Friday, March 26, 2010

Just a 'student'

It's truly amazing what real anger can do. I don't mean sad, silly upsets. I mean a 'so angry you sweat, stomp around the room and need to open a window' mad because if you don't you might yell and scream and start throwing things.

Something happened today that resulted in me doing such things.

I'm working on a story about the New Democratic Party's standpoint on the current Canadian refugee policy. Such a story requires that I do an interview with an NDP official - I had hoped to speak with Olivia Chow, member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina, and also a Citizenship and Immigration critic. Mrs. Chow has made several comments on the Conservative government's policy, and especially on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's actions.

I had been calling Mrs. Chow's office all week, hoping to set something up, leaving messages, sending emails, and yesterday I spoke with a man with NDP media relations, who suggested I call Mrs. Chow's scheduler to set up an appointment. Thus, I called her this morning.

I explained to her what I was doing and that I hoped to speak with Mrs. Chow for even 10 minutes to ask her questions about what the NDP would change. I realize that this information is all on the NDP's website, but as a journalist a story is always better if there is an interview subject - someone to reiterate what is already written, and someone to humanize the story.

This woman said to me that Mrs. Chow is travelling for the next two days and won't be available, to which I replied that I understood, and then I proceeded to ask her if I could set something up for next week.

She then told me that Mrs. Chow - or "we" - doesn't usually do interviews with students because if they do one interview they have to do all the interviews with all the students that call.

This was about the time when I began to get frustrated. Not because it was sounding more and more like I wasn't going to be able to speak with Mrs. Chow, but because I felt as though I was being dropped into the 'you're just a student' category. I explained to this woman that I'm in a class of 20, and each of my fellow students was doing a different story, none of whom or doing a story on the NDP. I was the only one who would likely be contacting them.

There was an acknowledged, "Okay," that I heard, and then a very long moment of silence, which I assumed was her shuffling through Mrs. Chow's schedule to see if there was an opening next week.

Then, "I don't know what else to tell you."

I didn't really understand. Was she telling me that she couldn't do anything to help me speak with this woman for five minutes? FIVE minutes? Really. Working for Metro, working for the EMC, and working for the Free Press, I had never had any problems, especially setting up an interview for a government employee. They generally MAKE time for you.

At this point, my face was getting hot. And I was getting mad. But I tried to remain composed. I asked her, "So, are you saying that if I was a journalist with a newspaper I'd be able to set up an interview, but because I'm a journalism student I can't?"

"I don't know what else to say. She has a really busy schedule."

And that, my friends, was the end of that conversation. I did everything I could to try and set up an interview, to try and speak with this woman who could explain the NDP's beliefs in the refugee system, what they would do to make it better, I gave every opportunity to get their side of it. I even asked, at the end, if this woman had any other suggestions for me, anyone else I could try and contact.

She told me to go search on Google.

I'm a student, yes. I am also a journalist. And lastly, I am a person. And just because I have the 'student journalist' tag on my name, does not mean I deserve unfair treatment because of it, and it certainly does not mean that I don't deserve the same respect that a journalist from an official publication would receive. Even as a student journalist, I should be taken seriously, and not brushed away like a fly.

Frustrated. Angry. Anger is a very powerful thing.


It's surprising how much a memory is built around things that go unnoticed at the time.

Like, getting cuts on your hands from picking long, green crab grass along the fence to feed the big dirty-white horse that lived next to Grandpa's house. Or Dad telling us to lay our hands flat when feeding said horse said grass because, if you don't, that big horse will bite your tiny hand.

Or camping in the big, orange cloth tent outside Grandpa's house in the summer, and Mom holding the flashlight while Dad made images silhouetted against the tent wall, of birds flying, or rabbits conversing. What were the other animals?

Or the wall of mirrors inside Grandpa's house, with the retro brown carpet, bright-orange fake fireplace, and Grandpa's 45 degree temperatures that were reached as he continued to stuff wood from the back shed into the black stove. And Grandma's multiple couch sets: the white one we weren't allowed to sit on. The plastic butterflies on the mirrors, the mouse poop in the cupboard, the 'forest' behind the white couch, and the piano.

We never did play well.

Trying on Grandma's pink shoes from her closet. And secretly splashing her perfume onto our wrists in her parlour: pink, red, roses, white, jewelry.
Do you remember the deer in the fields below the house? And the steep bank we weren't allowed to get close to. And the drives in the Oldsmobile wagon to the ranch, with the water pump and the cows licking the windows as we sat inside the car screaming. Screaming with excitement.

But mostly, I remember being told to go to bed in the attic, with the teddy bears and Grandma's dresses. I even remember the smell - like a closet left unopened and without fresh air - and the secret back door, dark and wooden, that we always wanted to open and explore but were too scared to ever do it.

And especially, after being told to go to bed, Mom would stay up with Grandpa, they would shuffle their cards at the kitchen table, and play a game of crib. Grandpa chewed his tabacco, had his hair slicked back (the white roots showing beneath the black of his hair), with a toothpick hanging from his mouth.

And Mom would say, "Dad! Stop being so bad," every time Grandpa made a silly comment which preceded with his wheezing laugh.

That's what I remember, most. Best.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 5

La Dame Aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils

This book, or at least my copy of this book, now has so many dog-eared pages I don't know what to do with it. By dog-eared pages, I mean pages where I've folded the corner down because I've discovered a sentence, a phrase, that I've found wonderful.

It opens with this: '... I invite the reader to believe that this story is true. All the characters who appear in it, with the exception of the heroine, are still living.'

