Windy Cities

Wow, what a crazy week it’s been. Feels like nonstop from Wednesday till now. On Wednesday evening, I went to Toronto (road trip with my neighbour) for a Salesforce conference. The conference took place at the Beanfield Centre all day Thurday. It was pretty good – I networked, learned about how the software is used in universities, went to a session on Salesforce in healthcare, and learned a bit about their Artificial Intelligence module called Einstein. But I must say that the highlight of the day was winning Cody the Bear, a plush stuffed animal that I had to wait in line for 45 minutes for (!!), and also successfully complete a training module.

IMG_1583.JPG

Thursday night I went to Scaddabush restaurant with my brother, and we were both very impressed by the quality of food. I had an amazingly yummy peach & mango belini that looked like a birthday cake.

Friday morning I went to my old-time favourite coffee shop, Balzac’s at Yonge & Bloor, and then spent some time reading at the Reference Library. It felt so good to be back in that place of peace and wisdom, leafing through new finds, and reading a chapter from one of my favourite books, “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Cope. (a must-read if you haven’t read it already).

That afternoon I met up with my friend Cybele and we went to the OCAD design fair (showcasing student projects and artwork) and hung out in park… it was the perfect day to bask in the sun, lounge in the playground, and stroll through the park.  Around 5 PM we went to grab some nachos at Margarita’s on Baldwin, and that’s when the fun began. The wind picked up pace, objects started flying about, trees started to sway violently, and people started to get frantic. We walked towards Queen’s Park, feeling as though we were going to be blown away! We came across one tree that had fallen down onto the street, blocking traffic, and taking a hydro line with it. Luckily someone was already calling the police as we passed by, so we continued on.

IMG_1679.JPG
Fallen tree & hydro line, Henry St.

We met up with Jasmine at Innis Town Hall, and watched the Finnish documentary “Entrepreneur”, about two very different businesses that are trying to scale up and become successful. One sells meat from a truck, and the other sells a popular meat replacement product which they call “pulled oats”.  We were not impressed at all (it was so slow moving and not at all engaging). After the movie, Cybele headed home, and Jasmine and I went back to her place for a fun evening getting sushi (late celebration of her bday!), watching movies, and catching up.

Saturday I went for a walk by the harbourfront and then caught my train home from Union. I met an amazing woman from Lebanon and we chatted for a lot of the trip. My parents and neighbour picked me up, and a few hours later we went to the International Fair at a local church, where we were dazzled by amazing entertainment, representing many different cultures, and sampled delicious food from across the globe.

IMG_1703 (2).JPG
My favourite ladies, heading off to the International Fair

Today was Easwaramma Day at the Sai Centre, celebrating the birthday of Sathya Sai Baba’s mother. We got home in the afternoon and were totally spent!!

Hope you all had a wonderful week/weekend too!

The Perfect Spot of Grass

The TD jazz festival is on this weekend! I can’t wait to see Michael Franti perform. Tina is coming up to visit and we’re going to spend the day walking around harbourfront and checking out the jazz festival and watching the fireworks. I love long weekends. I especially love Canada Day long weekend. I remember Canada Days in Ottawa when I would take the free bus into downtown with my friends and we would walk around all day and evening, checking out boys and getting our faces painted and eating lots of junk food. We would sit up on Parliament Hill on just the perfect spot of grass and wait for the fireworks to start. And they were always spectacular. Nothing compares to seeing fireworks in Ottawa on Canada Day.

When Will and Grace align, anything is possible

I woke up at around 10 am this morning, the after effects of last night’s evening of magic still on my mind. My friend Gosia threw a fabulous party, where we danced and sang and enjoyed each other’s company. The sounds of the guitar and the rhythms of Ella’s dancing filled the room. I sang “I’m not the only one” by Sam Smith and “Hello” by Adele, and was elated to hear that my voice was strong, that I could reach deep within myself and sing the tunes of my heart.

I went to Raj’s class and he talked about Will and Grace. (individual will, and the grace of God). It was quite uncanny that this morning I had watched an episode of Will & Grace, which I hadn’t watched in so long. Coincidence?! I was kind of led to watch it, because my internet stopped working and I couldn’t watch Netflix, so I turned on the TV and watched the episode where Will and Jack pair up on a business venture that doesn’t end up working. Today was the last of Raj’s class series on finding inner balance. The theme was the story of Jesus, and Raj told the story of the crucifixion. It is a beautiful story.

I went to Casa Loma after class, since it was close by. I love it there! I made a wish and tossed some coins in the fountain – Here’s to hoping my wish comes true.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then I made my way to the Khalsa parade,  in celebration of Vaisakhi, and got there just in time to hear mayor John Tory speak. I love going to the parade every year. Usually I go with Jasmine, but she was busy so this year I was on my own, dodging through the crowds, having my hot chai and channa masala. It is such a peaceful gathering, and I feel right at home, and so grateful for the free food!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Following the parade, I walked down Queen West, where I saw a beautiful tribute to Prince that was painted by my friend Victor the street artist. I can’t believe that he died so suddenly. The songs “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” are two of my favourites, so haunting and beautiful. May he rest in peace.

