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The World Pride Experience

July 14, 2014

Its been two weeks since I participated in the World Pride parade in Toronto and I’m still marvelling about the experience.  While I’ve been to many Pride celebrations in the past and have participated in a few, this experience outshone anything I’ve ever done.  I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to the ladies of RAW (Raging Asian Women) taiko drummers for allowing us to participate with them.2014-06-29 10.43.57

Katy and I had intended to skip World Pride even though it was in my hometown and likely the closest we’ll ever geographically be to the event. The hotel prices were ridiculously high near the village and the crowds were going to be insane. Even the lure of Melissa Etheridge and various other great LGBT performers wasn’t swaying us to fork out a huge amount of money for one weekend. The opportunity to BE in the parade was another thing altogether.

By chance, I happened to stumble across a posting from RAW on their Facebook page, looking for volunteers to be flagbearers with them in the parade. Having heard them perform a number of times in the past, it sounded interesting. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it would be a tremendous opportunity.  I inquired further, as it was an old post (from April, and this was late May), and also because my partner is not Asian and I wasn’t sure how that would work out.

Fortunately, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, RAW were more than happy to accept us both as flagbearers. Instead of skipping the festivities entirely, we would be immersed in them! I was so excited that I couldn’t wait until I got home from work to let Katy know.  All we had to do was make ourselves available for weekend rehearsals. In Toronto. So much for saving some money by not going to World Pride – we found ourselves travelling to Toronto every weekend in June!

Katy found us a reasonably priced hotel in downtown Toronto and we booked train tickets for every weekend. On our first trip in for rehearsal, we were a little nervous as we were not sure where the venue was (despite GoogleMaps) nor were we sure of what to expect. Happily, we found ourselves in the middle of Chinatown with lots of time to spare and relaxed with a huge plate of what amounts to Chinese ‘fast food’. I have no idea how Chinese people stay thin if these are the amounts of food they typically eat for a meal – there was enough on the one plate to fill both Katy and I.

We finished up and wandered over to the community centre, looking around for the rest of the group.  Did we look out of place? Possibly just confused, as a member of the troupe picked us out immediately and invited us into the gymnasium.  Although Katy couldn’t help but stand out, being the only non-Asian in the room, we couldn’t have expected a warmer welcome than we received that night.

It turned out that the flagbearer gig was more of a concept than anything at that point and the flagbearers tried to spin bamboo flagstaffs in time to the different beats of the drums.  One of the things I love about taiko is that the deep, low frequency beats really resonate in your body, even if you aren’t playing. In a small room, they resonate right up through the floor. Its kind of amazing.

The flagbearers were sent homework for the next rehearsal in order to learn the beats, sounds and lack of sounds that we would have to be aware of for the parade.  Suddenly, the idea that it was going to be some ‘simple’ movements and choreography seemed a little more complex. Its a lot harder than it sounds – the only thing I really took in was that we were to ‘holster’ the flag when the  O-Daiko (big drum) was played and move to the back of the float at that time.

What I did take home from the first rehearsal was something more amazing. Not only was my appreciation for taiko drummers increased, but I learned that I had been missing something integral in my life.  I had one of those moments when you say ‘I never even knew what I was missing.’ I had never been amidst a large group of Asian women who were not primarily family members. And the feeling was kind of awesome.

Here was a group of people that I fit in with in all sorts of ways, instead of being the different one. I have found myself to be a minority within a minority more often than not.  A female engineer amongst the majority of men, an Asian lesbian in (at least here) a primarily caucasian community. While being unique is great, being the part of a group is also important.

To not have to explain things because you share some common background. These people just know. And you’re not even aware how comfortable that is, until you experience it.  The only thing was, I felt a little sad for my partner, because she couldn’t feel what I felt and has yet to find the group of peers that can make her feel that sameness. In fact, if I totally overlooked how you felt because of how amazingly in-tune I felt, I’m sorry.  Being overwhelmed is not an excuse for making you feel how I have unknowingly felt.

Despite the extra travel and the cost of hotel etc. for the weekend of the parade, I will forever be changed by this experience and regret none of the money or time involved. Even though it took forever to get the parade marshalled and ready to go, despite the heat and the length of the march – I will never forget the exhilaration of marching proudly with and for the Raging Asian Women taiko drummers. You may not understand how much this meant to me, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for letting me find one of the parts of me that I have been missing without even knowing I was missing it.

What Will The World Be Like in the Future?

February 3, 2014

Sorry if this post leaves the normal beaten path for my blog. Its been a while since I posted about anything. With the turn of the new year and many things happening in my life, I have been a bit overwhelmed. This is written while I sit at home, feeling a bit ill both physically and mentally.

