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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Keep Calm and Skate On

Yesterday afternoon I went skating near my house at the Kanata Beaver Pond. There is something about the motion of skating that is meditative, going around in circles, over and over and for some reason never wanting to stop. I even played with the hockey stick and puck that were left there by some kids, pretending I was Wayne Gretzky, racing across the ice, hoping to score that big goal.

The sun hits the ice
My skates glide smoothly along
Oops! – Was that a bump?

Here is a video of my first skate. (There is also another one of me spinning but watching it makes me dizzy!).

Later I went for a walk and basked in the beautiful weather.  A little chipmunk put on a show for me while I snapped a few photos:

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Scurrying away to gather some nuts:

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I encountered a mother and her daughter walking their dog across the frozen pond:

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The woods near my house always make me reflect, and have a haunting effect as the sun rays peek through the treetops:

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A beautiful afternoon in solitude, nature, and surrounded by beauty. When life gets a little overwhelming, keep calm and skate on!

 

 

Learning to Climb

In this short story, I tell about my adventure in Thailand back in 2006, with two of my closest friends, Neesha and Amy. Wish I was back there!


Brrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnngggg!!! The alarm went off. 5 AM. Startled, I leaned over to turn it off and thoughts of going to work whizzed through my head. I opened my eyes, pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t at home and didn’t have to go to work after all. Stretched out before me through the window was the Indian ocean, off the coast of Krabi. In bed beside me, my friend Neesha slept soundly. I was always envious of how deeply she slept, and she looked like a princess amidst the white sheets. “Wake up!” I yelled, and went to the adjoining room to shake Amy awake. She was another one that loved to sleep, and she couldn’t share a bed either. At almost 6 feet tall, she liked her space and we always knew that if there was a single bed, it had her name on it.

By 6 AM, we were ready to go. We got to the beach and gazed up at the silver cliffs that loomed up into the sky. What an adventure! Amy was terrified and instantly identified a small cliff (more like a rock) on our right that would be her challenge for the day. I had been rock climbing once before back home, but never outdoors and never in such a beautiful setting. Our Thai instructor was a small man with a wide smile, toothy grin, and lots of optimism. Back home we would’ve had to take a course, sign our lives away, and wear a helmet. Here in Krabi, we were handed ropes and a harness and a big smile of encouragement. “You can do it!” our instructor said to us. Neesha went first. She expertly scaled up the cliff like one of the spiders on my balcony, and reached the top like a champ. I was responsible for belaying her. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders as I became aware that my best friend’s life was in my hands. I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust. I did not take the responsibility lightly, and I followed the instructor’s guidance carefully, keeping the rope loose enough to allow movement, but providing just enough slack in case of a fall. She descended back to the ground gracefully.

I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust.

I was up next. I started climbing and I wasn’t nearly as graceful as Neesha. My head hit the cliff rocks a few times. Where was that helmet?! My hands were shaking and forearms sore; clearly I had not worked these muscles in awhile. I got about halfway up and I’d had enough. I yelled back down “Ok, I’m done… let me down now!” In response, the Thai instructor smiled broadly and yelled “YOU CAN DO IT!” Was he kidding?! I saw Neesha give him her ‘serious’ look – she knew when I meant business. He wouldn’t budge. He yelled “YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE!” I couldn’t believe he was preaching inspirational sayings while I hung there, exhausted and terrified. I gazed at the ocean through my disbelief; it was a stunning sight. I shouted back to him that I was not, in fact, going to do it. Back and forth we went like that, and eventually I relented. Slowly, painfully, I continued up to the top. And I made it! What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me. I felt great, although I made sure to give them both hell when I got back down. But my ear-to-ear smile gave away my satisfaction.

What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me.

On our walk back to return our equipment, Neesha, Amy, and I happily ate bananas and strolled under the huge palm trees along the beach. We chatted about how much we’d enjoyed the experience, nerves and all. Suddenly, I was overtaken by what I thought was a meteor. Something hurtled past my head and fell at my feet. My banana splattered everywhere – on my shirt, in my belly button, in my hair. I was shaking all over and covered in banana goop. I noticed that Amy and Neesha had collapsed on the ground laughing once they’d assessed I was ok. It was a coconut! It had fallen out of the sky and straight for my head – and it had missed me by about an inch. Every year in Thailand, a few people die from falling coconuts and I was this close to being the next statistic. Between laughs, Neesha said to me “What would I have told your parents? Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Patel, we did everything we could but the coconut was just too fast for us.” Ha Ha Ha. I wasn’t laughing – YET. I couldn’t believe that I had survived my rock climbing adventure but nearly gone out with a coconut. Shaken but laughing, we continued along the beach and onto our next adventure.

THE END

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Magical wedding photo shoot, Harbourfront