Monday, December 28, 2009

Rising from Ashes

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Current Mood: Rearing to go on some new things.

Current Song: Wait it out by Imogen Heap.

Hiya everyone! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday weekend full of gluttonous activities and much napping (I think I may have eaten my weight in almond chocolate bark. Oh yes, there will be much running this week). Since we are but mere days away from 2010, I believe that this will be my last post for 2009 (The end is nigh!).

Last week, my mum's coworker and friend sent home some presents for me and my sister. He usually sends a little something because mum is one of his favourite people to work with (she's no-nonsense just like me). One of things that my sister and I both loved - aside from his uncanny ability to pin down our personalities - are the chinese book marks that he gave us. They are these metal bookmarks engraved with one of the 4 animals of the chinese constellation.

Because of my love for all things historical, I of course, had to do some research on what these were. My sister's emblem was the Jade Dragon (also known as the green dragon). It represents the Emperor and protects the East. It is also associated with the element of wood and the season spring. Fitting for my sister. Given she's a May baby and is constantly happy.

My emblem, which I thought was creepily fitting was the Vermillion Bird, or the Phoenix. Representing the Empress, it is the bird that often protects the South. Its element is fire and its season is summer. Despite the fact that I'm partial to the fall, I still think that the phoenix arrived at an opportune time for me.

Though the chinese version of the Phoenix is different from the one we usually associate with mythology, I like to think of the two in the same breath. It's a bird, that when burned down (known as self-immolation), rises from its own ashes. I feel that in some ways I'm like that. 2009, though a tough year, has given me the strength to go on to what I hope will be a more successful 2010. I'm rising from my own ashes, letting the unnecessaries stay behind and forging ahead. Despite the scars, I'm brand new in some ways. Lucky for me, the phoenix only arrives in times of good fortune. I think good things are ahead.

What's more, the pairing of the Dragon and Phoenix (also yin and yang) represent perfect harmony. I would definitely have to give credit to the two dragons in my life for helping me get through the this. Without their fierce strength and ability to slap me silly when I'm filled with self-doubt, I'd probably be spending my days in bed.

(And this is where I thank people).

I've got a rather long list of thank you's for the year, so I'll try and abbreviate as much as humanly possible. I've had the absolute pleasure of meeting some of the most intelligent, passionate and hardworking folks this year, thanks to Brazen Careerist. From sharing recipes to advice on career, Brazen again, gets the big shout-out. It's my home online and I'm happy and honoured to call these folks my friends.

Of course, there are the usual friends of mine, with whom I've had many a cup of coffee, shared many a book recommendation, cried many a tear, and laughed many an ass off, the MAISers, the old choir folks, the online blogging community, some very old high school connections that I revisited this year, the boys in Toronto.

Thank you all for being part of my rich and fulfilling life. I hope that we can take flight together in 2010. If I don't get a chance to talk to you before the new year, have a wonderful one everbody. It's a new decade. Let's make it a fabulous one :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fa La La: December Photo Walk

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Current Mood: So Tired!

Current Song: Clocks by Coldplay. It's been in my head since yesterday.

Sorry I've been AWOL for a bit. I've been prepping my content for this blog. I appear to be going soft in my old age, and so my sister, friend and I hit the town yesterday for some lights viewing. Vancouver, as you all know (by means of being envious), is a stunning city and comes alive during the holiday. I thought I would share the photo walk that we took yesterday with you and spread the christmas joy (or what have you). So here you are!

PS: I have no tripod, so I had to shoot these by hand. So that means, 1. They're a bit shakey, blurred, though I tried my very best and 2. I have no tripod


The Festival of Trees at the Four Seasons Hotel


A kind of neat ornament of a peacock feather

This was a wish from one of the wish trees. I thought it was cute

The Olympic Countdown clock outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, looking sort of festive.
Robson Square, just adjacent to the skating rink, all lit up in twinkly lights.

Ice blue Christmas Tree at the outdoor(ish) skating rink at Robson Square.

Picture of Spring at Robson Square. Not the season. The mechanical bobble.

Harbour Centre, lit up at the top.

Canada Place Sail light show. Looking kinda neat.


The Olympic Rings in the harbour. For some reason they're entirely green today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

That Thing Called Trust.

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Current Mood: Tired, and perhaps a little under-the-weather.

Current Song: from Saher by Jagjit Singh (it's that kind of day).

So I started off writing an entirely different blog post, and then it turned into this one. Lately, this has been in the forefront of my mind.

Yesterday, while having a conversation at some point, my sister said, "It's really hard to trust people."