I’m a thinker.  And a worrier. And quite possibly one of the most over-thinking people I know. I try to prepare for everything (not possible, I know) and think through as many possibilities as I can. This is about as far-reaching a thought as I can get.

Yesterday, like many other people in North America and beyond – I got together with a few friends and watched the Super Bowl. Not the greatest game, unless you’re fond of blow-outs, which I’m not. Unless it happens to be the Leafs vs the Habs and even then it gets boring when the Leafs stop all over the Habs once in a while. (That’s for my now ex-colleague Fred, the huge Habs fan who I sat beside for a good chunk of the last 5 months).

Aside from the score, the next most important thing people seem to view the Super Bowl for, is the commercials. For one event every year, many people tune in just to see them. Now in Canada, we’re not permitted to see them during the game, so we check them out online afterwards.  Typically one or more causes a ruckus. This year was no different, but this year’s ruckus is so frightening in its depiction of society that I am truly worried about where ours is going.

The beautiful and talented Queen Latifah opened the festivities with a terrific rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’. I’m not American, but I love this song. I have fond memories of a young lady who sang it at one of the sporting events I participated in many years ago. Amber, if you’re out there somewhere, I still remember you getting teased about the ‘amber waves of grain,’ line.

Coca-Cola followed this rendition up with one of their own during this tv spot. That’s when all the ruckus began. For some reason, this beautifully done, multi-lingual version caused some members of society to forget their beginnings. Or perhaps, they just felt this was a good time to voice their desires for the future.

One line I found to bother me a lot (and again, I’m not American) was ‘This is America – speak English, damnit.’ Several of these languages are more native to the US than English is. I won’t even go into the comments regarding terrorists etc. due to the participation of Muslim-Americans.  The impression I got from these commenters, was that no-one is welcome in the US unless they A) speak English and B) look like ‘an American’ ie. Caucasian.

The vocal minority here, in the comment sections, want to tell you that their future of their country is one that is truly the ‘melting pot’ of which I was taught in elementary school. Where everyone who wishes to live in the US must be exactly the same and think exactly the same way. I believe this would stunt one of the largest countries in the world.

I know that not all Americans think this way, because some of you elected an African-American president. Some of you whom I speak to on a fairly regular basis, albeit electronically, are not white and do not speak only English. Others are and do. All of these people are proud Americans. Why would you want to be an exclusionary society?

Here in Canada, its not all roses. There are people here who would like us to follow our neighbours’ lead and become a melting pot as well, only a Canadian one. I’m not sure what exactly they mean. I have been taught and read more about the history of our great land. This includes some native lore and the history of my culture (Japanese-Canadian) in this country as well as the French and English, Dutch, German and various other influences.

I like to think that every culture has added subtleties to our Canadian society. Every time we learn a little bit more about another culture, it adds to our ability to relate to it. To shut them all out, including the ones that were here before our ancestors were, is to turn our backs on the founders of our country.

One day, the world won’t be as divided by race/colour/language/religion/sexual orientation. We needn’t all speak one language, be the same colour, or worship the same way (or at all). We are not now, nor will be, clones of each other. We will be ourselves, kind to one another, accepting of who we all are and open to learning about other cultures.  #FairyTaleOrTruth

Ask yourself, which future would you want to live in?

Today’s Reminder – I Didn’t Always Hate Snow

December 17, 2013

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This afternoon I looked at the weather report and groaned. More snow east and west of the city. Anticipating more snow shovelling and misery, I managed to cadge a lift home from work.

Whilst waiting for my lift, a group of our customers exited to find … snow. Instead of the groan I issued, these big guys (who come from a country with much less snow than here), started smiling and laughing and taking photos of themselves with snow falling in the background. Videos of themselves chucking snow around and generally enjoying themselves.

All I could do was smile.  I wanted to thank them for reminding me of what snow used to mean to me. It used to mean ‘ WHEE! Its Snowing!’ Snow used to mean snowball fights, snow angels, tobogganing and snowmen.

I’m not sure when winter and snow began to mean and cold and shovelling, salting and groaning.  Somewhere amid the plowed-in driveways, late buses, and slush splashes, I lost my admiration for snowfall.

Tonight, I got home, shovelled out my walk and driveway – and enjoyed it. I looked at my cleared driveway and my first thought was – this would be a great space for hockey.  I looked at the lights on my house (the first year I’ve had lights on my own house) and felt the warm and fuzzies.  Thanks guys, for reminding me I do actually like winter and the snow it brings.

