Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter Explained

Living in the prairies has given me a unique view of the season. The wide skies are perfect for viewing changes that occur throughout the year. So here it is... the explanation for why winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) is colder than summer!

Behold Summer...

The sun rises around 4 or 5am. The sun reaches its highest point at noon. The sun is in middle points between 8am and 9am and then again from 4pm to 5pm. The sun sets around 9 or 10pm.

Now Behold Winter...

The sun rises around 8am and sets around 4 or 5pm. The sun reaches its highest point at noon, but wait...

The sun at noon in the winter is at the same position it would be around 8am or 4pm in the summer. Therefore the sun never reaches center sky, it clings near the southern horizon throughout the day! That means we are getting less light and therefore less warmth!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I was watching a documentary earlier where they were interviewing different people about meditation and yoga and how they shifted the way they looked at the world. I was inspired by one man's experiences with transcendental meditation. He was talking about how after just two weeks of meditation he had changed so much that his wife actually asked him what had changed and where all the anger he had before had gone. In watching this I thought about how long it had been since I had tried to meditate and decided it would be good for me to try it. The reason for me stopping had been because every time I tried for a long time I just fell asleep instead. So I set an alarm for an hour and a half. That way if I fell asleep I would have a short nap and then continue with other things I needed to do. Then I started the initial pattern of relaxing mind and body. After that I sort of hung in the empty space of the meditation until a very clear vision came into my mind's eye. I was in a grocery store, running to the end of each aisle and shouting loudly, "I don't need any of this! I don't need this, or this, or this!" Other shoppers stopped to stare at me and I felt a tension of fear from their opinions building inside of me. But I just did this at the end of every aisle. Then my vision shifted and I was at the cash register. A mountain of groceries and other items piled up at the end of the conveyor belt. The cashier rang in the last item, hit the total button... "$239.86!" she requested. "No thanks," I said. And I walked away leaving all of those items I didn't really need and only thought I wanted sitting there on the counter and the cashier staring after me with confusion painted all over her face. My body felt such a real sense of relief after that that all that tension that had built up inside me was gone and I felt wonderful. I opened my eyes feeling amazing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Octopi, Lemon Gatorade, and Sweet Nostalgia

So I was at the grocery store today looking for something for lunch, when what did I find but baby octopus salad, like the tiny red octopi I ate on top of sushi in Thailand. Of course this lead me to feeling quite nostalgic and I had to get it and some lemon Gatorade as well. The octopi were better than expected although the soya sauce they were doused in was clearly low quality. I'm thinking the never-ending strike at the University is giving me just too much time alone with my thoughts. People were saying just after I came back that I was homesick for Thailand, which would require me to have some sort of semblance of home there, which I guess considering how little of a semblance of home I have even here might just be possible. However, I feel it is not home so much that I was missing but some sense of purpose. I feel when I am here as though my skin is stretched to tautly over my bones. There is this sort of constant sickness of having too little, and the pull of capitalism urging me to feel inadequate even if I might have otherwise found happiness. I need to escape. It doesn't really matter where. Thailand is just convenient. If I was able to escape my thoughts entirely perhaps I wouldn't have to run off to somewhere warm, tropical, and distant. Then again, I might anyways.

They say sometimes that once you get the traveling bug you just can't stay home too long. You need to keep going places, and seeing things. I think perhaps it is because traveling fundamentally changes you. You become something extraordinary in the sense that you mature rapidly. You gain confidence and life experience. You learn to problem solve. You experience new things, and become more open to different ideologies. I think that traveling can make you grow apart from loved ones, and also can bring you closer to others. You can never be the same person you were before you stepped out of your front door, and left the familiar world behind. You have to experience it to understand. You become so much more than you could have even imagined for yourself before you left. It's not a traveling bug so much as a soulful yearning to return to the place that made the whole world shift beneath your feet. Each place you travel is somewhere you leave a part of your soul behind. You can go on forever trying to search out those tiny shards and piece them back together but more break off along the way. And supposing you could collect them all up, you could never piece them back together just the same. No. It is better to admit to yourself that you have changed, for better or for worse. (I like to believe it is always for the better.)

Traveling creates memories, that are pasted in your mind's eye. They can never be erased. Tearful images, images of beauty, images that change you, move you, drive you. They send you on quests to find meaning. You want to understand. The truth eludes you, or turns out to be more complex than you had ever envisioned. There are no answers to satisfy your questions, just more questions. You are broken, or perhaps fixed. The wool that was pulled over your eyes before is now lifted. You are learning to see again, little by little.

So go traveling. Leave the things you know behind. Pack a small bag with sunscreen, and bandaids, and a camera. Take the next flight out. Go anywhere. Escape. You will never come back home again. If you do, you will not find it there. To find home you must look within, and come to terms with what you see. Traveling is about learning to live with yourself, and look past your own flaws, build something positive. Become like the turtle, carry home upon your back. Trust your feet to find your way along the path ahead. Leave behind only footprints.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BU Strike - Education Forum

-status of student teacher vs volunteer, all students will NOT be volunteers
-must have a Faculty Advisor
-check email that was sent around
-no students should be at a disadvantage (not thinking about the context and what this means for the strike, thinking only of the students)
-you have the choice to go on practicum or not, no special accommodations will be made
-lock out vs. non-lock out
-all students will be evaluated, although some will not have a face-to-face faculty advisor - this is personal experience and research that this is an appropriate way to deal with this at the moment
-the dean will be our faculty advisor if we don't have one
-we will trouble-shoot as we go along if this does not work for everyone
-of primary importance is our relationships with CTs
-self-assessment component for non-face-to-face advisory
-dean thinks that assessments are equal, will look at it again as it unfolds - evidence based decision
-the senate is the one making the decisions of penalty to students for not crossing the picket line
-that is his answer at this time but it may change in the future
-you have to follow your conscience - with that comes responsibilities
-he would love to hear from us if we have anymore concerns

-MTS and Dean are in conversation (not necessarily in agreement but in advisory with each other)

MTS President:
-is impressed with how seriously we are taking this matter, and is very hopeful for the future of the MTS
-MTS concerned about quality of education
-public schools act requires schools to welcome student teachers
-labour relations - another worker could refuse to do anything not related towards their job
-this is a non-issue because no CT should end up being a faculty advisor or doing their work
-if a CT does please call dean of ed or MTS
-labour laws prohibit them from a definitive
-province does not allow strike action by teachers, we are an essential service
-if there is a dispute with your school then they should call MTS and student should call the Dean/MTS
-it is up to BUFA to ask students for their solidarity and up to the individual to decide their stance
-this is a BU/BUFA matter, this is not a joint undertaking.
-you will have some form of FS, but some are not the traditional sense of the word - MTS will not judge at this time if this will be valid - this is up to the department (dean)
-supervised student teaching is mandatory - have supervision from CTs and faculty of education - the liberty model is partly a faculty choice, partially a discussion - this may be flagged (seems to think it is mostly up to the discretion of our faculty however)
-feels unprepared to give clear answers, normally it takes at least a week to look over the facts and he has had only 2 days

 -BUFA/faculty do not want you to lose out on here
-they want you to have a successful practicum
-you are pawns in this situation
-Faculty advisors will be crossing the picket lines if they go into the classrooms because they are BUFA members
-this sort of communication with staff and students should continue
- the union has been very helpful to her in her own life
-interrupting the practicum would cause everyone to go back to the table
-it is not required that a different union not go to work in support of different union, there are different ways to show support
-is shocked the administration is threatening students about their education

-all students will be protected in the protocol and not penalized for classes missed
-if this doesn't happen then the Administration are the ones that didn't agree
-please contact if you have questions or are concerned that you are being taken advantage of my Administration or BUFA
-you should not have to compromise your values for your education
-BUSU will advocate for all students
-be confident in your decisions for next week, whatever they may be

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Strike Information Forum #2

Today we had another forum where we had members of the Administration team and the BUFA teachers' union at two separate back-to-back meetings to discuss student concerns about strike-related issues. Here are my notes on the key issues discussed during the forum. (They may be slightly biased as I have omitted the details of what was said by certain individuals when I felt their comments were unprofessional.)

