Black History Month Spotlight: Maryann Elizabeth Francis

Francis

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we focus the spotlight on another strong Black Canadian female figure. Mayann Elizabeth Francis was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia and came from parents who hailed from Cuba (her father) and Antigua (her mother). She had strong roots in the church, being brought up and raised surrounded by strong religious influences, especially due to the fact that her father was the archpriest of the African Orthodox Church.

Mayann Elizabeth grew up in a diverse neighbourhood of Nova Scotia, yet, despite the apparent diversity of her community, there were still quite prominent issues of racial discrimination and inequality occurring in various communities surrounding her. Mayann was made aware at quite a young age of the segregation and racial disparities that were occurring in her community, and in communities across the country. She knew that she wanted to be a part of the social justice movements that would work to abolish racial segregation and discrimination on Canada, and was compelled to do her part to affect change in some way. So Maryann pursued higher education at St. Mary’s University, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following her undergraduate education, she took a job for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Shortly after her experience with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, she moved to the United States, where she lived for 16 years. In those 16 years, Maryann was able to earn her Master of Arts degree, in 1984, with a specialization in Public Administration from New York University. She used her Masters degree to build a career with a focus on personnel and labour relations issues, issues that influence the quality of people’s lives, and issues that seek to be rectified through public bodies. This was in strong part due to her upbringing in an unstable racial climate in Nova Scotia, where racial segregation and discrimination were very real realities with which she experienced.

After 16 years in the United States, returned back to Canada and settled in the province of Ontario. There, she worked as an assistant deputy minister with the Ontario Women’s Directorate. Shortly after, she became the Director of the same organization. After her experience with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, she decided to return to her roots and pursue her career with the Nova Scotia human Right Commission. There, she became to Chief Executive Officer.

Mayann’s work to bring about social justice and equality within society was widely recognized both nationally and internationally. She received the Harry Jerome Award from the Black Business and Professional Association, the Multicultural Education Council of Nova Scotia Award, and the Golden Jubilee Medla. Furthermore, she is the first woman ombudsman, black or white, of Nova Scotia. She moved on to become the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 2006. She is also the first Black Nova Scotian, man or woman, and the second Black Canadian to hold this position.

Her extensive experience in various senior public service positions is in large part due to her experience with racism and segregation. As a Black woman during a time where segregation was the everyday reality for all people in the United States and in Canada, Mayann Elizabeth knew first-hand what it was like to be discriminated and judged for reasons beyond control. She understood what social injustice and inequality felt like from a victim’s point of view. These horrible experiences inspired Maryann to live a life of public advocacy; live a life and build a career built on the principles of social justice and equality. To this day, she remains a largely influential and historical figure of Canadian history through her work in affecting change with regards to racial discrimination, segregation, and racial inequality.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=17

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/mayann-elizabeth-francis/

http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningcb/2009/10/mayann-francis.html

Black History Month Spotlight: Viola Desmond

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As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we shed light on a historic Black Canadian figure. Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She initially trained to become a teacher but decided to change career paths. She was a successful businesswoman who owned a barbershop and hairdressing salon business in partnership with her husband, Jack Desmond. In the midst of her business’ expansion, Viola left for New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 to pursue a brighter future for her business.

It is in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia where Viola Desmond makes a name for herself as one of the most influential and remarkable people – especially as a woman – during times of segregation between Blacks and Whites. Viola Desmond innocently went to the movie theatres one night in New Glasgow and decided to take a seat in the main floor of the theatre. Unbeknownst to her, this specific theatre had specific tickets for African Canadians – who should be seated in the balcony area – and White Canadians – who may be seated in the main floor of the theatre, where the movie can be better seen. Upon being asked to leave her seat and relocate to the segregated seat she was intended to sit in, she refused. The police were called and Viola Desmond was charged without being advised of her right, ending in her spending the night in jail.

The following morning, she paid the fine of $20 for the alleged crime and was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia with the difference in tax between a ground floor ticket at the movie theatres and a balcony seat ticket. The difference amounted to approximately one cent.

