Wine and cheese – it’s better when it’s old, right?

I just had a peculiar feeling. It’s not the first time I’ve been back to campus since graduating. In fact, I was just there a few months ago, but as I was approaching the Endowment Lands this evening, the oddest sensation crept up inside me.  I felt anxiety.

Donning my UBC sweatshirt by pure coincidence, I was doing my good deed of the year and assisting my not-so-little-anymore cousin jump his car. I was still irked by this feeling and I couldn’t shake it as we were heading to the pub for a catch up. On our way, I had the realization that it had been 10 years since I’d purchased this very sweatshirt, and as if I was walking the halls of my old high school, all those strange inner conflicts and insecurities found their way into my brain.

me

University was a wonderful and horrible time for me. I spent my first year hung up on a guy that wasn’t really that into me mostly because I didn’t know how to play the game and therefore played it all wrong (hashtag facepalm). The cement walls of my dorm didn’t help and the pressure of school/pressure of partying dichotomy often plagued my sub-conscious. Instead of gaining the Freshman 15, I lost it. Suddenly, I went from being the moderately pudgy girl to some how remarkable skinny (I have a little frame!), but had no idea how to handle it. I still saw myself as that pudgy girl and bonded with another girl who was in the same boat. She ended up being my bestie for three years and in the fourth year she broke my platonic heart and I now only refer to her using curse words. But together we waded through the awkward waters, making and breaking friends along the way. A fantastic team, I’d say! And after four years, I escaped the confines of studying and realized the depression I had been living in for that time. How much I had held back. How many experiences I missed out on because I was too busy being scared. And how this strange cloud had hovered over me that I didn’t know existed.

But today, as I left campus I took a moment to reflect and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really like who I’ve become over these last 10 years. I’ve gained all that lovely weight back, but I have never had more compliments on how I look than right now. Not even when I was a skinny minny.  I’m confident and every now and again I like doing things that scare me a little.

NYESometimes I pick up French hitch hikers, have dinner with strangers, drive across a massive island on my own, take shoddy vans across a desert, walk through tiger country, give my passport to a stranger, eat street meat (not recommended), eat an animal I’ve pet, drink a bottle of wine and plan one of my dearest friend’s wedding, or I walk into a pub of university kids and not feel bad about myself. It’s a great feeling to realize I’ve come that far. I hear it gets better with age and I’m kind of stoked on that idea!

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I rebut! Vancouver women are not the pickiest in Canada!

If you guys didn’t catch it, I was a perturbed by the commentary surrounding Vancouver being the pickiest women in the country. I’m hardly an authority, but as a single woman, I think it’s only fair for me to have an opinion. So I responded. Some people have decided that I must be fat and insecure. Others thing I don’t smoke enough pot. Click the link above and let me know what you think.

I thought dysentery was something that only happened in Oregon Trail.

Reckless. I’m not Hannah Horvath. Hell, Hannah Horvath didn’t even exist at this point, and I’m doing something she would do. How were we supposed to know that when you enter Thailand by foot, your visa is only good for 2 weeks, but by air it’s good for a month? I mean, shouldn’t that be posted somewhere? So we’ve just spent 5 glorious days on an island off the coast of Ranong and we’ve got to pick our next destination. Before that, we need to renew our visas so we don’t end up like Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace with cockroaches crawling in our ears. Gross. We get off our water taxi, and park ourselves at the cafe on the dock while we figure out where the boats are that take us to Myanmar to renew our Thai visas. We make mention of this to our server and then next thing we know, there’s a man with a truck and a mustachio asking us if we need to renew our visas. Does anyone know where this guy came from?

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Anywho, we haggle our price and he puts our bags in his truck. I guess we’re going to Myanmar before we catch a bus to Phuket . We arrive at the dock and he tells us to leave our bags in the truck. I’m already a bit nervous. I mean, we could totally turn into Claire Danes at any moment. He shuttles us through the line to exit Thailand and when we ask where our bags are, he points at a boat. How did they get there?? WHO’S BEEN TOUCHING MY BAG!?

