Monday, September 30, 2013

Some Poetry For Your Monday

I don't write a lot of poetry, and most of what I do write is pretty bad. I did write a poem last year when I was in the Philippines that I kind of like. (I mean, it's not perfect). But I like it because when I read it, it brings me right back to sitting over the soccer field at the school, listening to the sounds of the city.

sounds of manila

I sit

The city
a giant star-pricked quilt
folds over my knees
and covers
the feet of my ears

I listen to the percussion,

Barking dogs
obnoxious horns
the phlegmy roar of
motorcycle engines

an indistinct monster of noise

and above that,
the tinkle of children laughing
as they play
in the streets
tsinelas slap-slapping on the bottoms
of calloused brown soles

and the music:

operatic women exalting Mary,
skirt-twirling Spanish celebration
braided roughly
into one
My heart does not swell at the sound because
there are no violins
this is not a symphony
but the sound
of people


The other poem I like is not very good with language or really anything, but I like it because I figured it out that you read each line down, and then back up again to the top and it actually makes sense. It actually took quite a long time to figure out. (I think it's called a palindrome poem?) To read it, you read each individual line down and then read each individual line back up to the top.

Letting Go

I want you to never
come back
walk out of sight
tear your eyes from sunlit horizons
while you are trudging onward
open your eyes to the world
think of me
warm your heart
with the sunlit horizon
forget everything you once held here
but don’t

Monday, September 16, 2013

5 Things I Found Weird Upon Returning to Canada

A few months ago, I stood on Canadian soil again for the first time in 10 months. Those 10 months I spent in the Philippines, working at international school (if you don’t know that already). It was really good to be home, but it was definitely a switch!
It was a lot less of a culture shock than I expected, but that makes sense since I only spent 10 months of my life so far in the Philippines and 18 years in Canada. Still, there were a few little things that threw me (and still kind of do). I thought I’d share those things with you, and in doing so give you a glimpse into little bits of my life in the Philippines.

Things I thought were weird when I got home:

1.    Hearing Canadian accents.

My first entry into Canada was in Vancouver before we were to catch our connecting flight home, and there was a woman volunteer guiding us in the right direction, and the last thing I expected to come out of her mouth was a Canadian accent, but it was there! I mean, it makes no sense that I would think that, because I was in Canada but...

...the Philippines is on the other side of the world from North America, so it isn’t a popular tropical vacation destination for North Americans. Why fly for 24 hours when you can get to Cuba in four? Also, Americans are everywhere because there are so many of them, and there are not very many Canadians. Basically, if you see a white person (which is rare enough), they are American unless proven otherwise by their accent or other distinguishing characteristics.

In short, I was not used to hearing Canadian accents, so it surprised me when I did hear them! (Also, when I see people wearing Canada shirts, I still think in my head excitedly, They’re wearing a Canada shirt!! And then I remember that I’m actually currently IN Canada and it makes sense and I do not need to bond with them in my head over being from the same country and finding each other on the other side of the world).

I wore my Canada shirt climbing Mt Pinatubo... and met two Canadians as a result! Yay.

2.    A significant decrease in outdoor activity after 9 PM.

It was so weird to see stores closed and only a few people milling about on the streets once it got dark. In downtown Manila, there are ALWAYS people around and up and about, and always a lot of people, too. Seriously, you could get caught in the middle of a traffic jam at 4 AM. I guess that’s what happens in a city of around 16 million. It was still weird when I got home that the city actually quieted down and activity actually decreased at night.

3.    The weather!!!

This is probably the biggest one. In Manila, the temperature stays the same every day, and all day, only dropping a couple of degrees once the sun goes down. Once I got home, I kept forgetting that the temperature increases significantly throughout the day and decreases significantly into the evening.

In Manila, I would wake up, decide what to wear by how hot I was feeling at that moment, and be fine (albeit hot but that’s pretty much inevitable) for the rest of the day. Here, I have to think of how it might get warm later and layer and decide whether to suffer being cold or hot and remember to bring a sweater if I’m going to be somewhere after the sun goes down... the weather in the Philippines may be hot and humid, but at least it’s uncomplicated!

4.    Toilet paper in public washrooms.

There is no toilet paper in any public washroom in the Philippines, and sometimes even no toilet seat. Back home now, I keep forgetting that, and when I’m on the way to a public washroom I think in the back of my mind, Do I have Kleenex in my purse? And then realize that I don’t need it! There will be toilet paper in the stall! To be honest now that I’ve thought about it (and done it for a year), it’s not really that big of a deal to carry Kleenex in your purse and not have toilet paper in stalls. But it is a very nice luxury for North America to provide, that’s for sure.

5.    The weight of Canadian coins also threw me for a while, because it’s a lot lighter than the huge Philippine pesos and other coins.

So, these were a few things that threw me upon returning to Canada, but for the most part everything was actually completely normal and familiar – which was probably the weirdest thing of all!

Have you ever experienced culture shock in your own country?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More About Diversity in Fiction

First of all you should read this article on YA Interrobang, The Underappreciation of International YA Literature. (Side note: YA Interrobang is shaping up to pretty cool and you should definitely sign up for their mailing list!)

If you are not American, you probably understand and sympathize with the author of this article as I did, in that popular books or popular YA books originating from your country just don't have the same "universal" spread or popularity that American fiction does.

There are a lot of you Americans, so it makes sense that there are a lot of YA books. The U.S. also has very large influence over a lot of countries, especially when it comes to media and pop culture. In the case of Canada, American influence affects everything because of the shared border. I have nothing against Americans or American authors, I have lots of favourite books by American authors.

But isn't it fair to say that I want my experience in my country represented in more than just the odd book? Isn't it fair to ask that I don't have to go looking in every nook and cranny, hoarding Canadian fiction like a crazed collector, just so I can find something I relate to?

American fiction is great but it isn't representative of my experiences. Canada, despite all its similarities to the U.S., is quite a bit different, and to sum up some of the differences, quite a bit tamer. (Just look at the evidence in Canadian history...)

I think this issue extends to the issue of diversity in fiction.

I believe that diversity in fiction means representing not only different races or people with disabilities, but people with completely different experiences in life. Diversity should be representing EVERYTHING, so that EVERYONE has a book they can completely relate to. I can relate to some parts of American fiction, but never entirely because of that cultural and national barrier.

Everyone's experiences matter, or at least they should, no matter how different or singular they are.

I know I'm referencing Canada, but I'm sure (and the article linked to above is evidence) that people in other countries, probably every country except the U.S., feel the same way.

As you can probably tell, I'm not completely sure on all of my thoughts on this. I'd love to hear what you have to say or if you disagree and why and such. I'd love to hear more discussion of diversity in books, it's probably one of my favourite topics because I believe it is extremely important. (tl;dr: Please comment!!)

What does diversity in fiction mean to you?


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