The Other Douglas

Earlier in the year, we were introduced to James Douglas, the founding father of British Columbia, through Ms. Ferguson. I was impressed by how much one man could affect the development of our large province, but curious about the involvement of the many women who played an equal, if not larger role in the formation of BC.

When it came time to pick an investigation topic, I was leafing through the socials textbook (Horizons: Canada Moves West) when I came upon Danger at the Fort: Amelia Douglas Saves the Day. Cheesy, but intriguing.

Amelia Douglas, as guessed by her name, was James Douglas’s wife. They met when she was 14. James was 23, a young clerk working for her father, a chief factor. Two years later, they were married in the local custom (with clergy). Amelia, the daughter of NWC trader William Connolly and Suzanne Pas-de-Nom, daughter of a Cree chief, and James, a Scot of mixed European and African ancestry. What a couple!

In the early days of the fur trade, marriage between European traders and First Nations women created unions that benefited both parties. The man became related to important trading partners who could be counted on to come to his trading post, as well as protect him in times of trouble. The woman had economic security, and achieved an elevated status among her own people.

As it turned out, Amelia’s pat in BC history was played out a few weeks after their marriage. James was temporarily in charge of Fort James when he received news that a man who committed a murder several years ago was hiding with relatives at the Carrier village. Not the most level-tempered man, he decided to take action without considering the consequences of breaking the local customs.

He took some men, entered the village, and in short order, the murderer was beaten to death with some garden hoes. Not long afterwards, Chief Kwah stormed into the fort in the middle of night with thirty or forty of his people and threatened Douglas’s life. Kwah was furious with Douglas for marching in his village and bludgeoning one of his guests to death, a complete undermining of his authority.

It was Amelia’s quick thinking that saved her husband’s life. Diving in the midst of things with her Carrier dagger, she was disarmed. Fortunately, she understood that if the Carriers were given compensation, their honour would be satisfied and they would release James. She stood between the him and the Chief and offered him trade goods in exchange for James’s life. Kwah hesitated but in time, accepted the goods as payment for the insult to his family. They agreed, and Amelia and another woman ran upstairs to begin throwing down trade goods until the Carriers were satisfied. They released James and returned to their village.

The Rest of It

As was the way, women of traders seldom left their quarters which suited Amelia just fine. Even when he was made governor of Victoria, Sir James never insisted that his wife perform any of the duties often expected of someone in her position. On the rare occasions that she did so, it was remarked that she had “a gentle and kindly manner”. Shy and aloof from the social life of the colony, perhaps because of the stigma surrounding her heritage, she preferred the company of her husband and her children. She was Douglas’s principal advisor in his dealings with aboriginals. She taught her children the stories and legends of their ancestry, their Cree language and customs. Having suffered from giving birth to thirteen children, she sympathetic about the needs of others and offered nursing care to the ill and compassionate midwifery when women had difficulty in childbirth.

Both Amelia Connolly, she passed away quietly in 1890 at the age of 78 as Lady Amelia Douglas, ‘founding mother of British Columbia’.

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Stylish? or epic fail?

Here’s the song that I wrote in trying to imitate Jason Mraz’s style.

Now that she knows, we’re never alone
Consumed by isolation to make
the decision, it’s procrastination
that she’s livin’

The door’s ajar, she plays her guitar
A musician, she’s in the making
of a notion, that forwards the motion
How does it feel?

So alrighty chickadee,
take it down up to the sky
and fly real slow
Just head for tomorrow

And he’s been told, of his golden glow
that shines right through the bright afternoon,
Does he know though, the reason for this slow
slow smi-i-ile

So alrighty chickadee,
take it down up to the sky
and fly real slow
Just head for tomorrow

I will demonize your spirit!

A few weeks going in and coming out of spring break, I would have my ipod on repeat, listening to Jason Mraz over and over and over again. So when my English teacher told us to pick a poet for our unit on poetry… well, it should be obvious who I chose. Other reasons why besides an inexplicable obsession?

  • His songs are all crammed with wonderfully wordy lyrics. They’re really quirky and are almost oxymoron-ish, but at the same time make perfect sense.


A squirrel in the tree is he watching me
Does he give a damn?
Does he care who I am?
I’m just a man, is that all I am

The planet’s talking about a revolution
The natural laws ain’t got no constitution
They’ve got a right to live their own life
But we keep paving over paradise

  • He wears a fedora. Fedoras are very fashionable and fun for doing the hat flip.