Desmond courageously decided to fight the charges against her, understanding that the issue was not surrounding around the idea that it was tax evasion, but rather, inherently racist. Viola Desmond took the case to court, where she was able to gain public opinion on the matter both locally in her own community, nationally, and internationally. This issue raised significant awareness on segregation within Canada.

Viola Desmond’s arrest quickly caught the attention of the Black Canadian community. The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) raised money to per her fine and help her to fight against her charges. Carrie best – the founder of Nova Scotia’s first Black owned and operated newspaper, publicized her story in order to truly amplify her message and spread awareness.

As a result of the garnered attention generated by Demond’s case, the government of Nova Scotia had no choice but to eliminate segregation laws. In 1954, the government completed repealed them.

This was quite a significant turning point in the history of segregation within Canada as it revealed and exposed the fact that segregation was still real and alive within Canadian borders. At that time, there was a notion that Canada was the safest place for Black people who are being racially discriminated and segregated internationally to go to. Canada was put on a pedestal for being “free of segregation and racial discrimination,” when in reality, such practices were still very much alive and not eradicated. This event urged the Canadian community – who was expected to be an ally in the Black Civil Rights Movement – to take corrective action and implement more inclusive and culturally-aware laws and policies into legislation. It significantly sparked the wave of Canadian Black Civil Rights movement, urging Canadians to explore, expose, and correct issues surrounding racism and racial discrimination within our own borders.

This event truly catapulted Canada’s policies and legislations towards a more progressive and inclusive direction. The Canadian government began consciously implementing more diverse, multicultural, and inclusive laws in the years to follow that incorporates Black Canadians into Canadian culture as valued members of society. As a result of the corrective action that followed after this event, Canadian people adopted a more culturally aware, inclusive, and diverse ideology about race. The issue of racism was brought to the forefront of social justice issues and light was being shed on racial discrimination as being very much so present in Canadian society, contrary to popular opinion.

This event ignited a very important movement in Canadian society. It sparked the discussion and the need for action towards a society that is built on a foundation of diversity and multiculturalism. Viola Desmond remains an influential historical figure in Canadian history who, despite how little her action back then may have seemed, took an action that is not only significant but extremely powerful.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=13

http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/249537

http://canada.metropolis.net/EVENTS/ethnocultural/publications/historical.pdf

The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

White Privilege and the Toronto Municipal Election

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On October 10th John Tory told a media scrum that he did not believe white privilege exists.  On October 11th Ward 2 Candidate Munira Abukar found racist messages written on her campaign signs; her face crossed out with the message “go back home”.  Would you like to retract your statement about white privilege now?

The municipal election has brought out the worst of Toronto in the forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  For a city that takes pride in being diverse, our elections tell a different story; they tell the story of Munira Abukar who found her campaign lawn signs vandalized with racism and sexism, Olivia Chow whose team has to delete racist and sexist comments daily from her social media pages and Kristyn Wong-Tam who has been the target of multiple homophobic letters.

If white privilege doesn’t exist, why were only Munira’s signs vandalized in Ward 2?  Why did Olivia have to defend her right to be in this country mid-debate while her white-colleagues just sat there?  Why is Olivia’s speaking skills torn apart while her white colleagues, who are not always the clearest speakers, are never mentioned?  It’s called racism and white privilege.  To say it doesn’t exist is misinformed and offensive.

Since Munira’s signs have been vandalized, she has received numerous threats via campaign e-mail that she will be taking to the police.  Many have reached out to her through Twitter and in person including mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and Morgan Baskin.  Front runners John Tory and Doug Ford were both asked by media to comment on the vandalism of Munira’s signs.  Despite believing that this is not acceptable, their denouncement was followed by claims that it is just a few people who do this.  This attempts to minimize the actions and racism we have seen in the municipal election since it’s only “a few” people who are doing this,

First, even if it was only “a few” people, this does not take away the hurt felt by individuals and communities who these actions are targeting.  Second, if it were only “a few” people, Olivia Chow’s social media sites wouldn’t be constantly monitored for sexist and racist commentary.

What concerns me is the impact this has on individual candidates who are targeted by racist, sexist and homophobic attacks.  Although each candidate continues to move forward and does not quit, these words and actions are hurtful.  What also concerns me is that racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are not exclusively experienced by municipal candidates.  They are experienced by people across Toronto on a daily basis.

