Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Beautiful British Columbia!"

All the license plates in British Columbia boast "Beautiful British Columbia". Agree, I must. I live in one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and I'm positive one has to see it to believe it. I used to live in California and I used to think that was really beautiful, but only until I laid my eyes on the ever so gorgeous British Columbia! To have the Pacific Ocean and its pristine beaches, not to mention the fabulous peaks and ski resorts, and the verdant rain forests, all within driving distance, makes Vancouver one of the most attractive cities in the most beautiful province in the world! I feel proud every time I take a visitor sightseeing, only because this is not part of the tourist stuff for me, but a veritable aspect of my everyday life. Who wouldn't want to live in "Beautiful British Columbia?"

As often as possible, my family and I undertake small day-long excursions to revel in and soak in the natural wonders of my home province. The ethereal, serene beauty of it all works magic on one's senses and transports the beholder to a Shangri-la of sorts. This summer, on a balmy weekend morning, we chose to drive to Pitt Lake, less than 10 miles north of Maple Ridge, BC. The lake is surrounded by rugged, mountainous terrain, and is accessible by road only at the southern end. The lake itself is 14.8 miles long and offers canoeing and kayaking adventures aplenty. There are a number of hiking trails in the dikes on the marshes for the diehard hiker and birdwatching towers for avid bird enthusiasts and photographers. In the picture below is one such birdwatching tower overlooking the marshes, replete with a mind boggling avian variety, a bird lover's paradise indeed. This nesting area for marsh birds is part of the Widgeon Valley Nature Reserve and we had the privilege of watching a couple of photographers in action while we were there.

The shoreline was incredible in its beauty dotted by very few private coves and seasonal homes. The tumbling streams spilling into the lake, the secret coves and sandy beaches are all ideal for fishing or hiking.
However, the park ranger was practical enough to warn dreamy-eyed innocents like me of the presence of cougars and bears in the area, a jolting lesson of how man has encroached the habitat of the wild beasts. Stories of bear mauling are quite rampant in the area, which made me wonder who was the victim here, man or beast? The lurking danger from predators apart, it cannot be denied that this is a sample of what British Columbia is all about - rugged, serene, and primordial in its beauty that makes you wonder if you've died and gone to heaven!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What a fall was that, my countrymen...!

Two weeks ago, I had a nasty, humiliating fall on the street close to my workplace. I have had similar falls on three other occasions before, but those were spills caused by adverse winter weather conditions - black ice on the road, heavy snowfall, melting snowdrifts, etc. This time round, however, it was different. The weather was characteristically balmy, with a clear blue sky and radiant sunshine on that mildly chilly fall day. Not a day one would have an awkward spill, so to say. How on earth then did I fall, I have no clue. All I know is that I found myself in the ignominious position of having collapsed on the road close to the sidewalk, with my leg twisted painfully under me.

Unlike the other times when I'd come down like a sack of potatoes, on this occasion I couldn't pick myself up. Can anyone understand the ignominy, embarrassment, and humiliation of your mind being alert and urging you to get back on your feet before others on the street see you, but your body absolutely refusing to cooperate? Well, there I was, sitting in a daze on the road, while drivers from three different cars waiting at the signal got off and came rushing to my aid. One gentleman hauled me up by my arms, while another picked up my bag and jacket, and yet another stood behind me in support as I tried to find my feet. Oh, what a fall was that, my countrymen...!

Two weeks later, I still feel acute pain around my left ankle and right heel, so much so it had the husband worried and made him cart me off to the doctor's office. The prognosis, my friends, though not dire, is still grim. I seem to have sprained my ligaments in the aforesaid places. Not bad indeed considering the fact I could've fractured any of the bones in both my legs. Now, not only do I need painkillers, but I need to have a physiotherapist work his/her magic on my throbbing feet to alleviate the pain. The only good thing that has come out of this ordeal is I can sit around and order both my men (husband and kid) to fetch and carry things for me! And oh yeah, did I mention the long, enjoyable soaks in the hot tub? Every cloud has a silver lining, as the cliche goes, and so does my fall! As much as I dread the onset of winter and more spills to come, I'm making the best of all the attention I'm receiving right now, in and out of the hot tub, might I add!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Diwali, Friends!

As Diwali (Festival of Lights) is being celebrated today by my Indian friends - Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and others, I wish each one of them abundance of prosperity and happiness and pray that the bright glow of the festive lights illuminate their days ahead! As I was raised a Christian, Diwali had never been close to my heart. My only fascination with this festival had been the cartloads of fireworks - sparklers, crackers, matches, flowerpots, chakras (fiery wheels) and the like that I had taken pleasure in as a child in India. Well, I moved to the US when my son was merely a year old, and since it's next to impossible to light sparklers and crackers here in North America, I feel a pang that my son is missing out on all the excitement and fun of the resplendently colorful fireworks I'd enjoyed as a kid.

Diwali in Canada is more sedate and laidback, what with a thinly spread out Indian diaspora in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Friends who speak the same language are fewer and far between, so my family and I have learned to tone down our expectations of any kind of exuberant celebration here. In fact, in all these six years here in Vancouver, I have met only one other Tamil speaking family hailing from mainland Tamilnadu in India. All the other friends are Sri Lankans who speak a different dialect of Tamil. Very recently though, I met a newly hired colleague, R. from Malaysia, whose parents and grandparents hail from my home state in India, and I was thrilled to learn that R. speaks the same kind of Tamil that I do, despite being born and raised in Malaysia. So now the number of my Tamil acquaintances has increased to a whopping two!

