My first public performance

5 10 2012

This was the assignment:

Dear Class,

I would like to clarify what I expect as your assignment for Tuesday.

1. Please re-work, re-write your manifestos and have the in typed form and send them to me by email before class.

2. Along with your manifesto – please type up to 3 exercises similar to those we performed in class that best define your manifesto

3. Each of you please compose a musical anthem to be SUNG by those who will be following your Manifesto

4. Bring Props – objects – material – color pencils – crayons – paints – clay – etc that you wish to build a group art structure which will best define your Manifesto.


5. Identify a PUBLIC location in Amsterdam where you would like to perform your manifesto.

See you all on Tuesday!

Have fun!


This is what I came up with:

I performed my manifesto last Thursday, September 27 at the World Trade Center in Zuidas, Amsterdam’s business district. I didn’t attract a big crowd, but it was a learning experience and it generated lots of ideas for the other public performances I’ll have to do this semester.

As typical Amsterdam weather would have it, it was cool and windy with patches of rain. As such, the audio quality isn’t top notch. So, here is the version I performed here:

The streets are busy. Filled with people, bicycles, cars. All moving about. Moving quickly. Too quickly for any interaction, except market-based interactions, of course.  

One beer, please. Here is your change. Would you like a bag? Would you like your receipt. Thank you. Polite, yet empty interactions. Buying, spending. Always buying more. Must buy more. Have more. Always inadequate. Must look better. Be better. 

Scurrying about like machines. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We are nearly as mechanized as the machines we carry in our pockets – cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, iPads. Responding to every text message, iMessage, notification or email the moment we receive it. It is like another language.

By night, more of the same. Get drunk. Go to the club. A big party with hundreds of people. All strangers, except for a few friends. More drinks. Tequila shots. Music is playing. It’s loud. Suddenly, dancing with one stranger. A boy. Everything starts moving even faster. Kissing. Touching. And inevitably, sex. Small talk, no real conversation. The most intimate of human interaction, now commonplace. Sexuality defined by a sea of drunken experiences. Moving at the speed of sound. No time for romance. No time to think. No time to process.

Amidst the flurry of noise and speed, there’s loneliness. Far too often, depression. So many crowds, so much contact, but no connection. So occupied with trivial actions of daily life that any sight of who we are is lost. 

Who are we?

We are social beings. Our identity is a mosaic of the people we meet. The selection of each piece is influenced by our conversations. Listen and observe, and be transformed.

I am calling for a ruralization of the city. Slow down and create time and space to have these conversations that are in accordance with our social nature. 

We will reject mechanization. Refuse to be a machine. Use our portable electronic devices. But never let them use us. We won’t necessarily respond to every message right away. Instead, we will prioritize the friends who are with us right now.

We will seek smallness and community wherever we are. 

We will smile at the people we pass in the street, greet the people we ride with in the elevator, and learn the names of the people we meet. We will remember details they share with us and every once and awhile, ask them how their parents are doing. 

We will create meaningful friendships. Choose quality, over quantity. We will build a diverse social network. Not just virtual one, but a living one.  Make friends with people who we wouldn’t normally be friends with, and likely learn something new as a result.

We recognize social capital as real capital. And as such, we will appreciate its worth and invest in it extensively. 

Rediscover the beauty of post and write a letter to an old friend. 

Call our grandmother and listen to her stories of days gone by. 

We will never pass up a potluck. Eating alone doesn’t make much sense. 

We will embrace opportunities for group work, because collaboration is a gift. We will listen to our peers until they feel that they have been understood. 

 Yet, amidst this eruption of social interactions, we will also make time to have conversations with ourselves, to find our own quiet, calm space, and to relish these moments of solitude because they allow us time to contemplate and process our exchanges with others. 

We will engage in work that feels like play. Work that allows you to exercise our own unique creative faculties, work that we are passionate about, work that is meaningful to us.

Let us take back the streets.

Let us reclaim our identity as social beings.

Let us create connection where only contact existed before. 


