil will substantially offset their carbon hoof prints, as will getting ruminant animals off grain. A bushel of grain takes approximately a half gallon of oil to produce; grass can be grown with little more than sunshine."

It was as I was reading through this, and as I think about this awesome girl, Zoë, who I met here, that I decided I am going to try to further reduce my food-generated carbon footprint. Mondays and Wednesdays will, from now on, be Lisa's vegan days. No milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no eggs, no dairy what-so-ever. It's probably easier said than done, but it is going to be done. It's easy while I'm here at school because they have a readily-available vegan option at any time throughout the day; venturing away from campus may prove to be a little more difficult. I am up for the challenge. 

Now I've got myself really thinking... tomorrow, my breakfast will probably consist of cereal with soy milk, a bagel with peanut butter, and a banana or an orange. And of course a glass of orange juice.

Back to my sustainability class... another reason I love the course is because one lecture we discussed this photo [The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1834) by Thomas Cole] and the concept of "a life of contemplation". 

Another lecture, we had "The Spirit of John Muir" come in, and for an hour and a half we simply listened to the tales of John's adventures in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We heard things like, "I decided then, that as long as I lived, I'd hear the birds sing", "I never saw a discontented tree, did you?" and "hiking is a vile word; one should saunter though the wilderness".

The last lecture I sat through for this class was all about civic engagement, tearing down fences, and the antidote to apathy.  Dave Meslin had lots to say about Canadian "democracy", in quotation marks. Anyone who has spoken at a TEDx event gets my attention; take a look...

And that is why I love this class... not because of the upcoming test.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Four hundred and eighty days ago, my thoughts on Halifax.

Four hundred and eighty days ago I sat on top of Citadel Hill listening to Counting Crows, my favourite musical group at the time. Blake and I relaxed there on the lush grass and gazed out at a foreign and fascinating city. Throughout that short trip I remember marching around the quiet streets of Nova Scotia's capital, having my first experience with biscuits and molasses, visiting the Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and sauntering along the boardwalk at the picturesque waterfront. During that vacation, my mind was fixed on the 5-week French immersion program that lay ahead of me, and I was completely oblivious to the fact that in about 15 months I would be back in this city, and not just for another short visit. Little did I know...

Yesterday I arose earlier than my habitual weekend routine to go meet Jesse and Emma at the infamous Halifax farmers' market. Not only was I anxious to see my Trois-Pistoles friends, but also I was looking forward to chatting with someone who knows Halifax to some degree more than my friends living in residence. After visiting both the new farmers' market on the harbour front, and the historic farmers' market located in the building of an old brewery, I felt a great deal more in tune to the Halifax ways of life. Jesse was a great person to wander the markets with because his network within the farming community was vast. It was nearly impossible to walk more than a few meters without sparking a conversation with the next vendor. I've always heard that East-Coasters are some of the friendliest people out there; yesterday proved that to be true. My purchases of the day were limited to a pint of cherry tomatoes and three fresh carrots, but let me tell you, hitting up the farmers market with a wallet full of cash may not be the best idea. Local paintings, jewellery, knitting, ethnic food vendors, Christmas decorations, clothing, photographs... there is no absence of creativity and brilliance within the four walls of that Seaport building.

Later that day, after meeting some friends for a sushi date (and thoroughly enjoying the break from cafeteria food), I found myself reunited with that very place I sat four hundred and eighty days prior. I couldn't be certain because of the density of the fog covering Halifax, but my instincts told me it was the spot. So although the fog prevented any view of the city like I had enjoyed a year before, the moment reminded me very much of sitting there with Blake, listening to Counting Crows, weaving red and white bracelets. This time; however, I was not sitting there with my little brother, the sun was not shining upon our backs, but most importantly the city is no longer a foreign place to me. As I relaxed there on Citadel Hill, I felt this amazing and indescribable sense of belonging... like somehow along the course of my life I made the right decision; I am supposed to be in Halifax.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"no such thing as a setting sun"

Aside from the giant stack of readings that remain unread and the position paper that needs to be converted into APA formatting, my Monday is drawing to a close. A visit to the post office this morning to send the blow-up flamingo to the second destination of his cross-Canada journey. A few hours spent in the Killam library, a trip to the writing centre, three meals in the Howe Hall cafeteria and things are starting to become routine.