Session 1 - School Administration

- Administration get the same settlement as BUFA teachers in regards to the raise in pay scale increments discussed in the contract

- University President says Administration are suggesting a pay scale increase of 13% over 3 years (this contradicts the statement made by BUSU yesterday about -14% for pay scale)

- Dean of Education says student practicums will start on Monday and all Education students will receive an email later today. Dean says he has been in communication with the President of the MTS and that student teaching should not be affected by the strike. He says that he is working on a contingency plan for any students who may have Faculty Advisors who will not work in a show of support for BUFA.

- BUSU says that they, as an organization, stand with BUFA although this may not be representative of the opinion of the student body. BUSU suggests a meeting at a future date to discuss this in more detail.

- University President says she wants to hear student opinions on these issues.

- University President claims she wants to meet somewhere in the middle with negotiations with BUFA but that this has not been happening so far.

- University President says both sides always have a lawyer in negotiations. She justifies her choice of lawyers by saying they needed a new dynamic in order to try to prevent these negotiations from going in the same way they had in the past. She picked someone from out of town in hopes that they would be unbiased and act as a new voice. She justifies the cost saying he is a highly respected lawyer and she hoped hiring him would make negotiations go faster in the long run, thereby equaling out the cost of his fees. She says he does not charge for his travel time.

- Member of Administration states that questions related to the quality of education received by students during the strike should be addressed to the University Senate. It is stated that Senate meetings are generally open to the public unless dealing with a sensitive issue. The date and time of the next Senate meeting could not be given.

- Student asks about why the President will not meet with her. The President skirts around the question. In the process it becomes clear that this student has tried to meet with her many times before and has successfully at least once. The President claims she would love to meet with students but cannot give suggested office hours... continues avoiding addressing the issue appropriately.

- The Dean of Education says that all the Deans are also willing to talk with students and to please drop by. He makes a comment about appropriate discussions only, which is somewhat confusing as to what was meant by it. He also suggests that more meetings like this forum should take place between students and Administration.

- Member of Administration says that the Administration has been fair in its bargaining with BUFA but claims that specific details of what is being bargained are private.

- Member of Administration talks about conciliation stating that both parties are fairly far apart in opinions. A collective agreement has to be reached at the table. The current issues have to do with wages and benefits but more importantly with reconciling the language being used in regards to these money-related issues. (Example: Sabbaticals and how it costs the University and extra $1 million annually for a replacement for someone on sabbatical. These replacements are the sessional professors.)

- Dean of Education says the Administration and his department want to see quality of programming for students.

- Member of Administration states that tuition would double if the faculty get the increases they are asking for. They also state that an 11% increase from the government is required just to maintain the status quo. 90% of the current budget is going towards paying staff and there is nowhere to cut away more fat from the budget. It is going to start affecting the staff. Fingers are pointed at the provincial government because it is claimed that we live in a setting created by provincial mandates on university funding, etc.

- President says that the disability coordinator will remain available to aid students during the strike because she is an essential service. A tutor is also available for these students. When a student tries to clarify whether this would mean students have to cross the picket line to access these services the President chooses to question the intelligence of the students present with her remarks. She proceeds to define what an essential service is while effectively avoiding the question.

- Student asks about why a new Admin position is being created when there is no room for it in the current budget. Member of Admin says that our university has one of the thinnest Adminstration teams in the country. Our university chooses to put any excess in the budget towards improving classes. The position that will be created is an Associate VP research position. The Admin claim it will be an income generating position as it will give them more negotiation power and interaction with the government. They claim our university will fall behind if this position is not created and that even the neighbouring college (ACC) already has this position.

BUFA is met with arguments from the President.

- No answer is given when students ask if the Admin have a contingency plan to keep future strikes from causing similar problems for students at the end of the next contract.

- Students from BUSU ask why the President will not provide them with a copy of her contract which they claim should be publicly available. The President responds that she feels that names and earnings are public-domain but not the terms and conditions of her employment. She refers to the office petitioned by BUSU in order to get a copy of this document and says that it is up to their discretion now. She says that the house she lives in as part of her contract is one that she has to pay rent for and that she would prefer to live elsewhere.

- International Student asks what broader issues need to be addressed to create a more permanent fix and restore harmony to negotiations between Administration and staff. An Admin member answers in such complicated language that the regular student body would have difficulty understanding the implications, let alone a student with English as an additional language. The just of the argument was that 3 different Presidents have been unable to come up with a way to prevent further strikes, and that they are uncertain that there is a good solution. A comment is made about it taking two to create this sort of situation.


Session 2 - BUFA Teachers' Union

- Negotiating Committee says that although negotiations began in the spring when their contract expired in March, the issue of money was avoided by Admin until the last couple of weeks. The reason for the strike is the Administration's unwillingness to discuss this part of the agreement. It is admitted the some concessions were made on both sides but the strike resulted from the Administration not giving a new counter-offer in regards to salary/benefits.

- Member of BUFA says that tuition pays less than a quarter of the university operating costs so it in unreasonable for the Administration to say that tuition would double if BUFA gets the salary they ask for. In addition the government regulates tuition.

- Union Members voice concern that asking students to cross the picket line to go to class on Monday, and asking teachers to cross the picket line to teach is an attempt to break the Union. It is stated that a broken Union will create a broken institution and that students should not support this. There is some concern about the President's previous political agendas and her approaching this negotiation as a politician and with the same ideals. Professors encourage students to continue to use the library, and gym, and other related services and say this will not be seen as crossing the picket line.

- Union Members express concern for student equity in regards to students choices to cross or not cross the picket line in order to attend classes. (This is concern the Administration is not acting with equity in mind and that they are putting students in a bad situation.) They urge students to consider the long term implications for the university if the Union is broken. The History department states there will be no classes held by any of the profs in their department.

- Negotiating Committee says that they have not been informed in the strike protocol that the disability centre would be open as an essential service but state they will be willing to work with that. They encourage students needing this assistance to access it.

- Negotiating Committee briefly outlines some of the issues currently on the table for the negotiations. They include procedures related to hiring, firing, and tenure as well as financial and benefit related concerns (ie. pensions). They say that they are not aware that any of the issues being brought to the table are private and that there are summaries of their negotiations on their website. This information is publicly accessible and the same as what is provided to all union members outside of the negotiating committee.

- Profs express their dislike for not being able to teach and say no one votes for a strike because they want one, but that their hands are bound because the employer holds more power and not providing a service (ie. teaching) is their best tool at this time to get negotiations to move forwards. They wish there was another way, but only the government can change this process. They stress that their working conditions inevitably affect students' learning conditions. They allude to compromises they have already made which are greater than those the Administration is willing to make. They also point out their working conditions have been going downhill over the last 10 years.

- Union Members say that when a concession is made a protocol will be signed that states that no penalties to the faculty will result from the strike actions. Union Members say they want to see the same clause in this protocol with regards to students who choose not to cross the picket line to attend classes.

- Negotiating Committee says the negotiations so far have been mostly over documents and procedures. The Administration wants to completely change the documents related to hiring, firing, and promotion procedures. There are "dozens if not hundreds" of changes proposed, which is what has been taking so long with negotiations. The Administration wants to remove protections from the faculty in regards to these procedures and place the hiring power completely on the Administration team and the Deans, with no input from the Union. There is some concern about the language of the documents excluding people the university actually wants to hire, which will result in the Administration hiring people that may not be "qualified" for the position based on the document of qualifications.

- Students ask why a conciliator was not brought in before the Union went on strike. The Union responds that this was because they were still talking up until 5am that same morning.

- Some students express concern that their professors obligations to certain activities go beyond their teaching normal classes at the University (ie. band performances) and ask how these issues will be addressed. The Union states that the Line Captain can give passes to professors who have justified causes for crossing the picket line.

