Saturday, 26 May 2018

Bag to Differ - Kenya do it, Canada?

As a society - at the local, national and global scales - we seem to constantly be searching for ways to make our lives better. Usually this is the creation of something that leads to a more convenient lifestyle (drive-thru restaurants, ATMs and booze stores, snack sized products, bottled water, etc.). Rarely are actions related positively to environmental wellbeing or change - mostly because doing so forces us to acknowledge we have a problem. However, this doesn’t mean no such actions have been attempted.

Over the last 10 years or so, communities, municipalities and even provinces across Canada have attempted to ban a product all of us have used at one point or another - the plastic bag. I distinctly remember a pilot project of the Atlantic Superstore in a location in Halifax that charged customers 10 cents per bag, in an attempt to curb the use/need for non-reusable bags. After only a few days, the program was cancelled due to the outpour of customer complaints, thus, nullifying a bold attempt to change mindsets and do something for the greater good.

Yet, in 2007, it was local grocer and respected entrepreneur Pete Luckett who stood by the bag ban in his Pete’s Frootique chain of stores. He also charged 10 cents per bag for customers who did not come with their own reusable bag (Side note: he also sells some of the best reusable bags out there - both in terms of design/function and aesthetics). To this day, Pete’s charges for these bags, and customers still shop their as they did prior to this initiative.

Earlier this year, the Province of Nova Scotia began to reconsider a province-wide ban. Nothing has been indicated yet as to what that might look like (full ban vs. a pay per bag program) or when it may come into effect, but there are several areas in favour of it. These include: Digby, Yarmouth, Colchester Country, Antigonish, and those that fall under Valley Waste Resource Management - the latter being no surprise, as they are often the leaders in environmental initiatives across the province, and the wider country.

Sadly, this push to ban bags is less about the environment, and more about a panicked response to China’s recent decision to discontinue accepting all of our plastic waste.

Almost a week ago, I returned from a trip to Kenya. This is where the plot thickens, in terms of the good ‘ol plastic bag.

Years ago, when I was in Ghana, you may recall I complained about the amount of plastic waste, or perhaps waste more broadly. Most of this was caused by the introduction of plastic bags, which were used for... pretty much everything. I noticed similar behaviours in Uganda. It was always really frustrating, but I tried to do my best to break the cycle, at least for myself. But how does this tie into Nova Scotia’s attempts to ban bags, or my trip to Kenya?

While preparing to depart, I noticed a bit of key information in the preparations package. That info - a short blurb on a plastic bag ban in Kenya. Yes, that’s right - KENYA HAS A BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS! Thinking I was reading that wrong, I immediately messaged one of my Kenyan friends who confirmed this to be true, and urged me to take it seriously. This means, no bags for dirty laundry, or dirty shoes, not even for my carry on liquids. These had to be disposed of prior to entering the country.

To make matters worse, when I dropped my bag at the Halifax airport, they airline insisted on placing it in a large, clear, plastic garbage bag. As I was late arriving at the airport, I didn’t think much of it...until I was mid-air on the way to Montreal. When I arrived, I shared this information with the airline staff, and they brushed off my concern. I spoke with someone else, and they told me when I arrived in Amsterdam, it would be taken care of. This was not the case. So for the 36-ish hours in transit, I was in major panic mode! No one even seemed to know of this ban, which you would think is a crucial piece of information for an airline flying into said country!

Usually, these sorts of things don’t bother me, but when you look into it, this ban comes with some hefty fines. If caught with a plastic bag, a fine can be up to US$40000 or four years in jail. Neither of those options are ideal for me. But, perhaps this is what we need in Nova Scotia to be able to get over our fear of reusable bags!!

Anyway, when I arrived in Kenya, my bag was partly wrapped in the bag. It was pretty damaged, as one might expect a flimsy, plastic bag to be after moving from plane to plane! But in the end, I didn’t end up in jail or having to pay anything - partly due to my stealthy bag ripping-off and disposal skills!

