Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking care of business

A few short business items...

As you may have noticed, I've changed the URL to this blog to better reflect my online brand. I started the transition from starshine_diva to NailaJ a few months ago when I switched my Twitter account name. Now, all my public accounts can be found by searching for "nailaj". The sole exception in the URL game is Flickr, where my display name is now "NailaJ" but my URL remains unchanged at http://www.flickr.com/photos/starshine_diva.

So please, do update your feeds and take note. My blog is now located at http://nailaj.blogspot.com.

I've started the process of uploading my 2009 AKFC Awareness Trip pictures to Flickr for easy public viewing. Hopefully, you'll see why I enjoyed Africa so much. Next step, the videos...

... "real" blog posts to follow, I promise! Stay tuned...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why blogging about Africa is tough

Many of you have been asking me to blog more about my trip to Africa. As you can see, that hasn't happened.

Sure, I've been busy catching up on work. I was out of town again this week too. It's not that I don't want to blog. It's not even that I don't have time to do it.

It would in theory be very simple for me to treat this as any other assignment, look through my notes from each day's visits, select a few explanatory pictures, and put together a short text on what we saw and learned.

But it's so much more than just that. It was an experience. It wasn't so much a cultural shock, at least, it wasn't different than I expected it to be. But the mounds of information we absorbed in the little amount of time we had to absorb it... I know I've said this before, but I haven't sorted it all out yet.

I want to make sure that my blogs are truly reflective of this experience. I want to share the best anecdotes with you, from the personal and the professional sides of this trip. I want to show you the most beautiful or tearful pictures so you can better understand what I mean. I want you to feel like you were right there in Kenya with me.

And until I figure out how to share all of this with all of you, I'd prefer not to post lame little textbook-style descriptions of the projects we visited in Nairobi and Mombasa. I'm not trying to be selfish. I just want to be true to myself, to my fellow tripgoers, to AKFC, and most importantly, to the efforts of all the thousands of people involved in each and every one of those projects, from start to finish.

I hope you can understand... Until then, stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Ah, the things traveling will do to you! It's a different environment, a different way of life... sometimes a different language and in this case, a different continent and a different worldview!

Coming home from Africa was quite an eye-opener, and I don't mean all the time I spent in the plane or waiting in airports!

The trip as a whole didn't impact me too much while I was there. It was when I came back and compared the reality I was just in with my everyday reality that I realized how fortunate we really are. Then again, there is also poverty here in North America... it's just not as painstakingly obvious.

Here are some of the flashbacks that I noted during my first two days back from Kenya. These are things that happened exactly like in the movies... Someone said something or I saw something that brought me back to my Kenyan experience.

* First and foremost, how weird is it to wake up in your own room, in your own bed, and not knowing where you are? It's very confusing, trust me. It took a good while to remember that I was home... and this didn't happen to me in any of the hotels I stayed in, or ever before!

* When I first brushed my teeth, I felt like something was missing... Water. Or more specifically, a water bottle. In Kenya, as per the travel clinic's orders, I used a water bottle to wet my toothbrush as well as to rinse my mouth after cleaning my teeth.

* More water woes... I'm so used to taking a sip or two of water when I was my face or in the shower. It was very hard for me to remember NOT to do that while I was in Kenya. Again, the travel clinic instilled fears of getting sick from the tap water deep down into my core. Good job!

* What about water pressure? There are places here where your water pressure isn't that great... namely cheap hotels or apartments. Luckily, the hotel was pretty good about strong shower streams, though there were times when the water would randomly stop, and sometimes you had to turn the tap completely to get a decent flow. Some places, even that didn't solve the problem. It made me wonder how people feel clean, especially when you have to wash that red Nairobi soil off the soles of your feet.

* Hey, guess what! I can plug my laptop directly into the wall! Yes, after 2 weeks of using adapters "African-style", as someone put it, it came as a bit of a surprise to me to be able to just plug it in. The "African-style" comment came after the porter helped us with my so-called universal adapter. Unfortunately, all the plugs at the hotel were UK, and my adapter was stuck on Europe. Cheap plastic! After trying to find us a spare adapter somewhere in the hotel, he took one look at mine, grabbed a pen cap, and pressed down the trigger in the top hole before inserting my European adapter into the UK plug. Fantastic! Only in Africa...

* My mom and I were lounging in the backyard when she said something about one of her plant attracting bees. I flashed back to the bee-keeping project we visited in rural Mombasa... I promise to tell you all about it later.

* I went for a drive a couple of days after I got back, or possibly even the day after I got back. I was at a stop sign and trying to figure out what the car opposite to me was going to do: go straight or turn. You know Montreal drivers. They rarely signal, especially on suburban streets! I tried to make eye contact with the driver and it took a few seconds before I understood why I wasn't reading any signals... I was staring at the passenger! Note to self: Drivers sit on the right in North America, not on the left.

I'm sure there were other moments that reminded me of life in Africa, but these are the fun that I noted. Spending time away from your reality also makes you realize what's important to you and what's not. Sorry, Perez. You didn't make the cut!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's all coming back to me now

I had been meaning to blog more about Africa earlier, but working Rogers Cup tennis for 7 straight days basically took up all my time. It was eat, work, sleep, and lots of transit. But, I did manage to make some professional gains. It was my first gig as a bug operator for CBC, which means I was responsible for putting the scoreboard and stats in... and updating it too! This means I really needed to understand tennis, and after 4 days of actively watching it, I managed to figure it out :)

But back to the topic of the day: Africa.

I've already given you an overview of the trip, and I do plan on going into more details about some of our visits, but I think it's also important to understand how different the worldview is, or, as it turns out, how similar life in Kenya is to life in Canada.

Things that are the same... but not

* Slowpoke! *

Ya know how when you're driving, and the car in front of you is driving at a snail's pace and you just wish they'd change lanes and let you pass? You're gonna flash your high beams, aren't you? Well, in Kenya, they do that too! It's not a big realization, but it definitely showed me that some things we believe apply only to our culture are actually more universal than we think! And in East Africa, you don't get deer or moose crossings, but cow crossings. One time, our matatu nearly hit a cow to try to get it to cross faster. It wasn't impressed. It moo-ed at us and hit back!

* The stars *

Well, they're not the same because we're in different hemispheres, but they are just as beautiful. The difference is that in North America, you see stars lower on the horizon, while in Kenya, you really have to look straight up. I had a blast hanging out at the outdoor lounge at the Serena Mombasa, lying back and watch these natural gems sparkle. One night, three of us even saw a shooting star! My first confirmed sighting, and what a sight it was!

