Thursday, June 30, 2011

You can't spell "Marriage" without "I Am Rage"

Mark and I before we started dating.
Yes, I have been known to grope on
my male friends.

Mine and Mark’s (Mark’s and my’s ??) wedding is less than 11 months away.  I have already started making appointments for our 14 precious days in Toronto/Vancouver this August.  So far on the itinerary we have meetings with churches, wedding dress shops (in Toronto & Vancouver), jewellers, photographers and other miscellaneous suppliers of wedding services. 

Between trying to catch up after a week of being sick in bed and planning our wedding, I am almost certain that I am having multiple tiny seizures throughout the day.  Thank God for my wedding planner or they would be straight up rage black-outs.  

In an attempt to keep myself sane, I have gotten into the habit of giving Mark what I lovingly call “Wedding Homework” to take some of the burden off of myself.  He always does it without complaining, and (usually) in a timely fashion.

Mark’s most recent “wedding homework” was to help with our Save-the-Dates.  Now that Canada Post has been sent back to work, I was all ready to order them.  I picked out a super cute design for a rad price.  Then I realized that I had no idea what I wanted them to say.  I asked Mark, being a much better writer than I am, to write up some blurbs that he thought might be reflective of us as a couple and appropriate to send to not just friends, but family members as well.  His work made me raff out roud (that’s “laugh out loud” in an Asian accent, btw).  They include (I've added a few random pictures in the mix to spice things up):

Since the dawn of time, 
historians and storytellers have been looking for an example of perfect love. 
A love so passionate and astounding that it makes the heart soar. 
This Spring, come join us for our special day, as we commit to each other, and hope that the human race at some point finds the love I have previously mentioned. See you there!

When they first met, Denise didn’t like Mark at all. 
Now he’s tricking her into marrying him. 
Come check it out!

This is a photo from the Speakeasy training camp where Mark and I first met.
He's right.  I thought he was a pretentious douche bag.
Now, I KNOW he's a pretentious douche bag, but I love him anyway.
Put it in the bank, folks: 
We’re getting hitched this Spring, and there is a very little amount that anyone can do about it. 
We spent a lot of money on a nice venue so please dress to kill.

Denise is really pretty. 
Imagine what she’ll look like in an expensive dress. 
We won’t show you pictures unless you come.

Mark landed himself a beaut, 
and Denise got herself a guy with a great personality. 
We have a pot going on how long this will last, but only if you show up!

This is what true love looks like....apparently...
He definitely nailed the “reflects us as a couple” part.

Opinions welcomed.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Quiet on the Dominican Front.

A hideous disease has sidelined me and Denise for this week, and we're only now barely recovered. I'll spare the details, but I will say that every single day I had a completely new symptom. It was like the Kinder surprise of illnesses.

Not so tasty.
The shitty thing about being out for a week is that it's like an unwanted restart button. I had all sorts of projects and plans beforehand - including writing, reading, and the gym - and now I have to pick it all up again. The lowlight of the week is that I had to skip out on a trip to Seven Waterfalls, my hypothetical second hike, because I was starting to feel under the weather. The highlight is that I managed to score four goals in ball hockey this week.

Compounding all this is the fact that it's kind of an inherently strange time of the semester. The third semester students just finished a gigantron exam, which turned them all into shells of their former selves. An attitude of "fuck it, let's just get through this" has taken hold, and everyone is hunkered down. Can't really blame them: fourth semester and salvation is just around the corner, and it's taking every ounce of energy just to get there. Plus it's like a billion degrees outside now, every day.

It's totally like this over here, except all lush and green and stuff. Plus there's an ocean.
So really what I'm reporting is this: there's nothing to report. The Ross community has entered purgatory, and it's all the worse for Denise and I since we've been hermits in our apartment, with mounting piles of kleenexes all around us. Le suck.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hackey hackey hackey.

Welcome Kristin! Glad to hear you're reading our blog.

Pardon me for some Canadiana here, folks. This post is entirely about hockey: some of my thoughts post-Stanley Cup. If you're not a hockey fan, I highly suggest you don't bother reading it. You are forewarned.

As the NHL playoffs end, a few things are on my mind. I've organized it in subjects that the average person could give a shit about, so the further down you go, the more specific your interests must be.