It took me as a bit of a surprise actually, because of all the people in my family, she is the one that is most likely to trust someone. I'm the spiney one with the thick armour. I might have been lead armadillo in some previous life.

This isn't always a good thing, by the way. I've grown up like that. I'm suspicious of people in general (not in the needs-to-be-sedated way). I take apart social responses and relationships and reconstruct them so I can understand them. I would make a fantastic editor because of my proclivity to deconstruct on a regular basis.

Another among my long journeys. When you look at the very root of my trust issues, therein lies the key. It's more about being able to trust my responses rather than other people. I know myself well enough, but given an ambiguous situation, dealing with myself is more of an issue than dealing with another person. I don't know how I'll react. How my brain will wrap around the situation, what I'll say.

I've been lucky this year to be exposed to so many new people, many whom I've met through social media, and never in real life. Many have become good friends. This has gone some ways towards allaying my fears.

I also realize that I have never fallen apart to a point where I haven't picked myself up again. Something must be working inside. Some part of my being (probably the deconstructive/reconstructive one) puts me back together again.

I still have to learn to trust others. I think it goes hand in hand with learning to trust myself. I realize not everything can be trusted, but I also realize that giving someone or something the benefit of the doubt, is a form of respect. And respect I can do.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Unfriend"

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Current Mood: Hitting the end-of-year fatigue wall

Current Song: Rain by Creed (just heard it today. Makes my heart smile).

Today's post was actually inspired by Matt Wells' Daily Fix moment (He's inspired, and a hottie!). Every year the New Oxford American Dictionary names a Word of the Year that describes the general mood/trend of the year.

This year's word of the year is: Unfriend
Definition: -verb- to remove someone as a friend from a social networking site such as facebook.

If you've been reading my blog this year, I've been talking a lot about change, out with the old, in with the new, bygones and such. I think that the dictionary could not have picked a more apt word.

For me, this year has been full of internal changes as I seek to forgive, forget, plan, restrategize, let go, start anew. Some of it has to do with people, others with ideas I have of myself.

Lucky for me, it's also the beginning of a new decade. This seems to be an opportune time to put aside all of the things that have clouded my mind the last decade. It was a tumultuous one, as I finally entered my 20's and started to really discover what I was about and who I really was. There were many firsts experienced, many mistakes made, many opportunities to grow. I wear my scars with some amount of pride. They're a testament for all the various things that haven't held me back. In fact, I feel better about it now.

I'm planning (hopefully), to have a symbolic ceremony on new year's eve this year. I plan to put out everything that needs to be let go (I just have to figure out how to do this efficiently). This year has been real progress in terms of these things. I hope to finally put all of my hang-ups aside. I hope, especially to forgive. I think that I've decided what I can live without, and it's a good time to set myself free. It's time to unfriend those thoughts.

Should I go through it, I will definitely blog about it.

Time to prepare for a new year. Hopefully one that will rock in so many ways. And hopefully one from which I continue to grow and learn.

So, dear readers, will you be "unfriending"?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Event Roundup: Camps and Operas

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Current Mood: Fairly awake despite having quite the late night.

Current Song: Ave Maria (I was singing a bad rendition in my dream, and it's carried over to waking life).

This week has been most eventful in a long while. It's not often I'm out and about at more than one event. Being an introvert, I need plenty of time to recover. This week however, I attending two events that I thought to share with you.

On Monday, I went to something called Foreign Policy Camp. See this post if you want to read what it was. It's always a little bit intimidating to hit up an event without a wing person, but I seem to be getting more and more used to that. It's also very intimidating when there are many people in some very expensive looking suits attending. I'm always afraid of saying something stupid.

I attended two sessions - one in the morning, and another after lunch - during the day. The first one was about the Global Supply Chain and ethical and sustainability practices in the private sector. For those of you who know, I covered some of this in my thesis. We had wonderful facilitators in Steve Williams from SAP and Esther Speck from MEC. I learned about how sustainability practices are part of their business cases, and that is the way in which they ensure that it isn't just a side project. During the recession, they've been able to maintain many of these practices without letting them fall away. Regulation of these practices seem to be both internally driven as well as by consumers. Both speakers made a great case for sustainability having other benefits such as retention, morale and productivity. I learned a ton from people who actually employ these practices, and it was great to see a real business case rather than a hypothetical one to put things in perspective. I think we're on our way here, people!