Some entrepreneurial ideas…

6 05 2012

The gears in the back of my head are always turning when it comes to community development. I think the rural landscape is slowly fading away as the masses flock to the cities. However, fortunately, there is a resurgence of people moving back to the land and embracing a slower, quieter lifestyle. Even though small is beautiful, I do think many small towns would benefit from at least a handful of key establishments, either business or social enterprises. Because the Bruce Peninsula is near and dear to my heart, I specifically have a constantly running list of business I would start (or would recruit others to start) if I had sufficient capital. (Interested investors should give me a call!) So, here’s what comes to mind at the moment…

  • A good, used bookstore, possibly with an accompanying café, maybe a music collection too
  • A microbrewery & pub, no TVs please, but plenty of live music and maybe the odd night of karaoke (I’ve been inspired by the Brew Pub here in Squamish)
  • A local cheese maker. Pine River just isn’t close enough. Maybe one kind of like the one here on Salt Spring.
  • A little cinema, not a Galaxy or Famous Players. Just something with a screen or two, and maybe an outdoor screen out back for warm, summer nights. It would some classics and documentaries too, and maybe host a film festival now and again. Driving an hour each way to Owen Sound (longer if coming from Tobermory) is just too far and not a very good use of our precious energy resources. That said, I enjoy a good film as much as the next person. I particularly enjoyed “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” which I watched here on Salt Spring at the Fritz.
  • And last, but not least, a local credit union (or other form of financial institution) to make it all happen. It’s time we took our money off of Wall Street and put it on Main Street, where we can see benefits beyond interest. Check out this page from the New Economics Foundation as a launchpad for what I’m referring to.

Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What do you think our community needs?

An ordinary weekend in the life…

23 04 2012

What a weekend! Event after event on campus kept me pretty busy, leaving little time for homework.

It all kicked off Friday afternoon, dismissed from class early and we headed up to Telus Fest in Whistler to check out the free outdoor Michael Franti concert (not so coincidental considering the holiday)! Then, back to campus for the second Cabaret production, with this year’s theme being “rhythm”. All original pieces, I was utterly amazed by the artistic talent within our little student body…from poetry to music to paintings to sculpture to short skits. Amazing! Also, the way the loading bay (yes, in our cement underground parkade) was transformed into an intimate and comfortable space.

Then, Saturday morning, we had a garage sale to mitigate the mass of stuff that ends up in the garbage at the end of the year. I might have snagged more than I sold, but what can I say, I love garage sales!

After checking out the sale, I went to a community workshop, based on this report, that involved taking an inventory of the various programs and services in Squamish and identifying gaps and possible actionable solutions. There were twelve priorities in particular, as identified in the report, including child development, learning, the environment, belonging and leadership, housing, transportation and arts and culture. I didn’t count, but a decent number of people participated, including almost all of city council and a number of other movers and shakers in the community. What struck me in particular was the number of times the word “collaboration” was used! Because collaboration is central to my Question, I have thought about it quite a bit, but I still learned (or at least reaffirmed a few things: 1) Collaboration is important, especially in the context of limiting redundancy (that occurs as a result of the “silo effect”) in the non-profit sector where funding is scarce, 2) Collaboration is elusive and ambiguous, a concept that a lot of people use freely, meaning quite different things, 3) Collaboration is difficult, mainly because it takes time that no one apparently has. I keep these observations in the back of my head as I continue to study this concept.

After this facilitation, I was quite ready to go out and dig around in the campus garden behind the cafeteria. With about half a dozen of us working, we got quite a bit accomplished – finished the fence, planted the herb spiral, made a composting bed, and I shoveled a bunch of dirt around, making the furrows and turning over the soil and working in the mulch. I also planted my little bean and pea seed babies that I had planted a couple weeks ago. They were overflowing their tray. Hopefully it isn’t too early!

Saturday night was another night of incredible talent with the term-end Classics Plus concert, from Bach and Mozart to opera to original compositions. The last performance for some of the graduates! And then, this morning, we had our 5th annual adventure race! This year, for the first time, it was at the Easter Seals camp in Brackendale (we usually have it at Alice Lake), so there was a bit less running involved. Our team was a bit on the slim side, but it was fun nonetheless, as always!

And there you have it! Now, four more days of class, and that’s all she wrote for another school year!

P.S. Two songs worth downloading…”At the Birds Foot” by City and Colour and “Big Blue Wave” by Hey Ocean!, and of course some Michael Franti!

O.U.R. Ecovillage for block break

6 03 2012

Today, it was back to the grind of another block…Ecological Economics this time around. But before I get to that, I’ll tell you about my block break.

Wednesday night offered the monthly end of block shakedown at the Shady Tree, complete with non-stop music from Quest musicians. Then, on Thursday, no sleep in for me. I happily woke up for a full 8-hour day of class, but I can at least say that I’m now first aid certified with OFA Level 1.

