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.

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April 18 – latin lessons

268/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in 1991, I was enrolled in the teacher education program at UBC as a student teacher.  I loved it.  I tried hard and the rewards paid off.  The practicum wasn’t that difficult for me as I had great advisors and although I did have a couple of unique experiences that I’ve written about such as never being evaluated by my advisor ;), I learned a great deal about education but even more about people.  One of the people that I met only briefly during a spring course was a Latin guy from someplace in South America but he had a lasting impact on me although sadly I don’t remember his name and never kept in touch (we were not in the days of Facebook back then).  He was a fellow student teacher in my Anthropology class and we, with two others, ended up working together on our final culminating project.  We decided to conduct an anthropological study on Graduation as a Rite of Passage.  Here we were filming the graduation ceremony at my practicum school with interviews being completed with students, teachers and parents when my fellow partner told me that this was all new to him.  I was in shock to say the least!?  He explained that in his country, they didn’t celebrate graduation in this way – it was a non-event.  This whole process was foreign to him but fascinating.  I didn’t know how to respond but then asked him to be a part of our project as a subject even though he was a part of our group.  I told the other group members and our project took a slight but important turn – assuming that people were familiar with a concept.  That was the first time I realized that I saw things a little too ego-centrically at time and that people may not be familiar with my frame of reference.  It was an important lesson for me and one that stays with me to this day when I’m in my classroom – people don’t necessarily know what you think they may know and to be aware of it.  Yes, we ended up getting a perfect score on the project because of the anthropological twist to our study but the more valuable learning took place during the process thanks to my Latin project partner and for that I am forever grateful!

March 19 – reviving ophelia

238/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. We value physicality in girls yet mentality in boys. You may say you don’t but for most people it’s a default to focus on physical attributes when talking about their daughters (“you’re so cute” “my pretty girl” etc) and mental attributes in regards to theirs sons (“wow, that’s so clever” “you’re so smart”). Only the very enlightened of us use those latter words to describe their daughters without focusing on their physicality. I wasn’t so enlightened until I read the chapter on fathers and daughters in Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” a book mainly aimed at mothers of daughters. I was the dad who told my 3 year old daughter how pretty she was and how cute she looked and rarely focused on her intelligence until I saw that she was modeling her outfits and carrying purses and looking at herself in the mirror. The chapter in the book saved me! It mentioned that however the first significant male (aka father) values the daughter is how she will value her worth especially with other males. I was devastated that I was responsible in creating this image that she had. I started consciously valuing her intellect and focusing on things that she created rather than what she looked like. When she asked me how she looked, I would throw it back on her – in essence, the onus was for her to be happy with her appearance rather than seek the approval of a male. I also consciously made comments in regards to the overly skinny, overly male-reliant, overly appearance-obsessed females in the media to get her to think in a different way of what it was to be female. I have an amazing, strong, independent daughter who focuses on her mental attributes much more than her physical attributes. If I had anything to do with it, it is all because of what I learned from Mary Pipher. I have touted the merits of this author many times over to fathers of daughters and mothers who have fathers of daughters in their lives.  She changed the way I parented and if this gratitude post has that same type of affect on other fathers, I’m so very happy for their daughters!

January 29 – you knew me better than i knew myself

189/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Earlier in these posts, I mentioned one person of a trio back when I first started my first full time teaching job at a school in Richmond called Burnett – today it is about the other person in that triad, that holy trinity of the Business Department at Burnett. I was there for a few years and was the only one in my department but then we added senior grades which necessitated the addition of new staff members to the department. Two new female teachers were hired and since I lived only a few blocks from the school, I invited them to my house over the summer to get to know them. I met Chris(tine) for the very first time that year and we had instant chemistry – we were able to easily joke and had an easiness that usually takes years to establish. She shared her stories of teaching in the prison system – I sat back pretending it was no big deal whereas I was secretly bowing down to her knowing that I could never have done that. As the years of teaching progressed, we got into our niche courses but still took time to hang outside socially and I can still recall late night marking at school and then just hanging out laughing and creating silly online surveys for each other with even sillier – even risqué answers – oh the things teachers do to get through report card time!! LOL. However, the most important thing that Chris and I did was discuss life and I will never forget the advice/moral support she gave me in regards to being a father of a son. I had a daughter at the time and mentioned to her that I could never see myself be a father to a son as I am the opposite of masculine and that’s what a boy needs. She looked at me and said that I would be the perfect father for a son in that I would give him everything he needs to be a man and that I would learn about sports – not necessarily be an expert – but I would be there for him. I didn’t really believe her but a few years later, I found myself in that very position – father of a son who over the years is the most uber-masculine boy, the boy that I feared that I would fail but Chris’ words come back to me time and time again that I will be a great dad and here I am 16 years down the path and she was right. I am so glad I had a son and she had it all figured out even when I didn’t. Thank you for the great times at JNB but thank you more for believing in me and giving me the advice and support that I would make a great dad for a son!!

