Do I Have to Wake Up?

I have always felt that the worst part of a holiday is when it ends. The beginning is so relaxing, you don’t know what to do with all your time and you feel like everything is so much better; everything tastes better, feels better, and looks better or maybe you’re still dreaming. But slowly time passes and then it passes quickly and before you know it you’re back. At the end of a holiday I never know what I have accomplished, generally because I don’t accomplish much on vacation. Growing up as a child the only part of back-to-school that I enjoyed was the back-to-school shopping. I would run around Staples picking out pens, pencil crayons, sticky notes, erases, calculators, binders, and whatever I felt I needed for school, even though I had a lot leftover from the previous years. Suffice it to say I didn’t enjoy going back to school as a child and my parents knew it. They would tease me at the end of summer or in the New Year counting down the days to when I would return to school and in effect lose my imaginary freedom. It is interesting to note however, that I no longer have that attitude and my parents don’t tease me about it anymore either. This past winter holiday from Ryerson was my longest at five weeks, but also my potential last.

I accomplished a great deal over the past five weeks and I know exactly what it was for a change. It doesn’t feel as though I have had much of a holiday since I was doing school related work most of the time, but it was more relaxing than my last semester so I might have to take that back. However, I am ready to go back to school; at least I think so anyway. Schooling provides many things to many people. School gives me not only something to do but too it gives me a purpose. I feel that everyone needs a purpose, regardless of what it is so that we feel useful and as though we are accomplishing something. Grownup me loves holidays for their laziness but I think if I was on an extended holiday I might get antsy and uncomfortable.  I don’t like to feel useless and as though I am not contributing to something. It is nice for a short period of time to do nothing but then it starts to get boring. You can only binge-watch so much Netflix or click so many links on Wikipedia before you end up in that weird area of “I Googled Sailor Moon and now I’m looking at Ted Bundy”. I need to say that I did not get to that point on this vacation, I didn’t have the time. Perhaps that is why I am ready to go back to those old Ryerson hallways, I never really left them. Or perhaps because I know I am leaving them soon enough.

The idea of graduation brings with it excitement and fear; you don’t always know what will become of you once school is over, you don’t even know if you’ll leave. I know a few people in a few different positions in life and looking at them I try to predict what will happen to me; of course it doesn’t work but my imagination is stronger than I. Will I come back for another semester, will I leave and find a job, will I go on to grad school, or will I simply run away to sunny Mexico? I don’t know yet and that is why it is both exciting and scary to know that in 3 or so months I will have a different life, potentially anyway (don’t want to say anything concrete till I have that piece of paper or plane ticket). I hope that I will graduate this spring and I think having that hope has made the end of this holiday not so terrible. I want to go back to Ryerson so that I can finish my degree and move into the next stage of my life and this coming semester is the only thing standing in my way. I can’t really say I am excited for exams and coursework, but I am excited for learning. I said that school gives me a purpose and that purpose right now is to learn as much as possible and I plan to.

Everyone has their reasons for why they hate or love school, but it is an important thing to consider. By reading this you can see that I do it all the time, along with planning run away trips to Central America. I ask myself these silly questions all the time, imagining my future world, and I think it does some good. We should all look at our lives and analyze whether or not they bring us joy or any other emotions, you never know what you’ll find when you open your heart and mind. By thinking about my past, present, and future it allows me to see how I am really feeling and it tells me when I have had enough. Right now I have had enough with rambling and with that I say welcome home Ryerson students. If this is your last semester, enjoy it, time passes so quickly before you know it you’ll have forgotten what school feels like and hopefully be realizing what a sunny beach feels like, or am I still dreaming?

A Positive Outlook for 2016

Every new year offers a wealth of new opportunities for everyone. It’s a chance for personal reinvention – a chance for self-discovery and exploration. It is during this time of the year where the saying: “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day) rings loud and true for us all. While we take the time to reflect on the previous year – the highs and the lows, the successes and the failures – we begin to stipulate how we can learn from the previous year and take all that we’ve learned to better ourselves in the new year. Already being a few days in to 2016, some of us are either on the path to self-improvement or still trying to figure out what that path looks like. Whether it’s the first day of the year of the last, there is no right person to be. It’s okay to be the person just figuring things out just as much as it’s okay to be the person who has figured things out already. As long as you’re moving forward and investing in yourself, you’ll be okay.

