Sunday, May 12, 2013

Redact! Redact!

Hi all,
I have lately been listening to the excellent podcast found at www.wearecitizenradio.com and it has really helped me to do that political plugging in that I was missing before. I just think it's important that I say,after the last post where I was questioning some stuff, that I believe in the "socialist government" that Conservatives want so badly for us not to trust. We shouldn't trust it, but for very different reasons than the right wingers would want us to.

Since listening to this podcast I have had some wonderful/sad conversations with friends and family members about rape culture and how prevalent it is, as well as white privilege and patriarchal privilege. I've also baked my first batch of vegan cookies and served them to my students who were impressed at how tasty options that don't involve animals products can be, as was I.

Being aware and awake is a painful feeling, one that makes a person feel like it's a hopeless fight, when things like three women being locked in a basement for 10 years while being ignored by police and neighbours while suffering unimaginable abuse comes to light and the only thing people can focus on about the story is the funny black man who rescued her and his personal life. Why don't we know as much about the perpetrators, or the victims and how their recovery is progressing as we do about a man named Chales Ramsey and his relationship with McDonald's.

However, as easy as it is to feel overwhelmed with heart sickness, the important thing is to find a community of people who not only see behind that curtain, but who are positive influences in your life to help you find positive ways to take action and who don't judge you on the things you aren't ready to do yet. Something I like a lot about this podcast is their attitude towards veganism.

I realise that philisophically, I should be a vegan already. I don't at all agree with the way that meat comes to my local supermarket, knowing that living creatures were killed so that I can enjoy a hamburger, or that terrible, immoral companies are reaping profit and are being positively reinforced by my purchase. I am also an environmentalist who is deeply afraid of what is on the horizon with climate change and the environmental impact of the lifestyle we enjoy in the West. All that considered, I cannot yet being myself to stop eating meat and animal products.

What has been my excuse since hitting my teens has partially been based on my feeling of unwelcomness in the vegan community and fear of the judgement I felt from people who were already to some degree practicing this lifestyle. What I like about Citizen Radio is how non-judgemental they are about people trying to start cutting out meat and animal products, or to vegans or veggies who slip up and eat something they shouldn't. It's taken a long time to find that underlying message in the podcasts, but I am happy to have realised that small steps are better than none, like cutting down smoking, I can start modifying my way of eating in a way that more closely fits my ideology.

Just wanted to put that message out there because I think it's a really important one because I think there are a lot of people out there like me and if all of us started eating even just vegetarian for one day a week, the impact that has can be massive. It's worth at least trying!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Time Lapses!

I thought that these were cool for comparisons of where I've lived in the past year:


Singapore:
http://vimeo.com/zweizwei/singapore


Toronto:
http://vimeo.com/63647331

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'm Baaack (To Writing)

Arrrrg, I'm back.


Ok, look here friends. They tried to scare the wits out of us in teacher's college about having any sort of online identity, especially one that could be connected to political affiliations and that really got into my bones. I felt like, I can blog about living overseas and try to keep that politically neutral cause I'mma be living in a country where I don't vote so I can't be all that political cause I frankly have no right to say anything there anyways. But I'm getting that creeping feeling in my belly and that itchy feeling in my fingers and it's been there for a while now and I just miss writing. So, I'm gonna. Yay! I'm going to hope that this is like in sex ed class when they told us that if we ever lost our virginity to someone who wasn't our husband we would immediately get genital warts, AIDS and syphilis and our junk would rot off. Or that if we ever so much as took a puff of a joint we would descend into immediate drug-induced hysteria and likely leap off a building. Let's just hope it's like that.

M'kay. I've got soooo much I've wanted to write about and I am just going to stick with like one thing today I think. Well, one thing that will bleed into the other things. I'll get to my life and all that jazz later on, but for now I want to talk about I guess we'll say Margaret Thatcher, feminism and my scary creeping middle aged conservatism. Aiyah, that's a lot.

