2018 Cookbook Haul: Food for Thought

So begins a new year…

With the resurgence of motivation (however fleeting that may be…) to blog about the on-goings and going-ons of the simple person that is myself, a post about food seemed befitting given that I want to focus more time into sharing some of what i’ve learned in this category throughout the years.

With my soon-to-be 28 years-young ass getting into adulting-gear, I *invested* some holiday money into getting new cookbooks (as sited here), to add to my obsessive and already large collection. My hope is to find more time to share some of my favourite recipes with you, and possibly do some cookbook reviews for anyone on the fence about buying certain ones (don’t worry, let me waste my money first and tell you if I have later).

51-0-1QlF8L._SX361_BO1,204,203,200_   9781579655488    51+bwzt--wL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

As many close to me or my Instagram page (hah) know, I love food. For me, it’s not only the experience of cooking, but it’s the cultural significance of food as well as the taste (well, duh). Food preparation is my escape when work is too real, but it has also been my “in” with connecting to folks in various communities.

Food has opened up conversations on equal accessibility, security, privilege, power, poverty, exploitation, environmental impact, cancer, ethics and cruelty, nutrition, culture, physical and mental health, religion, beauty, history, colonization and so much more.
71iYz53icLL    Indian-Kitchen-Cover-final2-e1445270249547-801x1024     Azorean_Cooking_800X600-1
Food preparation has taught me about independence, creativity, self-esteem and confidence. It can bring community to people in the lowest parts of their life. It builds safety in what feels for some like a terrifying and isolating immigration experience. It teaches tolerance and understanding in connection with our similarities and differences. It has exposed me to more history than I’ve learned all throughout elementary school. I travel because I’m in love with food. On top of all of this, food teaches me the value of self-care. I can tell how well I’m doing and it will indicate how well I expect to be, depending on my diet. It’s my natural and psychotropic medication. It’s been the worst and best thing for me.

Food is my passion and my reminder to stay present and connected. It opens doors up for new memories; having potential to repair old memories. It establishes space for nostalgia in the food-memories we don’t forget. Finally, it’s my most enjoyable pastime that indulges all of my senses in a way that I have not replicated yet. Whether it’s been a street vendor, Didi’s lecture on spices, Vavo’s instructions of malasadas, Nonna’s tips for the best marinata, Tia’s recommendations on all things bacalhau, Mama’s beefs, and now final testing for Moi, memories connect intergenerationally and in a way that does not fade. I should be so lucky to pass my own knowledge to the next.

Now there’s some food for thought.

Crystal

my-thai-cookbook-9781681883021_hr   51As-OmihtL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ 50267687.jpeg

Advertisements
Categories: Food, Glorious Food | Tags: , | 1 Comment

March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate at Queens Park

19257519620_192795a065_b

10,000 people march in regards to the climate change. Advocating for greener jobs, and placing priority on issues of homelessness, poverty, and land degradation. Photo cred: http://jobsjusticeclimate.ca

Although I have been meaning to post, I have had little (no) inspiration, until this past Sunday when Wendy and her lovely Wiccan friends invited Adri, Megan and I to attend a march at City Hall to raise awareness on social justice issues that are centered around the Green movement.

The turn out was inspiring and crazy large. Thousands (an estimated 10 thousand actually) turned up, including notable names such as Jane Fonda (Who is super SUPER stylish), Stephen Lewis (one of my favourite speakers of the day), the musical stylings of Joel Plaskett (who had a group of young girls dance like they didn’t care), and David Suzuki (who graced me and my arm with his presence).

With the exception of the radical bunch who were provoking police (I too hate arbitrary [*cough* racist] carding of youth), it was a very positive experience. As Wendy eloquently reminded me, it’s about moving forward, towards a solution; creating the future that we want to see, and not focusing on the negativity. I find in my line of work, it is easy to get caught up in the rambling angry antics, and get discouraged for a brighter future. There is something special and mobilizing, standing in solidarity with others who believe in the cause.

For too long I have nagged people to vote, and show support, and the eye rolling, excuse making, and disregard can kind of get annoying, maybe just as much (if not more) than those who have to hear me. To have the opportunity to be a part of a movement of like-minded leaders and supporters, gives me hope. Maybe this is also an idealistic, romanticized perspective, but at least it’s a start.

My main message, before I proceed to display the highlighted issues of the march and creative affiliated posters to go with them, is to say that people do not need to be an expert in a cause to fully support it (example, I know everything there is to know about X and I live and breathe X). In actuality, social justice issues are all connected. It is a lack of humanity that exists at the core of social injustice. Whether it’s rights for Aboriginal peoples, violence against women, homelessness, or members a part of all of the above, it’s the lack of respect for the rights and inherent dignity of people that interrupts justice. That disrespect is successfully showcased by our Canadian government, which in turn is mimicked in corporations that devalue the work of their workers, that then turns into the exploitation of our natural resources, that then put us in positions where we have to act in similar ways to survive. You could also say that corporations control government with their money. Regardless…

It’s a dog eat dog world, and it all starts from the top.