How can a mayor who doesn’t understand white privilege respond to concerns of racialized communities?  How can a mayor who doesn’t understand male privilege respond to concerns of women such as child care?  How can a mayor who doesn’t understand heterosexual and cissexual privilege respond to concerns of the LGBTQ community?  They cannot; without understanding these privileges, any plan to respond to these concerns will be unsuccessful.

Although we are proud of Toronto’s diversity, this municipal election has shown that this source of pride is not felt by our entire city which is a shame.  I think the way to ensure that social issues in our city are addressed is by electing politicians who have a clear understanding of the privilege and oppression that contributes to those issues.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/12/munira-abukar-toronto_n_5973692.html
Twitter: @MuniraAbukarM
Photo: oliviachow on Instragram

 

How my Australian exchange trip led to self-discovery

In the fall of 2011, I needed out of Toronto. I wanted to shake up my routine and get as far away from the never-ending compromise between my studies and my on-again-off-again boyfriend. When I heard the School of Nutrition offered an exchange program to Melbourne, Australia that winter, I signed up immediately and booked my ticket to temporary happiness.

Or so I thought.

I have a pretty sweet life in Toronto because of my wonderful friends and family, and I expected life in Melbourne to be just as great, only with an Australian accent. But my life there sort of sucked – actually, it sucked hard – and it was the most abrasive reality I’ve ever faced, but one I definitely needed to get to where I am today.

At the time, I was 28, which in exchange student terms is pretty old, and my peers were in their early 20s. Ninety nine percent of them had never lived away from home, which meant they had never experienced life with no supervision and unlimited access to alcohol. As for me, I had been living on my own for seven years and had zero interest in getting trashed on boxed wine every night.

These basic differences made it nearly impossible to make a connection, so I attempted to make friends elsewhere. I attended workout classes at the city gym, I was extra social at school, and I spent my weekends on day-trips facilitated by the university, all with the hopes of meeting someone – just one person – with the same mentality as me.

But it didn’t happen.

Loneliness is an interesting emotion because you can feel it just as much in solitude as when surrounded by a group of people. Although I had made friends who I saw daily, I felt just as lonely with them as I did on my own. We didn’t get each other – or at least I didn’t get them.

As the months passed, the loneliness took a toll on my spirit. I’ve always perceived myself as an outgoing person and I’ve never had trouble with meeting people who share my quirks and humour. But because this seemingly easy feat just wasn’t happening for me, I began doubting everything I knew about myself and my entire trip shifted from searching for a connection with another person to building a stronger connection with myself.

Serial globetrotters often say they know themselves well because of their time abroad. The obstacles they faced pushed them to be resourceful and challenge themselves beyond their means, and a lot of growth comes from these obstacles, regardless of whether or not they’re overcome.

For me, that obstacle was keeping it together those six months. And although there were immense times of hardship, self-pity and sadness, I never regretted it, even on the worst days. I’m a firm believer in fate and, although fate can be cruel, everything happens for a reason. If it wasn’t for my tough times down under, I would appreciate everything I’ve worked for in Toronto, I wouldn’t know myself as well as I do now, and I wouldn’t be at this point in my life where everything feels exactly as it should.

FOOD, IDENTITY AND YOU!

If you really think about it food plays a significant part in your life. It is something you consume everyday and it is essential for you to keep functioning. Aside from these reasons, food is also traditionally part of many major life events and functions. Your birthdays probably included a cake, weddings serve a dinner and have a cake, holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving focus around a traditional meal, and even funerals typically have a reception where refreshments are served. Food is also often used as a means to commemorate a special event in your life. A lot of the time we celebrate with a meal such as graduating from your program, or have a potluck style lunch at work to wish a fellow co-worker farewell.

