Sunday, April 26, 2015

In a heartbeat...

Kitti and I in Patan Durbar Square
 One minute all is well, and the next, buildings are no more. Dust and debris and shattered lives are the aftermath of the earthquake which happened in Nepal yesterday. I was heartbroken to hear the news.

This poor tiny country, which struggles to hold its own, is now struck with the largest natural disaster they have had in 80 years. Infrastructure is one of their weak links, and it is now centre stage, with the management post earthquake and ongoing tremors. I was taken back to how I felt prior to visiting Nepal. I had read that they were due for a sizeable earthquake, that the country was situated on tenuous plates that could shift at any time, and therefore decided to register with foreign affairs Canada, should something happen while I was there.

Standing on the upper deck of our hostel, I thought, "how would these buildings survive, if a earthquake hit?" I could see they weren't constructed in the soundest methods, but I dismissed it as I sipped on my massala chai.
View from our rooftop hostel by Kalinki Temple.
The blue building is was our hostel.

Fast forward four years, and that earthquake I pondered actually hit. I thought of all the people that left a huge impression on me. Were they safe? Communication with Nepal was always tricky at best, with their roaming extended blackouts on the power grid.

I can only hope that all my little monks I taught at the Monkey Temple are just as cheeky as ever, and that the guys in the hostel are still making someone smile somewhere and that life in Kathmandu will start to  heal and repair itself, in time.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Autumn's change

This past weekend we went back to standard time. We simply flipped the clock back one full hour, and I feel I'm still recovering from the time change. Yes, it's a bit brighter when I wake up, but it's dark, when I drive home from work.

I feel myself adjusting my patterns, ever so slightly, to accommodate this shift. I've travelled and had to adjust for twelve hour time zones, and somehow, this one little hour time adjustment, has knocked me sideways. Perhaps it's the darkness at 5:00 p.m. I come home in the dark, and am unmotivated to go back out — better to just keep me moving somewhere directly from work. We are not in the depths of the winter yet, and I am already wincing at the idea. What will I be like in early January?

Having never been a fan of autumn — this only adds to my dislike of the season. I know I know, I need to make an attitude adjustment. Okay autumn, I'm going to face you head on, embrace you, and keep focusing on December 21, when our days start getting a little bit longer. It's the best I can do, as I really hate these short days of November. I've always thought I suffered from SAD.

Oh how I yearn for the glory of my friend Mr. Sunshine, and the seemingly endlessly long days of summer. Sigh...

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Ten years ago this weekend, I completed something I never thought I would do: I had no real intention of doing, but am so glad I did. I ran the Washington D.C. Marine Corps Marathon: 42.2 km or 26.1 miles.

In January of 2003, I joined a running group called Jeansmarines. Their purpose was to train a group of people to run and complete the Marine Corps marathon. Heck, what did I know about running a marathon? I hadn't run since I was in high school, and even then, I only ran under a mile, under duress.

Elated, exhausted and empowered!
Little did I know when I went to the first meeting on a dreary grey wet Saturday morning in January, that I was about to embark on one of the most challenging and empowering experiences of my life. I formed bonds with a group of ladies that have held up ten years later. Hours of training, over a nine month period, allowed for a lot of life story swapping to happen. We were at our best and our worst on those training runs. We were vulnerable and we were cranky. We did not judge, we listened, we laughed, we shared, we encouraged, we chanted that we would finish upright and smiling, we were determined that we would beat the dreaded bus that could possibly scoop us up at the bridge on race day, we had a sense of humor over this crazy task at hand, we shared well deserved post run breakfasts, hill trained in the heat, ran in the rain, speed trained in the dark and shared in the final glory on race day in October.

There is something about completing a task, few take on, that allowed me to call myself an elite athlete, for a day anyway, call myself a marathoner for life and have such long lasting effects. I proved more to myself, than I could have thought possible. I found out just how much grit and determination I can muster up when I'm motivated and challenged, which has held in good stead. What I also found out, was that without that group of women at my side on those nine months of training, I couldn't have done it. I may not have been able to untie my running shoes after I ran across the finish line, but I could smile and know that that moment couldn't be taken away from me. We all shared in the glory at the post run dinner, all sporting our medals and lifting a glass of champagne surrounded by our families and friends that were our support system and cheerleaders.

