Packing for Evolve

This weekend, I’ll be attending Evolve in Antigonish, NS. This will be my third time attending the event, so I am by no means a veteran or expert, but I do like to take the time to be prepared to ensure I have the best weekend of my summer!

Evolve takes place on a 20 hectare field that will be filled by 150 musical acts, 2,400 tents, 25 vendors and 50 porta-potties! Those who have never attended Evolve are quick to describe it as an electronic music festival, or “a bunch of hippies in a field” but these descriptions are quite narrow considering the variety of music and people you’ll encounter.

Now. What to bring? Be minimal, yet functional. Comfortable, yet expressive.

- TENT. You need a tent (unless you have an awesome hammock or something).

- Sleeping pad, sleeping bag. I don’t bother with a pillow, I’ll roll up some clothes or something.

- Light source. Be it a small flashlight, a camp lantern, whatever, you just wanna be able to see at night

- Water! Make sure you have a water bottle that you’re comfortable carrying around, too. The power of hydration cannot be underestimated in this kind of setting, especially if you’re like me and will have a box of wine in tow. It also looks like it’s gonna be hot and dry so plan accordingly.

- Food. Now, there are tons of awesome vendors at Evolve. You can find greasy burgers, but there are also plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans etc. Things aren’t tooooo pricey, but a lot of it is great quality, local food, which does require you to pay a bit more for what you’re getting. I like to bring a big bag of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit, bananas, apples, oranges, crackers, carrots and cucumber for snacking. For me, the key is alkaline foods. I mean, alkaline foods are always the key to feeling great, but are especially important when you’ll be partying and wanting to recover quickly.

- First aid kit: bug dope, sunscreen, various sized band-aids, gauze, tape, polysporin, tweezers, fingernail clippers, alcohol pads, tylenol and gravol.

Toiletries pack: towel, two face cloths, baking soda (for washing hair, teeth, face), apple cider vinegar (for rinsing hair, face – diluted!!!), hair elastics, clips,  comb, SPF lip balm, toilet paper, deodorant (if you like to smell fresh), make-up, body paint etc.

- Funky clothing, jewelry and other accessories. Dress as funky and freaky as you possibly can without feeling uncomfortable. It’s also cool to have a signature piece if you’d like to be known all weekend as “the guy with the yarn beard” (a guy a work told me this was him last year) or “the gal with six arms.” No one at Evolve is going to make you feel bad about yourself or judge you. Be what you want.

Yesterday when the full schedule came out I printed it off and was going to go through and highlight every act that I didn’t want to miss. However, after reading this blog post  I began to consider how much of a recipe for disappointment it is to plan where you are going to be at every moment. I noted a couple acts that I don’t want to miss, other than that, I’m going to embrace the fun in discovering new music, in floating around the site and just going with the flow! :)

Other than that, bring yourself along with loads of positivity and energy. Positive energy. Happy Evolve.

Blomidon Provincial Park

When planning a camping trip in Nova Scotia, the possibilities are endless. There is so much to see, so much natural beauty. I had visited Blomidon Provincial Park once before, but it was not enough.  I needed more time to explore this area. We arrived on July 1st, Canada Day. The day-park and the camping area were both completely packed. I knew this going in as the Provincial Park website allows you to view which campsites are available on a map. I booked ours several days in advance and there were only a handful of sites remaining. We were lucky to have nabbed one of the more private, wooded camping sites.

We were beyond pleased with our campsite. Though the sites beside us were occupied for our first night we still felt a good degree of privacy. We were also adjacent to the Jodrey Trail and a 15 minute easy hike from an incredible look-off.

 Even when the parking lot is packed, when the tide is low at Blomidon, there is still plenty of space to enjoy and lots of shoreline to explore. It is important to be very mindful of the tides, however. The campground had schedules posted at various locations as the tide comes in very quickly and it’s easily to find yourself trapped. You’ll see in the last photo of this post how far the tide sweeps in.

This is the view from the look-off near our campsite. The small islands in the distance are Five Islands Provincial Park. John and I camped there during the summer of 2010.  It’s such a beautiful place too, and a lot closer to home. While it would be a fairly quick boat ride from Blomidon to Five Islands, to drive there it would take well over two hours.