My afternoon session was completely different. What a change! John Monahan, a wonderful facilitator from the Mosaic Institute led a session on the role of diasporas in creating Foreign Policy in Canada. Basically it was in the form of a breakout session where we answered fundamental questions. I guess the general mindframe of the group seemed to be that diasporas are first and foremost canadians, meeting Canadian values. As such, they shouldn't be cherry-picked as experts on the country of origin. It's isolating, probably some form of tokenism, and highlighting a difference that may not necessarily be present. For instance, if someone told me that I'm the expert on East Africa and what do I think of Canada's engagement, I wouldn't know what to say. I've been in this country long enough to have become Canadian. My ideas on how that engagement might occur may offer some new insights, but I wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination by the resident expert on the topic. It was an important thing to realize, especially in the wake of some of Canada's recent interactions with Asia-Pacific and Central Asia. Again, lots to think about, as Canadian Foreign Policy moves to evolve in the next decades. All in all, a wonderful day of meeting new folks and engaging my brain in some much needed intellectual calisthenics!
You can read this article written in The Mark on Global Citizens by John, for further reading.

And now for something Completely Different!

Last night, I attended Vancouver Opera's show for Norma with one of my dearest friends, Michael, as my date for the evening. The show was spectacular. For those of you who may have been perusing the papers as of late, you'll notice articles about Norma popping up everywhere. One of Vincenzo Bellini's famous Bel Cantos this two-act opera concentrates on the central character Norma, a druid priestess, who has a husband Pollione. Pollione falls in love with a virgin of the temple, Adalgisa, and chooses to leave Norma. This doesn't go over so well. And in short, the gates of hell open up.

This would probably be one of my favourites now, along with Aida from many years ago. The depth of character and richness of sound portrayed by Hasmik Papian, who plays Norma was unsurpassed. Richard Margison, who plays Pollione has a beautiful tenor voice. My favourite parts of course were the stunning duets performed by Norma and Adalgisa. And the big bang choral number was a wonderful ending to the night. I've been the opera before, a handful to times, and this is by far one of the most captivating ones I've seen in a long while.

Thanks to Vancouver Opera's Opera Under Thirty Program, we got fabulous seats. I'm always a little disappointed when I don't see young folks at the opera. There are great programs such as this one out there to encourage young people to go and see the arts, and I really encourage you to take advantage of them (before you hit your 30's and have to pay full price! Gasp!)

All in all, a wonderful week, with wonderful new learnings. Sorry for the rambling. I hope I've satisfied my fellow policy nerds as well as my fellow art lovers. I shall write again next week. Until then, stay well :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We're Never the Same Again

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Current Mood: Recovering from the intellectual aerobics of yesterday..whew! being smart is tiring!

Current Song: System by Seal

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending ForeignPolicyCamp 2009. I was among many of the various types of people who sat in all day sessions discussing Canada's foreign policy as it pertains to a myriad of things. But I'll write more about that later this week. This is more about something I learned at my lunch break.

The conference was held at Harbour Centre, which sits on the waterfront in downtown Vancouver. This area of about 3 blocks or so was where I worked for just about a decade, going from my highschool job to my first ever "real" job. So, it is an area that feels like home. I even did my graduate degree at the downtown campus of SFU, which is coincidentally at the Harbour Centre.

Many times, I've walked along the streets. I'm familiar with the bookshops that line one side of the street, where I used to go during lunch. I know the coffee shops, some of them my regular stops before or during work. I know how the streets behind the harbour centre light up and glimmer, giving the cobblestone an ambiance of and eighteenth century novel. I think it's beautiful and easily one of my favourite places.

The last time I left there (which now seems like another lifetime), I was sad. A life I had built up personally and professionally had somewhat torn apart at the edges and that year I lost my footing a bit. I struggled a little to regain that footing, but never really did. So I moved on to new endeavours. Every time I've been back to that area, whether it was for coffee, or just passing through to another part of town, I'm enveloped in a bittersweet fog that makes me reminisce about the good and bad times that little nook of vancouver had for me.

This time, however was different. I feel like those days were literally ages ago. I feel like a different person. I look into the water and I'm not sad. Yesterday we had brilliant sunshine in the area and the city was abuzz at lunch time, smells of various foods wafting through the frosty afternoon. I felt new. I shed something during my years away from that area that gave me new eyes and it's something I'm thankful for.

It just goes to show, we are never the same person as we step into the same structures that we do. There is a saying that goes, you never see the same river under the bridge twice. I believe it to be truer than ever now. Call it a process of growing, or of realization, or simply of being able to turn something off inside. But for the first time in a long time, I walked those cobblestone streets and smiled.