Face of the Festival

March 10, 2012

Hey! So last night I entered a video to win the Face of the Festival competition to report on all the happenings at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival for Dose.ca next month.

The festival runs from April 13-22 in Whistler, and includes some awesome (FREE!) outdoor concerts, including The Dudes, Michael Franti (who I saw at the festival a few years ago, also on April 20), The Cat Empire, The Sheepdogs, and more.

If I win the Face of the Festival, I’ll get hooked up with a hotel stay for the duration of the festival, full access to everything that’s happening, and $1000.

The girl who won in 2009 was offered a job with Dose.ca after her stint, so clearly this opportunity would help with my burgeoning journalism career.

Round one of the competition started at 12am today, and goes until 9am March 15, when the five videos with the most views will be posted on the TWSSF’s Facebook Page to be voted on.

So if you would be so kind, please watch the video below (and feel free to share it far and wide, or watch it multiple times) to help me win! Many thanks!

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Katimavik Profile

December 14, 2011

The following is what I my interview with Will Ferguson was for (my Research business profile assignment on Katimavik). It’s not perfect, but at least it exists where it didn’t two days ago.

Visionary Jacques Hébert created Katimavik in 1977, intent on unifying Canada by bringing Anglo and Francophone youth together to explore Canadian diversity.

Inuktitut for “meeting place,” Katimavik is Canada’s leading national youth volunteer service program, with each project household consisting of 11 youth aged 17 to 21 chosen as a regional representation of Canadian society.

A project leader oversees each group, sharing living space, meals and experiences with the participants on a daily basis. The project leader liaises with local community projects where each participant holds a fulltime volunteer position, as well as with regional and head offices.

The program is unique in that it covers the cost of most expenses (including program and learning activities, food, housing, and travel), with only a minimal $50 application fee and a $175 fee for accepted participants.

Hébert died in 2007, but said in his 2001 travel book “Katima…What?” that “Katimavik [was] created . . . to wrench the greatest number of young Canadians from a life that’s lousy, selfish, closed to the world, whether they’re sons of the bourgeoisie, or daughters of the unemployed, students lost in the absurd mazes of our education system, or dropouts in the midst of despair, young people who still have ideals, or apprentice drug addicts who no longer believe in anything.”

Willing to die for his cause, Senator Hébert went on a 21-day hunger strike in the lobby of the Canadian senate in 1986 after federal funding was cut to the program. The funding cuts came at a time when the program had just expanded, from about 1000 participants in 1985 to 5000 the following year.

Hébert’s friends Jean Chrétien and Walter Baker came to his rescue, creating a private non-profit corporation to raise the necessary funds to keep the program going, though it would be reduced to an outdoor recreation training program until funding was reinstated in 1994.

Funding for the program continues to be mainly government-supported through the Department of Canadian Heritage, but plans are underway to diversify through corporate and private partnerships after accepting a multi-year financial deal that reduced resources. Downsizing certain aspects of the program followed, including closing two of five regional offices.

Katimavik has seen many changes in its 34 years. Starting with 33 participants its first year, lore has it that early participants had to build their own beds and some even claim to have worked at building their own houses while living in tents.

In just the past decade Katimavik has seen incarnations of seven- and nine-month programs taking participants to three different provinces, and has transformed into four six-month programs geared toward specialized experiences.

Today’s program choices are Cultural Discovery and Civic Engagement, Ecocitizenship and Active Living, Katimavik Horizons (wherein participants tailor the program to their group’s inclination based on Katimavik’s main objectives), and Second Language and Cultural Identity.

All projects seek to engage youth volunteers in experiential learning focused on civic engagement, healthy lifestyle choices, official languages, cultural discovery and environmental stewardship – skills meant to help them adapt and integrate back into their communities as civic participants after the program is complete.

Arguably Katimavik’s most famous past participant, author Will Ferguson completed the program in 1985, just shy of the political hoopla.

