Monday, November 17, 2014

How long is enough to make an impression?

Last August, I went on a trip to the East Coast with 6 friends.
On Friday, August 8, for the first time in my life, I took Porter Airlines to Halifax, Nov
a Scotia.
On Friday, August 8, for the first time in my life, I met DC (Name protected for privacy reasons).

DC and I hit it off right away. I must say, he is my 'type'. Clean shaven, blond, blue eyed, in a suit. I would have been perfectly happy to just sit next to him without much interaction, after all, on all the flights I've taken throughout my life, I've never really 'talked' to whoever sits next to me.
DC, however, engaged me in conversation almost as soon as I sat down.
He asked me where I was heading and the purpose of my trip. By the time we took off, he was sharing his plans over the next few days and how he has to get ready for his friend's wedding the next day. I gave him some pointers on delivering speeches and even talked about Toastmasters.

By the time the plane made a stop in Ottawa, we've been having a blast, not letting the banter die down and laughing so loud that most of the plane could hear us. My friends dropped by to say hi and they were all introduced to DC, my new BFF. It's funny how we didn't need retrospective to realize that we were having a great time and sharing too much. DC said it a few times and I said it a few times. Like 'woah, okay we are really sharing our lives here....'

In the 3+ hours we were together, he made me switch on my phone to check the meaning of the word 'gesticulating', he spilled wine on himself and he told me about his stay in hospital a few months ago. We talked extensively about his siblings and his girlfriend as well.

When we landed in Halifax, DC got off the plane in a hurry, his family was waiting for him as we were about 1 hour behind. We had exchanged numbers but he said he'll see me at the baggage claim. That never happened. I forgot my hat in the plane so I had to go back for it and by the time we waited for everybody to visit the washroom, nobody was at the baggage claim anymore. That was a bit of a disappointment, after 3 hours of non-stop talking, to close the chapter on such a meeting without even a proper goodbye. But DC came through, he messaged me to apologize for not waiting around.

The first few days of that east coast trip rode on the high of having made an acquaintance before it became about the trip itself. I messaged him when I got back to Toronto and we chatted back and forth for a bit that night. Then nothing, until last Wednesday. I saw DC at The Bay, with his girlfriend. I saw him, I had 2 seconds to decide whether to say hi, decided not to and walked on. I regretted it almost instantly.

Why didn't I say hi?
The main reason was that I feared he wouldn't recognize me.
What if I did say hi and he drew a blank? What if I did say hi and then had to explain how I know him? After all, although we were both there, how he perceived our interaction on the plane could have been totally different from mine. Although HE made an impression on me, have *I* made an impression on him? Are 3 hours enough for someone to remember you? If yes, then for how long? Would I remember him if we crossed paths 3 years down the road? Would I dare to say hi then, even if I regretted not doing so this time? Very unlikely, unless I was in a particularly outgoing mood.
In any case, DC will always be remembered fondly even if this 'friendship' does not last. After all, it's not every flight that you get to share your life with someone else...even if it's just for 3 hours!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

As my world turns...

My life has changed over the last 2 weeks.
On October 4, my life as I knew it so far came to an end.
After 7 years away from my parents, they finally joined me here in Canada, as sponsored immigrants.
It's funny how your life changes with two other people in your space.
I cannot believe how much more dust, more hair, more mess, and thus more cleaning I had to do.
I better get used to seeing pee all over the toilet seat because at 63 years old, it's unlikely I'll get my dad to aim better when he tinkles.

The first few days, I resented the fact that I now have to share everything at my place, and for now, I even had to give up my bed. I also resented the fact that they are now old and cannot adapt as easily as I would have wished. After a few days of explaining EVERYTHING at least twice, any question was met with exasperation, a deep breath, followed by an impatient explanation. Under normal circumstances, I do not have the patience to explain the little things. Imagine that under stress, confined to sharing my space and just a general sense of exhaustion, there is no patience or kindness left to explain things that I have learned over the last 14 years about being in Toronto and being Canadian.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle of things, my dad had to go and push my buttons. It's true what they say, your parents make you, so they know exactly where your buttons are. I hardly ever cry, but when I do, it's mostly of frustration. My dad so frustrated me last night, that I cried. Not tears of anger or sadness or regret. Tears of frustration that were accompanied by hacking sobs. I can't remember sobbing like this since December 2012 when Keira left Canada after a 2 week visit, but then, those were tears of sadness.

