Wednesday, November 16, 2016

United Against Seismic Testing


This is the beautiful hamlet of Kanngiqtugaapik (Clyde River), Nunavut which I had the great privilege of visiting in July.







In just over two weeks, on November 30, 2017, the community will stand before the Supreme Court of Canada to oppose seismic blasting in their waters. The Canadian government failed to properly consult with the community (as required by law) before granting permits for companies to blast the Arctic in search of oil.

Seismic blasting threatens all life in the Arctic. Powerful air cannons emit huge blasts of sound to penetrate the seabed every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in search of oil deposits. These explosions disrupt migration paths of marine animals like narwhals, belugas, and bowhead whales. 

For millennia, Inuit have lived in harmony with the land and sea in the Arctic region. They are determined to keep their sustainable culture alive. Seismic blasting is a direct threat to the healthy marine life on which Inuit depend.

I stand for Indigenous rights. Tell the Canadian government to stand with Clyde River and uphold their commitment to protect Inuit rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Strength is in numbers: "Please join us in the battle to protect our community." - Jerry Natanine, Clyde River, Nunavut www.savethearctic.org/en-CA/clyde-river/

This is a great article featured in UpHere magazine on "Breaking the Silence": www.uphere.ca/articles/breaking-silence

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Education is a pathway to liberation.


Here we are, five years after starting my studies in the academy. Ninth semester of paper writing, group projects, quizzes, readings, exams, etc.

And yet here I am, 9:59PM on Thursday night, just getting a start on my assignment worth 25% of my final mark, due tomorrow at 8:30AM. And not only that, but I am doing anything I can - like writing on my blog - to distract me from the task at hand. I'm even interested in the topic I'm writing on. It's about Blind Sports Nova Scotia and it's capacity for community building. I love those things. But oh so sick of academia.

I feel like a cog in this institutional machine. I spend hours on end pounding away at the keyboard, strain my eyes staring at the fluorescent backlight of this computer screen. Then sometime next week or in the next few, I'll get a notification on a website that assigns a number to the quality of my work. I'll either smile or curse for a passing moment, and then it will be done.

I'm not saying that I'm utterly unfulfilled. I have gratitude for this opportunity I am privileged enough to have. Especially in light of yesterday's National Day of Action - yesterday I marched through the streets in solidarity with my comrades all across the country, my fellow students; many of whom are struggling to afford to eat, some of whom are $38,000 in debt thanks to the pursuit of higher education, and many of whom are suffering from mental health issues because of the demands of tying to juggle two part-time jobs while keeping up with their coursework. These are the reasons we march.

Tuition Fee Increases 
(all data taken from the Canadian Federation of Students website: www.cfs-fcee.ca)
Cuts to public funding for postsecondary education by the Canadian government has resulted in dramatic tuition fee increases. Tuition fees in Canada have increased by more than 137 per cent since 1990. In justification of these increases, both governments and education institutions have conspired to build a narrative that post-secondary education is a privilege and a personal benefit. We know better than this. We know that this user-fee model of education benefits only the affluent. The catastrophic cost of post-secondary education is pushing away students from lower-income families from accessing higher education and skills training.

Student Debt 
With rising tuition fees forcing no other choice for students to rely on loan-based financial assistance, student debt is at record high levels. The cumulative amount owed to the Canada Student Loan program today is over $19 billion and is increasing at a rate of almost a million dollars per day! With the average education-related debt at $28,000 for graduates from an undergraduate program, it is the lowest-income students who end up paying the most for their education as they must repay both tuition fees as well as the accumulated interest on their loans. These drastic levels of debt impact the life decisions graduates will make for years to come, like starting a family, buying a house, etc. which are all things that will stimulate our economy.


Marching Down Spring Garden Road
Photo Cred: Patrick Fulgencio

Women Warriors of the Nova Scotia Student Movement
Photo Cred: Patrick Fulgencio

Yesterday we marched to demand for universal access to education, education justice, and public education. Universal access, meaning that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from; each and every person would have access to higher education and skills training without barriers. Education justice, because the students who are being priced out of post-secondary are disproportionately racialized, Indigenous, queer, people of low-income families, and people with disabilities. That is not right, and our education system must not perpetuate the marginalization of these communities. And lastly, public education because education benefits society as a whole. Education stimulates economies.

