Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays from Suokojamin!


Happy Holidays everyone! We're off to Ontario for a week of visiting family and friends, then we'll be back for more of the same in NS. Peace, love, and health to all in 2008.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hi folks,


Thought I'd share some happy news and a link to a great new publication, the third issue of which features the learned writing of yours truly:





[If you click on the above picture it will take you to the website. Fancy no?]




The article itself is not available online, so you'll just have to order yourself a hard copy. Look for 'Exclusive by Design'.


--Bopper

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bay Trip



These are some recent photos from a car trip around all the bays just south of Hali with our new friend Lise.








Friday, November 09, 2007

Majora Carter

A friend just forwarded this to me and I found it so inspiring I thought I'd share it:

In an emotionally charged talk, Majora Carter explains her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx. This MacArthur-winning activist shows how minority neighborhoods have suffered most from flawed urban policy, and energetically shares her grassroots efforts to "green the ghetto." Click http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/53.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hali publication

Hi folks,

I finally have my first Hali publication, in The Chronicle Herald. Check it out:

Neighbourhood versus HRM

-CB

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nova Scotia-Gambia Association

Hi folks,

I have taken another little gig to go along with my EAC work. The latest work is with the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association and CIDA, delivering talks (with multimedia presentation) on development in West Africa and correcting some common stereotypes (i.e. that the whole continent is at perpetual war and there is nothing there but violence, disease and poverty...these things are addressed in the talks but so is the positive, and some positive things that are happening there and how Canadians can support that work).

I'm excited about this because it will keep that African connection alive for me and give me the chance to share some of my own learnings.

If anyone has any ideas for venues, clubs, associations or individuals who would be interested in hosting such an event, give me a shout. I have to set up the venues myself, anywhere in the Maritimes is acceptable. I'm open to all suggestions.

Hope all are well. Here in Hali we sometimes struggle to find our place and our purpose, but life has been very kind to us so far.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Come See Me Read My Novel

Hi folks,

I'll be reading from the novel I've been working on at this years Canzine Festival, this Saturday (Oct 20) at 3:30 pm, in St. David's Church Hall on Brunswick St (adjacent to the library, across the road from Steve O' Reno's), in Halifax. If you can make it out I'd much appreciate the cheering section. For more info about canzine see http://halifaxpopexplosion.com/hpx07/?page_id=7. Hope to see you there.

CB

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big News

Hi folks,

I have taken a part-time job at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, as the Healthy Lawns Coordinator. It is a bit of a misleading job title but the main focus is freeing Nova Scotia of pesticides, focusing on both legislation and education. The current wisdom is that these two things must work in tandem to create the desired change; either one on its own is ineffectual. Please see below for a fascinating transcript of a recent episode of Marketplace on this very subject:



CBC Marketplace: The real deal on banned pesticides Tonight... They're selling this stuff... The real deal on bannedpesticides... They're promoting this stuff as if it's good for everybody,and yet it's supposed to be banned... Stores full ... of outlawed chemicals]

CBC News and Current AffairsWed 10 Oct 2007 , Time: 19:30 EDTNetwork: CBC - Television WENDY MESLEY (HOST):

KENT SALESMAN: We sell literally tons of the stuff.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Gardeners defying the law.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): ... he's even telling me that people aregoing out and spraying after dark when nobody's looking.

WOMAN: I'd rather not have a perfect lawn and have kids that are healthy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): The loophole that's turning into a turf war.

SALESMAN: You can use whatever you want. The bylaws don't mean anything.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): As Environmental Minister,that's disappointing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But you could... You either support the idea of the banor you don't. Get what you need to know, right now.

ONSCREEN TEXT: Lawn & Order

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We are looking for suspect activity in some big-boxstores.

WOMAN: Does one have more chemicals in it, then? SALESWOMAN: Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We're undercover inside some of the biggest and mostpopular chains in Canada.

SALESMAN: You should use this stuff with your hose.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): With a hidden camera, we start our investigation indowntown Toronto.

SALESWOMAN: (Laughing): Just don't let them see you using it. Do it in themiddle of the night like everybody else.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Salespeople advising customers not to get caught usingtheir products? What are they selling?

SALESMAN: Oh yeah. They're okay. They're all good.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It is a banned substance, but it's not pot -- it's pesticides! We're showingyou the underworld of the perfect lawn, how in spite of pesticide bansspringing up across the country -- 135 now, and counting -- we're stillsurrounded by so many perfectly weedless lawns. This is where the movementgot its biggest push. Halifax has the granddaddy of all pesticide bans. Thepeople of Halifax asked for and got a ban on the residential use ofpesticides because of health concerns. That was seven years ago. Is itworking? With a turf specialist, we're on lawn patrol, and we find a lot ofsuspiciously perfect specimens... Oh, there's one. Perfect. Perfect.Perfect. Right next to a weed one. Look at that. David Patriquin is aBiology prof at Dalhousie. He wants people to worry more about their healththan their weeds.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Well I'm shocked when I see people who do it when there's kids are around.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Use pesticides?

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): How, in the city the rest of the country sees ashaving the model pesticide ban, could there be so many flawless lawns?...Oh, look at that!

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah, now here'swhere there is a common property line between this house and their,neighbour and there is just a remarkable decline in weeds, on a...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It's perfectly clean right along the line! Look atthat.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): At the propertyline. Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Makes you wonder what's going on. We talk to the proudowner of the weedy lawn... Hi there! We're with C.B.C. We're doing a storyabout the bylaw, you know, the pesticide bylaw, and we noticed that you havelots of nice weeds on your lawn. (Chuckling) So we just wanted to ask you,do you have opinions about the pesticide bylaw?

WOMAN: You know, I'm happy that they have bylaws, so...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Does it bother you that...

WOMAN: But no, I mean, he doesn't... I know our neighbour is aperfectionist with his lawn, and I know he likes to have a perfect lawn, butI'd rather not have a perfect lawn and have kids who are healthy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Time to talk to her neighbour with the perfect lawn. Ishe sneaking out at night with a banned spray? We're just wondering what youdo to keep the weeds out?