To start, Margaret Thatcher, she died. Y'all know that by now. And I've seen lots and lots of vitriol and rage on my facebook newsfeed and people just straight up getting their glee on that Maggie kicked it. So I was all like, dude, I don't know enough about this lady to be informed (tangent time!!)

**Tangent: since my return to Canada I feel like I have had this plug that I am trying to put back into this giant switchboard I call political awareness that I literally unplugged for two years while I was away. I mean sure, I followed the elections in Canada and the States, in fact I watched ALL of the presidential debates, which I probably wouldn't have done if I'd been here in the land of the maple, but I did not get active about things, I did not participate in much political discourse and I think to an extent I shut off my critical thinking rage machine that I call my brain. Coming back to Canada I've slowly been plugging back in, one small prong at a time, but I feel like I'm sort of changed by the whole thing too, which will likely be something I discuss in tangent two!**

And so I went and read a little bit about Maggie and watched an interview with her from the CBC archives. Here's the thing. I don't necessarily get on the hating her bandwagon. For two reasons. The first is that I am a feminist. And as a feminist, I honestly and wholeheartedly wish to support women's right to make their own choices. Which sucks sometimes if I'm honest, cause women being people, they make some TERRIBLE ASS choices sometimes with that freedom that has been fought for. Thatcher pretty much being an example of this very notion.

Look, the lady was the fist female Prime Minister. And not in like, 1999 or whatever when we had the Spice Girls and a more mainstream notion of female empowerment. We are talking about when shit was pretty damn awful for da ladies. I mean, it still is, they still talk more about Hilary Clinton's hairstyles and choices of pantsuits in the media than her politics or ideology. So for that, Margaret Thatcher is a badass.

As well, I think she deserves some kudos for being a bitch, unflinchingly. In the words of Tina Fey, bitches get shit done. I think it takes some courage to be an outspoken woman who isn't liked, because our language simply has more heinous vocabulary at its disposal to hurl at you, and that builds some pathways in your brain that are a lot easier to go down when you need to articulate how terribly you loathe a person and I'm sure that doesn't lend itself well to people being kind to those of us with the boobs. If that makes sense.

Finally, and this is tangent two, I'm afraid I am becoming sort of a conservative. Which my Dad always told me would happen when I got older and I had dreadlocks and a tattoo and was like NEVER but I'm getting worried that I am anyways. Cause I was listening to this interview with her, and she's been set up as this paragon of evil, yet what she's saying is making some sense to me a little bit.

I don't think I've explored this or read enough about so I'll just talk about what I think is leading to here. It's contrast.

In Asia, where I was, people don't get shit from the government. Which is in some ways truly horrible. Elderly people, I'm talking 88 year old aunties with hunchbacks and sorrow in their eyes are cleaning up your tray at McDonald's because there is no social security and she needs to do that to work. Or someone who is blind is sitting on the pavement at this gleaming plastic mall where people are blowing hundreds of dollars on Angry Birds merchandise singing for crack change because that's all he can really do in this world he is living in. However. You don't have people on the bus talking about their parole officer being an asshole for wanting them to go see an addictions counsellor in the same conversation where the quest to score some stuff, dumpster diving and how crappy the cellphone that the government bought for them is cause the camera isn't as good quality on it as the one on the iPhone is has been discussed. You don't have psychos going in to government offices and getting money from the terrified employees there so that he can spend the weekend touring the area instead of violently attacking people because he just got out of prison and he's feeling bored.

I really don't know. The 13 year old idealist in me is arguing that the idiots who abuse the system shouldn't completely null and void the validity of said system. And that there are assholes in every society and every style of government is going to have it's flaws. I guess our system's flaws to me are still better than the blind man dancing to Gangnam style in the insane heat of Singapore at the mall so that he can eat and have a place to live in his 80's.

So for now, I thin I am going to side with my 13 year old self (she forced me to go to the Spice Girl's reunion tour and she wasn't wrong then) because I hope that I can plug my prongs back in and still keep my head on straight.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Home

I realise that I have been back in Canada now for almost a month and I have yet to update this here blog. I think it's partly to do with the fact that it is about my adventures in Singapore and that time is now over, and partly to do with the colossal feat I have been undertaking to create a life up from the ashes that were the remnants of my leaving.