IMG_3288 - Copy

My brother told me about an event happening at 567 Queen West – Drake was promoting his new album “Views from the 6” and giving away free t-shirts. I got there and tried to bypass the line by telling the bouncer that I write a lifestyle blog and that I was covering the event. Unfortunately it didn’t work – he said I could cover the event from the line. Haha! It was such a cool vibe though – here is a video of the scene outside the shop:

On my walk home, I saw this beautiful wedding shoot by the lake. So pretty!

IMG_3312 (2).JPG
Magical wedding photo shoot, Harbourfront

 

 

 

Something Fierce

This evening I went to see Carmen Aguirre speak at the reference library. Earlier in the day, I’d read a Globe and Mail article about her journey, and I was transfixed by what she had experienced in her life. I was curious to see what kind of woman she was, what her experiences had meant for her. She had that twinkle in her eye, of a person who had been through a lot, and seen the light through the darkness.

She talked about PTSD, and how the childhood rape had never left her. I couldn’t believe how she was able to talk about such trauma with a sort of detachment. In fact, she was able to address most of the tough questions very evenly, even while the people asking the questions were breaking down in tears. One woman spoke at length in Spanish about how her mother had joined the resistance in Chile, and to this day, she has been unable to find her, but lately she has been having dreams about her mother and she feels as though her dreams are a sign that she should seek her out. Carmen advised her on human rights organizations to follow up with – although she said that most people who join the resistance change their names (she had), and it would be almost impossible to track someone down.

The rape occurred when she was only 13 years old, by a man who had been wanted by the police for years, known as the Paper Bag rapist, because of the way he would cover the victims eyes with a paper bag. He later went on to be convicted of more than 14 sexual assaults, even though it is suspected that he was responsible for hundreds. She describes how during the rape, she escapes her body and becomes an eagle that soars overhead. It is a stunningly beautiful depiction of her spirit, and how she experiences something that is at the depths of evil, the absence of love, light, and anything good. It is so beautiful the way she describes it, and you can picture that eagle, flying high above her little 13-year-old body, that is being forever altered by this one man.

Thirty-three years after she was raped, she faces her rapist in prison, with another woman, Laura who was also a victim. It’s hard to understand the compassion that she has for this man, and I could see people in the audience shuddering as she talks about their encounter (“It’s nice to meet you again” he says). She said something to the effect of “I am him”, recognizing that she was part of him and he was part of her. I wish I remembered her exact words because they were perfect. She has genuine compassion for this man, who most of us would hate with every cell of our being. It reminded me of a quote that I read in Aphrodite’s Daughters, in an essay about sexuality and evil. “Even if we never have done and never will do an evil deed, we would be fools to ignore the potential for evil that lies within us all”, the author says. She references the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist monk, as he reflects upon an incident that he witnessed during the Vietnam war.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee
on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after
being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving

Carmen talks about her childhood as part of the Chilean resistance in her first book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of A Revolutionary Daughter. This new memoir, which flashes back to the rape that altered her life is called Mexican Hooker #1. She is a fierce woman who has led a revolutionary life in both senses of the word.

 

Faces Of Power

It’s 12:26 AM and I got home not too long ago after a fun night. I visited my friend Shez and got to hang out with Leah and Ava. Here is a video from the evening that I’m pretty sure I will watch over and over again for the rest of my life because it is really just amazing.


Ava came home after girl guides and we played a game where we put shapes back into their places with our eyes shut. Then we did arts and crafts and used stickers to bring our pictures to life. My favourite stickers were the owls!

Then I met my friends Gosia, Daniela, and Terrence, and a few others at the Absolute Comedy club. The show was awesome! The headliner Joe Bronzi was so amazing! We were dying of laughter. He made fun of this one couple whose entire dating life had involved instagram and snapchat and other apps. Then after that we went to dance at Alleycatz for a bit. No one was there but we still got our groove on!

 
Oh forgot to mention my morning at Raj Balkaran’s mythology class. Today we learned about Aphrodite, the goddess of sex and sensuality. She is Love incarnate. I am taking his other class about the Indian goddesses and the faces of power. Here is the breakdown of what we’ll be learning – I’m so excited!!

1. January 24, 2016Sarasvatī, the Power of Eloquence & Artistry
2. January 31Lakṣmī, the Power of Health & Prosperity
3. February 7, 2016Durgā – the Power of Sovereignty & Protection
4. February 14, 2016Kālī, the Power of Destruction & Transformation

Why are there so many Indian goddesses?  Why are they worshipped? What do they represent? How can they assist you in your journey? Given that “goddess” is synonymous with the ancient Sanskrit word for “power” itself (śakti), each goddess-manifestation personifies a specific energy which practitioners might like to invoke for their specific aims. This workshop explores key personifications of divine power, drawing from India’s ancient Goddess traditions. It interweaves various philosophical and mythological strands of India’s spiritual traditions in order to present a thematic survey of Indian goddesses as manifestations of, e.g., Artistry, Health, Prosperity, Protection, Transformation.  You will come to know the rich symbolisms and associations of key goddesses, and the role they might play in your own journey.