Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pride and the Island and Zombies - August 2009

My second summer in Vancouver has been jam-packed with activities. I'm still working, doing basically the same thing as last month, and continuing to enjoy it. Not only has that kept me busy during the week, but my weekends have also been quite full.

First, there were the fireworks. I'd been to see them last August, and this year I went with my roommates to see them again. The same weekend was the Pride celebration. Last year, I went to see my very first Pride Parade; this year, I marched in the parade. I went with my church, which in turn went as part of the Anglican Diocese of Vancouver. Since the parade was on Sunday, we gathered at church for an early-morning service, then had breakfast, and took our places in the parade line-up. It was a hot day, and we spent a good hour or so just standing around before the parade even started! Besides having fun, I got a nifty tan that day – which was good, as I'd somehow managed to go half a summer without getting tanned!

The next weekend I went over to Nanaimo for an AVEN meet-up. It was a pretty short visit; I spent more time just getting to Nanaimo and back than actually being in the city. Still, it gave me an excuse to see more of Vancouver Island, and also to see more of North Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, which I found remarkably lovely.

A buddy of mine from the Netherlands came to visit for a week, and we spent much of the following weekend together. Saturday happened to be the Vancouver Zombie Walk, which I mentioned last year in my September post. Last time I wasn't able to take pictures, so this time I made a point of bringing my camera. Unfortunately, this year's walk wasn't as exciting as last year's; the zombies seemed much less organised, and it came off more like a Zombie Stroll or Zombie Chill. Still, I did get a few good pictures, including zombie pirates, a zombie Dorothy and Scarecrow, and – my favourite – zombie Michael Jackson! After the zombies we went to Granville Island to see a high school production of Macbeth. Obviously, being done by high school students, it wasn't the best Shakespeare production I've seen, but it was still pretty good, and it was free!

I used the next weekend to take my last trip to Victoria. I decided I should take advantage of the opportunity to do a little more sight-seeing, so I spent an afternoon at the Royal B.C. Museum. I'd heard it was really good, and it was, but I found it a bit small, and very expensive. I spent most of my time in the native American art exhibit. I enjoyed learning about native American culture and history, both pre- and post-European contact. I especially appreciated that the exhibit was limited specifically to B.C. native cultures. Too often it seems that Canada's native peoples get discussed in a holistic way that obfuscates the vast diversity among them. The other exhibits were about the local environment and local culture, neither of which I found very exciting. There was also a special exhibit of artefacts from the British Museum, which should have been fascinating – except that I'd seen the same exhibit when I was in Hong Kong two years ago. The best part of the whole day may have been as I was leaving the museum. A guy in a Darth Vader costume was standing on a street corner playing the fiddle. Now, a guy standing on a street corner and playing a fiddle – we've all seen that. But a guy standing on a corner, playing a fiddle, and wearing a Darth Vader costumethat's special!

The last weekend of the month I had a work dinner on Saturday and an AVEN dinner on Sunday. The work dinner was at my boss's house, and it went quite well, although, oddly, my boss was unable to eat anything because she is Muslim and was observing Ramadan! The AVEN dinner was almost a complete disaster when we got to the intended restaurant and found it closed, but fortunately we quickly scouted the restaurant across the street, and were able to move the whole even over there! That weekend, I also saw my sister off. She'd been living and studying in Victoria, but now she's moving back to Ontario. I've enjoyed having her so close by. With her gone, I probably won't stay in Vancouver much longer.

Movies I've seen this month:

The Last King of Scotland – I thought this was quite a good movie over-all, although, as often happens with films about political upheaval in foreign countries, I found myself wondering, "Why are they making it all about the white guy?" (Three and a half stars)

Plays I've seen this month:

Macbeth – This was technically my second time seeing Macbeth in as many years, the first having been in Hong Kong. It wasn't terribly professional, but I thought the young actors did a pretty good job with their parts, especially the lead. I also liked the decision to dress the characters in a neo-Goth style, which I thought suited the material quite well.

Books I've read this month:

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – Aside from my slight disappointment that this book, despite its title, has comparatively little to do with triffids, I was quite impressed with it. It paints a very interesting picture of humanity struggling to survive in the aftermath of a biological holocaust, and although I don't agree with all its predictions, I still found it a good read.

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain – A sweet children's fable with a completely fantastic premise. I appreciated the mix of historical realism and gentle satire with a sense of whimsy and innocence.

Monday, October 5, 2009

26 - July 2009

Thirteen years ago, at the age of thirteen, I decided to take stock of my life. I looked at who I was, and how I'd gotten that way. Most importantly, I thought about what I wanted my future to be like. I didn't have any clear idea of how long it might take to turn into the kind of person I wanted to be, but I'd always imagined that I should have most of it sorted out by the time I was twenty-six. Besides, at twenty-six I would be twice as old as I currently was. So I decided to set myself a few goals, and hope to have them achieved by that age. Chief among them were the following: make a friend, fall in love, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Thirteen years later I've had variable success. I've never fallen in love, but I'm beginning to think that may not be all that important. I haven't figured out what I want to do with my life, but I do like the path I'm on, and I've decided to concentrate on enjoying the journey. I have made a friend. Or two. And, as that's probably the most important of the three goals, I think I can feel pretty good about that.

So, now that I'm twenty-six, it's time to take stock again. Here, in brief, is my life as I saw it thirteen years ago, and as I see it now.