Marking the end of Joseph's stay in Halifax. It's been a slice buddy, safe travels.

I asked my roommate today, "Does it feel to you like we've been here for 15 days?" In my mind, I've been here in Halifax for a few months, at least. By no means is this home to me, yet, but it is beginning to feel comfortable.

This weekend was spent clapping and jiving and fist pumping on the grass of the Quad as we enjoyed the sounds of Paper Lions, Yukon Blonde, Jeremy Fisher and Shad. How refreshing is it to attend a music festival composed entirely of Canadian artists? Some of them I enjoyed more than others... and as I told my friend as we migrated back to residence after Shad, "I did more fist-pumping tonight than I ever needed to do." None the less, music and a whole whack of university students on a Friday or Saturday night is a recipe for a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed dancing with my friends during Paper Lions, and even more-so enjoyed hearing Jeremy Fisher's voice of an angel, watching him strum on the guitar so seamlessly (despite string breaking mid-opening-song), listening to the stories from his bike-tour travels, and observing him play that harmonica like no-one else I've seen before... all this while a clear blue sky lingers overhead, while the sun beats down upon my back and the light breeze keeps the air feeling crisp. Although rap is not my genre of choice, I could appreciate, without question, the lyrics spewing out of Shad's mouth:

"It's funny how words like consciousness and positive music
can somehow start to feel hollow.
it's become too synonymous.
We're polishing soft collagen lips, on the face of grace politics,
Well you can't be everything to everyone, so lemme be anything to anyone. 
The world turns and their's clouds sometimes but there's no such thing as a setting sun.
It always keeps shining."

Paper Lions
Jeremy Fisher

Sunday morning consisted of the standard weekend brunch with my beloved, hungover floor-mates, and then up the four flights of stairs to throw on my runners and pull on a sports bra. At 1 o'clock, Doug, Monique and I (team Blue Shoes), participated in Dalhousie's first ever "Terry's Cause on Campus". Essentially, a Terry Fox run on a university campus. The atmosphere was unbelievable; from the warm up Zumba dance to the cool down yoga, and the 5k run in between. Any event put on to raise money or awareness for such a horrible disease is sure to bring out the best of people. High fives from the Dal cross country team as they marked the route and encouraged runners, and finished off with a giant hug from the Tiger as I reached the finish line. If only the atmosphere all around us, at every moment, could be at par with that of a cancer research fundraiser, what a wonderful world we'd inhabit!

Someone asked me today if I missed Vancouver. The short answer is yes; I miss the mountains, I miss my family, I miss the hiking trails, I miss my friends. Then again, when I return back home in a short few months from now, I'm sure I'll be able to say that I miss Halifax just the same.

I apologize for the lack of sunshine, clear blue skies and wind against your faces; but please do enjoy Jeremy Fisher as much as I did that evening at Dalfest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Growing is Forever

Peachland, British Columbia is currently being savaged by the Trepanier forest fire; 1134 people have been evacuated from their homes. Way on the other side of this beautiful country, in St.Johns Newfoundland, hurricane (or "tropical storm") Leslie is leaving people without power, tearing down fences and ripping siding off of houses. With torrential rain and wind like there's no tomorrow, it's a polar opposite from what those in the interior of BC are facing. It seems ironic that the girl I ate breakfast with this morning was on her way to her Natural Disasters class.