In addition, many cultures have staple ingredients and signature dishes that define their cuisine. When you think about Canadian culture, what comes to your mind if I ask you “what is a classic Canadian dish?” As a matter of fact, I cannot really come up with a definitive answer. A plate of meat and potatoes is what I can picture in my head, but is this truly representative? One thing about Canadians in today’s society is that we are so diverse and multicultural. Especially in major metropolitan cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, the population is extremely varied. The Ryerson campus itself is right in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core. When you take a look at the population of students, professors, and staff, many of us commute from all over Toronto and the GTA. This provides a good representation of the diversity of Toronto itself, and in fact based on its demographics, it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. So going back to food and my original thought on what is a classic Canadian dish, I would say that there is probably no one dish, but Canadian cuisine incorporates a mosaic of culture and ethnicity.

What this means is that it is important for individuals working with the public to have cultural competency, which includes an awareness of your own cultural worldview and the ability to effectively work with people across cultures. This is especially important in the health care sector, where you are trying to help someone. In relation to food, healthy choices offer nutrition therapy and help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Therefore, it is imperative for nutrition professionals to have an understanding of socially constructed meanings of cuisine, culture, multiculturalism, race and ethnicity. Accordingly, in my program, I was fortunate enough to take a course called Social and Cultural Dimensions of Food. I developed knowledge regarding the influences of Canadian immigration policy on culture and cuisine, and completed a food adventure project. For this project, I worked in a small group and researched a food item that we thought would be unfamiliar to many of our colleagues. We gave a presentation and prepared a recipe with the item as an ingredient for sampling. This project promoted a sense of adventurousness and willingness to try new foods, and here are a few I would like to share with you:

  • Sapodilla: This is a fruit native to Southern and Central America and is traditionally eaten raw. Many modern day cooks have used the fruit in numerous recipes including milkshakes and desserts.
  • Indian Karela or Bitter Gourd: It is classified as a fruit due to its fibrous seed content, although many refer to it as a vegetable. It looks similar to a cucumber and grows in tropical climates. It is often fried and eaten as a side dish or in curries.
  • Granadilla: This is a fruit from the passion fruit family and is native to Colombia. It is generally consumed raw, however, the skin is edible, but only the seeds, juice and pulp are usually consumed. It is used in fruit salads, daiquiris, and in baked goods.
  • Chayote: The chayote is also known as the pear squash or vegetable pear and it originated in Mexico. There are many varieties but the light green and pear-shaped one is the most common. It can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews or used in salads.
  • Okra: Okra is a vegetable that is thin, smooth in texture, and slightly curved. It is a staple ingredient in the Middle East, India, South and West Africa, and in Louisiana (Cajun and Creole cooking). It can be served raw, marinated in salads, or cooked (fried, roasted, or stewed).

rsz_presentation3”Give these foods a try if you have not already! They can all be found in major supermarkets around Toronto. Keep in mind, food is central to your daily life and identifying who you are. Like all people, individuals from culturally diverse populations have differing skills, knowledge, and values. It is important to understand people as individuals within the context of cultural competence and accepting and respecting differences within and between cultures.

Lunar New Year 2013

Although 2013 is among us, there is another New Year coming up for us to celebrate: Lunar New Year! Because the Lunar New Year is based on the lunar calendar, it falls on a different day on the Gregorian calendar every year. This year the Lunar New Year marks the year of the snake and falls on February 10, 2013. Places that celebrate the Lunar New Year are China, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet, and Vietnam. As Toronto is a large multicultural hub, it is not surprising that many people continue to celebrate the tradition here.

What is Lunar New Year about?
Lunar New Year is about celebrating the coming of a new year. Traditionally it is a time for reconciliation, forgiveness and wishing others peace and happiness. Days leading up to New Year’s Day involve a lot of cleaning and ridding of old things to make room for new luck. A special dinner is usually organized on New Year’s Eve with roasted pork and duck. New Year’s Day is a day of relaxation and festivities. In Chinese and Vietnamese traditions, red pockets with money are handed out to unmarried children for luck and prosperity. It is a day to spend time with family, eat, and enjoy festivals. It can also be a time to visit a temple to receive fortune readings.

How can you celebrate the Lunar New Year?
There are several events celebrating the Lunar New Year around the GTA. Listed below are some of them.