I have very little knowledge of Mi’kmaq history, which is sad. I’ve studied the indigenous peoples of so many other lands, but have failed to learn all that much about the people who used to live on the land I now call home. The people who, by the way, would still be living on this land if my ancestors hadn’t kicked them off most of it and corralled them into designated areas. I was grateful for the little lesson that was provided at the look-off. Glooscap was a Mi’kmaq demi-god whose home was Blomidon. From there, he could easily watch over all of his land.  

What is camping without S’mores? Here we just used Aero chocolate bars, but it is fun to mix it up. Next time, we’re going to bring some peanut butter, which I think would nicely compliment the sticky, melty marshmallow!

On our second day, we did a bit of exploring around the area. We went into Kentville for firewood and ice and enjoyed the windy roads with alterating views of lush farmland and deep blue water. We stopped for lunch at the Fireside Cafe in Canning. It was cool and clean inside, with just the kind of menu we were looking for.


I had the most delicious corn chowder I’ve ever tasted with the house salad and maple vinaigrette. John had a chicken breast BLT on a fresh croissant with a side of veggies and dip. So, so yummy. Like many cafes and restaurants in the valley, they carried Just Us! coffee and also had their own homemade selection of sausages.

This is the view from the campground office. In one of the information pamphlets they gave us when we checked it, it said that you can see five counties from this very spot (but probably not in this photo, I should have stood back a little more!).

This is a lovely way to cool off at the beach. There are a few spots where fresh water runs down the cliffs. It was 30 degrees on this day and I couldn’t resist lying against the cliff and letting the cool water run over me. If it looks like I’m praising the heavens it’s because I probably was. I could have hung out here all day long.

Finally, here you can see how far the tide comes in. I stupidly almost lost my camera and flip-flops after setting them on a rock and walking away for 5 minutes. I could see the tide was still coming in (I had thought it was on it’s way out) and quickly turned around to find one of my flip-flops floating away and small waves lapping at the edge of my camera (that just had $90 worth of repairs done on it ). We also ended up having to walk back in the water as there was no beach left in certain spots.  You can see how dangerous this can be if you’re unprepared! The tide are predictable though and as I mentioned above you’ll find schedules posted around. Just be mindful and don’t let it stop you from climbing on some rocks and exploring the shoreline!

EPIK Interview

I passed my EPIK interview! EPIK (English Program in Korea) hires foreign, native English speaking teachers for Korea’s public schools. My interview was actually back in late May, but I have been hesitant to talk about my moving to Korea until my position has been confirmed. While I am still waiting for my Notice of Appointment and contract to be couriered to me, I’m feeling pretty confident that come August, I’ll be packing my bags for the year!

My interview was via Skype with a Korean EPIK employee in Korea. I used Footprints Recruiting agency and they have been excellent to work with. Footprints organized the timing of my interview with EPIK and also gave me lots of pointers for what to expect and how to prepare for the interview. It was at 10:50 pm (12 hour time difference). My interviewer was very kind though she did seem a bit irritated that I had forgot to wear headphones. I can’t believe I forgot that! Poor lady had to listen to her own echo the entire time. I’m glad that small mistake didn’t seal my fate. She asked me questions about my employment history and my degree and how they relate or would prepare me for a teaching position in Korea. She also asked me my biggest criticism of myself – what a weird question to answer. I played up my experience working as a coordinator for my local library’s summer reading club, my volunteering in Tanzania and my short time as an Early Childhood Education Assistant in PEI. Even though all of these experiences were short term, I still learned a lot from them and tried to talk about them as much as possible. She was pretty amused by the variety of work history on my resume aside from my kid-related experience. “So…you’re a trained forklift operator too?!” (I worked a couple summers at a Michelin tire plant!). Looking back, I think I did pretty good on the interview as a whole, but I was still nervous as hell afterwards because I knew competition was tight for EPIK this year.

I was expecting to wait a week or so to hear back but the next morning Footprints e-mailed me to tell me that I’d passed! The next hurdle was to gather all of my documents and have them couriered off to Korea. By this point I’d had a lot of my shit together already and just needed to wait on one more letter of reference. During my interview she requested I send along another one due to how weak one of my original references was. My current employer has a policy against writing references (ridiculousness!). They made an exception for me but the letter was pathetic and said nothing about my character. Anyways, I’ve since been able to get another letter and have sent in all my documents. EPIK has confirmed they’re all legit so now, I am waiting for my MOE (Metropolitan office of education) to confirm the documents and send me my notice of appointment. Then I apply for my visa. I have two months. I sure hope this process speeds up!


