Friday, November 26, 2010

Scenes from a Vancouver Snow Day

Vancouver had its first taste of snow last Friday evening, but it was yesterday's snowfall that halted the city. I wasn't even supposed to be in Vancouver yesterday - I was supposed to be in Nanaimo for a workshop, but my float plane was cancelled and thus so was my workshop. As a result, I worked from home all day and admired the winter wonderland that Vancouver became, if only for a fleeting moment:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quintessential East Van scenes

I ended up at the Britannia Community Centre yesterday morning for the Remembrance Day ceremony. Strangely, it was the first one I've ever attended (not including those ceremonies from the high school days). Didn't take any shots of the event itself, but managed to capture these quintessential East Van scenes:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And so Gordon Campbell resigns...

I am by no means a political expert. Not even close. It's pretty embarrassing, and with exception to a passionate few, I'd say that the average Canadian, at least here in BC, is equally perplexed when it comes to local politics.

I mean, how do you go about explaining it? Where do you even start?

My Dad, up until he retired a few years ago, taught high school science in Richmond. I remember him voting for Gordon Campbell about a decade ago - who knows what his reasons were. (I'm sure it didn't hurt that my sister's good friend was Liberal Attorney Geoff Plant's daughter.) However, once in power, Campbell's government quickly tore up any legally binding contracts he had with the province's educators, and, well... it all went to shit really quickly. We'd learn to never talk politics at home unless we wanted to see our dad seething and frothing at the mouth in frustration. I'm sure he wasn't alone.

Last night I hung with my friend Stephanie. Stephanie's a great girl - enthusastic and gung ho for anything. I originally worked with her at a mining company back in 2007. I was making maps and doing GIS work for them while she came on board as a general assistant, fresh out of college from Montana.

The thing with Stephanie is that she loves politics, but is blissfully ignorant of Canadian politics, and Canada in general. Having recently received her permanent residency, she confided that she didn't feel like she could properly vote in Canada because she didn't want to be an uneducated voter. "I get American politics and I understand British politics, but I don't understand Canadian politics" she said. "So educate yourself!" I proclaimed, and we delved into Canadian Politics 101... the blind leading the blind.

I immediately showed her Laila Yuile's 100 Reasons Gordon Campbell Must Go and encouraged her to read it as a sort of "crash course" into BC politics, into what's relevant and topical on British Columbian minds. We also went through the websites of the BC Liberal, Conservative, and NDP parties, in addition to what was written on Wikipedia. I encouraged her to ditch anything she knew about American politics because you just can't draw parallels to politics here, even if the names are similar. You just have to work from a blank slate.

 I also suggested what I've always believed: If you think you're confused about Canadian politics, don't underestimate yourself. Every Canadian is equally confused.

We were finishing up a bottle of wine when she said she'd bookmark the Gordon Campbell blog post, and that she'd read it the next morning. I Canada Line'd myself home, crashed, woke up, and found myself at work the following day at 9am.

11:30am comes around and Gordon Campbell resigns. Twitter explodes. The people rejoice.

I tell my coworkers and their jaws drop. What will it mean for the BC tourism industry? (Post edit: I work in the tourism industry and we were having a meeting with a local DMO at the time. Whatever happens in provincial politics trickles down to local destination marketing organizations).

But how do you begin to explain the significance of this moment to somebody outside of BC?

How do you begin to teach somebody Canadian politics when there's no eloquent way to begin?

Seriously... I'd like to know.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Yoga: The Vancouver cliche I tried to resist

I used to pride myself on the fact that I had never done yoga in my life, ever.

Perhaps it's not the most shocking statement in the world. But in a city like Vancouver where yoga's as much a cultural institution as Starbucks, denying yoga is like being vegan in France. "What?! You mean... never? Not even once?" It simply doesn't compute to the locals.

But when did Vancouver become a yoga paradise, anyway? When did it stray from the fringes of society into the spotlight it occupies now? How did it become entrenched in the local identity? It certainly wasn't like that growing up.

I think I first became aware of yoga as a mainstream practice while I was dating a transplanted Ontarian-via-Montreal about 10 years ago. It was in his basement suite off the Drive where I'd leaf through his yoga text books when he wasn't looking. He used to work out at the Britannia Community Centre, and when he wasn't doing that, it was yoga. And he was fit and good-looking. And all I could muster was, "Yoga? Seriously? People really do yoga?"

That was in 2001.

I was young, naive, barely 21.

Yoga somehow exploded along the way when I was in self-discovery mode, rocking out and fumbling through UBC. And it really didn't occur to me, this cult of yoga, until I moved to Yaletown from Steveston, and girls (and guys) would proudly tout their yoga mats down the streets, rolled up in their pastel spendour.

Maybe it had been like this all along, but I hadn't noticed. Yet there I was, living amidst yoga studio after yoga studio, and it extended into the suburbs and beyond: Semper Viva, Bikram's Hot Yoga, etc. - they were everywhere! And there were more people parading around yoga mats than ever before.

I was legitimately puzzled. "People really pay money to do yoga?!" With my student budget, I couldn't fathom the thought.

As Vancouver's yoga cult flourished, I started to become proud of the fact that I had never done it at all. "If I ever do yoga, shoot me." I once mockingly told my friends. I flaunted my attitude to anyone who'd listen.

It's not that I have anything against yoga. In fact, I've always done pseudo-yoga with my ballet, modern, and jazz dance classes. In those classes, the warm-ups consist of what are essentially yoga poses. But I guess it was the fabricated cult of yoga that had put me off. It was the "you're not a true Vancouverite if you don't do yoga" attitude that I loved so much to defy.

And so it just happens that a week ago Saturday, I found myself at the Main on Main, drunk, and ordering another bourbon, when I was given a free yoga pass from a yoga instructor I had just met. "Drop by!! And say Lael sent you!" She was sweet, enthusiastic, and inebriated too. How could I say no?

It was part out of curiosity and part out of being dared that I attended my first-ever yoga class this past Friday. It was "Yin Yoga" just by chance. Yin yoga is essentially yoga in 5 minute intervals where you're either lying down or sitting in poses. While not challenging enough (for me), I did find it very relaxing.

I came to realize that yoga class felt a lot like my dance classes. The moves were pretty much the same, and the pace of the class was familiar. The only alienation came from the Sanskrit cultural aspects which were completely unfamiliar. In those situations, I simply sat and observed, like a kid watching mass in a cathedral.  But unlike dance class (where it's 90% female) at yoga everyone represented: the young, the old, the hip, the frumpy. There was even a Harley Davidson biker in the class.

When the 75 minute class ended and everyone said their namaste's, I thought, "Well, that went by fast!" Perhaps the "cult of yoga" was merely a fabrication in my mind.

And I know you're thinking, "Would I do it again?"


Perhaps another type of yoga.

But as I meandered down the stairs, I laughed as I realized that I can't say I've never done yoga any more.

Monday, November 1, 2010

BC Studies Online Auction (aka: my Christmas shopping done early)

I admit, I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to this kind of stuff, but I'm excited about the BC Studies Online Auction:

Last year I discovered their online auction by accident and somehow ended up winning 7 bids ( thus finishing my Christmas shopping early). There are some serious good finds there, including:

- Kumsheen River Rafting expedition worth $126 (currently priced at $20!)
- Vancouver Special, by Charles Demers
- Steve Nash Sports Club monthly passes
- surf lessons in Tofino
- Vancouver Art Gallery passes
- Vancouver International Film Festival passes

Plus, there are countless books about British Columbia - history, politics, geography, and so forth.

Oh, and the auction only lasts one week. It started this morning! So there you go.