First – a Person

Sunday was my very first Sunday as curate at St John the Divine. After the service ended, I stood by the pulpit and shook hands with what seemed like thousands of people. Though in reality, it was maybe only a hundred and twenty or so…

In the midst of all of the “thank you” and “great sermon” comments, one person stopped and made a point of thanking my very specifically for something in the sermon that had caught their notice. They thanked me for how I referred to people.

I hadn’t thought much of it when writing – it has become second nature for me to talk about a person who has or is dealing with something in their lives, rather than make the identity of the person entirely wrapped up in that one “feature.” For example, I will talk about a person experiencing homelessness rather than a homeless person. It is a small shift in language, but for this person, it made a difference.

This afternoon I was doing clean up and updating work on this site and I came across a post that I wrote a number of years ago while working at the shelter. It reminded me of that after-church conversation and thought it worthwhile to bring it to the front again.

So, here it is: There is Always a Story.



[Fairly self-indulgent post ahead in which I reminisce about a country of volcanoes, warm water, sandy beaches, and palm trees while conveniently forgetting the extreme heat and sudden and crazy rain squalls.]

My internet homepage has a collection of headlines from a variety of different news sources. Sometimes I click on a headline, other times I just scan them and go on to whatever I was doing. Today, one headline caught my eye: Ferry carrying more than 300 people sinks off Papua New Guinea. I had to click on it because of all the memories I have of time spent in PNG.

It turns out it was a ferry much like this one, that I saw in Madang, PNG. When this boat pulled out I remember us all watching it list heavily and worrying about its ability to stay afloat in the shape it was in with all of the people that were aboard.

Leaving from this port, Rabaul, PNG (there are all sorts of Japanese tunnels through those hills! From WWII. I know, crazy!).

Rabaul was also the place of the volcano.

That I climbed.

The end.

[That is as far as that random chain of thought takes me. Goodnight.]

On the Theme of Africa

I have been reflecting on the news coming out of East Africa. Now that it is officially a famine, people are beginning to pay attention to what others have been warning about for years.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Kenya and spending time talking with many incredible people about their lives and their experiences. I was visiting my Dad and Stepmother, who volunteer with a relief organization and who were at the time overseeing a food distribution project in parts of Kenya that had been hit hard by a lack of rain for several years.

As a part of their work, we had discussions with groups of individuals in each village we went to in order to learn more about the people of that village and what their particular needs were. I will never forget one man’s response when asked how his village was faring, Some people in my village have found chemical drugs. Because you bring us food, we will not have to use them. The pain, or shame, of being unable to feed your family must be unbearable. And now it is happening on an even larger scale than even two years ago when I visited Kenya. At the time, I ranted about water use. In a post on Dad’s blog, I wrote:

Since we arrived here we have been able to take part in four food distributions in vastly different areas of the country. While each community has unique challenges and situations, they are united by a need for food relief brought on by a lack of rain. In each place, we sat down with a small group of villagers to find out how they are coping, and in each place we heard a similar story: The rains have not come. In many cases, the rains have not come for three or four years. We have heard stories of livestock (and therefore livelihood) dying for lack of rain. We have heard stories of repeated crop failure so that now there are no seeds left to plant. … We visit villagers and hears stories of drought: “If only we had a borehole/proper irrigation/a pump…” – whatever it may be that they need to get water.

I am not going to make an impassioned plea for your money for Africa. But I will say this, CIDA is currently matching donations, dollar for dollar, for the “Horn of Africa Drought”. If you are looking for a good organization to go through, I can vouch for PWRDF and our partner organizations in East Africa.

The End: Dear Grandpa

We went to see the final Harry Potter movie tonight.

It was bittersweet. Sweet because it was a much anticipated and much enjoyed film. Bitter because it was the end of an era of Harry Potter movies.

I was a late(r) comer to the whole series. I didn’t begin to read the books until the first one had already been made into a movie and was playing in the theatres. And I came to the whole series, print or film, quite reluctantly.