The new year offers many opportunities to accomplish self-discovery. You can try something new like water-skiing or enrolling in a course or adopting a pet. You can continue to do things you enjoy and are passionate about, like write or take long walks early in the morning or take pictures more often. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself and do something that is completely out of your comfort zone, like learn a new sport or perform on a stage or travel to a new country. Seize the day – seize the new year. Allow yourself to do what you love and what is familiar, while also allowing yourself to try new things that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone.

While we set these goals for self-betterment in the beginning of the new year, we have the idea in mind that by the end of the year, we’d have already achieved what we set out to do in the beginning of the year. In our heads, by December 31, 2016, we have already become who we set out to be in January 1, 2016. If this was a perfect world, this is what would happen for all of us. Unfortunately, we are all flawed and we live in a flawed world. So it’s okay to not have things completely figured out by the end of the year. It’s even okay to still be figuring things out at the end of the year. There is no set time line to develop a Bette sense of self (and if you want my opinion, 12 months is not enough time). So don’t be so hard on yourself if you didn’t manage to go to the gym 5 times a week like you promised yourself, don’t be so hard on yourself if you still manage to procrastinate a little bit throughout the year – mistakes are a crucial part of this journey to self discovery. As human beings, we are entitled to slip up from time to time and that’s okay. As long as you continue to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and move forward, you’ll be okay. You never want to aim for perfection – you want to aim for growth.

Growth is vital when a new year starts. The only thing you don’t want to be doing for the new year is restricting your growth. You don’t want to be exactly where you were in 2015 – making the same exact mistakes and never learning from them, doing the exact same things and never learning anything or doing anything new. All these things limit your growth and as the years go by, neither you nor I get any younger. We owe it to ourselves to nurture our growth each year and make sure that this year, and the many years after, are used to develop yourself in as many ways possible.

Looking ahead into 2016, we have the world at our feet. We are free to do whatever we wish. Just make sure we use this free will and the promise of 2016 to make a positive mark on this world for you and for others.

2015 was a remarkable year for us all. Let’s make 2016 even more remarkable.

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Good bye, Fall 2015 Semester – Hello, Relaxation!

Today is the big day – the final day of exams and the official last day of the Fall 2015 semester! Congratulations to all students – and staff – who have made it this far and put in their hard work and effort throughout the semester. Hopefully all of the stress was worth it and you’re able to rest easy knowing you gave this semester your best shot. With all of the struggles we all went through this semester, I’d say that we’re more than ready for a well-deserved break. Lucky for us, this day marks the first day of this well-deserved break and we can finally put the stresses of this past semester behind us. This Holiday season is a time of rest and relaxation for a lot of students – and maybe even a little bit of fun! If you’re in the Toronto area this term break, here are a few things you and some family and friends can do to make your Holiday break a little bit more festive!

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TORONTO CHRISTMAS MARKET

Where: The Distillery Historic District; Mill Street

When: Tuesdays – Sundays; November 20th, 2015 –December 20th, 2015

What: Christmas street festival and market with Christmas related entertainment, shopping and food vendors, activities, etc.

Why: With activities from music, dance, a Caroling challenge, meeting Santa, special Christmas cocktails and food, there’s sure to be something for someone who loves Christmas or just simply enjoys having a good time! Also, the Christmas Market is free of Admission from Tuesdays to Fridays! Otherwise, admission is only $5 (including tax!) on Saturdays and Sundays.

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SKATING AT NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE, HARBOURFRONT RINK, AND EVEN RYERSON’S OWN LAKE DEVO!