* Media *

During our visit of the Nation Media Group facilities, I came to a startling realization. The more I listened and looked around, the more I was certain that while the media values, facilities and equipment are the same in Kenya as in North America, the East African newsrooms are evolving at a quicker pace. I believe that's because they're learning from our mistakes and successes. Basically, they're skipping the middle step, the trials and errors we made trying to achieve better quality and smoother content. Kenya is going digital this year. They're not in HD yet, but that's the next step. While here in Canada, we're struggling with upgrading from analog to digital because of the cost of the equipment, East Africans are at a natural equipment-replacement point and are able to purchase high end HD equipment as part of the renewal process. We tried to do it all too fast... We're in HD, but not true HD: True HD means that shooting equipment is HD, Audio is 5.1, transmission is HD, cables/transmitters are HD-capable, receivers and watching equipment are HD... If even one element is in standard definition, it's not HD. In Africa, they love gadgets. It won't be a problem to get people to buy HD TV sets, especially given that most people would probably be getting them as their first sets.

*Gender balance*

Most of the Frigoken factory workers in Nairobi were female. However, this was done by choice, not because of gender bias. Sure, women are detail-oriented and good with veggies, but does that mean they should be the ones assigned to snap the tips off green beans? The reason Frigoken employs mostly women is because this job allows them to provide a secondary income to their families. In some cases, it is the only decent job a woman with relatively little education can get in the city. And they make it easy too... The plant offers a drop-off daycare service in one of the adjoining buildings, and if I understood correctly, it's free! How many North American plants can boast the same? Also, many of the farmers in the village were women, although their husbands may own the plots.

Things that really are different

*The buses*
You've already heard the stories... The matatus run on a completely different system than our North American transit. It's more of a taxi-like system, regulated by the government to some extent in that drivers have to register their vehicles and pay some sort of fee. It's also like taxis because the drivers are absolutely insane. That's where the similarities end, though. Matatus are little white Toyota minivans/SUVs, often covered in all kinds of slogans and celebrity names. The most popular ones? Tupac and Obama buses. The slogans sometimes don't make sense... Why would an East African matatu driver decorate his bus to the theme of the Minnesota Wolverines? (No, not Michigan) Or "The Game"? Matatus decide to patrol specific routes, but pick people up and drop them off anywhere along that road or in that neighbourhood... And at the rate that these buses pass, you can probably get anywhere on time! Sometimes, you could see multiple matatus pulled over alongside the highway, trying to get people on board for the 2 Kenyan Shillings fair, which more or less converts to 2 cents.

*What time is it?*

In Kenya, you really can set your clock to the sun. Every day, without fail, the sun rises between 6:30 and 6:45 and sets between 6:30 and 6:45. It's absolutely amazing! You figure that's how villagers go by their day... So very impressive.

Nairobi vs. Mombasa


Nairobi is like any other metropolis: busy, constantly moving, full of people crowding the streets. In fact, it reminded me a bit of NYC. The only difference, of course, is the predominant skin colour on the downtown streets. But they're all in suits and briefcases, going about their day.


Mombasa, on the other hand, is totally a beach resort... Until you get to the main part of the town. There, you can definitely see the different levels of poverty, which are much more obvious than in the Nairobi outskirts. It's not just the shantytowns... From the moment you leave the Mombasa airport and until you reach the touristy beach resort, you can see the true face of East African poverty.

Those are just some general observations about my trip to Kenya. Next post? Coming home, and realizing how different life truly is from one end to the world to another.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It truly is a strange situation to wake up wondering where you are. It's even more confusing when you wake up in your own bed with that feeling.

On my first sleep at home after spending about 10 days in Kenya, one could say I needed an adaptation period. The landscape of my room looked pretty unfamiliar too... Though that could be because it was 3:45 AM and I had been more or less awake for 28 hours, traveling from Nairobi to London, London to Toronto, and being interminably delayed in Toronto before finally arriving in Montreal.

Remember the travel delay at the beginning of my trip? The train to Ottawa? Well, I guess it was just fate that my trip should end the same way. Told you it was an omen!

Luckily, the bulk of my trip, from Day 1 to... what day are we today? went more than smoothly. We visited multiple projects a day, spent a lot of time in matatu-like buses, often snoozing because many of the days had scattered schedules that made for not so much eating time. There were times when lunch was at 5pm, and breakfast had been at 7am!

All in all though, it was worth it. More than worth it! I've got loads of pictures and videos to sort through, stories to tell with all the knowledge I accumulated, and I met people, both AKFC Awareness buddies and those aided by the projects, that I will never forget.

It was a lot to take in and I'm not sure I've figured any of it out yet, so I might take a few days to put my thoughts in order. Good thing I took some notes!! The pictures will also be a great memory aid. Hopefully, I'll be able to enlighten you with more details on what we saw and experienced throughout this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

I promise to update soon, so stay tuned...


On a side note, and a very emotional one, the first news story I saw after coming home from Kenya was a report on the death of two men in a helicopter crash in Quebec. One of them was my buddy Hugh Haugland, longtime cameraman for CTV, who was a kind and inspiring person, funny and dedicated, and a mentor to me. I remember him saying he longed to go to Afghanistan, as dangerous stories were his specialty - he covered 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc - but was going to respect his family's wishes and stay out of seemingly unavoidable harm's way.

My condolences go out to anyone who ever had the good fortune to hang out with this great guy. It is a sad day for us all.

Hugh, you will be missed.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Karibu: Welcome to Kenya


Talk about an exhausting journey!

After 2x 7.5 hour plane rides and a 4h layover in Heathrow, we finally made it to the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya at approximately 9:30pm East African time... That's 17h of traveling, folks!

Friday in Ottawa, we had a full day orientation session, which was full of intellectual stimulation. It really got me thinking not only about what my interest in international development and how it compares to those of some younger, more accomplished people taking part in this trip. It also reminded me how much general/historical knowledge I do have, and how much I love learning about this kind of critical thinking about world poverty, etc.

I also realized that I'm pretty blunt on this and other topics, mostly about the real motives behind aid. Maybe it's because I have a more overall approach and I don't believe "it's just altruism" B.S.. Human beings, ultimately, are selfish. It's part of our nature.

I took a lot of other notes on my perceptions of the day and the topic of the day, including some good quotes from the little extract of the Monk debates that we watched, but I think I still need to internalize it all before I'm ready to share. I should also wait until I'm more awake ;)

The plane ride from YOW to Heathrow was great! Megan and I switched up our assigned seating to sit together... and no one sat in the third seat in our block! We were therefore able to stretch our legs out during the long flight, which was definitely helpful. I didn't get much sleep, however, and wasn't even able to sleep during our London layover!

Once we got on our Kenya Airways flight to, you guess it, Kenya, I made myself sleep... and I did, after attempting to watch a movie. I then finished one of the books I had brought along with dinner, then slept some more, then had a snack, and dozed off a bit before landing. I got some great shots of the Alps and of the red Saharan desert from the sky... Gorgeous!