MAN: By hand.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): By hand? Oh really!

MAN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Nothing special.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): What about if you get a dandelion, or like... anysprays?

MAN: No, never. No. I go myself. I can show you my tool set if you want, soit's all by hand.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): 13: Huh.

MAN: Yeah, yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And the neighbour on the other side? What do you dofor weeds?

MAN: We give it to the weed man. They're supposed to treat it. Three timesso far. I'm the new owner here, so the last couple years was not treated, bythe look of it.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Right. So are you going to treat it with something?

MAN: Yeah whatever they recommend there, the company itself, yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Yeah, do you know what he's going to use?

MAN: Not quite sure. I know no pesticide at all. We know that there'sbylaws. But the rest, I don't know exactly what he's using.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Yeah. He's not sure what his lawn company uses, andPatriquin says a lot of homeowners may not know that the products they'rebuying, like, say, Weed-and- feed, contain a banned chemical.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): If you putweed-and-feed on, it looks like you're fertilising your lawn, you see, andthat's what... like, I don't think any of the major lawn franchises aredoing that. I don't think they are; they would be stupid if they did. Butthere's a lot of Weed-and-feed sold in the retail outlets, and that's howit's used. You're fertilising your lawn, but there is herbicide in it aswell, and of course there's no signs.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Right, so people don't even know.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): If they comeout with a spray truck, that's different, but if you're just puttingfertiliser...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): It looks like fertiliser, but it's got something else in it too.

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): Yeah.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Wait a minute. It's illegal to use these chemicalshere, but you can still buy them? Yup, some big chains did stop selling theproducts when the bylaw came in, but at others here in the Halifax RegionalMunicipality, or H.R.M., we find shelves bursting with banned pesticides.

SALESMAN: Most of that stuff is not allowed in the H.R.M., but we selltons of it. You tell me it's all going outside the city? No.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Weed-and-feed, Killex, Weedout, Roundup -- all ofthese products contain at least one of the banned chemicals. It's illegalto use any of these on your lawn here. But there they sit, right beside thegreen products. And they are selling tons. Stats Canada says the use ofpesticides in Nova Scotia has barely budged since the pesticide ban cameinto effect...

ONSCREEN TEXT: 1994, 2006

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... just a teensy dip. So if this is to be Canada'sshining example, what's going wrong? We bring our hidden camera to somebig-box Halifax stores to see if these salespeople are encouraging illicitbehaviour too.

SALESWOMAN: I think they have a fertiliser-slash-Weed-and-feed thing inthere, which would probably be the best thing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Annette Lutterman started to suspect the ban was abust when her neighbour told her their local hardware store was recommendinga banned chemical.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): And I got curious about it, and I thought,"Well, what are people being told in the stores? If you go in and ask anhonest question, some advice for your lawn, what are you told?"

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Annette volunteers to go shopping at some of Canada'slargest big-box stores here, and we follow with our hidden camera to seewhat they say about pesticide use. First up, Home Depot:

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: There is a bylaw. I'm not exactly sure.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Okay, he knows about the bylaw, but still he takes usstraight to the Weed- and-feed.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: So I'd recommend one of these two things.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Yeah. The reason I was asking too is 'cause Ihave young children, and I was concerned about whether or not this kind issafe to use on the property.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: It's safe as long as, like... This... You might notwant, like, pets to be around the lawn for around 24 hours after you do it,but after that, you know, you should be fine for everybody.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): And is it legal to use?

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: Yup. Yup.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Really? This salesperson doesn't seem to know it'sillegal to use these products. There's a lot of confusion here, and nowonder. It turns out the city can name the banned chemicals, but it can'tname the products that contain them.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): The municipality doesn't want to make a listof brand-name products. They don't want to tell people that Killex is notpermitted, that Total Wipeout is not permitted, that anything calledweed-and-feed is not permitted, because it's a bit of a sticky issue namingbrand names, so they tell you which ingredients are not permitted, and, youknow, the average person is not going to read the small print.

ONSCREEN TEXT: See what's banned: cbc.ca/marketplace

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So do our hidden cameras find any salespeople whoadvise against these products? In our quick survey of four big chains inHalifax, we didn't find a single one. What we did find is that even whensalespeople know about the ban, they don't seem to treat it very seriously.Just listen to this salesperson from Canadian Tire:

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So is this legal to use around here?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: That I can't answer. I know we sell it, and I knowyou're allowed to use certain things and not other things, but as exactly which...

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Yeah.

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: We sell an awful lot of it, so I don't know ifanybody really pays much attention to it.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): But everybody uses it anyway?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Yeah. The amount of it that we sell, it's not justpeople that live outside the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): No. So you sell lots of it?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Yeah, they are just going out when it gets dark,spraying and going in the house.

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: They are going out when it gets dark?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Well, if your neighbours aren't too fussy about it,then you can do it during the daylight, but...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Hmm. "Spray at night." It's starting to be a familiar refrain.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): It's clear that he does know something aboutwhether it's legal, because he's even telling me that people are going outand spraying after dark.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So what's the secret behind the perfect lawn? It seemsthe stores aren't getting the message through to staff about what's bannedand what's not. The city had invited all the stores to pesticide workshops.Most participated. Kent, a big chain in Atlantic Canada, has gone, butstill, at one of their stores, Annette gets taken aside for a private chat,right around the corner from a sign outlining twelve ways to get your lawnoff drugs.

KENT SALESMAN: We sell literally tons of this stuff through the city ofHalifax. I just say make sure that your neighbours are okay with it. It'smore check with your neighbours than it is check with the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So you think the bylaw is kind of excessive?

KENT SALESMAN: Stupid. It's stupid. I think it's totally stupid. They'vegone way beyond what is practical, because now what they've got is a cityfull of dandelions, except for the people who just totally disregard thebylaw and look after their lawns.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Back on turf patrol, our lawn guy says there is onlyone way to keep banned chemicals off lawns -- get them off the shelves... Sowhy aren't they, if there is a bylaw?