Ok…. It’s ooookaaay. We get on the boat and begin making our way through the checkpoints to Burma/Myanmar. “Give me your passport,” says the Captain’s assistant when we arrive at the first checkpoint. “Excuse me?” “I need your passport to show to the people inside.” This is when I realized it would be a long time before I told my mother this story. Watching the man like a hawk, I reluctantly hand him my beautiful Canadian passport. He goes inside, comes back a few minutes later and puts all 3 of our passports in his front shirt pocket. I’m not happy about this situation.

Check point two and three seem to go smoothly, but I’m still not thrilled about not being in possession of my passport. We arrive in Burma and go to Immigration to pay our visa fee and have our passports stamped. It takes all of 15 minutes and we start making our way back to the boat. I don’t think I mentioned it’s now been at least 6 hours since our last meal and we’re STARVING!!! This lovely Burmese woman walks by with a tray and says “Samosas! Vegetarian Samosas!” I’m in!! A taste of home, vegetarian, delicious! We overpay and get back on the boat, rationing out the 4 samosas amongst the three of us. I must say, I’m feeling pretty good about life since being in possession of my passport again and being fed.

We arrive in Thailand and are re-admitted, no problem. Mustachio has unloaded the boat and put our bags back in his truck (one assumes. Again, I saw no evidence of this but my bag was in his truck when we got back in), and we’re off to the bus station. My tummy is not feeling amazing, but it’s to be expected seeing as all we’ve had to eat are these samosas.

Fast forward 24 hours and all 3 of us are suddenly staying very close to the bathroom. Apparently, street food is not as safe in Myanmar as it is in Thailand BUT WE HAVE OUR PASSPORTS! And no one even resembles Claire Danes.

Keeping left.

ImageI’m having the strangest moment right now. You know that scene in “Girls” when Hannah goes back home and she’s getting ready to go to that party and she’s reminding herself that she is interesting?  She says something like “Of course I’m interesting, I’m from New York!”  Well I’m having one of those moments right now.  For some odd reason, I’m feeling slightly insecure walking around this Auckland suburb called Ponsonby. Don’t get me wrong, I totally dig it here, but there’s something about getting out of a city and just exploring “nature’s wonders” that really alters perspective.

It’s been a whirlwind of a trip. I mean I made a bloody excel spreadsheet to manage the chaos I created for myself.  Thirteen days and 2000 kilometres later, saying I’m a bit exhausted would be an understatement.  It took everything in me to get myself off my bed this afternoon, but there was no way I was going to let my last night on this glorious island be spent on a faded Hawaiian print bedspread surrounded by newbies and foreigners. I wanted to be amongst the common folk, so naturally I have found the most hipster bar in all of Auckland to round off my journey.  And what a journey it has been!

I could spend hours describing the spectacular things I saw starting with rapids, Jurassic Park, scaling hilltops, stunning/solitary black sand beaches, torrential rains accompanied by gale force winds, and coming face to face with a life that existed easily 3000 years before my parents even considered bringing me into this world.  This is all before I even went to the end of the world and greeted the Maori point of departure from this life.

And now that it’s all said and done I must say my favourite part of this has been the connections I’ve made. Mind you, that’s always my favourite part!  Some of my best friends live millions of miles away from me, but the excitement lies in the new adventures we’ll embark on together.  I suppose the best part of meeting travellers is always having and excuse to travel.

I’m AB+. What’s your type?

We’re a week into Ramadan, and now more than any other time being away, I feel disconnected. Most of you who know me know that religious is not a word I use to describe myself. Quite removed from a dogma of any kind, I have always felt the need to hover the fringes of the faith I was born into, not because I am convinced of its truth, but because it connected me to my family. And this Ramadan, more than any one prior, I feel particularly disconnected as it’s the first year I’ve decided to fast since my grandmother passed.

Religious is definitely a word that we could use to describe my gran, and because of that, one could say we were not close. Actually, more than one could say that. I often visited her out of obligation, and many of our visits were somewhat tedious and full of awkward silences. We may not have had much to talk about, but she kept me connected. If I struggled with Gujarati, or if I was uncertain about anything regarding Islam, she would calmly explain the logic, and never judge me for my lack of knowledge. She was so proud of me the first year I decided to fast, and praised me for my choice.