Hockey in Dominica

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Canadian expats have congregated to create a street hockey league. Our current team, "We Boned Your Mom, After we Wined and Dined her, and Don't Plan on Calling her Back", is 0-3, but we've been playing well and I expect us to make the playoffs with a little luck. Here's the logo we'll probably be going for when we make our jerseys.

The Team in Winnipeg

I admit it, I thought this would never happen. I was one of the naysayers, who would calmly take excited future fans aside and patronizingly explain to them that it will never happen. I was wrong, and I eat my words. Now, I am so freaking pumped that they'll be there next year.

It was quite a dilemma for me, when the announcements came in. I bleed blue and white as a Leafs fan, and I wondered: did I have any room in my heart for another team? The answer is yes: like a father who loves his teenage son and has an accidental second baby son, the love I felt does not need to be shared, but grew to encompass both teams. Don't ask me what I'll do when they play each other. I may have to be lame and just cheer for everyone.

I hope they come out with the name soon, it's killing me. Word is that they want to call it the Moose because they'd spent so much money on branding, but they're terrified of public backlash for not calling it the Jets. To be honest, I could care less. I don't put much stock in a name, as long as it's not hideous. The Penguins are a respected team, yet the animal is kind of ridiculous (and cute). So long as we don't call them something like, oh I don't know, THE EDMONTON SWASTIKAS?!?!?!

The Stanley Cup Finals

For a final that I was dreading from the opening round, this series was hugely entertaining. The first two games were a snooze-fest, but Boston routing the Canucks was, as my sister described it, an Emmy-worthy occasion. This is not only because I vehemently dislike the Canucks, which I do, but because it changed the pace of the series, and made it one of the most interesting turn of events in many years of playoff hockey. Really, in the end, I wasn't so much happy that Boston won, as I was relieved that Vancouver lost. When the dust settled on the series though, I knew I would be bummed either way. It really was an amazing playoffs, and Canucks fans should know that they'll be back - the core of that team is locked down for years.

How cute that they felt they needed to put the Sedin twins twice...as if they're actually two different people...
It was a tough series for me to watch, because Boston and Vancouver are two of my three least favourite teams (the third being New Jersey, partly because they play the trap, and partly because they kicked the Leafs out of the playoffs like ten years ago, and I've never forgiven them since). I have to hate Boston because I'm a Leafs fan, and since the Kessel trade the animosity has been building between the two teams. I have to cheer against them if only to prove that the Kessel trade screwed them over (which, it appears, it did not (shit)). As for Vancouver,  I really did try, for several years, to like them, but the reasons not to piled on. Here are a couple of them:

1. For years I took a lot of crap from Canucks fans for their illogical hatred of Leafs fans. As in being physically threatened, even though there is no cultural, geographical, or historical rivalry. It made no sense. I can take the heat from Habs fans, Sens fans, or any other rivalry that has anything based in reality. I respect those rivalries. The Canucks hatred only develops a complete disrespect in those listening. I'm not about to turn around and join a team's fanbase that is quickly developing a very crappy reputation.

(As a side note: Can we retire the word "hater" from the lingo any time soon? I've been called it quite a few times in recent weeks because I'm a Canadian who refused to support the Canucks. I can take the heat; it's just a stupid, stupid term. It conjures up this image of an infinite amount of bitter angry people whose sole existence is to tear down a team. The term is a boogeyman, and it allows the speaker to neglect legitimate complaints against them or their team. The huge amount of Canadians who turned against the Canucks didn't do it for nothing. There's a reason why people don't like the team, and they shouldn't be dismissed as "haters". As a Leafs fan, I can tell you, there is no shortage of people who dislike you, but it won't make anything better by vilifying them. Lay off the word already.

2. The team itself has a culture of playing the victim. It's a team that dives more than most, plays dirty like the rest of them, and then complains about reffing afterwards. No, Boston was not dirtier than the Canucks this final; it was pretty much equal. Nothing wrong with playing dirty, it's part of hockey. No, the reffing is not lopsided, has not been lopsided for however many dozens of years the Canucks seem to think it has been. Every time they complain, the management looks like an only child throwing a hissy fit, and I can't support a team with that kind of culture.