So that long winded conclusion, in which I was to present a final message, leads me to this statement: it is not necessary to be the expert in a cause, but what is necessary is to take a stand in something. It is not necessary to be a good public speaker, to stand in solidarity and join a march. What the government sees are thousands of people marching towards a solution, and they will support it, maybe not because they care (although I know some do) but because they will care about the vote, the vote that they hope you will supply. It does not take an expert to know that our minimum wage is unlivable, you know this because you see homeless people every day in Toronto; It does not take an expert to know women are still vulnerable to violence and abuse, because you hear and see it happening; It does not take an expert to know that we are living and flourishing on stolen land that we are now destroying and we have to take a stand. So please, take a stand.

We are told, but voting polls conclude, that we are lucky to be in Canada but we do not appreciate it. We have options here, and we access them. We have a good quality of life, and we have opportunities to constantly improve upon it. We can walk down the street kissing members of the same sex and it is perfectly legal. We can publicly critique and outwardly discuss issues against our government, free from harassment, because we are free. We experience a freedom of expression in a way that does not exist everywhere, yet we don’t use it.

In fact, that freedom does not exist for everyone equally. Our voting power, our solidarity, are the necessary steps to equalize society, to afford all those freedoms that we brag about, to every member equally. We may have lost our humanity in some regards, but it is not dead. Look to yourself and ask how you are helping to support a better future, and I don’t mean better for you, but better for all. So like I said, take a stand.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the posters, I loved reading them.

-CS

Topics of protest at the march:

  1. Climate change/global warming
  2. Canadian tar sands
  3. Toronto Line 9
  4. Immigration
  5. Homelessness
  6. Aboriginal rights
  7. Stephen Harper and his epic, epic, endless, endless, failures
  8. Capitalism and it’s effect on poverty and minimum wage
  9. Expanding jobs within the green sector
  10. Environmental sustainability
  11. Global partnership for eco-development
  12. Food security
  13. Public Transportation
  14. Negative effects that the mass production of food has on our society; veganism/vegetarianism
    1. Produce
      1. Pesticides
      2. Removing jobs for local farmers to major companies
    2.  Meat
      1. Over-consumption and the negative health implications
      2. The unethical treatment of animals
      3. Negative implications on our CO2 emissions

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Regurgitated Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Paella for the Masses 

Upon the return of Crystal from the exotic lack of waters in Nepal and North India, she arrived only to find that no full time employers knew to hire her. What an embarrassing mistake on their part. In the mean time, I am trying to focus my energy on things that make me happy. Yes, I just completely switched the narrative voice because you can do that when you have your own blog. 

One of these many many MANY activities (not many) is cooking.

It was when my mother and I moved on our own at 12 years old that I really started cooking by myself. At 17 I lost 50 pounds and that’s when I discovered how I could make really good food, also be really healthy. I even played with the idea of going into culinary school, but that’s a rant for another post.

I recently bought a paella pan, and having a passionate love affair with the dish, I decided to make one.

Like all of my recipes, I research several sources, both electronic and paperback, and then I think how I can personalize it and make it healthier.

The following recipe is not too healthy so please don’t think otherwise haha. I console myself with portion control. I’d rather have a little of AMAZING than a lot of CRAP. 

Note: you can buy a fancy paella pan that will impress even your snootiest relative, but just think, it’s not about looking nice it’s about tasting good, and a $200 cast iron paella pan (thou shalt not be name-dropped) is not even properly shaped, which is the whole point of the pan. I got mine for $20 bucks. Holler. 

Warning: I cook like a Portuguese woman, that is I am very flexible with measurements, so get flexible.

Ingredient list/Materials: 

2 sweet peppers (pick a colour, any colour)
3/4 large Spanish onion
10 gloves of garlic (I have an affinity)
15 inch Paella pan (an ordinary pan, in my opinion, will not have the same effect so get yourself a special pan to feel fancy and cool; this was mine Cucina D’Abruzzo Paella Pan)
3 cups of Arborio rice
5-6 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
1.5 cups of dry red wine

Spices:
1 TBSP salt (and some extra for chicken), cracked black pepper (and some extra for chicken), dried oregano
1/2 – 1 TBSP each cayenne pepper, smoked Spanish paprika, and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed safron
Two handfuls of frozen peas
Parsley as much as your heart desires, 3 generous hand bunches was what I was feeling
6 dried Bay Leaves

Protein:
4 chicken thighs without skin
1.5 chorizo sliced
17 mussels (I got mine for free from Whole Foods as a “sample”)
15 short neck clams
15-20 large shrimp (I left the shells on)

Step 1: Play some Spanish music, preferably Gypsy Kings, and also Hindi music, to get the creative juices flowing. Rub the chicken thighs with some salt and pepper, your measured cayenne pepper and the paprika. Honestly, whatever you want. Let your eyeballs guesstimate what you want. Use less cayenne if you don’t want it to be spicy.