Where:
Nathan Phillips Square = 100 Queen St W; Near the historic Old City Hall!
Harbourfront Centre = 235 Queens Quay W; near the beautiful Lake Ontario with a gorgeous view of the Lake and the city skyline!
Ryerson “Lake Devo” = 350 Victoria St; near the heart of the city – Yonge & Dundas Square!

When: All open 7 days a week, 10am – 10pm! (With the exception of Ryerson’s Lake Devo, which is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!)

What: The city’s best outdoor skating spots in the most iconic parts of the city!

Why: Outdoor skating has been a typical Christmas tradition and there’s nothing better than doing it in the most iconic parts of Toronto!

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RAPTORS OR LEAFS GAME AT AIR CANADA CENTRE

Where: 40 Bay St

When: Check game schedules for Raptors (http://www.nba.com/raptors/schedule) and Leafs (http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm)

What: Toronto’s two beloved home teams in Canada’s most loved sports face off other competitors in exciting court and ice action! Catch these widely-loved sports by Canadians across the country with family and/or friends!

Why: Hockey and basketball are Canadian-invented sports – with the Raptors and Leafs having the best fans in the world, seeing these games live is sure to not only add excitement to your Holiday season, but ignite your Canadian spirit as well!

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THE CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS AT HUDSON’S THE BAY

Where: 401 Bay St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: Each year, The Hudson’s Bay in downtown Toronto (connected to CF Eaton Centre) arranges its window displays during the Holiday season to display magnificent scenes that depict a Christmas-related theme!

Why: These beautiful window displays make for stunning pictures and can even spark some Christmas decoration inspiration! These inspirational and elaborate displays make for Instagram-worthy posts!

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING (and for us students, Retail Therapy) AT CF EATON CENTRE

Where: 220 Yonge St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: CF Toronto Eaton Centre is Toronto’s largest shopping centre that is located at the heart of the city!

Why: The Holiday season calls for Holiday shopping and the best place to get your entire Christmas list checked off is at Toronto’s most popular shopping centre! It’s three floors of great stores, great deals, and even better finds!

If you spend a little time in Toronto this Holiday break, feel free to go through this list and see how many you can go through. Holiday season in Toronto is sure to be a fun, festive, and lively one!

I wish all Ryerson staff and students a very Happy Holiday! Rest, relax, and enjoy yourselves – we all certainly deserve it!

Santa Needs Sensitivity Training

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Over the past year, I’ve been visiting a 10 year old boy with a disability at his group home.  I met him three years ago at a hospital I volunteered with; when he was leaving, group home staff invited me to come see him because they saw he had bonded with me.  I now visit him weekly and we are best friends.  This has been a year of “firsts” for my friend as he spent his life in a hospital.  The group home has provided him with so many childhood experiences that I realize we take for granted.  With that being said, this was his first time travelling to the mall to get his picture taken with Santa.

My friend was dressed in a red sweater and khakis, all ready for his Christmas picture.  His worker and I helped him practice telling Santa that he wanted Dora and Barney for Christmas.  As we waited in line, we asked him if he was excited and talked up Santa.  It was finally my friend’s turn to see Santa; we took him out of his wheelchair, put him on Santa’s lap and that is where Santa let us down.

Santa seemed awkward and uncomfortable with my friend on his lap.  He didn’t ask my friend’s name or what he wanted for Christmas, he wouldn’t even really look at him or speak to him.  This wasn’t how Santa treated the kids before and after my friend; smiling, asking their name, talking to them about what they wanted for Christmas, everything a mall Santa is supposed to do.  Although my friend is smaller than the average 10 year old, he is verbal and talks a lot.  He sat on Santa’s lap singing and talking, looking so happy yet Santa couldn’t even respond or look at him.

I’m extremely disappointed in Santa; I could understand if he was concerned about how to hold my friend or that he may hurt him due to his physical disabilities but that wasn’t the case.  If he was concerned about hurting him, he would have asked us.  He couldn’t be bothered to talk to a little boy with a disability, a little boy who has never in his life been to see Santa outside of a hospital.  I don’t know if my friend noticed this and I really hope he didn’t.  I kept trying to prompt Santa by telling my friend to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas; Santa didn’t get it.