The Impending Summer of Nothingness

Oh God. So, the playoffs end, and then we enter a window of a few weeks where hockey fans cling to news. First, teams can start buying out players they don't want. Second, they can start trading again. Third, the NHL Entry Draft happens  in about a week, and that's always fun to keep an eye on. Fourth, and most exciting, is that Free Agency starts on July 1st. After that, crickets. Nothing. No news until training camp some time in the fall. It sucks. I don't understand people who complain about hockey being played into the summer. Hell, I'd have hockey going year round if I could. That the long months of no hockey news will coincide with hurricane season here doesn't make it any better (or maybe it's a blessing, so I don't get a power outtage in the middle of some rockin' news).

Oh don't go!
The Future of the Leafs

I've been a Leafs fan as long as I can remember, but this year I really stepped it up in terms of a somewhat sad knowledge of the team. It was definitely a strange year to become obsessive: we didn't make the playoffs, but the team seems to be solidifying in many ways, and we're beginning to see the foundation for many years ahead. I was happy to see Reimer and Gunnarsson get re-signed, both at good prices, and here's hoping they get Schenn (I predict 4m/ 4 years), MacArthur (2.5m/ 2 years), Bozak (2m/ 2 years), and Brent (1m/ 3 years) back.

Oh so sexy.
Some predictions for this coming year:

-I think they'll sign Brad Richards. Burke tends to go big or go home, and by this point he would have refuted it. If they get him for an appropriate deal, they'll have enough left over to give Grabovski and Kulemin a raise next year when their contracts are up. And then we're in sexy awesome times.

-If they do sign Richards, I think they'll make the playoffs. They'll have two legit top lines, a fourth line with some serious sandpaper, and a third line of pests and prospects. Their defense is a little thin right now, unless Aulie and Gunnarsson really stay consistent, which I doubt considering how young they'll be. Here's what the team could look like:

Lupul - Richards - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur
Kadri - Bozak - Armstrong
Orr - Brent - Brown

Phaneuf - Aulie
Schenn - Gunnarsson
Lebda - Komisarek (this line sucks so hard, the only reason why the defense makes me nervous)

Reimer (Gustavsson)

-Last prediction, and this one's bold: watch for a prospect named Matt Frattin to do really well, maybe even make the Leafs roster by the end of the year. I only saw him in one game in a Leafs uniform, but damn he looked good.

Go Leafs go!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On the riots in Vancouver.

I was planning on writing a post about a variety of mundane hockey topics that have been on my mind, but that'll come later. The events of last night have gotten under my skin, and I'm pretty upset about it.

I watched a video today, taken by someone on Georgia street, of a man trying to block a mob from shattering the glass on the Hudson's Bay store. He keeps them at bay for a couple of minutes, and then he's pulled into the crowd and beaten. Thankfully, after ten seconds, someone comes to pick him up, and the crowds disperse. As a warning, it's a very upsetting video, and some of you may want to not watch it. You can see it here.

When the reports from the riot first came in, I was sad but not surprised. It's almost a Canadian tradition to vent publicly when losing, and though despicable, damage is almost expected. But watching the level of anger and the sheer number of people vandalizing, it was far more intense than I expected. The pattern of destruction is very similar to the small riot during the Olympics, and it seems this is the same group of international anarchist come to stir shit up. Nonetheless, there were too many people participating in this riot for it to be isolated; actual Canucks fans were involved, and, as Gary Mason notes in a fantastic article, they were there in plenty.

How dare they lay waste to Vancouver. For the international anarchists, they are cowards. Take off those bandanas, you morons, and let the world know who you actually are. If it were only they who were involved, like during the Olympics, I could brush it aside - they're not our own. For the Vancouverites involved, I am deeply ashamed, and angry.

I miss home. I love and miss the city of Vancouver, and I don't get to live there. The cowards who kicked and burned and stabbed and smashed should feel a deep shame for blighting our beautiful city, and for bringing fear and sorrow to the millions who have worked to make Vancouver one of the greatest cities on the planet. How dare they do what they did. They have the privilege of living there, and like spoiled children they destroyed whatever they could find. Idiots.