I still need to go through all my pictures though, because you can bet I'm taking a whole lot of them!

The only problem with my flight was sitting behind someone who had her seat back the WHOLE TIME, and next to a man who seemed to be sick and was constantly coughing/wheezing and picking his nose. SO not cool!

Upon arriving in Kenya, Megan (who has been my amazing roommate from Ottawa to Kenya, and is also blogging for her company, AbeBooks) and I checked in, showered, and basically went straight to bed.

Sunday morning, we were up early (1am EDT, which is about 8am EAT). We did the buffet breakfast with the rest of the group, then left for a mini-safari trip to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where we saw some orphaned elephants, some warthogs (PUMBA!) and a couple of rhinos. They were absolutely adorable! I was able to get some good pictures and videos, including a few good macro-mode flower shots for my mom :)

We then proceeded to the Giraffe Centre where we obviously saw giraffes. We were also able to feed them, which provided some great pictures too! They were very friendly, with nice long eyelashes and a long tongue... which was actually kind of prickly! It felt as if there was hair on it or something.

Then, instead of going to lunch (which we all really needed!) and then to the Nairobi National Park, we decided to make our way to the Aga Khan University Hospital/School of Nursing because the Aga Khan himself, the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, was in town for some meetings. We tried to get in through a contact, but weren't able to make it in time. Instead, most of the group lined up on the sidewalk with other Ismailis to await him crossing the street from the Campus to the Hospital, hoping to get a glimpse. A few of us retreated to the Hospital entrance, because we figured that it would provide a better sighting angle, and indeed, it did!

One of the guys in the security team allowed us to stand nearby, and the Aga Khan passed by a mere couple of feet away from us. He seemed happy and much more relaxed than during the millions of Golden Jubilee outings he has been taking part of recently. We were not allowed to take any pictures or videos because of media exclusivity rights, but it was nice to see him and his daughter, Princess Zarah, in such a casual setting.

Finally, after many hours of waiting and pacing and starving, we went back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and made our way to Nairobi's famous game meat restaurant, Carnivore. It was amazing to see the city at night! During our day trips, we got used to the insane traffic, the crazy passing cars, and the colourful matatu buses. There is a good balance between buildings and green space, and giant billboards border the roads. It is very different from North America, but in many ways, it is the same. Since we already had the general feel of the landscape and were used to the bumps, the night trip was pretty enjoyable.

So was dinner! It started with a delicious soup that was probably a cream of some broccoli-like veggie and lentil. Then came serving after serving of beef sausages, chicken breast, chicken wings (which tasted awesome!), ostrich meatballs, lamb chops... in unlimited amounts! For desert, I chose the Black Magic cake, which was fantastic! It was definitely the best of the choices, at least from the ones I sampled from other people's plates ;) The mocha- flavoured Italian ice cream was a close second though...

Today was the start of another long day, the first official day of our trip. Our 6:45 am wake-up call was just early enough to make our 8am bus for a village outside of Nairobi, where we met with the CEO of Frigoken, whose name currently escapes me, and two guys name Peter, who were part of the regional and farming management team. We drove down tiny slanted dirt roads to make our way to the farm lands, and stood amongst the flowering green bean crops as we got a briefing on the company's structure, activities, and their relationship with the farmers. There was so much information shared with us at this point, so I will need some time to put deeper thoughts together, but what I remember the most is the CEO explaining that Frigoken takes all the risks, and if the crops don't turn out, the farmers don't lose anything. This, and other transparent operating policies, creates what he referred to as a relationship of trustworthiness with the farmers and the villagers.

Each farmer needs to meet a good list of requirements, including easy access to water and land ownership. The trading posts should be no more than a 30 minute walk from the crops/village, they need to respect the principle of fallow farming, and they are not allowed to cultivate more than one 250 meter square plot in order to ensure high quality. Frigoken provides the seeds, training, fertilizers (if needed), organic pesticides and their application, as well as many other resources. One plot/farmer will provide about 20 kilos of green beans, which are then hand-packed into approximately 800 cans, if I remember my numbers correctly.

It was actually quite interesting to hear about the whole process, from the business perspective to the farmer's perspective, and to get a little glimpse of what it's like to live in a small Kenyan village. One Peter actually used to be a farmer in this village... it was his home! He got promoted to centre supervisor, then technical supervisor, and now overseas the activities of 8 centres, or villages!!! Pretty impressive, isn't it?

It wasn't lunch time yet, though we were all getting pretty hungry! Instead, we made our way to the actual Frigoken factory and were guided through the whole plant, from receiving to labelling. Again, there was a lot to absorb in this portion of the trip... and I'm too tired to recall it all! One thing I do remember is that there were a lot of women working in the factory, both in the green bean and butternut squash portions of the plant. That is not a coincidence, but it's also probably not what you might think.

The factory planners, when they were deciding on how they wanted to run the plant at its inception, decided that women would make better labourers because they are hard working and knowledgeable. The idea is also that these women provide a secondary income to their families. They live nearby and walk to work. There are about 20% of permanent workers (mostly women and male factory floor management), and the rest are casual employees who get more work in busy seasons and less when it's calm like now. The farms also employ more women than men, though that's more because of the culture than earning a secondary income. About 85% of the primary farmers are women, though the whole family works on the crops. At the factory, there is a small daycare centre for women who need to bring their kids to work. We were able to visit the space and it's spotless and gorgeously decorated with Kenyan interpretations of typical North American childhood characters like the Teletubbies, Winnie the Pooh and, get this... Bart Simpson!

We finally went to lunch at a great Indian restaurant near a grocery store in the Ukay district - though I initially thought that was UK ;)

Unfortunately, the food was perhaps a bit TOO good and we were all pretty sleepy during our tour of the Aga Khan University Hospital/School of Nursing. It's a fairly small campus, but the hospital definitely had more to offer. Today, unlike when we found ourselves there yesterday, we did not see any medical emergencies. Which was a relief, because they were pretty painful to watch and felt like an intrusion on the patients family's privacy.

After a quick meeting with the head of the Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa, we headed back to the hotel and parted ways. We all needed a good shower after walking in the red dirt roads. They're gorgeous and make me look nice and tanned, but the tiny sand gets a little bit cakey after a while.

I really enjoyed today's drive because it allowed me to see more of the true Kenyan landscape: bidonville-style villages, quick road-side matatu pick ups, all kinds of people walking or running alongside the highway, rickshaw delivery/transport guys going at car-like speeds in the middle of traffic, small tin markets, railroad tracks, the insanely huge Del Monte fields, and some very pretty lakes!

I am pretty well aware that I'm in Africa now, though it took a long long time to sink in. It still doesn't always feel like a different continent, and I believe I'm become quite used to the sounds and sights, and after only 2 days!

