Let’s Talk

I just got home from Chapters – I spent the afternoon there reading. I have exactly three weeks before my next book club meeting on the 21st, and my goal is to read the whole book at Chapters (can’t buy them all!). The book selection for this month is “Stay With Me” by Ayobami Adebayo. It’s set in Nigeria and it’s about the consequences of wanting to have a child at any cost, and touches on the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and insanity.

What I look forward to most about Chapters is getting my tea/latte and a treat. Today I had an English breakfast tea and a Valentine’s Day heart cookie. The barista informed me that I had been missing out on free refills! I didn’t realize that with my gold card, I can get free refills on tea. She was really nice and gave me a couple tea bags to go.

Here are a few of my pics from the day:

While at I was sipping my tea, I read one of my favourite blogs, written by my old writing teacher, Beth Kaplan. She’s in New York City right now, where she is going to deliver a talk, and is touring the city and taking in its wonders. I love her writing style – she is so honest and funny, and not afraid to write about the rough parts. I especially love her commentary on Donald Trump, who (like most of us), she absolutely detests. Here is what she wrote about him today:

Another great thing was that we completely missed the State of the Union address by the orange blowhole.
– Beth Kaplan

Lol! The orange blowhole. I know exactly how she feels. I tried watching the State of the Union address yesterday, just to be informed, but couldn’t get through even five minutes of it – it’s like nails on a chalkboard. On a funnier note, why is he obsessed with celebrities these days? One of his latest tweets was directed at Jay-Z, and he said “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”.  Hopefully this is true, although even if it is, can it really be attributed to his policies? There is a big difference between correlation and causation (but that is a topic for another day).

While I was reading at the shared table near the back of the store, I met a woman named Alice who was very chatty and sweet. She said “When I was 80, ….”  Huh?! I couldn’t believe she was actually starting a sentence with “When I was 80”.  She didn’t look a day over seventy. Alice told me that she moved to Ottawa from Victoria Island over ten years ago, and loves it here because everyone is so friendly. She lives close by to Chapters, and comes often to read and meet new people. I hope I run into her again!

My Dad picked me up after a few hours, and we dropped off some books at the library before heading home. The roads were incredibly slippery and snowy – and when I got home I stepped into what must have been at least three inches of snow! It was beautiful. I had to resist jumping in and making snow angels. Overall a fun excursion!

Hmmm what else is new with me? There are many things on my mind these days, some of which I’ll fill you in on in the near future (just send me your positive vibes in the meantime – there is something I am hoping for and the wait is killing me!).

Today is Bell Lets Talk Day, which was created to raise awareness about mental health and to stimulate conversation, reduce stigma, and improve dialogue. For every tweet or text that uses #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. It’s around 7 PM right now, and the website shows that there have been over 100 million interactions today (so that is a total of $5 million dollars – wow!). I talked to my friend Mandeep on the phone earlier, and we were discussing the importance of ‘talking’ – not just texting and tweeting and giving the elevator pitch on mental health, but actually striking conversations with strangers, and being friendly, open, and compassionate. I am always amazed that how in Toronto, a city of over 3 million people, it is possible to still feel lonely. No one that is surrounded by that many people should ever feel lonely!

Speaking of isolating experiences, this morning my sister sent me a video about a hypnosis experiment conducted in Netherlands that simulates the experience of being a refugee. In particular, it follows the journey of a female refugee and all that she endured in escaping her country. It was pretty tough watching it and seeing these ordinary people have to endure the torture of this plight, but it helps knowing that they will be relieved of their hardship in only a few minutes. The end of the video is very touching – definitely worth a watch if you have the time:

Well that’s all I have for now, will write some more soon I’m sure!

Hope you all have a great evening!

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.

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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!

Life Is A Balancing Act

Today was an amazing day. It started off with a session at the International Festival of Authors about short story writing. After that session I went to one with Christian Bok, who translates poems into genomes. The last session of the day was called “Modern Refugee” and it featured three authors that write about the experiences of refugees. I was inspired by the words of Giuseppe Catozzella, who talked about how we will transcend our differences and find a better way to connect with one another, recognizing that we are all the same. That at one point, we all came from somewhere else to the land that we are living in now.

After that I met up with my friend Neesha and we walked around harbourfront. It was absolutely beautiful and magical. We felt like we were in our favourite show “Once Upon a Time”.

While we were walking back along Queens Quay, we stumbled upon the most spectacular cabaret show called Empire. It was a fantastically shocking experience. Full of sex and humour and magic and acrobatics and it also had a spiritual element. I can’t even write about it because my mind is still blown. Here are some of the amazing pictures that Neesha took:

The guy that balanced the pieces of wood with a feather at the end confounded me. How did he do that? Were there magnets on the pieces of wood? How did he balance everything like that? So incredibly cool and shows the tremendous power that lies within us.

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Overall a spontaneous Sunday filled with many beautiful moments! Oh I forgot to mention the stunning full moon. Makes sense that there was a full moon because I was high off some crazy universal energy.