Thursday, 25 May 2017

Thoughts on Manchester

Image Source: Facebook
It’s been another trying week, I have to admit. This past Saturday marked 4 years since I lost my Mom, which always brings about a number of struggles throughout the day, and usually in the days leading up to it. It’s a tough pill to swallow, no matter how much time has passed.

A few days later, I awoke to a Facebook notification indicating that one of my good friends in Manchester has registered as being “safe” following the Manchester Bombing. You can imagine my confusion at 4 o’clock in the morning while conducting what has now become a routine puppy pee. And, after some quick research I learned about the heartbreaking event that took place the night before in the city I spent one of the best years of my life in.

I can tell you learning this news was unpleasant – it always is. I never want to learn of groups of innocent people being harmed regardless of where it takes place in the world. I remember feeling shocked and saddened about the massive incident in Paris, after being there several months beforehand – being able to place memories with areas reported as being affected. It was close to home, but I was still removed.

Learning about Manchester felt like a punch in the gut. I spent many days (and on rare occasions, nights) in the exact area the incident took place. I used nearby Victoria Station to travel to several parts of the country (including Halifax, UK when my brother came to visit!). I even wrote an entire blog post based on a single class I took during my time at Acadia University, where I followed the footsteps of Friedrich Engels. And with all those memories flooding my head, I quickly began messaging those I knew that were still in the city.

The rest of the day felt kind of like a blur. I just felt sad. I thought of all the families affected – especially those who’s loved ones wouldn’t be coming home again. I thought of the uneasiness of the reality that it was most likely young girls and/or homosexual males that were at the heart of the intended target. It was too close to Death Day1. It was too close to home.

Yet, as I sit here a few days later, still feeling saddened, but unbelievably thankful that all my loved ones are safe and sound, I can’t help by but think of all the other horrific and tragic incidents that take place around the world almost every day. Attacks in Bangkok and Marawi that also occurred within the same 24 hours were also briefly highlighted, but paled in comparison to the media coverage – coverage which usually leaves out the, almost daily, occurrences in other areas, such as Syria, Iraq, and a number of others.

I can’t rectify in my brain how anyone could conduct such acts, nor can I even begin to understand how so many people live with these fears on a daily basis. I fear the future sometimes, especially when similar tragedies seem to be occurring more frequently, with more specifically targeted victims. But then, I focus on the stories of kindness, of strength, that also sometimes follow these incidents. Manchester is an amazing testament to this. It is both inspiring and uplifting to read about the many acts that stemmed from this one tragedy – acts that came without even thinking about it.

Imagine a world where people acted like that towards others not in their hometown, country, or even continent. Imagine if every time these events happened we showed kindness instead of unfounded racism or other misinformed thoughts and opinions. That’s the world I strive for; the one I’m trying to work towards. And I know it’s a hard-fought battle, but I’d rather be fighting for the impossible than doing nothing.

-the Orange Canadian

1Death Day is what I refer to my Mom’s anniversary as. It started kind of as a light-hearted way of looking at it, oddly enough, while living in Manchester, as my friends presented me with Death Day greeting cards, and we made a day of it!

Monday, 22 May 2017

It’s a Girl!!!

Before you read too much into that title – no, you did not miss some discreet pregnancy announcement! I’m not, nor was I pregnant. But, I would like to tell you all about my newest family member – or fur baby1.

Meet Gertie. She’s just a little over 9 weeks old. She was born alongside what was thought to be 15 siblings outside the gate of a school in a neighboring town. Only 6, including Gertie, survived. Thankfully for all of them (and for me!), the couple that runs the school noticed these remaining babies and took them in. And, they did a great job of it, because they are all happy and healthy, and full of life, personality and energy.

Following the completion of a Permaculture Design Certification course2, I was feeling pretty drained. Of course, it didn’t help that it ended the day before Mother’s Day3, and a week before the 4th anniversary of Mom’s passing. I was thinking about how I could do something different not only to honour her, but to keep my mind occupied enough so that I wouldn’t end up spending the entire day in bed. Originally, I had planned to spend the weekend away in the woods somewhere on my own, thinking it would be nice to be within nature and just have some time to relax and write for myself. But, then I realized I would be alone, and I didn’t want that. Now, back to Gertie…

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason – my Mom’s passing included in that4. So, when I returned home the day the course ended, I flopped into bed and as I struggled to find sleep (even though it was only something like 7:30!), I found myself scrolling through Facebook. And that’s where I saw the post, with photos of some of the most adorable puppies I’ve ever seen. My heart smiled just looking at them and I almost instantly began dreaming about taking one of this couple’s hands.

The truth is, I’ve been wanting a dog for some time now, but have never been in a place where I was home enough or stable enough (financially and job/life wise) to responsibly own one. But after talking to several friends, most of whom have owned dogs themselves, we all seemed to think this would be a good life decision – another thing that perhaps of late I’ve not been so good at doing on my own! Getting a puppy wasn’t just about fulfilling one of lifelong dreams of dog ownership, but about having a companion, working on my mental health, as well as dealing with the loss of my Mom. And so, she came at the perfect time.

The first few hours and night were probably some of the most terrifying of my life. Every movement had me panicked that she wasn’t okay. She cried for the first little while, which instantly broke my heart, and when she eventually settled enough to take a little nap, I worried that she wasn’t breathing. But, she was fine. As the evening wore on, we played and snuggled and it was pretty awesome. We didn’t get much sleep, as I failed at keeping her confined and she failed to pee, which also led to me think I’d done something wrong5.

I know this is a big undertaking. I know I’m likely nowhere near prepared enough to take her on. But, I also know that this is an adventure for the long haul, and that we’re both learning together. I’m already ridiculously taken by her6. I knew from the minute I went to inquire about whether or not this was the right choice for me or the dog, that we were meant to be in each other’s lives. Upon my arrival, she leapt into my arms and just stayed there until almost the time I left.

