Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tea, Singapore, and Christmas

I found a lovely tea room/shop today, its called “Tea Party”, it was great, big pot of yummy tea, and 100 teas to choose from. Granted it was slightly expensive, but well worth it. Pretty funny people there too. Tea is so wonderful, I just don’t know where the world would be without it. Its not a single culture thing either, every culture has it. There is Chinese tea and tea ceremonies, Japanese tea, chai tea from India, roubos tea from Africa, Russian tea, English tea, Moroccan mint tea, and so many more. It’s crazy endless! I can’t wait explore the tea world some more in Singapore, I can’t believe I am heading to Singapore, in 40 days I will be in Singapore, that’s crazy, and frankly a little nerve ranking, but in a good way. I have been told a bit of what to expect, but I also don’t like “expecting” too much, because that can lead to me forming these pre-conceived expectations, which are often wrong. I just want to go with an open mind and heart, experience their cultures and many others as I will have a chance to travel around. I am excited to not be here when its cold, however I hope I don’t die from the humidity! I am excited to be put into another culture though. Feel the excitement and challenges.


Two years ago I spent four months in Botswana, an amazing culture experience for me, which was both challenging and rewarding. Many of the reasons it was rewarding was because it was challenging. I had never traveled anywhere really by myself, so this was a big step. To this day I don’t know what drove me to it, I just felt a need, therefore I listened to this feeling and set off. The culture was not extremely different, but living so far away from any and all safety nets I grew up with was hard. I had to rely on me and trust that everything with be ok. With this experience in my back pocket, I feel more prepared to head off to Singapore and Asia for 8 months. It will be the longest time I have ever been away from home on my own, but I think that is good. No doubt there will be nights of homesickness and tears, stomach sickness and well…you know…but I’m sure I will also learn a lot. Learn a lot of what, I am not sure.


However, that is still in 40 days, and now it is Christmas season! Which means insane amounts of Christmas crafting(I plan on creating all my sexy gifts this year…hopefully they arn’t shitty), yummy baking, and hiding from the cold outside. I would say playing in the snow, except we still have very limited snow blessings here in Ottawa yet! Oh, and for all my friends in school right now, it means lovely exams too.

Check out this Indian recipe, its sounds weird but is actually quite good. If you have ever had pakoras it kinda tastes like those, except baked, not fried, and made in your own home, perhaps in your PJ's as you watch Christmas movie re-runs!

I have now purchased an advent calendar which officially indicates the beginning of Christmas! I can't to open that first door, discover the mysteries it holds! I'm so happy that I purchased one too, I was debating it, but I really loved opening the calendar at home, it was this sneaky small way of celebrating the fabulousness of Christmas all through the month of December even when life gets a little crazy. 

I remember those numerous mornings in December, the three kids up in the morning, racing to get ready for school in the morning, but always making sure we opened the calendar AND making sure the right kid opened it. My childhood was wrapped in fairness attempts, dividing cookies EXACTLY in thirds, dividing the couch space exactly in half between my brother and I with threats of tadling if the boundaries were crossed, therefore it only makes sense that the opening of the advent calendar would be divided into threes, each day the next kid in line opening the next door. Some would think buying three, one for each kid, would be easier, but NO! As kids we grew up being forced to share, as much as it pained us! Thanks mom and dad, I appreciate it now. Anyways, that advent calendar was an important part of Christmas, so I am glad to have found one in Ottawa for my month of December.

Wow, my own Advent Calendar, what a concept! I will definitely miss arguing who gets to open the last door, who's turn was missed, and who got the shaft because their doors were smaller! This Monday is the 1st day of December, I have yet to find the perfect pedestal for my beautiful, colourful, sparkly calendar! Muh-ha-ha!!! My advent calendar fingers are tingling!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November the 11th

"Lest we forget", that's the tag line of this day of remembering. However, Remembrance Day is always such a struggle for a pacifist like myself. I have never really sat down with myself and decided whether or not I actually am a pacifist, but I believe I am. I do not see any justification, any way you swing it, to war, killing, and violence. I grew up attending a Mennonite church(pacifism is a strong part of the Mennonite beliefs), and therefore such beliefs and ideas were somewhat forced upon me as a child(in a gentle, loving way). However, as I grew older, I felt I couldn't simply mindless adopt these beliefs I had no choice in as a child, I had to find out if I agreed with them for myself, or find out WHAT I believed in. Long story short, I am a pacifist, and remembering those who fought and died in war for humankind everywhere is a difficult day to take part in.