The last day I spent with her was probably my favourite. Bed ridden, she still could use that clicker so I spent the day in her room watching the news and other mindless television. We didn’t speak too much and I think she felt bad that I was just sitting there watching tv with her, but that was the day that I realized that she had grown to respect the person I had become. Mind you, I learned that only because she was trying to set me up (even on her deathbed! Seriously Mama!), but props to her for recommending someone that actually sounded like a decent match, even if it’s never going to happen.

Whether or not you are religious, perhaps you could keep her in your prayers or send some positive thoughts into the universe this Ramadan. She was proof that no matter how different we are, blood is thicker than water. Personally, I couldn’t care less who you pray to. Family is family, and in the end that’s all we’ve got. And I got a whole lotta family thanks to her!

Voter apathay

Some days I become overwhelmed with inspiration. Today is one of those days. Having spent the last 6 months in a country that fully believes in compulsory voting, I having been finding it difficult to meet people who are sufficiently inspired by politics.  They are required to care.  Some make the effort, become educated, and go to the polls. But some I have met commit the age-old folly of voting the way their parents do as they know no better, or worse, they care no less.

Today I watched a film about the 2008 Presidential elections in Ghana and so much of it reminded me of Timor Leste.  The pressure, however, was so much greater in Ghana to have a successful election, not just for the people, but for the continent of Africa as a whole.  The risk of being characterised as Kenya or Zimbabwe was far too great.  But beyond the actual process, a few concepts struck me.  A journalist was being interviewed and he raised the question that if a country votes for one party in an election and votes for another in the next, is there really any value in democracy if the government changes and the country still struggles in poverty?

Is there value in democracy if going to the ballot box does not yield results?  If society is not growing or progressing, what is the value of government?  What IS the role of government in that case, if democracy does not result in accountability? Is voting not just another exercise to create a facade of legitimacy?  Is the institution of government not just another facet of capitalism producing benefits only for itself and those who participate in “government?”  If politicians don’t respect the rule of law, why is a population expected to do so and at what point do you call that society anarchy?

I have no answers for these questions, but I will continue to explore them.  One thing I know for certain is that democracy is something we privileged take for granted.  We were lucky enough to come from societies that built legitimacy into the system and had leaders in the early days who respected the rule of law.  Our governments may be flawed, but we have access to food, health care, and education.  Ghana hasn’t fared so well, nor has Timor Leste.

Hope.

I’ve been thinking about hope a lot lately.  It’s not a concept I fully understand.  For me, hope tends to be something I mostly associate with the opposite sex. Hoping for something or someone.  Sometimes it’s even the hope for something I cannot have like being able to wake up to Johnny Depp from Chocolat bringing me breakfast in bed.  One can hope right??

Often we cling to hope only because our realities are so different.  But I feel like my hopes vary so drastically from the hopes of most.  My hopes often stem from desires, but for others, hope is vision.  What they hope for is not something they don’t have because of their limitations, but in spite of them.  What a strange concept.  As a realist, hope seems absolutely ridiculous to me.  It is not tangible and may never even become a reality.  And yet we all find ourselves hoping.  I hope one day to meet someone who will love me and grow old with me. I suspect my parents have a similar hope, but more along the lines of securing my well-being.  There is no evidence that this will actualize, but I still hope as not hoping makes me face the alternative of perma-spinsterhood and a home full of cats.

In Timor-Leste, hope is something that has actualized.  After 25 years of brutality and 400 years of colonization prior to that, the hope they held in their hearts, their hope for change and a new life came to be.  I know I sound like I’m romanticizing all of this, but despite my nervousness, I was completely overwhelmed by the people of Timor Leste and their tenacity.  There is an innate desire for growth and development right down to the smallest village.  There is respect for the democratic process, even if flaws are recognized.  In fact, they are encouraged to be acknowledged as to better the process. And even though the hope for independence has actualized, hope has not disappeared altogether.  There is hope for a stronger, healthier, Timor Leste.  These are realistic hopes.  Achievable hopes.  Perhaps that is something that we can hope for – the ability to grasp our surroundings and choose to make them better.  In the end, perhaps what we should be hoping for is vision.