Thank you Jean Marmoreo, the Jean in jeansmarines,  for help empower me on October 26 2003.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Free Expression

I realize it has been some time that I have written my blog, and quite frankly I have missed it. I've had good intentions, and a lot of things I've wanted to write about, but let other things get in the way of my blogging. Perhaps because I knew I could always take up, where I left off, at any time, gave me the freedom to take my time in getting back into it, and writing about whatever my heart desired.

Over the past ten days, I've had the pleasure of seeing two very different art shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The first was the Ai Weiwei show. I was invited to attend an event put on by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression: Voices of Freedom. I'm photo 41 with Ai Weiwei.  It was a multi-media event honouring dissident artist Ai Weiwei and paying tribute to his relentless pursuit of free expression through art, social media and political protest. Prior to the event I took a wander through the Ai Weiwei show, two floors below.

Ai Weiwei is the master of "selfies" and hard hitting in his presentation of what is going on around him. Currently he is in China, unable to leave the country, because he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. I photographed different pieces in his show, I tweeted throughout the CJFE event, and instagramed his art. I had full freedom to pass along whatever thoughts and images I had. I was allowed to freely photography his installations. Ai Weiwei wants the word out there. He wants to share. "Everything is art. Everything is politics," is a Weiwei-ism.

One week later I went to see the Bowie show, as in David Bowie. Without a doubt, David Bowie was, and is an innovator. He is the king of high stage drama on the music scene, always growing, evolving and pushing the limits throughout his career. While I can appreciate all he explored, and developed, I was never totally enamored. But, that is my choice. I give credit where credit is due, and Bowie clearly pushed the vanguard over a fifty year period. Taking risks, asserting his view of free expression, is what David Bowie did strive for. And, I think he did it quite successfully. The Bowie show was interactive, it was full of theatrics and music, had costumes and drama, and clearly had an admiring following attending.

What I found different about the two show, was my freedom to photograph the shows. Ai Weiwei was all about a full on anything goes. Touch the rebar installation, photograph it, have fun looking through the crescent moon doors. Bowie, allowed no photographs except at the entrance where the sign was, apparently due to copyright infringement. So where Ai Weiwei is desperately fighting for freedom of expression, and allowing his work to photographed by all, Bowie wants his own freedom of expression, but keeps it under lock and key when it comes to openly sharing, without his control. I guess that is what freedom of expression is. Having the choice. Being in control of your work, however that may be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Memories made

I've just returned from four days in New York City. Four days in New York is like eight days any where else. Each day was high energy and action packed, filled with great memories and a longing to return. We ended the trip on a high, which as my friend Kitti always said after we had a successful day of teaching in Kathmandu, is always a good thing.

Some notes on our four days: fast, noisy, busy, exciting, wet, great views, surprises, wonderful Broadway, Central Park is much bigger than you think, lots of dog walkers, great shopping, Patsy's pizza, Balthazar's, Nobu 57's edge, never a cab when you need one, Bloomingdales shoe department, Soho charm, excess, huge blintzes at Carnegie Deli, many half eaten meals, action, my Mom's birthday, the food hall in the Plaza hotel, good friend Ian, style and personality.

Great memories are made from all of those things.

My Mom, the birthday girl, a surprise by our friend Ian,
and me at Nobu 57 for a VIP lunch, thanks to Matt,
Ian's son who is executive chef.

Monday, May 27, 2013


I'm a tall woman, and rarely feel small in a crowd, but this past weekend I felt like a little shrimp.

On Sunday I attended my aunt's 90th birthday celebrations. My aunt wanted a dinner with family, but didn't want a party. Hmm. OK. So we had a gathering of family and friends for a large dinner, to celebrate Marcelle's birthday, but it wasn't a party, per se, even though there was a birthday cake and I saw cousins and friends, dare I say, I usually only see at weddings or funerals. It was so nice to see everyone under such auspicious circumstances.