- Students express concern about profs who do not have a PhD and their futures at Brandon University. A Union Member says some professors have been hired in the past based on having the equivalent of a PhD through related experience in the field, and that it has gone towards their tenure. She goes on to say that some areas taught at Brandon University (ie. Aboriginal Studies) do not yet have related PhD programs so the Admin will find it very difficult to find a qualified PhD for these positions.

- Negotiating Team says the Admin are not keeping open dialogue with them which is why negotiations have stretched since March. (ie. 3 and a half weeks in July when Admin were unavailable to meet.) They state that a concession must be made by next March because once their current agreement is 1 year expired they will no longer be protected by it. They point out the employer has the power and that they have been trying to work on them with logic. (Also, they are unable to strike in the summer because they cannot withhold a service.) Union expresses concern about the unwillingness of Administration to negotiate in the last few bargaining rounds.

- Union states that all professors at the university, including sessionals, are members of BUFA

- Professors support small class sizes in order to keep more options open for students. (Plus small class sizes are just "better.")

- Union states that they have never used outside lawyers for negotiations on their side of the bargaining and that their negotiating team is made up of volunteers who have made themselves available for negotiating whenever they are not teaching.

More from the Admin

From the Brandon University Website:

Brandon University Position on Locking out Faculty

October 13, 2011

The Brandon University Students’ Union (“BUSU”) has recently issued a communication to its membership and to the wider community urging the University to lock out its faculty rather than allowing them to return to work, should individual faculty members choose to work during the strike.

Prior to this communiqué, representatives of BUSU met with the Administration and expressed the same request. We provided our reasons to BUSU orally, but these have not been passed on in the BUSU press release. We offer the following explanation.

There are a number of reasons why the President and the Board of Governors decided not to lock out faculty during this strike:

1. A lockout is a weapon some employers use to get concessions from the union and employees to accept lesser working conditions than they previously enjoyed. Brandon University is not seeking concessions from BUFA at this time.

2. Many professors have told the Administration that they do not support the strike and want to teach during the dispute. Consistent with this, according to BUFA’s announcements, over 28% of those professors who voted on whether to give the Union a strike mandate voted “no”. Taking into account those who did not vote, the Union’s mandate is less than 70%.

3. If professors want to teach and students want to be taught, it is difficult to justify denying them their right to choose. The Labour Relations Act gives employees the right to work during a strike conducted by their union, unless they are locked out by the employer. If all of the professors support the strike, then the opportunity to teach is a non-issue.

4. Although most universities do not ever lock out their faculty, BU did this in the last round after a strike was declared, and it led to the longest dispute in BU’s history.

5. The option of locking out was thoroughly discussed with all aspects of the administration of the University and the unanimous choice was not to lock out.

6. Each student makes a contract with the University that they will pay their tuition fees and dedicate their time and effort to pursue their course studies, in exchange for the University providing them with the instruction outlined in the calendar. The University feels honour-bound to fulfill that contract to the extent that it reasonably can, despite the withdrawal of service by the Faculty Association.

Hopefully, this provides some insight into why the University will not lock out its faculty. We remain committed to make every reasonable effort to achieve a fair and equitable collective agreement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Information from BUFA

BUFA has released information on their website related to the strike which is too detailed to post here. If you are interested in viewing it please go to:

Please note that information labelled October 9th or later was not publicly released until sometime this afternoon (October 12th) adding to my concerns about transparency from all parties involved in the negotiation process.

Documents from BUSU

Strike Notice Email
Sent via university web-mail at 5:53am. Received at 2:15pm.

Attention Fellow Students!!!

We have JUST been informed that there will be a job action by the Brandon University Faculty Association. The strike shall commence today at 7:31AM as they outlined in the deadline notice.

No job action is taken lightly and although we have not yet spoken with members of the bargaining team about the negotiations today, we can tell you that they met from 1:00 PM yesterday until a few minutes ago with minimal break in between. What this shows is that both sides came to the table to try and reach a resolution but in the end they were still too far apart on the issues.

We do not know at this time how long the strike will last and our staff and council will be heading into work to start doing research on the reasons for the strike and how it will impact students. Most specifically, what will happen with education students heading out to student teach, and health studies students who have clinicals. We will do everything in our power to try and answer all students questions and will keep you informed as it progresses.

Likewise, this is not a holiday for students and you don't want to see yourself in a pinch when the strike ends. For example, if you had a midterm scheduled today then nothing says that the strike doesn't end tomorrow and that you won't have to write it on Friday. So please, keep on top of your homework, continue with assignments, contact others in your classes to set up study groups. When we return to classes after the strike, you don't want to be in a situation where you are behind in all of your classes.

BUSU has already met with the Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) and the faculty is COMPLETELY supportive of students who wish to cross the picket line in order to go to the library and study, those who already live on campus, etc. The faculty does support students and recognizes that we are in some ways the innocent bystanders in this whole situation. If you chose not to cross the picket line it is also fine and respectable as. In the past, your building, the Knowles-Douglas Student Centre, has been neutral territory in which it is the only building that the faculty are allowed to enter on campus during a strike. So, if you are in SUDS (which will be open!) or in the Mingling Area you may see some of the professors in the building. This means that it is also a neutral space for students as well who do not want to cross the picket line otherwise.

Now, how to we best represent your issues and concerns? Well, today at noon in SUDS we are planning a student forum. The format will include a chance for students to talk about the details of the strike negotiations, what it means to be a student during a strike, and there will be a separate portion where the faculty and administration have each been invited to address the student population. SUDS, as we mentioned will be open and will be serving food and drinks so stop by for the forum and hopefully we will be able to have many of your questions answered.

Likewise, anytime through the strike please feel free to contact or stop by the BUSU Office at [information omitted for privacy] and we can try and address all of your concerns.

Together we will get through this, and know that we are here for you.

In solidarity,

[Name omitted at blogger's discretion]
Brandon University Students' Union

Documents from Administration


Q: Who is on strike?
A: The Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) is on strike. This union represents Faculty including sessionals, Professional Associates, Instructional Associates and Administrative Associates.

Q: During this strike period, will the University be closed to students?
A: No. Though some classes may be cancelled, all possible administrative and student services will continue. In particular:
• Some professors will continue to teach their courses, including some field experience for students in the Faculty of Education and the School of Health Studies.
• Some professors may return to teaching duties after having been on strike for a period of time. It is important that you keep well informed.
• Library facilities will continue to be open and all library resources including electronic resources will continue to be available.
• Classroom buildings, including study rooms, will be open.
• Practice studios will be available to students.
• Computer facilities and resources including Moodle for students will remain in operation.
• Residence and Food Services will continue.
• Financial & Registration Services will remain open.
• Other student services will be available to the best of our ability.

All non-BUFA employees of the University are expected to come to work and perform their
duties. Regrettably, due to the strike action by BUFA, the University will likely have to cancel
some classes.

Q: During the strike by BUFA, is the University planning a lockout of BUFA members? Will
some classes continue during a BUFA strike?
A: The University has no plans to initiate a lockout. Some professors will continue to teach their courses including some field experience in Education and Health Studies.

Q: Because of the strike action, are students likely to lose their academic credits or year?
A: The University takes its responsibility to students very seriously and will do everything possible through administrative and University Senate channels to ensure that students are able to complete the classes in which they are enrolled. This may involve special make-up classes or an extension of the term, but this would be a last resort. Most faculty strikes are very short. In over 30 years, no student at Brandon University has ever lost a semester due to a strike.

