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Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Miss This Community

I found a video from this year's Guelph Pep Rally. I can't help feeling nostalgic and a slight longing for this strong sense of community. Guelph was something really special to me. I still hope one day to be back in Guelph for the beginning of September so I can watch this event from the other side of the football field.

The Pep Rally is an event at The University of Guelph where first year students all perform a dance with their residence hall. The big performance and attraction is the OV Boogie put on by student orientation volunteers. Residents and community members come out each year to watch. I took part three different years; once as a first year, and twice as an OV.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Walk for Reconciliation

The Walk for Reconciliation this past Sunday was a great success. Although I struggled to get my sleepy and sick self out of bed on Sunday morning, it was such a moving experience to be a part of. Over 70,000 people united on the rainy streets of Vancouver to walk for human rights and understanding.

Despite the pouring rain, we all stood together for several hours in a sea of umbrellas. It was great to be apart of something so big. The video below was uploaded by Reconciliation Canada on Youtube, and shows some of the highlights from the event.


Upon finishing, each person was given a tiny wooden block. These gifts were created by school kids throughout BC who were being taught about the reconciliation process. Each block had a word written on it, with the other side uniquely decorated by a child. The one I received said the word "Courage" on it, and has some adorable pink flowers.

Courage is certainly a great virtue to live by, and I treasure the token for what it represents. I'm glad I participated in this important event and I feel very humbled by it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Three Weeks In

Hey guys!

It's been such a long time since I've updated my blog. No doubt about it, I've been swept up in all the classes, readings and deadlines. It's funny, because before I enrolled in my masters I had thought to myself, "am I ready to once again enter this academic world where any spare time feels like procrastination?" At least I was well aware of what I was getting myself into!

So far I'm enjoying my classes. My program is very multidisciplinary, so it feels as though I'm extending what I've already learnt during my undergrad. However, for a masters that had a research thesis, my program is very course heavy. I've already gotten a sense of how overwhelming all the readings and assignments can be.

I've been fighting a cold that started sneaking up on me during the second week of class, but it finally hit me full force this past week. I have no immunity to the germs here on the West Coast, but I have a feeling my cold also has a lot of do with how much I've been overworking myself. I been staying up late every night doing readings and I haven't exercised in several weeks. While I got away with this kind of stuff during my undergrad, I'm at an age now where I have to take care of myself. This cold is an important lesson that I'm going to burn myself out both physically and mentally.

Starting now, I've decided that I'm going to make a point of prioritizing "me" time and ensuring I still can do the things I love. I still want to be able to blog, weight-lift, run trails, see friends and play sports. No matter how much I try, there's no way I'd be able to get all of the readings for my classes done, so why should I let that compromise my own health?

Tomorrow I'll be participating in the Walk for Reconciliation at Queen Elizabeth Plaza in downtown Vancouver. This 4 kilometer walk is a part of Reconciliation Week, which is an effort for Aboriginals and non-native Canadians to come to an understanding over our cultures, history and need for a better tomorrow.

I'm passionate over Aboriginal rights, but I'm still out of the loop for happenings here in British Columbia. Fortunately, I found out about this event thanks to the SFU Day for Reconciliation, which was held on my campus. The SFU Day for Reconciliation involved speeches and panel discussions on the effects of residential schools in Canada. For those who may not be aware, for over 100 years Aboriginal children in Canada had been displaced from their homes to attend government-funded residential schools. These schools were operated by Christian churches, and attempted to "integrate" Aboriginals into society by removing their cultural values and language. If that wasn't enough, physical, emotional and sexual abuse were prevalent in these schools.

The panels were emotionally-charged, with speakers describing their own personal experiences with the effects of residential school. There was also a viewing of the film We Were Children, which was a beautifully directed movie recounting the experiences of two children who grew up in residential schools. It is heavy and emotionally draining, but I beg any Canadian to watch this movie. Racism is still too prevalent in our society, and I think understanding can help change that.