On Friday, block break actually begin and I suited up and loaded up my good ol’ Honda Sabre, bound for Shawnigan Lake on Photo of my room in the sanctuary at O.U.R. EcovillageVancouver Island, making a quick stop at the bike shop in Squamish to pick up some warmer gloves. It was a rainy ride down to Horseshoe Bay, and I say that I was the only bike on the road and the ferry. But the Frog Toggs, my Cowichan sweater, long johns, insulated rubber boots, and new leather gloves kept me fairly warm and dry. Thankfully, by the time I arrived in Nanimo, the rain had ceased and it was a dry ride to Shawnigan Lake. Aside from filling up my gas tank (only $12) and my tummy in Duncan, it was smooth sailing.

Why Shawnigan Lake, you may ask? My destination was O.U.R. Ecovillage, a permaculture learning centre and sustainable community, flooded with natural buildings, made from straw bale, cob and more. The 25-acre property started its on-site operations in 1999, but the O.U.R. (Our United Resource) movement years earlier in Victoria. Over 10,000 visitors came through the ecovillage this past summer. Wow! So, after hearing about this remarkable little community from friends who had visited as part of a Quest Permaculture class last November, I thought that I’d better check it out. In relation to my Question, I was particularly interested in how its pioneers had A photo of a sign in the outhouse at O.U.R.collaborated and continue to collaborate to create and sustain the community.  Although short (only 2 nights), I really enjoyed my visit and hope to return before too long. I had a go at trying to catch chickens (with one success), digging in the garden, learning about natural building, and meeting some inspiring people. The trip re-ignited my longing to develop some agricultural skills and experience. Further, the motorcycle adventure gave me a sample of the much, much longer journey that might be to come in May/June.

By the way, I’m just in the progress of making my own yogurt for the first time! I am very exciting! From what I’ve been told, it is quite easy. Just boil some milk (ironically, the milk boiled over as I was writing this), then, when it cools, add some yogurt as a starter. Then, leave it in the oven overnight, with just the oven light on. Morning will tell if it worked out or not…

Little boxes

20 04 2011

In the absence of time to properly reflect, here is a video that encapsulates my current mental and emotional state. Caroline, a friend, member of the first ever-graduating class and one of the first people I met at Quest, performed this a week or so ago on campus. Maybe it was just my overactive perceptions filter at play, but I found it very relevant. So here it is. And expect a backlog of reflections coming in over the summer, when I have time to properly synthesize my thoughts and ideas. As of late, my learning curve has been steeper than what I can keep up with. Another week or so and I’ll be able to relax, unwind, slow down and be the confused, spontaneous 19-year old that I really am. Until then, I’ll just listen to Pete Seeger and embrace the chaos of planning Dancing Bear Music Festival, finishing my Question plan, and above all, taking care of myself and the people who I love most. Talk about perspective! I wish I had this much clarity and rationality all the time!

The spirit of an aspiring volunteer

16 04 2011

This past week, I was given a opportunity of a lifetime. I traveled to Toronto to receive the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers from the The Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Find the press release here.

Following the medal ceremony, there was a grand reception where I had the privilege of speaking about the experience, on behalf of all of the medal recipients. This speech was a response to a toast from the Advisory Council for the award.

Your Honor, Members of Provincial Parliament, ladies and gentlemen and fellow medal recipients, I thank you for this unexpected recognition. Even the most careful planning and preparation could not have prepared us for such an occasion. As passionate volunteers, we quickly learn the value of thinking on our feet and responding as well as we can in each opportunity that presents itself, but as my fellow recipients can surely relate, I have been utterly overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by the experience of being a recipient of the Ontario Medal of Young Volunteers. Although we feel privileged and honoured to experience this special occassion, volunteering is not a unique opportunity. Instead it is an attitude, a lifestyle, a state of being that we have chosen to adopt. And I believe that this is the true beauty of volunteering. Like myself, this year’s selection of recipients come from humble beginnings, in most cases, small towns that seemingly offer limited volunteer opportunities for volunteering. We are not exceptions or outliers among today’s youth. We are simply the lucky ones who received the unconditional love and support from our family and friends that inspired us to engage in our communities. And the secret is that volunteering is in fact a hedonistic act. It is an addiction that makes one feel so good that once we start, we cannot stop. And I don’t think, any of us have such an intention. We thank our nominators who took the initiative to give us this incredible distinction, the advisory council for their dedicated efforts in making this year’s selection and above all, we thank our supportive communities that empowered us in such a way that we can stand here today. This honour is one that we will cherish for a very long time and one that motivates us to continue volunteering for just as long.