Q: What impact will all of this have on students' ability to complete their classes, get their credits and graduate?
A: That will depend on when the strike ends. As mentioned above, most faculty strikes are of short duration. There is some flexibility in most teaching programs. There is a short break between the end of classes and the start of exams, and some ability to compress the examination schedule. Beyond that, examinations could be delayed if necessary. In general, the adaptations that can be made will depend on the teaching program and evaluation practices involved and cannot be prescribed in advance. However, there are some options that would allow the University to conclude the academic term on or near schedule, in spite of a strike. Senate will play a key role in establishing the overall principles that will guide the completion of the academic year after any strike, and there are many student
members of Senate. The University will do everything possible following the strike to ensure that students finish their classes, terms, and the year as close to the original schedule as is feasible. Indeed, at this point, students would be wise to assume that all classes and examinations will occur on schedule and manage their time accordingly.

Q: What about essays or assignments which are due during the strike?
A: Due dates and tests may be deferred until after the strike ends. For those classes that continue throughout the strike, please check with your professor regarding deadlines.

Q: Will a strike affect students' eligibility for student loans or other student aid?
A: A strike will not affect students' eligibility for university or government financial aid. Where
necessary, the University will assist students in dealing with appropriate agencies or government

Q: Can I get a financial refund if I choose not to return to the university?
A: It is our intention that no student will lose their semester or year because of this strike. The deadline for refunds has passed for the fall semester.

Q: Does the strike affect University residences and meal plans?
A: No, residences and food services will continue to operate as usual.

Q: During the strike action, will students in field placements (i.e. Education and Health Studies) be able to continue with their placements?
A: Education – There is no change to the roles and expectations for teachers and student teachers (Faculty of Education Field Experience Handbook 2011-2012, pp. 12-14). Students should check to confirm whether or not their faculty advisor is on strike or continues to work. If they are working, student teachers will continue with the scheduled field placement. If the faculty advisor is on strike, the Dean of Education will provide assistance and advice to assist student teachers with self-evaluation using the reflective process (Faculty of Education Field Experience Handbook 2011-2012, p. 15).

Health Studies – Health Studies students in their Senior Practicum placement can continue with this experience. The Dean of Health Studies will maintain regular contact with the practice agencies and student mentors. In all other field placements, students should check to see if their faculty member is working or is on strike. If they are working, the student can continue with the scheduled practice experience. If the faculty member is on strike, students may contact the Dean of Health Studies.

Q: Will students who work on campus be affected?
A: Students who have employment on campus should continue to report for work, including for the completion of any marking that has been assigned. Normal terms and conditions of employment will apply. Student employees will not lose remuneration for which a commitment by the University has been made.

Q: If students come on campus, will they have to cross picket lines?
A: Students can expect that during the strike, members of BUFA will establish picket lines. This is their legal right. At the same time, students and others have the legal right to cross a picket line if they wish. Those on picket lines are entitled to distribute information and speak to persons crossing the line but may not interfere with their legal right to cross a picket line. In a strike situation everyone is expected to show courtesy and respect to others exercising their legitimate rights.

Q: Should students delay making travel arrangements for the end of term?
A: It would be sensible to avoid making travel arrangements that cannot be cancelled or changed.

Q: Where can students get more information?
A: Further information will be included in future notices. These will be distributed on campus and will be available on the BU web site (

Q: During the strike will Admissions remain open?
A: Yes, all regular services of the University will be open and operating.

Q: During the strike will the voluntary withdrawal date be moved?
A: No. Beginning with the current fall semester the voluntary withdrawal date has been extended to a much later date in the semester. Please consult the University calendar for specifics.


Letter from the President

October 12, 2011

Dear Members of the Brandon University Community,

On October 12, 2011, the Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) went on strike. While the decision of BUFA is regrettable, the University is committed to our students. Consequently, the University remains open for all members of the university community, students, faculty and staff. In order to give members of our community time for organization after a holiday weekend, the University will be cancelling classes from October 12 through 14, 2011.

During the next few days, we will be contacting our faculty and will communicate in a timely fashion to students which courses will resume the following week. The information will continue to be updated and we ask students to check their BU email account for information concerning classes. As well, this and other pertinent information will be available on the university’s home page.

We sincerely hope and are committed to an outcome that will promote the future viability and success of our university.


[Name Omitted at blogger's discretion]
President and Vice-Chancellor

About the Brandon University Strike

Today I attended the first hour of the student forum organized by BUSU (Brandon University Student Union) and here is the information I have gleaned before and during this event... (Keep in mind I do not support the opinions one way or another in this section, and they may be biased because of the sources they came from. My own opinion will follow in a separate section. If any of the below information is incorrect, I am sorry. It is only what has been given to me.)


BUFA Teachers' Union:
- the administration wants higher contributions to pension plans but will not match staff contributions
- are asking for a raise in salary to match inflation
- sessional professors who have been at the university for years have still not been offered contracts
- the hiring process for new profs should still include the BUFA Union

- want more research conducted by profs, and published in higher caliber publications
- want more profs hired in the future to be required to have a PhD so that the university can capitalize on research grant money from the government
- want to create a new administrative position (Vice President)
- want the hiring process taken out of the hands of the BUFA Union and given to faculty councils, with the final say coming from university Administration
- want to offer more distant ed courses and internet courses (which cost more to students and give students less face time with profs)
- expect sessional profs to offer more courses so that other profs can conduct more research
- want profs to have a heavier course-load to offer students more selection (while not being properly compensated for this course-load difference)

BUSU Student Union:
- states Administration hired a lawyer from Winnipeg at $330/hour to help with negotiations (estimate of $100 000 of legal charges to the university last week alone)
- Brandon University is already in budget crisis which is resulting in programming cuts, especially to the smaller departments on campus
- continues to support the tuition freeze
- the President of the university is getting paid $261 000 annually which amounts to $83 per student. This is higher what is paid to the presidents at many other larger Canadian universities
- claims the President of Brandon University is not releasing information that should be made available to the public (ie. Brandon University students)
- argue some of the best professors at the university do not have their PhDs and that a PhD does not necessarily make a quality professor
- argue there are not enough facilities to accommodate increased research and the grants the Admin want to take advantage of
- argue there is not enough government funding available, so where will the extra $$$ come from to pay for more research?
- students are being put in a bad position because they will be asked as of next week to choose if they will cross the picket lines in order to attend classes, in the Administration's divide and conquer strategy (issues for students include: needing extra face time with profs, not wanting their tuition $ to go to waste, and if they should cross picket lines and snub the teachers' union)
- profs are put in a bad position by being asked to cross picket lines to teach students if they did not vote in favor of the BUFA strike

Faculty of Education/Nursing Faculty:
- Education Faculty members expressed original concern about student practicums being cancelled if there were to be strike action
- Concern about strike action negatively impacting students in these faculties due to the difference in how these professional programs are run compared to other university programs
- many profs in these faculties voted against the strike and some refused to picket at the expense of their own paycheck
- Dean of Education offers to act as Faculty Advisor for education students so they can continue with their practicums during the strike (practicums are off-campus field experience so no picket lines will be crossed)
- concern about how long this strike will last

MTS Teachers' Union:
- Education students in practicum are seen as volunteers but will not meet teaching requirements unless they have a faculty advisor overseeing their placements (Student teaching is not forbidden)
- MTS supports BUFA Teachers' Union


As I See It...

My main issue with this strike is transparency, from everyone involved. My understanding is that these negotiations have been going on since this spring. However, in the past 3 weeks we have been continuously told that there "might" be a strike but no dates were being given until the last minute. The issues being discussed were not available to most students until the last couple of days. This resulted in a large amount of misinformation about what was actually going on. In addition, as an Education student, I was of the impression that this strike would compromise my field experience, as it had in the 2008 strike. As it turns out that is not the case.

Technical difficulties may have resulted in lack of information about the strike. For instance, the Brandon University webmail tends to be incredibly glitchy. Notice of the strike was supposedly sent to all students as of 5am this morning, when the negotiations ended in a stalemate. However, I did not receive any of the notices sent by various parties notifying me of the strike until 2:15pm! This is something that should be looked into after the strike is settled.