DAVID PATRIQUIN (BIOLOGY PROFESSOR, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY): That's acomplicated negotiation, apparently, between the city and the variouselements. The H.R.M. has not been prepared to push it that hard.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): If Halifax can't make the ban work, can any city? Theproducts you see on shelves here, you won't find in Quebec stores. Quebechas gone a step further. It's not only banned the use of a number ofpesticides; it's banned the sale of them too. And it seems to work. The useof pesticides has dropped by half in Quebec...

ONSCREEN TEXT: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003,2004, 2005, 2006

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... unlike that teensy dip in Nova Scotia, a stat theNova Scotia Environment Minister doesn't seem familiar with. Mark Parentthinks the Halifax ban is a big success.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): Oh, it's cutting back onpesticide use. I have no doubt about that.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But look, Nova Scotia, it's barely moved. This was1994. This is 2006. Quebec, which has a ban on the sale as well as the use,they've cut it by about half, and Nova Scotia, it's, like, minuscule, thedrop.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): that Of herbicides andpesticides, yeah. But... And, I mean, that would... that would tend to...that would tend to... to... to... undercut what I'm saying in terms ofH.R.M., because it's about 30 to 40 percent of our population. I can only goby anecdotal information that I have that I think it is... it is... it isworking. Um, if people are out in the middle of the night spraying theirlawns, you know. .. (laughs)... and saying, "The pesticide police won'tcatch us," I mean there's no way I can have any information about that.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But we do. We tell him it looks like people may bedoing exactly that, on the advice of their local hardware store. It wasn't hard to find; it was really easy.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): You're trying to useregulation to do an educational tool, which is why the province has chosenthe strict educational approach.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But maybe the lawn lovers of Halifax aren't gettingthe message. Is part of the problem that you can't even tell people whatbrands that they're not allowed to use?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yes, our permitted products list is basically substances.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Stephen King is the man who oversees the Halifaxbylaw. So you can't say, "Don't use Killex; don't use weed-and-feed."

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah, it's a fine line that we have to walk, so webasically, like, on the permitted products list, just say, we don't listbrand names. Basically it's substances.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But people aren't going to be reading theingredients?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Well, you know, we try and encourage them to, and that'swhat a lot of the education is around. I mean I buy stuff, you know, I always read the ingredients, whether it's a car product or whatever it is.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But people, if they walk into a store and they'reseeing the store saying, "Oh, we believe in alternative products!" and,"Don't put your lawn on drugs!" and then they see the Killex and theweed-and-feed, they're going to think that those ones are approved!

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): No question, no question, and that's a problem.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): King says not being able to name the brands is a winfor the chemical companies. He says professional lobbyists from thepesticide makers have been watching his every move since the ban became areal possibility seven years ago.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): So they were taking it pretty serious.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): What were they concerned about?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Concerned about the efforts that we were moving forward withpesticide-use reduction, and...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): That you could be setting an example here?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): That we were setting an example here.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): At Wal-Mart, Annette gets handed one of the city'sbrochures saying which chemicals, not which brand names, are banned, butthen she hears more tales about illicit spraying under the cover of dark.

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: Some people do buy this, and they just remove this andput it on at night.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): What do you mean?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: I'm not repeating myself. I just said it once andonce only. (Laughs) No.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): You have to remove the label to put it on?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: Because it's in here.

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: Oh, oh.

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That's why.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): But what is this?

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That is the H.R.M. Anything that has any of this init, you cannot use in the city of Halifax--Dartmouth.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): Oh, so it's a law... Oh, it says a bylaw,okay. "Pesticide Bylaw."

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: That's why I said, right? That's why they take thefront panel off.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): When they use this. Oh, so they don't haveto...

WAL-MART SALESWOMAN: (Laughs) And that's it. I'm saying no more.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Different store, same confusion. But at least at thisone, Annette is offered information about the bylaw. Still...

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): She clearly is not convinced that there isany problem with pesticides. Like she said, people have been using them foryears and they haven't hurt the kids yet.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Ready. Put those on. (earphones)

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Okay.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We show our hidden-camera video to the bylaw man...Okay, so this one, I believe, this is Canadian Tire.

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: They're just goin' out when it gets dark. Spraying...

MARKETPLACE PRODUCER: They are going out when it gets dark?

CANADIAN TIRE SALESMAN: Well, if your neighbours aren't too fussy about it,then you can do it during the daylight...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): He's basically telling people how to break the law!

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah, yeah. That's unfortunate, yeah. Obviously, as you'reshowing me there, there are some clerks that are giving out informationthat's not only probably incorrect, but it's telling people to do somethingthat, you know... to break the law.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Now I'm going to show you... This is Home Depot:

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): The reason I was asking too is 'cause I haveyoung children, and I was concerned about whether or not this kind is safeto use on the property.

HOME DEPOT SALESMAN: It's safe as long as, like... This... You might notwant, like, pets to be around the lawn...

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Interesting. It's not safe for pets, but your kids it'sokay. And I know you've shown me things that show that, you know, all maynot be well in the Garden of Eden, but it, uh, it may be-

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): (Interrupting): Maybe a ban doesn't work unless youcan ban the sale.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): I think it would certainly... Well, it would make the banmoot, because if you can limit or ban the sale, there's no products to buy.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We go back to the stores we caught on tape and askthem for an interview.

CANADIAN TIRE EMPLOYEE: Hi, you've reached Lisa Gibson (spell) in theDepartment of Media and Public Relations at Canadian Tire.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We call all three stores one last time. We leave avoicemail for Canadian Tire, telling them what we found in their store...Salespeople in cities with pesticide bans have been giving misleadinginformation to customers.

WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: You've reached Kevin Groe (spell), Wal-Mart Canada. Ican't take your call right now.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): We leave the same message at Wal-Mart... And I thinkit's very important for you to give us an interview and clarify some pointshere. (Phone ringing) At Home Depot, we get past voicemail...

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Good afternoon. Tina (spell)speaking.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): ... and tell the P.R. person what we found in theirstore... Another salesperson basically said, "Just don't let your neighbourssee you doing it. Do it in the middle of the night like everybody else."