This experience was an incredible learning opportunity. I was able to put Melanie’s etiquette training to good use and network with elected and appointed officials as well as Ministry staff. I was also able to talk to many people about my studies at Quest and share my enthusiasm for volunteering, while resisting the urge to talk about partisan politics, for the most part (The upcoming election made this a bit difficult, but I tried to adopt the essence of Eric Gorham by using my words judiciously.) This experience also re-ignited my grade-8 passion for politics, something that has been stirring as of late as a result of my election to the Quest Students’ Representative Council as well as the development of my Question. Who knows what doors this honour will open? I can’t wait to find out!

On a more personal note, I was overwhelmed and surprised by my emotion during the ceremony. I was the only university student among the recipients (the others were in their final years of high school) and I was the only recipient to cry during the ceremony. In addition to preparing physically (i.e. trying to make my unruly, half-finished head of dreads look as neat and tidy as possible), I tried to prepare mentally and emotionally for the experience. However, when I was standing beside His Honour hearing my citation read by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, my lip started to quiver and my eyes began to well with tears. At first, I tried to hold back and smile politely. But then, two thoughts occurred to me (well, really a zillion thoughts were swirling around my head, but these two were especially significant): 1) In the words of Eve Ensler, “I am an emotional creature!” and; 2) “The only person I know how to be is myself.” And in acknowledgment of these two simple mantras, I recognized my emotions and allowed myself to express them. No, I didn’t burst into sobs of joy, but there were definitely a few tears. Besides, it is not everyday that someone cries in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, or at least I hope not.

I am likely romanticizing the circumstances (as I tend to do) in saying that my emotional response was a conscious choice. In more honest terms, this is only a half-truth or a way of rationalizing my emotional behaviour. In reality, once started, emotions can’t be stopped, nor should they be, in cases such as this. We are told to “save face”, “not to let emotions get in the way”, think rationally rather than emotionally (I personally don’t agree with the affiliation between irrationality and emotion.) and to save face. Although I appreciate these sentiments and even act upon them regularly, they are not as universal as we may think and in all honestly, they are highly overrated. That said, I am slowly learning the importance of wearing different “hats” and I look forward to further developing this skill next year during my term as student body vice president!

Idea generator: “Learn to Love the Revolution”

14 03 2011

I’m proud to say that I came across my second “idea generator” without the use of the conventional Google search, or the internet at all. After a wet and snowy morning of skiing, I was ready for a warm bowl of soup. Also, about this time, I started to feel guilty about not starting my Question homework, so I stopped by the magazine racks on my way to the café. “How hard can it be to find an article that relates to my broad Question on collaboration?” As I suspected, it was pretty easy and after reading a handful of headlines, I found this one in TIME and it seemed to fit. This particular headline caught my eye because I have always had this obsession with the idea of revolution, from childhood tantrums to reading Animal Farm in grade 10 to listening to learning about the hippies of my parents’ generation to teenage rebellion to my present, slightly more sophistically political charge. And of course it relates to my Question. Isn’t revolution a form of collaboration? Although much different than Botsman’s exchange of goods and services, revolutions are another form of people coming together to address a common concern.

In this TIME article, the author identifies five persuasive reasons why the recent revolution in the Arab Middle East should not evoke international panic or concern. In summary:

  1. Inadequate provision is the common and justifiable motive for all revolutions.
  2. Despite this constant, the history of colonial rule, international relations and culture characterizes each revolution as unique, making generalizations very difficult to make.
  3. This complex interplay of factors takes time to study and understand, so patience becomes invaluable.
  4. A sense of “state power”, which often comes in the form of political institutions, is important because Twitter and Facebook cannot govern a country…yet.
  5. The West does not have the answers, nor should we impose our theoretical solutions. A revolution is a way for local people to respond to the eminent problems themselves.

TIME Magazine’s large colour photos and minimalist margins highly restricted my side notes while reading this article. Similar to Botsman’s talk, it uncovered a wide range of possible fields of study that I am deeply interested in, but I hadn’t previously been considered integrating into my Question plan, such as history and religious studies. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised to draw parallels between this article and previous courses I’ve taken, such as Communities and Conservation and the Great Bear Rainforest. International conflict demonstrates the significance of multi-stakeholder collaboration as well as the ability to work across different levels and scales, from local to global.

Above all, I am naturally intrigued by the complexity of the situation and the opportunity to understand the political situation entices me. This level of complexity provokes an endless stream of questions, but to name a few:

a) Can we apply lessons across different scales and contexts? To what extent can we do so while being judicious about generalizations?

b) How can we practically and efficiently facilitate collaboration on this scale? What are the limits of informal mediums of collaboration, such as Twitter and Facebook? Do they offer more promise of peace and stability than nation states?