Sunday, November 25, 2007

One Dream

I'm writing this to get it out. I have told some people about the idea as it has developed, and this is its latest stage. Believe me, I will be updating this particular blog post quite frequently, as the idea continues to grow.

My blog is called In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which means "In the Garden of Life" in gobbledygook. I picked it randomly, but it reminds me now of something that I have been day-dreaming about recently.

What I want to happen (this summer or next, depending on funds):

A small group of carefully picked individuals from Bastión do a 1 month apprenticeship in organic-permaculture farm north of Bahía called Río Muchacho

The small group (4 or 5) return to Guayaquil, where a plot of land in Block 6, 7, 8, 11 or 10 of Bastión is waiting for them. They use their newly acquired skills to tend to this land, preparing the soil and dividing it into allotment plots. The number of allotments, and size, would depend on the piece of land.

These 4 or 5 individuals become the staff of the newly establish Community Garden project in Bastión Popular. Certain families, who could show commitment to the project and have gardening experience, are invited to join in the upkeep of one plot of land. They can grow food for themselves.

The staff advises people on what crops to grow when, what soil mixtures to use and how often to water. They coordinate the families and are responsible for the success of the project.

Heidi, who has spend the past few months working on permaculture farms, has volunteered to help me get the community garden going once if it takes root in Bastión this summer.

Schools in the area can take their classes on field trips to learn about the different plants. Maybe, in the future, school children could plant gardens (I remember having one in grade 7, in a cage at the back of the property of the American School. My group of 4 tended to our allotment once a week, during Estudios Ambientales. I used bricks to create a mini-path through it... a path appropriate for rodents, because the cage was about 2.5 metres square)

Would the Esperanza grade 6 school children be able to tend to their own caged gardens? I wonder. Would the community benefit from the education programs and the agricultural experience they could gain by having a plot of land in the garden? Yes, hopefully. Not just the fact that they can learn how to grow their own food, and set up gardens in their own yards, for their family, but that anyone can be responsible for life, and will learn to work together on something. I like that idea.

Well, this is my dream. I have been looking into funding options... grants to apply for, etc. So far, not much luck. I put a button on the sidebar for anyone who wants to donate. It will hopefully happen next summer. This summer, when I am in Ecuador, I will probably wander around looking for land in Bastión, and inquire about it.

Maybe it could happen this summer. I am not opposed to that idea, either.

It is nice to have things to think about on my repetitive walks/bike rides back and forth from school.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Another story for Creative Writing

Well, I am working on another story. Actually, I am supposed to be, but I am not. I am now wondering whether I should continue the story I was doing. I recently had a new story idea, and I am debating setting the first one aside.

VOTE! It's your constitutional right!

Here is the first story idea:

"Matthew has lived his whole life in the village of Burnley, in the shadow of the unremarkable Pendle Hill. Nobody remembers the first half of his life anymore, which is probably for the best, but everyone knows that the second half he has spent, from 10 to 5, Monday to Saturday, in the Arcadia Used Bookstore. He would have spend more time there, if he could. He would open it in the evenings, he would set up a cot in a closet and stay there over night, he would install a shower in the tiny bathroom and keep his shaving kit in the cabinet, if he thought he could get away with it. But, of course, she knows where his shop is. She would come to find him. She would make him go home.

Matthew has been married to Miranda for 30 years. It was two weeks after his marriage that he bought Arcadia, back when he would have still had a bit of control over things like that.

Miranda is a worldly woman. She has made sure to involve herself in all of the clubs and committee’s that tiny Burley could muster."

Story 1 Idea: Set in Northern England, in an imaginary village. Three characters, the old couple and the young man/woman who arrives and becomes their tenant. Miranda is a villian psychologically terrorizing her household, with a calm mask of middle-class manners.

Think her:

Something happens that drives Matthew or the narrator to kill her, and the two go off into the beautiful English countryside, fugitives. This section will be inspired by my epic hike with Brent, possibly climaxing with the finding of a wounded/sick sheep, floundering alone in the middle of a farmers field (this actually happened to Brent and I). What do they do?

(I am not sure if the narrator is going to be ironic, P.G. Wodehousey, or what. I hate what I have written so far)

The End.

Story idea number two: I came across it in a book of short stories by my prof (this might be a bit unethical: to appeal to his ego by writing a story that is inside one of his own ... but I could ignore that aspect, if the story I wrote was worth it).

Choyce's story is about a man who secretly tries to write fiction. His mountain of unfinished stories is discovered by a friend, who is amazed as he starts to go through them.