January 26 – from babysitter to teacher

186/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Up until these gratitude posts, I thought my first few jobs were at McD’s, Bootlegger and A&A Records but I realized that I also had a babysitting job in the neighbourhood. I actually don’t recall how I got the job – probably through word of mouth (and now that I think about it, why wasn’t it my sister who was doing it – not being sexist but I don’t recall a single guy in high school babysitting LOL). The A—–r’s were an Indian family also living on the same street but were of a different background than that of my Sikh parents – I believe their last name was of Sanskrit origin and they were Hindu. The father and mother were both professors at UBC – I was dumbfounded as up until that moment, I had never met anyone who was Indian in a position of academia and here were a married couple living in my neighbourhood. I somehow think that meeting them led me to believe I could become something other than what I was used to seeing in my immediate and extended family – a labourer/blue collar worker. The children were well behaved – the daughter R (whom I was never told outright) was a high functioning Down’s Syndrome child and the son M (whom also I was never told outright) was on the other spectrum, a genius. Both kids wanted me to read to them at night and these were not everyday Disney classics – the books the parents had selected were intellectually challenging and yes, not what I expected I would be reading. There was also no cable – just basic channels and thus, I spent a lot of time doing my homework while the kids were sleeping. The thing that I most remember is both parents talking to me before heading out (which was often as they had many university dinners) and telling me that I could definitely become something of myself specifically Dr. A taking me aside and motivating me to do well in school. He had said to me that being Indian, I had to work twice as hard to get half as much and that has always stuck in my head – not necessarily because I feel that it is so but I feel that perhaps on a subconscious level I felt it so and that’s why I may have the drive, stamina, work ethic and perfectionism that permeates my very being. As is with most of the gratitude honorees, I have lost touch with them but because of tonight’s blog entry, I did Google search them and was pleasantly surprised to see entries, videos, pictures of them in their respective careers/endeavours. Thank you to the A——-r’s for giving me that gentle subconscious push to be all that I could possibly be.

January 20 – those white brown family members

180/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Yesterday I spoke of my father’s family. Today it’s about my mother’s family but not her immediate family such as siblings and their offspring. No, this post is of her extended family – specifically her mother, my (almost centenarian) grandmother’s side. My grandmother was the oldest of her siblings – she had 6 brothers (or was it 7). Almost all the brothers were either raised or born in Canada back in the early to mid 1900s. All their wives were very modern Indo-Canadian women – I’ve seen pictures from the 60s (mini-skirts, bouffant hairdos, all class). Their children (who would be my mom’s cousins but are younger and older than me) all born and raised here were very Western – some moreso than others. As I grew up watching them, I envied them as they seemed to negotiate the Western world that I was born into with ease but my parents still had traditional Indian beliefs that challenged the very being of who I was. I would see my mom’s extended family drinking wine and other spirits, some smoking, speaking English, in western garb, modern haircuts and some in relationships with white people (oh the shock for a kid like me 😉 ) basically free with their being and no worries of what other Indians thought of them – and this was the female relatives as well as the males. As I’ve grown up, I have challenged the constructs of what it is to be Indo-Canadian and I have had to shatter some of the preconceptions that my mom and dad held. I have to thank my mom’s extended family as they subconsciously influenced me to not have to skirt who I was and wanted to be in order to fit into a pre-defined mould of what I was supposed to be. However, I do have to mention that I am glad that I received the morals and values instilled by my parents especially not forgetting my heritage as that also makes me unique and uniquely me. I thank my mom’s extended family for allowing me to dream and then be a part of the Western culture I was born into while still retaining my ethnic values.