On the brighter side, I'm about to head off to Sustainability 1000. This is a course with 300 (mostly first-year) students, coming from sciences, history, commerce, arts, literature, computer sciences, engineering, you-name-it... No matter what the area of interest, people generally have a desire to sustain. As a guy I was chatting with on the weekend pointed out, "I think it should be mandatory for everyone to take sustainability, because if we aren't sustaining our world, then what really are we doing?" Good point.

With all the natural commotion going on throughout Canada and across the globe right now, we might just need a reminder about how incredible our natural world is:


It's September of 2012, the month I begin my university career. My objective in studying ESS (Environment, Sustainability and Society), is be a part- no matter how big, or how small- in assuring that we never see Dr.Suess' quote from the Lorax come true.

"Way back in the days when the grass was still green 
and the pond was still wet 
and the clouds were still clean, 
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space ... 
one morning, I came to this glorious place. 
And I first saw the trees!" 

So as September rolls into full swing; with assignments and readings piling up and stress levels beginning to soar, I am challenging myself -as I am challenging you- to take time to get outside. Not only taking time for yourself; but taking time to enjoy a greenspace, get some fresh air, watch birds sing their songs, get your hands dirty in the cabbage patch, observe the waves of the Atlantic ocean, or take a stroll through the public gardens. Whatever it is; I've made a promise to myself, that if I am ever in need, I will not neglect my desire to get outside... in fact, I will make it a conscious effort. Nature, after all, is what makes us humane.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras

This is a speech I recently wrote for my Dynamics class:

I am a terrible person. In recent weeks, I have inadvertently contributed to the global issue that is child abuse. No, I was not babysitting and smacking the children for bad behaviour or refusing to go to bed, and no I did not deny a child access to their basic human rights; but, I did support an unrecognized form of child abuse. I sat on my couch one evening, watching TLC’s hit TV show, “Toddlers and Tiaras”.

As I sat there in the comfort of my pajamas, with a mug of tea in hands, I watched Holly, a 7 year old beauty pageant contestant getting her legs shaved. Seven years old! When I was seven, I spent my days in my backyard sand box, or playing “house” with my next-door neighbours. Holly, at seven years old is making visits to her aunt’s house so that she can get her monstrously hairy legs shaven. Is this sick, or what? And is it just me, or are seven year-olds’ legs pretty smooth in the first place? Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.

The next episode, I witnessed Karley and Kylie, two sisters from Georgia forcefully being spray tanned by their mother. Karley, age 4, whined “nooooo, I don’t want to” as she ran to the corner of the room away from her mom. Frustrated, the mother said, “I’m gunna count down from three... 3,2”, then afraid of her mom’s temper, Karley gave in, “alright, I’ll do it”! Meanwhile, Karley is bundled in the corner of the room, red faced and puffy eyed. “Look at your white legs; don’t you want them to be pretty?”, the mother asked Karley, and she began spraying her 4 year old daughter with an artificial skin colouring agent. Karley could barely contain her tears, and still her mother tried to justify her actions by saying, “It’s okay, Karley actually likes getting her spray tan.” Yes. That’s exactly what it looked like to me too. Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.

As if I hadn’t seen enough at this point, on another episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, four year old Mackenzie, was heading to “Diva Day” with her mother. Mackenzie’s mother said in an interview, “We set up the chocolate facial... I do believe it will exfoliate and moisturize her skin and brighten her complexion for the pageant.” Mackenzie wasn’t into the whole idea, she would have rather eaten the chocolate used in the making of the facial. It was evident that Mackenzie wasn’t having a good time, and after getting her nails done, her aesthetician stated, “Putting nails on Mackenzie was like putting nails on a Tasmanian Devil!” Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.

            I’m going to go out on a limb and say that child abuse is not considered socially acceptable in our society. So why then, is a show such as Toddlers and Tiaras considered acceptable to watch and even to produce? The show began airing in 2009, and is currently in its 5th season on TLC with 59 episodes aired since its debut. This season the show has expanded, and is also being aired in the United Kingdom. The fact that this show has lasted for 5 seasons, and that it has gained such a fan base that it has been able to air in multiple continents is saddening. A TV show that documents a form of child abuse is gaining popularity.