But it does bag the question - how can Kenya make this happen, but Canada cannot? Yes, the fines are steep. Yes, it probably isn’t as simple as I’ve just painted. BUT, they are seeing results. Stores are only offering cloth or paper bags. People are aware of the new policy and for the most part are following along. Is it perfect? No. Is there still a lot of waste laying around? Yes. But there is a good chance that over time that can be remedied, just like I hope over time Nova Scotians will accept and adapt to a much healthier, more sustainable lifestyle when it comes to shopping.

-the Orange Canadian

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Mastering Peace and Learning About Forgiveness

If you’ve been following my social media, then you would have already read about my pre-walk encounter with Mount Kilimanjaro.

Screenshot of an Instagram post from May 11
The above picture describes a dream I had:

"I had a dream one night that I had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I awoke to the sound of my Gramma giggling, although I was away at uni at the time. About an hour later, my Mom called to tell me she had passed. I made a promise that in 5 years I would reach Kili. Tomorrow marks 5 years since I woke from that dream and today, I am humbled to say, I have achieved this goal."

This was only one of the many things that took place over the course of the week related to my Gramma and Mom. For most, what might not be so well known from that post, was that a week later, I lost my Mom.

Today, is the 5 year anniversary of my Mom’s passing, and appropriately, perhaps, it is a similar day - rainy and miserable. It is very likely that these conditions led to her passing, although we will never be sure. Maybe she fell asleep at the wheel, maybe the rain was just so heavy she couldn’t see. Regardless, the result doesn’t change.

Not sure what we are doing here, but this was from around 1987.
Maybe we are baking, maybe we are bobbing for apples!
One of the goals I had for myself for my time in Kenya was to refuel, gain perspective, and begin the process of forgiving myself. On the first day of walking, we were tasked with spending a 2km period without talking to anyone. And in it was during this time that I allowed myself to think and feel some of the troubling thoughts and feelings I had been living with over the past 5 years. What needs to be forgiven, you ask?

A part of my story I often leave out is the events leading up to losing my Mom. Most, I think, know that she died in a car accident. But, not everyone knows that she was on her way home from dropping me off from my Gramma’s funeral. Although the rational part of me knows there is no link, the grieving, searching for answers part of me does not. And so, for 5 years, I have blamed myself. I have held myself accountable for the lose of my Mom. I had convinced myself that everyone blamed me - especially my brother. I sometimes think that part of why I went away for so long after she died was so that I didn’t have to look them in the eyes - fearing that what I had allowed myself to believe was true.

Doing what she did best - baking!
Check out the old Sobey’s bag in the background!
The day before our time in Maasailand came to an end, we were asked to gather in smaller talking circles and share our frustrations about the trip at this point. There wasn’t a specific type of frustration intended for this exercise, but the discussion in my group was going well. Most shared about the differences (and inequality) between what we’ve become accustomed to and that of the Maasai people. Some shared about the sickness that some (including myself) had been feeling. But I decided to honestly share my true intentions for the walk - dealing with the guilt.

In a pretty unattractive meltdown, I shared about my Gramma, and how I later lost my Mom. I shared about how my Mom came to be in the car accident. I shared about how all these years, I had been holding on to false-guilt, and was afraid of seeking the truth. They all held me, and reassured me that things would be okay.

That night, it rained...hard. A few tents flooded, it was muddy, but we survived. If you know anything about me, you will have come to know that I love the rain. I believe it cleanses all. And the next morning, I woke with a sense of calm i hadn’t felt in a very long time. I took this as a sign that it was time to face the music, so-to-speak.

This afternoon, I had a few family members over for a potluck. We shared stories of the past week and enjoyed the time together. When everyone left, my brother and I sat on the ledge of the fireplace and talked about Mom. It was the first time I’d cried all day - which is pretty miraculous given how much I usually cry/have cried over the past few days of being inspired and parting ways with the group! In that moment, I began to explain how much weight I’d been carrying out of guilt. I told him about the talking circle, and I asked him point blank if he blamed me. And to no one’s surprise, he told me it wasn’t my fault. That it could have happened any number of times before, or any time after, if not then.