However, I think I might be ready now to post my final thoughts about everything standing as I am now firmly on the ground and having had some time to get my head round the whole thing.

Upon arriving back here in Canada there were a few things that struck me. I think it's an interesting perspective to be able to have the experience of being a foreigner in your own land, if only for a few days while your mind switches channels. Seeing Canada from that perspective has been very interesting.

Here are the things I noticed the most:

White people all look the same
We have soooooo much sky here
The empathy that is entrenched in our culture permeates everything

After having talked with my friend Ash who lived in Ghana for a while, I have found out that this white people look the same thing is not unusual. For the first couple of days I was back, all of the people I saw looked like people I went to high school with or people that I went to university with. I think I'm just not used to seeing white people's facial features so they ping in my head as being familiar.

I never realised in Singapore how little you see of the sky as much as I did in my Dad's car driving down the QEW. Things here are so much flatter and you aren't surrounded on every side by towering buildings and you suddenly realise how big the sky really is. It was kind of like that first time you go up in an airplane and you go above the clouds and you realise that it's always sunny, it's just the cloud that block it out. If that makes any sense at all...

Finally, and I think most importantly, the empathy in our culture. Since coming back two surveys have been released that have said that Singaporean are both the least emotional and least happy people in the world. Now, whether that is really true or not is of course debatable, but I do find that there is a distinct lack of caring for others. Not to say that Singaporeans are jerks, they're not, it's just...they don't really seem to feel a lot of compassion. Canadians brim with it. Even in Toronto, where people are notoriously assholes, it is more common for people to return things when someone drops them, help someone up who has slipped and fallen, say hello to strangers or ask them how their day is, give money to people asking on the street and respond to marketing that speaks to your sympathy. All of these things I have seen and noticed since coming back and all of them are things I either rarely or never saw in Singapore. You kind of forget that it's out there in a way, but it's the hallmark of what makes this country my home I think.

I have also seen a few of my friends and I feel so overwhelmed at the caring, wonderful natures that they have. I truly have a community of people here that care and are caregivers, who nurture and love and take care of people as their job, or just as part of the very fabric of who they are. It's not just because we are Canadian, I think it's also just who we are, but man, it is good to be back in the warm, loving arms of my home.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goodbye

Today is the last day I will be in Singapore. It's not really sunk in yet and it still seems really surreal. I've said emotional goodbyes to my school and my friends and I'm almost ready to go. My single box for shipping has been picked up and most of the things on my to-do list are complete. Now it's just a question of packing the last pieces of my life and getting to the airport tomorrow morning.

It's been an amazing, painful, exciting and lonely time. I've made friends and lost friends, I've seen parts of the world I'd only dreamed of and I've learned a lot about myself and the world around me. I've grown into a teacher and I've challenged myself to the limit of what I thought I was possible of. I'm incredibly proud of the accomplishments I've made.

It's time to go home though. It will be cold, I will be poor, I'm sure I will be in culture shock for a while. But there's truly no place like home. I can't wait to see my friends again and be back in the warm community of home.

I'm grateful to the kindness people here have shown me, the acceptance I have found and the inner strength it's taken me to get this far. It doesn't seem real that I will be leaving soon, and I don't know if it will for a few days. It feels like one life is ending and another is starting and there is sadness and excitement with that.

For now, goodbye Singapore and thank you for everything. I have seen beautiful things, painful things and a whole new world here. I see change coming to Singapore and slowly things in the education system here are getting better. I truly believe that Singapore is going to make it to their vision one day and I hope that I get to visit so that I can see it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Japan

Look. I just don't think I have the writing prowess to accurately capture the sheer experience of Japan for you all. I would like to, I really would. But man, there is just so much that is... indescribable.

I think I've settled on giving you small glimpses into experiences and feelings I had while I was there in some attempt to give you a window into what it was like. So, I hope this kind of works. If not, I'm sorry.