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): I just want to confirm thatthat is exactly what was said and under what context.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): That's exactly what was said.

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Okay, perfect. Let me get somestuff together, and I'll give you a call back!

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Thank you.

TINA (SPELL) (PUBLIC RELATIONS, HOME DEPOT): Okay, bye, bye.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Bye... Home Depot does get back to us, and says thatafter our call, they reminded stores to provide consumers with the correctinformation on banned products. Canadian Tire gets back to say they alreadygive consumers that information. And Wal-Mart 's bottom line? While it mayall be very confusing, it is still legal for them to sell the bannedproducts. Only at Kent in Halifax does regional manager Gary Glynn agree totalk to us. Remember what their salesperson told Annette?

KENT SALESMAN: I just say make sure that your neighbours are okay with it.It's more check with your neighbours than it is check with the city.

ANNETTE LUTTERMAN (CONSUMER): So you think the bylaw is kind of excessive?

KENT SALESMAN: Stupid. It's stupid. I think it's totally stupid.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): In your store, someone said, "Well come on around thecorner and I'll tell you. You know what? All you have to do is get yourneighbours onside. Don't worry about the bylaw."

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Mm-hm?

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So in the one little survey that we did in your store,the clerk wasn't saying this stuff is against the law. They were saying,"Don't worry about the bylaw; it's stupid"!

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Yeah. There arealways personal opinions. Whoever the clerk was definitely was not onsidewith what the company policies are.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Glynn shows us where there are hints of what to buy ifyou know where to look.

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): This is our chemicalarea, both hard chemical and our bio- or friendly-type chemicals.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So this one has... that one has a check, so that meansthat one's okay.

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): That's correct. It'snot harmful to people, pets.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): How would I know? If I'm just walking along here, howwould I know that I'm not supposed to use that on my lawn if I live in Halifax?

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): You would not unlessyou read the signage that was on the counters.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So are you doing enough? Because it seems that a lotof consumers are confused about... and no wonder they'd be confused. There'snothing saying, "You're not allowed to use this in Halifax"!

GARY GLYNN (REGIONAL MANAGER, KENT BUILDING SUPPLIES): Sure. Again, all Ican point out to the fact is that we're trying to tell people what the rightproduct is. It is a consumer choice. If the bylaw stated not to sell it, wewould definitely not sell it.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Canadian Tire is definitely selling it. They evenpublish glossy flyers just popping with pesticide promotions... All of thebig stores that we go to, the shelves are bursting. This is Canadian Tire.You know, they are selling this stuff -- Weed Out and Killex and Round Upand... Here it is again. And you know, the whole gardening season, the adsare... they are promoting this stuff as if it's good for everybody, and yetit's supposed to be banned in the biggest city in your province. These areHalifax papers, and this stuff is being openly advertised as if... like whatare people to think? They're to think that it's safe and it's fine, and"Gotta get me some."

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yeah. Oh, it's no question. Yeah, no question that when yousee, you know, those types of advertising, you see it on store shelves, ifyou, you know, didn't know differently, then you're probably going to assumethat they're fine.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Why not ask the province just to do like Quebec hasdone?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): We have.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And?

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): To quote as close as I can, you know, the response from theminister's office is that, you know, they believe that it would requireresources to do it, it would require resources to follow up with the stores,to do investigations, and they simply don't have them. That's the response.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): So the answer from Nova Scotia is no.

STEPHEN KING (MANAGER, SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT, HALIFAX REGIONALMUNICIPALITY): Yes.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And in all these big stores, we didn't have to gofishing. It was very... (laughs) In every single store, there was an issuewith a salesperson on one visit saying, "Take the label off and spray at night. It's kind of a joke."

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): Well, that's just... All Ican say is as Environment Minister, that's... that... that's disappointing.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): But you could ban the sale? Why don't you do like Quebec has done?

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): We don't have the resourcesas a small province. Quebec has its own toxicologists, its own sort ofagency, I understand, that can determine...

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): (Interrupting): Well then the reports would be there.You could just copy what they've done.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): ... that can determined thesafety.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): You either support the idea of the ban or you don't,and you seem to...

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): No-

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): Forty percent of the people in your province live in acity that has a ban, and the man who's running it says it won't really workuntil it's banned for sale.

MARK PARENT (NOVA SCOTIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER): the Uh, the ban is... isone. .. is one way of dealing with it. The educational process is anotherway.

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): And just like Halifax, Toronto has now banned the useof pesticides on residential properties. But again, like Halifax, it's leftthat giant loophole. You can still buy pesticides in the stores. Sure enough, when we take ourhidden cameras into the big-box stores around Toronto, we find some familiarbehaviour:

SALESWOMAN: You can use these, because they're not as strong as the onesthat companies spray. Like, the ones that companies spray are much moreintoxicated. These ones aren't; they are very mild.

SALESMAN: Yeah, anything that we have, we wouldn't necessarily havesomething to, um, harm animals.

SALESMAN: It doesn't really stop you. You can use anything you want.Bylaws don't mean anything.

WOMAN: Oh, okay.

ONSCREEN TEXT: Post your comments: cbc.ca/marketplace

WENDY MESLEY (HOST): All across the country, Canadians have been fightingfor pesticide bans, but maybe you can't really get pesticides off the lawnsuntil you get them off the shelves.

WOMAN: Are these ones okay?

SALESMAN: Yeah, they're all okay. Or else we wouldn't be selling them.

WOMAN: You wouldn't be selling them if they weren't okay.

SALESMAN: Yeah, yeah.

WOMAN: Okay.

Monday, October 15, 2007

To Mike Brooker

I was throwing out some punches
in Riviere-du-Loup
replacing pain with pain
I was just passing through

I was headed westward
for that phallus in the sky
of course I got busted
thrown in jail to get dry

Passed out on the concrete
sleeping rough again
this my latest tailspin
me and 60 other men

the worst thing about it is
this song is all a lie
all except the drinking part
so I forget to cry

I ain't ever been no where
outside of Halifax
got nobody but my parents
and they don't want me back

And if I died tonight
on the streets of this cold town
my social worker'd id me
'cause there's no one else around

No I don't need your sympathy
and I don't mean to complain
but the world has abandoned me
and my hopes run through your drain

You say that I'm a burden
my own worst enemy
that may just be true but
who has been a friend to me?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

THANKS

Last week we received this at our door - a bouquet of flowers. The note said "You're great!" but that's it. No name or any clue who it's from. So, to whoever the secret sender is, thanks a million. It was a great surprise and was warmly, warmly received.
So to whoever sent us flowers, "You're great!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Grand Tour


Welcome home.