I do miss my alone time and my guitar... Even though I don't necessarily play it every day or for that long, I miss being able to reach over and strum a bit. Perhaps what I am really missing is the music... African favourites seem to be old 80s music!

I will post pictures when I have the time to sort through them, which probably won't be for a while. But it'll be worth it just so you can see the Obama matatu buses! :)

Tomorrow, we visit the Nation Media Group and have a briefing with the CEO of Aga Khan Foundation East Africa before heading to the beautiful (or so I hear!) coast city of Mombasa. I can't wait to see the ocean!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ndoto: Countdown to Kenya

This blog post is very special. Not only does it mark the beginning of my first overseas trip, it's also my first ever blog-by-email (NOTE: Blog-by-email failed. VIA free-because-it's-slow-and-not-really-working-station-Wi-Fi worked). Let's hope the formatting doesn't get too messed up!

You might also notice that my grammar and spelling is poorer when I'm typing on my BlackBerry. I blame it on the fingers. I promise my brain is fully functional.

"Ndoto" is the Swahili word for "dream". I found it when I first leafed through my brand new Lonely Planet Swahili language guide, and it seemed oddly appealing. I have been using it for the past week or so in my Gtalk and Skype status messages but now, I am finally ready to make it public!

This trip truly is a dream. It definitely seems like a dream. Until last night, or even this morning, this whole experience didn't feel real. I guess the fact that I'm spending an extra day in Ottawa before the group arrives probably contributed to that, but it's mostly because I just don't know what to expect!

Luckily, we received a lot of guidance from Aga Khan Foundation Canada, who is organizing the trip. I am also fortunate to have a good friend who is from Nairobi and who could enlighten me on weather patterns and local customs. I'm very thankful to be staying with her mother for a few days after the AKFC portion of the trip is over.

The purpose of the trip, as I think I might have mentioned in an earlier post, is to provide promising volunteers with an opportunity to visit the project sites we work hard to raise funds for through the World Partnership Walk and meet the people whose lives we are attempting to change. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a life changing event. For one, I will probably learn the benefits of packing light.

More importantly, I think I will be humbled by the simpler way of life, one which I have always admired but never seem to be able to adopt. I will be using my laptop to backup pictures but I probably won't be online much, if at all. Sure, there are some health concerns, but if I'm smart with my choices, there shouldn't be any problems. I am a little concerned about theft based on the research I did on various travel sites, but people like to complain a lot... So I'm taking their feedback with a grain of salt. Or two.

I am very excited about the opportunity to see for myself how poverty affects not just individuals but whole communities. I can't wait to be amazed at how happy children are to go to school or help out on the farm. I know that I will feel pain at some of the sights and wonder at parents' smiles even though they live in conditions that developed countries would term despicable.

On a personal note, I am SO excited to be going to Africa much earlier than I had planned. To be honest, I had penciled-in Europe and Australia beforehand, but my first real overseas trip - I don't think trips I took as a baby count - and first exploration of a different continent couldn't start at a better place: East Africa, where my mom's family grew up, a mere border away from where my mom was born!

I am also thrilled that I will be able to do a safari. The plan is to do a one-day trip locally, probably to see some giraffes and elephants, and then, once the AKFC portion of the trip is done, do a 2-day, 2-night stint in Masai Mara.

All in all, it's sure to be an unforgettable, once in a lifetime trip. *insert more clichés here*

I will be keeping a journal throughout the trip and might post them directly to my blog, so keep checking this space over the next 10 days!

Bonus trip update: My VIA train to Ottawa was delayed by 45 minutes due to technical problems. Then they canceled it and put us on a train leaving one hour later. That's a 1h45mins delay. My dinner plans are definitely ruined, but I wonder... Is this a bad omen for the whole trip or just a coincidence? Also, could these "technical problems" be a pressure tactic? Inquiring minds want to know!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

East Meets Western

Remember that documentary I participated in at the Calgary Stampede last year? Well, it's airing TONIGHT!

Entitled "East Meets Western", this documentary, produced by White Iron Pictures takes a look at the two seemingly disparate cultures of the Calgary Ismaili community and the events of the Stampede. It focuses on how volunteerism, commitment and mutual support links them and reveals the remarkable similarities between the two.

The complete press release has been making the Internet rounds. You can watch the trailer & sneak preview here.

The documentary will be airing on OMNI in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., in English and - get this! - in Hindi! You can watch me make my national TV debut when the doc premieres on Sunday, June 28th at 10pm on OMNI.2 in Ontario, 10pm local time on OMNI.1 in Calgary and Edmonton, and 8pm local time in Victoria and Vancouver, on OMNI.1.

That's all in English. The Hindi version premieres on OMNI.2 in Ontario on Sunday July 5th at 7pm.

I, unfortunately, don't get OMNI, so I will be counting on you to let me know how foolish I look and sound when I'm excited. I mean, come on! Country music, rides, TV production AND meeting new people? There's no way I'll come off as the smart, cultured person I truly am!

Hopefully I'll get my copy of the doc - and the gazillions of pictures that were taken during its production - at some point soon so you can laugh WITH me, not AT me.

So cancel all your plans, set your PVRs (or VCR if you still have one!) and watch "East Meets Western" on OMNI tonight!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Has it really been that long?

Once again, though I promised myself I would update my blog more regularly, I somehow managed to go without creating a new post for a whole month! This is despite adding it to my "TO DO" list on a regular basis.

Proof that sometimes, life happens.

The World Partnership Walk was a complete success by all standards: The on-stage entertainment was spectacular, from the MCs to the dancers and musical performances. We finally got our cake - to celebrate the 25th anniversary - and ate it too!

In terms of media, the Walk garnered lots of media attention. I did an in-studio LCN interview on the morning of the Walk, which attracted a reporter from Radio-Canada Première Chaîne, a reporter from Quartier Libre, an alternative publication from Université de Montréal, and a photographer from Le Devoir. We also had pre-Walk coverage from CPAM and CJAD. All in all, that's pretty good coverage, especially when compared to the previous years.

The turnout was exceptional too... Over 2,500 people attended the Walk in 2009, which is more than ever. By comparison, the 2008 Walk only drew 1,500 attendees. Montreal not only met its fundraising goal, it surpassed it by at least 60K! We raised over $200,000 on Walk Day.

After the Walk, I went on vacation to Kingston for about 10 days. Didn't spend much time in Kingston though. Instead, we went to Toronto for a few days, to Canada's Wonderland and the Toronto Metro Zoo. What fun times!! The rides were awesome, and the animals were adorable. Plus, I got to meet a few new cool people.