One amazing silver lining is the citizens who volunteered to clean up the streets this morning. I wish I could have been there to help. Another is the sheer amount of Canucks fans I know who are awesome and honest-to-God hockey fans, both in Dominica and in Canada. They should be proud of how well their team did, and take assurances in the fact that they'll be back. Also, these guys did pretty well:

Hopefully, I'll get to writing about actual hockey soon, including my thoughts on the new team in Winnipeg, the Stanley Cup playoffs and why I cheered against the Canucks, where the Leafs are heading, and the unfortunate time of the year coming up where there is no news about hockey. Egads.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who knew drinking out of a sink could be such fun? (We did...that's who)

During the first week of school, Mark and I threw our first house party since living in Dominica.  Why am I writing about it now, 4 weeks later you may ask…the truth is, Mark said he was going to, but then passed the duty over to me (hehehe…duty….) and I have been swamped with school since then, so there you have it.

Anyway, we had a “Sangria in the Sink” party.  You may be thinking... 

“A Sangria in the Sink Party? What the what is that?”  

Let me explain…

Mark and I attended our first (and only) SITS party when we lived in Vancouver.  Our dear friend SJ and her then boyfriend hosted it at their apartment.  The premise is beautifully simple.  Here are the steps to throwing your own SITS party:

1. Make sure you have friends.
2. Make sure you have a sink.
3. Invite friends.
4. Ask friends to bring either: (a) cheap red wine, (b) fruit juice, or (c) fruit.  

Mark and I kind of left this a bit open, which made for some surprisingly delicious additions to our sangria...

5. THOROUGHLY clean your sink and make sure you have a fitted sink-stopper.
6. As friends arrive, ask them to pour whatever they brought into your sink.
7. After enough guests have arrived, you now have a few litres of random sangria deliciousness.
8. Enjoy your first batch of sangria.
9. As friends continue to arrive, they continue to pour their booze into the sink.
10. Continue to enjoy a NEW batch of sangria.
11. Mingle and drink and hug and laugh and all things good.

The beauty of this set-up is that no two glasses of sangria will ever taste the same.  The flavour is constantly evolving as your friends pour their mix in.

By the end of the night, we had gone through 30 litres of sangria, made of:

15L of red wine
4.5 L of sangria mix
1.5 L of blush wine
1.75 L of white wine
750 mL of cherry brandy (a surprisingly delicious addition)
500 mL of rum punch (a surprising un-delicious addition)
6L of fruit juice
And a bunch of random fruit (apples, grapes, pineapple) 

At one point, we ran out of booze, and our friends Daniel and Steph had to make a run to the liquor store (aka convenience store across the street from campus) to get more wine.

A lot of people were skeptical about the party when we first told them that we would be drinking out of sink.  I think by the end of the night, though, we had convinced them of the amazingness that is SITS.

In a throw back to high-school house parties, there was actually a little bit of drama at our party.  Also like a high-school house party, we created a space where people could go have “serious” conversations if need be.  This space was my walk-in-closet.  We dubbed in the “Closet of Truth”…I think at one point there were 4 people in there together…awkward…

In other, much less fun news...

I have my first midterm of the semester coming up on Tuesday.  It is 5 weeks of material worth 50% of my grade for this block of classes.  I am freaking out.  Everyone is freaking out.  I think this is the first test that my entire class is unanimously terrified.  There are so many bug and drug names to remember that I fear my head might explode from me trying to cram it all in there.  In classic Denise fashion, I have already had a panic attack or two, and in classic Mark fashion, he has talked me out of them (although not as effectively as usual).

As we wait to take our exam, hysteria washes over the crowd...
(this is actually from outside a Justin Bieber concert...if I had to choose between my exam and Bieber...I would totally take Bieber)

After my exam (Tuesday, 11am – 2pm) I plan on eating something delicious and watching Disney’s "Hercules" with my friends Diana and Steph (and Mark I guess).  Steph has never seen Hercules, which is a down-right shame.

Zero to Hero (just like me...after I rock my exam? Probably not)
Wish me luck! (With the exam...not the eating or watching a movie part)


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To love Dominica, or not to love Dominica?