Fireplace warmth.











Come on down:





































Rec room:



















Bedroom:














Relaxation Room:











Dining table:














The deck:










Throw some tofu on the barby:

Beer on ice:

















Now, back to work:















Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Memorial


We scattered Grandpa’s ashes the day before our second wedding anniversary. He joined his sister over the rose bushes and in a saltwater lake, and got his very own section of gentle waves on Crescent Beach.

“Last year on his 90th birthday he was walking out over these jagged rocks,” my aunt told us. “I was just praying ‘God don’t break your hip out there.’”

The ashes went in and my dad said, “Welcome home, Dad.” Those gentle waves beat the South Shore of Nova Scotia like a call to prayer to the generations of my family, gelled together by blood and choice. Together we scattered him one spoonful at a time.

Grandma explained it, “He spent his boyhood summers here. He brought me to it. Everyone always felt at home at this house, even if they weren’t from here.”

“His own grandfather built it,” his daughter added. “And the one down the road.”

“We all still feel more at home here than in the city or anywhere else,” my father added. His own artwork covers a wall. My great-aunt’s souvenirs from the north cover the shelves.

The rest is old framed black & whites, scrapbooked letters from people like my great-great-grandfather the seafaring captain who was the first to sail the Panama canal. “I trust my daughter’s judgement,” he wrote to my great-grandfather, his new, unmet, son-in-law. He reminded him that he wasn’t marrying a rich man’s daughter, that his house was humble, that he missed it. He was glad that she wasn’t marrying into the lonesome misery of a sailor’s life, that though my great-grandfather was a mere farming man, there was no shame in it.

It’s the history of the place that makes us feel welcome; its ghosts welcome us, turn out the lights to conserve power, for the sake of our future.

“Are you sniffing your butt?” my young cousin-once-removed asks her puppy as the sacred part begins, and some of us giggle. Grandma explains to her plainly what this is all about, and she nods. She too, and the ones that follow her, will feel welcome in this place.

The next day it's our two-year wedding anniversary, and that history beckons me, tells me it’s safe to bring new Benjamins here, that as an elder cousin I may soon be entrusted as a sharer of knowledge and family stories. So will be my wife. Though I may be foolish and human, I am never alone, nor shall be my wife, nor my children. They too shall feel welcome in this place.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nothing but Flowers

Hi folks,

I've published my little screenplay, Nothing but Flowers over at Potluck. Anyone of you movie-types wanna make it for me?

-CB

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Newness

Hi folks,

Another blogger I correspond with has reproduced a short screenplay I wrote in 2003 here so please drop by and have a read, comment if you feel so inclined.

Miia's job is fabulous and I'm keeping busy with various writing and eco-type projects.

We still miss LG, but following his mantra of 'life is good' we are enjoying all gifts of the universe during our time on this earth.

Peace and love,
-CB

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To LG (March 10, 2005 - August 20, 2007)

I met him in early April 2005. Our wedding was just a few months away but we were more excited about the kittens.

We must have taken the bus all the way to McCowan and got a ride from there with Miia's mom or brother. Then we drove to the house excitedly.

The mother was out and about, taking a break, so we feasted our eyes on the litter of three.

I noticed Bosh first because he wandered right out of the box on shaky legs and tried to climb the stairs. "I want that one," I said. He was an adventurer, a wanderer, a kindred spirit.

I looked over my shoulder at Miia to make sure that she had registered my selection, and there she was with LG in her arms. She was smiling like a schoolgirl.

"Can we take two?" she grinned, and so it was. There was no point arguing, we had fallen in love with them as fast and hard as we had with each other.

The following Saturday we were back, this time to take them home with us. They were still shaking.

LG short for Lieutenant Governor, hid under the front passenger seat while Bosh explored the dashboard. We stopped at the petstore for kitten food and a kitten owner's manual. The woman in the petstore told Miia that five months was too young to take them from their mother. But the owners had been anxious to get rid of them.

I stuffed Bosh & LG back into their cat carrier and poured through the manual on my way home, sharing interesting tidbits with Miia as she drove.

At the house LG found a hiding spot up under the pullout couch and Bosh explored the living room shakily. We gave them a bowl of kitten food and they paid it no mind. We gave them milk with the same result. We had to put the milk on our fingertips so they'd suck it off. For the first several months they kept looking for nipples in our hair. And still LG could often be found up under the pullout.

But because they were raised more by us than by their feline mother, and because our house was full of housemates and visitors, they quickly became people cats. LG loved nothing more than snuggle-time, and his purr could power a city block.

Bosh used to follow us around in and out of the house, and when we weren't around he visited all the neighbours, including the elementary school. Sometimes he'd be gone for days before we got a call from a neighbour with an uninvited guest. The school principal seemed to think nothing of carrying him home, plopping him into our front door. As Boshie rambled, LG would look around the house for him, missing him.

At six months it was time to get them fixed, vaccinated and otherwise checked up. The vet took Boshie's temperature first. When she put the thermomete up his anus he freaked and yowled and struggled under our four hands. It took forever to get a reading, prolonging his agony.

When she gave the same treatment to LG, his body just froze. His lips curled back over a jagged snarl that said, "I don't like this at all." It was over in seconds.

Their opposite personalities complimented each other like yin an yang; together they presented a unified front. At parties they'd pull up a chair each, across from one another, and no one dared kick them off. Human friends would pull up a piece of hardwood and stroke a fury chin.

The first time they experienced snow it was Bosh who awkwardly led the way while LG following close behind, delicately seeking warm spaces with his paws. He loved to go out for brief morning constitutionals before jumping and clinging to the kitchen window screen when he was ready for breakfast. Every meal was LG's favourite.

