Strength of the Indigena ~ Idle No More

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One of our frequent conversations of late has been about the process of ‘taking action’, and in particular, about circumstances and situations that make it more likely to take place.

Sometimes it’s on the practical level for us – ‘How do you get a student to complete an assignment?’… but more often it’s about political and social action.  The Idle No More movement has been front and centre of these discussions for the past several months.  And what has struck both of us is the degree to which the strength and volume of Aboriginal voices in Canada has increased.  They are the brave ones — speaking out against resource exploitation, against injustice, against violence against women, against poverty.  In doing so, their voices have inspired many Canadians that have previously been too quiet against government policies that hold us back from a just and compassionate society.  Myself included.

I was in awe of the Cree walkers who walked from James Bay, Quebec to Parliament Hill in Ottawa as part of their “Journey of Nishiyuu (the People)”.  These teenagers that have taken direct action in order to spread their message through peaceful passive resistance, and have found hope and determination through their own agency.  Teenagers have immense power to inspire and initiate change.. it’s such a beautiful thing to see this in action.

This morning I was thinking back to some of our travels, much of which has been through Latin America, and within many indigenous communities.  I think of the three little girls in the image from a small Mexican pueblo outside of San Cristobal de las Casas.  We spent the afternoon watching them play and laugh together, yet after I saw the photograph, I was struck by the intensity of their stares.  Such young children, yet in their eyes, there is immense weight and heaviness.  It would be easy to attribute this severity with sadness, but I think that’s too simple.  Those eyes also represent immense strength ~ a determination, resiliency and character.

The strength of Indigenous peoples. So often goes unrecognized.

We are in a time where we need people to take intelligent, thoughtful action.  We need people to become active, informed citizens. The time to sit back and complain about how nothing ever changes, ‘the government never listens’, and ‘those damn corporations’ is past.

The time to Idle No More is for everyone.  Let’s take the example that’s been set for us by these dedicated individuals and other grassroots organizations and move forward.  In this way, we can work towards a vision of a just, ethical and caring society that we can be proud of.

CBC Link to Cree Teenagers Supporting Idle No More

San Blas Islands ~ Kuna Yala

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Sometimes the rain in Vancouver just seems endless.. grey, dreary days where the moist air chills you to the bone.  Those are the days that I inevitably end up googling “Best Beaches in the World” and start planning imaginary vacations.

Over the years, one of the places that kept popping up on these lists were the San Blas Islands, or Kuna Yala – home of the Kuna people.  It’s an archipelago of 378 islands and keys in the Carribean Sea, located just off the northcoast of Panama. The Kuna people have governed the area autonomously since the 1920s, and maintain their own language, economic system and cultural traditions in the area.  They are currently one of the only indigenous groups in the world to maintain self-governance over their land.

SanBlas-2These incredible beaches just seemed to good to be true – a boat trip through these tropical islands just seemed like one of those journeys that couldn’t be missed.  And so last July,  Daryl and I planned a trip to Panama and Colombia to check them out.

We arrived in Panama City and booked a 4 day trip with Darien Gapster to travel through the islands by speedboat, camp on deserted islands, and sleep in hammocks in indigenous villages..

Our trip was incredible… we met amazing people, ate delicious crab and lobster each night, and island hopped through coral reefs and deserted beaches.

Here’s a link to a Youtube video clip, in case this is a trip you’ve been dreaming of as well… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hhmou5ugqw&feature=youtu.be

Weekend in Portland ~ Land of Hipsters, Craft Beer & Powell’s Books

The search for great cities.

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Heading to Portland for the weekend is sort of like a rite of passage for many people living in Vancouver.  The craft beer beckons – (“a 6-pack for less than 7 dollars, that’s crazy!” says Daryl) – as do the great restaurants, the food trucks, and of course, Powell’s Books.  Who can resist a book store that’s larger than a city block, with every book imaginable?  I’m old school, and still prefer a book that you can take in the bath, get dirty on a beach, and have no need to plug in to recharge.  So we decided to head to Portland, Oregon for the weekend to check out the Northwest Conference for Social Justice, which turned out to be one of the most amazing education conferences we’d ever been to.  Definitely would recommend this year’s conference in Seattle to any teachers out there.

