Ready, Set, Pause.

Nobody ever sets out to quit or fail at something. When we have the momentum, enthusiasm and energy we soar ahead, excited about what the end will look like when we accomplish the goal. But then what happens half-way through the course, the dieting? the exercise? that new book? We pause.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Pausing is no good for momentum because it diminishes energy required to keep us going. Just imagine our favourite olympic skier pausing on a slope. He/She will certainly not be taking home any medal! Recently, I went skiing at Hockley Valley Ski Resort with some friends. None of us were by any means great, or even good, at this sport, but we got better the longer we stayed out there. So much better that we decided to try the beginner hill. While I had done this before- 10 years ago, my friend hadn’t. He was better than any beginner I knew. I went down the first slope smoothly…too smooth actually. But my friend didn’t. He had a fall. I stopped at the end of the slope to wait for him. But during this time, the momentum that was built up on the first slope diminished, and I was a little scared to take the second slope. By then, I watched my friend ski ahead of me and I found motivation from him. If he could do it, so could I. I saw him fall again but this time I didn’t stop. Was I mean? Well, that’s the thing about momentum. I didn’t want to pause because I feared that I would be the one to fall or worse, let fear prevent me from making it to the end.

READ MORE: Let’s do a new thing in 2022

I love the way sports teaches us so many realistic lessons. It lets us mentally see where we are in our minds. At the beginning of skiing, I wasn’t that smooth coming down any hill. I told myself two things: (1) I didn’t come skiing to not enjoy myself and actually make it down the hill. (2) I did not intend to fall. Now, this is a lot of positivity for someone who is totally new (because not skiing for a decade still makes me new). I didn’t know it at the time, but I think my mind was at the top of the baby hill rectifying those two beliefs while I stood there. I was trying to figure out the how. How would I go down the hill without falling?

Photo by Volker Meyer on Pexels.com

For 10 minutes I examined the hill, observing the other skiers fall and going again. Until I got too close to the edge and gravity had its way with me. I screamed all the way down and somehow my feet situated themselves correctly. I watched my friends jumped out of my way as I was coming at full speed, and a miracle happened. My feet turned so that I didn’t fall and I kept on going. I slowed down by myself startled and in shock. How did I do that? I looked up the hill and followed the route I had taken. How did I not fall? I can’t believe it.

Lisa Nichols defines mindset as “the knowing.”

The knowing enables you to push past limiting beliefs, take on new opportunities with confidence and succeed in getting what you want. This knowing precedes your ability to succeed and paves the way for you to enjoy abundance in every area of your life. And its this knowing that I want to help you develop now. 

Lisa Nichols & Janet Switzer

What I am saying is that having a positive mindset about skiing took me down the first baby hill. It gave me the courage to get on the ski lift and then try the beginner hill. The more I skied was the more I felt confident and the more I wanted to take bigger risk. Why? Because of momentum. Pausing makes us loose that momentum and it prevents us from sailing ahead with our plans, goals and desires.

**May you continue to build momentum in February as you press forward into your goal. You started it, just don’t stop. Don’t let your pause become a full stop.

First time Travelling by Train to Edmonton

Leaving Vancouver on Via Rail was something else. I was passing through Vancouver to visit Edmonton for the first time. Everything was new. The Bridges, the buildings, and even the buses. I read once that the brain thrives on new experiences: “Novelty.” I may not know the neurological process, but I know that what I was experiencing felt good. Travelling makes me come alive fully.

READ MORE: 10 things to know while travelling

My train ticket from Vancouver to Edmonton costed me just under $200, which covered one economy seat. It was spacious enough and no one was sitting next to me. There were two bathrooms per railcar and I had access to the other railcars as well. Once we were settled in our seats, the conductors introduced themselves and laid down the rules and expectations for us. As soon as they were done, I made my way to see what the other cars looked like and where the dining car and the skydome were located. Basically, just to get a lay of the land. Familiarize myself with my surroundings since I would be travelling for 26 hours. I learnt that the bathroom in the other car next to mine was more spacious. And since there were fewer passengers, hardly anyone used it. Next, I grab my laptop, books, and note books and sat in the dining car to begin my writing. Too bad there was no wifi access. It is a feature benefit in the business car though, which was further from where we were. In a way, I felt an invisible label “lower class” placed on me. Not that the service was bad, it’s just that I felt the division. Maybe it was the way the server barked at me when I ventured down a hallway pass the kitchen were I shouldn’t have crossed. It was just a feeling…