I'm over it now. I know that in the weeks, months, years (maybe) to come, I somehow have to find a secret fountain of patience to deal with my ageing parents, their expectations and somewhat skewed view of the world while managing my own expectations and worries. In more ways than one, it is like raising rebellious teenagers. They have their good days, and they have their bad days.

Gone are the days when all I had to worry about was myself.
Gone are the days when I had all the 'me' time I wanted.
But also gone are the days when I had to cook when I get home from work!
Chin up, at least I'm well fed!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sochi 2014 - Oh Canada!

That's it, 25 medals in 2 weeks.
Today was the last day of the winter olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It was with a lot of emotions that I have watched the olympics religiously over the last 15 days, from 7pm to 11pm.

The whole gamut of emotions included nostalgia of the last olympics in Vancouver and my time there; the excitement of hearing 'Oh Canada' and the feeling of kinship when the Canadian gold medallists cried watching the Canadian flag being hoisted and sadness when the Canadian athletes did not make it through to the podium.

Of course, in a country where hockey is almost a religion, that sport was the main focus for most Canadians. I, however, was more elated by the double Gold we won in curling than the double Gold in hockey. I got hooked watching curling in Vancouver. Although I never followed through to watch it outside of the olympics, when the Canadian curlers hit the ice this time around, I was hooked again. I spent more late nights watching curling than watching hockey. I know more about the curlers than any of the hockey players. In fact, I did not even wake up early this morning to watch the gold medal game for the men, against Sweden.
Errrr, can they revoke my citizenship if I admit this online? I hope not.

As for any olympics, the media brings you focus to specific athletes and sports. Here in Canada, hockey always steals the spotlight. The women's curling finals were overshadowed by the women's hockey team winning gold. Just like the men's curling team's win was overshadowed by the semifinals between the USA and Canada for men's hockey. Because the men's hockey final game is on the last day of the Olympics, that is what the media is talking about today and will continue to talk about when they talk of the Sochi games. What about curling though? The women's curling team was undefeated throughout these games! The men's curling was defending the gold Canada won in Vancouver. What about the double gold in moguls in the first few days of the games? This is unfair! The world must perceive us as a nation of moguls, curling AND hockey. At least until the next Olympics.

"We're sorry. The country you are trying to reach is not available at the moment because of Hockey, Curling OR moguls. Please try again later."

Retrospective on 2013

Two months into 2014 already.
At the beginning of the year, I thought of doing a recap of 2013. Of course, I didn't get to it until now.
So here it goes...

2013 was the year of Toastmasters for me, starting with my icebreaker speech in January and delivering a speech almost every month. I did not get to do my CC10 until this month but the bulk of the heavy lifting was done in 2013, and I even became VP Education for Supreme TD Toastmasters in July.

There were quite a few 'firsts' in 2013.
First time I tried pole dancing, first time I went sugar-off in Quebec, first time camping in Tobermory, first time scubadiving (in Tobermory), first time skydiving in Niagara Falls and first time attending a Zoroastrian wedding.

Then of course the travels: Boston in May, San Francisco in June, Atwater/Yosemite in June, Washington DC in September, Rochester in November and Singapore in November/December. I loved Singapore because I got to spend time with Keira. At 17 months, she did not talk much, but she loved to play and she allowed me to hold and play with her when she was in a good mood. She unfortunately had to go to the hospital on the last Thursday I was there, so I spent the last few days in the hospital as well. It was heart-wrenching. On my way back home, I had a stop-over in Narita airport in Japan. That was probably the best stop-over experience EVER! 8 hrs of freebies!

As for running, I did a MEC run in the snow in January, then the Harry Spring Run-off, the Sporting Life 10K and finally the Scotiabank Waterfront half marathon with the exact same time as last year. I could have improved my time if I wasn't nursing a stomachache from the day before.

I did not have any life events, but my cousin Eric got married and my parents came to surprise him at his wedding in June. Then while I was in Singapore enjoying 2 weeks with Keira, Gabriel was born at almost 10lbs.