            A more recent episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras” involving the first boy ever seen on the show, followed the story of how Traven was willing to break the rules in order to walk away with the title of champion in the International ‘Fresh Faces’ Pageant. When his mother asked him how he was planning on winning this pageant if he's not willing to practice, he simply replied, "I just want to cheat!" ... “Good luck, girls," Traven’s mother was quoted saying, "My son is going to get it." And so, on top of all the things we have found that are so morally wrong and unethical about the TLC TV show, we now have seen how competitive these young children have become. And what on earth could make this boy want to win so badly, that he’s willing to cheat... and admit it on national TV? My best guess; pressure from his parents. Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.

            So what ever happened to playing “house”, going for evening strolls to the ice cream store, and getting your hands dirty in the sand box at the playground? These poor beauty pageant princesses are being pressured to hit the stage with wigs, makeup, dental prosthetics and well-rehearsed performances. And now I am left with a few questions; do pressures to look so flawless beginning at such a young age set unrealistic precedence for these children as they grow up? Will this lead to higher rates of anorexia and other eating disorders, or will it lead to higher rates of depression, when kids and youth are unable to achieve these unrealistic standards of beauty? What in the world happened to the notion that internal beauty is what really matters? So many unanswered questions; but one thing I know for sure... Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Just over a week ago, I was getting my hair cut by the friendliest and most outgoing hairdresser I've ever encountered. George must be in his late 50's, and is an immigrant from the Czech Republic.

So as most hairdressers do, George asked me about my life. "What are you planning on doing after high school?" I replied, telling him that I would be studying in the faculty of Management, and majoring in Sustainability. Through the mirror in front of me, I could see the puzzled look on his face. "Sustainability... like, what is that?"

I was shocked. What is sustainability? What isn't about sustainability these days? But I guess I must remember that George is a little bit older than myself, and I must remember that this whole "green movement" is a fairly new concept. So I tried to explain to George what exactly it is that I will be studying. It proved itself to be a difficult task.
In the week following my hair cut with George, I began noticing, in everything I did, a gross number of things relating to sustainability. Each day, I came across at least a few, if not a hand full, of things related to the notion of sustaining our resources.
  • I attended a job interview for a summer camp where we discussed the sustainable food practices of the company
  • at "Bands for Berna" our guest speakers enlightened us on the concept of sustainable development in third world nations
  • in my Lit 12 class, we learned how William Wordsworth may have been the first poet to ever introduce the concepts of consumerism and sustainability
  • in Geography, I watched a PowerPoint outlining methods of alternative energy and compared how sustainable each energy agent is
  • I wrote a cover letter for a sustainable, organic, and fair-trade bistro
  • I engaged in an argument about the sustainable benefits of cutting meat out of your diet
  • I saw a student in the library at school, re-inserting his piece of paper into the printer so that he could use both sides. When someone asked him what he was doing, he replied, "I'm being sustainable."
  • at the CTS Amazing Race, of course there were no plastic water bottles at the finish line, because sustainability is one of the fundamental values of Catching the Spirit
  • as I rode the bus one night, I eavesdropped on a conversation about how busing is becoming the only option for transportation with gas prices being so high... and busing is sustainable!
  • at my DSLC meeting, we discussed how we can make adjustments next year towards more sustainable practices
  • I listened to 2 classmates debate the sustainability of fishing
Sustainability is all around us. Everywhere. Every day. And while I was shocked that George was unsure as to what sustainability is; that also gives me great hope in the direction our world is headed. If only a few generations back, the idea of sustaining our world was unheard of, then to look at how far we've come today, to see how common the concept  has become in our world gives me great faith.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bands for Berna

It's amazing what can be accomplished when a few passionate souls put their minds to it! Last night was the (MOB)ilizer's "Bands for Berna" fundraising event, raising money for our Adopt-a-Village project in Berna, India.