On Via Rail in the dining car

Still, travelling across the country by train was a bucket list item. When I woke up the next morning, I could see snow covered pine trees. I didn’t order breakfast because I was still full from dinner the night before, salmon with rice and veggies. I planned to get breakfast in Jasper once the train stopped. I sat in the dome car with others, looking through the transparent ceiling at the mountains all covered with snow, the aqua coloured water below, and the pine trees lining the mountains. “Gorgeous” were the words just rolling off the tongues of passengers, and “Aw” and “Wow” “Unbelievable” “Breathtaking.” The best word that described this experience though was “Divine.” It wasn’t made by man, but by God. And it was perfect and flawless.

Inside the dome car

The train sped under tunnels that went through the mountains. The mountains were on both sides of the train. Our eyes swung from side to side, ahead and behind…just trying to capture every moment with our eyes, with our mind. I think I had. I can still see the experience vividly. But, not the same way as what it looks like on the many photos I took or the videos taken. No. The one captured in my mind cannot be replicated. It is as I saw it, and it will remain that way forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, I made conversations with a few passengers, listening to travel tales, and strange meditation practices or grounding practices. I often find that passengers who travel for fun are the retirees, which puts me as an anomaly. I was the only black person, except for the French conductor. Half the passengers were in my age group. One family was travelling with two infants, which must have been difficult. There wasn’t a bed for them to sleep on, or a place to play. The boy occupied the aisle with his toys. The baby was spread out on the large size seats. Very uncomfortable.

Stopping in Jasper for breakfast for the hour broke things up a bit. I was able to get fresh air, walk around, buy touristy things and grab breakfast before re-boarding. I went straight to the dome car to eat. I wanted a good view as I enjoyed my meal, with matcha tea that had messed up my white gloves, and left blotches of green on my black coat. After not bathing for over 24 hours or changed my clothes, I started to feel, dirty. Maybe I belonged in the lower class car at this point. It didn’t matter in the moment.

READ MORE: The Halifax Citadel: Lest we Forget.

I used my afternoon to read and journal about my experience. As it started to get dark again, I made my way back to my own seat. And sat there to enjoy what was left of the train ride. It would be arriving in Edmonton in 2 hours. Approximately 6:30 pm, I said my good -byes. The conductor was kind to take down my luggage and had it ready at the door for me. As I waited for my ride with an elderly woman beside me talking my ears off, she whispered, “we call it Dead-min-ton.” And then disappeared in her taxi.

10 things to know while Travelling

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

Actor, Alan Alda

I find travelling to be the most creative of things I can do, specifically when I do it alone. I am connecting the dots through every decision I make. I am connected to people I’m never going to see again, at restaurants, while walking, or standing in line. Each person I meet has no idea whether I am a local or a tourist, not unless I actually tell them. When I was in the west of Canada, there is no distinct marker between me and the people I meet. Saying, “I’m from Ontario” doesn’t create any surprise reactions. Except, the people are curious about how my experience is going. Sometimes I would share my next venture with them, that I am on my way to Alberta.

Granville Station, Vancouver

When I got off the ferry, I took a bus to Vancouver’s skytrain. It wasn’t hard, just frustrating to figure out where I am going while on a strict schedule. I wanted to be at the Via Rail train station at 2pm. I sat on the bus between two asian young women, one white man at the back of the bus, and another white woman joined him with her suitcases. Once I got off the bus, I followed one of the asian woman. She agreed she would show me where to get the skytrain since she was going on the train too. While we arrive in the elevator, a black man (which I had seen in the ferry terminal in Victoria) was already in it, and an elderly white woman joined us. Most of us didn’t really know where we were going. We were figuring it out together. We lost the man who ended up taking the escalator, while the rest of us women walked to another elevator that took us to the platform. On the train, we started talking about Canada. I shared that I was on my way to Alberta, the Asian girl shared that she went to visit her parents on one of the island and she is returning. The elderly woman shared how she has watched Vancouver transformed into the big city it is now. There was another young white woman behind me who got my attention, and shared that she used to live in Alberta, but she is happy to live in BC now. She is in graduate school but doesn’t think she’ll be going back to Alberta. “Don’t go to the Edmonton Mall” she said, “Everyone goes there. Go to the Art Gallery or the Museum instead.” Well, I took her advice.