The holidays are for all children who celebrate, not just those that are able-bodied.  My friend is just as special, spirited, unique and worthy of Santa’s time and attention as any kid standing in that line.  He has interests which he bases his Christmas wishes off of, just like every kid who has grown up celebrating Christmas.  This goes for all children with disabilities who celebrate Christmas.  They look forward to opening presents, putting out milk and cookies, decorating the tree, writing letters to Santa, and visiting him at the mall.

This specific experience relates to the systemic issues of ablelism, and the discrimination against and marginalization of folks with disabilities.  This involves our entire world learning and unlearning what we have been told and assume about people with disabilities.  This issue reaches far beyond my friend visiting Santa but regardless, there’s a little boy whose first visit to Santa may have been spoiled by the person he was most excited to see, and I’m sure there are many more kids experiencing this.  If you are a parent, family member, friend, worker, etc. to a child with a disability, I suggest avoiding the Dufferin Mall for your Christmas pictures this year.

 

 

A Halloween Wish

DSCN1398“How was it?”

“Terrifying”

Over a thousand years ago when the Celtic people roamed throughout what we call Europe, a tradition we know as Halloween was born. The Celts broke up their year into four pieces as we do to this day with the seasons. The first day of winter for the Celts lines up with November 1 on our calendar and on this day they celebrated the end of the harvest with the festival of Samhain. On Samhain the ghosts of the dead were able to wander with the living. The Celts would leave offerings of food and drink for the dead, and celebrate the festival with bonfires, games, and the carving of vegetables; sound familiar? As time rolled on, other religions began to take form and dominate the culture of Europe. Christian missionaries began to venture out into Europe trying to convert the “Barbarians” including the Celts.  The Christians made it a habit of theirs to take the festivals of the people they were converting and change the meanings to ones of more Christian values. With that the Christians took Samhain and made it All Saints Day which is still celebrated on November 1. However, as we know today the Celtic festival of Samhain was too important and ingrained into the people that it could not be entirely destroyed by the Christians. Even though the festival of Samhain has changed and become our Halloween, the idea of celebrating death and the dead is still here with us thanks to the Celts.

 

The original festival of Samhain did not have a focus of evil and the macabre, that was created by the Christians because they believed the gods and spirits of the Celts to be demons and devils. The focus of Halloween is now evil and most importantly getting scared, which I do quite easily, but I remid myself that it’s just a bunch of hocus pocus and then I check under my bed of course. On October 29 I was absolutely terrified thanks to the Ryerson chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, known as Students for Wishes, at their annual haunted house. After running and screaming blindly in the dark, damp, and dingy basement of a dilapidated house on St. George street, with monsters and ghosts creepily stalking and increasing my heart rate, I learned about the foundation. The Make-A-Wish  Foundation has been granting the wishes of terminally ill children for over 30 years beginning in Phoenix, Arizona with the granting of Christopher James Greicius’s wish to become a police officer. In 1983 the Make-A-Wish  Foundation came to Canada thanks to Nigel Brown and Robb Lucy from British Columbia who personally made the wish of a girl named Debbie come true. Since then, chapters of the Make-A-Wish  Foundation have been established all over Canada including student run chapters at Ryerson and the University of Toronto.

 

Students for Wishes is a fundraising arm for the Make-A-Wish  Foundation at  post-secondary schools. The Ryerson chapter has been in operation for the past three years and every October they put together a terrifically terrifying haunted house in partnership with the University of Toronto chapter. Students for Wishes has the same goal as the Make-A-Wish  Foundation in that they operate to fundraise money so that the wishes of more children can be granted. At Ryerson specifically, Students for Wishes wants to raise $10,000 by the end of the upcoming winter semester. The haunted house was just one of their major events, the next is their Hairaser which is another opportunity to contribute to their cause and get a haircut. On February 4 from 1:30pm to 4:30pm in Cara Commons which is on the 7th floor of the Ted Rogers building, Students for Wishes will be hosting Hairaser where for just $10 (for guys) or $15 (for girls) you can get your hair cut or for $5 have it styled or dyed blue to show your support for the association and all the good work they do. The hair will also be collected and donated to Continental Hair Toronto in support of their wigs for kids program. For all of the events Students for Wishes hosts they donate 100% of the money they collect to the Make-A-Wish  Foundation of Canada. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a member of Students for Wishes you can contact them through their website, Students for Wishes Ryerson University.

