July 21 – friends in all places

362/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Do you have those friends that you can pick up where you left off be it a couple of months or even a couple of years? I’m lucky enough to say that I have several friends that I can do this with. I don’t have to be in constant contact with someone just so to maintain the friendship. Maybe that’s the case for all people and if it is, then I think that’s a good thing! One of the friends that fit into this category is Scott. We have been friends for almost a decade now. Yes, there are times when I can get on his nerves and vice versa and we take a subconscious break from each other.   But when we do connect again, it is relatively easy. The cool thing about our friendship is that we introduce each other to different elements. I have learned of the funky, off the beaten path East Van pubs and venues – in fact, a lot more about East Van as a neighbourhood than had we not been friends. As well, our friendship has taught me a little bit more about patience and adaptability as I don’t necessarily agree or see things the same way but those are important things in a friendship in order for growth to take place.  Thanks Scott for giving me a different perspective on things in life that are definitely outside my realm of knowledge and I hope I have done the same for you.

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July 18 – Pokemon Go indeed!

359/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This post was never supposed to happen.  I rarely play tablet/phone games except for Trivia Crack and Songplay.  They are fine.  They have not consumed my life.  I didn’t get the intrigue of any type of gaming apps until last week.  I downloaded Pokemon Go.  Actually, I didn’t.  We didn’t have it here in Canada.  I just put a random query as to how to get it and my grade 12 graduate of this year, Sam, sent me the link.  I got on and I got hooked.  I have never connected with random strangers in person as I have with this app.  First of all, I actually want to go and walk my dog.  Before this, I would hope that my children or my wife had walked him.  In the last week, I have taken him – and sometimes on two walks!!  I have gone up to places and when I realized that there were teenagers there Pokemon-ing, I pretended to text while in fact I’m catching one!  Today was surreal.  I was at elementary preschool and the little kids figured out very quickly what I was doing while waiting to let them into the school.  I had a swarm around me giving me advice and what to do and what not to do.  The instant connection.  I have seen them for the last two weeks but this Pokemon Go phenomenon just brought me down to a relatable level for them.  Then, this afternoon, I am walking through Steveston Park (with my dog Shadow) and a few teenagers are on a bench.  As I approach them cell phone in hand, they immediately ask – “Pokemon Go?!”  and I look up and smile and a conversation happens.  This would never have happened if not for this game.  I would just have passed them and they wouldn’t ever have acknowledged me but here it is – generations connecting.  Plus, as alluded to earlier, I want to be out and about.  On the weekend, sitting with a friend beering and I am Pokemoning and the server is all enthralled and I keep her updated as to how many Pokemons I have caught (13 in a 90 minute stint at that table!!!).  Yes, this gratitude post was never on my horizon but in one week, I am sparking conversations with random strangers of all ages (okay, all ages below mine) as are they with me.  Thank you Pokemon Go creators for a game that allows me to be active and interactive inter-generationally with others at my age of almost 51!

July 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

June 26 – Richmond-ites

337/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve heard the city I call home being referred to as Ditchmond instead of Richmond.  I guess it was coined back in the day when Richmond was mostly ditches but I guess it’s now come to mean its boring-ness and lack of anything fun to do?  I could be wrong but whomever has that perception hasn’t really had the experiences I have had.  It’s weird to me but as soon as I cross any bridge or the tunnel back into Richmond, I feel a sense of ease – weird, I know.  I was born in New Westminster and moved to Richmond when I was 7.  I remember the old Richmond and the sense of community we had.  Yes, I am saddened by what I see in some parts of Richmond – yes, change is inevitable but you don’t have to like it.  I am very fortunate to be living in a part of Richmond (Steveston) where there is community – the neighbours talk to you and wave, the dog walkers give you a nod, and a lot of people know who you are.  I went to a wine festival last night and there were so many Richmond-ites.  I knew a good dozen or so and it was nice just saying hi and connecting.  The other day I needed some supplies for a Prince inspired costume – our staff has amazing year end parties – and I put my message into a Richmond forum and was given a purple umbrella, purple hair accessories and a purple shirt (all free) to use and then return.  Wow!  You really don’t get to pick where you live when you are growing up but you do as an adult.  I have stayed in the same city where I was raised and probably will move when I retire – Europe baby – but until that time, I do like the inhabitants of Richmond who make my city a place I want to continue to live in (and work in).  Thank you fellow Richmond-ites for keeping the Richmond that I grew up in more or less intact and for making me feel happy to live in this city!