I am one of those people who doesn’t like to read a book just because everyone else is reading it. If Oprah has put it on her book list and I haven’t read it, I likely won’t. If I read it before Oprah, I will make sure you know that I found it first. If a book or series is a “must read”, I may wait to read it or skip reading it altogether (still haven’t read Twilight. At this point, it is a matter of principle that I am not going to). I like to find the hidden gems and read them. If a popular book is a genuinely good book and it catches my attention independently of best-seller lists, I might read it anyway… but I’m a book snob.

I am also one of those people who likes to read the book before I see the film and usually prefers the book to the film. I can often be heard saying, “Well, the movie was good but the books was better” or, “They totally messed up the book and changed that whole scene around, cutting out some of my favourite parts”. Don’t be fooled. I probably liked the film just as much, sometimes I just want to sound pretentious.

One summer, about 10 years ago, around the time the first Harry Potter film hit theatres, I was visiting my grandparents in Ontario. I had not read Harry Potter. I had no intention of reading Harry Potter. Harry Potter was entirely too popular for me. My intentions vanished however when my grandfather expressed his dismay and disappointment in me for not having read the books. Not being one who likes to disappoint people, I paid attention.

The first movie is out in theatres. We are going to see the matinee tomorrow afternoon. I have been waiting to watch it with you.

Okay. I don’t really know what it is about, but I’m looking forward to going to a movie with you.

What?! You haven’t read the books? Come here… we walk into the bedroom with the computer desk and some of the treasured books… I have all the ones that have been published. Here, this is the first one. Go sit down and read. We aren’t going to the movie until you’ve finished it.

Um. Okay Grandpa. [For the record, I managed to get 3/4 of the way through book one before we went to the matinee less than 24 hours after I was handed the book and told to “READ”!]

Apparently I come by my refusal to watch movies before reading books honestly. I also do what I’m told.

So Grandpa, I wish I could have watched all of the movies with you and that you had been able to read the entire story from beginning to end. It was a good one. Thanks for getting me started on it.

Friday Photo

Even if I’m horrible at posting during the week, at least I make an effort on Fridays…

Its fun to go through old photos now and again… this one goes back a whopping 27 years to a time when my cousin and I wore matching dresses and danced (? fought?) on the lawn of my grandparents house.

The reason for this memory lane is two fold: I have not taken any photos this week and I am hanging out with this cousin this week!

I’m in Ontario… I’m attending a conference in London next week and took the opportunity to come a few days early and spend time with my Aunt and Uncle in Sarnia and Godparents in London. After a ridiculous red-eye flight, I arrived yesterday morning. My computer and my watch are telling me different times and my body is rebelling against all of them.

My cousin in Quebec (the one above) is back for the week (and other cousin in Kitchener arrives sometime today), so I have been able to spend some time with everyone!

Good Friday Recollections and Reflections

Good Friday 2008 I found myself walking in the way of the geishas, Buddhist priests and ascetics rather than the Way of the Cross.

Good Friday 2008 was my day off between legs 5 and 6 of the Pacific Odyssey Offshore: three months remained until I laid eyes on home for the first time in over a year. It had been a long and trying, yet rewarding and fulfilling voyage to date and, unbeknownst to me, the most trying was yet to come.

Good Friday 2008 also fell on the first day of spring. Everyone, it seemed, in Kyoto was out and enjoying the sunshine and cherry blossoms. Many people were wearing their kimonos to visit temples, as tradition dictates. I decided to join them.

Down the street and up a few flights of stairs from my hostel in Higashiyama was Kiyomizu Temple. Perched high in the hills for which the area is named, there is a stunning view of the city from its balconies. More importantly are the areas of the shrine where devotees have the opportunity to have wishes for health, wealth, and long life fulfilled or where the promise of finding true love is revealed.

What a contrast with walking in the Way of the Cross. No promises for health, wealth, and long life are given… instead, we are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Follow Christ? On comfortable Vancouver Island, perhaps not to the point of being killed, but we can still follow the way…

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…


I quasi-started this blog in 2004… Seven full years ago. However, my first serious postings began in January of 2006, around the time when Canada’s serial election of minority governments began. I did a lot of blogging about the election then. On a stroll back through memory-lane, I chuckled at the cartoon I published in one of my first post of January 2006. We’ve accomplished the first square… on to the next one. PLEASE!

