Thursday, June 30, 2011


Can I say I am more Canadian since landing on the East Coast of Canada for the first time?

Last night I tried molasses on my biscuit, apparently a Nova Scotian thing. Strange, but surprisingly good.

I woke up at 10 o'clock this morning... who does that when they're travelling? So little time, so much to do. But I guess the fact that it was only 7am at home might explain things. When I looked out the window this morning, I was rather confused. Had we left Vancouver? Fog filled the sky, much like your average morning in Vancouver.

So we layered up in our rain jackets and took off for the day. First stop: Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. To be honest, it was boring. I'm not really a museum person, but overall, just not an interesting museum.

The one topic that I was interested in was an exhibit called "Hello Sailor!" Gay Life on the Ocean Wave. My initial thought was that I'd be learning about the tragedies that homosexuals on board the ships had to endure, but I was pleasantly surprised. The exhibit was in fact about the "gay heavens" that were these boats. Many men looked to the sea for an escape from the homophobic attitudes they were experiencing on land. There were stories about men who were openly gay at sea, but upon returning to their wives they fell into a state of depression. It was explained that for entertainment, gay and straight men alike put on drag shows for their personal fun at first, and later as shows for their passengers. On some boats, over 50% of the crew was gay, and they were accepted for it. Lesbian women, however, not so much.

After not being too impressed with that museum, what do we do but head to a second museum. This one was much more interesting however. It was the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 where thousands upon thousands of immigrants arrived from overseas. Blake and I got our picture under the door where our great grandparents made their first steps onto Canada (known as the land of milk and honey apparently?). Am I ever grateful that they decided to make that move. Canada Day is tomorrow and my Canadian pride is apparent.

Probably my all time favorite exhibit was in that museum; Revolutionizing Cultural Identity. Kip Fulbeck, a professor at the University of California is the creator of this fascinating piece called "The Hapa Project". Hapa: once a derogatory term stemming from the Hawaiian word "half", but is now embraced by many whose mixed racial heritage includes Asian descent.

Kip took pictures of the bare head and shoulders of over 1200 people from all walks of life. With nothing covering their shoulders and little to no makeup hiding their face, we could see these people for who they are. Under their picture was their ethnic backgrounds and a handwritten blurb from each of them answering the question "What are you?". The answers were diverse. Many straightforward and many clever. One of the cuter ones was a young Chinese, Danish boy, "I am part Chinese and part Danish. I don't like to tell people I am Danish though, because they think I'm a pastry."

A Chinese, Japanese, German, Hungarian, English wrote "I am a person of colour. I am not half-"white". I am not half-"Asian". I am whole "other"."

One Japanese, French, Irish lady replied "I am millions of particles fused together making up a far less than perfect masterpiece. I am the big bang."

It might have been the simplicity of this exhibit, or the fact that it is relevant today; not history from 70 years before I was born, but there was something about this exhibit that made it fascinating.

If I had to answer the question, "What are you?" I would probably answer with a Doctor Suess quote "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." Gotta love Doctor Suess. He says things like they are.

From there we went on a nice long trek (after Dad had promised it was a short little walk) to the Dalhousie campus. A good friend of mine, Taylor Quinn, is heading there in September to study international relations. I was thinking of him as we walked through the campus of the school founded in 1818, the largest school in the Maritimes and one of the oldest post-secondary institutions in Canada. But I was also thinking of him all day actually, because tonight, as the world tunes in to watch William and Kate arrive for their Canadian tour, Taylor will be in Ottawa to have dinner with not only them, but the Prime Minister, the Governor General and Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children. Taylor was invited to represent the youth of Canada. I couldn't think of a better person to give this opportunity to; he is more than deserving of it.

And to finish off the day- because the Halifax Citadel we were hoping to visit was closed- I sat on the deep green, and freshly watered grass of the hill that overlooks the city and it's harbour listening to Counting Crows and repeating the motion of threading a red and white bracelet. Serenity.

Tomorrow is Canada and we are off to Peggy's Cove.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Fabulous Five

School's out! And it feels good.

I can now do some of the things I enjoy, that I haven't had time to do for a while.

Number one: read some of my favourite blogs. (yes, I'm a geek).

One of my all time favourites is "From the Trenches of Adoption" , written by Valerie Rieben, an amazing mother of eight (yes, 8) children. And we've just heard news that number nine and ten will be joining the family shortly- two boys from Bulgaria with Down Syndrome will be given the gift of love and family.

Of Valerie and Richard's children, three are adopted from Bulgaria, one from Ukraine, one from Uzbekistan and a set of biological triplets of their own. Now that is one amazing family. As if that weren't enough, all of their adopted children have mental or physical disabilities. How this woman has time to blog, I'll never know. But I do know that she is one super human. She has given hope and joy to 5 kids who have been given up on. "When we look at him, we do not see disability. We simply see a precious little boy who desperately needs a family to love him and help him reach his full potential." -Valerie Rieben

Joshua was born with a rare birth defect called phocomelia, which affected the growth of his legs in the womb and left him with legs that end just below his hips. Evan was born with a rare birth defect called Arthrogryposis that is characterized by joint contractures and results in muscle weakness and fibrosis.