Like us they had their disagreements, usually in the form of no-rules wrestling matches. LG may have been the gentle one but he was bigger and just a little stronger, so when push came to claw he often got his way.

They made up more easily than we do, usually in the mornings by grooming one another and snuggling up like a two-headed cat monster. In the evenings LG would sleep with us and Bosh would doze with one eye half-open at the window, making sure the school-grounds were safe.

LG never let us forget love.

When we faught and the argument became heated, he'd find his way in between us, purring and rubbing and snuggling in the moment of greatest possible tension. And we'd laugh. And pet him. And calm down, ease our tones, get to resolving our differences.

Just before we left the country it was Bosh we worried about and LG who peed himself in the car en route to the airport and puked in the plane. They both looked shocked and haggared and pissed off when we retrieved them in Halifax.

We knew we were putting them into the good hands of the cat-loving parents, but there were other worries: coyotes, dogs, endless woods to wander and get lost in, and the semi-highway running by the house. For a wanderer like Bosh, anything could happen, and without the density of a Toronto neighbourhood there weren't so many neighbours to bring him home safe.

As expected, Bosh took to his new home quickly. He shied away from the fast moving cars, but dove into the long grass and watched fish jimping in the lake.

LG, always the more vocal of the two, cried a lot and hid inside. Slowly slowly he adjusted, but it wasn't until several weeks after we left that he dared to cross the road.

By then Bosh was already spending his nights wandering the wild woods and sleeping it off in the daytime.

Eventually LG caught up with his twin, and they hunted and played together by night, groomed each other at dawn, and slept the day away, the two-headed cat monster.

The whole 14 months we were gone, Miia and I missed our cats like a blowing empty nest. We carried pictures of them and cheered each other up with stories of them in our weakest moments. We had to restrict the times when we were allowed to talk about them beacause it was causing too much homesickness. We thrived on every story and picture my parents sent us of them. I think we missed them more than the humans we left behind.

As expected Bosh got to know the few neighbours around. As expected he hurt himself a few times, once quite badly - he needed several stitches in his belly and a conehead to keep him from scratching and biting the wound.

Also as expected, LG avoided such troubles and growled at his coneheaded brother. SOme mornings he fretted and cried until Bosh finally came home.

When we finally saw them just over two weeks ago, we scooped them up. LG cuddled and purred, Bosh jumped away but came back to say hello in a more dignified fashion. They kept their routine of frollicking at night but took to snuggling up to us in the sweet early morning.

On the night of August 29 LG was killed by a car on that stupid fucking semi-highway, where the stupid fucking cars always go too fast. We cried and cried and cried, and sometimes I still cry from him.

Dad put his body in the studio and locked it. Bosh went sniffing all around it, then around the road where his brother was hit. He came home in the morning with none of his usual zip.

We buried LG in the yard the next day, made a nice little gravesite with flowers. We raised a toast to him and left the beercaps on his grave. Beercaps were his favourite toy. He'd send them flying and cahse them for hours, as if they were alive.

He was more than just cat. He was pure, unadulterated love. He was a member of our family. And he was Bosh's other half.

"He was the handsomest cat," I told Miia. "Tied with Bosh, as always."

She cried and said, "I guess they aren't tied anymore."

But really they are still tied. Every time I look at Bosh I'll remember LG. LG will always be a part of Bosh.

My Tuvan Throat Singing Lesson with Sergei

video

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life Gets in the Way

Sometimes life gets in the way. MikeyZ and I were supposed to hop a U-haul and make a cross-country cash-grab, stopping at every ex hippy’s paradise along the way, visiting old friends and greasy spoons too. CMcC was supposed to maybe join us.

Life got in the way. There were babies to feed and jobs to secure and begin, and most of all U-haul screwed us in the form of a 250 percent price increase. It’s seasonal. This is busy season.

I have this memory of barrelling across eastern Canada, my dad at the wheel, me on the navigation tip, belting out Blondie as we rode. There was a flat tire, three days travel, half the time now allotted by U-Haul’s insurance sharks. It may or may not have happened like that, but it’s a fine memory.

I wanted that journey as an adult. I just wanted that self-sufficiency, and to bond and cement relationships that need not end, play my music loud and watch the road unfold, no hurry or worry.

Life got in the way. Turns out it’s cheaper to hire a moving company. They make life easy, load up your junk, haul it over, unload it too, all for a third the price, and that includes coffee runs, gas and insurance.

Saves us a trip back to the people trap. Saves us a bundle, and time too, and a lot of labour.

Except I was looking forward to that labour because it would have been communal, with those old-fashioned friends of a fading era. And I was looking forward to that last trip back to make some visits with folks who I saw too little of this summer, and I'll see even less of them now.

But you gotta move forward, backward never as Kwame Nkrumah said. Life moves forward fast, and it still gets in the way.


[Post-script: the moving company screwed us too. They underestimated the weight of our stuff based on our description of it. Bottom line, the price tripled, so it's about the same as U-haul would have cost.

I may still be back in the Toronto area at Thanksgiving. Our good friend Kerty is getting married. Miia can't take the time off work but I may yet be able to make it.]

-CB

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Novel News

Hi folks,

I finished the second draft of my novel a while ago and now have several readers scouring and improving. In the meantime, the Ghanaian paper I worked at has published the first bit of it, which is fun and adds some credibility for publishers I hope. See the excerpt here.

-CB

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Good News

I've just been offered (and accepted) the position of Director of Programs atPhoenix Youth Programs in downtown Halifax. You can read up more on the agency here. I'm excited to be working at such a great organization with such a fantastic reputation.

So, here's keeping my fingers crossed that I can transition into the organization well, do good work, and find a real place in my life and work there. My job starts September4th.

Thanks to all of you who, over these last months especially, have been so supportive of us and of ourlives and work. Thanks also to Lorraine, Chantal and Maureen for the references you've provided (Maureen even sent an emailfrom an internet cafe from Yellowknife while on her vacation!). Thanks to our families for always being ready with good advice and constant support. And thanks to the rest of you for all your kindness and generosity, in an infinite number of ways.