This week on Offshore

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile. It was prompted by a sudden recollection of running into a Japanese pop duo performing whilst a friend and I were wandering a mall during our weeks of being stranded in Okinawa – 3 years ago this week (I remember because it was around Valentine’s Day when we were in the mall… they were into Valentine’s Day in a big way in Japan). Then I wondered, what else happened this week on Offshore?

We finally left the Island of Okinawa and the wonders of its shopping streets. Crossing the South China Sea and experiencing a series of mishaps: snapping a fore stay, breaking the stove, and exploding anchor winch hydraulic lines, we finally ran up Chinese colours and entered the Yangtze River. There were possibly more boats than we’d seen all at once in months (or ever) and the banks of the Yangtze and Huangpo rivers were overloaded with boats and buildings, garbage and miscellaneous detritus. Finally, we were able to dock in Shanghai with a stunning view of Pudong.

Running, Clear Night Skies, and Good Teachers

“Are you a runner? Because you look like a runner.”

I’ve had strange comments from patients at work before… The last time I had one about athletics was a few years ago when Silken Laumann asked me if I was a national rower.

For some reason, I answered the running query with “Yes, but not lately.”  The last race I ran was in 2002. The last time I did any serious running training was probably closer to 1999.

But it got me thinking, why not run again? I’ve been sitting on that thought (quite literally, actually. My rear has now melded to the couch) for the last couple of weeks. Every day, I have had a great excuse for not running until today when I finally told myself to stop being stupid and get out there. Did I mention that I pulled some muscles in my back yesterday and it has been sore all day?

I’m glad I went. The overcast sky of today has cleared up and the clear night sky is beautiful. The moon is nearly full and it casts a glow over everything. I head down the street and through the park before turning up the hill towards the university. The park is in a little dip and it always seems cooler in there than at our house half a block away. As a result, there is slippery frost on the path. As I run through the dark park and up the hill, I look up and see that the sky was clear and all the constellations can be seen. There is majestic Orion standing straight up below the moon. Beside him, Taurus, the zodiac sign I was for one day. Then the Pleiades, Casseopia, the Dippers, Gemini…

I began to think back to my love of staring at the night sky. Where did it come from? I remember being drawn into stargazing on Offshore when we could sit for hours at a time under a huge black umbrella of the sky – an umbrella with millions of pinpricks of light all over it. It got to the point where I could tell if the helmsman was off course just by looking at the sky.

I loved the sky before that. I may have not known and been able to identify all of the constellations, but the interest was there.

Keep running… cross Gordon Head Road, good thing I have a light because there are actually cars on this road… Through the university. I love the pathways with arches of trees overhanging. I’m surprised I haven’t run into any deer yet. Through residences… I’m surprised how few people there are out tonight, though it is 10:30pm and a little chilly. I’ve got two thermal running shirts on, plus an old soccer jersey. I’m through the university now, to Sinclair Road. I came the better way: this hill is much nicer to go down than up.

I had the same teacher for both grade 5 and grade 6. Mr Shurrock was one of the best teachers I ever had. After a fairly disastrous Math experience in grade 1, he was the first teacher that actually believed I could do Math and, unsurprisingly, I excelled in his class. I may not have ever become a Math-wiz (as my college transcript can attest to), I did well at Math for the rest of my elementary and high school career. With Mr Shurrock, we studied all sorts of interesting things, including astronomy. I remember researching constellations and drawing them out in our notebooks. I think this was one of the first places where I encountered these stories in the night sky.

Down the hill, loop south along Cadboro Bay Road. Still running. The initial cramp has long-gone and I’m actually enjoying this. Who knew? It is colder beside the ocean, but the air is lovely and fresh. Annie Lennox, Ella Fitzgerald, and Moxy Fruvous are shuffling on my iPod. I have no idea how this combination made it together on the player.

Up the long, slow incline to Cedar Hill X Road. This is my road, but it is a fair ways to go yet. The last part is downhill and I turn in to head back through the park. I slow to walk through the park and take a few minutes to look up and enjoy the sky once again.

Thirty minutes. Seven and a half kilometres. I guess that isn’t half bad for not having run in a long time.