Step 2: Put a tablespoon-ish (heavy on the ish) of olive oil, and on medium heat brown your chicken thighs, then cook the chorizo in the remaining oil. Mmmmm cross contamination. Kidding. Set aside your meat. Note that the chicken is not entirely cooked. Please make this intentional, and for the paranoid cooker don’t worry, I’m still alive.

 

Step 3: Cook your onions and garlic in the chicken-chorizo oil. Add your peppers to the dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Add your Arborio rice and make your concoction dance aggressively, like in a step up movie. You don’t want the rice sticking to the pan. That would be a fail-aella. Hah hah hah.

Step 5: Add your chicken broth and wine. Also drink some wine too. Drink about double what you cook with, is what the greats usually say. Stir stir stir. Add your bay leaves.

IMPORTANT: I read conflicting rice to liquid measurements. Some people say do double  the liquid to the rice, some say triple. I personally thought triple was too much so I did double and then I literally splashed extra until something inside me said it was enough hahaha. It turned out fine for me. Just trust your instincts, you can always add some more if it’s not enough. Make sure it’s on medium so the water doesn’t evaporate too fast.

Step 6: Cook for about ten minutes until the rice pops to the top. Now add your chicken, chorizo, and artistically place your clams, mussels and shrimp in a way that would suggest that you are a paella hero. Add the salt, pepper, oregano and turmeric as well, they’re starting to get lonely.

Step 7: Cover with foil and simmer for another 20 minutes. Don’t you dare mix it. Don’t. You. Dare. Just drink your wine. Then add your parsley and peas. If you mix it the starch in the rice will spread and become creamy like a risotto. No no no.

You know it’s done because the smell will make your soul cry and if it doesn’t do this then it’s not ready. Another indication is how the rice has cooked, you do not want it to be undercooked.

If you can get the imported medium grain rice it calls for (bombo) then seriously, good on you. You really are the paella hero. Also, don’t go to bulk barn for the arborio rice, they will charge you what I could use as a down payment.

Finally, the bottom of your rice should be slightly burnt, not like actually burnt, but just a little crispy/toasty with a dash of creamy goo. It’s called a socarrat and it’s the bomb. You will only achieve this on your stove top and not in your oven.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes (to really set in the socarrat, and absorb the remaining liquid) then all eat from the pan. My mother thinks this is gross and doesn’t care that it’s authentically Spanish to eat it that way, so maybe use serving plates. This meal easily will feed an army (6-8 people).

Categories: Food, Glorious Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons Abroad: The Power of Silence

For those who know me, you will know well that I HATE silence. I find it to be intimidating and avoid it, always. I have been told, and I would agree, that my extroverted disposition has lead me to achieve energy through others. I am comfortable in a room of strangers, I can spend hours in a new environment and never fear being alone, I can even go into a group interview feeling confident. For some reason, I have always been able to find strength when I know others will be around me.

But then sometimes, as it makes no sense otherwise, we find ourselves alone, and for me I cannot stand it. Confession; i will even turn the TV on at home just to make it seem that someone else is near. It is precisely for this reason that I needed to take my last trip.

I thoroughly enjoy traveling with friends. I believe that each time that I have, my relationships with people on the trips have only become more intimate. Living with someone is one thing, but traveling with them is an experience unlike anything else. If you survive it, it will create a bond that you have not achieved otherwise. It can also break a friendship, in which case that was always meant to break to begin with.

When I went to Nepal I was most scared of the silence that I would experience. How will I entertain myself on a plane; How will I tour places alone; How can I have fun without anyone else; but mostly, how will I be enough for myself?

My best and worst characteristic is how OVERLY analytical I am. This is good at work, writing papers, presenting at conferences, but not so productive in a day to day situation. I’ve accumulated several reoccurring thoughts that play back to me on repeat daily, and without the distractions of others I was legitimately scared that I would go crazy in a foreign place with my own thoughts.

Someone recently asked me what the scariest part of traveling alone is and my answer will always be the airport. I didn’t realize how much I relied on others to take me to the next destination haha. I always knew where I was going and how to get there, but I used others as confirmation. To be solely in charge of your own travel is scary…but then it became exciting.