The sun has since begun to shine. The weight, the guilt, the heaviness of a loss that is not mine to own has lifted with the clouds. That calm that I began to feel only a few short days ago, I now realize was the begin of my own forgiveness. I feel a sense of peace washing over me. And I hope, that in time, I will be able to move forward completely, knowing that none of this was my fault.

-the Orange Canadian

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Mastering Peace Initial Thoughts

It is hard for me to peace together exactly how I'm feeling at the moment. A few words could be overtired, overwhelmed, emotional, and unusually content. The past several days have been nothing short of incredible, and I have no doubt that it will take some time for me to full understand and appreciate all of the experiences I have been exposed to during my Masaailand PeaceWalk.

As I sit here now, in an airport lounge in Paris awaiting my next flight, I am struggling to be on my own. Not because I lack confidence, or don't enjoy spending time on my own, but because for the past 10 or so days, I have had a minimum of 20 people around me for every second of every day - from sleep time, to meals, to downtime and even bathroom breaks. This is truly the first moment on my own, and to be honest I feel a little lost and uneasy.

Photo credit: Michiel de Koning

Of course, this is only magnified by the fact that the people I spent time with during this adventure we're nothing short of inspiring. Hector and Michiel were my Nudge partners in crime and need no further explanation about how awesome they are. But the rest of the group? Well let me tell you a little bit about them!

  • Anne-Mariecke made me cry all week, not because she's mean, but because she made me feel safe enough to share parts of my life I hadn't wanted to confront. She's also a stellar dancer and a warm soul. 
  • Brigitte is basically Dr. Quin Medicine Woman in real life, and took care of us all, even when she herself wasn't feeling well. 
  • Stefan spent a good chunk of his time asking "how are you?" to everyone, throughout the day. He stayed at the back of the group with me on a number of occasions, and not once let me give up. He also shares my same slightly inappropriate sense of humour, which got me through many challenging moments. 
  • Hedwig is one of the most sincere people I have ever met. She's energetic and full of life, but genuinely interested when you speak to her. 
  • Nanda was the first person from the group (aside from Hector and Michiel, who were already friends) that I met. She later became a great friend, who listened and offered great advice while sharing laughter and licorice (which are essential for getting through an adventure of this sort). 
  • Ben is calm but full of energy. That probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but if you had been with me this week, you'd know what I mean. I enjoyed many good conversations and shared a mutual "first job in Africa" in Ghana!
  • Benedict is crazy amazing! Before last week, she had never camped, but chose Masaailand to break in her first experience. She made it seem like she'd been doing it for years! 
  • Sterre has one of the most infectious smiles. She was also quick to help me learn "Essential Dutch" along with others. 
  • Ilmar is kind and genuinely interested in all the goings on. It was wonderful to watch as he observed each experience and readily gave his energy to the group and everyone else involved. A true silent leader!
  • Danja didn't have a hope - she was assigned to be my roommate in hotel and tent form. She put up with my terrible jokes, fear of the sun, and at times my feet in her face. She also has an infectious smile and a kind heart. Not so great at the animal game (and neither am I!)
  • Erna took an interest in the plight of the girls we encountered and immediately began looking for simple ways to give back and share her knowledge. She also tended to accompany me at the back of the line - and I was always grateful!
  • Willem thinks Trudeau is pretty. BUT, I don't hold that against him. This man has been working hard to bring attention to the beauty and challenges of the Masaai people, and is nothing short of sincere in doing so. He shared wonderful stories and inspired me throughout our time together. 
  • Maurits is a kind-hearted, hilarious, and overall rad sir. I regret not taking the time to get to know him earlier in the week, but I'm so thankful for the moments we were able to spend together (particularly when attempting to get through security at the airport!).
  • Echo cannot be explained. She has a way about her that instantly makes everyone feel at ease. This led to some of the most incredibly honest conversations I've been a part of. She also pretty much laughs at everything, and makes it difficult not to join in!
  • Selly is beautiful, warm, courageous, strong and by far one of the coolest people I know. Even though we didn't get a proper good-bye, I know we will be friends for life! Thanks for sticking by me, singing along to 99 Bottles, and believing in me! 
  • Cora is another amazing woman! I am almost giddy thinking about what the future holds for her! I'm so excited to see her thrive as she boldly moves forward with the next challenge/chapter of her life!
  • Mie probably had the most confusing name, but is crazy awesome! Independent, strong, and full of life! Thanks for all of our toilet talks!
  • And last, but not least, Patrick, or as I know him - Arnold Slinger-Dinger. I think I'm a better person for knowing this guy (well, really everyone one this trip!), and a big part of that is related to watching him move out of his comfort zone. Each day was inspiring!