Small world, because my good friend Grace Brulotte from the Students Live 2010 crew, also has Arthrogryposis... and she blogs! "Disabled and Living in the Real World" is another one of my favourites.

This post is inspired by an philosophy of Valerie's:
"Several years ago I started keeping a "joy journal." At the end of each day, I would write down five things that had happened that day that made me smile. I called them my Fabulous Five."

What a great idea. I have so many things to be thankful for, but rarely take the time to reflect upon them. Here is my "Fabulous Five" of today:

1. The fact that I was in my pajamas until 5pm today. I normally prefer to be busy and always on the go, but everyone needs those lazy days; especially after 10 straight months of school.

2. Vancouver weather. It was a torrential downpour for a while this morning... but not to worry, 20 minutes later it was sunny and 17 degrees. It's the best of both worlds for our beloved plants and forests.

3. StumbleUpon. Recently a friend of mine introduced me to this fabulous concept of "Stumbling". It's an amazing time waster, but you come across a lot of wonderful things. For example:

Here is a list of popular sayings or “Seuss-isms” from Theodore Geisel “Dr. Seuss”.

1. A person’s a person, no matter how small.
2. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.
3. Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.
4. From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.
5. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
6. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.
7. If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.
8. I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.
9. So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
10. And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.

I also "Stumbled Upon" this:

Too funny!

Back to the Fabulous Five....

4. New York had news today that made me smile. The NY governor signed the same-sex marriage bill into a law. This new law has doubled the number of Americans living in a state where gay and lesbian marriages are legal! Hopefully other states will follow. What an amazing step towards equality. We are moving forward.

5. Mom and me time. We went shopping today for the first time in a while. Not that I particularly enjoy shopping, but spending time with my mom is always (mostly) delightful. We indulged in the best caramel apple I've ever tasted. We laughed over pick up lines in my French phrasebook. We belted out "Hallelujah" on the ride home- slightly out of tune might I add.

I'm very grateful for all these things. It's the little things that we too often take for granted, so I think I just might regularly record my "Fabulous Five".

Thanks Valerie!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Examination: an assessment intended to measure ones' knowledge

Typical me. I'm only blogging because it's somewhat of a decent excuse for not studying.

This morning I wrote my French exam. I am not an exam person. Quite frankly, I don't know too many people that do well on exams. Sitting in a gymnasium with 200 plus students, listening to the floors creak as teachers patrol the room is not my idea of a comfortable learning environment. Listening to the clock tick second by second, trying to recall the details from that lecture on Canadian Autonomy we had back in October. It's a nightmare.

There's been a lot of talk lately about "untests", and the concept that in a number of years, tests may be obsolete. Of course, as a part of school, there needs to be some form of testing your knowledge. But is cramming for an exam, only to forget everything a few days later the best way to do it? I hope not. I'm very optimistic that my generation will be one of the last ones to be forced to use the cram and forget formula. In the near future I hope our education system can be reformed into one that is based on interactive and personalized learning, where we've developed a better way to test knowledge than a multiple choice bubble sheet.

A man known for his utmost intelligence and brilliance, even wasn't thrilled with his education:

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." -Albert Einstein

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school." -Albert Einstein

There was one thing I did enjoy about my French exam this morning. No, not that I'm done French forever like the mindset that got most of the other kids through the exam. The further I got into it, the more and more excited I became to head off to a Francophone town this summer to embark on a journey of French-learning and friend making. While writing my 150 word composition on what attributes make a good friend, I realized that I really do know more French than I sometimes think I do. I'm so excited to be forced to use my 7 years of French to communicate. It will be difficult, but I'm always up for a challenge. Frederick Wilcox once said "Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."

I love when how when I searched images of "Trois-Pistoles" many of the images on the first page were of hockey arenas. I think TP and I might get along just fine.

Here are some photo's of the place I will call home for 5 weeks this summer:

And this photo makes me outright ecstatic to be spending my summer here.

Well, I've procrastinated long enough, I should probably get back to studying. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Here's what I have to say about the fantastic Vancouver (MOB)ilizers:

On that first MOB meet and greet on Granville Island where we got to know eachother, and then proceeded to flash mob in the park, I knew that we were going to have a amazing year. After only that one day I could feel the community we were forming. Then there was We Day, Halloween for Hunger, Gandhi Loves to Rave, and my personal favourite the Vow of Silence. With every new fundraising or awareness campaign, I felt closer and closer to the other (MOB)ilizers, and I felt as if I was doing amazing things for our world. Some days, when I was stressed beyond belief, or losing my sanity, I would remember those moments where we stood silent for 2 hours in those friged tempuratures or that day that we pumped up a crowd of global citizens. Some days, the (MOB)ilizers kept me sain. I love you all dearly, and thank each and every one of you for what you have done for me.