CIBC LunarFest at Harbourfront Centre
Friday Feb 8 – Sunday February 10, 2013
Harbourfront Centre is hosting a free weekend celebration with a Lantern Jungle, a Dumpling Fest, lion dances, live music, and more.

Celebrations at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto
Saturday February 9
The Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto will be hosting a Chinese New Year Community Celebration.
Monday February 18
The Chinese Cultural Centre will be holding the Year of the Snake Banquet.
Sunday February 24
The Chinese Cultural Centre will be hosting Chinese New Year Cantonese Opera Singing for Seniors.

The Toronto Zoo Celebrates 2013 Year of the Snake
Saturday February 9 – Sunday February 10, 2013
Combining celebrations for the Chinese New Year with Valentine’s Day, kids aged 4-12 who bring a Valentine’s Day card for their favourite snake can receive half price admission to the Toronto Zoo.* The zoo’s giant panda mascots will also be on hand for photo opportunities.
*Some conditions apply, see website for details.

Chinese New Year at Scarborough Town Centre
Saturday February 9, 2013
Scarborough Town Centre celebrates the Year of the Snake with an afternoon of drumming, dancing and more.

National Bank Dragon Ball 2013 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Saturday February 9th 2013
One of North America’s biggest Chinese New Year events featuring cultural performances, delectable cuisine, exceptional silent and live auction items, and raffle. Funds raised will continue to support the programs and services offered by Yee Hong to 15,000 seniors and their families in the GTA.

Chinese New Year Celebration at the Kortright Centre for Conservation
Sunday February 10, 12:30pm-3pm
Located in Woodbridge, most of the programming at the Kortright Centre for Conservation focuses on nature and the environment. Kortright is celebrating the Year of the Snake by celebrating snakes!

Chinese New Year Carnival 2013 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
Saturday February 16, 2013
Acrobats and dancers perform live in front of the China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra.

You can find more events at http://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Ps.

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How does one travel to a city of expensive taste with a budget that’s down to earth and the five-stars are out of space? I say, forget the five stars that are “known” and make your own. In my quest for a transportation utopia, visiting the rapidly-changing landscape of Southern California was on my bucket list since summer of last year. The problem I had (up until the last weeks before my trip), was finding affordable accommodation. With tuition fee reminders in email form, I was constantly reminded that I could not stray from my student budget. I lucked out on a good airfare price, but where was I going to stay? Even the modest of hotels seemed depreciated in value, motels even more. So what was the solution? A casual web browse one day after exams brought me to the site of a group share dormitory-style accommodation. Apprehensive at first, I decided to give it a chance and skimmed through their offerings. Best decision of my holiday break.

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I arrived at PodShare two weeks after my impulse purchase for a few nights stay and I knew I had made the right choice. (See, not all impulse decisions are bad.) Greeted by friendly staff, the place was exactly how it appeared in the photos online. Introduced to the humble abode, I liked more and more of what I saw. I mean, forget the golden lamps with soap bars placed below. Forget the awkwardly quiet ambience of you and the seemingly “perfectly made” hotel room that usually awaits you. This was something much better. I’m talking twenty-first century design unlike many hotels (and I’m not quite sure why that is.. something about preserving the renaissance.. pssh. Whatever.) I’m talking 72-inch projector screens (both for TV, Xbox, YouTube, you name it.) I’m talking glass fibre computer lounges (so don;t worry if you don’t own a computer). Everything was great. A few simple but necessary house rules were posted on a flat screen near the kitchenette, all of which I had no problem respecting. I was brought to my Pod where I unzipped my Nike Duffel and got comfortable.

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Booking online, PodShare employees were able to remember me by name, creating a much more personalized feel than any type of room service. Continuing to explore the new space, I entered the kitchenette, which, I must say, is a student’s paradise. TO begin, a brand new stainless steel fridge opens up with shelves labelled by Pod number, providing convenient space for one to put their food essentials. Stone marble countertops were squeaky-clean, with small reminder notes atop the cupboards for guests to wash their own plates, cups and other dining necessities when finished. Simple and fair. The top cupboard opens with a flexible fringe, folding out. Inside, a fair amount of breakfast essentials saves you a good fifteen bucks and an hour’s time eating out before you begin galavanting Los Angeles. Guests are welcome to add their own food if need be. The coffee-making machine seemed to be used frequently, another indication that this place was kept in good working condition. The level of my impressment grew.