And then there were my Masaai friends - Francis, Faith, Desmond, Ken, Daniel, Nellie, Edwin, and of course, my good friend, Eziekiel. I know I'm omitting far too many other names but the impact they have all had on me will be everlasting and I cannot wait to touch down on Masaailand once again!

Thanks to each of you for every moment, every bit of laughter, every tear shed, and every sunburn! You are all truly amazing, unique, and beautiful! I cannot tell you how grateful I am to call you not only friends, but family. Big love to you all!

I will be sure to update more as I return home and get settled, and of course, begin to process everything. Until then...

-the Orange Canadian

Thursday, 10 May 2018

EleFANts!

Several years ago, I watched a documentary about an elephant orphange just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Not thinking much of it, a friend of mine and Acadia's Sustainability Coordinator, Jodie told me about a great elephant orphange also in Kenya. It wasn't too long before I made the connection, that these were the same orphange. The orphanage, of course being, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)

If you haven't heard of this incredible organization, I urge you to look into this one a bit. To give you a Comes Notes version, it essentially rescues elephants that have been orphaned due to a number of reasons, although it is usually at the hand of poaching (which is illegal in Kenya, but still happens more than you'd like to admit). During the course of each elephant's stay, they are cared for and rehabilitated to the point that they are eventually released back into the wild.

One of the really cool things about the DSWT, is that they really limit the amount of interaction with humans, so as not to get them too comfortable with us. But, they also appreciate the learning opportunities that can come from what they are trying to achieve. So, for one hour everyday (aside from Christmas!), they open the Centre to the public. Since hearing about it, it has been on my bucket list, and today I am really excited to say that I can cross it off!

Getting there, of course, was not as simple as it should have been. With limited time, and unexpected traffic jams, by the time we reached, we only had 15 minimin to observe and take in the sight of multiple elephants before us. But it was worth it!

Here are a few of the highlights of our time at DSWT:





To learn more about this incredible organization or find out how you can contribute, you can check out their website at https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org.

-the Orange Canadian

Friday, 4 May 2018

Home again, at last

It’s been a bittersweet few weeks to say the least. On Monday, I ended my (first) contract with Acadia – marking a total of 60 exams in 24 hours (coffee is a wonderful thing!). I ended my position at People’s the week before, and said farewell to some lovely ladies (don’t worry, I’ll be back in soon to visit!). But most significantly, Gertie and I packed up our Dartmouth apartment (well, I did – Gertie more or less just got in the way) and moved into our new home. 

Now, if you’ve been following over the years, you’ll know the term ‘home’ is, or has been, a difficult concept for me. Ever since my Mom passed (which is somehow almost 5 years now!), I have struggled with my sense of home. I thought I may have found it again in Uganda, but that turned out to not be the case. I knew my little apartment downtown was not going to be a forever option, but I, at the very least, thought it would be a safe transition point for Gertie and I. That also turned out not to be the case, and as such the move was made under very short notice. 

Over the past almost year, my urgency to find a sense of place, or home, has been more of a focus than it has at any other point over the last few years. Not that long ago, a friend asked why I was looking to buy, and my response was simply I cannot come back home again like I did last time. It was awful not knowing where I’d be resting or where I would be ending up (to go back to Uganda or somewhere different, or wanting to remain here). It’s extremely difficult to think rationally and make such decisions when your brain is consumed by negativity and burnout. 

But, that’s not how the year has is ending. In fact, I finally feel like I’m on track again – working towards something of meaning, and for which I am excited to be a part of. It feels good. But even more so, I now have my sense of place back anda bit more permanency in the form of my first house. It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to come home to a place that is mine, that I can watch Gertie open up even more, and experience the freedom and happiness she deserves! It has been a long time since even I felt that way, and I have to say, it feels pretty incredible. 

