Opportunities

I waited for an hour in the cold this evening to get into a last minute event at the Vogue Theatre downtown. It was a casual program that seemed to flow and glide through the night… Amanda Palmer who hosted the event calls it a “ninja gig” and the beauty in the uncertain and unexpected inspired me. She was attending the TED conference in Vancouver and she organized a few other musicians who were performing at TED, to put on a free show to raise money for the Vancouver Food Bank. 

 

My favourite part of the night was when Imogen Heap came on stage and sang a capella with the audience cooing the part “just for now, just for now, just for now…” Another favourite was when a young musician studying at Berkeley performed a talented gig on his guitar that was like playing piano on his guitar…then followed by a young lady who was a sound engineer who made incredible sounds and music with her mouth and found objects, artfully crafted by technology.

 

On the way home I thought about how these musicians were not only talented but were intuitive and genuine with their instruments. They expressed their ideas and opinions and emotions through their music. That’s what made it so powerful. I realized that in my new role as a music teacher next term, I will be privileged to be part of my students’ personal journey to begin viewing our music as an outlet for expression. I want them to love music for the potential it has to free our soul. It is my greatest wish that someday they will become part of a gathering like the one tonight at the Vogue, where their music and their presence is a testament to how influential music is to community. 

 

Other amazing people we saw tonight… Sarah Kay the slam poet , Chris Hadfield the astronaut guitarist who performed Space Oddity, and Bora Yoon who was the sound engineer above mentioned who performed something like this. Finally, Amy Cuddy who spoke on the power of body language, was there and all 11,000 or so of us did power poses in the theatre. 

 

I remember watching her video last year before practicum, and it really helped me get through the toughest parts of student teaching, and then teaching as a substitute teacher. It was so, so neat to see these people who I watched on TED Talks appear on stage tonight. 

Commonwealth Conference

For the last six years I have been involved with hosting the Commonwealth Conference and I have not appreciated it as much as I did this year. I feel extremely proud of all the components of our conference this year, engaging delegates in debate, diplomacy, and reporting skills. The response from our students this year was extremely positive. Students were very thorough this year, and it was a feat to coordinate our largest ever conference (90 students in one committee!). 

 

Here is the live news blog where our delegates published their articles during our debate sessions. The most recent articles are testimonies of their positive experiences participating in the mock CHOGM this year. 

http://vancouverchogm2013.wordpress.com/

a beautiful day

Since I got back from Uganda, my team and I have been working together to fundraise money to send back to Busolwe, Uganda, to continue the kindergarten project that we started there. Today, the school is a registered primary school, and offers five different grades including our original Kindergarten. It is called Mango Grove School. The advantage that our school offers for our students is that it is attached to the community library, which means that teachers have more resources to teach the students, encouraging them to be creative and love reading. We have raised over $3,000 with Cedar Grove Elementary School since last year, and today we did our second presentation at Irwin Park Elementary School.

Our presentation is 30 minutes long and includes pictures and video clips of a few of the things we did in Busolwe for the Kindergarten project. Our presentation script tells the stories of the children who live in Busolwe. We want to share the story of the students in Busolwe with students here, to give them a peek into the lives of children halfway around the world. The purpose of sharing their stories is not just to fundraise money to support the school in Busolwe. We also hope to inspire some students to be thankful for what they have and perhaps one day also go abroad to interact with other cultures.

All the students were so attentive during our presentation– they really enjoyed hearing about daily life and school of the people we knew in Busolwe. We showed them the pictures of the classroom before we painted and renovated it, right before the picture of our completed classroom, and their response was so heartwarming… they started to applaud. We then showed an even more recent picture of the classes set up there now, and it made me so happy to hear them “oooh” and “ahhh” at the progress that Mango Grove School has made. All in all, I think that knowing that they have a story of Africa that is different from the story of poverty and disease that many charities depict is fulfilling enough for me.

Today was a beautiful day. The weather was the perfect backdrop to the many acts of kindness and wonderful interactions I shared with friends and strangers all day long. Vancouver can be such a wonderful place to live in. On my way home, a girl about my age was crying at the bus stop and was afraid to approach my bus driver for directions. She was clearly lost, physically and emotionally. My driver encouraged her to calm down, then promised that he would help her get to where she needed to go, right after giving her a free ticket transfer. I think if it weren’t for this kind driver, she would have been wandering around lost, all night. She was just waiting for someone to reach out their hand to her. Apparently it was her first time taking the bus, ever, so clearly she needed to get away from somewhere quick. I hope that her night turns out okay. At least she knows that a stranger cares enough to listen to her and promise to get her help if she needed it.