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The bathroom facilities could not have been designed by one person alone. No way. The level of detail, precision and ingenuity is must have taken to design such an efficient space must have been the effort of like-minds. As you enter, the first object the catches your eye is the shower. Built with a concrete isosceles triangle for a base, a huge, transparent glass window pane separates the water from the land. The dry space on the side leaves room for the toilet and sink. Towels are provided each day of your stay, as expected. A massive shower head with different heat levels can be adjusted to suit anyone. Another convenient essential. Overall, the bathroom was a clincher.

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Last, but far from least, the pod bunker (where each resident stays) is probably the most delightful part of staying at PodShare. As you approach, you see how its design was made with the specific intention of having each “podestrian” customize their own space. A soft mattress, accompanied by two amazingly soft pillows is standard. Additionally, an 18-inch widescreen plasma TV is mounted to the wall within each Pod and each TV is equipped with Netflix, as well as streaming Apps for users to stream any media content they may have from their own laptop devices. Sweet. There is also significant room left at the end of each Pod for one to place any baggage, luggage, suitcases, etc. But wait, it gets better. A small, wooden blank is fixated to the wall near the pillow side, allowing podestrians to place pocket essentials, personalized bathroom essentials, anything you can fit! Making use of that continuously had me thinking, “How come my room isn’t designed like that?” Then, on the other side (the cut open wall side where you enter the pod) is a curved, adjustable lamp for nighttime reading, TV watching, whatever. Supercool. Located at the back end of the Pod room is a customized dresser with an adunbance of books, how-tos, where-to-gos and video games. At the front of this same space are an array of metal lockers for those too apprehensive to leave their valued belongings in the Pod. Cool that they have it for one’s use but, if you ask me, you don;t really need it. Everyone that stays there (from what I saw) were good-natured, good- hearted and possessed no evil intentions toward other guests.

In conclusion, PodShare, I tip my hat. You are well designed, efficient, comfortable and conveniently located in the heart of Hollywood. My complaints, none! I was pleased with the service and for the affordable forty bucks a night (cash or credit), even more impressed. Thank you for making my first trip to LA a most pleasant experience. I will be back. The only question is when. I look forward to seeing you grow and expand your business throughout the region and encouragingly, across the globe.
Ciao.

$MART.

Ps. For five bucks they’ll do your laundry. But you know, it gets done when it gets done. Cheers!

Toronto, The Bilingual

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The contribution of bilingualism to a society is often unrecognized by those who live and work in it. Having a diverse, multicultural language or languages can not only encourage national assimilation (from other cultures) but spur an abundance of economic growth to a region as well. With just under three million in population, Toronto has failed to play its role as an accurate representation of Canada’s bilingual diversity, with less than 1.5 percent fluent in French. This pails in comparison to other Canadian cities like Ottawa and Montréal, where bilingualism is deeply rooted in almost half its residents, if not more. As such, I will take this opportunity to present the French culture that does exist within our city limits as I attempt to diversify the English mother-tongue fluency Toronto has come to know since its origin.

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What better location to start learning our nation’s second language than a place with an abundance of reading/writing material. Toronto’s Public Library system, with 99 branches, has over 1500 French books in 32 of them. That is quite significant, given the current percentage of French pop. fluency. Reading and writing in French is often the best way to begin learning the language. Most people feel uncomfortable saying words they do not know how to spell, hence, reading in French makes for great practice. Everything from documentaries to short stories, TPL has got in stock. All you need is a valid library card. Much of the literature, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, is available in both English and French in the same novel, to help you understand both the story and the language simultaneously. Albert Camus and Félix Leclerc are also good authors to check out, both for their writing style and understanding of the language.