January 19 – getting my tradition on

179/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. My family background is quite diverse. My dad’s side of the family is smaller and although they are from the Punjab region of India and Sikhs in their beliefs, the physical proximity of my dad’s village is closer to the Himachal Pradesh area of India (foothills of the Himalayas) which is predominantly Hindu and many of their beliefs have been filtered down and embraced in my dad’s family even though they are Sikh. I am more than a bit of a skeptic when it comes to religion and religious traditions – yes, heresy in some people’s minds – and have a difficult time believing in and observing some of the ceremonial customs that I must participate in. Upon various trips to India, I have had to walk barefoot through mud to a temple to make offerings, I had to take a 3 day pilgrimage up a mountain with my mother and uncle to the Chintpurni temple, I had to have my head sheared (I refused but did compromise), I had to bathe in water that I knew would never pass a sanitation test here in Canada, I had to sit in the back of a crowded truck full of people with no personal space whatsoever on a week long tour of temples, I had to dance with Hijra/Khusras – the list goes on. However, even though I fight the cultural obligations around religion and ethnic tradition that I must partake in, I realize that they have meaning to my family and thus, I honour them by (albeit reluctantly) doing what is expected of me. The more I reflect on it, the more I know that the Indian traditions and beliefs of especially my dad’s family have had a positive impact on the man that I have become and I can appreciate (whether I agree with them or not) what believing in and respecting does for self, family and community. Thank you to my dad’s family for instilling in me the values of Mother India!

January 18 – girl power

178/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I guess I’m on a UBC mindset for the last two days and the people I met along the way of getting my education. I grew up in a time where my parents felt that getting an education was vital for a boy but not of a concern for girls. Although my sister wanted to go to university (and she did for a while), it was a battle for her as my parents thought it was more important that she got married off and an education would be a hindrance as that would make her less marketable as she would price herself out of the league of many eligible boys – oh, don’t even begin to comment on their logic. On the other hand, a boy had to have post-secondary and there was no other option but university. College or trade school amounted to failure. No pressure 😦 Upon being accepted into the UBC Commerce program, I was surprised to see a couple of Indo-Canadian girls in the faculty – my parents subconscious brainwashing also had an effect on me! I met Ronnie J there. She was this ultra-cool, hip Indian girl. I recall the bright red lipstick and jet black curls and the leather jacket with jeans and she drank and she was smart too, way smarter than me and I thought I was smart! I loved it – threw everything I knew, thought I knew, parents taught me to know, everything out the window – challenged me as a person. Boy did I grow as a person and in a good way – I was able to reconsider the things I was taught about how women were viewed and their value in the Indian culture at the time and because of my exposure to Ronnie, I was able to recreate my thought process to the prevailing values of the society I was born into. Yes, I argued the case for my sister too little too late but eventually my mother saw the light and did change the way she viewed females to the benefit of my youngest sister. Thank you Ronnie for being in the Commerce program when I was there and giving me an enlightening educational experience than that I could have ever hoped for! The feminist in me cheers you on wherever you may be in life today!

January 17 – are you a sell out?

177/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. How strong are my convictions? Would I sell out my beliefs for a pay cheque? For a career? I’ve often wondered that and because I have, I have been very cognizant about defining what I believe and living what I believe – all because of one guy. When I was finishing up my Education degree at UBC and most of us were desperate to secure a job teaching anywhere, I recall one of the Education guys that I had become friends with (and I am very disheartened that I don’t remember his name especially because of his impact on me). We were sitting in the lobby of the Commerce building and some of our fellow classmates had secured teaching job interviews and even jobs with districts within the public school system. This guy, with his great marks and secure self (a few years older than me – I also believe he was a young father at the time) also had a few call-backs but told me that he wasn’t going to follow through with them. I was in shock – here I was desperate to get a teaching job, any teaching job and here he was deciding not to take the teaching jobs that he was offered (that were eluding me). I asked him why and he mentioned that he definitely should take the jobs especially since he had a young child and had taken a year off to pursue the degree but that he couldn’t take a job in the public school system as the BCTF goes against all his beliefs as a Christian. I had no clue what he was talking about but because I like to understand people’s reasoning, I asked for more information. He told me that he had researched all the organizations/groups/beliefs that the BCTF supported or had links/ties with and he had discovered that they believed in choice (abortion) and he in good conscience and as a good Christian couldn’t work for an organization that went against his values. Although I didn’t agree with his belief system (no offense to anyone reading this), I told him that I had great respect for him in that he had defined a belief system which I didn’t have at that time and he stuck to his principles even if it meant giving up a lucrative career (okay, lucrative is debatable 😉 ). Seriously though, I was so very impressed by him and have thought of him many, many times when making my own decisions around my core values – true to myself or lured to the mighty dollar or whatever else it might be. WWEGD (What would Education Guy do?). – Huge appreciation to you for putting me on the path to developing my conscience in order to make important life decisions.  I hope you are living the best life for you and yours!