Monday, May 31, 2010

Burnt, sore and coated in salt; PLUS a little taste of home.

We had an amazing day this last Sunday. It was Memorial Day on the 31st, so we had a long weekend and decided to head down to Galveston Island for a day of kayaking and swimming. We signed up for a tour of Galveston Island State Park with Artist Boat, an organization that combines kayaking, science and art, and headed into the estuary/marshes of the park for a 4-hour excursion. If you’ve never gone kayaking, give it a try. I feel that kayaks are not only faster and more maneuverable that canoes, but the paddling motion is more natural on a kayak. I had only gone kayaking a couple of times before, and this was Alisha’s first time, but we totally rocked the two-person kayak. I’m proud to say that we were faster than anyone else and we never got stuck in the mud!

Next time we go kayaking, we’re going to just rent them and go out on our own, but it was nice to have a tour guide this time around. She pointed out the egrets, great blue herons, black skimmers (awesome birds – their lower beaks are longer than their upper ones and they fly along “skimming” the water with their lower beaks), turns, sea snots (like jellyfish, but just the jelly, not the fish part) and the places where stingrays live (unfortunately did not see any and fortunately did not step on any). During our lunch stop we even got a lesson in watercolours and had a chance to paint the scenery to help us remember the adventure. My painting looks like it got wet and was ruined on the trip back, but alas, it did not. It was just poorly done.

After the kayaking, we headed across the island to the Gulf side for a little bit of swimming and ended up playing in the surf for a good 3 hours. By the time we headed into Historic Downtown Galveston for some lovely Mediterranean food, we were sunburned, exhausted and quite salty. It was quite the day, and we are already making plans for our next kayaking trip.

“Home” in the title refers to Canada. Generic Canada, not really any particular place. We’ve found a spot here in Houston where we can get a little taste of Canada: the Maple Leaf Pub. Located in Midtown, the Maple Leaf is a fun little bar with a small selection of Canadian beers. I hear it gets quite busy when a hockey game is on (especially Houston Aeros or NHL playoffs) but we went on an off night and it stayed busy, it was never over crowded. I loved the atmosphere; there were people playing board games, there was a table hockey game in one corner, a map of Canada on the wall and jerseys and flags for Canadian sports teams (including quite a few for my favourite, the Leafs!) all over the room. You could also get a good selection of Canadian beer (unfortunately not my favourite, Dead Elephant Ale from Railway City Brewing Company) including a beer from Quebec that tasted like potpourri. Seriously. It was quite florally delicious.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Things I should have blogged about sooner…

Some of you might recall hearing about a series of immigration rallies that took place across the US on May Day (May 1st). The rallies were in part to call on the federal government to enact comprehensive immigration reform and in part to protest Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law (SB 1070). I could probably rant for several entire posts about that racist piece of work, but I’ll restrain. If you haven’t heard of it, basically it attempts to legalize racial profiling by allowing cops to pull people over for “looking illegal”. So, as an immigrant, along with other prominent immigrants to the US including Steve Nash (of Los Spurs) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me,”{please read that quote with a Terminator accent}) I felt I needed to do something to in protest. Hence the immigration rally.

Honestly I had no idea what to expect. I’ve tried to go to other protests before, only to find just one or two people waving signs. Plus, I hadn’t heard much advertising about the rally, so I wasn’t all that hopeful, but we made our signs and headed over. When we saw two helicopters hovering over the area, we figured it was a good sign, but I was still impressed when I saw the crowds. Media estimates put about 7000 – 10 000 people at the rally, quite a big event (although we were dwarfed by Dallas which had around 20 000 turn out). We parked a few blocks away and ran over to join the march. Emerging as we did from a crowd of grumpy looking white people at the sidelines, we received a few apprehensive looks from the mostly Hispanic marchers, but once we pulled out our signs, they welcomed us quite warmly. One older lady even complimented my horrible mangling of the slogans we were chanting: “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!” (A community united will never be defeated!)

We had a great time and marched a good distance and fortunately, only saw a few teabaggers. One idiot had his rallies confused and was holding a “No socialism” sign (not sure what immigration reform has to do with socialism) and another ‘bagger had one proclaiming the sacred border/language/culture of the US. Psst, dumbass, Texas used to be part of Mexico. As the saying goes, they didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them. My least favourite sign read “Immigration is ruining this country. Look what it did to the White House” which was all kinds of stupid and offensive. It was heartening, however, to note that there were only 20-50 teabaggers (of the ones I saw most were old and all were white) along the entire route, and set against at least 7000 marchers, I think makes us look pretty good.

In other news, thanks for the advice in the comments from the last post. The websites had good tips, Sara’s was the most appealing and Greg’s was, well, the most practical. To get rid of the fruit flies, we used a mixture of red wine vinegar and dish soap in a glass. We left it out on the counter overnight and the next morning, there were about 30 dead flies in the bottom of the glass. I guess the smell of the vinegar was irresistible and the soap broke the surface tension so the flies would sink and drown. We left a couple of glasses out for a couple of days and killed off almost all of the flies. My only worry is that we created a new race of flies that don’t like vinegar by killing off all the ones that do. Natural selection and all that. Or would it be artificial selection? Anyway, we’re still trying to find a way to deal with the millipedes. Normally I really don’t mind them; they’re some of the least threatening of bugs. However, we found one in bed the other night, and that is crossing a line.

Oh, and we have some sort of heron hanging around our apartment pool. This is one of those things that would be more interesting if I was still overseas. It would be an ostrich or a monkey or maybe a crocodile.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The immigrants are stealing your low-paid internships.

Hello all! I’m back at work and hopefully back at blogging!

I’ve been away from the blogging pretty much since getting back from Rwanda, other than a few random posts, but I’m going to try to start doing it regularly again. Ironically, I had plenty of time to write while I was unemployed and yet did very little of it. Now that I have a job and much less time, I decided to restart the blog. Not sure I understand myself sometimes.

First main point: I have a job! Hooray! Actually, I ended up getting three interviews all around the same time and ended up getting offered all three jobs! When it rains, eh? Fortunately, one of the jobs starts in September, doing after-school enrichment programs, so I accepted that one. I had to decide between an hourly job at Te House of Tea and a short-term internship at the Student Conservation Association (SCA). After taking everyone’s advice into account, I decided to go with the internship, mostly because it seemed like less of a downgrade than serving tea, even if the pay was worse. After two weeks, I still believe I made the right choice, especially since there could be a slight chance of it turning into longer-term, better-paid employment.

The SCA is an environmental non-profit that has been around since the 1950s placing people in internships at national parks and the like to do conservation work (habitat restoration, trail building, invasive species removal, population studies, environmental education, etc). In the last decade, it has also expanded to programs that get urban youth involved in conservation efforts. My job is to recruit people for internships in and around Houston (including Galveston), or as a friend put it, a non-corporate headhunter. I’ll also be helping to build partnerships with other organizations, running the intern program for the summer and helping out with the high school summer program. So far, so good!

That’s all for now, but I hope to post again in the near future. Keep an eye out for posts on my attempts at becoming more environmentally friendly, an awesome immigration rally we attended and our recent infestations of fruit flies and millipedes. (Alisha found an ingenious way to annihilate most of the fruit flies, but does anyone know how to get rid of large numbers of millipedes?)