Much love,
Miia

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Follow-up Title Poll

So, we have two runaway favourites from the suggested titles, which also happen to be my favourites to date. I have altered one slightly to strengthen the language and image. So, just to see if it makes a difference, please tell me 1) which of the two you prefer, 2) why you prefer it, and 3) what you think the novel would be about based on these titles. Here are the two:


God and Other Dirty Sceptics

Living in the Dirt


-CB

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fear the Monoculture

I have published my latest poem over at Potluck, it's called Fear the Monoculture.

-CB

Friday, July 20, 2007

Audience Poll

I did this poll at my own blog and got some feedback from 'virtual friend' types, but also, if anyone is still reading this thing, would love some of your input.

I have several working titles for my novel [until now called only 'the subway novel' because that's where I wrote a good chunk of it], and I want to get your impressions of them. Knowing that few of you have read anything more than an occasional excerpt, I just want your impressions of the titles on their own, as if you had never heard of me or the novel and were browsing your local bookstore for something new:

Would any of these arouse your curiosity? Make you want to pick up the book and read the back flap? Which is most likely/least likely to do so? What would you think the story was about based on the title? What do they bring to your mind? Do they all suck? Should I scrap them all and start fresh in the morning?

Any comments would be appreciated. Here are the titles:

Control Freaks and Other Skeptics
The Underestimated
Living in the Dirt
Broken Social Contract
The Skeptical Nomads


Thanks for your help,

CB

Thursday, July 12, 2007

United States of Africa

A story came out in The Statesman last week that I didn't see in any westernized media, although I hear that CNN did cover it. See Accra Declaration for details about a major development that could have a huge impact on our world:

The African Union has decided to move toward a single Union Government, which could mean a single set of laws governing a massive and diverse continent of nearly a billion people and, currently, 53 diverse nations. Some of them are dictatorships, some democracies; some are fairly wealthy, some extremely poor; some are agrarian, some have oil. I don't know how it will work, but it will definitely change Africa and thus, the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Recommended Reading


Of all the books we've read this year, Soil and Soul by Alistair McIntosh has probably been one of the most impactful and inspirational. We found it in the Skara Brae giftshop on the Orkney Isles. It provides what might be called an alternative theological and ecological history of Scotland, and details two major activist victories of recent decades: the purchase of the Isle of Eigg by its residents from their Laird, and the saving of a mountain from total destruction by a megaquarry project, thanks to the help of a Mi'kmaq Warrior Chief and Peace Pipe Carrier.

This is recommended reading for anyone who cares about the planet or its inhabitants.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Alan Paton on our return

"We could go back knowing better the things that one fought against, knowing better the kind of thing that one must build."
-Alan Paton in 'Cry, the Beloved Country', written in 1948

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

African Social Evolution

As promised, here is the article I wrote that sums up my thinking on African 'development' or renewal (click on African Social Evolution). It has been published on Potluck, a website I cofounded in 2001 dedicated to systems perspectives, ideas, and community-building.

African Social Evolution

-Chris

Friday, June 01, 2007

HCBS Diversity



Security


















Insecurity


[according to one British bank's ads, diversity is all about perspective.]

Monday, May 28, 2007

Some Closing Thoughts on the Year That Was

Miia's last post did a nice job of summing up not only some of our reverse culture shock frustrations upon re-entry, but also of some of the things we learned from Ghana.

Travel, while fun and exciting, can really mess with your mind, make it hard to fit in anywhere. You lose a sense of your own culture without ever really fitting in anywhere else, because you're not there long enough. I mean it takes many years to adapt to a new culture, and some never do fully adapt.

But you do learn to like and appreciate certain things as being better than at home. You miss home, because it's home, but there are certain things you really like. Like how Ghanaians act like they know each other even if they don't. They talk to strangers, and interact with them openly and freely. Hold each other's babies, no matter if you're a stranger. There's no fear in that.

But as a white outsider, you become too much an object of fascination, or desire, or ridicule, too easily, quickly, and often. So I found myself afraid of society, hiding from it. Here in Toronto, I find myself longing for that interaction, desperate for it, because everybody seems to have their heads down all the time. Or they look ahead but can't see but two feet in front of them. They are hypnotized. Maybe by all the advertising. Or maybe they are just living in their own heads, like I often do, but in so doing they fail to see the world going on around them, fail to participate with each other in this social experiment, or contract.

That's been the hardest thing about being back. Here are a few other random observations from the trip:

-I've always been sympathetic to First Nations land claims, but never done anything about it really other than argue with my non-aboriginal friends about it. Being in Mongolia, where people live off the land, where land is so important to their survival and to their souls, where there is so much vast openness, really hit the point home to me. The Europeans who settled Canada stole a way of life, and we perpetuate that sin to this day. It's unresolved. I don't know what the resolution should be, but it's a national shame.

-I've always been sympathric to the plight of newcomers to Canada, how hard it is to integrate into society, the economy, education system, et cetera here, how they often face racial and cultual prejudice and struggle with it daily. Ghana is a major source country of immigrants to Canada. It often broke my heart how hard Ghanaians were on their own country: women asking us to take their babies back with us, taxi drivers and friends of friends begging us for Canadian visas, a neighbour who couldn't understand why I'd leave Canada to come live in Kotobabi. But, on the level of economics, I get it. For the poor, Ghana is a very hard go. The better off know that their skills may never get fully developed there, or fully used, while they are having to kowtow to the Big Men who control society. If they don't get a foreign eduction, they may very well stagnate. And, about 20 percent of the country's GDP is remittance payments from Ghanaians abroad, sending money back home. So, of course people want to leave. I think though that Ghana has a serious brain drain problem, particularly in the areas of healthcare and teaching. A lot of good could be done by filling these holes, stopping the bleeding, and at the same channelling those remittance payments somehow toward renewal initiatives, i.e. infrastructure like hospitals, schools, etc. On the Canadian side, one of the best things we can do to help poorer countries reach their own goals is to ensure that people who come here from abroad find adequate employment. They want to contribute their skills to Canada, why aren't we letting that happen?!