 

I was not aware of the Student for Wishes association at Ryerson and I am very happy to know that they do exist and are working to make children’s wishes come true. It is devastating to think of children who may not have the opportunities that we have all had and knowing that they have the chance for one of their wishes to come true is warming. Halloween is my favorite time of year and Students for Wishes has made it even better, a day that is full of evil has become a little less terrifying and even more full of magic with the knowledge that life does not have to be like Halloween. Evil doesn’t run rampant in our streets, there is goodness in our streets too, you simply have to look for it sometimes.

Holiday break does not have to break the bank!

With holidays around the corner, some of you may be planning to go on a vacation. I wanted to write a blog post to help you save some $$$ before you go on a vacation.Canadian Money

You probably already know this; travel costs are much higher in the summer months. Therefore, if you are planning to go on a vacation, then you should be able to find discounted tickets in the first half of June and in late August. Avoid booking your flight during July and early August as costs are the highest. If you are already aware of big-name events (like Pan Am Games in Toronto) taking place in a city, avoid being there. You will find that prices will be much higher than normal months of the year. This includes hotels, taxis, food and so on. The other downside is the traffic. On the positive side, you get to be part of the big-name event and get to take a lot of pictures to keep in your photo book. Therefore, research your destination and if possible, avoid being in crowded places.

Travelling from alternative airports often costs less than major international airports. If you are planning to spend your vacation in the States, then it would be best to drive to US and then catching a plane at an American airport. It will certainly likely cost less to travel within US. While on vacation, stay at a bed and breakfast instead of hotels. Take benefit of websites like Airbnb and others to find yourself a private accommodation. This will cost you less than staying at a hotel.

While on vacation, find events that are free. These free events can include festivals, parks, concerts and markets. Often you will find that art galleries and museums offer free admission on one day of the week. Take benefit of these opportunities. You will also find that historic sites are often free or may charge minimal entry fee. Do not forget to get the vaccine before leaving. Visit the Toronto Public Health’s website or consult with your doctor before travelling. Get the right vaccine and this will help you stay protected against any exposures. The last thing you want is come back with an infection.

Be sure to open a high-interest vacation savings account and invest money over time to help you pay for your vacation. Banks and credit card companies have added many benefits for their cardholders to attract new customers. Take benefit of these offers. Spend and save wisely.

Stay on track this Reading Week!

Hey everyone! Guess what, its Reading Week! We have officially made it halfway through this semester. Most of you (including myself) will be writing midterms after the reading week. Therefore it is important to stay on top of your studies to ensure you do well. You will thank yourself for staying on top of the readings once those midterm dates and essay deadlines draw closer. The last thing anyone wants is to have a panic attack on the Sunday before school starts. Use these pointers to effectively manage your time this week! Reading Week

Use an agenda to organize your time – as simple as it may sound, the sooner you set goals for yourself, more beneficial it will be. If you have three exams the following week, come up with a flexible schedule that will help you stay on track during your time off. Do keep in mind your daily pattern. If you don’t feel like doing calculus problems early in the morning, then select a time when you will feel more alert.

Family Day – Family day falls on Monday during reading week. It is important you spend time with your friends and family but do let them know of your study plans. The last thing you want is your reading week plans being ruined by unexpected outings. If you are going away during the reading week, share your study schedule with your family to let them know that you will need some time dedicated to academics.