Students should have been given proper information up front about the issues being discussed and the exact date strike action would occur within a more reasonable time frame. Students should not have been forced to wait until after the mandatory withdrawal date for courses to know if there would be strike action, because if they choose to withdraw now they will lose significant amounts of their tuition dollars in the process (which most students cannot afford). In addition, this strike very neatly coincided with the Manitoba Provincial election which seems like a dirty move on the parts of both the BUFA teachers' union and Brandon University Administration.

While I do not necessarily support the BUFA union's request for a salary increase that would amount to about a 37% increase over 3 years (according to Brandon University Administration), I also do not support the Administration's projected figures that seem to ask staff to accept a 14% decrease in salary over the same period of time. My concerns are that the BUFA union received a pay increase as a result of the 2008 strike, however, inflation and pensions must be taken into consideration (as said by BUSU). The problem is where is this money going to come from? Our university has already been cutting programming and more cuts are projected for the upcoming years. Students will have less access to the valuable programming that was previously offered at this university. BUSU urges us to point fingers at the government, but I find that unsatisfactory. Yes, we need to get more government funding, but I am paying $3,600 this year for tuition. I paid $5,000 annually for my college tuition in British Columbia... college, not university. Clearly the tuition freeze is not helping matters. I love cheap tuition, but Brandon University has one of the cheapest tuitions in the country and you can't say our programming won't suffer as a result. A small tuition increase may be enough to stop some of this madness! (I am sure I'll get some negative feedback for that statement, but so be it.) So yes BUFA, I don't support your request for a salary increase, but on the grounds that I do not believe the money you are asking is available at the moment. Your other requests seem reasonable from what I have seen of them. I did hear a rumour that BUFA also wanted to do less teaching, but if this was a spin on wanting to do less teaching than what the Admin seems to be proposing in the future then I support that also.

Now the Admin... well, hmmm. I will try to be civil. Let's just say this straight. We need better programming. We don't need more research at the expense of good programming. Research has its place but we cannot afford more research at this time. It has been my opinion over the course of my time at Brandon University that the Administration has never truly been interested in the concerns of students. This Elitism has to stop. Oh and for the record, this university is run with such a lack of organization it is appalling. Offices seem incapable of contacting each other or sharing information. (Email is not expensive, please utilize it!) It cost me $10 to send my transcripts from one department to another, and I had to walk them there myself! Not to mention the humiliation our university had to endure when our President gave a speech at an event we hosted that had members of faculties from universities all across Western Canada. Our President decided she was going to talk about the possibility of extraterrestrial life during her speech. I am sure there is a time and place for that but it is not when representing our school at a conference completely unrelated to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Also, couldn't you find a cheaper lawyer if indeed you needed one?

Now that the matter of my practicum not being affected has been cleared up I find myself in general to be in favour of this strike. I urge other students not to cross the picket line and attend classes; however, I understand that your tuition dollars are disappearing as we speak and you may be unable to afford to do otherwise. I urge the BUFA and Administration to be more transparent in the future, and hope that everyone keeps student concerns in mind during these negotiations.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Microwave Cherry Crisp

Adapted from an apple crisp recipe at:

1/2 cup cherries, pitted
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp quick-cooking oats
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp white sugar

Place cherries in a mug. Toss with white sugar. Combine remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl, until well mix. Stir in melted butter and pour over spiced apples.
Cook in microwave on high 2 - 3 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes and the topping will get crispy.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Today I spent 3 hours working serving coffee to a large portion of Brandon residents. Friday is Pay Day which means full bellies for everyone! Me, my car, the government, local merchants, farmers, and factory workers. I chose to buy local so that most of my money would stay in the community some highlights of today's purchases include: Alpine Grain bread, cottage cheese and dill perogies, and cabbage rolls. This afternoon I need to find a new pair of shoes for work and see if I can acquire some fresh grown corn from one of the farmers. It is raining so they might not be out selling. I really would like corn for dinner! Only a six hour shift tomorrow lies between me and my weekend! Hurray!!!

How did you spend your Friday? What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Orange Haired Man

I had the weirdest dream last night. There was a family reunion and it was full swing, with strange relatives and the usual mayhem, but something was really odd about the town where we were having it. People started disappearing at night and during the day people were shot at. My brother and I, and two of my friends (or perhaps cousins) ended up hiding in a cave. We couldn't really trust anyone outside our small group. In the dream my brother and I were children, my brother still a toddler who was not yet steady on his feet. One time when we were hiding in the cave with no light because people were coming inside looking for us I saw a man in the back of the cave and he disappeared down a tunnel. So we followed him. We came to the man's house which was peculiar and full of machines and strange items. The man had bright orange hair like the Mad Hatter in the new Alice in Wonderland and he was tall and thin with an olive green trench coat. He ended up taking in my brother and I. I have no idea what happened to our family. My two friends still had family in the village and would do a paper route. I'm afraid it might have been safer for them had they lived with us. We were not allowed to leave the orange haired man's walled house because there were dangerous things outside. When I followed the orange haired man to one of the gates one day he went out to retrieve a birthday present for my brother and had to be very careful because there was a motion sensored tank stationed outside the gate aiming to hit anyone who might come out. The present for my brother was a red plaid book bag. The only time we were allowed to leave was to go to school and the orange haired man would take us there directly and pick us up afterwards. That was the only time I was allowed out. But sometimes I would end up out anyways. I had a high awareness for the paranormal. I would see ghosts and things and end up outside the gates after following them. During the day I would be thinking I was afraid to go outside and agree fully with the orange haired man, but strange things happened at night. At night nothing was the same. One night I ended up out and I saw a baby boy alone in a cellar near some shops with a giant vulture. I asked the vulture what it was doing but it was the baby who answered. "Go away, you'll wake it up! I am looking for my father. You are ruining everything." I should have left but I wanted to know what he was talking about. I was with my two friends because I had seen them out on their paper route. A ghost came and took my two friends in a golden light and they all disappeared. Whispers started in the town. About the orange haired man and his walled house, about me and my brother and how everyone would disappear when we were around. About how I stood alone in the school yard. One day the orange haired man showed me a project he was working on. He was a scientist and inventor but also sometimes he was a vampire and he had once been batman. He still had all the things from the movies like the car, etc. He had two pools of water. One was salt water from near the village and one was the village tap water. He was throwing different food items in and they disappeared at different rates. Junk food and vegetables disappeared slowest. Fish and meat disappeared fastest. We saw that there were long, almost translucent worms in the water. They were like leeches or parasitic worms except their feeding was more frensied. We realized they were after blood. Because we were aware of their presence we became engaged in a deadly game with them. It was like tic tac toe on a huge board, but using spikes and chains of two colours as the pieces. we drove in spikes to try to get 3 in a row. If we got 3 in a row a chain would go across and the enemy pieces would try to pull on the chain and dislodge the pieces or snap the chain. If unsuccessful we were able to pass but if successful they we would not be able to get back in and they would get us. The worms were behind most of the disappearances. They would sometimes take on human hosts and become vampires. Our house alone was safe. Luckily we only had to worry about the worms at night so we could pass in and out during the day with only the danger of being shot at. But I could not help getting caught outside at night. Because I was trying to get my friend back from the ghost. The worms liked salt water most so we figured they had come from there but they were now in the tap water, except ours. Because the orange haired man had his house off the grid.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back in Canada?

First a little technical note: As soon as I get internet at my house I will fix all the pictures on my previous entries.

Now back to regular programming...

So what is it like to be back in Canada after my life-changing experience in Thailand. Well hmmm.... am I really back in Canada? I feel like I am still in Thailand and may be part of me is... and WHY do people drive on the wrong side of the road here?! I tried to get into the passenger seat of a taxi in Winnipeg and couldn't remember where it was.

I also have no idea where my clothes are! I have clothing from my last student teaching placement in my drawers... long pants, collared button-up shirts, and sweaters! Where are my t-shirts? What clothes do I even own?! I am so sick of wearing the same t-shirts for two months whenever I wasn't at the school wearing my uniform. I managed to find one black t-shirt to wear but my capris and shorts are still elusive.

