Justice. Hope. Peace

Week 30. This is the walk from July 18, exactly two weeks ago. I wore my Walk In Her Shoes T-shirt, which always takes me right into the centre of it all, making me feel raw and vulnerable. I listened to Break the Chain before I headed out and danced my heart out. I grabbed a latte at the Starbucks at 525 University and then headed to Nathan Philips Square, confused about everything and the direction my life is heading in. I was debating whether to take my next creative writing class now or just cancel it in order to save some money. I called the Continuing Ed office and the sound of a comforting voice on the other end made me cry. It’s a good thing I stayed there because I was suddenly transported into another world, surrounded by the sounds and movements of traditional Chinese dancers. I was mesmerized by the beauty of it all.

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Here is one of the performances which was oddly danced to “Buttons” by the Pussycat Dolls.

It was interesting that I came across the Chinese Cultural Festival, because in Veiled Threat I’m at the part where Sally talks about misogyny throughout the centuries, including the ancient practice of foot-binding in China. It always takes a small group of dedicated people to change barbaric practices. In China, a small group of women called The Healthy Foot Society was formed at the end of the nineteenth century and dedicated themselves to eradicating this practice throughout the country. The key to their success was making public declarations that included all women.

I will never bind my daughter’s feet and I will never allow my son to marry a woman whose feet are bound.

In less than a decade of making these declarations, the practice was stopped. Makes me wonder what kind of declarations we can make for ourselves? Personally, as long as there is violence against women, I will never stop doing Walk In Her Shoes. Ok that is a big commitment, so I’m going to need your help! That reminds me, I’ve set the annual group walk for Sunday Aug 21, so I will be walking either in Toronto or in Ottawa. So excited!!

After Nathan Philips, I went to the Ronald McDonald House where I’m helping out with the summer camp activities. We built boats out of aluminum and tested them out in tubs full of water. It was amazing how some of the kids’ boats could float even with 80 marbles!

Then I continued to walk along Yonge and made it to Balzac’s where I wrote the blog post for the previous week’s walk. I swear I’m going to get better at organizing these. :-) A lot has been going on lately, and meanwhile time goes on and life doesn’t stop. So I’d better keep going despite it all.

While at Balzac’s I saw this flyer for Peace Fest happening in Toronto on August 12. I thought it was for world peace, but as I looked closely it was about shedding light on the atrocities of WWII in Asia. I guess it was an Asian-themed day today!

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World Peace Flyer, Balzac’s @ Yonge & Bloor

On my way home I caught a glimpse of the moon and it was beautiful. There is nothing that compares to seeing the moon and recognizing your place in the world, and being simply humbled by the sight. Never gets old.

From Herbal Remedies to Spiritual Lotus Flowers

I’m sitting in Balzac’s writing about last week’s walk. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before actually. It reminds me of the day when Terrence and Gosia followed me around and I was wearing my Walk In Her Shoes t-shirt. I’m wearing it again today. It’s confusing because I’m doing today’s walk while writing about last week’s walk, while worrying that getting a job means no more walks, while flipping out in general.

I started volunteering at Ronald McDonald House on Mondays as part of the summer camp. So I set out and walked along University, stopping at the Starbucks, and making my way to McCaul Street to the wonderful place that is Ronald McDonald. I thought I would have to do an activity or something but instead I got to just sit and watch a wonderful magic show, performed by Tim, one of the tutors from Tutorbright. He awed the kids with his ‘mind-reading’ abilities and ability to straighten out his twisted arms. I recognized a couple of the kids from the school, and it was really nice to see them.

After that I had lunch at the Village On The Grange, at this cute little vegetarian restaurant that I used to go to years ago. The owner is still the same and she greeted me warmly with “Hello gorgeous!”. I stopped at a cute little art gallergy after – how pretty is this picture?!! Reminds me of something Gosia would paint. I felt a little like I was in Pretty Woman because I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and the woman working there was not being very friendly or answering my questions. I think she might’ve even rolled her eyes at me!!

Photo at Baux-Xi Photo Art Gallery

Outside the art gallery was a brain. I love how The Brain Project has taken over Toronto.  There is nothing more beautiful than the human brain (except perhaps the human heart). Or the ability to go on in the face of overwhelming obstacles. This brain was about psychological trauma, so it hit close to home.

The Brain Project, Steven Nederveen

The Fertile Mind is covered with lush greenery, vibrant flowers and a host of birds indicative of a miniature ecosystem. Vegetation pollinates the mind with fresh life and ideas while the birds carry strings of thought, connecting one busy cluster of growth to another. The greenery contains all kinds of flowers, from herbal remedies to spiritual lotus flowers to the poisonous berries of the Nightshade plant. A healthy ecosystem embraces renewal and decay. Problems arise when some aspect of the system falls out of balance. With the brain, there are physical and chemical imbalances but psychological issues may be equally debilitating. With a view to disease and trauma, the vegetation that wraps around this brain can be seen as an invasive and parasitic overgrowth that feeds off its host.

On my way home I passed by this couple making out in the park. How cute!

Couple kissing at Queen’s Park

Lastly, I passed by this symbol of unity of all religions near Nathan Philips Square (image above), which made me pause and reflect considering everything going on in the world right now. In times like this, it is important that we remember that we are all in this together.

A Fringeworks Production

It’s 8:35 PM – not bad at all!! Week 15. I slept in until around 11am this morning, after having crashed on my couch last night. I had some crazy dreams, about a guy I had dated a couple years ago. I had been feeling overwhelmed from all the excitement about launching my blog, and I felt like now that all the excitement was over, what was next? So I thought about how I want to launch a Youtube channel, and put up my stand-up comedy clip from a couple years ago, as well as a video that Terrence made of me. It is the video that stunned everyone at my party on Saturday. I am so lucky that him and Gosia put this together, with so much love and hard work. It really is a work of genius!