Fiddlehead and Mushroom Pasta

I love fiddleheads! The cool thing about fiddleheads is that you can find them in the woods for free. I bought these ones at Stirling’s Market, but I hope to do some foraging soon before they are gone. But I actually think that they might be gone. Shoot! Oh well. I also just realized I have no clue about the measurements for this here recipe. Oh well. It’s easy and flexible!

- however much pasta you’d like (I used spelt linguine)
– handful of sliced up mushrooms
– handful of fiddle heads
– a couple sliced up sun-dried tomatoes
– splash of olive oil
– about 1/4 cup parmesan (NOT the KRAFT powdery stuff)
– salt to taste
– pepper to taste

Boil your fiddleheads for 10 minutes. Transfer to a frying pan with some olive oil. Boil your pasta. Add mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes to the fiddleheads in the frying pan. Strain your pasta then throw it back into the warm pot over low heat. Throw in your pan of veggies (once they are cooked, of course) along with the parmesan, salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil and stir around til parmesan gets melty and delicious. I make this with asparagus instead of fiddleheads a lot too!

The Art of Power by Thich Naht Hanh

In The Art of Power Thich Naht Hanh has proven that there truly is an art to power and in that art, there is no room for greed or lies or cruelty, three elements that abound within so many people’s journey to the top, or what they perceive as the top. We’ve all been told that money can’t buy us happiness, but what we haven’t been told is that mindfulness can. It can bring us contentment and bliss, free of charge. Simply being in the present moment can bring us this! We have to work hard, but we don’t have to suffer so long as we have everything we need to live.  According to Thich Naht Hanh, true power lies in the ceaseless practice of faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight in our lives.

This is his description of what we all should strive to be, and I tend to agree: “When you speak, people listen to you, not because they have to, but because you are fresh, serene and wise. A good leader is one who exercises only this kind of authority. She doesn’t strive for it or want to use it, but it comes naturally. She inspires people by her way of living, and people listen to her because of her authenticity.” Who doesn’t want to be that gal?! Thich Naht Hanh shows us the path, the way to feel true power.

The secret is to not miss your appointment with life. That’s right! YOU have an appointment with life. And that appointment is this very moment.Does that sound kind of lame and obvious? Oh well, it’s true.  Maybe I should have some kind of spoiler alert here? Because that’s what this book is all about, and that’s what I’ve come to realize. His words were: “If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. It’s so clear, mindfulness is the energy and practice that helps you go back to the here and now so that you encounter life.” I’ve always had this feeling that I was sort of floating through life, I didn’t have a sense of rootedness in the present. Every moment has been in motion. It’s always been either the good times slipping through my fingers, looking to the past or anticipation for the future. It’s a chase. “People think that the true, the beautiful, and the good, exist somehwere else, in someone else. They don’t know that they are true, beautiful, and good at their core.” You just have to find that true power, the power that allows you to breathe and exist in every moment. I think that this kind of power, when spread,  can lead to very good thing and can give us hope for this increasingly smoggy, slimy, industrial, plastic planet.

Remember, it’s simple: faith (in everyone, in yourself), diligence (give every moment your all), mindfulness (observe, show compassion), concentrate (think hard, often), insight (never judge and consider all angles).

I know Thich Naht Hanh has published many books over the years, but this is the first I’ve read. I hope I’m not being too over-dramatic about it! I just can’t help but want to convince everyone around me to read even just a few of his words. I want people around me who can feel this. I need sangha. We all do. If you’re looking for some more Thich Naht Hanh inspired wisdom check out my post on Engaged Buddhism!

Kiva and Microfinance

A couple of years ago my dad sent me a gift card to make a Kiva loan. I’d heard of Kiva before, and the whole idea of microfinance seemed like a pretty good idea to me. If you don’t know what Kiva is, I’ll tell you. Or rather, their website will tell you, “We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”

This is Francisca, who is married with one child who attends school. She was my first borrower. Her family owns a house that has neither electricity nor piped water. Her greatest monthly expense is household goods. She operates a food stall and faces a major challenge of delayed payments by creditors.She was looking to purchase a wider variety of food to stock to entice a more loyal clientele.