I saw a cousin, John,  I haven't seen in years. His brothers are all a bit older than me, and as a kid intimidated me. I saw these big tall guys, who were older, and I was the only little girl around, and just got shy on them. Well, I think I had reason to feel intimidated as a kid. These boys were tall, and are tall. My cousins are all well over six feet. My cousin John's two boys are seven feet and seven feet two inches respectively. Now that's tall!

Honestly, I had to get on my tippy toes to hug these guys. That is just unheard of for me.

When I was in China a few years ago, I remember getting mobbed on the Bund in Shanghai, by groups of Chinese that wanted their photo taken with me, because of my height. When I was climbing the Great Wall, I had Chinese families stop me, to have their photos taken with me, standing on their tippy-toes, trying to be as tall as me. Now I know how these people felt. I wasn't standing on my tippy-toes with my cousins, but I sure wasn't seeing eye to eye, till we sat down. It was a neat experience.

My Aunt Marcelle, the birthday girl,
my cousin Tony and my Mom (BTW my Mom isn't small either)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Documentaries are to Canada...

... what Jazz is to America. At least that's what a slide flashed us before each documentary I recently saw at Toronto's Hot Docs (that's hot documentaries) film festival.

I'm a film buff — always have been. I've always meant to get more involved with TIFF in September, but have been overwhelmed by the line-ups and options. Hot Docs seemed much more manageable to me, and still had the high quality and cache. This year was the twentieth anniversary of Hot Docs, and the selections were outstanding.

Initially Belinda and I booked a ten ticket package, thinking five films each would be plenty. What with trying to coordinate what we wanted to see, without taking time off work, our personal commitments and being able to coordinate the locations of the films so that we weren't necessarily running across downtown, at first seemed daunting. We easily managed to coordinate the five selections, locations, and times. Success.

Expedition to the End of the World at TIFF's Lightbox was our first film, with a Q & A by the director and producer post show. What a beautifully shot documentary, with a quirky cadre of stars set on top of a gorgeous soundtrack that went from Mozart to techno rock. I've noticed that since their appearance in Toronto, they are hitting Europe by storm and winning awards. Kudos to them.

Sunday had three docs scheduled, all showing back to back at the ROM — how convenient. We saw, The Only Son, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne and Terms and Conditions on Sunday afternoon.

The Only Son took me back to my lovely memories of Nepal and the people I encountered there. The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne was a surprisingly interesting look at a seventy-something jewel thief and her matter of fact attitude. Terms and Conditions made me think about what I was saying and doing on the internet and showed me how big brother IS watching. It was a full day. After each film we were asked to rate them. How could I not give these movies a good rating. I mean, in each case, I wasn't bored, there was a captivating story, well thought out, I was entertained, amused and made to think.

Wednesday after work, Belinda and I took the red rocket downtown to watch our last film, In God we Trust, the Bernie Madoff story, as told by his personal assistant,  Eleanor Squillar. Wow. This film pointed out the excess and craziness of Madoff's story. Needless to say, a post screening Q & A with the directors and Eleanor made for a lively discussion.

Q & A post screening of In God we Trust
But, there were more films I still wanted to see. I also went to see Muscle Shoals at the Bloor Cinema. I don't think there wasn't one person smiling when they left that screening. Throughout the film I saw heads bobbing, toes tapping and heard people questioning what Keith Richards was saying. It was pure fun and delight as the story of Muscle Shoals Alabama was told. I would love to have the soundtrack to that film. I probably have a lot of it as I scour my music collection, but to have it all in one take, would be great. This film ultimately won the viewers choice award at the end of the festival.

Hot Docs is over, but Belinda and I are still hitting the docs we missed, which are still playing at the Bloor Cinema. On Friday we saw The Manor. The Manor is a strip joint on the edge of Guelph Ontario, but plays a supporting role to the main players, the Cohen family and their family dynamics. Is any family normal, whatever that is? But this family was willing to show the raw underbelly that made them tick. 

Yes, we have one more doc slated, Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf's. Hot Docs here I come.