-On the whole, development work is a crock. There is precious little of use being offered from rich nations to Ghana, and my experiences in other financially poor countries were much the same in that regard. Most development projects are more about controlling Ghana than facilitating its renewal. I don't quite advocate for a hundred percent withdrawal, but at the very least all tied (conditional) aid money should be untied, the conditions just don't help. Since when have rich countries had a monopoly on knowledge about how to live or how to govern?

-On a personal level, I still love travel, and I'm so grateful to have had this time. I highly recommend, to everyone who can possibly afford it, to take a gap year. It doesn't have to involve travel, the main thing is to de-enslave yourself from work for a while, explore, grow, blah blah, whatever, have fun, make a bunch of puppets, write a book. For us, it was cheaper than you'd think. In fact, it was much cheaper than if we just spent a year in Toronto not working, by a long shot. Try 20 bucks a day each, that's what we spent, total, in the last year, including airfare, accomodations, food, souvenirs, everything. It could be done cheaper even.

-There are still many places I want to visit in this world, but if I don't visit them, that's okay. The main thing, at this point, is I want to enjoy my life, do the work I love, worry as little as possible about the money. In this capitalist society you need some money, but not as much as most people around me seem to want. I want to write, do community work, have children, and be near family friends and true community. That will be my focus for the next long while.

-Hugh Brody wrote a great book called The Other Side of Eden where he said it's a myth that hunter-gatherers are the most nomadic people. They may move around but it's always in a small area, and they always come back to the same places year after year. Agriculturalists have big families (lots of workers), run out of land for the kids, send a bunch off to work in factories or colonise new lands, build cities, etc. Those who make enough money go travelling. This is something I have to think about, because it is very resource consumptive, and the world has precious little in the way of resources, and carbon emissions may sink us all. This isn't an argument against travel, just something to think about for now.

I guess that's it for now. I have drafted a big long piece that hopefully will get published somewhere I can link to. It is a discussion about Ghana, Africa, colonialism, and civilisation that further sums a lot of what I learned in the past year, so watch for that one.

Thanks to all who have been following this blog. It will be winding down now, but I'll continue posting travel stories over at my Benjibopper blog, which also has a bunch of creative and sometimes silly writing of mine, just for fun. I also imagine we'll keep this one up for posterity, and perhaps continue to use it as a family blog, putting occasional photos and updates on here, so feel free to continue visiting.

Thanks again and much love,
Chris Benjamin

Friday, May 25, 2007

Still Crazy After All These Years

It's strange to return to Toronto, feeling like a decade, rather than a year, has passed. Some small changes, some new development projects, new haircuts on friends but, otherwise, much the same. Part of me is confused - how on earth did the old neighbourhood keep going even after I left? How does life keep on keeping on even in our absence?

Culture shock is not really an adequate word. Less than the shock of plunging your hand in freezing cold water, this movement between place and space has that dreadful nausea like you've been on an amusement park ride too long. I want off and I want things to feel normal, though I don't even know what that is. I keep thinking that in some months, when I hopefully have a job and my own place to live and I wake up with Chris at my side and shuffle to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee and greet the day, that is when I'll feel normal again.

Somehow too I think there are different kinds of cultural nausea. My head spins when I go from Canada to Finland but the South-North business is so much harsher, so much more extreme. On CBC this afternoon was a program trying to allow people in new subdivisions the right, contrary to the developer's rules, to have a clothes line and hang their laundry out to dry. "It doesn't make sense," comes the voice of the interviewee, "that on a day like today that is sweltering and where we want to conserve energy, that people can't put their clothes on the line to dry." What's news to me isn't the efforts to fight for the right to hang our clothes, rather it's that I never knew that it could be banned in the first place! Whatever makes more sense than being able to take your wet clothes and throw them on a piece of string, use a couple of clips and let the sun and the wind do precisely what they do best? Since when does a machine that sucks energy and resources to manufacture, ship, maintain and dispose of make more sense? It's these types of crazy anachronisms that make coming 'home' so much more difficult. I just don't understand when we lost ourselves like this.

I keep starting thoughts with, "In Ghana..." which is a bad sign. I want to be able to keep the lessons I learned, remember and honour the people and experiences. In many ways, my time in El Salvador and Nicaragua hasn't so much faded as been woven into the fabric of who I am. But Ghana is still centre stage and I find myself constantly comparing, constantly throwing out so much of what goes on in Canada because in Ghana, in Ghana, in Ghana... In Ghana, most people eat food that is grown locally. In Ghana, food isn't so processed, packaged and marketed. In Ghana, people are more freely generous without strings attached. In Ghana, spaces are more open and you can access people more easily without the oceans of bureaucracy to wade through first. In Ghana, parenting isn't an exercise in anxiety (no offense to all my friends who are new parents - this is more of a broader observation than an individual one). In Ghana, family is basically anyone who shares any relation to you in any way. In Ghana, people buy locally produced fabrics that are sewn by local tailors and brandnames have no dominion. In Ghana, big women are beautiful and are news anchors, movie stars, models. In Ghana, in Ghana... The list goes on. And then keeps going.

So I find myself back in the land of plenty where it's not uncommon to pat ourselves on the back to say, "We should be happy we weren't born there," or where you eat the last morcel because, "There are children starving in Africa," or where pictures of emaciated black children are on a cardboard box at the local West Indian roti shop with a few pennies lie at the bottom. I don't know what to make of any of this, of any of the changes or the differences. Most of all, I don't quite know how to live myself, to let it go while at the same time never letting up.

Ideas?

Miia

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spain



1. Gaudi building in Barcelona, 2. central Spain, 3. M at Picasso Museum (Barcelona), 4. Barcelona Buskers, 5. this is where they slaughter bulls for sport, 6. Dali toys, 7. Barcelona building





Paris




Here's Miia's good friend Benoit giving us a fascinating lecture on New Caledonian history.

Edinburgh






The first three are funky old architectural gems, then you have Edinburgh Castle, and lastly, dusk dancers preparing for fire festival.