Art Gallery of Alberta

The elderly woman had told me to get off at the City Centre. Even though my GPS wanted me to continue on the train. I decided to take the elderly woman’s suggestions. When I got out of the train, I asked a number of people for directions. What I noticed was, no one was from Vancouver! The strangest thing… Two young girls directed me down an escalator, and from there I followed the signs to the platform. Nothing was completely difficult, it’s just that with the added stress of not wanting to miss my train, created anxiety. Anxiety and travelling is an uncomfortable mix. That’s probably why most people won’t do it. But, what calms me down is the confidence that, no matter what choice I make or not make, everything will work out just fine.

READ MORE: Ferry to Vancouver.

Travelling opens up my curiosity and puts all my assumptions and expectations behind closed doors. I wish that I could live like that in my ordinary life. Each moment is an opportunity to create a memory and to not take anything for granted. When travelling, I am fully aware of how to live in the moment, because I am certain that I won’t get another opportunity to come back to that very spot. Sitting in the train with strangers talking like ole friends hardly happen for me at home. We connected over our transitory journey.

So to end this post, I want to say that I have learnt a lot while travelling, I just have to use those same lessons in my regular life. Let me share 10 of them with you:

  1. Always ASK questions, don’t assume nothing.
  2. LIVE in the moment and don’t take anything for granted.
  3. Set aside plans, and go with the FLOW (this is the one that I use as my mantra).
  4. Be CURIOUS and try new things (this is a staple of travelling)
  5. Always go with your HEART and set aside every limitation.
  6. Create MEMORIES not nightmares.
  7. Be OPEN minded.
  8. Be anxious for NOTHING.
  9. Make MISTAKES. They can turn out to be best memories.
  10. Be completely FREE to be yourself (no one is judging!)

Ferry to Vancouver

Monday morning came. I laid in bed for a little while, wondering what was happening outside the walls of this hotel. Were people frantically trying to get to work on time? Were children apathetically walking to school? If I was home I would be in the former category, but I was not at home. I was in Victoria, British Columbia. And this morning I was going to Vancouver by ferry to catch the 3 0’clock train to Alberta. Now, that was exciting to me.

My suitcase was pretty much packed from the day before, so I only had to get dressed. The drive to Enterprise rental car was calming. Looking outside to see the colourful scenery in the comfort of a luxury car, with my favourite music playing was idyllic. I felt a sense of completion because I had done everything I wanted to do in Victoria. I anticipated whatever was going to happen next. I was quite surprised when Enterprise told me that they would provide me a taxi to the ferry at no cost to me. Within five minutes the taxi arrived. Every thing went seamlessly.

READ MORE: From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

After being dropped off by the taxi driver, an Indian man who had been living in Victoria for the last 25 years with his wife, I went through the ferry terminal doors. It was easy enough to purchase my ticket, then follow the escalator down to the lower level to sit with the other passengers. As soon as it was 10:30, I heard the announcement calling for the passengers to commence boarding. I peered through the little peeping holes (like the windows of an airplane), to watch the orderly flow of cars driving unto the ferry. It reminded me of when I took the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.

READ MORE: Adventures to Prince Edward Island.

I was in a long flowing line of passengers going though a lengthy hallway. I showed my ticket and stepped unto the ferry. That’s when I realized this was nothing like the one I took. This one was huge! I didn’t know where I wanted to sit because there were so many options. I took a corner row that had five very broad seats, with equal seats in front of me. I had that row to myself. After I was settled in, I decided to go exploring – only to find there was a section for dining. A full restaurant with everything, including chefs that were making meals, cashiers, as well as a cold food section. And there were so many dining tables. It was a restaurant, and one with the best views! I left the dining section, I opted not to take the elevator, so I could climb the stairs to the upper level. This was where the deck was. The deck also had tables and several seating areas on both ends. Some people were getting their meditation in the sun, and backing in this glorious experience. I went back to get my wallet.