Stay Motivated – As students we are used to leaving work till the last minute. This year, make an intention to stay on top of the work. I have always found getting started to be the hardest part. The last thing you want is to leave studying until the last Sunday. If you are having study sessions with your friends, set a goal to finish the readings before study session starts. This way, you will be motivated to do the required readings before meeting up with your friends. I have found this to be helpful and when you discuss the readings with your friends, you will be better prepared for the midterm.

Rest – Reading week is not just about studying, playing games and staying home. This is also a good time to take some time off from your busy school life. Try to sleep early, so you can wake up early to have a productive day. You may not realize this but you will not be getting a week off until after the Winter semester exams.

Enjoy the reading week and use the weekly/daily To Do Lists to stay motivated and on track.

An Ideal Summer

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The time we have left to enjoy the summer of 2014 is winding down.  Remember all of those things you wanted to do this summer?  Perhaps your summer bucket list.  You only have a little bit of time left to do those things.  When looking back on the summer so far there is one thing I did that really sticks out to me and that is work.  Like most university-aged students work has consumed the greatest amount of my time this summer.  With university education being as expensive as it is plus the cost of living in Toronto, a summer free of work responsibility is not a luxury many of us have.  As I was thinking about all of the things I want to do before summer ends, I also thought about what I would do with a work-free summer.  My ideal summer.

If I had a work-free summer, I would go through twice as much sunscreen as I do during a working summer.  Despite my tendency to get horrific sunburns while wearing sunscreen, I would be outside as much as possible.  Who knows, I might even get a tan for once!  I would go rollerblading down on the Lakeshore and head to Toronto Island for many beach days.  All of my summer reading would be done in Allen Gardens, by the water and in other Toronto parks that I have yet to visit.  Usually when I sit in Dundas Square it is because I’m killing time.  In an ideal summer I would sit there just because I wanted to.  Finally, I would just walk.  Aimlessly wander the many neighbourhoods of Toronto.

In an ideal summer I would go dancing every Friday and Saturday night without having to wait for my work schedule to come out or worrying about being tired for an early morning shift (or hungover!).  I would also volunteer.  Most of my volunteer work comes to a halt for the summer because I go home to work.  I would keep my volunteer shift at Holland Bloorview and ask for additional shifts.  I would volunteer for new events and organizations.  All of those that I can’t fit into my busy schedule doing the school year.  I would love to volunteer with a program where volunteers rock babies whose mothers are unwell or unable to.  I would also love to coach a little league soccer or basketball team.

In an ideal summer I would still visit my hometown of Niagara Falls.  I work a 5 minute walk from the falls but cannot remember the last time I actually saw them.  I give directions to them at least 10 times a day but cannot recall the last time I took those directions.  In an ideal summer I would not take for granted that I live near one of the wonders of the world.  I would go be a tourist for the day.

Finally, I would spend more time with my family and friends.  I’ve recently been given “favourite cousin status” by my four year old cousin but had to decline a recent invite because I had a shift at work.

In an ideal summer I would go back to school relaxed and with stories to tell beyond “I worked all summer”.  Although I will have to work every summer to make it financially through the school year, it’s still fun to dream.  Hopefully I will be able to squeeze some of these things in during the last bit of summer.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Summer Bucket List

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July is upon us which means that summer break is half over for university and college students.  I’ve noticed that each year my friends and I say we are going to do a bunch of fun things and more often than not, we don’t get around to them.  Summers for students are often filled with work, spring/summer courses and endless hours spent watching Netflix.  My mother, along with a few other teachers at her school, had an idea of how to engage their grade 1 and 2’s during the summer and have them avoid sitting on the couch for hours.  They made a summer bucket list for their students to complete.  This is easily applicable to university and college students and anyone else looking to have a memorable summer.  Writing it down what you want to do may help you actually do it.  You can do this with your friends, family or on your own.  In case you don’t have time to come up with ideas, here is a few you might be interested in.

1) Patio Crawl:
You may have heard of bar crawls, but how about doing a patio crawl.  Toronto has some amazing patios with a really great view.  Instead of pre-drinking and spending money at one bar, bounce from place to place and have one drink per patio.  You could do this during the day, at night or over a week.