June 25 – that indian boy

336/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One can never really know if they inspire others.  One can never really know if they are a role model to others.  Unless that one is told.  Teaching is a career that lends itself to making differences for people but as I alluded to, you don’t know who you are affecting or how you are doing so.  At McNair, the school that I am at, a school with a diverse student population, and a school with many students from the same ethnic heritage as myself, I was worried that I wouldn’t be Indian enough for my students – okay, let’s be honest, I knew I was not Indian enough if at all and wondered how they would take me.  There was an Indian boy in my classes with a turban and surprisingly, he hung on my every word and listened intently in my Psychology class.  Gurkaran would ask me about how different theories helped explain certain types of behaviour.  He would question some of my choices in regards to my education and job choices growing up.  He would ask my advice on current issues and I was told by another teacher that Gurkaran was really impressed by me and I was having an impact on him.  I was more than surprised as I did not realize that I was having any type of influence on him – for whatever reason and shortcomings/stereotypes I built up, I just assumed that the last connection I would make would be with Indian kids but here I was doing just that.  Because of Gurkaran, I had to let go of a lot of stereotypes I had about my western upbringing and those of the Indian students I was teaching – an important and necessary revelation and realization for me.  There were much more commonalities that I had with my Indian students and my differences actually added to my abilities as a teacher to inspire all kids regardless of ethnicity.  I am thankful for Gurkaran in making me aware of the connectivity I have with students that I unconsciously put a barrier up against.  Demolition fully complete this year!

June 3 – bottoms up

314/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. If you know me personally, contrary to what you may think, I did not start drinking alcohol until my early to mid 20s – yes, surprise, surprise! It just never interested me. My dad rarely drank and my mom never did. Yes, I had uncles who did but their love of Crown Royal and Johnny Walker did not filter on down to me. Thus during family parties, I never drank as I was not fond of the drinks of choice and I absolutely hated the taste of beer. When I did imbibe, it was usually sweet drinks such as coolers but those weren’t even on the radar of my relatives. Fast forward to my mid 30s and friends introduced me to the fact that you could make amazing drinks called cocktails and martinis and alcohol didn’t have to taste bitter! I still didn’t like getting drunk for the sake of getting drunk – yes, it would happen on the odd occasion but that was and has never been my intention.   Jump into my early 40s and because of my wife’s work parties, and the fact that I had a few female teacher friends, I was introduced to the world of wine.   At first, I just drank Merlots. Then I took a course on wine-tasting and then another and the gentleman running it introduced me on how to properly enjoy wine. I now know what I do like and what I don’t all under $20!! Finally, in my late 40s, I discovered craft beer. It wasn’t very much to my liking initially but I soldiered on. Three years later and I am a connoisseur – I know my IBUS, I know the different from a sessional and a saison, I know what a small batch is – I feel cultured 😉 All thanks to some really cool male friends. As I enter into my 50s, who knows who will influence my choice of beverages but if I was a betting man, I think I will be introduced to the world of Scotches and Bourbons. Thank you to all the people who have refined my palate to be a sophisticated drinker rather than one who drinks just for the sake of it! Cheers to you!

May 19 – the lady at the gym

299/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Do you ever have moments when something clairvoyant-like takes place and you are trying to get an understanding of the logic behind it?  The other day I was thinking of a woman that I would run into back in my 20s and 30s when I used to work out at Fitness World.  I was wondering whatever happened to her.  She was a Punjabi woman who was well over my mom’s age (probably by a decade or more).  I was fascinated by her because first she was working out lifting weights.  Second, she had short cropped hair – growing up Indo-Canadian, all females sported long hair and older women had auntie-buns – but not her.  Third, she was made up to the nines (yes, she was working out but damn, she did it in style).  Fourth, her English, although accented, was impeccable.  I recall her sitting on a bike next to me striking up a conversation with me and of course, small world – she knew my mom and my extended family.  She started giving me hugs when I would be at the gym and I met her once at the temple where she just grabbed me and told my mom that I was her other son and we had only talked casually.  I admired her and how she really got me to see older Indian woman in a different light than what I was used to growing up.  The evening after she had popped into my head earlier this week, my mom phoned and asked me if I remember a woman who used to work out at the gym.  I was floored as I told her that I was just thinking about her.  My mom got all quiet and then told me that she had just gone to her husband’s funeral that day and that she (this lady) was asking about her “son” (me)!  To say I was weirded out would be an understatement.  I guess I also affected her on some level.  I made a promise to my mom that in the upcoming weeks I would make a trip to her place to give my condolences but also to connect with her.  I am very fortunate that a lot of good people have come into my life over the years to get me to think about life and this lady is one of those people.  Thank you for allowing me to see (Indo-Canadian) women of my mom’s generation and older as productive, vital, independent and lively rather than what I was shaped to see them as through my interactions in a patriarchal cultural.  I look forward to our reunion where I can tell you this in person.

