Thursday, November 29, 2007

Crunch

I decided to work on the first story idea for Lesley Choyce. The plot is fairly different, I eliminated a character. I am not very pleased with my writing on it, but I am a bit more enamoured with the idea. The story-structure has some connectors and recurring ideas that prop it up, I like that. However, I have way too much writing to do by Monday, so I should not be on here. I am learning to exercise self-control. Hmmm, maybe I'll go make myself a sandwich. Vital bodily function, you know.

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 caring...in 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!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Joya To The World



Afghan activist pulls for peace at Dal

Hero, teacher, activist, politician. Target. Malalai Joya has been many things in her life, but one thing she refuses to be is afraid. She spoke at an event organized by the Halifax Peace Coalition on Nov. 8.

The 29-year-old women’s rights advocate and former member of Afghanistan parliament is hated by powerful people in her country.

Two years ago, she was the youngest person elected to the Wolesi Jirga, the Afghan parliament. Since then, she has survived four assassination attempts, but continues to voice her people’s concern.

Joya was eventually expelled from the Wolesi Jirga last May for remarks she made during a television interview. She said parliament was “worse than a stable.” She said in the controversial interview that a stable was better because it had useful animals in it.

Roughly 350 people attended the event at the Scotiabank auditorium at Dalhousie University. Many had to find a comfortable place to stand at the back when the rows filled.

A table near the door was covered with pamphlets and white poppies pinned to cards that read: "Remembering is not enough. Work for peace!"

Stuart Neatby, a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition, introduced Joya.

"As people of conscience, it is incumbent upon us to amplify the voices of people who struggle for peace," he said.

Joya appeared small in front of the crowd that was riveted by her presence. They gave her a standing ovation before she even opened her mouth to speak.

She seemed to grow as she spoke powerfully about the current situation in her country. She said that her people are "sandwiched between two enemies - the US-loving Northern Alliance (currently in power) and the US-hating Taliban."

Joya believes that as long as Canada supports the Northern Alliance, they are engaging in the United States’ “dirty policies.”

"Canada must act independently and not follow the wrong policy of the US,” she said, adding that democratic parties in Afghanistan need support.
They have no means with which to campaign and are under-represented in a parliament made up of "war lords, drug lords and criminals."

Women’s status has not improved since the Taliban was toppled. One woman dies every 28 minutes in Afghanistan during childbirth.

Joya shared anecdotes about women activists assassinated in Kabul. She said these stories do not get covered by western press.

A woman with short black hair took her turn at the microphone during the question and answer session: "After 30 years of war, I fear there is no way for Afghanistan to defend themselves." She disliked Joya's qualification of Canada's involvement in the country as a "dirty policy."

Her name was Farida, and she left Afghanistan with her husband and daughter in 1998.

Joya was not shaken to run into disagreement in a crowd otherwise showing support. She intensified the earnestness in her words as she talked straight at the woman, who she called “sister.”

"If Canada continues it's involvement the way it is now, all people will stand up against foreign troops," Joya says. "We need the helping hand of democratic people around the world. We don't want occupation."

Later, Farida, who declined to give her last name, said it was an “excellent speech.” She said she would never return to Afghanistan. She left to be safe and her life is here now.

The next day, Joya attended an informal meet-and-greet at the Dalhousie Women's Centre.

She was asked "What are you afraid of?" during a round of introductions.

Joya thought for a few seconds.

"There is a list of people who struggle for good, and everyone wants this list to get more, not to get less," she said.

"It is important that my death affect others. Some will die and everything will die with them. I think that those people that are afraid, everyday die."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birds

http://birdsforbulbs.com/

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.