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To Wear or Not to Wear: Thoughts on Remembrance Day and the Poppy

November 10, 2013

Today I read an article titled “Why I won’t be Wearing a Remembrance Day Poppy.” It made me a think a little and it made me a little sad. I realize that some people will be angry with it as well. As a semi-rebuttal, I would like to state why I WILL be wearing my Remembrance Day Poppy.

Unlike the author, none of my family has a history in the Canadian military until the generation after mine (my niece). I have no direct ties to those we are intended to remember on November 11.  My family does have a direct link to the WWII, however, as they were interned during a large chunk of it.

You might then ask, why would I want to wear a poppy essentially commemorating those that interned my family. This is NOT the reason for the poppy. The author of the article goes on to say:

“I’ve been wondering, though, why we need to wear a poppy at all. The line that I most often hear from friends and family is Lest We Forget, but honestly, who’s in danger of forgetting? In the wake of the First World War, which was supposed to be “The War To End All Wars”, it made sense to have a symbol to remember the bloodshed and violence. I mean, sure, if you’re not going to have wars anymore, then you definitely need something to remind of how awful and destructive they are; you need a shorthand to explain to yourself why you don’t ever want to go to war again, right?”

The line that bothers me is the “…honestly, who’s in danger of forgetting?”  There are very few veterans of the great wars remaining. The movies, books and all the dramatizations are all that we do have left, as their memories will literally not be here any longer.  As well, she states that she’s beginning to feel like the poppy has become a ‘tacit agreement’ to all of our military’s activities (Afghanistan etc.).

Despite what she may think, the members of our military do not go anywhere our government doesn’t send them. They are there because our government believes there is some reason for fighting, defending or aiding someone.  If you disagree with the government, so be it, but do not forget that those men and women are there as our representatives and doing their jobs. Something admittedly few, including the author, are willing to perform. I don’t want to participate in harming anyone either.

To say, “I’m shocked by its (the military culture’s) enthusiasm for tactics and weapons that seem frightening beyond comprehension.”  is naive. If they weren’t enthusiastic about tactics or weapons, how would they perform their jobs? Even the least violent would agree that sending troops into any situation without knowing their equipment or that of their opponents as well as their strategies is fatal and grossly incompetent.

Next, she is tired of seeing the memes about refraining from hanging Christmas decorations, selling Christmas stuff before Remembrance Day because it is not dishonouring veterans, it is the Legion trying to ‘shame’  and manipulate folk about what they put up at their private residences. To those who would refute this by saying, ‘you have the freedom to have Christmas due to veterans,’ she says that if the Nazis had won, it would be the other cultural holidays that we would miss. Sure, but only on their terms and for all you know, no decorations at all. It is about a simple thing like respect – not overwhelming a solemn date with frivolity for two weeks. And there would certainly be a whole host of things you’d miss before Christmas decorations.

In all actuality, I agree with some of her points about the military – its unfair treatment of women, protection of high-ranking officers and the operations it participates in. But truly, this is not what the poppy is intended to represent. If that is how it is being seen, I would say that we need to educate the populace versus not wearing it or changing it (white poppy as she suggests). But to her final point – we do have the freedom to wear or not wear the poppy, and it is to the veterans that we owe this freedom.

Pumpkins, Beets and Sweet Potatoes

November 3, 2013

I’m actually going to start this rather mixed up post with the beets.  If you’ve read any of my summer posts, you’ll know that I tried growing beets this year.  While I started late, I did hope for a small crop of the tasty roots and/or greens.

Unfortunately, starting late did me (and the beets) in.  I spent weeks battling the local creatures whilst trying to get my beets established and once I did get them going, it was a fight against time. Even with a very long and fairly mild fall, there just wasn’t enough warmth/sun to get my little ones to grow.

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I moved them (having planted them in a washtub) into the sunniest spaces I could find and protected them with chicken wire, but more or less to no avail.  I finally had to harvest them as we started to get to frost time.  This is the size they got to. If there were more than three this side, I might have been happier.  Out of 30-40 seedlings, not a great return. I’ll start earlier next year.

Having just finished Thanksgiving and Halloween, we’ve seen multitudes of pumpkins. This year, I learnt that sugar or pie pumpkins are one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ squashes.  They are quite small, in terms of pumpkins.  But you can roast the entire pumpkin and turn the ‘meat’ into a pumpkin puree which can be frozen for later in the year or turned directly into soups, pumpkin pie, cookies etc.

It doesn’t end there though. My favourite part of the pumpkin is the seeds.  Clean them up, season and roast them and you have a crunchy, healthy snack.  One head-sized pie pumpkin is about 5 cups and then a little over a cup of seeds. That turned into a pumpkin pie, a nice pot of pumpkin/carrot soup and a cup of roasted seeds. For around $3 CAD, not so bad. I’m on the lookout for another (our 3rd) while they’re still in the markets.  I’m also going to investigate growing my own.