At thirteen:

Favourite colour – white
Favourite movie – the Star Wars trilogy
Favourite T.V. show – I can't remember what I watched back then. Probably Wishbone, Bill Nye, or Alex Mack.
Favourite book – The Neverending Story
Favourite musical artist – Probably one or all of Amanda Marshall, Jann Arden, Sarah McLachlan, or Sheryl Crow.
Countries I'd visited – 4: Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark (The U.S. doesn't count, since I was too young to remember it.)
Cities I'd lived in – 3: London, ON; London, UK; Ottawa, ON (L.A. doesn't count. See above.)
Jobs I'd had – 0
Musical instruments I'd studied – 2: Piano, trumpet
Languages I spoke fluently – 1: English

At twenty-six:

Favourite colour – blue
Favourite movie – I haven't seen Star Wars since I was thirteen, but I suspect it'd still be number one.
Favourite T.V. show – The X-Files
Favourite book – The Neverending Story (Some things haven't changed.)
Favourite musical artist – Collective Soul
Countries I've visited – 7: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong
Cities I've lived in – 5: London, ON; London, UK; Ottawa, ON; Hong Kong; Vancouver, BC
Jobs I've had – 8: food court attendant, ice-cream scooper, inventory clerk, drug store cashier, E.S.L. tutor, E.S.L. teacher (3)
Musical instruments I've studied – 3: piano, trumpet, oboe (plus trying to teach myself the guitar)
Languages I speak fluently – 1: English

These are my goals for the next thirteen years: learn French, pick a career, and write a book. We'll see how that goes.

This was the first year in a very long time that I was away from Ottawa for Canada Day. Celebrating our nation's birthday in our national capital has been something of a tradition for me since I graduated high school. I made the best of it, though. The weather was lovely: sunny, and not too hot. I went down to Granville Island, where they had live music and some official Canada Day ceremonies. The coolest thing they had there was a display entitled "Where In the World Do You Say You Are From?" Visitors were invited to place a stone on a world map representing where they were from. The purpose of the exercise, as was explained to me, was to get people to think about how they identified themselves, and also to highlight the diversity of people at the event. I put my rock on the Ottawa area. It's where I usually say I am from, even though I wasn't born there and am not currently living there. After Granville Island I went down to the beach to watch the fireworks. It got pretty cold sitting out on the beach at night, and we couldn't see the fireworks very well, but I had a pretty good time, over all.

During the winter I learned that Vancouverites have a very low tolerance for cold. To my surprise, I've discovered that they're almost equally intolerant of heat. In July, I started hearing people commenting on how hot the weather was – "hot" being about 25ºC. Then a heat wave hit, and suddenly the weather became "ridiculously hot". Which is to say that it broke 30ºC. I felt obliged to explain that 30ºC is not "ridiculously" anything. It's hot. Period. And anything below 30ºC is merely "warm". Seriously, they should go through 40º weather in Ontario. Then they'd know the meaning of "ridiculous".

July was my first full month of teaching, and I enjoyed it a lot. I had a really good curriculum to work with, and I had a lot of fun picking and choosing what things to teach and supplementing them with my own ideas. I have some really great students to thank for that. One of my classes in particular contained a fairly enthusiastic bunch, and they were a pleasure to teach. Not all of my lessons were successful, and I know I still have a long way to go as a teacher, but enough went well this month to make me feel relatively good about myself and confident about the future. My favourite parts were planning a scavenger hunt at HMV and teaching social issues and discussion techniques.

One of my roommates had her birthday in July, so we all went out clubbing to celebrate. I've had some pretty good clubbing experiences, but this wasn't one of them. First we went to a bar. We had to pay cover just to get into the bar, then sat around for an hour drinking – or, in my case, not drinking – and talking – or rather not talking because it was too noisy to hear anything! When we got to the club, it was packed, and we had to pay cover again. We squeezed into a corner near the entrance, where we were in everyone's way. We had to move every thirty seconds to let people by, and I got elbowed in the nose by someone! Eventually I decided to move to the actual dance floor. Dancing was considerably easier there, but the music wasn't very good. They mostly played random techno-ish music with no clear melody, which was really hard to dance to. In short, the whole experience was disappointing, and I hope the next time I go clubbing it's with people with better judgement, at a club with better music.

I spent my birthday weekend with my sister. On my actual birthday we climbed Grouse Mountain. This time I made it up in and hour and forty minutes, a ten minute improvement over last time! I'd gotten a second-hand digital camera when I was in Ottawa, and my sister gave me an SD card for a birthday present. That means from now on I should be able to take much better pictures than I have.

In the news, Michael Jackson died. This hasn't affected me as strongly as some people who can actually remember when he was popular. My earliest memories are all of him as an effeminate white-person. I like some of his songs, I respect him as a cultural icon, and feel sorry for him as a person. Other than that, I don't have much of an opinion.

Movies I've seen this month:

Finding Neverland – I expected to like this film a lot, but actually found it quite disappointing. It has a good story, a top-notch cast – and oddly uninspired writing and directing. (Three stars)

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – Artsy Korean film about a Buddhist monk and his pupil. I liked it at first, but I found it harder to understand as it went on, and was fairly confused by the end. (Two and a half stars)

Public Enemies – The film looks beautiful, sounds pretty good, and features some great actors. Unfortunately, the story isn't particularly engaging, and I never really cared about the characters as much as I wanted to. It may not be a bad movie – but I feel no desire at all to ever see it again. (Three stars)

T.V. shows I've seen this month:

Torchwood: Children of Earth – Wow! This show has come a long way! From its humble, somewhat laughable beginnings, it's grown into a mature, intelligent, and genuinely angsty sci-fi thriller. The story was interesting, the plot was comparatively tight, and there were even some good character moments. Sure, some developments don't really make sense, but others are amazing! Oh, and not to give spoilers, but there's at least one twist I'm really sad about. *sniff* I won't hold it against the writers, though, because it was brilliant!

Books I've read this month:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – One of those novels I never got around to reading when I was in elementary school. It paints a fairly interesting picture of what life might be like in a remote, post-apocalyptic society. I found the ending somewhat disturbing, but over all I quite liked it.