Off we went.  The first thing we remembered is that Portland is actually really far from Vancouver — it’s like a weekend getaway that deserves 5 days.  Surprise! There is endless highway between Seattle and Portland.  Silly Canadians.  We arrived in the city at 9:30pm with rain pelting down on our windshield, and felt… right at home.   I’ve argued many times that the Pacific Northwest is a region and culture unto itself, with lots in common despite the border between us.  And it’s true.  Portland does feel a lot like home, and it’s a city we’d return to in a heartbeat.

A few great finds…

1. Powell’s Books – as mentioned above, but really deserving of a second mention.  Book lover’s delight.

2. Beer, beer, beer.  We headed to the Deschutes brewery, but Portland is the land and heart of craft beer.  This was just the beginning though, and perhaps a return during Craft Beer Festival is in order.

3. Great record stores.  Portland hipsters would make great friends with Vancouver hipsters, because they would have lots in common and speak the same ‘Whole Foods, Farmers Market, Bicycles’ kind of language.  Have you seen episodes from Portlandia?  Hilarious, and also slightly embarrassing, in one of those “oh, is this kind of about me?” sort of way.  ‘Put a Bird on It’ episode is a gem.

4. Food Trucks.  And the most delicious ones in the world.  Every type of food you can imagine, and all of it given to you in a wrapper made from recycled materials.   The first time I visited Peru, I ate a lot of ‘meat on a stick’ meals — pretty straight forward street meat comprised of a wooden bbq skewer with a hunk of surprise meat and a giant potato.  Thus began my love affair with street food.  I’m so pleased at how well it has since adapted to North America.

Any further recommendations for great spots in Portland?  We will most definitely return.  My friend Jason is raving about a tiny convenience store on the outskirts of town that sells over 500 different types of craft beer inside…

The Rugged West Coast: Tofino & Ucluelet

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Daryl and I recently took off on a road trip to the beautiful, rugged west coast of Vancouver Island for the annual Whale Festival.  Pure Bliss.  We both grew up in Vancouver, and have traveled a lot in this province.  You would think that some of the scenery would become common place, but the beauty of the west coast still seems to catch me off guard.   So, just in case you’re headed there in the near future… we thought a list of some of the hot spots would be in order.

Top 5 Things About the West Coast of Vancouver Island:

1. Whale-Watching & Boat Rides

Short vacations mean that you get to splurge a little.. or at least I can rationalize pulling out my Visa a little more frequently.  This explains how we ended up on a boat in the middle of the open ocean to witness the annual migration of 20,000 gray whales from Mexico to Alaska, with Ron, the most delightful guide from Ocean Outfitter Adventures (no free plug here..we paid a small fortune).   Not only did we see amazing scenery, sea lions, otters, seals, bald eagles and many cute little birds, but we spotted 4 gray whales that measured up to 50 feet long moving through the water.  Amazing!   ** Apparently the trip to the hot springs by boat is supposed to be well worth it as well.

2. Pacific Rim National Park

Incredible set of trails that are extremely well kept, that follow ocean coastlines, bogs, and rainforests.  We walked the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, and the views were spectacular.

3. Gorgeous Beaches

So apparently people actually surf here even in the winter.  Not a chance I’m getting a 5-inch wetsuit on my body, but there are many people much more hardcore than we are hitting the waves each day.  The beaches are incredibly beautiful to walk along, and you can beachcomb for mussels and oyster shells along the way.

4. Super Friendly People

And I’m not just saying this because I locked my keys in the trunk and the tow truck arrived to help me in less than 20 minutes.  This is a laid-back town filled with many happy and relaxed people that were incredibly helpful.  And also political — this is a town with very diverse opinions on environmental issues, which is always interesting.

5. Best Fish & Chips of My Life

Yup. I said it. Even better than the fish and chips I ate in New Zealand that came in newspaper.  The Wildside Grill takes the award. Panko crusted oysters and fresh ling cod that were caught that day.  Yes please.

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