The other day I went on a hike to Bense pool, about a half hour drive north of Portsmouth. It's a natural pool, created at the bottom of a very small waterfall, near a fork in the river. The walk is not long: about an hour in on a soft slope downhill, and maybe twenty minutes on a steep climb back up (Vancouverites, think Grouse Grind). It was the first hike I'd been on in Dominica, and since I've been here about ten months now, I'm admittedly late to it, considering trips into the wilderness are one of the main appeals of this country.

The day before I went, I spoke with Brandi Farid about the upcoming trip.

"No wonder you hate Dominica," she said. "You haven't been on any hikes. Portsmouth and Roseau are not Dominica. The real Dominica is up there."

"I don't hate Dominica all the time," I replied. "Just most days."

She's pretty astute, though. All the experiences I've gained here, from managing Island Thrift, to working at the Prep School, to volunteering at Calls, to playing hockey with fellow expats, have exposed me to a pretty diverse display of the people in this country. But aesthetically, I've stayed along the coast, amongst the litter, burning garbage, stray dogs, and foul smells.

Great shot of Picard.
The hike was lovely, and short. I'm sure it's one of the easier trips on the island, and I'm certain I'll go on others that are better and more difficult. The pool itself was deep, cool, and clean. Off of a steep rock we each jumped, perhaps five meters up, into the water. The river that feeds into the pool also creates a natural water slide that you can go down for maybe fifteen feet before splashing into the pool. It's like nature's slip n' slide. The entire area is charming.

This rando is brought to you by the Ross Wellness Club.
Our guide was kind enough to show us the various plants along the way: cinnamon trees, breadfruit, pineapple, mango, coco, papaya, bay leaves, as well some tree gum that is extremely flammable, and some that is almost like actual chewing gum. Along the steep path back to the van, we were discussing the different islands, and our guide commented that you'll be hard pressed to find nicer people than Dominicans. No one disagreed. The hike finished with an astounding view of the cloud covered, inland mountains. I often forget how large this country actually is.

Perhaps Brandi is right. Perhaps the real Dominica is up in the mountains, where a great pride is taken in natural conservation. I'll have to go on more trips before I can reflect too much on it, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: even though I am more and more homesick the longer I stay here, I am growing fonder of this place all the time, and will undoubtedly miss it when I leave. I feel tugged in many directions.

Either way, this country gets under your skin. There is a simplicity here that I miss when I leave. The water in the pool was crisp: I've never seen or felt a river that clean. Our guide carried a young boy on his shoulders up a mountain without hesitation, and without complaint. This is a country unapologetically unlike any I have ever seen, and maybe that's why I switch back and forth between loving and hating it so easily. I'm interested to see how my feelings about this place change, the closer I get to leaving.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Timothy the Gecko

So we've got two new additions, and I'm pretty sure they're my fine cousin Kendra, and my fine soon-to-be-cousin-in-law Denine. Welcome to the blog, and our family of 38. If I'm mistaken in labeling either of you as newcomers, please forgive me: I find the "following" thing both baffling and flattering.

About a week ago Denise gave a small shriek as we were getting ready for bed. The reason? A little baby gecko slithered into a crack in the doorframe by our bathroom. In my manliness I grabbed a container and a pointy object, but the thing was long gone, so we soon forgot about it. In our last apartment, we'd had mice to deal with, which caused all sorts of anxiety for us when we slept, but we were oddly okay with having a baby gecko around. I guess they're just that much more lovable. And mice move so fast I can barely see them, which is creepy as hell.

A few days later we noticed the gecko lurking in our shower...daily. The dude never left. At first this was a little creepy; I personally didn't mind him there, but I put a cup over him while the water was running, to keep the little guy from scurrying up my leg. Now, though, we've gotten used to him. In fact, we've named him Timothy. Into the shower I'll hop, say "Hey what's up Timothy", and then after either Denise or I are finished, we'll leave some food in there for him to eat. Usually some leftovers from breakfast. He's like a pet!

The alarming thing, I suppose, is that this little thing was alive and well long before we started leaving him bits of toast. What, exactly, was/is he eating in our shower?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Defense of Ross and Plantain Chips

Welcome Laura! Glad to see you on the internet. We are now 36 strong. Also, because I want it on record somewhere online, I wholeheartedly endorse Denise's previous blog post.

