Crazy Yet Blissful

Week 33! Only 19 more to go. It was a very rainy day on Monday. I started out in the morning tutoring a teenage girl who is a refugee from Syria. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had some time to help her out with preparing for grade 9. She wants to attend a local high school instead of one further away that has an ESL program. I’m rooting for her all the way!! We are reading a book called Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay – the author also did the illustrations which are magical and out of this world. It reminds me of how I want to help my Mom to complete her children’s book. We were just talking about it in fact. She (my Mom) is pretty busy at the moment with work, but we shall work on it in the next few months, after we return from England.

Tutoring Session, Reading Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

After the session I felt a little dejected because it was a rainy day and I had no plans and I almost felt like just going home instead of carrying on. But on I went. I made it to the local library (Beaverbrook Library), where I sat down on a round table near the back and read from Veiled Threat. The section I read hit close to home because it was about mental health issues and how many women in Afghanistan suffer from anxiety, depression, and are often on the verge of suicide. The numbers are actually staggering. Mind you, this book was written over 10 years ago, so it would be interesting to know what the numbers are now. One of the girls interviewed (age 16) from Kabul said: “Sometimes I think suicide may be a way out of this horrible life, but I feel sympathy for my mother since I am all she has in this world.” Some of the edicts set by the Taliban are so outrageous that they actually make me laugh. They have specified that the stones used to kill a woman must not be so large as to kill her quickly, but small enough that the death is prolonged and she gets due justice. Women continue to be stoned to death in countries like Syria and Afghanistan and Pakistan, although not legally but by communities for reasons like adultery or the husband finding out that his bride is not a virgin. Imagine how many stonings there would be in Canada if these were justifiable reasons?!

At the library, I ran into an old family friend, Surinder Auntie, who is a librarian there. We chatted a little about how I was in Ottawa for awhile, and how two of her kids live in Toronto, but her daughter misses Ottawa a lot and is planning to move back home. I can relate, because I find Ottawa so beautiful!! Nothing compares to the simple beauty of the Beaver Pond, late-night walks with my parents, and watching Hot in Cleveland in the evening, or Modern Family, The Mentalist, or Making  A Murderer (which I have yet to watch). Makes me not want to leave.

Oh, before running into Surinder Auntie, I logged into one of the library computers and drafted my email for Walk In Her Shoes, which is coming up this Monday. I am happy that there are quite a few people joining me, and that other people find this cause to be as important as I do. Or maybe they don’t, but are just there to support me. My Mom will be making us a big lasagna brunch to celebrate the completion of the walk. Here is a little excerpt from the email that I sent out:

I’ve included some photos of the walk over the past 5 years, full of joy and dedication, while keeping in mind why we walk – to walk in solidarity with women and girls who are not able to take human rights for granted, who deserve a chance not just to survive, but to thrive, to realize their dreams and potential. There are tremendous things happening all over the world, from grassroots to local to national and worldwide, and there is a planetary shift happening far beyond what we can imagine. In this time of so much negativity and violence, there is a lot to be hopeful for. As the CARE Canada slogan says, and what I truly believe, Together We Can Make A Difference. I’m grateful to be surrounded by powerful men and women who are taking action and making a difference.

And here are some of those pictures, gathered over the years:

After the library I sauntered into the Kanata Art Gallery, adjoining to the library and met a local artist and fell in love with one her paintings, which was made from fabric and was kind of like a framed quilt. Art Galleries are a place of such stillness for me.

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I continued on home in the rain, and when I arrived home I was absolutely soaked. My Mom said something like “You crazy girl, walking in the rain!! You will catch a cold.”  It’s true, I did look a little crazy, and also amidst that craziness was a little bit of bliss.

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Walking home in the rain, crazy yet blissful

The next walk is a big one; it’s the group walk with my Mom, Rima, Silin, my cousins, and others. Looking forward to it!

On The Treacherous Road To Kandahar

Week 31. Monday’s walk was amazing, because for the first time this year I took a different route. A much needed different route. I’m in Ottawa for the month, trying to heal and recover from the shock of some bad news – something someone told me that seemed to squash my hopes and dreams, and make me feel like everything I had been trying so hard to achieve was in vain. Ok maybe that’s a little dramatic, but the shock of it all sent me to the ER this week, so clearly it rattled me.

I woke up and had breakfast and went to meditate on the rock at the Beaver Pond that is a place that brings me peace, where I’ve sat in the past and watched the ducks go by. I remember recognizing how lonely I was one time when the ducks left and I felt utterly devastated. This time was a little different. I felt raw and a little crazy, but not devastated. The scenery was so beautiful, I almost couldn’t handle it.