-Flying on my own, exhilarating feeling of being truly free and alone, fragile, vulnerable, independent and like I've actually attained the feeling I longed for all those times I felt like packing it all in and just disappearing from the life I had. This is me, doing that shit for the next week.

-Landing in the completely foreign world of Japan, the language is completely different, feeling like I wish they were just speaking Chinese cause at least I understand some of that, realising how weird it is that I understand some Chinese now

-This feeling of floating through life like a bobber on the surface of a pond cause there's no meaning to assign to the things that would hold you here, in this place, in this moment. You can't read the signs, understand the announcements, figure out what the food on the menu in the picture is, what the street names are, what direction is up, down, or all around. All you can do is hope that you read enough about this place to get around, that the transit map you have is accurate and that the vague route you've charted for yourself on what seems like literally hundreds of subway lines is going to get you to the strange place with the different name that sounds like nothing you have a context for.

-Being ok, making it there, and feeling accomplished as fuck.

-Arriving in Shibuya, finding the crossing and feeling like there is this pulsing, throbbing, life coming up from the pavement through your shoes and into your blood

-People everywhere, lights flashing, music blaring, stores everywhere, red light, white light, a beautiful hustle, the world standing still while everyone waits for a light to change and then, suddenly, the explosion of hundreds of bodies throbbing out and across this intersection that looks like daylight from the neon beaming down on it

-Feeling like the other stuff I've done in Asia were the water wings to prepare me for Japan. Crossing the street with oncoming motos in Vietnam, listening to a million words in languages I don't know how to speak, zebra crossings, the subway lines in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, London, Malaysia, Toronto all coming together for this: the apotheosis of subway lines

-Constantly being struck by the sheer graciousness of the Japanese. People bowing to me, saying thank you in the politest ways, taking such good customer care of me that I feel like a queen, literally running in heels to pick up a computer printout for my Shinkansen ticket. Wanting not to compare these people to the people I've encountered in Singapore and China, but not being able to help feeling so damn impressed with the people of Japan

-Being awkward and unable to speak the language, feeling ashamed of myself daily for my intrusion and ignorance

-Walking through Harajuku, blaring music, insane colours then turning a corner into Meiji shrine and finding a peaceful, beautiful forest, with streams and trees and animals and birds and a beautiful, almost silent shrine that transcends religion

-Strolling through the gardens of the Imperial palace after finding my way through the concrete jungle to get there, being weirded out by the juxtaposition of the buildings in the background rising up above the beautiful, landscaped perfection of a Japanese garden, then falling in love with the possibilities of Tokyo

-Looking up and seeing layer after layer of humanity, highways, train tracks, office buildings, pedestrian walkways, elevators rising through the floors, signs peering out through the cracks and thinking how many layers of humanity you could find in Tokyo would fill a lifetime

-Shinkansen, going super fast, looking out at the beauty of the countryside, struck by how green everything is. Announcement: "No smoking will be allowed on this train...except for in the following cars:...." being fascinated with the culture of smoking here, there are designated smoking areas and you don't see anyone walking around and smoking out on the street, but smoking is allowed in almost every restaurant, hotel lobby and even on the train to Kyoto

-Kyoto, is almost too beautiful a place to describe for you

-When I got there, I felt depressed and lost because I didn't have a lonely plant book for it. Then I went to the tourism information and the world opened up for me. Funny how information is so essential to the enjoyment of a place for me

-Taking the bus everywhere, seeing temple, shrine, temple, shrine, bam bam bam bam, feeling like my eyes aren't enough to take in the beauty, the greenery, the fineness and grace and elegance involved in every leaf, bit of moss, carefully curving branch involved in these beautiful places

-Walking through Gion for hours, the strange dichotomy inside of not wanting to be a gawking white person looking at a culture through a glass pane, not wanting to feel like the Maiko who walked by me was an animal in the zoo for me to observe, but still having the uncontrollable fascination. Struggling with the feeling of being some sort of sanctimonious hipster prick for making judgments like that on people who are tourists when I am one myself, realising that this whole thing was stupid to be thinking about and probably the result of being alone with no one to talk to for days on days and days.