The ferry started moving. I looked out of the numerous windows to observe the snow covered mountains in the distance. It looked like the mountains touched the sky. The food line moved quickly enough and I was at the cashier ordering a burger with fries and a hot chocolate. I carried my tray upstairs to the deck. The wind almost blew my tray away. It almost blew me away too. Another passenger picked up my wrapped burger from off the ground and walked with me to a table. Luckily, there was an overhead covering that blocked the wind. It was a bit cold, but not too cold to prevent me from staying on the deck long enough to get my heart’s content.

The ferry ride was only 1 hour and 30 mins and I really wanted to take in as much of the view as possible. So after lunch, I walked around the deck, my hoodie blocking the wind. I went under the overhead covering to look through the glass at the rough waves the ferry was making. I wondered if I would see a whale or dolphin in the deep blue sea, but I saw nothing. Being at sea though wasn’t boring. The sea drew me to reflect on the Creator of this magnificent ocean. And I worshiped the Lord, God.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

Photo by cheyyenne north on Pexels.com

Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.

Adventuring the outdoors at Thetis Lake

Do you like the outdoors? There are so many conservation parks around Victoria. But, the one I went to was called Thetis Lake Regional Park. I really loved it. I have visited so many conservation parks around Ontario which has there own charm. There was something different about Thetis Lake. I loved that it had a mixture of everything. The best part is that as you walk through the park, the lake was in eyesight. I loved that the sun peered through the massive oak and maple trees, amongst other typical Canadian trees. I loved that there were areas where I felt hidden from the world, surrounded only by the trees. And still parts of the hike, where I could step off the trail and unto a hill overlooking the lake. I took in the beauty from up high; the sun glistening on the water with the colourful trees everywhere. There were other areas that I could stand at the edge of the lake and embraced the stillness. At one point, I began noticing these massive maple leaves laying on the ground. The size of the leaves were bigger than the palm of my hand. I picked one up and carried it with me as I continued.

Many others were hiking as well, some with children, some couples, and some loners like myself. I often find hikers are pleasant. Maybe we each have more in common than we are able to appreciate. And maybe it’s that we subconsciously know what the other really want, that is, time to be left to our own thoughts and imaginations. There is a subconscious respect, that a smile or a simple “hello” is enough. I was filled with a mixture of thoughts; that I was in BC for the first time, that I had never been to this lake before, inspired about what the future holdings, and how deeply content I was at that moment. People say to me all the time, “you are so brave” and “I could never travel alone.” But when I am hiking, I think about how this place could be anywhere. What is brave about flying to another part of the world and doing something new or in my case, doing the same thing I would do at home?

READ MORE: Never Alone

The hike carried me all around the lake. It took me over an hour to get to the middle point. But, that’s because of all the stops I made to enjoy the scenery before the sunset. Instead of walking around the entire lake, I turned around and walk back in the same direction. I think I wanted to see the same views going back (and felt a little uncertain about where I was going if I continued). My favourite way of hiking is when I have no sense of time or schedule. When I arrived at my car, it was already dusk. Hardly anyone was around. To me, there is nothing like coming back to a hotel room after a long, hike on a cold day. The ambiance spells utter relaxation.

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.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Rishabh Parange on Pexels.com

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. 

Photo by Onur Kurtic on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Finn Whelen on Pexels.com

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!

Solidarity and hope: OPSEU recommits to ending anti-Black racism

By: https://opseu.org/news/solidarity-and-hope-opseu-recommits-to-ending-anti-black-racism/108616/

In a high-profile step towards true equality in the workplace and in the union, thousands of OPSEU members and staff participated in the union’s July 7 telephone town halls on anti-Black racism.

“Systemic racism is real. It is deadly. And it has to stop,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas at the beginning of the meeting. “The good news is that we can stop it. Working together, we can help build a foundation for a new way of thinking, and a new way of acting.”

The town halls were just one element in OPSEU’s strong recommitment to the fight against anti-Black racism, and gave members and staff a chance to share their stories, questions, and concerns. Members and staff are encouraged to continue submitting their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.

The town halls, which were held in two sessions to accommodate members’ schedules, were moderated by well-known personality and anti-Black racism activist Farley Flex. He was joined by a panel of Black OPSEU members and staff, President Thomas and OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“My life hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to overcome a lot. But I’ve never had to overcome the systemic racism that Black people face,” said Almeida. “I’ve seen it firsthand. I’m a Correctional Officer, and I can tell you that that there are too many Black and Indigenous Peoples in our jails.”