We also went canoeing on Gould Lake and had an island picnic, did a little roadtrip to the Sandbanks' Dunes Beach for a hot steamy day of sand, tan and splash... Here, we spent some time in the water tossing around the Frisbee and tiny little fish would approach us and bite our toes! It actually felt really nice... like a well deserved foot rub! But even better, when we were still for a while, a larger fish (possibly a steelhead trout?) came swimming around our legs. First one, then another, and another and all of a sudden, there were dozens! The best part, for me anyway, was this fish swimming up to me cautiously, then swimming through my legs, brushing my left leg a bit, then getting freaked out and hurrying through... then coming back alongside the other leg and brushing that one too!! It was absolutely awesome!

One of our other roadtrips took us to Carleton Place on the outskirts of Ottawa, where we had a delicious dinner with yet another fantastic couple. In fact, this trip was full of little excursions, new discoveries - both on the road and at our various destinations, and, most importantly, I got to meet lots of great new people. Yes, I would say I've made new friends :)

Back from Kingston and back to real life... I went straight to the World Partnership Walk Montreal post-mortem meeting, and then returned to my daily routine of translating, applying for various broadcast, new media, marketing or communications jobs.

Then this weekend, I attended the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in my hometown, Montreal. What a blast! I met some more great people - though not at length because of my back to back scheduling - and enjoyed the whole experience, overall. Of course, the night was a bit long at times, especially since the first few picks went exactly as expected and Montreal was only picking 18th. Lucky for me, I was able to meet up with some of the folks I traditionally work with at Bell Centre events and catch up on the past few months. That was definitely a thrill, as was meeting the Habs' first rounder pick, Louis Leblanc in front of the Sheraton Hotel later that night.

Did I mention the TweetUp? The organizers of the NHL Draft Tweet Up are exceptionally talented... Even though I didn't attend the second day of the event - gotta have a lazy day every now and then! - I've got nothing but praize and thanks to offer. Thanks to their great organizational skills, the NHL sponsored the event by offering 50 complimentary Draft tickets (valid for Friday and Saturday), which is how I ended up there in the first place!

In summary, it's been a pretty hectic month... especially when I got the news that I was GOING TO AFRICA!

That's right, folks! A the end of July, I will be taking a 17h flight to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Awareness trip. Basically, the Foundation selects certain people that they think could benefit from the experience of seeing AKFC-sponsored projects first-hand, obviously to help further the cause by acting as its ambassadors. I was chosen because of my involvement with the World Partnership Walk. And as you should know by now, 100% of the profits from the Walk go straight to these AKFC projects, which means that I'm paying my own way all the way. It'll set me back a cool $5,000 but given the cost of doing this kind of voyage on my own, there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't participate in this programme.

We will be spending a few days in Nairobi and some in Mombassa, and the fact that we're travelling in groups and with local guides will help ensure our safety throughout the trip. I can't wait to see all these places for myself, experience the sometimes troubled culture of East Africa, and hang out close to where my mom's side of the family used to live. Plus, I'll probably get to see some pretty cool creatures in their natural environments. Overall, it'll be an excellent learning experience, no matter what I choose to do with the rest of my life. If anything, it'll help me better understand a different demographic of the world... and who can argue with the benefits of that?

Of course, I will take lots of great pictures and keep a journal so I won't forget to update you.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Follow-ups and promos

Let me preface this post by saying that if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably didn't miss me much. Or maybe you aren't satisfied with 140 character updates. Either way, here's the deal:

That first Dome gig for Showtime boxing? It was awesome!! It was great to work with a crew full of people I already mostly knew and meet some new people. I learned a lot about different aspects of technical producing and it was fun to see how the setup is different for Bell Centre activities that aren't hockey or concerts.

That second Dome gig? Never happened. Though that had nothing to do with me but everything to do with union issues. Oh well.

Union issues have been the bane of my existence lately. Well, maybe that's a little bit harsh. But with CBC cuts, job postings that are only posted to meet union needs or those that are either already filled or non-existent, well... you can probably deduce that I haven't been successful in my job search yet. Many positions have been applied for. Some have received letters of rejection, which, honestly, is better than no letter at all and leads me to believe that I at least got somewhere in the recruitment process. I am also still waiting on a couple of potential interviews that are taking forever to come to fruition. It might not work out so I'm not holding my breath. But it's nice to think about every now and then.

And now for a friendly public service announcement. As you know, I have been working on the World Partnership Walk. All my hard work culminates this Sunday, May 31st, when 2,000 people will gather at Mount Royal Park near Beaver Lake from 10am onwards. It's hard to tell at this point, but so far, I think our awareness-raising media and marketing efforts have been pretty successful!

You might have seen our street-level ads via Pattison outdoor advertising if you've parked your car in a parking lot along Ste-Antoine street in downtown Montreal or drive alongside the Bonaventure highway.

We've managed to get our PSAs on Global Montreal and CTV Montreal - I caught one on the latter earlier today and I got so very excited!! And, although CBC Montreal would have aired them, we had a few tape delays, which is most unfortunate. We were also able to get a web banner on KahnawakeNews.com. Plus, I made it on the Kevin and Trudie Show on CJAD 800 News last Friday for a quick segment on the World Partnership Walk. It was so great to speak with Trudie again... even if it was just over the air!

In terms of Walk Day activities, I volunteered myself as Stage Manager, which means that I get to do a lineup and script for our MCs, David Gutnick from CBC Montreal and Kimberley Sullivan from Virgin Radio 96. We have some dance items and music performances, and a great local DJ. Plus, we're gonna have a giant LED screen - think Bell Centre Jumbotron - with a live feed, which gets me excited in so many ways... I'm such a TV geek!!

Of course, the Walk itself is for an amazing cause: raising funds and awareness on global poverty. I'm so glad that we'll be able to celebrate our 25th anniversary in style!! As you all know, 100% of the funds go directly to projects and programmes organized by Aga Khan Foundation Canada that help people help themselves by increasing their quality of life and livelihoods. And to end my little pitch: it's not too late to get involved or raise funds: Simply log on to www.WorldPartnershipWalk.com and register as an Ambassador or with a Team. Of course, the easy way to contribute is to make a donation sponsoring me for the Walk, which you can do super easily by clicking here!

In other news, I've joined the Journalism chapter of the Concordia University Alumni Association and attended my first meeting as an official member last night... I can't wait to help organize our great events next year!

Still waiting on Olympics opportunities for the 2010 Winter Games, whether it's via employment or volunteer involvement, through the host broadcaster or VANOC.

You can be sure that I'll keep you posted - even if it's with a delay - so stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Good news, everyone!

Yes, it's a Futurama reference.

But there is, indeed good news! Some bad news too... let's hit that first.