The little anxiety started to develop into excitement and I began to cherish the silent moments that I got and disappointed if it was not enough. These are my conclusions about silence:

  1. Silence as a weapon. If ever you were to hurt someone, hurt them with silence and not with words. Words can be contradicted, they can be manipulated, inferences can be rationalized and finally ignored; silence sends one and only one message: you mean so little that you deserve no comment. I learned a long time ago how silence can negatively impact someone, from experience and from observations, and my only hope is that you don’t resort to it. You will always hurt yourself in the process, and everyone including you deserves to be heard.
  2. Silence as a comfort. When something awful happens, like a death or a loss of something important in your life, one might think being around others is the answer, but sometimes the silence of being alone achieves more. There is no pressure or obligation to vent, cry, speak, or engage. It’s important to remember that and take comfort in it.
  3. Silence as contemplative space. Before I make any decision I’ve got to ask about 5 people to compare their thoughts and form my own. NOOOOOOO! Take the time alone to make your own decisions and don’t change what you want because you cave when you hear what someone’s advice for you is. Silence allows you to decide what it is that you want. Trust me, find out what you want. It will help you a lot later on.
  4. Silence as a therapy. My last lesson on this topic was discovered in Nepal, on the roof of a guesthouse with an Indian man who spoke with me for hours about yoga. I’ve done yoga many times before, but only to lose weight, to be perfectly honest. He taught me a type of yoga where the focus is on the body; very simple stretches of the body achieving no sweat at all. I can write an entire article on this, but instead I will simply say, meditate. It doesn’t have to be fancy, in an overpriced room of hipsters, or in a therapist’s office. Meditate at home. Focus on your body and breath and stop thinking about the traffic in your mind. It somehow makes a person loads happier, and begins to fan away the fog that distracts you from your vision.

My last note is that I hope you find your vision. Often traveling is used to escape. I have successfully traveled to escape many problems in my life. Most of those problems are regarding making decisions about my future that I have never been willing to make. My family friend always says, no matter where you go, there you are. It’s not about cutting others out, or moving locations, or going on vacations. While those things may radically change your life, if you have not made the change with yourself, then you will continue to attract what you do not want.

Don’t let others take you to the next destination, take yourself there. I wish you luck in the journey of life, and that somehow in your own way, you find clarity in your own silence.

Namaste,

-CS

Categories: Regurgitated Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everest Base Camp

Hello World,

It’s been a while…I think a month now (oops) but better extremely late than never? heh. That’s what happens when you have terribly slow internet. For anyone interested in doing the hike, this is the breakdown of the one that I took. Unfortunately, I suck at memorizing the names of the mountains (sigh) so please excuse the non-specific, ambiguously placed photos.

Day 1: We started in Kathmandu Nepal for our evening meeting. The group average was fairly young (guestimating most falling within the range of mid twenties to mid thirties) and seemed pretty friendly. I actually didn’t stay for the first dinner because I was visiting my Nepali family one last time. It was unpredictably emotional for me actually. The girls had written me cards, and there was a whole prepared meal. I left with a heart full of love, and a face full of tears.

EBC-06790

A preview from the plane.

Day 2: We took a mountain flight into Lukla, which was our starting point for the journey. People prior to the trek warned me that this was one of the most, if not THE MOST, dangerous flights in the world. That is because the landing strip is tiny and underestimating the land is a thing…resulting in bruises…no actually death. Anyways I survived so let’s brush over that little detail.  We ended the day after a 4 hour hike in Phakding (2652m).

EBC-06795

The landing strip in Lukla. Super picturesque.

Day 3: We woke up at 6am and hiked 800 meters uphill (erk). It was not exactly easy, but not hard either; pretty do-able. We made it to Namche Bazaar at 3441 meters, ready to begin acclimatizing. At this point, I began to take my prescription of diamox, one tablet (half in the morning and half in the afternoon) to reduce altitude sickness. I took this until day 10.

EBC-06812

Approaching Namche Bazaar

EBC-06911

The view on day 6.

Day 4: We got to sleep in right until 7am. Wonderful. The day trip to a teahouse in Shangboche that we took was a way to acclimatize close to 4000 meters, and then come back down for the evening. We got our first view of the wee bitty peak of Everest.

Day 5: We trekked from Namche Bazar to Tengboche at 3867 meters which was a 6 hour hike. In the freezing cold, we watched Buddhists chant at the monastery. I think we were pretty tired because the most exciting part was watching Pravin fall asleep during the chant.

Day 6: We woke up early, before the sun rise, so we could get a good shot of the peaks. Afterwards we had a pretty difficult trek. The beginning was easy and we took way too many pictures of the same river, that was gorgeous.Afterwards it was a slow and torturous uphill climb. What made it difficult for me was a feeling of never ending breathlessness. The altitude was beginning to affect me at 4358 meters, at our end point, Dhingboche.

EBC-06893

The sunrise view on Day 6.