“My career path changed dramatically from political science to fine arts,” Ferguson said over the phone from his home in Calgary.

Forgoing his initial intent to pursue politics, which Ferguson almost laughed about today, Katimavik afforded him the chance to travel for the first time and exposure to the Canadian experience outside his small Northern Alberta town. Ferguson soon developed a love for Canada and travel that has since been channeled into several books, including “I Was a Teenage Katima-victim” based on his stint in the program.

“As time goes on and you look at the big picture, it’s a great experience,” he said in contrast of the scathing tone of his Katimavik memoir, which was based on his 19 year-old self’s voice as written in the journals his first project leader urged him to keep.

Ferguson said he still recommends the program to youth, and recently went to dinner with Theresa Mitchell, Katimavik’s Director of Resources Development, to discuss the program’s future.

Will Ferguson is among the 30,000 participants who have gone through the program since its inception, but Katimavik’s impact reaches much further than just its participants. Katimavik has changed countless lives for the better through interaction with work sponsors, community members, billet families, employees, and those who participants have volunteered to serve, whether they realize it or not.

Too Legit to Quit

December 13, 2011

So today was an awesome day (well mostly, but I’ll leave out the non-awesome).

First I woke up to a little write up about Tara and I on the VegNews website in the VegNewsDaily section, then I went to the library (always a good time), and this afternoon I got to realize a journalistic dream by interviewing author Will Ferguson.

I’ve wanted to write for VegNews since the first day I happened upon the June 2006 issue at the Chapters in Langley, so I always thought the first time I would see my name published in the magazine or on their website would be during the internship I’ve been planning on doing at their San Francisco headquarters ever since. Obviously this was a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a Monday morning.

So far we have three orders for Holiday Baskets for Harmless (2 of which are pretty huge), and today I began a dialogue with a producer about us bringing a film screening to Vancouver.

Dreams just kept coming true today, as I got a chance to talk to Will Ferguson, who was on my list of people to interview (which now that I think of it, should probably be a blog post in and of itself).

I’ve been a fan of Will Ferguson’s for a long time now, and have most of his books, including “I Was a Teenage Katima-victim,” which is about his experience in Katimavik. It’s also what inspired the interview, as I’m profiling the organization for an assignment for my Journalism Research class.

I wanted to know how the program shaped his life after he completed it, and it turns out it shaped his life in a big way.

Having never traveled before Katimavik, Ferguson was exposed to the Canadian experience outside his small Northern Alberta town and soon developed a love for Canada that has since been channeled into several books about trekking across this vast land of ours.

Initially intent on a career in politics, which Ferguson almost laughed about today, Katimavik redirected him to instead pursue a life in the arts.

Ferguson said all of his traveling and travel writing can be traced back to Katimavik, and that he was prompted to write the 1998 memoir by his publisher asking him for more Canadiana in the wake of his breakout success with his first book, “Why I Hate Canadians.” He recalled that he had notebooks documenting his time in the program, as he said, “our first Project Leader was really adamant that we keep a journal.”

So thank you, “Joyce,” wherever you are. The book really is an hilarious account of what life is like in Katimavik that other Katima-victims can relate to.

Will said he was torn about if he should remain true to the surprising bitterness and anger he found in his journals on closer look, or write from the perspective of time lapsing and seeing it as a great experience in the big picture. He decided to stick to his 19 year-old self’s experience, and anyone who has been in Katimavik and has read the book would likely attest that he made the right decision.

A lucky Katimavik group had the chance to dine with Ferguson after a writing event in Toronto he spoke at a couple of months back, and he said he was struck by how “Kids today are much cooler and more put together than we were” when he did the program in the 1980s, and that he noticed this group was “very articulate . . . very together. They got along as adults rather than kids.”

LAX to YVR

August 18, 2011

Alright. I haven’t written in quite a while now, even though I really, reeeeeeeally wanted to. I knew that if I did write something, I was sure to spill the beans I was busy buying at the market – some very, very magical beans.