I applied for the 2009 Foreign Correspondents Programme organized by the government of Finland. It looks like a great, all (mostly) expense paid trip to the country I long to visit: an amazing experience with (probably) amazing people discovering the amazing sights, sounds, and corporations that are so inbred in Finnish culture. The annual program takes place in August, which is great, because Finland is kinda like Montreal in terms of weather (minus the humidity).

However, I wasn't selected for this opportunity.

No hard feelings, though, because there are so many sporting events happening in Montreal in August that it would have been a shame to have to refuse potential work and not be able to build contacts for more potential work because I was on the trip of a lifetime.

Hey, there's always next year, right?

Meanwhile, the job scene seems to be opening up for me. Just as I was posting one of many Facebook surveys I've filled over the years - stating that my wish for 2009 was to establish a better flow of work - I get a call from Dome about a work opportunity.

And here comes the good news, folks!

I've got my first Dome gig! I'm booked to work boxing at the Bell Centre in Montreal this weekend... and I can't wait!! It'll definitely be different than the usual hockey, which has become pretty straight forward after 3 years of doing the job. Boxing, however, is a whole different world. And it'll be interesting to work for a broadcaster other than CBC.

Just when I thought I was done being thankful for this chance to prove my worth on the TV tech production scene - ie, a day later, I get asked, booked, and confirmed to work the UFC event in Montreal in mid-April.

Two days, two gigs. Pretty awesome track record, huh?

I'm not expecting any calls tomorrow, but you never know ;)

I'm honestly really glad that things are kinda starting to fall into place. I love this industry and the people who work in it, and as much as I feel that I'm intellectual enough to do something more journalistic, this is where I want to be right now. Things change, though, and I'm keeping all my options open because I am interested in journalism and current affairs and documentaries and new media and social media and so much more...

... and one day, I'll probably switch gears and settle down with a nice full-time permanent job. Meanwhile, I'm going to keep playing the freelance game and hope work continues to pile up.

To TPTB: Thank you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On #IN09


What a whirlwind couple of days IN09 was! I really should have blogged about it earlier, but when I came home to Montreal, I also came home to a pile of work. Not that I'm complaining...

But I digress.

Last week, I flew to Toronto for The Interactive Exchange, formerly known as ICE, which took place from March 17 to 19, 2009.

It was amazing. I met so many interesting people with so many interesting thoughts, working on so many interesting projects. These people are truly innovative. They have experience being successful in our tumultuous times. They have great ideas about where the industry should be headed.

Sure most of the creative ideas came from social media types while traditional media emphasized that they wouldn't work as a business model... (Check out #IN09 on Twitter for all the fun.)

Still, an amalgamation of points from both sides might lead to sustainable platforms, both in terms of business and content. Don't ask me which points though... I'm not that smart!

Some highlights?

  • The huge use of Twitter. Including the Twitter wall and panelist David Crow tweeting while on stage for "Future of the Medium (2): The New Rules".
  • Meeting people I only knew online and making new contact who have become online friends.
  • Discovering the variety of opportunities in interactive media, from news to gaming to social networking.
  • Seeing what everyone else is planning, implementing, raving about, working on...
  • Realizing that ethnography, aka the socio-anthropological impact of anything online is what really interests me.
And most importantly...

Finding out that there IS hope for the industry. Even though a lot of the news-related panels were a bit defeatists, I'm actually more optimistic now than before because I know the depth of creativity and the willpower of all those involved in helping the industry survive... no matter how different it will look and feel once it emerges from the turmoil.

Every panel I attended, whether I was there by choice or because I was assigned to it - via my super sneaky plan to get into IN09 by volunteering - gave me a wealth of knowledge and helped me grow as an online media content producer and enthusiast. Some filled me with wonder and others with so much information that I'll probably take another couple of weeks to finish processing it all.

And so, while this post was meant to be super insightful and full of goodies you may have missed if you didn't attend IN09, I'm just gonna leave it at this. And maybe I'll revisit the topic in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, check out the Twitter stream. It's worth it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why I Walk

In the past few weeks, I have been donating all my extra time to a very important charity project. After years of sitting back and watching the event unfold, I have joined the World Partnership Walk organizing committee.

Those who have read my blog before already know about the cause. The Walk is an annual event in 9 cities across Canada to create awareness about global poverty and raise funds to find a solution to it. It's actually the largest international development fundraiser in the country, and 2009 marks its 25th anniversary!

Happy 25th, World Partnership Walk!

Of course, now comes the part where I reach out to you and ask you to contribute to the cause. You're probably expecting me to tell you some sob story about the extremely poor children in Afghanistan or Africa who live on less than $2 a day, some of the 3 billion people who do. Or maybe you think I'll try to convince you by telling you that the Walk can truly help transform the lives and livelihoods of some of the poorest countries in the world, giving them hope for the future.

Well, all that is true. But here's why you should support the World Partnership Walk:

Global poverty is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Even during these tough economic times, there are people poorer than you and I, more desolate and desperate. The recession is even tougher on them.

The truth is that fighting global poverty is a war, and one that we can all contribute to ending. Last year, 40,000 Canadians raised more than $5 million via the World Partnership Walk, and every cent of it went to AKFC - that's Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a non-denominational, not for profit organization - international development projects that help communities help themselves.

Every cent. There's 0 overhead.

The Walk is organized almost entirely by volunteers like myself who donate time and energy and sacrifice sleep (lots and lots of sleep) to help change the world and give hope to those less fortunate than ourselves.

This year, I know we're all strapped for cash. But we've shown in the past that being Canadian, being human, really, is being compassionate. Giving a little when we can't afford to give a lot, but hey, at least we're giving!

This year, I want you to WALK with me. I'll take your money, of course, because that's definitely an important step to eliminating global poverty. But I want you to join me on Mount Royal Park near Beaver Lake on Sunday, May 31st in Montreal (and most other Canadian cities), and walk the walk.

Why do I walk? Because I care. Because I can - and not because I have to for basic needs like food, water, education...

I walk because it's my little way of making a tangible impact.
Changing the world. Spreading hope. Being a hero.

Just like we always dreamed...

To help me reach my $1,000 fundraising goal, click on my personalized World Partnership Walk page at:

While you're there, maybe you can create your own page, and together, we can make the world a better place. And make sure to receive all the latest Montreal World Partnership Walk updates by following @WPWMtl on Twitter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Thoughts on #Obamawa

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who retweeted/linked to my blog on Watching #Obamawa. I'm looking at you, @mathewi. The extra traffic was amazing - and that's great for my ego!

//Silly economic downturn destroying media jobs... *grumble grumble*

Also, I'd like to thank @josephlavoie for pointing out that #Obamawa was most likely a hybrid between Obama and Ottawa. Duh! I totally should have figured that one out!!

And now that I'm done with housekeeping stuff, I just wanted to share a few more thoughts on the whole experience.