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  • He writes about interesting stuff… now who does that these day? This is an excerpt from one of his entries on on his online journal:

“Did you know the Greeks have 4 different words for Love? That’s not fair! I think I deserve to have a way to say I really love ice cream and I really love my Nanny (grandma) without bringing my nanny into a world of lactose intolerance and a madman’s craving for chocolatey deliciousness.”

  • His cat-lovin’, donya-isms and overall amazing personality. Here’s his Yoga To Go video:

Op-Ed: Learning from the past

Despite being born in Taiwan, I’ve always thought of Canada as home. From my Vancouverite suburb, to the mountains and coast that is BC, to everything that our country represents – freedom, multiculturalism, friendship – these elements make me proud to call myself Canadian. I’ve never had to question that pride, that is, until a particular Wednesday in 8th grade.

June 11th 2008 was the day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and apologized to Canada’s native population. Before that day, I hadn’t even heard of the federally run Indian Residential Schools and the grossly unjust ideas they stood for. As I listened to the apology being broadcasted over radio show and on television channels, my pride faltered. I was angry at our government for committing such an act, I felt like my country had betrayed the ideas we thought it stood for; for once, I was ashamed to be called Canadian.

For almost a hundred years, residential schools haunted the lives of our native peoples. The first schools opened in the 1840s and aimed to assimilate aboriginal children to European-Canadian culture. It was often described as “killing the Indian in the child.”

These kids, some only seven years of age, were taken away from their families and admitted into institutions that could only be described as hell-holes. Many did not come back. Overcrowding, a terrible lack of sanitation and medical care and mistreatment created death rates of up to 69%.

It’s said that ‘children are society’s best hope for the future,’ and so the poverty-stricken broken aboriginal nation of today should come as no surprise. After all it’s a nation built upon children whose stories are of neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. If they spoke their native tongue or practiced their faith, they were beaten. They grew up without community, without heritage and without identity. Today, there are still approximately 80,000 alive who attended these ‘schools’.

It took a century for the government of Canada to finally recognize the lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language caused by the residential schools and formally apologize. When Harper made his speech in Ottawa, hundreds of natives took to our capital to be a part of it. But there are also many that refused to accept the apology, saying that it was too late. The last school had closed in 1996, the apology should’ve been made then, they said. Some even question the motive behind Harper’s action: whether it was a genuine apology or a political move.

Personally, I don’t think this argument really matters. The residential schools were obviously wrong. The natives were told that who they were wasn’t good enough and had their identities obliterated. Lots of lives were destroyed, even if the shells of the victims are still alive. It’s always better late than never to apologize; the natives can take that and forgive and forget as they will. Who will blame them if they don’t? The government needs to prove that it deserves forgiveness. Words can be thrown around, accented with a few dollars, but in the end it doesn’t mean much. Our first nations will still be in poverty without hope for the future. Schools will still stand for something abominable instead of the nurturing environment they’re supposed to be. If Canada truly desires to move past this sad chapter in our history it needs to take the proper steps towards a brighter future. To prevent something like this from every happening again, a real solution needs to be found. What’s important isn’t who’s right or wrong nor the realities of our society, but finding the answer in between. As the Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said, “the most meaningful expressions of regret are followed by concrete action.”

~Thanks guys for reading. Please do comment! 🙂

Let there be love

I haven’t run all week, so yesterday I laced up my runners and told my mom that I’d be gone for awhile.

Two weeks ago, one of the first real sunny days this year, I left the house intending to go to the library and get some books. I headed up my street, but instead of turning at the intersection, I just kept walking. The sky was a beautiful blue colour and although it was noon, the light breeze kept the air cool. I passed my old elementary school and navigated the fence to attempt the monkey bars and spinning contraptions. The rust from the metal came off onto my hands and with all my calluses long gone, I left pretty soon and continued on my way. I didn’t have a destination in mind, so I let my feet take me wherever they were going. They traced the familiar route I used to walk home from middle school and I found myself at the end of my wanderings by a golf course a few blocks away from my house. I remembered that there was a cemetery nearby and pricked by curiosity, I went around the shady perimeter of the trees looking for it. Eventually, I figured that I had somehow missed it and headed home.