Gertie snoozing in the basement living room.
Below: playing catch inside - she’s loving all the space!

Last Friday, as I made my way to the Valley to do the final inspection before my closing that same day, I caught a glimpse of my favourite part of the drive – just past exit 8A, when you round the bend and see Blomidon standing before you in the distance. It never gets old, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it look the same twice! My heart always fills up with joy, my shoulders relax, and I can’t help but smile. This is home. This has always been the sight that gave me even a little sense of homeduring the past 5 years when that original sense was taken from me. 

I was greeted with these beautiful flowers from the previous owners of the house!
Over the last few days, I have slowly been getting settled, and have even met a few of my neighbours. They have been so welcoming and friendly, and already I feel a part of this little community – something I never felt in my apartment in Dartmouth. I’m not afraid of the smells and sounds around us. There aren’t overwhelming amounts of garbage laying around from others. 


Gertie’s room, also know as the backyard!
And, for the first time in a number of years, I have heard the peepers at night, and birds in the early morning. This is what home used to feel like. This is what home now is. And it’s so good to finally be home again. 

-the Orange Canadian

Saturday, 10 March 2018

They Grow Up So Fast

Well, today was a big day in our household. My little Gertie had her first birthday, and she spent it doing some of her most favourite things - napping, eating snow and chasing ducks!

She was not a willing participant of the birthday crown. This was the closest I was able to get... It’s about a foot away. 

It’s hard to believe she’s reached a year already, as it only seems like a few months ago that I brought her home. Of course, that was only 10 months ago, but still - she’s been through so much over her first year. She’s become a world traveller, camping aficionado, snow cone maker, and a long list of other achievements...and not so achievements, such as failing obedience, and eating many of my favourite clothes and blankets. But, she’s cute.

Yesterday, she appeared to be a little apprehensive about turning the big ‘1’. When I awoke, she was laying on the bed staring off, with her little chin on her paws. I assured her it wouldn’t be so bad, and we went on with our day.

My pensive pre-1 pup. 

Today started off with a bang! Literally... as an upstairs neighbour was engaging in some... adult behaviour. This was when I first noticed her new level of maturity, as she didn’t take to the middle of the living room, point her head in the direction of the ceiling and begin barking until they stopped. Instead, she just grumbled and went back to sleep.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl! 
Throughout the day, Gertie and I went on several walks. It was so nice to have a warm, sunny day to share with her. Of course, the recent snowfalls foiled our plans a bit, since we were supposed to go for a bigger hike in a nearby park. Oh well - there will be plenty of time for that once the summer hits!

For a girl who hates the rain/getting wet, she sure makes up for it when it snows! 
She even fakes needing to pee, so she can go out and enjoy it!

Little Gerts was also treated to a few carrots. I don’t know how I managed to get a vegan dog, but I love how easy it is to get my kid to eat her vegetables. Also - it’s a great teething trick for anyone in that stage of puppyhood!


She even had her first “adult beverage” - a Piña Chewlatta! I think she liked it!

Thanks to BarkBox for the bevy! And, don’t worry folks - that’s not a plastic straw!

Not a bad start to a new year! I can’t wait to see what adventures she’ll take on over the next 12 months.

-the Orange Canadian

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A Musical Tweak Down Memory Lane

I had the opportunity to treat my grandmother to an afternoon of classical music put on my Symphony Nova Scotia. Of course, I was a little more invested in this outing, as the lineup included Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which happens to be one of, if not, my favourite classical pieces.

One of the things I love most about this type of music is that it can interpreted differently depending on your mood, the atmosphere, and even who is playing it. It’s amazing how you can listen to the same piece over and over again, and yet, be struck by any number of emotions each time. There are some pieces that fill me with such joy, and then the next time I hear it I am saddened. Music is quite possibly one of the most beautiful gifts we have, as it seems to be able to transcend borders, culture, and language. It also proves how something can apply from one generation to the next, or even with several in between. That my grandmother and I could enjoy the same set, is something truly heartwarming, as I’m not sure our other tastes in music would translate well, like Vivaldi does.