2) Around the World in One Summer:
One of the things that make Toronto unique is how diverse we are.  Try a different ethnic restaurant each time you go out for dinner.  You’ll be able to taste food from around the globe without leaving Toronto.

3) Go to a Street Festival:
You know those festivals that close down entire streets, hold up traffic and detour transit?  Go to one of them.  It’s nice being able to walk down the middle of a generally busy street without having to worry about being hit by a car.

4) Watch a Jay’s Game:
This could be buying tickets and going to see a game or going to sit in a sports bar where Jay’s fans watch.  Even if you don’t like or understand baseball, you can’t deny the energy is contagious.

5) Visit Ryerson:
You may think we spend enough time at Ryerson during the school year but we are usually just there for class.  Take the time to see how beautiful our campus is without worrying about assignment deadlines, classes and exams.  Go sit by Lake Devo or in the Quad.

6) Go in the Allen Gardens Conservatory:
Allen Gardens is every walking commuters dream; a route with no cars, no stop lights and less noise.  This summer do more than just commute at Allen Gardens.  Go inside the conservatory to see the amazing flowers and plants that grow there.  For the longest time I had never stepped off the paved area of Allen Gardens.  Take a blanket and sit in the grass, there’s a lot of it.

7) Harbourfront Centre:
The Harbourfront Centre is the place to be in the summer.  They offer free movies at sundown, dancing on the pier and a ton of festivals. http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/summer/dancingonthepier/

8) Be a tourist in your city:
Write down all of the places you define as “tourist” areas in your city and go explore them.

9) Be an actual tourist:
GO Transit offers direct train rides from Toronto to Niagara Falls every summer.

10) Go to Toronto Island:
The ferry to Toronto Island is not expensive and goes to each area of the island.  You can always bring your bike or rollerblades.  If you’re feeling brave, stop by Hanlans Point and sun tan your entire body (literally).

Photo from: blog.queensland.com

Protect yourself from West Nile Virus this summer

The best thing about being a public health student is that I get to learn about new diseases that affect humans globally. As you may recall, there has been an Ebola outbreak happening in Africa and MERS in Middle East. Today, I will be blogging on West Nile Virus (WNV). When I first learned about it in class, I was surprised to find out that WNV is endemic in Ontario. This means that people living in Ontario have the highest chance of getting the WNV infection than any other province. There were no WNV human cases in Canada pre-2000 era and only recently (last 10-15 years) it has started to become an issue.

Protect yourself from West Nile VirusWNV is a vector-borne disease, mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who get infected with this virus do not feel any symptoms (some have flu-like symptoms) and only 1 in 150 will develop a serious illness and may require hospitalization. Fortunately, the fatality rate is very low (0.1%) compared to other diseases like Ebola (>80%) and it is fairly easy to lower your risk of infection, by avoiding mosquito bites. It can take up to 14 days for infection to develop and person-to-person spread has not been document for WNV.

According to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the best way to lower your chances of getting bitten by an infected mosquito is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home. Most mosquitoes do not fly very far and tend to stay close to their breeding sites. Make sure there is no standing water on your property as mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water. PHAC recommends removing unused items that can hold water for longer periods such as old tires, toys etc. Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. If possible, wear light color clothing as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors. You should also check to see if there are any holes in window screens as mosquitoes can easily make their way indoors. Clear leaves and twigs from roof gutters and make sure drains are not clogged. They can be a source of standing water.

There is no licensed vaccine for WNV at the moment, mainly because most people are asymptomatic (do not show symptoms). Anyone who is outside during summer months golfing, walking, camping etc is at the risk and should wear protective clothing to avoid mosquito bites. People with weakened immune system are at the highest risk and chances of having a severe illness increases with age.

Sources:
http://www.oxfordcounty.ca/Healthy-places/Environmental-health-hazards/West-Nile-virus

http://www.bccdc.ca/NR/rdonlyres/DBA737CA-B5D7-4A36-8D73-FC93CA5EE7CD/0/WestNilefolder05_2014.pdf