-Sushi and Japanese curry and beautiful light Japanese beers and loving sitting in restaurants and reading books and enjoying food and being completely on my own, selfish schedule that decides when and where and how I do things and not having to wait for anyone else to finish at a place, or having the feeling that I have to stay for long enough to seem to other people like I've truly appreciated a place

-Slaking my thirst for beauty like some sort of dazed drunkard, rushing from temple to temple and not taking more than half an hour at each because that's as long as I wanted to take, thanks

-Everything is beautiful. Even when its ugly. Feeling like I will break down and cry at the splendor of nature.

-Going into a hot spring and being naked with all of these Japanese ladies, feeling super out of place and trying not to look too much at the naked ladies, but needing to so that I know what the hell the protocol here is, cause the Lonely Planet said some stuff, but I still don't want to do some heinous, offensive, white people thing that will ruin the peace and tranquility of this strange naked people place. Feeling very pink.


I don't know. Maybe that's too much. Maybe it's not enough. I guess it sums up some of it.

And, I have lots and lots of pictures, here they are:

http://s1105.photobucket.com/albums/h343/Bea_Jolley/Japan%202012/




Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tokyo (The First Day)


My first night in Japan was good. I landed at Narita and managed to find the train station. I took a very futuristic train straight to Shibuya which is the area I am staying in. I walked out of the train station and came to terms with the fact that there was no way I could hope of navigating my way to my hotel from there so I accepted fate and hailed a cab. Thus began the Gong show I will call Talking to Japanese (In English). People are really patient and sweet and they talk to me in Japanese and I talk in English and we both giggle and mime our way through. I feel like an ignorant Westerner, which I am, but at least I kind of know my Asia, so I feel much more prepared for Tokyo at night than I would have a year ago. 

Found the hotel, it is very cute. It`s a little boutique hotel and my room is adorable and tiny. The toilet has a permanently heated seat and an automatic flusher and all sorts of bidet functions I dont want to explore for fear of the fact that one of them I think is some sort of enema. I just hope I dont hit the wrong button in a stupour one night and get more than Id bargained for. 

I went out exploring Shibuya and it took me a while to find Shibuya crossing, but when I did, holy pants. Its the place you always see int he movies of Japan, with the insane flashing lights and videos blaring commercials and thousands of people crossing the street. It is beautiful and crazy and everything I had hoped it would be. 

Some young guy took my hand while I was crossing the street and told me I was very beautiful and that he loved me. I laughed and laughed and showed him pictures of Ben on my phone. I used my translator to say that he doesnt know me so he cant possibly love me but he insisted that I smell good and I am a genius. I think these are some of the only English words he knew. I laughed and laughed and then wandered away while he was on the phone. 

I had an awesome Shiatsu massage that was the perfect thing for just having got off a 7 hour plane ride and went home to bed. It is raining a lot here right now so I`m trying to think what to do with myself. I want to see some sumo and the Imperial Palace and do some shopping. Harajuku is supposed to be awesome on Sunday nights so I think I am going to head there tonight. I dont know why Sunday night but I`ll let you know and get back to you. 

Essentially, I feel like the other places I`ve travelled in Asia have prepared me in slow steps for Japan. My friend Kelli said that she has felt like Japan is real Asia, like dark, totally different, inaccessible Asia and she`s right in a way. But I think that it all comes together to make sense here. 

Coming here on my own in some ways is more scary than it was to go to Singapore because Singaporeans speak English and there was someone there on the other side to meet me. That being said, its one of the most exciting things Ive ever done and Im so glad I have. This is certainly one of those things I will have in my heart, a memory that will last until my inevitable strokes wipe them out. 

More to come, also, I would like you all to notice that I have sorted out this Japanese keyboard and that there are no kanji characters at all. I am a goddess of sorting stuff out.