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Once the reading and writing portion of the language has been explored, you should feel comfortable enough to listen to some French audio. CBC’s 99.1 FM show “C’est La Vie!” airs every Sunday at 6:30pm and Tuesdays at 11:30am EST. It is great for easy listening and often has great musical content that plays on its airwaves. If you are not able to catch the show, the podcast is readily available for download on iTunes. The University of Toronto’s radio station CIUT 89.5 FM also airs a French show every Sunday from 11am-1pm EST. York U’s CHRY 105.5 FM airs Hip Hop music dans le français every Monday from 3-4pm and Wednesday from 11am-12pm EST. Finally, once you are ready for the full listening experience, stations 90.3 FM and 105.1 FM are all French stations, giving you a 24/7 french-listening experience.

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I encourage everyone living in the GTA to at least make an attempt at learning a language so beautiful as Le Français. Those interested in learning on a consistent basis can either:

• Register for French courses through Ryerson’s CE Program
• Look for French courses available at other major institutions (ie. York U)
• Sign up to the School of Alliance Française, a French school dedicated to helping you learn the language at your pace (several locations across the city/GTA)
In the near future, the picture I see is one of great, diverse bilingualism amongst GTA’s and Torontoians alike, shaping our city as a unique blend of international culture. Toronto can be a world class city, but, we must first indulge in the national spirit that made what today, we now call home. Au revoir!

Jesse

$MART Travel.

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! Amidst the crucial midterms, mind bending assignments and portfolios being put together in mid semester, getting away for a 24 or 48 hours isn’t a bad idea. Stress from the school/work load can often be dangerous if one fails to manage their time effectively. The key to success is balance. Hence, I highly recommend exploring a new town or city (even if just for one day) simply to get your mind off the overbearing workload that you be currently experiencing. Last week, I went to Montréal and Ottawa but returning to the Megacity, all within 30 hours. A six-hour bus trip got me into Montréal’s downtown core at 6am before the city had even began to stir. Freshening up in a nearby hotel, I enjoyed a wonderful French breakfast in Gare Centrale (their Union Station) which ran me no more than eight bucks. On my list of places to visit were:
• • • • •
The Biodome
Montréal Museé of Fine Arts
Parc Jean Drapeau
Apple Store – St. Cathrine’s
Canadian Centre for Architecture

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Due to the business nature of my trip, I only got around to seeing one of the five, but I will definitely be checking off all four on my next visit! I decided to use several different modes of transit both to/within my destinations as this helped to offset the cost. Megabus was my choice from Downtown Toronto to Montréal and totaled no more than forty bucks, tax included. Like the TTC, the STM (Métro) in Montréal offers a day pass or temporary visitors like myself but unlike the TTC, you are issued a Smart Fare Card on which you can reload at any point in time (even on a next visit!). It cost eight bucks and provided me with unlimited travel on both rail and bus networks within the city for twenty-four hours. So fifty-five bucks later, my belly is full, my transportation is paid and I’m ready to paint the town.

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Montréal has a variety of shopping boutiques, especially along St. Cathrine’s street. I am thoroughly impressed with the cultural architecture of the buildings and despite my short stay, made sure I snapped a few memorable photographs. Not to be outdone, I made it back to Gare Centrale fifteen minutes before my VIA Rail train en route to Ottawa departed at 5pm. At a cost of thirty dollars (inclu. taxes), the comfortable reclining, cushioned seats, free Wifi and complimentary juice certainly made me feel like I got my dollars worth. In a span of less than two hours, I was in Ottawa, ready to meet my younger bro for an evening of food and relaxation.

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A ten minute bus ride on Ottawa’s OC Transpo bus network system got us to the Rideau Centre where Chinese food fit the appetite. With four hours to spare, there was enough time to catch the new Kung Fu movie “The Man With the Iron Fists” by Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. Twenty bucks later, my belly is stuffed with popcorn and lemon chicken and the laughter that had escaped was enough for me to feel accomplished at day’s end. Purchasing a fifty-five dollar greyhound ticket home was as easy as clicks on my computer and off I was! Feeling exhausted, I conked out the entire ride home and woke up to a familiar Richmond Street as we exited off the DVP. So exciting, satisfactory day trips are possible. Just do it smart. Montreal. Ottawa. Under one fifty. See links below. Peace.

Jesse George

Mega Bus Official Website

Greyhound Website

Via Rail Website