And what did I eat when I lived in Canada? It took me 30 minutes to write a simple grocery list. I am going back to being vegetarian but I have no idea what to eat and my body is so confused it hasn't been hungry since I got back to Manitoba. So far I have ate pizza, 2 pizza pretzels and a muffin over the past 2 days... mostly because I figured I should eat SOMETHING even if I wasn't hungry! I bought orange juice. It is so nice I can get it without any sugar added in Canada! I am going to have to cook my own food for the first time in two months. Maybe I will have pasta with black bean pasta sauce, or stir-fry. I find myself looking at the food in the grocery store as if it is completely foreign.

I keep waking up at bizarre hours. There is nothing to do because I have yet to hook up internet to my apartment. I guess I can fill out my student loan application or fix my resume for job-hunting.

I came home to find out one of my roommates took my car joy-riding and the other roommate caught her and kicked her out. The pipe attached to the muffler is broken but my remaining roommate is going to help me fix it. It also was completely empty on gas. She stole my other rooomate's 2 televisions too. Good riddance! I need to also switch my car to its summer tires because there was still snow on the ground when I left! Once I get the muffler things sorted out I'll be out to Souris to fetch the tires I guess.

My remaining roommate is moving to Winkler at the end of the month because he got promoted at work. I will stay in the apartment but I am uncertain what roommate, if any, I will end up having. I kind of enjoyed living alone in Thailand and I can afford this place on my own, at least until it starts to get cold. It is a big apartment to have all to myself though! And I have no furniture to speak of. I might buy the beat up old futon off of my current roommate. Also there is either water or sewage leaking into the bathroom from the apartment upstairs. The landlord is being his usual unhelpful self. Overall, I am relieved that my car is mostly intact and that my stuff wasn't all sitting out back in the alley when I got home. I am going to have to work something out with him about fixing the holes in the wall in the living room. He needs to at least pay for the mud. I am kind of excited about the prospect of picking a new paint colour for the wall, although I don't want anything too bizarre or I'll have to redo the whole room and it would be a big and expensive job!

Well, all in all, I am feeling more confident and things are starting to sort themselves out around here. I feel the rest of the summer and the following year look promising! I have got everything sorted out for my courses for the fall and even if the electives kind of suck they are good from a business perspective and I am beginning to see the value of seeing things from a business perspective. That is something Thailand has taught me. Spending a lot of time on my own figuring out how to do things in a foreign country made me realize I really have a whole lot of power over my own life, even more than I previously thought. Right now I am working through the steps to get where I want to be, and even if I don't like ever single step I understand their merit. Step one, find a job and apply for student loans. Step two, sort out all remaining things with the apartment. Step three, pay my car insurance. Step four, complete the remaining year of school. After that, back to Thailand? Time will tell! With any luck two years from now will see me working in Thailand and planning to spend school vacation Down Under!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thailand, In Retrospect

(entry is still missing some of my Chiang Mai photos)

I think I will write a blog on Chiang Mai still but I want to look back at before I went to Thailand and revisit my entry 10 Things I Hope To Do in Thailand. Here is the list of things I wanted to do and some commentary on how I completed each of these goals.

1. Teach some wonderful students.

This one was easy. I had a wonderful class that included four grade 6, and twelve grade 5 students. The kids were incredibly smart, artistic, and endearing. I am not posting any pictures of them because I don't believe it is right to post pictures of my students on the internet. I will post some pictures of me teaching where no students are facing the camera though.

2. Spend some time relaxing on the beaches.

This one was more difficult than I thought. I am not very good at just sitting still when there are some many exciting things to see! I spent some time walking the beach in Hua Hin and I attempted to sit on the beach in Pattaya but only managed to sit there restlessly for about an hour. Next time I go to Thailand I would like to head south to some of the islands that have beautiful water and lots of fish!

3. Hold a tiger.

I held a baby tiger in Sri Racha. It was an active little thing. I also got to pet a full grown tiger at the same place.

4. Ride an elephant.

I was able to ride elephants 3 times. The first was in Hua Hin, the second was in Kanchanaburi, and the third was in Chiang Mai. I also saw elephant shows in both Sri Racha and Chiang Mai, and a baby elephant in the streets of Hua Hin. In Hua Hin I fed an elephant bananas and in Chiang Mai is saw elephants paint pictures, play the harmonica, play football (soccer). In Kanchanaburi I saw elephants bathing. I have grown a love for elephants in my time in Thailand. They are intelligent and generally gentle creatures worthy of our respect.

5. See the Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are definitely the highlight of Bangkok. I would suggest everyone visit them. The beauty will throw you into a sense of awe. There really are no words to describe them properly!

6. Eat some delicious bugs.

I ate bugs on two occasions, at Khao San Road in Bangkok, and the Sunday night market in Chiang Mai. I tried locusts, crickets, and giant water bugs. They really were not as bad as I thought. In fact the locusts I might even eat again if given the opportunity. I also tried frog near my apartment in Thonburi.

7. Go to an open-air market.

I went to many open air markets throughout Thailand. In fact I bought dinner at the night market near my apartment almost every night.

8. See some Buddhist Temples.

Again, there was no shortage of opportunities for this. All I had to do was walk down the street to find a temple. The architecture is so grand and beautiful!

9. Take in the Natural Beauty.

I did this on many occasions. The best to places by far were Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai. And my train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok allowed me lots of time to see the mountains, as did zip-ling outside of Chiang Mai. I think when I wrote this I was thinking more of the white sand beaches but I realized that the mountains drew me more.

10. Visit Bangkok Museums and Gardens.

I went to the National Museum and National Gallery in Bangkok. I also went to Buddha Mountain which had spectacular gardens! Next time I go to Thailand I would love to try to get to some of the Botanical Gardens dedicated to the King. They look amazing!


When I got to Thailand I soon realized that while my goals were a good start, there were so many other things to do! I tried so many new foods, took over 10 methods of transportation, and generally had a good time. I will write more about the highlights soon and add photos to all of my entries! Right now I need to catch a bus back to Brandon. Thanks for following along with my amazing adventure overseas!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Thought in Progress...

It is difficult to give an accurate portrayal of the last few days. I have met so many new people and tried so many new things. I guess I need to stress that while this is a physical journey, it is also a spiritual one. The life lesson is one of balance.

I decided to try meditating during my Thai massage today, which was rather ambitious of me considering all my trouble with meditating in the last couple of years. Something that once came naturally to me was thwarted by the way I had come to view the world. The effects of today's experiment, however, were amazing. It seems the massage lends itself to the meditative mind quite readily. Such clarity! It helped me to appreciate my own gifts and the gifts of others more, and to understand the importance of unity among people.

Chiang Mai is by definition a melting pot. People I have met here are from all over the world: England, the USA, Austria, France, China, Ireland, Australia, India, Greece, and of course the Thai people themselves. People here are so friendly compared to in Bangkok. There is very much a small town mentality. Their English seems better too, but it is Thailand and I am here to learn from the Thai culture, or perhaps more broadly, Eastern Philosophy. The East has a certain sense of balance that the West fails to achieve. The West is far too focused on the mind alone and I am beginning to see how that creates social illnesses. Everyday we see the horrors of sick and unrealistic sexual fantasies, wars based on fear, and television taking the place of a god. These things root themselves in the very nature of our condition, which is to forget about our physical and spiritual desires in favor of our minds. We ignore these needs for so long that they finally erupt in unhealthy forms, having been unable to capture our attention in any other way. This needs to change. There is a lot that Westerners could learn from the East.

When I first came to Thailand there were things about the very structure of the society here that deeply disturbed me. I was horrified by things that my Western mind could not understand. As I became more aware of the cultural contexts and beliefs that created these things I realized that there was really nothing fundamentally wrong with any of them. My limited Western view had caused me to find imagined problems in what I was seeing. These differences are just that, different from what I have been accustomed to in the past. In the West we hold high the idea of the individual and this shapes our worldview. In the East the ideal holds the benefit of the community at its core. To this end the whole society works like clockwork. What seemed bizarre and perhaps "wrong" is a perfectly fitting cog within this system. Everything runs as it should under this worldview, and I am beginning to wonder if it is not a healthier worldview.