Day 7: Perfect time for an acclimatization day! As I reread my written journal I have here “part of me just wants it to be over.” I already knew I hated the cold, but it was just confirmed on this trip how much. I slept every night in thermals and my down jacket in my special sleeping bag that I was almost too cheap to rent. Thank you sleeping bag.

We hiked up to 4700 meters to hang out and then came back down. We discovered that the Nepalese love the Venga Boys, and proceeded to dance to them at every stop. At our resting point, Mishalli and Nishma taught a few of us about Gujurati dancing (dandiya with sticks, and garba) while Nick gave us the Punjabi demo of bangara. All these moves would soon help me later on to make friends in India and impress them with my dancing haha. Thanks!

EBC-06876

Nishma and I in front of the Everest and Ama Dablam peaks.

At night I noticed that this was the point where the group began to tire a little bit of the card game backpacker, and began talking more about terribly inappropriate things. Those are my favourite conversations.

EBC-06948

A monument for the late Scot Fischer.

Day 8: This was our trek to the next point, Laboche at 4940 meters high–ALMOST THERE!! Altitude is still affecting me and I began to get migraines on this day. We successfully completed the steep climb up to Khumbu Glacier and onwards to the stone monuments commemorating those that have died on their treks.

Day 9: We reached Gorekshep at 5180 meters to our really quaint lodging. There were flags covering every space of the ceiling of all the trekkers who made it to base camp, a feat we were soon to accomplish. After a quick break for my hundreth masala tea haha, we GOT TO BASE CAMP (5364 meters). So for everyone who keeps asking, whom I give flimsy answers to, it takes 8 days (6 hiking and two acclimatizing) to get to basecamp.

EBC-06974

We took our token photos sans et avec our Everest beers, and trekked back to Gorekshep on a high unlike any other.

Day 10: The day of death. Base camp was a walk in the park compared to Kala Pathar at 5545 meters. We woke up at 4:30 am for a hike that I was told would take us 1.5 hours. It actually took me over 2 hours…and believe me when I write, I did not make it gracefully. I was still feeling sick and I had just gotten my monthly visitor that morning, AND we did not eat breakfast beforehand. After just over one hour, with maybe 40 minutes left to climb, I started to lose energy and feel terribly weak. Had it not been for Nishma swearing that we would fking make it, and Andrew who waited with me, feeding me chocolates, I probably would have given up. By the time I had made it I couldn’t even breathe out of 1) panic and 2) too many eyes watching me, making me stressed out haha. I probably stayed a maximum of 20 minutes, and I was in a livid rage that I had even done it. I immediately felt regret for being so stupid to make myself do it and be freezing cold.

EBC-07005

In hindsight it was totally worth it haha. It was the first time in my life that I actually pushed myself physically and mentally. If there was a tape recording of my internal dialogue, I think it would make for excellent schizophrenic television.

EBC-06998

The morning view of Kala Pathar.

Day 12: Day 10, 11, and 12 were just coming down from base camp. The only eventful note is that we drank a heck load of beers on the way down on day 12. Also, it was my roommate Sophie’s bday so we surprised her with a cake in Cafe Danphe Bar (they have a cafe upstairs and bar downstairs with good food and great rock music; get the hot chocolate). We made the sad mistake of trying to convince our guide to stay behind in Namche Bazaar so we could continue drinking and have a party. The answer was an obvious no. Our consolation prize was getting to dance at our lodge at the end of the day, although it probably was only my consolation because I thoroughly enjoyed the dancing…as always.

Day 13: We all had one too many celebratory drinks at the bar in Lukla, and I successfully convinced the bartender to keep playing music (and Sean Paul) until late. Excellent.

Day 14: We catch a flight into Kathmandu and go to a rock club. Nepali men are very very hardcore when it comes to their Greenday. That’s all I’ll say about that haha. We left to go to a club where my roommate and I were totally under-dressed. Our paring was perfect haha.

Goodbyes were exchanged with the promise of a visit in each other’s home countries.

My final thoughts

Order potatoes with veg, cheese and RUNNY eggs. It is always a hit.EBC-07010
Stay as long as possible in Namche Bazaar, it’s a blast and is the only pace that you can do anything in. Also, visit Cafe Danphe Bar
If you want a tour recommendation, this is the GAdventures trip that I used: Everest Adventure

BUT wait until you can get a promotion, like 15% off, you’ll save a lot. Also, Dawa and Amar are an amazing team, and if they let you request them, I highly recommend that you do
Drink 3-4 liters of water every single day.
Try not to make yourself get too out of breath unless your name is Pravin and you have a death wish
Purchase the card game Backpacker. It’s fantastic. Warning, do not play every day because it will get old.
Rent all of your gear in Kahmandu.
If you feel any symptoms, don’t freak out you won’t die.
If you think you’re too out of shape to do it, believe me you are not. People of every fitness/weight level and age (including older retired adults) are on the trek. It’s a mental challenge more than a physical, however be prepared there are a few physical components.
– FINALLY, don’t let others tell you it’s too hard. So many people warned me of the dangers and the difficulty that I went in freaking out. In hindsight it really was not bad. Just take one day at a time.