May 4 – brothers in arms

284/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As many of you know, I’m brotherless – only male child out of three for my parents.  Every one of my male cousins has a brother or brothers and at times I have been envious of them as yes, I do miss not having the brotherly bond that I assume is present.  Of my male cousins, there are two that I am closest to even though I only see them every year or so but do consider them like my younger brothers – really younger brothers as Inder is 12 years my junior and Terry is 14 years younger.  The nice thing is that when we do see each other, we have a simple affinity towards each other that has not wavered over the years even though we may not see each other for long periods of time.  Being their older cousin, I didn’t get to bond with them in the typical way cousins do as I was in my late teens when they were younger but I would still play games, be a judge for dress-ups, watch their routines etc.  We became much better friends and relatives as they entered their teens and got married and had children as our commonalities multiplied.  Although we have not talked about life and issues – I think that’s a brother thing!! – we understand that each of us has been through tough times and respect each other and are there for each other in spirit.   Not having a brother(s) kinda sucks but at least having Inder and Terry as cousins gives me a feeling of what it would be like to have them.  Love you guys!  Glad you are my cousins!

April 25 – lifestyle choice

275/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  About 23 years ago, I made a decision that affected the very essence of who I am.  After seeing a documentary on the processing of beef and being heavily affected by what I saw, I decided to cut out all red meat (in my mind that was pork and beef).  It was a bit difficult as growing up my entire family from parents to uncles and aunts were meat eaters – every meal had a huge meat component from sausages and bacon at breakfast to luncheon meats and burgers for lunch and then steaks (beef and pork) or chicken and turkey for dinner.  McDs and KFC were the letters of choice whenever mom didn’t want to cook.  However, that documentary got me to thinking about what my part was in the process and I just couldn’t live with myself.  I was 26 but it was only a choice for myself – never inflicting my beliefs on others (the only vegetarian in my family immediate and extended).  A year later, I happened upon another documentary on the chicken production industry and I was done.  At the same time, a teacher friend told me about fish and bottom feeders and well, I quit that like it was yesterday.  I’ve had many critics of my lifestyle choice – a principal who told me “real men eat meat”, my own mother telling me “why are you doing this to the family?”, others telling me that we are evolved and at the top of the food chain meant to eat meat and finally the ones who take one look at my skin colour and think it’s a religious choice (fyi, least religious person you will ever find writing a blog).  I held strong and with the exception of introducing fish back into my diet about a decade ago (compromised immune system and thus I require essential fatty acids and omega something or others), I have never (knowingly and willingly) eaten meat.  I appreciate all the friends and family in my life who have accommodated my choices by selecting restaurants that cater to my tastes, cooking an option for me specifically, even choosing vegetarian options here and there themselves.  I go along with the jesting about my non-meat choices but know that you respect my decisions.  Yes, my life as a vegetarian is much easier today than it was two decades ago as the options and choices available to me are endless but it’s the people around me who have made it that much easier.  Thank you to my friends and family who help me out with the way I choose to (not) eat.

April 22 – motherland

272/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Today’s gratitude post is not about a person.  Today is about a bunch of people – a culture, traditions, a way of life and being – my motherland.  This morning and afternoon, I attended a Professional Development workshop about First Peoples’ (First Nations/Aboriginals/Indian) past and present so we as educators could better understand what they had to endure in residential schools/land rights in the history of Canada to where they are today and what is happening to their people.  Being an ethnic person, I had a different take-away experience as I started thinking about my “people”.  I don’t recall if I have admitted this but I coined my own moniker when I was writing my blog for the Vancouver Province newspaper – The Whitest Brown Guy.  I know very little about my heritage and culture.  The school that I teach at is about a 1/3 Indo-Canadian and the boys especially (in my classes) give me grief about being “too white”.  It’s friendly banter but today got me to thinking about my ethnicity and heritage and I have to admit that I am very proud that I have such a great heritage.  Even though I was born in Canada, my ancestors come from a land full of people with diverse cultures and traditions – my specific one being from the northern state of the Punjab.  I wasn’t very proud of being ethnic growing up because I was different – I was marked and it was easy fuel for the bullies.  Did I want to deny my ethnicity?  Hell yes – anything to get away from the turmoil of the teen years.  But here I am today proud of my heritage and where I came from.  I no longer deny who I am and who my people are.  I am only one aspect of a very diverse culture and that diverse culture is only one aspect of who I am but it has shaped me and for that, I am thankful for all that my motherland is and represents.  I am Ethnic.  I am Minority.  I am Indian.  I am Punjabi.  I am Indo-Canadian.  I am Me.  I am proud of my heritage!