My husband comes from a traditional, conservative Hindu family, and we usually spend Diwali morning calling and greeting members of his extended family in India, as well as friends here and abroad. Diwali is just like any other day to us now, being so far away from home, but because of the urging of my in-laws, wearing new clothes and offering prayers have become mandatory (the picture above, taken today, shows my father-in-law who passed away two years ago, and who made sure that Diwali was a memorable celebration for the entire family). However, the foodie that I am, I usually make sure I cook a traditional Diwali meal for the husband and kid. Today I made my mother-in-law proud by following her recipes and cooking up a delectable spread for the family. The incessant rains didn't deter us from venturing out of the house on a personal engagement though.

I am not a traditional Hindu wife, but my tolerance towards and respect for my husband's religion has made life and its allied celebrations a pleasure. I look for the good in everything, religion included, and this has endeared me to everyone I know. My husband reciprocates the same, celebrating Christmas with the same enthusiasm and gusto. I only hope my son learns values such as respect, empathy, and tolerance from his parents and tries to appreciate everything that is different and inherently good. All in all, shouldn't life be just about that?!?

Happy Diwali, my friends! I pray that all of you be blessed with good health, prosperity, and happiness in the coming days!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Seventh Canadian Thanksgiving!!!

Canadians observe Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October unlike our neighbors down South who celebrate it in November each year. Today, my family and I celebrated our seventh Thanksgiving in Canada, albeit with an indianized menu! We left India twelve years ago to move to the United States, and Canada then was nowhere on our horizon. The move to the US having been unforeseen and surreal in itself, had anyone ever told me I'd eventually become a Canadian citizen, I would've considered the idea preposterous and laughed in their face. Well, here I am now, a true, tried and tested Canadian, proud of how far my family and I have come. See picture above taken during our Citizenship Ceremony two years ago.

I reflect on the path we've taken thus far and am truly thankful for all of life's blessings here in Canada. Like all new immigrants', our life was not easy in the initial years. Having been caught in the vicissitudes of life, maintaining our equilibrium and peace of mind was an arduous task. Looking back, life was definitely not easy, but we have now reached a stage where we're grateful for all the things we've been blessed with - good health, comfortable jobs, great friends and colleagues, friendly neighbors, a cosy home, and above all, life in one of the best countries and in one of the most livable cities in the world! What else could one ask for?

As I prepare Thanksgiving dinner for my family, I have enough food for thought as well. Here's a lovely poem (author unknown) that I read that reflects my state of mind right now, and what we all ought to focus on:

"Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!! 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Strange Bedfellows And Unlikely Friends!

The day before yesterday, Thursday, October 1st, was bittersweet, mainly because it marked the end (sort of) of a period of camaraderie and friendship I'd had earlier and signaled the forging of a new alliance with my colleagues and friends. There were the four of us women at the workplace, all from different backgrounds and with varied interests and of different ages, but we seemed to have struck a friendship that transcended everything petty and mundane. We were members of a sisterhood who had excellent vibes and were always there for each other, personally and professionally.

I took up teaching an evening class for immigrants last June, a class that was labor market focused, aimed at helping immigrants towards employability and settlement in Canada. Two weeks later came S.G. who was to teach an ESL class for immigrants as well. Both of us hit it off right from the start, despite the difference in our ages. We were as different as chalk from cheese, but there was this comfortable understanding between us. S. was into figure competitions and hit the gym faithfully every single day, something that inspired me no end. Young and petite as she was, she could easily beat the crap out of any able-bodied man, I thought, and that was something that I admired endlessly again.Both S. and I put in a full day's work and then showed up to teach this evening class, but there was this positive energy flowing between us that made working into the late hours a cakewalk.

Two months later G.P. joined our team to teach another labour market focused class in the evening. G. was closer in age to me and I discovered shortly thereafter that we were kindred spirits who could chat about anything and everything under the sun. With her Ph.D. in Linguistics, she was a well-read and well-informed person. Endless were our conversations on the bus and off it as well. We would talk incessantly about our academic backgounds, what we had given up professionally in our countries to come as immigrants to Canada, the unfairness of life in general, the vagaries of our growing children and what not. The fact that G.'s was a labour market focused class as well helped...we made it a point to have joint activities for our classes- conversation sessions, fieldtrips, guest speakers et al. It was just the three women in the evenings thrice a week, S., G., and myself, and man, didn't we rock!

It so happened that in April, S. and I shared a Level 4 class during the day, myself teaching in the mornings and S. in the afternoons. It was then that we met C.M., an affable, genial, pleasant-mannered darling of a person. She was considerably older than the rest of us, but we all meshed right in. C. was such an angel, a colleague who was always friendly and outgoing and put everyone else at ease. Many were the occasions when we brought our students together for a joint activity and just basked in the warmth and geniality of it all. Well, due to personal reasons, C. chose to move to another location because of its proximity to her home, and come Monday, we're all going to miss her terribly at work.

Day before yesterday was bittersweet because we were happy for C. that she'll be working closer to home, but also sad that she was leaving us all. To mark the occasion, we four ladies hit
White Spot, a restaurant close by and savored our time together for one last time. I'm hoping that it isn't the last time ever...maybe Providence will engineer a situation where we're all thrown together again, strange bedfellows and unlikely friends in that sisterhood of ours we cherish so much!