What worked with CBC's coverage of Obama's visit to Canada? What made it compelling enough to watch for hours, even as Peter Mansbridge himself laughed at the incredulity of the whole media waiting game?

It wasn't the coverage, per se, or the super cool camera angles (robo cam on microwave truck, anyone?), or having reporters actually stationed at various locations key to Obama's visit agenda. It was the personableness of the whole experience.

It was Mansbridge, really. (And his team of producers, directors, camera operators, audio and lighting techs, switchers, etc)

Seriously, though, it was the way Mansbridge included the audience and involved them in HIS experience of covering Obama. When he mentioned to Keith Boag that he couldn't hear him because the producers were talking in his ear. Or when he laughed at himself for filling time by reading the lunch menu. Or explaining why that microwave truck robo cam shot was so shaky, or how they listened to the tape of the GG/Obama photo op again to clarify what had been said.

It was his references to the whole team working behind the scenes to make the show fit for air, to provide content so we don't get bored and switch channels, and most importantly, to keep us caring about what Obama is up to at this very second.

Mansbridge, with his demeanor and openness, effectively invited the audience into his living room, into the studio, into his life. He shared a bit of the magic with viewers across the country and across the world at cbc.ca, and that's what kept us hooked.

Even for someone like myself who has been in studios and control rooms and worked on live productions, getting that extra bit of information is gold. Maybe it's even better for me, because I can actually hear the control room conversations and almost feel the stress of the live environment. But bringing the show to life by revealing little secrets about how much work actually goes into producing that kind of stellar content is what gives CBC, and Mansbridge, a boost. It's what makes it stand out from other broadcasters.

The only noticeable exception of the network acknowledging itself is the @cbcyourvoice Twitter account possibly purposefully choosing not to retweet comments about the quality or content choices of CBC productions, but rather only comments on the news that is actually being covered. Understandably, since they could argue that retweeting positive comments would force them to potentially damage the network by retweeting negative comments in a quest for balance. But I think the willingness to expose themselves to criticism in that way would only enhance their profile and increase the trust Canadians put in the CBC. But that's just my opinion.

Overall, CBC definitely stood out by its inclusion of basically all media types in its coverage of #Obamawa. Live online coverage, thanks to CoverItLive.com, some tweeting - though more would have been appreciated - by @cbcyourvoice, quick article and photo updates on cbc.ca, along with live camera feeds - which I still haven't figured out the whole production aspect of... Mobile or control room? More than one producer? - and of course, broadcasting on CBC local and CBC Newsworld, as well as CBC Radio One.

Quite a production, wouldn't you say?

Then again, would you expect any less for POTUS' first official visit?

Good job to everyone at CBC. I applaud you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watching #Obamawa

Today, POTUS Barack Obama made his first foreign visit of the presidency to our wonderful northern country.

As Canada hosted #Obamawa - a Twitter term coined by the Ottawa Citizen and that I still don't completely understand - I decided to watch how people were watching the event.

So I set myself up with CBC Newsworld, the cbc.ca live camera feed, a tweet grid with the #Obamawa and #CBC search terms, and, of course, my TwitterFox running at full capacity.

And wow! What a science experiment!

It was so interesting to see people react, not only to what was going on in Ottawa, but to CBC's coverage of it. For example, when CBC's Rosemary Barton squealed on live TV that she'd seen Obama, the tweets came rushing in. Some people thought it was unprofessional and made comments like

@photofour: Prez Obama in Canada...waiting to see how many CBC reporters faint...
CBC broadcasters, professional journalist & newsreader, descend into a flurry of giggling and awkwardness. #obamawa

While others, like myself, thought it was a great moment of transparency, and exactly what live TV is all about... It showed viewers that yes, reporters are human beings too, and it's not always easy to be objective.

Another great moment? The interviews on the Hill. CBC's Susan Bonner was sort of put on the spot to help fill while Obama and Harper were meeting... and was confronted with loads of people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes, it went really well, but at other times, well, not so much. Here are some of the reactions I saw to that:

@sushiboy21: CBC seems unaware that black people can actually be born and live in Ottawa. #obamawa
@MizJJ: I love how CBC is trying to find any and every black person to talk too. Did she just ask a black boy if he was Canadian?!? #obamawa
@idarknight: #obamawa Senior on CBC - "I saw a man who will put the world right" - kids: he's inspiring - that is a leader for you, regardless of state
@pmikeyreid: Best answer to the "What brought you here to see Obama Today?" question: A Car. - A couple from Chicago on CBC
@JordanCournoyea: Wow CBC interviewing people at Parliment is a train wreck
@CraigSilverman: CBC interviews with the crowd were a bit messy but I found myself smiling the entire time. It shouldn't seem scripted. #obamawa

Some of the tweets show how despite living in a world of 24h news and live streaming events, a lot of people still don't understand how it works "in real life". A reporter MUST look for the story, and when there's no time for pre-interviews or a pre-screening process, it's tough to make sure you get good content on the air. My take? It was a painful situation to be in, and she handled it really well. BUT, I totally would have had an intern around to help screen candidates.

Another golden moment? The lunch menu incident. This really got the tweeters going. While Harper and Obama were meeting - and CBC was waiting for the 20 second photo op though the special programming should have been off air already - Peter Mansbridge was forced to fill. Because interviews on the Hill are nice and all, but it gets old. Fast. Here's how Twitter reacted to that, starting with my tweets:

@starshine_diva: Love that Mansbridge puts his glasses on to read the menu... and then complains about filling air time with it. LOL!! @cbcnews #Obamawa
@starshine_diva: Mansbridge looks like he can't believe he's trying to fill with lunch menus. Ah, 24h news. Love it. #Obamawa @cbcnews

Meanwhile, around the tweet-o-sphere:

@saleemkhan: 1207ET "I can't believe I'm reading all this but you know, we do have to fill time." - CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge reading #Obama lunch menu
@pferguson: I love how Mansbridge on CBC laughs at himself and the situation that he "has to fill time" when he discusses the lunch menu #obamawa
CdnFoodieGirl: Listening to the menu for Obama's lunch in Ottawa today. It's funny to hear Peter Mansbridge read from a menu. #obamawa
@seven24: Peter Mansbridge (@cbcnews) is reading the lunch menu. Now Keith Boag is analyzing the ingredients. I think its lunch time. #obamawa

Of course, this excercise was not only interesting to me from the social media perspective, but from the production perspective, and my tweet stream definitely shows that. What I loved about this experience was seeing people react to what I was seeing - and noting what made them tick. What they loved, what they laughed at, and what discouraged them. And seeing it all in real time was a wonderful comment on society, and a great way to share this historic event with a community, albeit a bunch of people online whom I don't really know and probably never will.