"The typing was bad, but I could begin to get a handle on things. The first story began with a long descriptive passage about an idyllic fishing village. The smells and sights were pleasantly intoxicating. There was a raw honesty that came through even though it read like a work of pure fantasy. I read three pages and then became entranced by the character of a woman who appeared almost out of nowhere. The writer had attempted to describe her, and then given up.

I started reading a second story. Different setting, different time. Everything was different except a sensitive style of writing that I found hard to tie to Ralph. The woman appeared again, same as in the first story, and then the story stopped"

So, he reads a few more... eventually the woman's qualities become plainer, she is not beautiful anymore, but she is kind, or a different setting every time. The typing and grammar improves as the stories go on.

At the bottom of the stack he finds the the only completed story.

"The typing was perfect, but it was as if written by someone totally unfamiliar with the English language. The woman was there but without any of the original traits. The setting was a small rural village in Eastern Canada. The details were obscure, incomplete, as if the writer was totally unfamiliar with the details necessary to flesh out a story. At the core of it was the woman. Only, not the same woman as before. A tormenting, cynical bitch of a creature who seemed to suck the life from every page, who ravaged her mate with criticism and abuse and turned him into something worse than her. In the end, she disappeared leaving the man she lived with shackled with her disgust for the world and making him feel that even she was too good for him"

Great stuff!

What happens, of course, is that this man, the author of the stories, started writing the woman he hoped he could find, but with every woman he met, he chipped away at his ideal, hoping for less and less each time, until he eventually expected nothing at all for himself. Cool, huh?

Idea: I write the stories that Choyce's character is actually reading.
(amended due to an informed comment from a faithful reader)

Either way, I have to write a really evil woman. Idea #2 would be way more work. But hey, what do you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

giving time

Volunteering in Canada: You feel like you are doing a job that someone else would do if you weren't around. You are not so much helping people in need as you are helping over-worked (paid) staffers. At least, that is how I feel about the food preparation gig I am getting with Phoenix Youth. They say they have a vacancy on Tuesday nights! How fortuitous, exactly the day I am available. What does that mean? That the kids have previously not been eating on Tuesdays, and because I have now volunteered to cook for them, they will finally be relieved of their weekly fast? No. It just means somebody on staff gets to go home earlier on Tuesdays. Same feeling at Sunday Suppers: yay, lets go walk some plates around on trays and feel really good about ourselves. Well, you know, it is not a very difficult job, and you know, if you weren't there, somebody else would be available to do it. I am not advocating for laziness and staying at home instead of getting out and helping something. Organizations really would not survive without volunteers. But do limit how much you feel good about yourself for doing something very minor. Perhaps our standards for actions that would make us feel good about ourselves should be higher. This leads me to my next sub-heading: Work that is not being done: It is a bit harder to think about those ideas, isn't it? Most of all, if you are doing so with the intention of following through on one of your ideas. I have heard about child-care collectives starting up in this city, so that single parents can become involved in social justice movements, just as much as anyone else. I have wondered about funding options for students from the global south wishing to study in a different country. What would it take to get something going? So many things. But for now, Phoenix Youth on Tuesday nights. I am not sure if I am punishing myself, or thinking about the future. I am in Canada and I wonder where all the money goes... families still get torn up, vulnerable people still get ripped apart in the modern scheme of things. And where are the people with ideas? On that note, maybe next time I post it will be about a certain idea that has been festering in my brain for a while now. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Rosemary drew this raven for me! It took months, but the promise was fulfilled (hover your mouse over it on her website and you will see I'm not lying. Good luck getting a bird of your own!).

I have less than a month of school left now. I will be done my only exam on the 5th. Of course, there is too much that has to be crammed into that month, but Remembrance long weekend is coming up, and I hope I will manage to finish some things then.

I biked to Books R Us yesterday and stocked up on used short story books. Alistair MacLeod, Truman Capote, Stephen Leacock and the man himself: Lesley Choyce (local celebrity, masterful jacket-photo poser, "Canada's response to the renaissance man", and my Creative Writing prof).

I have begun hunting for young adult novels I remember, because we talk about them so much in class (Lesley has written 65 books, most of them YA, so he believes in the genre). I bought The Chocolate War, but was not able to find Maniac Magee, The Giver, or The Girl Who Owned A City (HEY KATIE: This is the book where all the adults are dead!). I did find one Jacob Two-Two book, but it was the same one we had when I was a kid and I was hoping for a different one. I, of course, have a slight suspicion that they will none of them be as good as I remember them, but who says I am going to read them again? I just want to have them. Just in case. I mean, what if all the adults die for real?

Oh darn, would that have to mean me, too? No!

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've decided that returning to keeping a regular journal would be useful if only to document the day on which I had my last shower. Things like that are hard to keep track of, sometimes.