Well, I’ve since planted those beans and am preparing to climb my new beanstalk out of here and onward to my new life.

It still holds true that Folk Fest was mind-blowing, and in need of a review, but I’ll save that for another day soon, and skip instead to the tale of California.

I felt incredibly empowered by my solo travel down to Los Angeles last month, from the flights I took all by my lonesome and lived to tell about, to all of the busing about that I did, and all the freedom I felt. I got to decide if and when I went to the beach (3 times – Manhattan twice, and the Santa Monica Pier), if I just wanted to walk around and explore, and I suppose I should have guessed this wouldn’t have registered as an if – I even took in a couple of libraries. I heavily considered moving to Santa Monica asap solely based on their mind-bending library – it had a whole wall that opened up into an outdoor courtyard! And a whole host of study rooms that I haven’t stopped thinking about since.

With all the car-free travel I was doing (and I think the total I spent on transportation for the 6 days I was down there came in at around $20!), I realized how much I miss public transport, and living in a city.

Still, I was rather shocked when I came home and was really excited to be on the Skytrain (I had parked on 20th, a block in from Cambie to save paying crazy parking fees at the Airport), and felt a mixing of emotions once I stepped out of the station in Vancouver. I was decidedly unimpressed with how cold it was, and glad I had had the good sense to change out of my shorts and flip flops and into jeans and runners at the airport, as well as thrilled to be in a city I really know my way around, but also really bummed to not be in California anymore.

In fact, I was downright grumpy about it, though I suppose that could be blamed on the incredible lack of sleep I was running on because I stayed up until 8:20 in the morning on my last night, which included getting kicked out of the hotel pool at 4 in the morning, spilled wine (but no whine or tears!), vegan fudgesicle overload, a 3D King Kong billboard adventure, getting kicked off the roof (I’m just realizing now how hilarious that is, since we’d already been kicked out of the pool…but we were just trying to watch the sunrise amid the incessant sound of airplanes taking off at 7am), and a mysterious man who kept just walking through or turning up like an extra really being put to work in a movie.

More shocking, though, was how I felt on my drive home from Vancouver to Squamish after a stop-off at the Naam. It hit me that I didn’t want to go home to Squamish. It wasn’t yet clear to me that I wanted to be in Vancouver – that would take a couple more days – but it was clear that I no longer wanted to be in Squamish.

I should probably back up a little here and talk about the Animal Rights National Conference itself. While some of the others in my group seemed to always be telling me about how sad a session they had gone to had made them, I had the exact opposite experience. For the most part, I was just inspired by the discussion panels and talks that I went to. But then, maybe that’s because I was choosing carefully to find what looked like it would inspire me.

Highlights for me were Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, especially her contribution to the panel about how to avoid activist burn-out, Co-Founder of PETA Alex Pacheco, Co-Founder of Food Not Bombs Keith McHenry (who, funnily enough, I actually had an interview lined up with for our first week back after the conference, but didn’t know that he was a Co-Founder, or that he would be at the conference), and a woman who was from Amnesty International who I saw talk 2 or 3 times, and who made a lot of really great points and comparisons between animal rights and human rights, though it was disappointing to hear that while she is an animal rights activist, Amnesty International doesn’t have a policy or standing on animal rights issues.

I think the person I would have to say had the most impact on me, though I didn’t particularly feel it at the time, was Will Potter, who is a journalist and author. When I saw him at ‘Lunch with the Movement Authors,’ I just felt sort of in awe and like, ‘Whoa. This guy is a journalist. I wish that was my life.’

So many stories I heard over the course of the conference left me feeling like what I was doing in my life, and especially with my job, simply wasn’t fulfilling enough in my advocating for animals. Work is so much a part of most people’s lives, it’s vital to your own sanity and sense of self that you do something you care about and feel passionately about. At least for me this is certainly the case. I have a lot of passion for things like music, social issues, the environment, and bettering yourself through means other than chasing material goals that I want to express and share with the world, but don’t feel I have a ‘platform,’ if you will, to do so from.

I was so struck simply by Will Potter’s presence how much more impact I could have for animals if I were to come at the issues from a different angle, a different place in the world. I don’t want to be hosting a vegan show that has appeal mostly to vegans, vegetarians, or very open-minded and veg-curious people. I want to reach out to the closed-minded people. I want to bear witness in a way that’s more just living by example, showing what it’s like to be a vegan and how it fits seamlessly into your life once you hit a certain point. I especially want to share with the world that there is so much more that I and all other vegans and animal rights activists are capable of taking interest in and being passionate about outside of those issues.

I continued to feel all of that once I was home, and after 2 days in bed feeling extremely depressed, I crawled out and looked into my crystal ball of an email inbox and found a message from last November from Anne Roberts, the Department Chair of the Langara School of Journalism that I hadn’t responded to at the time because I was too consumed with my Grandmother’s impending passing, and then the subsequent grief once she was gone.

I decided I might as well ask, and emailed her to see if she might be available to try again for a meeting (as I had tried last fall, but she had an emergency to tend to and forgot about our meeting), and she said that I could call her to discuss any questions I had. From there it was a bit of a whirlwind. I don’t know what made her even let me try, since the application deadline was sometime in April and there were already people on the waitlist for the program (which only accepts 24 students a year), but I’m truly grateful for her decision to take a chance and let me have mine.

I set up an appointment a couple of days later to write the entrance exam, submitted my high school transcripts and paid my application fee, then sent in my resume, writing samples and letter of intent. Last Thursday morning I woke up to an email with the subject line ‘Surprise,’ and proceeded to cry tears of joy. Twice.

I have been accepted into the two year Journalism Diploma Program, and will start classes on September 6th. I’d say I’m only some 7 or 8 years late, but I know that’s not the case. I can see it by the way everything has been coming together that this is exactly how it should happen, and that it was always going to happen. I know that, and have always known that. I’m just so over the moon that it’s finally here, and thrilled to bits to really pursue what I’m best suited to.

I’ve given my notice at work – August 31st will be my last day – and today I let my Co-Host at Animal Voices know that I think it’s also time for me to part ways with the show. That could be a whole other entry on it’s own, but I just don’t feel like I’m growing anymore within my role. Though I do feel like I would like to explore other avenues in the near future, maybe something like a podcast so that I can create whatever kind of show I want, including social justice issues and especially music, without having to feel regulated by any prescribed format or necessary standards.

I’ve also been checking Craigslist daily for suitable places to live, and a suitable person to live with. I’ve made a poster announcing my intention to find a vegan roommate to seek a new place to cohabitate together, and intend to put it up at veg restaurants and places around Vancouver.

So, am I full of beans? You bet I am!

Okay, so I know I’ve been writing about the most epic of roadtrips of my dreams from Squamish to Cali and back – but here’s the thing: I was totally terrified of realizing that dream.

I know, I know – it happens to the best of us. So exactly what happened? I have no doubt that all of my pent up, months’ long anxiety about the trip caused it to implode on itself.

I’m actually relieved that I will now be departing via plane (even though plane trips generally make me feel rather sick and ‘off’ for some time afterward) from Vancouver to Los Angeles tomorrow morning come 9am. I’ll be back on Canadian soil – or rather, airport flooring – as of 9pm next Monday evening. Hopefully I`ll be able to get some beach time in there, and actually see at least a few of the LA sights this time around (it`s still a sour spot for me that no one would get out of the car the first time I was in LA, other than to use the washroom at a Burger King before high tailing it back to the Disneyland bubble of Anaheim).

I even just secured care for my cat Ruby (talk about last minute…but that`s generally how I roll) while I`m away. Now I just have to pack. And clean my house so that I don`t think about it constantly while I`m gone. At least I really like to do dishes. My iPod is loading, and I`m just about outta here.

Now I`m going to have to not only admit to myself, but recognize my travel (and otherwise) capabilities from now on. Here`s hoping the results will manifest themselves in the form of my other epic roadtrip-of-my-dreams from here to Toronto and back for Canadian Music Week next year, and then if all goes well with that, down to San Francisco to the Power to the Peaceful festival next September, as I have to admit I was disappointed it was postponed this year.

Here`s to the next 6 days of learning about animal rights activism, networking, and soaking up some real summer sunshine (since it`s been severely absent here in Squamish and often Vancouver of late).

…above the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’ve been caught up in trying to get caught up on work to where I can feel marginally comfortable leaving things for two weeks while I Folk around at the Vancouver Folk Festival (July 15th-17th) before departing for California the next morning, and not returning till July 29th.

On my way into Vancouver from Squamish this afternoon to pre-record what turned into just one episode (it was supposed to be two, but it took us about 3 1/2 hours just to crank out one compilation episode, so we packed it in ‘early’ at 5:15pm), I was driving over the Lions Gate Bridge and overtaken by an internal feeling best described as soaring that I get when I’m really excited or in love with something thinking about how soon I will FINALLY be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge instead.

A lifetime of waiting is soon to come to fruition. Hopefully I can wrangle some good pictures out of this upcoming epic endeavour. I’m also planning on taking my video camera that my parents recently gave me, though I can’t promise that it will be as or any more incredible than the time I went to Tacoma (I only ever wrote the second ‘part’ of what I think I envisioned to be a three or four part series before I forgot exactly how everything went down) – or the time I Pimped Laura’s Mailbox, for that matter. One can only hope.

Side note – re-reading through all my old blog posts just now to find the ones about Tacoma was a beautiful gift of self-reflection. I certainly swore a lot more a few years ago, but it’s really cool to be able to see what things I may have made some headway on, as well as see what things I still want now and where they originated (like a Smart car – I didn’t realise it had been 5 years).

And will be California Dreamin’ no more.

Alright, that’s probably not true. Chances are pretty good that post Epic Road Trip I will only and always be California Dreamin’.

My countdown stands at 38 days until I leave Squamish (or possibly Vancouver, I haven’t exactly decided just yet) and head south for the Animal Rights National Conference put on by FARM USA to get my education on.

First stop will obviously be Seattle, but probably not for very long. I’m thinking long enough to find a Trader Joe’s (which I’ve never been to) if I haven’t already stopped at one before I hit Space Needle City to stock up on supplies, then Mighty-O Donuts for fuel to spur me on to Portland!

I’m so excited for Portland! To my clear knowledge I’ve never been there – I do recall a trip that my family took in our motor home down to see my Mom’s aunt in the states when I was 9 or 10ish, but I don’t really know where that was (she’s moved a couple of times). I don’t think we left Washington.

The heart palpitations I feel for Portland are only slightly dwarfed by how over the moon I am that I’ll be going to San Francisco the next day, before continuing on to Los Angeles.

I can’t wait to put my inklings to the test and find out once and for all if San Francisco really is where my heart would like to call home. Don’t worry, I’ll be coming back to Canada – for now. I’m not yet ready for such a huge shift as a cross-boarder move. The up-the-highway move to Squamish from Vancouver last August is still plenty enough living by the seat of my pants for me for right now.

Golden Gate, here I come!

Save Me San Francisco

I’m also looking forward to all the good vegan eats from here to LA and back, as well as my return trip travel mates’ and my plan to visit Farm Sanctuary on the way home, and hopefully VegNews if they’ll let us.

If you’re reading this and have suggestions of places I (as right  now it looks like I’ll be travelling solo on the way down) or we (on the way back) should stop between Vancouver, BC and Los Angeles for good vegan eats or other vegan-related goodness, please do let me know in the comments!

I’m sure I’ll be letting everyone know how the trip goes, even if not until I get back at the end of July.