And on that note, here are some random tweets I really enjoyed from the day:

@jpappone: #obamawa Watching CBC TV's coverage of Obama's visit, I am left wondering: Newspapers really think they need to compete with this idiocy?
@geenalyn: Obama is visiting Canada today, CBC kids programs have been interrupted for the coverage. My son, age 4 just said "there's barack obama"
@blankwhitewall: The people on the CBC are gushing over Obama like old ladies at a Clay Aiken concert. Calm down Canada calm down. He's gonna think ur uncool
@eleckie: I love CBC's Obama news coverage - "this just in, nothing new has happened for 20 live minutes."
@gilliebee: I was hoping that Harper would turn on the charm. Maybe that switch is broken? #obamawa

On CBC vs CTV vs CNN:

@datachick: How important is #obamawa to US? @CNN is covering Clinton's arrival in Seoul instead.
#obamawa - CBC Newsworld: good coverage capturing the excitement, live hits from the hill and stuff. _boo_CTV, bunch of talking heads
fail CTV #obamawa coverage requires me to install Silverlight. Hello CBC...how do you do

Bonus? @cbcyourvoice picked up one of my tweets:

starshine_diva: I wonder what they do with the decoy limo when they reach their destination. How do you camouflage a limo and lookalike?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Losing the Right to Play

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I'm kinda into sports. If you've payed attention, you also know I hope for nothing but the best for the world, and so, support many good-doing initiatives.

One of my favourite charities, understandably, is Right to Play. Sound familiar? Zdeno Chara just raised $24,000 dollars for the organization by winning the Hardest Shot competition at the 2009 NHL All Star Game this past weekend in Montreal. Some of your other favourite athletes might have mentioned it in an interview at some point.

RTP combines education with fun by helping children learn through sport. Their aim, as per their website, is "creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play." Now who wouldn't love that?

Apparently, the International Olympic Committee doesn't think that's good enough anymore. Since 2000, RTP has been allowed access into the Althlete's Village at Olympic Games to speak to the athletes and raise awareness for the cause - hoping to engage them into becoming Right to Play Ambassadors. These ambassadors help spread the word about RTP and its goals, via conferences, fundraising, and trips to Third World countries (that are occasionally covered by various media partners).

Since the IOC decided not to renew it's Memorandum of Understanding with Right to Play, the charity finds itself lacking a primary means of recruitment and fundraising. This is a huge blow, a gazillion steps back from all the progress it has accomplished in the past few years. Where in 2004 nearly no one was aware of its existence, RTP is now highly respected and recognized around the world as an organization of value, thanks to Olympic athletes like Clara Hughes, Chantal Petitclerc, Kyle Shewfelt, Adam Van Koeverden, Donovan Bailey, Beckie Scott, Hayley Wickenheiser, Catriona Le May Doan, so many more...

The list is endless - and that's just from the Canadian website. Whole sports teams and leagues, as well as corporations, have officially partnered with Right to Play.

The problem, according to this article published by the Lethbridge Herald, is that the IOC wants to focus on its own similar programs. It still supports Right to Play's activities though. Isn't that's sweet?

Apparently, the whole controversy boils down to, what else? Money! It's a sponsorship issue.

Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail writes that when the Vancouver Organizing Committee learned that RTP had managed to sign a major sponsorship deal with Mitsubishi Motor Sales - which, if you're keeping track, is a major competitor to Vancouver Olympics' major sponsor General Motors - VANOC and GM were "worried that Mitsubishi was going to use its sponsorship with Right to Play as a way of getting Olympic exposure."

A deal of sorts was struck between VANOC and Right to Play, whereas Mitsubishi's name wouldn't appear on promotional material distributed during the Games or on the RTP website during that two week period. But somehow, the IOC got involved and the final decision was a resounding "NO!"

There's no denying that this charity is legit and that it does accomplish good. In fact, its aims are truly allied with the IOC's, whose website says one of the goals of the Olympic movement is to "contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind."

Wouldn't that goal be easier accomplished by associating with an organization like Right to Play? I think so.

However, complaining and trying to raise awareness about how wrong this brusque denial really is will not help Right to Play promote its message worldwide. Instead, as regular citizens of the world, all we can do is join the movement and hope for the best.

Help make the world a better place through Right to Play, click here to donate one time or once a month, whatever your budget can handle.

And don't forget! A donation makes a great gift!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome, 2009!

While I did want to write a blog post about my crazy weekend in Tremblant with a few friends, the time has come for a recap of 2008 post.

(For the record, the Tremblant story included setting off the house alarm, being stuck in the driveway because of freezing rain and slippery roads, having no food and sending two of our folk out to the grocery store in a taxi - then the taxis stopped running and they had to beg a good Samaritan for a lift most of the way home. Oh, and the spa jets spewing everywhere because it wasn't full - or warm - enough.)

< /2008>

2008 was a year full of endings and new beginnings. Some of my bittersweet endings include finishing school and temporarily losing my HNIC job. But endings are simply the door to new beginnings, and those were simply awesome.

There was working the playoffs for HNIC in Toronto and making a bunch of new friends in the process, then the week in Calgary for National ISTAR, which also included being part of a documentary on Stampede and caveing in Canmore. In August, I worked on the Beijing Olympics, which was a great experience work-wise and for my personal life. I earned a lot of confidence on and off the job thanks to this stint in Toronto. I made and strengthened friendships, some of which will last a lifetime. I also learned a lot about myself, and grew emotionally - though not always due to positive events.

August was also the impeding doom month, health-wise. On 06/08/08, I broke a tooth biting into soft pastry. On 08.08.08, aka, Opening Ceremonies, I had an acid attack and wound up in the hospital. I had additional dental issues throughout the year, but nothing too crazy - just expensive!

The Fall was odd for me because I didn't go back to school. Instead, I travelled to Kingston to visit Ryan, worked at HNIC for the beginning of the Habs Centennial season, went to Toronto for the Golden Jubilee Darbar, then back to Kingston for Ryan's graduation. I also went to NYC for Labour Day week(end), visiting my cousin at school.

I also made it to Ottawa earlier this week for the World Junior Hockey Championship, seeing Team USA vs. Kazakhstan at Scotiabank Place. It was the second time I made it to Ottawa in 2008 (or was that 3 times?), since I met up with a bunch of Habs fans in the Capital City for Habs @ Sens for Hockey Day in Canada.

This past year was also a good year for boys. And that's all I'll say on that topic ;)

So much happened in 2008, and as you can tell, I can't remember most of it - especially the early stuff.

But what I do know is this: 2008 was a year of change and growth, whether professionally or personally, emotionally or rationally.

Overall, there were a lot more positives in this past year than negatives, and I hope that 2009 will continue this upward trend... despite being faced with a series of depressing events in late 2008.

So, 2009, I welcome you with open arms. Maybe this will be the year I accomplish my destiny!