Thomas and Almeida finished the town halls with strong commitments to read and reflect on all of the questions and comments from members and staff and report back soon with plans for concrete action, including more education and investment.

“Today marks OPSEU’s renewal of our vow to eradicate Anti-Black Racism. We know we haven’t always gotten it right.  But we hear you,” said Thomas. “We promise you that we’ll never let up. One thing about this union: we never give up.”

Fred Upshaw

Thomas, Almeida, their fellow panelists, and the members and staff who asked questions made it clear that there’s still much work to be done to eliminate anti-Black racism in the workplaces where OPSEU represents members and in the union itself.

As a union strongly committed to social justice, OPSEU members have often led the fight against systemic racism. Former President Fred Upshaw became the first Black person to lead a major Canadian union when he was elected in 1990.

Joscelyn Ross

Panelist Joscelyn Ross, an OPSEU health and safety officer, said a concrete action that all workers can do is think about anti-Black racism as a health and safety issue: document it, and grieve it.

“I encourage conversation with your health and safety rep to look at racism and microaggressions in the workplace, which can lead to psychosocial stress,” said Ross, who was an OPSEU member for more than 20 years before joining its staff in 2016. “When you can demonstrate to the employer that employees are facing stress due to workplace discrimination, you can then say, ‘Here’s our evidence and we need to talk about this because you have an obligation to provide the safest workplace possible.’”

Many of the comments and questions from members focused on what OPSEU can do to support members – particularly young workers — who feel afraid to speak up about discrimination in the workplace, whether it’s being passed over for promotions or outright harassment.

Shauna-Kay Cassell

“I know what it’s like to be a young worker and to stay silent. But if something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your gut. Now is not the time to be silent,” said panelist Shauna-Kay Cassell, a Local 526 member. “And remember that there are many things protecting you, from laws like the Ontario Human Rights Code to your collective agreement and your union. They all help protect you.”


Carlotta Ewing

Panelist Carlotta Ewing, a Local 228 member, added that members facing or witnessing racism can always call on their Local President or their staff rep for guidance, assurance, and advice.

“With OPSEU, you have so many resources and so much expertise to help you,” said Ewing. “Equity, communications, campaigns, legal, grievances. This union has so much to support you. And it’s yours – use it.”

Peter Thompson

Panelist Peter Thompson, who is the chair of the OPSEU Coalition for Racialized Workers (CoRW), said that as long as he’s been a member, the union has been at the forefront of the fight against racism, whether it’s been through sensitivity training for members and staff or through ambitious projects like social mapping.

“I see all kinds of corporations and organizations coming out now with statements against racism, but I’m proud to say that OPSEU and the Coalition of Racialized Workers have been making these statements and doing anti-racism work for years,” said Thompson. “If you want to know more about what the union and coalition are doing, ask your local presidents – the more they share this information, the better.”

Evan Wickham

Panelist Evan Wickham, who sits on the OPSEU Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC), echoed Thompson’s point that, in many ways, OPSEU’s locals are on the front-lines of this struggle.

“The murder of George Floyd has roused a lot of us and given us opportunity to be heard,” said Wickham. “OPSEU is a member-driven union. We have a lot of support as members, so let’s step forward and keep voicing our concerns and filing our grievances. That’s how we make the most of this opportunity.”

Along with the members’ locals and the CoRW, OPSEU’s dedicated Equity Unit is another source of information and support for members.

Andrea McCormack

“We’ll never leave you to stand on your own in the fight against racism,” said panelist Andrea McCormack, a long-time OPSEU staff rep who is temporarily reassigned as an Employment Equity Lead in the Employee Relations Division. “This is the first of many conversations that OPSEU will have. Make sure you’re part of it because the support from the union’s leadership is strong. OPSEU is committed to amplifying our voices.”

Flex finished the town hall by asking the panelists for a few final thoughts. They were all moving (you can find them here on Twitter), but Cassell summed it up beautifully:

“I’ll finish with four thoughts,” said Cassell. “One: Speak up, especially if you’re a young worker. Two: Know your rights, you have a lot of them. Three: Find a champion, there are many in OPSEU. Four, and this might be the most important: be hopeful. Change is inevitable, but progress is up to us. And I believe we can make progress.”

Anti-Black Racism Resources & Feedback

We encourage all members and staff to continue sharing their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.