It’s been a long week. I haven’t seen my close friends in so long. There are so many overdue coffees and lunches, it’ll be such a relief when I finish my exams. At least then I won’t need to worry about them on top of teaching and trying to accumulate enough work hours.

familiarity

It is when staring off into space that I feel most connected with myself. On the bus, I do this. It is as if my mind is thinking on another dimension, and in the moment that I slow down and just sit and listen to myself, I realize how focused I have been on the physical reality of the world. It is easy to ignore thoughts– but never the emotional ripples (sadness, yearning, nostalgia, hope)– in the grinding pace of daily schedules. Perhaps ignore implies too much control (should/could be misplace, forget, disregard, instead?).

These are the tenses that define us now: past tense, back then; future tense, not yet. We live in the small window between them, the space we’ve only recently come to think of as still, and really it’s no smaller than anyone else’s window. (Atwood, Moral Disorder)

Buses mean a lot to me. It’s been constant (the lines always run along the same streets, minus a few detours here and there). When I snap back to reality, I realize that I’ve been staring at a row of grey, plastic loops that thousands of people hold onto throughout the week. Each of those people in their own worlds, holding on until they let go and ring or buzz the bell and leave and touch the next thing. It is that connection that I love about bus systems, in all the cities I’ve been to, but especially my Vancouver; That people sit in a seat that another person has sat, with a completely different story (or eerily similar, as chance often humours so). That people from all different cultures and countries and personal backgrounds are on one bus, each going to a similar destination (same bus line, after all), yet lead such different lives based on tiny nuances.; That busses pass through so many different neighbourhoods, shaped differently by History (and continuously so by different stories); That so many personalities come together on a bus, reacting and acting according to how they have done so in their past, now reflecting and demonstrating to everyone else what ‘normal’ should be, or not; That commuters form a little society of their own, representative of the greater society.

And I snap out of that moment, of relishing all the things I appreciate about being part of a city in the bloodstream system called Translink, and I start compulsively checking my Blackberry, changing my songs on my iPod every few minutes, texting, reading, checking Facebook, and it’s back to living in the ‘now’, as if I zoomed back into my (irrelevant, small, egotistical, shallow, little) world and that holistic moment of appreciation and feeling of membership (or city-zenship, pun intended) passes.

[I got off the bus, and]

…[t]he sun is piercing through the pouring drizzle of rain. Not pouring rain, not drizzling rain. A downpour of floating drizzles of rain. These sun’s rays reflect off the fiery leaves of the trees along the street. Today has been characteristic of Vancouver autumn: waking up to a warm cocoon (my bedsheets unconsciously, increasingly more wrapped around me throughout the night), fighting the urge to stay in bed all day, grabbing a quick coffee in my to-go cup (Vancouver is a green city), speed walking to the bus stop in the morning rain… fast forward to the chilly afternoon, the downpour of rain (I resolved to baking cookies and making myself a cup of tea by this point in my day), and finally the piercing rays of sun to wish us goodbye and a happy dreary next five months. In the time it took me to write this paragraph, the sun has disappeared behind more rain clouds.

—-

What madness is, a seemingly random collection of objects and places we see in our daily city lives, represents our familiarity with a place that we recognize as home. Landmarks, to an extent, are only really recognized by those who live within that place. We see the same park and bus benches, new and abandoned bus stops, buildings and street lamps, littered throughout the city (/who doesn’t sigh with relief while confirming that the bus stop bench at Third/ and Arbutus is still there… [Harris, The town is so damned rational]); these objects intersect the lives of Vancouverites. (Chiang, 2011)

“Without familiarity, your rational town becomes less so. In contrast/complement, without familiarity, outsiders seek rationality but only find the irrational.” (Duffy, 2011)

homesickness

 

June 20, 2011- 3:45pm
the afternoon rain (Uganda)

The sky darkens, and a cool breeze refreshes the sweaty afternoon. The clouds roll in casually, not intrusively this afternoon, and begin to sprinkle the dusty ground with cold droplets of water. The light drizzling wafts a clean smell into the library, and I am no longer drowsy with sleep. It smells like home, like a light rainy day in Vancouver.