So, we’ll see how it all ends up. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy it all… although not so much her sad ‘I miss my siblings’ whimpers. I should also probably warn you that plenty of puppy pictures are to come! 

-the Orange Canadian

1That one was just for you Keir!
2Which I’ll soon get to in a future post – no power for a few days and a new puppy trumps pretty much everything else in life!
3To be honest, Mother’s Day doesn’t actually bother me. Thanksgiving, birthday time, and the anniversary are really the only ones that make me feel… a little lost. Maybe even a little sad or angry, but mostly just lost.
4But that’s a book for another day…
5But don’t worry, she eventually let it all out… on my bedroom floor… twice... which was…not so awesome.

6In fact, the night between meeting her and bringing her home, I was so sad from missing her! It’s the craziest thing. No human has ever made me feel like that! Haha!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sometimes being a woman sucks - allow me to recount the ways

WARNING: the follow post may not be appropriate for all readers, and my upset some folks. 

Today was a rough day. In fact, this entire past week have been difficult.

Since last Tuesday, I have been in (and continue to be in) a workshop that has been peppered by unwanted comments and assumptions about my capabilities based on factors that are irrelevant. Some of these have been by fellow participants, while others have been by friends and other such people in my life outside of the workshop.

It’s no secret that my time in Uganda has been a struggle where my body shape and size has been concerned. It’s often hurtful, some of the comments I receive, but for the most part I push past them because ultimately, it’s a) none of their business, and b) an aspect of my life that I’m not overly worried about, because overall I’m okay with who I am, physically and otherwise.

But, given that this is a garden/food production related course, I was the recipient of many derogatory and negative suggestions about my ability to partake in this workshop do to the fact that I’m a) white*, b) female, and c) not with the typical “white girl” body. I have been laughed at, doubted, and made to feel like any of those three factors could possibly relate to my ability, enjoyment, and/or previous experience at growing my own food, working the land, and my personal favourite – being able to maneuver a hoe to break the soil**.

In these instances, I took those as opportunities to prove the naysayers wrong – because, I knew that I was capable of performing the task at hand***. However, the final straw came today when a comment was made about my voluntold position as the “official” timekeeper for the 2 weeks****.

We were late to start this morning, because almost everyone failed to show up on time. In an effort to make up for said time, a few of us thought it best to reduce break time so we could get caught up on what we’d missed waiting for everyone to show up. Just as we were set to begin our afternoon tea break, I jokingly made a comment that I meant serious business, and that everyone had better return on time or else. But one of my fellow participants apparently didn’t appreciate this – particularly as I had bumped heads with him earlier about his complete disregard related to his lateness having impacts on other peoples lives (i.e. the other participants who have been able to show up on time). Although instead of a lighthearted jab back at me, he insinuated a rather vulgar act that involved a particular part of my body, and the knife***** he was holding in his hand.

I will be the first person to admit, that I have no problem making a quip here and there about the inequalities of being female… mainly related to my stellar abilities in sandwich making, laundry doing, and even ironing. These aren’t to undermine the work that has been done in the past by some of the courageous and strong ladies before me, but more so to emphasize in my usual sarcastic way just how ridiculous it is that people still expect this as part of a “woman’s duty”. But with that in mind, I draw the line at jokes about sexual assault. It’s not funny no matter if we’re talking about the survivor being male or female.

So, when said individual made the comment about removing a part of my sexual organs (the pleasure giving one), as a reasonable consequence for my desire to uphold strict timekeeping, I got upset. Sure, he said the comment as a joke, most likely, but it wasn’t funny. And it especially wasn’t funny when I called him out on the inappropriateness of making such a joke, only to be met with a snicker and acting completely unapologetic. I’m also certain some of you reading this may think I am overreacting, and if you fall into that category, kindly unfriend/follow me.

The truth is, I do have a history of being on the receiving end of sexual assault. I wish I could say that this was the case on one occasion, but the reality is, it has been more times than I care to think about or even process. And while I’m not going to get into the details of it all via my blog, I will say, that I 100% understand why people don’t report it, because, well, more often than not, we aren’t taken seriously and are accused of attention seeking. But it’s also for this reason that I cannot tolerate these comments that are made to sound like jokes. They aren’t funny. They’re hurtful – threatening even.

Edit: this did NOT take place in the area I'm setting up the training program. In fact in Soroti, I have never felt less than a part of the communities I have worked in, and I haven't been harassed or spoken to in such a way (except for one extremely drunk guy, but that's an average day in most Canadian cities!). Please do not associated this isolated incident with the entire country, or even continent. I usually always feel safe here.

I’m sorry for ranting about this, but I’ve been sick for the last number of days, and I’m equally sick of still having to put up with this type of shit in 2017.

Anyway, here’s to a more positive day tomorrow. I’m not going to let this one individual or instance ruin the rest of what is an otherwise amazing experience.

-the Orange Canadian

*Don’t worry – I fully understand that I have an extreme privilege because of this fact about myself for which I had zero control. I just still don’t get why skin pigment gives anyone a right to judge a person on their abilities, skillset, intelligence, affluence, or any other factor.
**For the record, I much prefer the hand hoe, because it gives a bit more control, even though it’s much harder on your back and body, overall.
***Which has led to many questions from folks back home about why I continue to stay here…but it’s simple, there are far more incredible and positive aspects to living in this part of the world than the comments or the doubts I receive.
****A position bestowed upon me for my ability to keep and be on time.

*****Now, don’t go all crazy here. We were just learning about grafting and budding, so it made sense for him to be in possession of this tool. It didn’t make sense, however, for him to make such a comment.