EBC-06935
To any friends that I met on the trek, thanks for a life changing experience. You will not be forgotten.

To any friends that want to do the trek, godspeed to you.

Until next post,

-CS

Categories: Everest Base Camp, Nepal | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Faces of Pokhara

Hello lovely people,

I’ve officially completed my volunteering here in Nepal. I’m happy to have finished my project but I am left wanting to do more. I had conflicting feelings coming here. In undergrad/gradschool I learned a lot about policy, community development and specifically the impositions of the western world onto “underdeveloped” countries. Part of me felt that I would become that imposition by intervening with a culture the I knew very little of.

Thank yous…

I first was exposed to the South Asian community in high school when I volunteered at a women’s shelter. That is actually what initially gave me the idea to do social work. It was not until 2013 when I had a community development internship in a government housing community, that I began to really understand some of the South Asian cultures; and fell in love with the community of women. I have been fortunate enough to also be mentored by very passionate people who offered such insight that I continue to use today (shout out to Joanne, Neil, Evan, Anuja, Pila, Lucrecia, Jaime, Kavita and Tara if you are reading!) All of them in different ways taught me a lot about domestic and cultural violence, community development, community engagement and volunteering abroad. They have each individually inspired me to be who I am personally and professionally today and collectively pushed me to come here. They also showed me the ways in which community service can be altruistic if done in a particular way, and thank you for showing me that way.

A word of advice…

I came here with an open mind, a willingness to give, but more specifically, a willingness to be utilized in whatever ways that the community needed me. My offer of advice to anyone who wants to volunteer abroad, is to recognize that volunteering is selfish in many ways, understand how self-validating and question our feelings of reward, and then ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons. Giving is a reciprocal process of gain and give, and at times, we may gain more than we give. Remember what the purpose is for, and do not complain when you are not using your skills in the ways that you expected to. Do not feel humbled because you feel better off, feel humbled because you are learning so much more from people that you never would have previously. Learn the lessons of every situation, do not dwell on the negative aspects of it. Do not assume you know more, because you don’t. Let them lead you, and you offer what you know. Do not feel shy to get dirty and live locally, it will probably be the best thing you ever do.

On that note, live locally. I don’t think any traveling experience that I have had thus far comes close; not even that time I lived in Italy to learn Italian, even then it did not feel this way. Thank you to the Gurung family for giving me that experience. Not gonna lie, I cried leaving, and laughed hard reading your goodbye notes haha. Finally, (thanks Vivek!) learn to trust people; don’t assume every stranger is going to have bad intentions hahaha.

The paradise called Pokhara…

This week I had the opportunity to kick back a few beers in a paradise called Pokhara. I was there a couple of days before meeting up with my two friends at our guest house. Having the opportunity to be alone for the first time since arriving in Nepal was much needed. I rented a bike and took off, allowing myself to stop and talk to anyone who I had a good feeling about. As a result I had the randomest week ever. Here are the highlights of some memorable encounters. Enjoy!

 

Sarangkot (2 of 9)

A Tibetan refugee Dolma. She came over as a young child, being carried by her mother and since cannot leave Nepal. She also cannot get a Nepali passport so essentially she is stuck here. She’s been hand making Tibetan jewelry for 30 years and has someone cross the border to bring in materials that she buys. She sells independently and you can find her by Lakeside East.

Sarangkot (4 of 9)

Musician Prem has been playing the Nepali Sarangi his whole life. His father and grandfather were also musicians and taught him what he knows. He hand carved this Sarangi and taught me to play the scale by the Phewa lake. When not selling instruments, he plays in his band.

Sarangkot (5 of 9)

After biking uphill to Seti River Gorge, I met Ram who stands at the end, inviting tourists to take photos with him. He then asks you to mail him a copy of the photo so he can add it to his collection (you can see behind him), a collection he’s been doing for lord knows how long. He has one black and white photo of his mother doing this, so that gives you an idea of how long haha. He then invited me to his home which is right beside the river and introduced me to his farm animals and family.

Sarangkot (9 of 9)

Saroj is a hotel manager at the guesthouse that I stayed at. Originally from Chitwan, he is very passionate about his job and it shows when he interacts with anyone who comes in. Knowing that I was alone for a couple of days, he offered to show me Begnas Lake during his break. He took me where only locals swam and even let me drive on the motorbike. You can see behind Nepali children bathing.