What is so inspiring about the student movement is that women are at the forefront - especially trans women, black women, and radicalized women. Also in the forefront are our Indigenous brothers and sisters, drumming away as we march down unceded and unsurrendered Mi'kmaq territory.

The amazing chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Bilan Arte, says:
"We need a post-secondary education system that dismantles barriers instead of building them, A crucial first step is the fight for free education."  

Education is a pathway to liberation.


And so, here I am, now 10:44PM with that assignment still due tomorrow at 8:30AM, with such polarizing feelings. I value this education so tremendously, and yet I am doing everything in my power to avoid the research required to write this paper. Hmmm.. our minds are hard to understand.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Adventure Log


Eight and nine year old children can be coerced into writing in a daily journal only if there is a much more enticing name to call it. Where it is lame to keep a diary, it can be almost cool, as a eight or nine year old, to record in an Adventure Log.

That word - Adventure - implies fun, thrill, exploration, risk, discovery,... 

I believe there is a natural thirst for Adventure inside all of us. We seek experiences that are fun, thrilling, risky, and lead to discovery. Children love Adventure. Their sense of curiosity means that they gravitate towards anything marketed as adventurous. Climbing a mountain. Building a survival shelter. Exploring the invertebrates in the pond. 

My Auntie Lou takes her grandkids to the playground and pitches it "let's go on an adventure". Adventures are more awesome than playgrounds.

So here is the account of an Adventure my dear pal Ali and I embarked on.


Adventure Log

The kickoff adventure of my summer 2016 started the very day following my last exam. Wasting no time, Ali and I pedalled off for our mini bike tour of the South-Eastern Shore. 

Excited at departure ! 

That day we cycled 125 kilometres from our home on Wellington Street, to our cozy plot of land for the night at Little Lake Campground, just 4km outside of Lunenburg. The mileage, though long, was broken up nicely into sections:

with a caffeine stop at the Bike & Bean,
plenty of scenic photo-ops,
...stretch/tanning breaks
Church Service (....not)
and Krispi Kraut Sauerkraut.. (closed, unfortunately)
Although some of the hills were tough and at times the headwinds were brutal; we kept motivated knowing what was awaiting us in the World Heritage Site, town of Lunenburg:

BEER!
We were all smiles out on the patio, overlooking the picturesque coastal town that has been awarded winner of the "Communities in Bloom most beautiful town in Canada". A walk through the steep streets of colourfully painted buildings almost feels like a trip back in time. That salty ocean air, and the most friendly of faces makes Lunenburg a truly special place to visit.

And as we cycled along the boardwalk, beside the old fishing boats and sail boats, our legs were sure glad to have reached Lunenburg too. Our windswept hair, and our sun-kissed faces carried with them that accomplished. We earned those fish and chips, and every ounce of grease that went into that cod.

Cheers to bike trips and great friends! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Journaling


I like to keep a personal journal. To look back and see where my thoughts and where my head was; last week, last month, last year. I have especially loved to read my "one-year-ago-today" entries recently, as they give me a chance to relive my time in Norway. I get to escape for a moment, back into those precious memories which I am grateful for having recorded down on paper.

Taking a look back 365 days from today, here's what I had to say:


April 19, 2015

I'm crawling into bed with a nicely sun-kissed face, wind-swept hair, and legs that have taken me across nearly 30kms of mountains, rivers, fields, and roads. It was an epic weekend - probably my favourite of all the ski trips I've done in Norway. Although I seem to think that every time; this one was really spectacular - the weather conditions were unreal, the scenery was incredible, and every little thing worked out in our favour. From the bus ride from Dale-Lid being free because the payment system was down, to the Høgabu DNT hut being all to ourselves (for the first night, anyways), and the lovely Norwegian couple that graciously gave us each a beer that had to be helicoptered in to their private "hytte" in the middle of the mountains, on our way from Høgabu to Vaksdal. Mmmmm bliss! I felt as though this weekend really exemplified that there is no better feeling than being up in the "fjells". I was thinking back to just two weeks before when I had been in Stockholm and had a great time. But that, compared to the feeling of being out in the middle of the mighty mountains... they can't even compare. There is no feeling more liberating, more rewarding, more humbling than that of standing on top of a mountain peak, overlooking an endless view of pure natural landscape after having just hiked up that elevation with your own two skis. We did a lot of climbing, up and then down, and right back up again. Although we didn't do any crazy long distances; sometimes I would look back and be amazed at the mountains we had just crossed, the landscape we had just traversed. And mostly in a t-shirt! The weather was so wonderfully warm that I was out in the snow-covered mountains in nothing more than a t-shirt; a very special shirt at that - bringing a special soul out with me on an adventure she would have adored. Thought about Zoe a lot on this trip, and how you have to embrace every moment, live all of your days to the fullest. And we certainly did that this weekend; with Thore, Björn, Jane, and I; we laughed like there's no tomorrow. The classic hill people, Triple G, the "darkrooms", "Poor but Sexy", the chocolate pudding, es reicht, the loonie bin, shenanigans, the fun never stopped. And even today when the terrain was getting tough, there was nothing in the world that could kill the spirits of these warriors. A face-plant in the snow filling my ears, a tumble nearly twisting my knee, having to remove our skis to cross multiple rivers, and falling waist-deep into the snow with every step - none of that mattered in the slightest. We were trekking through the valley, beside a glacier-fed stream, between two little mountain ranges, alongside some epic waterfalls, through the moss and the trees; and all the while the sun beaming down on our faces... I felt like the luckiest person in the world. Frilustliv!

Climbing.

The tastiest beer I've ever had.

Jane loves chocolate pudding!

Balance.

The search for Nautical Twilight

Wipe-out !

The magical Høgabu hytte

HUGE Smiles!

Serenity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rain


It's raining the kind of rain right now where there is nothing you can do but laugh at yourself. Laugh as your jeans soak right through and you feel as though your skin is starting to wrinkle. You laugh as you pass people on the streets because everyone's holding the brim of their hoods so they don't get blown off. You laugh as you try to cross at an intersection but first have to navigate around the puddles pooling at the storm drain. You laugh at those brave souls who thought an umbrella was a good idea today, but who have since realized that the wind is a force to be reckoned with. You laugh at the idea that water falling from the sky can be so unpleasant yet so amusing all at the same time.

And as you approach the dry sanctuary of your home, all you want to do is sit by the window with a cup of tea and watch as the rain falls and as the puddles grow. "I like watchin' the puddles gather rain".

One of my most memorable days working at the campground in Fairmont Hot Springs was the day of the crazy rainfall that resulted in the Calgary flash flooding. We watched all day, from the comfort of the indoors, as the water level of the Columbia River steadily rose. Every few hours, my coworker Natalia and I would put on the yellow rain suits we found in the tool shed and check up on the river's increasing rapids. With every passing hour we would be mind-blown at the progress the rain was making. This was also the day that we broke the golf cart by driving it through a massive puddle and flooding out the engine... oops!

Nat in the stationary golf cart

Rain has always been a part of my life. Growing up in Vancouver (and specifically Deep Cove), to living in Halifax, and finally to spending six months in Bergen on the west coast of Norway; I am no stranger to a little rainfall. In fact, while most people cringe at the idea of venturing outside in the rain, I found enjoyment in going for a soggy jog this morning.

The feeling always brings me back to the Sunday mornings throughout my childhood. Soccer Sundays always seemed to be blessed with liquid sunshine, and as we ran around the puddle-ridden field kicking the ball to our teammates, our parents stood on the sidelines with umbrellas in one hand and their coffee mugs in the other. After the game we would rip off our saturated socks and enjoy the sensation of putting our feet up on the heater of the car; drying off our skin and regaining feeling in our toes.

...... I guess the camera only came out when the sun was out !

One of the many, many things I learned while on exchange in Norway last year (along with how to say "Hvor kan jeg kjøpe et par gode ski?", "Where can I buy a good pair of skis?"), is a motto that the people of Bergen live by:
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. "
And I love it. Yes, it rains a lot in the coastal city of Norway. But no, they do not let it stop them from hiking to the summit of Ulriken, or running up the 908 steps of Stoltzekleiven. Norwegians truly embrace precipitation. Without it, there would be no snow on the mountains. No skiing.

Now as I call it a day, I will be falling asleep to the sound of raindrops pattering against my window. The ultimate soothing sound. The melody that brings with it entertainment, comfort, childhood memories, and lessons from Norge.