For several months, a small group of (MOB)ilizers dedicated much of their free time to coordinating local musicians, finding an appropriate venue, asking for donations, and advertising their hearts out. It may have been stressful, and we certainly learned a lot throughout; but as we cleaned up the last microphone and counted the last toonie of funds raised, the sense of pride felt was more rewarding than anything else.
It's almost hard to put into words how I feel when I'm with (MOB)ilizers. It's a different feeling than I get from being with my classmates, my sports teams or even my friends. I feel an overwhelming vibe of optimism, I see endless smiles and hear uncontrollable laughter. I engage in thoughtful conversation and share warm-hearted hugs. Sometimes we break into spontaneous sing-alongs or have spur-of-the-moment dance parties. The (MOB)ilizers come from all walks of life, whether you be a 4'9 Brazilian, or an elephant-loving bookworm; it seems like all MOBsters share one common passion. That may be a passion for abolishing local homelessness, or a passion for giving chilren in Kenya the opportunity to receive an elementary level education. Whatever your particular passion may be, on the larger scale every (MOB)ilizer just wants to see something different about our world, and have the motivation to fight for it.

We are the MOB.
We are the MASSES.
We are the MOVEMENT.

And so, after an incredible night of local talent and love that was "Bands for Berna", I left with that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I'm not sure where my MOB road is heading. I'm not sure if I'll be part of the (MOB)ilizers in Halifax next year. I'm not sure if I'll put on that blue and yellow shirt, or crowd pump at We Day. But, just per say, that really was my last ever MOB event... I will always remember that beautiful night and the indescribable feeling I felt afterwards. The (MOB)ilizers, I will hold close to my heart.

(MOB)ilizer Jeka Ayson sets the tone for the evening

Chris Yan and Eric Ma

The Vancouver office staff
Neil Legaspi on his flashy blue guitar
Raffle Prizes!
The Pizza Ladies
Marvelous Masters of Ceremonies

Anna and Ryan from Free the Children and Me to We inspiring the crowd

The Beautiful Jakki Mortlock

(MOB)ilizer Noah Gotfrit on Bass

41st Avenue Tearing Up The Stage
Coming all the way from Bown Island; The Worx
(MOB)ilizers on 3!

Organizer Extraordinaires Shevaun and Yuki


Saturday, June 2, 2012

All Hands on Deck

On Saturday morning, I woke up excited for our Catching the Spirit overnight leadership training; a weekend of team-building, new friendships and magical nature moments. On Sunday, I left Capilano River regional park with more excitement, more unforgettable memories, and higher expectations for the summer than I had ever imagined.

Whether it be the zero waste challenge where every park achieved their zero-waste goal, or the survivor challenge where we were informed that a storm was nearing and we needed to assemble a shelter using very limited resources; whatever the challenge, the Peer Leaders and Mentorvisors were pushing their comfort zones, encouraging one another and putting their leadership qualities to the test. We played one game where four people combined to create a super human; one person was the eyes, one the legs, one the hands and one the ears. Now there is a game that involves communication and utmost trust.

Over my years with CTS, I’ve come to realize that the program really changes depending on the people involved. This year –where only three out of the ten “Mentorvisors” are returning from last year—has an overall different feeling from previous years. This year we have a bat echolocation expert, a master of every campfire song in the books, two devout vegans, one miniature giraffe, and a whole load of passionate bicycle enthusiasts. With so many unique personalities, it’s amazing how united we are as a group. When the Mentorvisors partook in an activity titled “The Leadership Wheel”, the outcome was as follows: all five of the female Mentorvisors (plus Nat, the Program Coordinator) were determined “Nurturers”, and all five of the male variety were dubbed “Sages”, meaning that they are the type of leader who binds all leadership styles together.