Sarangkot (7 of 9)

The Dutch couple, aka Camiel and Lizzy, who met up with me in Pokhara. If ever you had doubts that soul-mates existed, just have dinner with these two. They are looking at the amazing view of Pokhara from the World Peace Pagoda

Sarangkot (8 of 9)

Me taking a solo swim in Begnas Lake looking at the waterfall.

DCIM100GOPRO

Meet Vince, the most frightening yet funny pilot and person you will ever meet. Funny in that he told me his company has killed 19 people in their history of running. Yah, really funny. The real answer was zero by the way. Vince is originally from France and he has been paragliding for over 10 years now. He currently is training to Base Jump.

Here are some more photos taken…

Sarangkot (3 of 9)

The view of Phewa Lake and the boating dock.

Sarangkot (6 of 9)

Walking through Gupta Cave was beautiful but so terrifying.

Sarangkot (1 of 9)

On my bike ride I randomly decided to go through the farming communities and took this shot of locals drying out their clothes in the sun

Sarangkot

And then there is the view of the Annapurna Himalaya range…the reason why you travel to Pokhara and wake up in the middle of the night to see.

Categories: Pokhara | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Letter For Someone Special

It is 5:15 am and I’m having another dream about you. Last night my host sister asked me how old you were when you died and told me that the photo of you on my phone hugging me is nice.

I used to dream a lot; dream a lot about a lot of nothing. After you died I stopped dreaming, or just stopped remembering my dreams. Nearly a year later I began to dream again. Since arriving in Nepal I haven’t had many good dreams that I can remember. I think that I push all of my sad thoughts to the night and then have nightmares about them. Nightmares about many people that I used to know but do not now, nightmares of feeling alone, of being abandoned, nightmares that I am not good enough.

Last night though I didn’t have a nightmare. I dreamt that you were alive and you were able to watch me and what I am doing here. In my dream though, you died again except this time I didn’t cry. Everyone around me did, but I didn’t.

You are probably the person I think of the most while I am here. I wonder what you can see, what you can feel, if you can feel. I wonder if you know that I do what I do because of you?

I have memories of you. Memories of us. Memories of you telling me about the painful moments in your life. You did so without crying. You shared from a place of strength. You possessed a strength that I still continue to strive for today. I see that strength in every survivor of trauma that I meet. And when I see them I see you and I feel braver not more scared.

If you can feel how I feel, what I feel, then you know that I miss you. I rarely say it because I try not to acknowledge the pain, but I miss you so much.

If I can ask of anything, it’s for the feeling of certainty that I am in the right direction. If I can ask of anything, it’s to put my mind at rest from the past that keeps haunting my sleep. If I can ask of anything, it’s to help me move forward free from resentment and full of forgiveness. If I can ask of anything, it’s that you know that in everything that I do, I do for the two strongest women that have made me who I am today. My two mothers; the one reading this in Canada and the one I’m writing to now.

Thank you,

Crystal

Categories: Regurgitated Thoughts | 1 Comment

Video of My Leap of Faith

Hallooo family and friends, I finally got around to uploading the video for those who wanted to hear me screaming, and yes I screamed. These were the reasons why I decided to jump off of a bridge:

  1. To let go of always wanting full control over everything in my life and try to put trust in another human being
  2. To show myself that I can put an impossible dream in my mind and achieve it, no matter how irrational or scary
  3. To trust that my life and life’s plan extends far beyond today and I will not let inhibitions or fear hold me back from it
  4. Because It’s badass

Sorry the video quality is poor, but you’ll get the gist. Take care! -CS

Categories: Nepal | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Recent Blizzard in the Himalayas: News Update

Hey family and friends,

Obviously, I’m still alive (I’m posting this after all). My deepest sympathies go out to the people who have died on the mountain including the 4 Canadians, and to those who are still missing. Apparently the Canadian embassy has not released the names of people yet, but fear not I am clearly not on that list. People have been contacting me to make sure I’m not on my trek yet, so I thought this would be the fasted way to reply to everyone.

The news articles say that over 20 have died now and more are still missing. People at my volunteer organization were also warning me about the recent news. It’s been a kind of scary morning trying to decide what I should do, moving forward.

As far as I know, there was a cyclone in India this week. Kathmandu was hit hard with rain; more rain than I ever remember seeing, even in my childhood! This caused a blizzard to affect the Annapurna Circuit. This is the western point of the Himalayas and Everest Base Camp (EBC) is in the eastern part, farthest from India (a thanks to Prajana for explaining this to me haha). My volunteer manager also explained that by November 1st the weather should settle down.

I called GAdventures who is the company that is taking me on the trek in a couple of weeks. Apparently it has not affected EBC at all, and all of the tour operators on the mountain have been accounted for with no injuries. The trips have not been cancelled and he assured me that everything will be ok.