Morality has proven subjective and therefore cannot be trusted. We must throw away this idea of how things should be and focus on why, instead, they are the way they are.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


One of my absolute favorite places in Thailand is Kanchanaburi and there is so much to see there, I would not hesitate to go back again. The first thing you need to see is Erawan falls! It is at a National Park just outside of town. You could spend the whole day there hiking and swimming in the pools at the base of each of the 7 tiers of the water fall. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are supposedly the best. If you make it all the way to 7 you will be in serious need of a dip and the water will look so inviting to you! It is the perfect blue colour. The hike gets difficult after the 3rd tier and increasingly so. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are still on the path because there are huge boulders you have to climb over. It is well worth it! The scenery is spectacular and if you pay close attention you will see a good deal of the local fauna. I saw armies of ants, a millipede, giant spiders, monkeys, fish of all sorts, a crab, a lizard, butterflies, and birds. Beware the monkeys. They are vicious pests at this particular site. Do not leave your belongings unattended at the lower levels of the trail and do not feed them. Your guide will remind you.

The lower levels have fish in the pools. They will bite your feet if you do not continuously move. This tickles. They eat the dead skin off your feet. It is what is called a Thai pedicure or fish massage. If you are into that sort of thing take advantage of it because they will charge you huge amounts at massage parlors for the same treatment.

Other highlights are the Bridge over the river Kwai, and the Death Railway. These sites are reminiscent of World War II. There is also a war museum near the market in Kanchanaburi, that is worth a visit if you are interested in the history. Take a ride on the Death Railway. It is a thrilling ride along the precarious trestles and passing many fields with bright red soil. It is well worth the trip. I was especially fascinated by the bomb shelter cave that was near the station where we got onto the train. It has old barrels and cots still in it. Prisoners of war built the railway under the Japanese. Thousands died from hard labour and malnutrition. I could not believe there was a huge golden Buddha inside the bomb shelter. I wonder if it was built there at that time or put there later.

If you have not seen elephants there is elephant riding or elephant bathing. There is also bamboo rafting. It is suggested you BYOB or cold soft drinks. There are hotsprings or you could take a trip to the tiger temple. Remember to wear proper clothing for the tiger temple, long pants and shirts that cover your shoulders for the women. I think if I was to go again I would go on a jungle safari. A friend went and they had amazing close-ups of zebras. You could spend a week or more in Kanchanburi and not be bored.

The Jolly Frog hostel has a wonderful restaurant worth checking out. If you are into the nightlife there is lots of it. Phong Phen guesthouse is lovely and rustic. It is right along the river. It is affordable and has a good restaurant and a nice big pool. I absolutely adore the wooden furniture. The only thing I did not like was the talking birds that made noises like sirens at their own discretion. I am not a bird person, however, so some people might find them endearing. Kanchanaburi is about an hour and a half bus side from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. It is not suggested you take the number 81 city bus from Phetkasem as I did on the way back. It stops at every stop and they turned off the fans randomly halfway through the trip. If you take the bus from the terminal it is nice and they will give you complimentary water.


Two weekends ago I took a bus to Pattaya by myself. I should say that first I took a taxi and then the BTS (skytrain) to get to the Eastern Bus Terminal. Getting off at the correct stop I was unsure where the bus station was because it was dwarfed by the other buildings. I followed the only other Westerners, who were speaking German, figuring at least I would be less likely to get lost. It turned out we were all headed to Pattaya. One of the Germans sat next to me but could not speak English. He slept most of the way and I took pictures of the jungle-covered mountains. It was between 2 and a half and 3 hours to Pattaya. I ended up finding a hotel because I just missed the afternoon tour of the Sri Racha tiger zoo by 30 minutes. The hotel cost me an arm and a leg. I would've found a cheaper one had I not gone through a travel agency. The room was huge, at least 2 times the size of my apartment. This was only a 3 star hotel. I spent the afternoon on the beach and then went to the Hard Rock café for dinner. Their Pad Thai was wonderful and they had a special for Singha. The meal was expensive because it was the Hard Rock Café. I went back to the hotel room and watched Australian zoo rescue shows until I could not stay awake any longer. I am not very good at being alone. I have never really lived alone for very long and I find that I do not know what to do with myself. This trip is becoming a test of how well I can be alone. It is good for me. If I want other people to feel comfortable around me I first need to be comfortable around myself.
The next day bright an early I was up for my tiger zoo tour. I went downstairs for the complimentary breakfast buffet. It had Thai breakfast items, fresh fruit, and western options. The only thing they were missing was scrambled eggs. I like them better than eggs sunnyside up so I built myself a breakfast sandwich instead. The tour van driver was very late and I'm not sure why. There were only 2 people in the van when it got there. I suspect he was on Thai time. We picked up another group. I was the only one who spoke English. We arrived at the zoo and the English map and signs were very confusing. After getting my picture taken with a baby tiger and some crocodiles I wandered around aimlessly trying to find the tiger enclosure. It was raining pretty hard. I found the place to get my photo taken with a big tiger so I did that. Then I saw the place to see the Scorpion Queen but it had an entrance fee so I didn't go. Then it was time for the shows. They were amazing, especially the tiger and elephant shows. I did not care for their treatment of the crocodiles because it was clear they kept them very cold so they would be sluggish. Afterwards I had only 20 minutes before I had to go back. I realized the tiger enclosure was along a dirt road that was so muddy from the rain I would not want to go there that day. I could see it looked extremely jungle-like in that direction so I decided it would be a comfortable enclosure for the tigers. Because it was raining I decided to head directly back to Bangkok.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Khao San Cuisine

And you thought you'd seen enough with the frog! If you are queasy (or vegan) you are advised not to watch!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tastes Just Like Chicken!

So I have been unable to find bugs so far. However, I have been eyeing up the BBQed frog at the market for 3 days now. Here goes nothing:

Grade 11 frog dissection never prepared me for this!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blissful Bangkok

There is little hope for it. I just cannot keep up with all the exciting things happening to me lately. I will tell you about this weekend and then attempt to post separate entries for past events that occurred in the last few weeks.

On Friday night I walked over to my friend Gale's house. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from my house. This was not so bad as it was relatively cool from the rain that had fell earlier in the afternoon. However, it was also very muddy and slippery at the edge of the road. I was carrying a watermelon because it is customary to bring a gift when going to visit someone's house. Generally acceptable gifts are flowers, chocolate, or fruit. I figured fruit was the easiest to find and safest (since some flowers symbolize death). I did not factor in the weight or slipperiness of the roads when I decided on a watermelon, however. The watermelon made it in one piece, but my toenail did not. I was wearing sandals, as I always do when not walking to or from school. I slipped in the mud and the top of my foot went skidding across the cement before I regained my balance. The result was a blood-covered toe, and broken toenail. Luckily the toe did not get infected.

I spent a lovely evening with Gale and her husband. They asked me many questions and fed me rambutans, mangosteens, and pork dumplings. And then a dessert of pickled santol fruit is an icy soup. Gale said she would take me to the market and sightseeing on Sunday at 10am. I decided this was a great idea.