Apart from the ballet, I attended La Boheme at the opera, went to Kelly Clarkson's concert which also featured Maroon 5 and went to two musicals: Wizard of Oz and Cats.

I ended the year with a pot luck among friends at my place as per last year and we had a game of 'Cards against Humanity'.

All in all, 2013 was a great year, with lots of new experiences and travels.
2014 promises to be more hectic, with big changes looming for me and my parents.
The first 2 months of the year have already set the pace....

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I am now competent....

Last Thursday, I gave the speech that would give me Competent Communicator status.
After 9 speeches, the tenth one was to inspire my audience. I have selected the imaginary situation where I appointed to join and lead a kindness committee at my company. The title of the speech: One coffee at a time. Having only finished the speech the night before, I was nervous for not learning the speech by heart. I faltered a couple of times and glanced at my notes, but it went relatively well. Here's the speech:

Have you ever wanted to scream at a coworker in the course of the day? Or fought the urge to throw something at them? This happens to me way more often than I would like to admit. Sometimes I snap at them or I let out exasperated sighs. Then I feel guilty about not being patient and kind. This is what motivated me to join and lead the Kindness committee.

Fellow employees, in a world where bullying is a reality for one in every 3 students, in a world where the news reports show more atrocities around the world than good being done, in a world where kindness is almost a novelty; where are we, as a society, heading? Do you hold the door to the person behind you or do you let it flatten their nose? Do you give your seat to someone in need or feign sleep? Do you try to help your coworker out when he has a deadline or just go about completing your own tasks? If we do not practice being kind to each other, could we survive as a community? More importantly, will the next generation know what kindness is? When I asked myself these questions, I made an astounding discovery. People, like you and I, may not be intrinsically kind, but they can work at it and inspire others to do the same. How do we become kinder and make the world around us kinder?

There are 2 ways we could do this. The first one, which I have seen a friend advertise on Facebook, is to follow the Pay-it-forward formula. The first step is to commit to be kind to a number of people, say 3, and that in turn, instead of repaying you for the kindness, they would pay the kindness forward to someone else. What if I turn back and hold the door for the person behind me ? Wouldn’t that person also hold the door for the person behind him? What if I pay for the next one in line when I get my coffee tomorrow morning?  Would that person also pay for the 3rd person in line? That’s exactly what someone did at a Tim Hortons drive-thru in Winnipeg and the pay-it-forward chain lasted for 3 hours and 28 minutes, until someone refused to pay for the next customer in line. That person was depicted as ‘The Grinch’. I’m sure there was more than just one Grinch in that line, but nobody before him, wanted to be the one to stop the chain. Most people find it far worse to be labeled as a jerk than to pay for the next order. Nonetheless, it lasted a few hours and it all started with ONE individual doing ONE simple gesture of kindness. A gesture that both you and I could do.

A second way of infusing more kindness in the world is to go BIG, like, really big. Have you heard of the young man in Edmonton who bought himself a donut and a coffee and then paid for the next 500 large coffees? He was talked about in the news, without being on the news. Nobody knows why he did it, he just walked in, ordered his breakfast and paid $859 on his debit card. And then he left. He stays anonymous, but I’m sure the satisfaction he must have had of making 500 coffee lovers happy is exhilarating. A week later, another Tim Hortons customer did the same thing in another city. Now, a year later, I still remember the news segment on that story. Not only are these big random acts of kindness, as they call it, likely to have a ripple effect, but they have a greater impact on us. We talk about it for DAYS, even more so if we are one of the 500, or if we know someone these 500 customers.

Imagine how you would feel if when you are about to pay the cashier for your coffee, she says that it has already been taken care of. Wouldn’t that make your day? Wouldn’t you want to share your joy around? ‘You know what happened to me today? Someone paid for my coffee!’ At a minimum, it makes one person happy. In reality, it makes at least 2 people happy. I remember the Friends episode where Joey tells Phoebe that no act of charity or kindness is selfless, because the person doing the good deed feels good about making someone else’s life better. If you do not care about saving society from a lack of kindness, or about setting an example for the next generation, then at least do it to feel good about yourself and encourage others to do the same.