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I went to tutor my cousin Aakanksha. I’ve been going each day since I’ve been here, splitting the session into Math and English. We are reviewing Data Management, for example stem leaf plots (who uses those anyway?!) and histograms and studying a book called The People of Sparks. It is interesting because it touches upon the situation of refugees and what it takes for a town to extend kindness and accept new people, recognizing the common humanity in others.

Walk In Her Shoes (the group walk) is only a couple weeks away, and I’m getting excited! I’m at the part in ‘Veiled Threat’ where Sally travels to Kandahar, which is the base for the Taliban. She goes through a lot of hoops to make her way in, as it is almost impossible for a foreign woman travelling alone to gain access. The city is war-torn and tragic, as reflected in this poem I came across on by someone known as ‘spiritual seeker’.

On the treacherous road to Kandahar,
My heart bleeds for Afghanistan,
Though in its natural beauty,
It is a garden of death,
Where landmines laid awaits the unsuspecting,
Bringing death and suffering.

This land of history has never slept peacefully,
Where great armies had marched, shedding blood and misery,
Where conqueror became the conquered.
Lo, these drama of suffering never seems to end,
Where a child born in those times of difficulty,
is now a grown up man,
and the land is still bleeding,
as if the curse never want to leave,
sowing permanent torment and suffering.

As I travel the difficult road to Kandahar,
See me rocky desert and majestic mountains,
And rows and rows of silent graves, their old and new flags fluttered in the cool wind,
Empty villages, destroyed with no living souls,
Burned vehicles and broken bridges…bombed from the sky,
Guns and unsmiling faces…dirt covered children,
poorest of the poor,
In my journey to Kandahar,
I became witness to the cruelty of mankind at its fullest.

After tutoring, I walked the long way home, through beautiful paths and stopping along the way to ask strangers to take pictures of me. I was hoping to make it to the library, but it was closed by the time I got there. I miss Toronto a lot, I’m not going to lie. I have that feeling of homesickness shared by the people of Ember. How does one find home within themselves?

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Beaverbrook Library, Kanata

No Sleep For The Lucky Few

Monday was an incredibly hot day. I think it must’ve been 40 degrees with the humidity. I woke up early and went to the Starbucks at 525 for a couple hours to work. I’ve been doing that lately to get myself back to a morning routine. Hopefully the right job will come along soon. I interviewed at Cota Inspires last week and the interview went pretty well – they will let me know next week if I got it. The job is an Executive Lead to lead a campaign to provide 20,000 homes for Toronto’s homeless by 2018. It is an exciting job that I would be honoured to a part of.

I sat outside on the benches at SickKids and read the morning Metro. There was a study about sleep deprivation and how there are certain people who genuinely don’t need a lot of sleep – only a few hours will do. Sadhguru is always talking about how little sleep is required for those who are vibrantly alive and get their energy from life energy. There are yogis that can survive just off coconut water because their kundalini is activated. I’m definitely not one of those people – I love my beauty sleep!


I walked through the MARS Centre and came across this white board filled with suggestions on who people would like to see come speak at MARS. I agree with a lot of them – Obama would be amazing! And Drake, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk.


I started reading Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women in Afghanistan. As you can tell, I’m obsessed with Afghanistan. And Islam. And Women. Not to mention I love author and journalist Sally Armstrong. I saw her speak at a GenNext event at Spoke Club one time and she was so inspiring. She was one of the first journalists to report on the crisis that women were facing during the Bosnian genocide. She said that since then the media has come a long way in terms of giving attention to the atrocities women face, especially during times of war. She thinks that Facebook is instrumental in gathering forces and providing a platform so that everyone has a voice. The book profiles extraordinary women, like Dr. Sima Samar, who is a doctor, activist and a natural storyteller.

“Let me tell you a story,” she began. “A sixteen year old came with her parents to my clinic. She was six months pregnant and terrified. She had been raped. The law, according to the extremists, is that a woman who is raped must have four male witnesses to prove that she didn’t cause the rape. Naturally, no such witnesses are ever available. Without them, the family is obliged to kill the girl to protect the family honour.”

I made it to Balzac’s where I did some work, and then went to the ROM to get a refund for some tickets I bought for Friday Night Live and didn’t end up going to. I asked to use the bathroom (which they normally don’t let you do because it’s inside the museum) but they let me so I took advantage of it and saw the exhibits for free. There is something so calming about being in the presence of a Buddha statue.

Buddha statue at the ROM

Then I met up with Marissa from my Toastmasters club so that she could help me with my interview preparation. She is the director at AIS (Accomodation, Information, and Support) and is very knowledgeable about homelessness and supportive housing. We met at the Toronto Western hospital. She quizzed me on a few things like what my first steps would be in implementing changes described in the consultants report, and why I was good for the role.

On the way home I stopped by the jazz festival and caught the rehearsal of a jazz ensemble that was performing later that evening. So talented!!