September 19, 2011
Two days ago I walked out into a drizzling Saturday morning. It reminded me of something familiar, and it wasn’t just the familiarity of Vancouver. I guess it reminded me of the moments I remembered home, when I was away from home. How beautiful. Who knew I would miss Busolwe the same way I missed Vancouver? And now, they are both part of who I am.

Staying grounded

Listening to: Give a Little More by Maroon 5

The thing I struggle with the most is staying objective and honest about things in my life. I am learning to be neutral and not so emotionally invested in everything. I appreciate all the honest feedback from the people around me.

It’s really hard to keep in touch with many of my close friends each year because of changes in circumstance. I am always moving fast to get closer to my ‘future’, and because of this I engage in regret to relive the past that I often hastily moved from. I push for the truth, and yet I can be too sensitive to it. I say I am honest to everyone, but I don’t think I am honest enough with myself. It’s difficult to be in touch with ‘me’, because I am still unsure of who that is.

Lately a series of events have gotten me to redefine my goals, but more specifically. I know what I am passionate for, and it is up to me to work towards that with a strong personality and an open mind to learn. Instead of putting myself down, I will work to shift how I view things. I need to stop putting others over myself so much. There are a lot of things that I haven’t yet learned from life, but at least I know I have the toolkit to deal with them honestly and openly. I am going to put myself first when it matters. I am working to dedicate my life to others, as an educator. I want to promise myself a year or two off, to travel and work in rural villages as a teacher. Three years from now: I want to be involved with Teachers without Borders.

(en) Uganda Location (he) מיקום אוגנדה

Image via Wikipedia

I am going to Africa in 30 days. Travelling will be a good space for me to just spend time with myself. Teaching and learning in the Uganda communities will be a wonderful way for me to engage in what I’m most passionate for: education, and the reading culture. I look forward to my plane ride out of Vancouver, my home. I think that I will appreciate home much more after my trip. Or perhaps, I will be drawn to the excitement and flexibility of travelling space and time zones.

I am five exams and a summer away from my senior year at UBC.

At Quiet

My hairstylist once shared with me her insights on travelling: that it was a space, completely personal, where you are allowed to discover who you are without the usual definitions we are unknowingly being constrained by our friends and family at home. I think of that advice often; I think that’s a big reason why I applied for the ISL trip. Lately I began to feel the effects of working both days on the weekends: Saturday privately tutoring, Sunday at the library. On Fridays I inwardly groan at the start of the weekend… which is definitely not what weekends were made for. I can’t say I dislike my part- time occupation, though. I know that I am training myself and preparing myself for skills I’ll definitely use in my future career. And honestly, I learn a lot from what I teach. I don’t think I can separate myself from the daily lives of my young students… it is definitely rewarding to see them grow up.

I look forward to my stay in Uganda, because though I will be operating on a 9-5 workday schedule, I will have weekends to myself. Already I have plans to unwind and explore the beautiful country.. The other day during our Myers- Briggs typology team meeting, I was explained another perspective of “introverted” and “extrovert”. According to the MBTI, these terms are defined by your personal preference to ‘recharge’ your energy. For example, extroverts seek the recharge from loud environments, while introverts seek private space and quietude. I am an extrovert in my personality, in social settings, but when I need to reflect, I retreat retreat retreat. I don’t think I’ve ever acknowledged my introverted self this way.

It’s Sunday noon and I am typing away at a Starbucks in Vancouver.. there is so much fulfillment in that, to me. I do love spending time with myself; I don’t do it often enough. That said, I also miss my conversations with close girlfriends: ER, IL, and KL, especially.

Spring is settling in Vancouver, and I am welcoming it today with splashes of colour in my outfits. Spring has a specific smell and feel here in our city… I love it so much. Summer follows, with the calming mood that reminds me of all the beach days spent each year. I think I will miss that the most when I am away. I know I will be homesick.

The feeling of being “at peace” with oneself is fulfilling, because you feel like you have righted something. I wonder if there is such a term as being “at quiet” with oneself, when you simply listen to what your heart wants… it’s the quiet reflective conversation you have with yourself to make sure you are staying true to who you are. I think to be “at peace”, one must make time to be “at quiet” with him/herself. Shhhhhh.

Listen to silence, it is wise.