During our Saturday night campfire, I took a step back to observed everything that was going on around me; Peer Leaders were discussing visions they had for their summers at camp, some musically minded fellows were in the corner singing, laughing and jamming out on their guitar. There was a supervisor who was exercising abdominal muscles with his hilarious jokes, and at the other side of the pit, there were some Peer Leaders learning more about each other’s personal lives and conversing their plans for post-secondary. I sat back and watched this all unfold, as I realized how strikingly different this group is from previous years. That is what I love; year after year, I could come back to CTS and never lose interest, because it is not so much about the program itself, but about the people involved. It just goes to show that CTS’s motto couldn’t be more accurate; “run by youth for youth”. And as Nat always reminds us, “this is your program, guys”.

So when the summer rolls around each year, and when people ask me where I’m off to for the weekend, they give me blank stares as I answer, “Catching the Spirit”. I take great pride in explaining to them what exactly that is. No it is not just any summer camp, and it is not even just an environmental stewardship summer camp. Honestly, when they ask, I could explain it to my friends as being anything I want it to be. And in a few weekends from now when the Burnaby Lake leadership team gets together for our in-park training, we will use everything we’ve learned about teamwork, sustainability, communication, trust, self-awareness, goal-setting, stewardship, empowerment… etc, to create a plan for our summer that is magical, exciting, unforgettable, but most of all, everything we want it to be.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Salt Spring

Keeping true to tradition, my mother and I experienced some interesting public transit adventures during our weekend getaway to Salt Spring Island. This time it was a crew of teenage hippies, reeking of alcohol, unable to pay their two-dollar bus fair, carrying saxophones and trumpets, sporting dreadlocks and tie-die headbands, speaking of their camping trip ending in a run-in with the police, and causing the bus driver to get up and say, "we're going to have to keep the language civil in here." Like always, we enjoyed the people watching on the local public transit.

Also throughout the course of the three days, we met Dan and Brad, the two bus drivers of the island. And between the two of them, we managed to visit all three "towns" on Salt Spring. Ganges, Fulford and Vesuvius... some of them were more town-like than the others.

My mom decided, like she often does when travelling with me, that she would have a veggie weekend. I'm sure glad she did, because if you're not vegan, a raw-foodie, an organic lover, or into gluten-free foods, you might find it hard to come across a meal you'd enjoy on Salt Spring.

The highlight for me- where I had one of those unforgettable nature moments- was hiking through what seemed like a Shishkin Ivan painting. The picturesque beauty of the forest was so pronounced that as I walked through it, I imagined a painting hanging on the wall, above the fireplace in an old English home. I imagined seeing two little people; my mother and I, marching through that painting. My mom laughed, "kinda like the pictures in Harry Potter?" As funny as it sounds, that's honestly how I felt.

And then of course we did some biking. Each night, on a bloated stomach, we'd trudge up the steep hill to the hotel on our bikes; or more realistically, hauling our bikes alongside us. The following morning we'd speed down the hill, this time with gravity on our sides, but the weather certainly not. At one point I was wishing I had goggles on my face so that my eyes could remain open while my body flew down the hill.

Finally, after 18 years of living in British Columbia, I have officially seen everything there is to see on Salt Spring Island.
Salt Spring socks at the Saturday market.

Endless amounts of all-natural, organic soaps.

Live entertainment at the Saturday market.

Another local artist.
A shoeless musician.
The marina.
Literally built with a tree planted in the centre. Our dining choice on night 1.

Slower driving campaign.

Biking the boardwalk.

Stopping for a picnic.

A sweet tree.

The photo I took while getting rid of the hiccups.

Self timers... after a couple of failed attempts.
Waiting for the bus.

Some crazy bug's web.

The friendly wildlife.

The Hastings House... featured in Patricia Schultz's 2003 bestselling book "1,000 Places To See Before You Die"

Being a rebel.

Mud covered faces after biking in the rain to the ferry.