I finally set off at around 2pm, and walked up University Avenue. I asked a couple people to take pictures of me but no one was particularly friendly. I stopped at 525 and talked to Anthony for a bit; he mentioned that he’d had a wonderful weekend celebrating his wife’s new job. I told him about the blog and how I was thinking that most people would probably find it boring since my days are so ordinary, and he said that he thought that most people move too fast in life and don’t slow down to appreciate what’s good.

I walked up Yonge street to Balzac’s, where I ran into Sarah Hussein!! She is the founder of Breath of Henna, who I’d met a few weeks back, and we had a very lively discussion about blogging and all of her ideas for future photo shoots. She wants me to do a bridal shoot, all decked out with hair extensions and lots of jewellery, and of course a dazzling lengha or something to that effect. This is honestly like a dream come true. I have always wanted to do something like this and I can’t believe that it’s finally happening!

Then I read from The Underground Girls of Kabul. I’m at the part where Jenny is meeting with prominent human rights activists, who are aware of the situation of bacha posh (girls who are posing as boys) but are refusing to take a stance on it.

As I leave, after what can only be described as a demonstrable lack of interest by one of the country’s most prominent activists, I wonder if the complexities of the bacha posh may simply be too controversial for a politically savvy Afghan to touch. That may explain why it has remained under the surface for so long, and is still denied even by the expatriates I have approached. As with sexuality here, gender determines everything. But one is never supposed to talk about it, or pretend it exists.

I walked home along University, and stopped to just breathe in the stillness of nature, watch the squirrels play and just absorb the calmness of it all. My head has been so noisy with all the excitement lately, that it was nice to just have a moment of stillness. I need more of that. A lot more of that. I’m glad that I’m going to continue to do my body scan meditation on Monday evenings, instead of spending more time on writing, because it is the only thing that keeps me sane and grounded in my body. As soon as I hear Jon Kabat-Zinn’s voice, I feel at home.

Walking along University, I came across the Ontario Human Rights Code (picture above), which was enacted in 1962. It was designed to uphold minority rights and to provide a legal mechanism for people subjected to discrimination. Since 1982, the grounds for discrimination have been updated twice – once in 1986 to include sexual orientation, and once in 2012 to include gender identity and gender expression.

On the way home, I stopped at Nathan Phillips Square and it was so lovely with the rain and the way the Toronto sign reflected on the water. Gorgeous!!

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Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto




Truest With A Capital T

Another cold, harsh day. I can’t believe I’ve actually committed to doing this walk for the entire year. A part of me is resisting it, while the other part, my spirit, is feeling great about it. I walked to the reference library and met my friend Gillian for a very late lunch at Jack Astor’s. She is the co-director of a documentary about Phoolan Devi.  We chatted about her recent trip to India where she worked on the editing of the film and also received an ayurvedic treatment to improve her overall health and well-being. The film is her passion and she wishes to get the story of Phoolan out into the world, to inspire and address the global issue of violence against women, and provide a story that shows that anything is possible. As I’ve said before, this woman lived nine lives in her one short life. And she underwent an amazing transformation. She transcended her pain. Unspeakable pain. Pain that most people cannot even comprehend. Gillian showed me pictures of where Phoolan used to meditate, in a valley in India, while she was on the run.

After our meeting, I read for a bit at Balzac’s. There was an interesting article in the Star about Indian brides-to-be navigating through matrimonial websites, trying to find honest men with good intentions. Ha good luck! There are a lot of frauds on the sites as well as men that use them for harassing women. There was an interesting passage which captured the ideal Indian bride:

Whether advertised through Sunday classifieds or matrimonial sites, finding a partner has always been a family business in India. The most sought-after-bride is one who is demure, traditional, light-skinned, respectful, as well as educated and working. The groom is a catch if he works for a multinational company or is an engineer, a doctor, or a bureaucrat. If he works abroad, he scores higher. The man and woman have to be from the same caste and religion, and horoscopes will be matched by an astrologer.

It’s so interesting how we have these requirements for the opposite sex. What is the ideal woman in our society? And the ideal man?

After Balzac’s I went to an author talk at the library: Gabrielle Hamilton. She is a renowned chef (she owns a restaurant called Prune in New York) and writer. She recently wrote a memoir about her life – it sounds so interesting, I will have to read it and tell you more about it. The interview was great, she is so funny and brutally honest. She talked about her viciously sad marriage and how disconnected she felt. The interviewer, Ian Brown, asked her how she was able to be so honest about it, and whether her ex had a reaction to the material. She said that there is nothing else to do but be honest, that it would be beneficial to all if everyone spoke their truth, especially about troubles in their relationships and marriages. It’s true. No one really likes to talk about it, yet when someone does it really piques our interest. There is something about a good love story that we all can relate to, and also to a relationship that falls apart, betrayal, heartbreak, and grief. He asked her about how hard writing is and she said that it is the hardest thing in the world, to write truly, without all the bullshit, without being concerned what people will think, just laying it all out on the page the way it is meant to be. That something takes over and it’s almost like it’s happening on its own. I know what she means. Kind of. I’m still pretty self-conscious about what people will think of what I’m writing, and also there is only a certain level of my personal experience that I’m willing to share. She said that it takes awhile to find your Truest voice (Truest with a capital T). What is that voice? It is the voice unhindered by fear. The voice that comes from the deepest part of you, that says what needs to be said.

After that I walked all the way home, through St. Mary’s College, down University, and through Nathan Philips Square. I just love walking through there at night, watching the skaters and listening to the Top 40 music, seeing people so happy and enjoying the cold winter. It brings me so much peace and happiness.