On Saturday I got up bright and early to make the morning journey by taxi, BTS (skytrain), and foot to the US Embassy apartment block where we would meet a friend of a friend who was in the SCA. For those of you not familiar with the SCA here is the website:

There was to be a fighting tournament, but first came the usual mad rush of last minute organization that precedes these sorts of events. The event was to be held at a university nearby. The issue was getting all the gear from the apartment to the university... there were only two cars. It was made even more difficult because as it turned out there was a graduation going on at the university and students were all out in their silk grad gowns getting their photos taken on every set of stairs on campus. There were were in street clothes, hauling armour through their shots. The room the group had rented was fabulous, with carpet and huge red curtains. We made a throne-like setup that was extremely good. I borrowed a dress from the baroness, the first long sleeves I had worn since arriving in Thailand. I became the score keeper for the tournament, which was lots of fun, apart from me not knowing everyone's name. People were really cooperative with helping me out though so that was nice. We drew a large crowd of spectators. After the fighting we had dinner and there was gift-giving for the winning team. The dinner was huge, and like a multi-course banquet. The set up was extremely ideal for the event. I was very impressed. Then there was a video conference with the King of the Far West, who lives in Japan. It went very well, and was really neat to see. This barony of the SCA covers three countries, which is madness to say the least. Overall, a very exciting and wonderful day. Oh and below is a video of a Viking Birthday song I learned. The SCA members were quite interested in Vikings, among other things. :-)

Today I went with Gale first to Buddha Mountain, which is like a huge set of gardens, with a giant Buddha image, and temple. Gale showed me some of the Buddhist ceremonies and told me more about the Buddha, and how this site was very similar to the one at Buddha's birthplace in India. She had me do a ceremony with wax, where I prayed for my family. Then we went out and fed the catfish in the ponds. She says the Thai people will not eat the catfish. I think they are sacred, although I do not know the details. Many temples have ponds full of catfish here.

Then Gale took me to a huge outdoor market that was apparently extremely small compared to other markets in Bangkok. I would have no trouble getting lost in this one. We spent 3 hours there. 2 hours alone in the plant section. Gale was looking at ferns, which she collects. I was looking at orchids and taking pictures for my grandmother. We ate authentic Pad Thai for lunch with banana flower and something similar to green onion that Gale said was not onion. Gale told me that the south of Thailand has very spicy food, but central and northern Thailand does not. She says she does not like spicy food. There was so much to see at the market but it became too hot in the afternoon so we ended up leaving.

I cooled off at the apartment and then went and bought mangosteens, the queen of fruit (durian is the king of fruit) and sushi for dinner at the market. I waited until it was late enough I could call dad for father's day because he would no longer be sleeping in his part of the world. All in all, a good weekend! Next weekend I will go to Chiang Mai!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Temple Tour

There has been so much going on since I last updated here. I have been literally run off my feet. I went on a temple tour in Bangkok weekends ago. The first stop was Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. I have never seen anything quite like the luxury displayed there. The buildings were the most ornate I had ever seen. There were buildings and monuments to house Buddhist relics and manuscripts surrounding the temple. One of the buildings was made of 1 inch aquare tiles in a moziac. These tiles were made of 24kt gold! Other buildings had gold, mirrors, coloured, stones, and paint in the most intricate patterns imaginable. There were entire doors made out of abalone shell in picture designs or mother of pearl. The floors were all marble. In buildings around the outside of the temple were hand painted images. (Somewhere around 167 in total) These floor to ceiling images told the mythology of the first Rama king defeating the demon king. There was a scale model of the old capital city which had been beautiful but was destroyed in war. Monkey guardians were situated all around, because in the story they came to the aid of the Rama king. There were also golden statues of angels. Male angels are half bird and half man. Female angels are half woman and half lion. The emerald Buddha was relatively small but considering just how much emerald it was made of that made it no less amazing.

Grand Palace itself was huge and ornate. Guards all in white stood at all the entrances. Like the guards at Buckingham palace they are not allowed to move or smile. In front of Grand Palace was a garden of giant Bonsai trees which my guide refered to as "beautiful topiary." There were many buildings all around in different architectural styles. One in particular looked like a big Victorian style mansion.
The next stop was the Reclining Buddha. The actual temple was closed for a ceremony of some sort but the reclining Buddha was in a separate building. It is huge and has designs in Mother of Pearl on its feet. Some people were dropping coins into pots along the side of the building. I don't know what the purpose was but there were many pots and they dropped a coin into each one. Standing guard at all the archways in the courtyard surrounding were statues that looked Chinese in style but some seemed to be wearing top hats.

The last temple was the Temple of the Rising Dawn. We took a ferry across the river to see it. It was huge and looked much like an aztec pyramid except it was covered with all sorts of designs and statues. There were two different levels with viewing platforms, accessed by any of four sets of stairs. The stairs were so steep that when I reached the top I actually considered staying up there rather than getting close enough to the edge to attempt climbing back down! The view was quite spectacular. We then caught a long-tailed boat, also referred to as a "James Bond" because they were used in a James Bond movie. We toured through the floating market, and got a good view of life along the canals in Bangkok. We then headed for lunch.

After lunch we visited a place were they polish gemstones and make and sell jewellery. They tried to sell us jewellery, and although it was quite a good deal the cheapest items looked too much like engagement rings for me to considering buying one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Durian Video 2

Due to the comments on Facebook I thought I'd give it a try.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Me Eating Durian (with vid)

The video says it all! If you want me to eat a bigger chunk, leave a comment!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates of Bangkok

I decided it was about time I went to the mall... and I'll admit, it having a movie theatre was the deciding factor. I wanted to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I also needed to get a phone. I asked one of the girls where to catch the bus to Mall Bangkae and there is a stop about a block from my house. As it turns out the bus is the most affordable method of transport I have found yet that doesn't involve walking in 36 degree Celsius heat, just 6.50 Baht was my fair. Armed with only the knowledge that Mall Bangkae was 7 floors high and had a waterslide on the roof, I set off. As it turns out the waterslide is not visible but there are tents and foliage on the roof. There is also a huge sign that reads "Paradise at the Mall" with a giant pink flower. I only counted 6 floors of actual mall but perhaps the waterslide on the roof is considered a floor. On top of all this is another 4 floors of offices. The fourth floor, where I spent most of my time is home to 2 arcades, Karaoke rooms, clothing shops, a food court, a bowling alley, a fitness centre, conference rooms, and movie theatres... oh and one of the arcades just happens to me in a mock village called "City Walk" and includes a flying pirate ship tram that runs along the roof. There were at least 4 Japanese restaurants alone on this floor (and more on other floors). There were also all manner of other restaurants and food vendors. One of the Japanese places had the rotating sushi bar, so I will be back to sample that when it is less busy. Lunch looked not too busy but when I came out from my movie at 4:30pm there was a huge line of people waiting for seats.

A few notes about seeing movies in Thailand. First of all you get to pick your seats in advance so you can buy your ticket then shop until 5 minutes prior to the movie and still have a good seat. It cost 140 Baht, so that is just a bit less than I would pay in Canada but very expensive by Thai standards. Concession food was overpriced just like in Canada. They don't sell butter with popcorn but they have salt or cheese. When you go in to take your seat there is a security check point to make sure you don't have a video camera or food that was not purchased at the Concession. They also will keep any bulky bags safe for you. Before the movie there are lots of credits but also a time when you must stand to show respect for the King. If you know anything about Thailand then you will know this means you MUST stand. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was in English with Thai subtitles. I thought it was funny that the guy at the counter stressed to me "English Only!" when that was the language we were conversing in. I chose the non-3D version because 3D often makes me sick because my eyes try to correct to normal. There was a stand outside the theatre that sold Pirates t-shirts and notebooks. And you could buy the Pirates combo and it came with an action figure of Jack Sparrow on the lid of the drink. I just stuck with popcorn. The movie was excellent. It was about 2 and a half hours long.

Before heading home I bought a phone and then took a peak at each floor in the mall. I think I will be back just because if I take the stairs and walk around it will be good exercise and also it is air conditioned. Now that I know how to use the bus this opens up more possibilities for travel. The bus on the way back cost more. My tickets said I paid 14 Baht but I paid 8. I only had my address card for the school on me so they dropped me off at the market instead of the stop near my house. This was okay, except I was dressed in my green summer dress which has no shoulder straps and my neighbourhood is ultra-conservative. It felt like my skin was burning with all the stares, and I am used to stares being a farang. I went home to change before going to get dinner because I didn't want to cause more offense than I already had.