The SFU Day of Reconciliation was emotionally exhausting, but also eye-opening. I cried so hard during the panel discussion that one of my contact lenses got lodged behind my eyelid. A lot of my classmates were there with me and were also emotionally touched (although none of them had as dorky of a mishap as me).

I look forward to taking part in the Walk For Reconciliation tomorrow. I've been feeling a little out-of-place here in Vancouver, so taking part in something important to me will be really beneficial.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Quick Journey Around British Columbia

Hey everyone!

I'm back and fully recovered from my four day trip around British Columbia. It was a great experience and an excellent addition to my masters program. Even though classes haven't started yet, I've had the opportunity to meet my cohort and make new friends.

Each day of the trip meant waking up excruciatingly early, driving for hours in a van filled with 14 other students, and stopping off throughout the province to meet with officials working in natural resource management. Even after a long day, our evenings were filled with more lessons and chances to drink and socialize. Safe to say, I've been catching up on sleep for the past few days.

Only a few of the stop-offs particularly applied to my research interests, but I still found it was a great opportunity to learn more about the province. Having never had the opportunity to travel here before, I really enjoyed seeing the different climates and landscapes. The mountains here are a treat for me; nothing comes as close in size in Ontario.

Here are some pictures from the trip, along with some noteworthy moments.

We spent our first night sleeping in cabins at a resort called Lac le Jeune. This was the view from our front porch. It looks relaxing, but I actually found it terribly cold. It was around 10 degrees that night, and I've definitely not aclimated to cooler temperatures yet.

My favorite visit was to a small woodlot in Savona that was on the ancestral land of a First Nation band. The forester who runs the woodlot met with us to discuss his method of selectively harvesting wood. He works closely with the First Nation community to preserve the natural diversity in the area. Instead of clear cutting the whole area of trees, he'll only cut down one or two trees from an area. As well, he also leaves any fallen wood to decompose knowing that it'll eventually return nutrients to the soil.

My level of respect for this practice is quite high, especially since it goes against the norm and isn't seen as profitable in our fast-paced and short-term economy. However, this forest will last for generations, just as  ancestral First Nations had maintained it for thousands of years. Just walking through the area gave you a sense of how well managed it was. There were several raptors flying around, the forest was lush, and we even found hundreds of young toads that were an endangered species.

At the end of our visit, we stopped by a nearby forest that had just been clear-cut. The difference was remarkable.

When we first arrived, we all made the safe assumption that all the wood lying around in piles still had to be collected. Nope. Apparently, these trunks were deemed not cost-effective enough to collect. They were too small or thin to be worth the cost in gas to transport them to a mill. Instead, they are left in piles and are usually burned. Burned or not, leaving them this way does little to help the give back nutrients to the soil.

The next part of the trip took us through Lillooet, BC. While Vancouver gets days upon days of rain due to the mountains, Lillooet gets very little. Being in the interior of BC, very little rain clouds make it past the mountains. This makes for dry, scrubland habitat.

On the third day of the trip we drove to Whistler, BC. Whistler is a popular resort town with some impeccable ski hills, which is where some of the 2010 Winter Olympics were held. There we got to ride several chairlifts to the top of the mountain where we learnt all about Whister's sustainability practices. 

It is absolutely beautiful at that elevation. The chairlifts took us through clouds as we were brought up the snow-capped mountain.

We had a bit of spare time afterwards at the top of the mountain. We took the time to go for a short hike and admire the beautiful alpine environment. We also met a few cheeky marmot that were very friendly as well as fat. I suspect they are fed by tourists and have learned to pose for food. 

Isn't he cute?

Anyways, that's my update for now. Hopefully this isn't too much rambling, but I really wanted to share my photos. Thankfully I feel a lot less homesick and nervous now that I've made friends in my program and I know a bit more of what to expect. I think I said it in my previous post, but this was a really great start to my studies.