If you were here last week, you would have heard Wendy, our area governor talk about ‘heroes-in-waiting’ in her speech. Ordinary people who have the potential to be heroes. We do not all have to be heroes, we can improve the world one coffee at a time. Both examples I gave today, the pay it forward chain at the drive thru in Winnipeg and the guy who paid for 500 coffees in Edmonton , happened at Tim Hortons. Most of us get a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, so these are both things we could do without straying too far from our daily routine. Whether we choose to start small and just pay for a friend’s coffee or we want to make a big splash and touch as many people as possible, it only needs one person to start a chain reaction. To improve ourselves and paint a kinder picture around us, it has to start with nobody else but US! Let’s stop being spectators to the disintegration of kindness around us and commit to just ONE act of kindness TODAY. I assure you that it will not be wasted. It will be one additional day where kindness prevails.  In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

CC 9 - Because I'm a girl

This was my CC9 delivered in November. I haven't had time to post it until now. The goal was to influence your audience.

Have you ever seen this poster? Have you ever heard of the ‘BECAUSE I’M A GIRL’ campaign?
Toastmasters and dear guests, ‘Because I’m a girl’ is a global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls, and everyone around them, out of poverty. Their motto is to invest in girls and change the world. Why girls? Because of the way girls are treated in poorer countries around the world. Because they are the first ones to suffer. Yet, they have the biggest potential to help themselves and their families if they are given a chance. Because I am a girl provides these little girls that chance. Let me give you 3 reasons why I am raising awareness to this cause today.

First, let's talk about food. When I was growing up, my mom would layout the food on the table and everybody would serve themselves to as much food as they want. Now picture yourself as poor in a developing country and that for dinner everybody else was allowed to eat first before it was your turn. Imagine that the same scenario happened every day, where you would silently pray that the other members of your family would leave you some food or you'll have to wait till the next day to see if you will have better luck. This happens not because your parents do not love you as much as the other members of your family but because of your gender! Little girls around the world go through this every day. They have to watch the male members of their family eat and hope that there is enough left for them to eat. Is that fair? From someone who would not even let her brother get away with a piece of chocolate if she also didn't get one, that idea is outrageous to me. “Because I'm a girl” initiative, provides food to little girls around the world so that they have a fighting chance to survive poverty. 

The next thing where girls are overlooked is education.  66 million girls in developing countries are not in school. The main reason is because families think that the daughters will be more helpful working for the family than getting an education. Since there is little opportunity for girls to get a paying job even if they are educated, the family seldom wants to spare them, so that they help with cleaning, cooking, collecting wood or water and looking after the younger children. Another reason that families do not send the girls to school is that most schools in poorer countries do not have the facilities to accommodate girls. ‘Because I’m a girl’ helps to send girls to school by building schools with the appropriate facilities and by giving them food if they need it. That gives the parents an incentive to send them to school as well. Research has shown that for every year of school a girl attends, her lifetime income raises by 10 to 20%. And the more education she gets, the healthier her children will be. My dad is a male chauvinist, but he never denied me the education I wanted. He could have said ‘you are a girl, you do not need an education and certainly not in Canada’, but he didn’t.

Thirdly, by promoting gender equality, ‘Because I’m a girl’ is not only promoting a better life for girls but also for boys. Children have a better future when their mothers are educated and their fathers are more involved in the family life. For example, let’s take my brother and I. My dad believes that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. He never goes in the kitchen except to eat. Yet, for all of his shortcomings, or maybe because my mother was educated enough to know how to counter argue him, my brother and I were raised in a gender equal environment. Every chore was divided equally between my brother and I, regardless of the nature of the task, from cleaning the kitchen floors to raking the yard. Today, my brother is well versed in domestic chores, something that I’m sure, his wife appreciates. But more than that, the cycle of gender inequality has been stopped in our generation.

With a little food, as much education as they can get, and by promoting gender equality, girls have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty. The global initiative ‘Because I’m a girl’ is changing the world, one little girl at a time. If you want to help be part of that change, you can donate or shop on the website www.because I am a Or you can make a difference by fundraising or by increasing awareness to the cause. Little girls everywhere need YOU to advocate for them so that THEY in turn may make a difference in THEIR world.