It took about a year for Francisca to repay, but when she did I immediately lent out again. This time to a loan group called “Kinole,” headed by Monica who has been running a grocery store for six years now. She wants a loan to increase the stock of the grocery inventory. Her dream is to one day be able to open a bar business.The 16 members hold each other accountable for paying back their loans.

With a degree in International Development Studies, I’m still unsure about the long term benefits of microfinance. Has it been around long enough for us to really assess this? There’s no question that it can help certain individuals rise out of poverty, but does it solve the deeply rooted issues that have pushed so much of this planet’s population into deficiency? Can we really make the world a better place when the impoverished are continually indebted to privileged Westerners? I’m really interested in what people have to say on the matter as I haven’t done much reading or researching on the topic, though I probably should since I’ve become a lender! We all know that the big money, the billions of dollars that comes in the form of aid to the Global South hasn’t done much, and perhaps has caused more suffering, with the inevitable conditions and restrictions it comes with.

So, what to do? We can’t reverse colonialism. What do those who argue against microfinance argue for? What’s their solution for meeting the immediate needs of business owners, of people trying to simply earn a living ? Here’s where my blog title comes into effect, I guess. I’m just so curious and confused! I recently started reading Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy. I hope it clears up some of my confusion about theses questions on economics and development! I sure as hell need some answers. We all do!


Goes to South Korea

All of my confusion and curiosity about what the heck to do with my life culminated a couple months ago and I made a decision. As you can probably gather from the title of this post, I’m hoping to move to South Korea to teach ESL for a year in August. Here’s my deal: I’ve applied to a community college program for the fall but I’m on a wait list and probably will be until the first of September when it will be so late to find a place to live! I have to start paying back my student loans. I want (need) to travel.  I really like kids. Teaching abroad seems like the logical thing to do! Your flights at the beginning and end of your contract are paid for, as is your fully furnished apartment and possibly all utilities.

Now, it’s quite a process. I began gathering all of the documents right away! I had an interview with a recruiting agency and was cleared to submit an application to EPIK, the program for teaching in Korean public schools. EPIK requires a few things, almost all of which I’ve completed. I have written my 500-800 word essay on why I want to teach ESL in Korea, what my educational philosophy is and how I would deal with being immersed in a foreign culture. It was pretty much a breeze since this is basically all that’s been on my mind! I prepared a mock lesson plan too. I’m not sure how it will fare – I haven’t got to lesson planning yet in my online TEFL course!  The thing that is delaying me a bit is one of my reference letters. You need two from employers or professors. I already have one in my hands from my supervisor last summer at the library. I was a coordinator for the kid’s summer reading club. My other one is being written by my current employer but they have a policy against managers writing character references so it has to get approved through human resources. I think it’s a little strange when companies won’t give references. We all need them! Anyways, once that letter comes in I hope things start to move a little more quickly! I’d love to have an interview soon. I’m excited to be writing about the whole process too. I need to write things down to make them seem real. If I don’t write it down, I feel like I might not go through with it. I need the words to hold me accountable, and remind me that this really is the perfect thing for me right now.

Want to see a bit of what inspired this choice? I’m willing to bet you’ll be inclined to join me!

Durkee makes it pretty clear.

I love that expatkerri is a King’s alum too! Very inspired.

Let’s get this ball rolling!!

To Hellholes and Back by Chuck Thompson

This is not the book to read if you want a genuine account of what life is like in the DRC, Mexico City, India or Disney World. This is  a book to read if you enjoy snarky, smart-ass commentary and a generally cynical attitude. I find Thompson is quick to judge and even quicker to insult. I also found his superiority complex to be a little much! While I know in travel writing it’s important to see the world through the author’s eyes, I wish he could have given better descriptions of the world he was enveloped in with some semblance of compassion. I know it exists within all of us! That said, he definitely had me laughing a bit with his frank observations of some things, especially in Orlando…

Thompson isn’t entirely ignorant about the places he visits, but there’s a condescending tone that is a major turn off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely possible to write something lighthearted or humourus about life in the DRC, Thompson just doesn’t accomplish it as well as he thinks he does. He won me over a bit with the epilogue and his look back on the entire experience, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who is genuinely curious about life in these ‘hellholes’.