I’ve been pretty blessed to have an appreciation for classical music, in particular. I am a part of a family that has an accomplished pianist in its midst. My aunt has helped to expand my collection of classical music, as she has introduced me to new pieces and composers over the years. I was also fortunate to have a music teacher in elementary school who’s passion for the classics was extremely influential, and was often used as a means of encouraging the use of our imaginations as we engaged with various compositions.

Since I haven’t been writing as much lately, and this theme has really been playing on my mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. Here we go:

Vivaldi - Four Seasons
This piece is truly beautiful - you can actually feel the change from one season to the next and be swept away by all of the twists and turns. Winter is my favourite of the four, but they all have something unique and magical about them. Spring, I would guess, is the most widely recognized, as it is frequently used in films and large-scale wedding productions. But selecting a favourite can be tricky, since, as I said above, depending on my mood or where I am, physically, how I perceive it can pull me towards one over the others.


Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre
Saint-Saëns is best known for his Carnival of the Animals works, which features selections such as Aquarium and The Swan. Danse Macabre, meaning dance of the Dead is another wonderful piece that plays with your imagination. This piece in particular brings me back to my younger years in music class with Miss. MacMullin. She used to get us to act out the song; sometimes with prompts, while other times letting our imaginations run wild. Listen for the wind, the rushing as dawn approaches, and all of the other wonders of this piece.


Frédéric Chopin - Prélude (“Raindrop”)
Thanks to my aunt, Heather, I have developed a deep admiration for the work of Chopin. It’s hard to choose one piece to share, so I’m actually going to share two. The first, Prélude is a beautiful piece that allows you to imagine an oncoming storm, which builds all the way to it’s passing. This is my favourite piece to hear Heather play. I am always brought back to Acadia University’s Garden Room, where she usually holds her recitals. But as a fan of rain, it also plays into my love for a good storm - particularly on a warm summer day.


Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne
This is the second piece of Chopin’s that I truly enjoy. I chose to include this one because one of my favourite modern day composers, Ólafur Arnalds released a compilation of Chopin’s work, and that makes me super happy! Since many young people seem to be into his own work, the idea that he might be introducing them to Chopin’s is exciting, and gives me hope that they might actually branch out to explore other composers.


Pachelbel - Canon in D Major
Another well-known wedding piece. However, I was introduced to it via ‘90s hip hop artist Coolio who used it in his song “I’ll C U When U Get There”. It doesn’t have quite the same feel as the original composition, but it got me to explore Pachelbel’s work, so I guess everybody wins... except Coolio, because he’s sort of irrelevant now. Anyway, this is another beautiful piece that I can easily get lost in.


Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata
Choosing a Beethoven piece is probably one of the most difficult tasks to self-inflict. I chose this piece because of the recent take by E.S. Posthumus, who are a duo that do a lot of soundtrack work. They are more of a classical-electronica group, and I loved what they did with this piece. They kept to it’s origins, but gave it a more modern twist.


The Cinematic Orchestra - Arrival of the Birds & Transformation
Okay, I’ll be honest, I had no idea who wrote this piece until moments ago. This is also the concluding piece for this post. This first came to me in the form of an 8Tracks playlist while studying for finals in my first year at Acadia. It has always captured my attention and soon it was put on regular rotation in my personal playlists. It has also been a piece that has taken me a long time to listen to again, as it brings up a lot of emotional turmoil, but it is beautiful all the same. This was the last song I played in the car with my Mom before she dropped me off the last time. I think of it now as our song, which is silly because there is a far longer list of tunes we have listened to over the years that would be more appropriate! But, alas, this is my last living memory of her. And, I don’t know if I’ve ever admitted that to myself, let alone anyone else.


I hope a few of these become ear worms for you, as they have for me. There are so many others that I could have included, but this post would continue on forever. I would highly recommend Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. I’ve never been a huge Disney fan, but the soundtracks to these are phenomenal. Feel free to use the comments section below to tell me what your favourite pieces are and any memories associated with them!

-the Orange Canadian