Yes I do pay respect for all the lives sacrificed for my freedom, I have never experienced war, never felt the hardships or it, or morned over it, and for this I am very lucky. These many people died so I could have that, and I am extremely thankful. But, why did they even decide to participate in a war in the first place? What drives human kind to kill mother, sister, brother, father? We are all connected, whether we accept it or not, and so why do we kill each other? So often I believe it is ones dissatisfaction with oneself, greed for power, and an over competitive nature, but I'm not a psychology major, this is just me hypothesizing. Can human kind even live without war? When I think about war it fills me up with confused sadness, I just don't understand it. 

To be clear, when I refer to war I am not necessarily referring to battleships, bombs, and trenches, rather violence in general. War can be between countries, between family members, or between neighbours. It can be loud like the violent bombing that goes on in the middle east, but it can also be silenced, like the many unfortunate domestic wars that happen in homes that others are unaware of it. It can be used to scare us, like the war on terrorism, or hidden behind black curtains, like the violent killings in Sudan. War can be racism, sexism, rape, torture, and violence.

So let us remember not only those soldiers, but those millions of civilians that have died without any choice in the matter, in war. Let us remember those individuals which deal with war everyday without anyone noticing. Yet, let us also remember mother earth, who has, and still is, dealt with the many pains we have caused her. The many scars she has acquired which will never fully heal. We so often forget all the injustices nature has felt, so focused on the human aspect we forget where all us humans came from...the earth. 

Although it is important to take time and reflect on Remembrance Day, perhaps we need to treat ever day as a Remembrance Day. Love those around you, the earth beneath your feet, and the air you breath, realize that violence brings no victory, only pains and sorrows. 

If I smile, you will smile, then he will smile, which will make her smile, then maybe someone will laugh, and the angry man in the corner will put down his gun.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sundays' at the coffeeshop

I am currently sitting in Bridgehead yet again. I LOVE COFFEE SHOPS! They really do rock my socks, especially Bridgehead where everything is fair trade, so I can feel friendly as I drink my chai tea and transport myself to some far off land. 

Aside: Micheal Jackson just came on and this old man just starting bobbing his head to the song, I love it! haha

Well the land isn't that far off, since I do have to complete my course PDEng for school. So I am taking a break and writing a post, since I have been slacking. AND....a week has past! Time travel, yet still in Bridgehead.

This week has been soo beautiful outside, I have been loving it, yet I can't help but also be slightly concerned, the only reason it could be so warm (it was 19 degrees yesterday...this is NOVEMBER in OTTAWA) is global warming. Does anyone else feel overwhelmed these days?! Maybe its just me, but I feel like there is so much to learn and do now, and that there is no time to sit and do nothing. I feel like when ever I go home and just want to sit in front of my computer and watch tv, I really should be learning about the background of Diwali, what other countries are close to Singapore, or how our electricity grid system works. 

One reason I find the environmental issue so hard to tackle is because its not just an environmental issue, its a life issue. There is no simple fix, which we are so addicted to. Us western world kiddos have become addicted to finding the fastest and immediately easiest way to solve any problem: popping pills for any health issue, industrial farming to feed us, virtual friends to cure loneliness. But all these solutions fall apart, we become drug junkies, use land less efficiently, and become antisocial, only able to communicate with our digitally created friends. 

To start to change the way we treat the environment means to start to change our entire lives. We need to assess our food system, our tendency towards constant consumption of material goods, the way we design our buildings and our cities. In the past several years cities have been created with the car in mind, the main life lines to go from one area of the city to another were highways and roads. Residential pockets, often known as the infamous suburbs, were located so far from the actual city where children attended school, adults worked, and food was purchased, that it was near impossible to survive without a car. Our tendency towards spreading out as much as possible and using up space (since yes Canada is full of space!) has caused us to have a huge dependency on the automobile. Instead we need to create dense city cores, bring the housing back to the downtown area, and eliminate that ideal that the north American culture has breded that we should all own our own house.

The way we design our buildings also makes me want to cry. Not all buildings, but many, especially those suburbs, are built so quickly with little thought involved. Anyone could probably order a "Build your own suburbs" kit and put one together. We need to build with a frame mind that this building will be there not for 10 or 15 years, but at least 100 year! And how the initial costs are paid off over this period also need to be considered. Buildings produce 1/3 of the carbon emissions of the world, that's a lot eh!? And a lot of it has to do with our lack of effective planning when buildings are first established. Where will the sun hit the building? What renewable resource could we effectively harness in this area? Is there shading? What vegetation is going to be planted? Could a green roof/walls be installed? What material will best insulate the building to reduce the energy costs? And so on...all important questions to ask!

Then we get in to the food system...however, I think I'm going to stop, you've heard enough of my ranting, but if you want to quickly learn more...especially about the impacts of eating local, check out this list of 10 reasons why,, it gives you a QUICK summary! 

Time to enjoy this raining Saturday morning with  yoga, laundry, baking, reading.