Last but not least, sweet potatoes. I’ve been trying off and on over the past two years to cook up a nice batch of sweet potato chips. I’ve run into a few different problems:  thickness of the slices, amount of oil, duration of the bake.  This was the best batch yet. I sliced them very thinly with a mandoline, seasoned (tossed them in sesame oil and seasoning salt) them lightly and watched them very carefully. The result wasn’t perfect, but still a tasty, crunchy snack.

So ends the first weekend of November. Chilly, but sunny and with a suitable amount of healthy, tasty snacks. Success!

Kadri is Signed! And other off-season Leafs comments.

September 11, 2013

TorontoMAPLELEAFSlogoJust a short blurb to get back into the hockey swing of things. I do still love my hockey, after all and the season is starting soon!  The Leafs have been fairly busy this off-season, adding a solid goalie in Jonathan Bernier  and an effective, if somewhat overpaid feisty forward in David Clarkson. The additions aren’t bad, but I’m just not sure they were needed.

They bought out  a bad contract in Mike Komisarek and punted a good foot-soldier in Mikhail Grabovski.  Just because the coach doesn’t know how to make use of a good player, is no reason to humiliate the guy. Thanks for nothing, Randy.  Good luck, Grabo – we loved your heart here.

Mr. Nonis managed to give our top-scorer’s best pal a ridiculous contract (that would be Tyler Bozak if you didn’t know) and retained a defenceman that barely played during our first playoff run in years (Liles). While both are serviceable players, not sure either earned the contracts they received.

Now to the problems – the receding salary cap.  With those lovely contracts that MLSE has happily doled out – the Leafs are now in cap hell.  With two key young players, skilled sharpshooter Nazem Kadri and solid, heavy-shooting Cody Franson, still to sign, the Leafs started today with just under 5M in cap space. Not too much, considering they just recently tendered a PTO to Mason Raymond .

The good news is that Kadri has  signed a two-year bridge deal worth just under 3M / yr.  Now we turn our eyes to Franson. Will he be content with leavings?  Leftovers?    While there are quite a few d-men in the Leafs prospect pipeline, I think Franson has shown the necessary qualities at the top level. Maybe a bridge contract will work with him because it would be a shame to have developed him and then let him go because management was unable to juggle the salary cap correctly.

The Culprit Has Been Found! (But not caught)

September 10, 2013

If you’ve read my blog this summer, you know I have been griping about critters attacking my veggies, specifically my beets. My first attempt was to spray the leaves with a mild soap and water solution in the evenings.  This seemed to work well, but given the amount of rain we received – it was difficult to continue and it didn’t always work (just ask my now-deceased sorrel and the now-thriving basil).

Mangled BasilThe basil was definitely a victim of the caterpillar stage of our friendly pale yellow butterflies.  My second solution was actually a solution of soapy water and cayenne pepper. I’m not sure it worked, but the basil began to thrive after a lot of good sun and rain and a little relaxation on my part, where I found inspiration from a fellow blogger to “let the bugs have a few leaves.”  It worked, I have loads of basil.

Re-sprouting sorrelI suspected the insects with respect to the sorrel as well, but now I’m not sure.  I had ravaged the sorrel because it had grown into a tall (over 4′) mess. I was a little over-zealous and cut it to the ground, but tiny little leaves had just begun to poke their way through the mulch when they were munched off.  What an ignominious end – survived a stomping on from a dog, only to be mangled by its owner and  struggle to sprout again, then thoroughly eliminated by …?

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I was determined to bring my final crop (beets) to fruition. Excited that they germinated so quickly, I prepared the washtub to receive the seedlings. I happily  planted them at about 2″ tall, only to find myself replacing seedlings every morning as they were nibbled on.  I suspected everything four-footed from squirrels to bunnies.

I decided to become over-protective. I sprinkled mass amounts of cayenne pepper (wonder what that will do to their flavour?) , my final seedlings were going to become beets, dammit!  Still the nibbles. I covered the entire tub with chicken wire.  Success! However, I managed to leave the top up after checking up and weeding the tub this morning and of course, more nibbling. Aarrgh.

But this time, having frightened an audacious chipmunk off the porch, I was pretty sure of the culprit. The evidence is clear. note the obvious bite marks on the leaf in the middle. I haven’t caught him, but I’ve battened down the hatches on the beets. Chippy can just find some other leafy green to munch on!

Evidence of Chippy

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