I will monitor the weather over the next while, and continue to ask for updates on the mountain before I actually start the trek. Although there are risks in everything we do, I’m really not looking to die so I promise I will be safe. Love you mom 🙂

Until the next post,

-CS

P.S. For anyone who reads anything about an avalanche on Everest, just take note that it’s the media trying to bring up the April 2014 avalanche, and that was for trekkers climbing the entire mountain, not the base camp.

Categories: Kathmandu | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Unattainably Perfect Mind/Life

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving,

It is all fine and well to believe perfectionism doesn’t exist yet simultaneously strive for it anyways, until it completely consumes everything that you thought you willingly did. I completed gradschool, therefore I have been privy to the questionably unhealthy manipulative tactics that students use to self-validate in a “humble brag” sort of competitive way. I am sadly not exempt from this. At times though, it really is unconscious. Capital gain, credentialism, survival of the fittest, living with your parents forever, ‘may the best [wo]man win’…these all subconsciously infiltrate our minds in ways that significantly alter how we behave. In my life, it finally got to a point where I stopped celebrating the small successes, in pursuits of bigger ones. And I can’t be satisfied until I know that I am not last in the race. This indirectly translates to, “I cannot be happy unless I know that I am not the unhappiest.” What really is the worst of it all is, I can’t be honest about it without feeling either guilty for sharing, or for fear that someone might judge me. It is precisely why I’ve decided to comment now on it.

IMG_2929

Photo credit: Victoria Nechodomu

I went bungy/bungee jumping (why are there two spellings…?) this past weekend, and to say the very least, it was underwhelming haha. I spent so long convincing myself it was terrifying and I was incapable of making that (literal) leap. Then I realized it was not scary, but blew it up to be this life changing event of gratitude. It really wasn’t haha. It was fun, very very fun, and I did it with two great friends (hey there if you’re reading this!) but it did not become what I had thought it would represent. Instead, dinner at a dingy “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant, having an extremely honest conversation with a friend, is was solidified the experience for me.

There was graffiti on the walls of the restaurant but I could NOT for the life of me think up of what to write. My friend Victoria said to think about what this trip signifies for me, and what am I looking to gain from it. I had to think for a second because in so many ways, it is providing me with so many lessons that I’ve been trying to learn. But to summarize what I hope it will do for me is:

presence_Fast forward to a few hours ago when had a conversation with a friend about how I over analyze everything (which is true) which made me recall a conversation that I had months ago with a not-so-much-a-friend (hah) about how I overly analyze as a way to distract myself from what is really happening (still very true words). Immediately after that conversation I logged onto facebook, and read this article on my newsfeed:

8 Ways to Stop Over-Thinking and Find Peace in the Present Moment

And now I am here sharing the link and giving way too much information over the internet haha. I guess the difference is I do not expect nor do I want anything in return. I obviously hope someone will get something out of it, otherwise I wouldn’t have shared. I just assume that I can’t be the only person out there completely obsessing about the “what’s next” phenomenon.

What I hope to achieve is a sense of presence in my life. I think in the third person, externally analyzing what I do more than experience it. I find short thrills exciting and rewarding, but mostly distracting of the everyday drone. I doubt that “normal” monotonous life will ever captivate me because I’m always looking for the spontaneous, the new, the sexy, the wow, and I forget how to find all of those things in the everyday. I think life really should have all of those things, but what I hope to learn (in what I hope will be a long long life), is how to achieve that perspective in my own everyday, and not in my escapisms.

I learned very young that the best way to be successful is to market your skills well. I think somewhere along that path I took a turn from enhancing to creating. To some extent, we create ourselves to be who we want to be, hopefully based upon who we already are. For some years I felt like I was creating myself to be someone I don’t think that I am, but rather someone I thought I should be, to survive.

So then, what am I really saying here? I’m not quite sure. Welcome to Crystal’s chaotic mind. I guess what I am trying to say is:

  1. I am grateful for who I have become, and forgive myself for my shortcomings because in actuality my weaknesses are also my strengths.
  2. I accept that I cannot be what/who everyone wants me to be to them. I also cannot expect everyone to be everything to me.
  3. I appreciate those in my life no matter how frequent or rare those meetings might be. I will not take duration of time spent personally.
  4. I am enough for what I need.

Is it ironic that a post that was meant initially to stop overthinking turned into a reflection that caused me to seriously overthink? haaaah well it’s a work in progress. Hope you enjoyed, and if not, then don’t worry it was only 1000 words of your wasted time =P

-CS

If stuff like this actually interests you, then I highly recommend this book:

coverI read it before the trip and have slowly been adding in a document my favourite quotes to remember, that I’m planning on sharing…eventually!

Categories: Regurgitated Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: