Victoria’s Chinatown and other charming heritage sites

As with every architecture in the city of Victoria, the stones used to construct the entrance of Chinatown is pristine. It was like, it was designed yesterday. I walked through the entire Chinatown in five minutes. Well, until I figured out the hidden alleyways that are so narrow, it’s easy to miss. It makes the experience more interesting. Since the only chinatown I’m familiar with is the one in Toronto, I really was expecting more shops, more places to eat, street vendors, and the chaos that often comes with the place, which of course makes for great bargaining. This China town could be packaged in a museum, the way it was so perfect. Across the street was a Chinese school that children go to learn about their Chinese culture. I observed two mothers speaking in there own tongue outside the school, as they held their little ones’ hands. I didn’t stop for food, but I bet that’s why later that night, I was craving Chinese food.

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I eventually saw the same city tour bus passed by me, but I felt that taking my time to experience more of the city on foot was best. After I left Chinatown, I went to Market Square. None of these places are by any means extravagant in size. I managed to walk through the square in a short time. Maybe, the experience would be lovelier in the summer months as I saw there was a performance stage in the centre. There were cute shops and patios on the second story to have lunch. It makes for a cute hang out spot (if it wasn’t so cold and windy).  On my way back, I saw the Eaton Mall. You can bet this mall was not your ordinary modern mall. The designs are Victorian in nature as well. The mall had all the stores you would expect to find in any shopping mall. But, the architecture was stunning, much like the entire city.

READ MORE: I have come home.  

What I love about the experience of walking through the downtown is that, every building has kept its original architecture. The following day, while on the City Bus (…I almost missed it again!), I learnt that all the hotels, stores, and any building was preserved as a historical site. So for decades to come, every owner of these buildings will not be able to completely change the look and feel of this beautiful city. The tour guide told us the history of one famous hotel. The hotel has kept its original design, with with many changes of owner, no one has stayed in there for 75 years, and no profit. The recent owner added to it, but is not allowed to change the original bricks. From the Chinatown, to native landmarks, to Victorian built, they have all been preserved as part of the historical look and feel of this charming city.

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I felt safe and comfortable to walk around as a single woman of colour. The city had a little bit of diversity creeping in ever so slowly, it’s easy to miss it. I saw a biracial young girl working at the Rexall pharmacy and the following day when I went back to the pharmacy, there was an Asian woman. When I was walking through China town, I saw many Asian people. I didn’t see many other races, outside of Caucasian.  Like I said, it was easy to miss the diversity. I chatted up a few strangers, one was an ex-police officer working at the legislative assembly. I shared with him what I do for a living, and he was encouraging me to apply for jobs in British Columbia. I would say that the people are just as charming as the city. Also, the city seems to care a great deal about its retirees. I learnt on the tour bus that special care in height of buildings have been taken into consideration for accessibility reasons. With the fact that the city has a mild winter, it’s surrounded by the pacific ocean, and everyone has a green thumb, all makes for a beautiful place to live or vacation or even retire! I honestly must say that this city is a must see for anyone who loves the sun and sea!

Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill

The following day was Saturday. I woke up early and made time for my morning devotions before I head out. The idea was that I would go with the flow. Allow each day to plan itself. I dressed and went out for breakfast. The Starbucks on the top of the hill looked inviting, so I ordered a cup of Matcha Latte and bagel with cream cheese. If it wasn’t raining so much, I would have taken my meal to sit in front of the exquisite Legislative assembly I visited yesterday. Instead I sat inside. When I finished eating I walked by the harbour (everything is near the harbour). Looking at the castle-like structure that spans acres of land is breath-taking. The Empress Hotel sits on the left of the street and by itself makes you feel like you stepped into another era. That’s where the city tour bus was parked. I wanted to take the city tour, its just that now I was in the mood to walk, yes, in the rain. 

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A quick chat with Derek and his colleague helped me to create a mini-plan. I would go to the Beacon Hill Park and wait for the City Tour Bus. It would take two hours they said, but “I don’t know if there is that much to do at the Park other than feeding the birds” Derek said. Still, I thought I would find something. It was about 11am when I left. The bus begins the tour at 12pm. “We’ll wait for you at Beacon Hill at 12:40.” They handed me their schedule. The Beacon Hill park is located 15 minutes away from downtown. The rain just continued to drizzle. My favourite sight was seeing the peacocks all sitting on a fence with their heads in their feathers to shield  from the rain or cold. I was lost in thought as I strolled around. I loved that everything was so new to me. I saw a little house that was preserved because it was made in the Victorian era. 

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

“This amazing jewel in the heart of BC’s provincial capital was officially recognized as a park in 1882 and named for the two beacons that are strategically located atop a hill providing a navigational aid for vessels approaching Victoria’s Inner Harbour. These consisted of a blue triangle and a green square and acted as a warning to sailors for it they were able to see the square through the triangle, it meant that they were on Brotchie Ledge and in trouble.” Read more.

There was a mixture of tropical plants and typical Canadian trees all around such as Arbutus, Western Red Cedar, Garry Oak, Birch, Douglas-fir, willow and more. There are bridges and ponds everywhere and cute terraces for picturesque moments. It was freezing cold. Not wintry cold, just the annoying discomfort of rain and wind on a gloomy day. Other people were out too, jogging, walking their dogs, or their kids. Normally the children’s zoo with farm animals would have been opened but it’s close now since summer is over.

Beacon Hill, Victoria, BC

By the time I circled the Park, it was only 11:45. Did I want to wait for an hour in the cold? Hm, I opted to walk back to the Empress Hotel where the City Tour Buses were. Derek was right, there wasn’t much to do. It would have been more beautiful to stare at during the summer months. Would I make it back in time before the bus departed? I headed in the direction but with no haste in my step. I didn’t plan to hurry though my vacation. I found myself walking towards the back of the legislative assemble building and towards the front. It was approximately 12:10 and I didn’t see the bus across the street. I expected as much. I continued on walking on the harbour and decided right there and then, next stop, China town!

READ MORE: Anne of Green Gables, Nova Scotia

 

Travelling post Covid-19

There is nothing like putting your job on hold, in order to make time for travelling. Travelling for me is more like a calling. When I go to a new place, I don’t merely go so that I can “have fun.” I immerse myself in the new city or country by going for long hikes, strolling through museums, and reading every plaque I see. Overall, I try to gain understanding of the history of the place, and I use my senses to get a feel of the people and their culture. Whether the people are nice, laid back, busy urbaners or homogeneous in nature. As a black woman walking into an all white location, I am curious how I am perceived. Are eyes darting in my direction, or are the people oblivious of my presence?

Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC

In the City of Victoria, my very first interaction (well outside of the airport and the rental car company) was with the hoteliers. There were two receptionist at the front. One lady with dark eye liner circled all around her eyes stared right through me. It’s like she was caught like a deer in the headlights. Was she nervous in my presence? Or was she new at her job? I stopped looking at her because she was making me nervous. The other receptionist tended to me hastily. My questions were answered abruptly, but not disrespectful. There was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Plus, I was going with my new mantra “let it go, let it go….” It must have been the elephant or more appropriately, “the deer” in the room. My room was just as I expected; two beds, a clean spacious bathroom, and a large enough window with a view of the public library. That was more of a personal taunt for me, “More room to write in case the desk with the office chair and the dining table with two chairs wasn’t enough.”

READ MORE: Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

The first thing I did after settling in was to go for a stroll. It was too nice a day not to go out. Plus, I had just been given three hours extra because of the time zone difference. Only 1pm in the afternoon and a full day ahead of me. I didn’t really know where I was headed. From the Quality Inn Hotel where I was staying, I turned on to Blanchard and then Yates which took me down to Wharf street, where the harbour was located. Out on the horizon was the lake. I saw signs pointing to the Songhees walkway. This is what I love about exploring new places. The brain is working overtime trying to piece its surroundings together. With no previous point of reference, each new observation becomes just that. The sun disappeared, and the rain came down in a quick drizzle. The sky was covered with grey clouds. Hard to tell whether this is what normal is for Victoria. I was at least glad that my long black rain coat kept me dry and warm. When the rain poured on, I covered my head with my hood and carried on…30 mins, 45 mins, another 1 hour, who knows. I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was headed. I finally stopped to ask these strangers how long the Songhees walkway went for. “Another 10-15 minutes” the blonde woman said, “There are riveotters at the end, they are so cute.” “I’m sorry, what?” “They are like big rats.” She responded. “Oh, River Otters.” After we said our good byes, I carried on…crossing a bridge, the sea on both sides. I was looking for those Otters now. Even though I didn’t see them, I saw a lot of logs in the water. I wondered if the Otters were responsible for bringing them there.

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I finally arrived at the end, “Fisherman’s Wharf.” I saw boats galore. Did people live in them? I decided to head back because it would be another 45 minutes walk for me. But halfway on my journey I stopped at Spinnakers for lunch. The restaurant sat on the lake/sea. I asked the greeter to place me by the window. The restaurant had a rustic and idyllic charm. Wait was that a moose walking through the grass? Did any one else saw it? It disappeared in the bushes and no sooner it returned, I saw it disappear again around the corner of the trail. No one else seem the least bit perturbed by this animal. And I was too stunned to get my camera fast enough to take a photo. Maybe that’s normal around here…

I did the wise thing and ordered dinner to go. Only an Ontarian would ask for the LCBO apparently! The locals corrected me, that there were no LCBOs in BC. I have now been schooled. I grabbed a bottle of Moscato and cocoa truffles for dessert. Before dinner, I went for a swim in the pool.

READ MORE: Adventures on Prince Edward Island

My Friday night was complete. Dinner and movie in bed in a new Province and City. What more can I ask for? Another dream has come true. For a few years now, I’ve been talking about going to see the many different Provinces of Canada. In 2018, I began that journey when I went to the east coast. Three years later, with several months of Covid-19 restrictions, I made it happen again. I am in beautiful British Columbia!

Stay tuned for more on this journey to the West Coast!

Experience your inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly placesEphesians 1:3

What is it like to know that we have inheritance beyond this earth? This thought must be difficult to fathom especially if we’ve always lived a life of lack. I have read Ephesians many times, but when isolated, this verse struck a cord within me. What does Paul mean by “every spiritual blessing”? What are these spiritual blessings or inheritances? Personally, I think they are vast and undefined. Inheritance could be everything and anything our mind can conceive of and even those that we haven’t yet fathom with our faculties. My other question is, what does Paul mean by “heavenly places”?

When I think of the heavenly places I think of an eagle soaring in the sky. The far out of reach heights that we cannot go by our own will, because we need the help of the Holy Spirit to take us there through prayer. Or said another way, we need faith to get to the heavenly places, because it is beyond our natural reach.

The Apostle Paul, therefore acknowledges and appreciates God, the Father because this is where our spiritual gifts come from. Do we know this truth? Perhaps if we knew, we would be on our knees even more to approach the giver of spiritual gifts…

But, what happens when we pray to the Giver and He delays his precious gifts that we asked Him for? Do we allow the wings of faith to help us soar higher? Or do we recline to disbelief? This verse makes it clear that the gifts are not in arms reach but they are in highly places. Do we ever allow the Holy Spirit to help us get to these heights?

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It’s like a fisherman going out to catch fish, believing that he will. He will remain out in the seas for hours on end. Yet, if he comes home empty handed, he goes again tomorrow. Still believing he will catch some fish. When it comes to the great human needs; the deep pain and sorrow, the excessive poverty that we face, we often choose to believe this was our plight in life all a long. That, we were never meant to receive these spiritual blessings. That, indeed, they were meant for some other person. We are the unlucky ones. But these thoughts are wrapped in self-pity, doubt, and disbelief ….none of these will allow us to soar like an eagle.

…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

So maybe the reality is, prayer is hard work. It requires perseverance, long suffering, and everlasting faith. It requires from us a sacrifice to be made within ourselves….to actually sacrifice ourselves, our will, our beliefs, our pride. When our prayer become less of a prayer and more of a conversation with the Lover of our souls, maybe that’s when we have finally arrived in the heavenly places. And at that very instant, we can ask anything in His name.

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

John 14:13

What I love about Jesus Christ dying for my sins is that, He is now my High Priest. And at this very hour, I can boldly approach God in faith and pray to Him.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16
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Therefore we can begin that relationship with God through prayer, and boldly ask our Father for the inheritance that belongs to us. Know that prayer isn’t a quick fix to an immediate problem. Prayer is the beginning of a relationship that the Father desperately what to have with His children- you and me. I hope you will experience the spiritual blessings or your inheritance from your Father in heaven. Above all, may you experience His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thoughts are like clouds…

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind.

One by one I let them move me to action,

or submerse me deep in pain.

I hold on to them because I believe they define me.

They are me, and I am they.

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind,

Each one tells me a story, reminds me of my history,

or tries to protect me.

When my heart is full, they still carry on, with little concern about their impact.

Anger, annoyance, frustration, anxiety, worry, you name it.

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind.

The sooner I learn to let them go, the sooner they’ll stop hurting me.

I can select the good ones, and let the bad one float.

When I feel mad or sad, I know it was a bad thought I had.

The story they tell is not always true.

Because thoughts are like clouds that float by.

Where they come from, I do not know.

When I let one thought go, a new one will arise.

When I hold on too tightly, I will miss the others passing.

Like clouds, I will let them float,

Stopping only to be observed, but no sooner I will let them go.

With curiosity, I study what they came to teach me.

But now I know, they do not define me.

I am not them, and they are not me.

They are my fears, my hopes, my dreams…

If I am still enough, I can see which ones are good or bad for me.

Thoughts are like clouds, and their only job is to float through my mind…

Never Alone

Loneliness is the painful experience when you look around and there is no one that you know. For me, it was the moment when I was sitting in the airplane, after being escorted to my seat in a rush by the flight attendant. I was thirteen. That was the moment I realized what my dream costed me. 

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For a long time I wanted to travel on an airplane, to come to Canada. I dreamt about it for so long, but I didn’t know it would happen. And I couldn’t imagine how I would feel. That I would have to be peeled from the grips of my mother’s love, and pulled through the airport to be seated next to this woman with red lip stick with Jamaican accent. My eyes fixated on the tiny window across her lap, staring one last time, wishing for one last glimpse of my mother. The dark-skinned woman pulled down the window cap and I looked at her red mouth saying something but I could not hear her. My bawling drowned her out and my thoughts and my dreams turned to fear. 

Read More: The Land I Love

Fear that I may never see my mother and brothers again. Fear that this pain that I was experiencing for the first time would last forever. I was faced with feelings of loneliness for the first time in my life and I was scared. I was stuck between my first love; of country, of family, and of home, and my dreaming of living in another country. I was stuck in uncertainty. Up until that moment, my life had never been uncertain. 

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It was my mother who woke me up every morning and helped prepare me for school. It was my mother I had slept with at nights that comforted me and shielded me from the pain of the outside world. It was my mother who made sure I had lunch money, uniforms, and even a good school to attend. I knew everything wasn’t perfect, but surrounded by the protection of my mother’s love, I never had anything to fear. Not until now when I couldn’t see her. The part that scared me most was I didn’t know when I was going to see her again.  

The strange thing I learnt in that day was how feelings totally change. I wasn’t thinking of my mother as much. I was looking to a future with my father. As I walked side by side, I believed I was protected again from the world. I was safe. I was too young to know that this was my season of growth. Not mature enough yet to see that I was developing strength, resilience, and my own identity. I would find a new home here. 

Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

This pandemic has given me time to pause and reflect on my long journey through all the seasons of my own life. That’s why tonight, as I look out at the midnight sky in the comfort of my own home, the countless stars flickering makes me cry. All along, all these years, God had been walking in tandem with me, watching over me, carrying me through the most difficult parts of my life. Guiding me through my transformation, letting my roots grow deeper, mixing the colourful experiences with the ugly. All of it, for Him, for His glory, for me to know that I was never alone.

Today

Today, we get to try again.

Forgetting the hurt and the pain,

We get to decide what we want.

Today we are a new person,

Without the scars of yesterday.

Some wounds don’t seem to heal as fast as we would like them.

But today is one more day in the healing process.

And today we get to take new steps.

The mistakes are forgotten.

The memories, erased.

This day we get to create,

New plans, new dreams, new destinies.

We get to take action and move ahead, today.

One step at a time.

Because today, we get a new shot at life.

The echoes of hope

Written by: My friend, James Golding

I rise today,

Conscious and reflective of yesterday.

I thought …that as we travel through the canyon of life,

Each day we hear echoes.

These are milestones of how far we have traveled,

Reminders that we have a distance yet to go.

The echoes tell we have gone far, and gives hope we can go further.

Still those echoes never say how much further we have to go,

How much time is allotted,

Nor, whether we need to go at all.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:26

When I was a child I desired the praise of others, particularly my mother. I wanted her to see how smart I was, how fast I was, and how talented I was. My mother would come to my track and field events to watch me run. Many times, I made her sit in the living room to listen to me recite my newest poem, and I enjoyed seeing the excitement on her face. But at thirteen all this attention abruptly stopped.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!
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My aunt and guardian in Canada wasn’t as attentive. She never came to any of my track and field or soccer competitions during high school. She hardly knew that I was part of the announcement club, the anti-racism committee or the geography club. I was a star in high school and no one was watching, at least not the people I wanted to see me. This is what I remember most as I got older, the feeling of rejection, isolation and lack of love. All because I associate my mother’s attention to be what love was, and when I wasn’t getting that devoted parental love from my new family in Canada, I assumed they didn’t love me.

READ MORE: Take the step of faith

Could it be that we are this conceited (or desire vain-glory) because we are trapped in a moment of lack when we were a child? What I mean is, at a time in our lives when we really needed the validation from others and we didn’t get it, we started craving it more and more. And we look for it even in random strangers. I am saying, we are conceited because we lack love. The love and affection that we desperately needed from those loved ones may have provoked us and made us envious of others. It’s a vicious cycle.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!
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Paul says do not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Are you doing those things? Many times we exhibit behaviours that we may not be totally aware of. I encourage us to be mindful of our feelings.

I admit that for a long time I carried that need for attention, for love, and the need to belong everywhere I went. The good thing is that God finds ways to work with us. When I found a church at 14 years old and got baptized at 15, I committed myself to a new family. Even though I didn’t realize that I was throwing my need to belong on them, it was a safe place. But of course, I wasn’t at church every waking moment. When I went off to University I still carried with me those same needs. And when I became an adult, those needs were still tagging along. Until I became aware of them and addressed them…

READ MORE: Let your Father help you

My Advice for 2021 are these:

  • BE AWARE: Know yourself, your weaknesses, your strengths. What makes you anxious? What makes you frustrated? What makes you sad?
  • GIVE VOICE TO YOUR EMOTIONS: Do not suppress your emotions and ignore your bodily symptoms. Find respectful ways to express your feelings.
  • DO NOT HOLD ON TO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS: Do you feel jealous? Envious? Angry? Why? Let them go- write about it, sing about it, share it, just get rid of it and let it not consume you.
  • STOP CARRYING AROUND THE PAST: This is such a heavy burden to be walking around with every day. Learn what you need to learn and move on. Forgive who needs to be forgiven, Speak the truth to those who need to hear the truth, and forget about it.
  • LOVE BIG: Love really is the answer to everything. You love by giving, by serving, by showing up, by listening. Don’t be afraid to love people, even those who are hard to love. Love compassionately, love prayerfully, love forgivingly, just love the heck out of people- they will change.

By becoming more aware of our own issues and pain, we get to develop compassion for others and are better able to love them. It’s hard to be conceited, provoking and envying to those you love. Love prevents us from exhibiting the acts of the flesh, but we need the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside.

So for this year 2021, let us choose the gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And let us abstain from the acts of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. As we journey through our lives do not carry our past pains into our future. Rather, I pray that you will learn from them so that they will transform you to become a servant for God’s purposes. I love you all.

*****

This is the end of this series of Galatians 5. I want to thank you readers for showing up to read my blog each week. I hope that you were richly blessed the way I had been as I showed up every Sunday to gain a new perspective from God. Honestly, it was a joy to show up for God this way. May God’s love envelope you this year and I wish you an extraordinary 2021 journey.