This is how it's going down.
If you've ever been to Ross, or known anyone affiliated with Ross, I'm certain that you've heard a laundry list of complaints. All of them are legitimate. This is a school with incredibly high tuition (by Canadian standards at least), a high drop out/failure rate, a complete lack of transparency when it comes to the assessment process, and a general disregard for student interests (when it comes to administrative interests versus student interests, Ross seems to almost universally trend towards making life easier for faculty at the expense of students (ie. the unbelievably unprofessional implementation of a faulty computer testing system); this is perhaps because the student body, only here for sixteen months, is not invested enough in the academic culture here). Ross University is an institution which very few students are proud of while in Dominica, and is the inevitable subject of frustrating conversations at social events. Despite this, there is a quality that Ross has, which is rarely acknowledged and little appreciated, in comparison to other medical schools: It is not possible to graduate as a doctor from Ross with a sense of entitlement, and this can only create better doctors.

In Canada, it's insanely difficult to get into a medical school. As my friend Matt Ratzlaff once pointed out, and for which I have no documentation whatsoever: for every three perfectly suitable med school candidates in Canada, there is one position (a pretty good indication of how hard it is to get in can be found here, especially when you consider the time and resources every candidate takes to send in an application, and their limited options in schools). This is insane for a country that has a dire need for doctors. It's one of the few times where I am against the use of government funds to support education. Why are we subsidizing medical school? Sure, provincial control makes it so those who graduate don't have a mountain of debt, but it also limits revenue for institutions that could use that money to create more spaces. Medical school is a professional program that should rack up a lot of personal debt considering how specialized it is, as well as the expected pay scales. Almost every person I've ever met who wanted to be a doctor would gladly pay a preposterously larger sum to attend a Canadian university, partly because they want to go home, and partly because they don't trust a degree from the Caribbean. Up the tuition, open more seats. We'd be there in a heartbeat.

But where are all the students?
Once in, though, it's pretty hard to not make it through. Canadian medical schools have an incredibly low drop-out rate, hovering below 1%. Once you're in, you're in. I don't know why this is, but you can imagine the kind of culture it can engender. At Ross, the drop out right is staggeringly high, around 20%. You can't coast here. Denise is probably the smartest person I know, and it's incredibly difficult for her to maintain her grades. She works her ass off. I don't like to use my Education degree a whole lot in arguments, because it makes me sound like a douchebag, but one of the key theories you learn as a teacher is that without the threat of failure, students don't learn nearly as well (we all know this, think of video games: no one stays long on the easiest setting, because there's no way to fail. We like to be challenged). Students may arrive at Ross thumping their chest, feeling entitled to high grades and a cushy lifestyle, but they certainly don't leave that way. To get through Dominica, you have to work.

Oh so studious.
Many people complain that the drop-out rate here is far too high, that it's unethical. That may be a fair point. It's a risk coming here, a significant one. To spend one semester trying out medical school in Dominica would end up costing you around 20 000$ for a four month period, which is a hefty price tag for an experiment. But is it unethical? I don't think so. When Denise was accepted, we weighed the pros and cons of coming here. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, the school administration is mind-bogglingly frustrating. But they give you the chance. They say, "You want to be a doctor? We'll give you the opportunity, and we'll take your money, but you have to get it done yourself." You get here, you work hard, and if you make it through, you better believe you're qualified, because for three years you've had a fire lit under your ass that has kept you from complacency.

I guess in the end, what I'm saying is this: I would rather a doctor from a school system that's easier to get into but far harder to graduate from, than a system that's harder to get into but is easier to graduate from (this is not meant to diminish how hard medical school is for North Americans. I know it's incredibly competitive and difficult. Just come try it down here. You have to want it). Every doctor has to pass the same standardized tests, but some of them are going to work harder when they start their careers. If only the Ross brand better reflected this.


On a completely unrelated and more positive note, I've started eating plantain chips. On a scale from potato to banana, plantains lean a bit towards the latter, but when you fry them up, oh boy they're tasty. I've been eating them in droves, and I thought they deserved a shout out. If ever you get the chance, try them.