Mad MOB love,
and look forward to seeing everyone back next year!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dear Mr. Harper

Here's one of my favourite school projects I've ever done: a letter to our Prime Minister.

Dear Mr. Harper,

As a Canadian citizen, I believe Canada needs to live up to its agreement as signed in the Kyoto Accord. After reading up on greenhouse gas emissions and learning that Canada is the third worst polluter on the planet, I was shocked. I thought Canada was really advanced when it comes to environment and sustainability, but that’s when I realized that we, as everyday citizens are, and it is in fact our government that is holding us back.

I am only 17 years old, and I may not have quite the knowledge about these issues, but what I do know is that it is my generation that will be most significantly affected as a result of our careless actions. I have been fascinated growing up in this revolutionary era where social media, and the “green” movement are taking over. I have seen more businesses and companies taking on green initiatives, and more environmental organizations being uprooted than I ever could have imagined. Now when people think of Canada, we think of living in a democratic society where the people are represented in parliament, but I have a question for you. Why is it that we citizens are putting so much effort and passion into these movements, and the Canadian government isn’t acting upon it?

Recently I took a school trip to New York where I was amazed by the buzz of the city, but more dominantly disgusted by the horrible condition they’re in environmentally. It was during that trip that I truly realized how appreciative of the clean air, the forests, the mountains and oceans we have here in British Columbia. It’s all fine and dandy now, but what happens in the future when our astonishing natural world is destroyed by the apathy of our government? Then I will no longer be able to look outside and say I am proud to live in such an amazing country, because I will be so regretful of the fact that we could have done something, but instead we didn’t. And this is why we have to act, now.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that greenhouse gas levels are higher than they ever have been before; or at least what has been observed over the past 20 million years. Our earth’s average temperature has drastically increased too. This is definitely not a natural fluctuation; it is result of humans diligently burning oil and coal, and destroying forests. The current Kyoto round for Canada calls for a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 6%. Six percent really isn’t impossible to achieve. Yes, it will be a challenge, but I’ve witnessed an action plan much like this. During Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics, we reduced car traffic by something like 30%. Now we’re only talking 6% here, and if we’re not up for that challenge, than really what are we up for?

CTV News, the Toronto Star and the National Post have all named you as the “anti-environmental Prime Minister of Canada”. I don’t know how you feel about that title, but if I were you, I would not like that, and I would do all that is in my power to change that. The changes that could be done would not only help your reputation, but also the rest of Canada, and the entire planet.

You once said, “We think the deal itself, Kyoto, is simply bogus.” and in a sense, you are indeed right. Kyoto is just a tiny step towards sustainability; however, refusing to even take that first step guarantees failure. When George Bush refused to sign the Kyoto climate change treaty, Australian Senator, Bob Brown began to boycott U.S. oil. So indeed, there are significant economical advantages to Kyoto as well.

In relation to Alberta’s oil industry, many people believe if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, people will be consuming less oil, therefore Alberta will sell less oil and make less profit. I however believe that is backwards, I believe the solution is to use more efficient cars and machines that use less oil, which means our natural resource, oil, will last longer, and remain generating revenue for a longer period of time. Oil prices will be able to be raised, because of the fact that their customers are saving money from using more efficient vehicles. In the long run, oil producers would make more money for the same amount of oil.

In terms of saving tax money, much of the ever evolving illnesses and diseases of our world are due to environmental causes. The reason for many of these new-found cancers are because of toxins in our air, water and food. If we take more care of our air, water and food, we could be spending less tax money on health care and medical treatments.

Since Al Gore, arguably one of the most influential people in this environmental revolution, won the prestigious Nobel peace prize, global warming deniers have quickly died off. After all the science, studies and research gone into it, it is almost impossible to deny the fact that this is a huge issue. This is why I get slightly frustrated when I hear comments from you like, “Let’s forget about this unworkable treaty… Kyoto’s never going to be passed.” and “Carbon dioxide which is a naturally occurring gas vital to the life cycles of this planet.”

Have you watched the news lately? There has been an abnormally high number of “natural” disasters. I put natural in quotations because they really aren’t that natural at all, they are the byproduct of our actions and decisions. They really are environmental disasters, not “natural” disasters. And you can’t tell me that these disasters that are killing thousands of people, destroying people’s homes and destroying our world, is something that we can just ignore. We need to take action, now.

One way or another, the decisions you make today will seriously affect the future of our country and world. And although you may not be here to witness the consequences, I probably will, or your kids, or my grandkids.

I as an active Canadian citizen would like to encourage you, Prime Minister of Canada to live up to the agreement as signed in the Kyoto Accord.

Thank you for your time and understanding.


Lisa Odland
high school student in North Vancouver, British Columbia