KONY 2012

So, this Kony 2012 has blown up –  7,000,000 + views in a day, that’s big stuff. My blog hits have even spiked due to a post I wrote about children & war a couple months ago, which is cool, but I’m on the fence about the whole thing. I think anyone who has studied development and conflict resolution on a theoretical and a practical level would agree that there are some legitimate questions that we need to ask about this campaign and about Kony himself before we jump on the bandwagon and cover our towns and cities in wasteful posters and adorn our wrists with even more wasteful bracelets. I can already feel the anger of some folks who might think I’m trying to shit on a perfectly well-intentioned movement that seeks to save the lives of children, but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I’m a realist. And all I really want is for people to be real with me, for people to ask questions with me and for all of us to be open and considerate of every possible answer to any questions that arise.

Kony is a bad guy and he’s been a bad guy for a long time. Kony’s got to go – no question. But you know what? He’s not the only bad guy. He’s not the first to use children as a weapon of war and he certainly won’t be the last. I fear that this campaign will take away from the struggle children find themselves in in other countries like Colombia, Sri Lanka, Angola and Afghanistan. Also, the Kony 2012 video gives absolutely no context on the war in Uganda and how Kony ended up as the leader of the LRA. As someone who studied African history in conjunction with International Development Studies, I can’t help but want to help open peoples eyes to how history has shaped the contemporary conflicts that we see in various regions of Africa. So, I think one thing people should watch in addition to Kony 2012 is this:

See? It’s a pretty complex issue, isn’t it? Removing Kony from power won’t end this deeply rooted conflict. I honestly think if the above video was seen by half as many people as Kony 2012 we’d be in a better place to take some action and move towards real change. We need to know why there’s a conflict before we can end one, and if you try talking about colonial powers and tribal tension to today’s youth (especially the ones so inspired by Kony 2012) you’ll get a lot of blank stares and confused looks, believe me, I’ve experimented with this. Kony 2012 over-simplifies the war in Uganda and over-simplifies Kony’s role in it. It also leads us to believe that Kony resides in Uganda, which he doesn’t. He’s probably in the Congo so good luck to those troops! But if/when Kony is captured, it’s not the end. There will be celebrations and the folks at Invisible Children will claim victory, but it won’t be the end for the kids in Uganda.

We’ve had many discussions in my Children & War class about Kony’s tactic of surrounding himself with children so that in order to capture him, you’d literally have to blast your way through a wall of armed kids. There’s also the fact that so many children were born into this conflict and look up to Kony as a father-like figure. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take Kony away for the sake of these children, but a detailed strategy has to be in place to care for the massive number of children that will be lost, alone and probably angry and armed, if Kony is once and for all in the hands of the ICC. There’s a little process called DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) that takes a lot of time, money and years of dedication and commitment.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the people at Invisible Children are doing a hell of a lot more than me to try and stop this mad man and create a more peaceful world, but these people don’t have all the answers. None of us do, which is one reason I do love the Kony 2012 campaign – it’ll bring people together and it’ll get people talking and for so many who don’t have a clue about what goes on beyond their own front yard, it’s a start!

If you’re looking for more constructive, well-intentioned (mostly) criticism, check it out:

Visible Children
Should I Donate Money to Kony 2012 or Not? 

What are your questions? Do you have any answers?

Curried Chickpeas

This recipe was inspired by Poor Girl Eats Well, one of my favorite food blogs. I had never eaten chickpeas in their whole form before and more importantly, I’d never eaten curry! The above recipe suggests plain white rice but for me, the taste and smell of the basmati is too heavenly.  I also omitted the nutmeg and the onions because I really, really don’t like onions (I knowwww) and I upped the other spices a lot! My tweaked version here makes two servings.  It’s easy to double up as I only used half cans, but I like to make small servings and use the rest of the chickpeas and tomatoes for other recipes.

- 1/2 cup basmati rice
– 1 cup water

- 2 tbsp olive oil
– 0.5 can chickpeas with a few tablespoons of their liquid
– 0.5 can diced tomatoes (or a couple of your own diced tomatoes if they’re in season!)
–  0.5 tsp garlic powder
– 0.5 cayenne powder
– 1 tsp Farmer John’s Organic curry powder
– pinch salt

Rinse your basmati with cold water then let soak in some more cold water for 30 minutes. Boil water and add rice. Cook for fifteen minutes on low, then remove from heat and let sit, covered, for another ten minutes.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Pour in chickpeas and tomatoes and stir frequently over medium heat for five minutes.  Add remaining spices, mix well and simmer over low heat for another ten minutes.

Spoon the curried chickpeas over a serving of rice. DELISH! and easy!