The reason for such an opening: the author based this novel on his own personal love affair with a woman. I believe it was the idea that there is some truth to the story that drew me in so quickly.

The book, written in 1847 in France by the son of Alexandre Dumas pere (who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Muskateers), shows a heartbroken and distraught man by the name of Armand, who fell in love with a 'kept woman' - a prostitute - by the name of Marguerite in Paris. Other priorities of Marguerite's (such as her devotion to those that pay her debts and to whom she sleeps with) at first have her pay no attention to Armand. But that all changes.

And I'm so glad it does!

The rest of the book - without spoiling it too greatly - we watch as Armand and Marguerite fall in love, and for a period of time live happily, before the unavoidable devotions to society, family and one another pull them apart.

I won't say much more, but the language that Dumas uses, the way he writes, his analogies and explanations, are so amazing that I need to include a few. Like when Dumas explains that Armand so desperately wants to meet Marguerite that he will do anything in his will to make it happen.

'Many are the paths the heart will tread, and many the excuses it finds, that it may reach what it desires!'

Or when Marguerite explains the fragility of a woman's heart.

She says, 'Sometimes we gives ourselves for one thing, sometimes for another. There are men who could ruin themselves and get nowhere with us; there are others who can have us for a bunch of flowers. Our hearts are capricious: it's their only diversion and their only excuse.'

I could write for hours about why I loved this book. But it comes down to this: it's about the sacrifices people make when they really love one another. In this instance, the sacrifice is not beneficial for either party - instead it is detrimental and heartbreaking.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bald eagles.

Ben and I saw two bald eagles last week. This is what it signifies:

There's an opportunity for you that you are considering and it would be best if you take advantage of it soon. There will be a new beginning in a positive direction following a recent period of strife, one in which you've gained a great deal of stamina and resilience. Whatever you put out - positive or negative - will now return to you in some form more quickly than ever.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Listening to..

Grizzly Bear.


If you're yet to hear them, do it as soon as possible.

Running over rocks.

All you hear is the sound of gravel.
Small rocks, chime together,
Get stuck in my shoes.

They want to travel.

I'm travelling too.
I'm running fast.
Not fast enough, yet.
And not far enough.

But soon I'll be running far and fast.
Perhaps too soon.
Because I'm not sure
I'm ready.

I want to travel like the rock in my shoe.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nothing happens unless first we dream

It's a funny thing, the way the universe works. You may spend days, weeks, even months worrying over something you really have no control over. You think too much, you dream about it, you contemplate the worst possible scenario so as not to be disappointed. You prepare. And just when you think there's no possibility that things will work out... they do.

I was just told this morning that I now officially have a spot with a summer internship at Canadian Geographic magazine. And it's funny, because for the last two or three days I was wondering what was ever going to happen, and when I got the news, I was more excited than I've ever been!

It just makes me think that by having a little faith in yourself things always work out. So I know I can do well. This is a job I've wanted my whole life! Or at least, my whole writing life. I love writing about nature and animals and features on different kinds of people. And now I have the opportunity to do that. It's nervous, it's intimidating, but it's all I've been thinking about for the past four months.

So I think if we worry less, and 'go with the flow' more, and have a little faith in the universe that everything will be okay, it will be. It is. More than okay.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


"Distance is not for the fearful, it is for the bold. It's for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It's for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they don't see it nearly enough."

Distance is the hardest affair in a relationship. It is arduous. It is scary, unpredictable and at times can feel as though no matter what you do nothing will get easier. Thankfully, it gets easier when that distance is shortened, even if only for a few days.

And those few days make it entirely worth it.

To just be surrounded by someone, to come home to them, is worth more than anything else in the world. And I don't say that to sound cliche, to trick others into thinking that that is the reason I remain in a long-distance relationship. I say it because whenever I'm with him there is a calm, knowing that things will be alright.

I try to keep this blog impersonal, but sometimes it's unavoidable, and that's okay.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aquarium fun, life is fun

I went to the Vancouver Aquarium, and it was fantastic.

There is really something spectacular about animals. I like to think that if I wasn't trying to become a writer, I would work with animals, protecting their habitats or researching.

Instead, I hope that I can eventually write about animals, about the amazing migration routes salmon have, or how Beluga whales are insanely social creatures that live to be tens of years old.

There are so many stories that come out of this aquarium, like a giant sea turtle named Schoona, who was lost near Prince Rupert five years ago and was rescued and now swims at the aquarium. Schoona is huge! He must weigh a ton and he looked so happy sifting through the sand.

It was wonderful.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book 4

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I thought I would like it, as it is a classic and on the top 25 books to read in the 21st Century. But, I didn't like it.

The book is a written account of the happenings of Humbert Humbert, a self-proclaimed pedophile who falls madly in love with 12-year-old Dolores "Lolita" Haze. He is insecure and blames his love for "nymphets" (little girls) on the death of his first love as a child.

But I constantly found myself thinking about other things as I was reading the book, catching myself having just read three or four pages and yet not remembering what it was I read.

Nobokov surely did a ton of research for the book and really did an exceptional job at helping the reader understand the bizarreness of life through a pedophile's eyes, but he didn't capture and keep my attention and he certainly did not connect me with him.

Maybe he wasn't trying to connect the reader to Humbert, and maybe Humbert is a character no one can possibly attach to, but I still didn't enjoy reading it.

too much

Some people care too much. I think it's called love. - Winnie the Pooh

Monday, March 1, 2010

My favourite Olympic shots

Here are three of my favourite shots from Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. More to come later.

Silly String celebrations downtown Vancouver at Robson Square.

Little guy all patriotic!

Duh Hockey Guys at LiveCity Vancouver site.
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