So armed with the knowledge that is GoogleMaps, I traced my steps. Despite the evening breeze running through my hair, I was getting a bit sweaty by the time I reached the street I was supposed to turn onto. I slowed to a walk and passed through the white gates.

I’ve thought about death as much as the next person I guess, but I’ve never really experienced it. This was my first time in a cemetery and contrary to what I imagined, I didn’t feel sad at all. With all the beauties of early spring, the planted saplings were just beginning to bud and there were fresh flowers scattered on different stone markers. Rows upon rows of headstones sprawled on the green field and clusters bordered the trees. In the back there was a stone fence with multi-sheens of grey and black tiles. All of it was quiet except for the choruses of songbirds.

Perhaps it was because I lacked the memories of loss, but I found it strangely peaceful. On every marker was an engraving like ‘Too loved to ever be forgotten,’ and balloons and flowers and photographs. I can’t help but believe that these people had a good life, with all these proofs of the love that had surrounded them.

…Come on Baby Blue
Shake up your tired eyes
The world is waiting for you
May all your dreaming fill the empty sky
But if it makes you happy
Keep on clapping
Just remember I’ll be by your side
And if you don’t let go it’s gonna pass you by

In-depth #5

Preparing to leave Canada for 2 and a half weeks, I was suddenly overcome with some kind of pre-homesickness. I couldn’t spend 2 hours at home the entire weekend without going hysterical. I had to escape so I ran.

Running was both a way to calm my nerves and be home as much as possible. Instead of dragging out on my treadmill, I hit the neighbourhood roads for the first time and felt the hard pavement under my feet. It’s hard to explain what home is, so much of it is small details and not so much to do with one specific thing. I drank in all I could: the cherry blossoms just coming out, the shade beside a row of coniferous, the single houses, the bus signs, the mountains in the distance, the rain coming down in the middle of my run.

On Monday, my limbs were dead sore. I had to limp through airport security and to my departure gate, but it was worth it. I had finish saying my goodbyes to Vancouver, to British Columbia, to Canada. I had also discover another way to run. Running on the streets is quite different from the shadowy trails of Mundy Park and boredom of treadmill trotting. While it’s not going to replace pace training or repeats, it’s a nice way to take a long slow one.

I googlemapped a route of the streets by my house. The full long route is 10 kilometres, 2 loops being a half marathon which is the distance I want to train up to this year. It skims through quiet neighbourhoods, my community centre and the edge of Mundy Park so I won’t be running into too much traffic which is awesome. The only problem is concrete which is hard and creates problems for crippled runners like me.

Fitness #3: Shin splints

Ways I’m going around this is by:

  • sometimes running on the road since sidewalks are always tilted to one side and creates more pressure one leg.
  • calf raises
  • stretching out my achilles heel and calves
  • wearing my pronator shoes 🙂

Note: Due to how busy I’ve been and overshooting my goals, I haven’t got to achieving all of them yet but I’m still working at it. And as of my last km run in gym, I cut down 10 seconds which makes me very close to under 4 minutes!

Response to Mr. Watt:

The other day my Humanities teacher, Mr. J, mentioned a post about the lack of student bloggers:

“I think the biggest difficulty is that there are no prominent student bloggers writing about education, of which I’m aware.  There isn’t a vast crowd of students telling us what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, or even if we’re going in the right direction.”

I visited Mr Watt’s blog to say ‘hi’ and drop the line that I’m a student and that I blog. I also offered to answer these questions:

1) What are you all doing on this bus? If blogging (and technology use in school) is like a bus, where do you think you’re all going, and what will you do when you ‘get there’?

2) Are we, the adults, leading you in the right direction? Do you think this bus route is going someplace interesting? Is it empowering you? Or are you being taken for a ride?

3) A prominent blogger and writer, Seth Godin, recently wrote that it’s a lot easier for schools to teach compliance than initiative. Do you agree? Do you relish the opportunity to write a new blog entry, or is it one more thing that’s gnawing at your to-do list?

I don’t exactly have a destination in mind; the formation of this blog was originally for English, but I seem to have gotten away from just that. Over the past few months, my blog has become the place where I could go to write. Busing is quite a vehicle for meditation; while I’m watching the streets go by or walking from the stop to my house, I let my mind drift. After turning thoughts over, often I get an insatiable urge to go write them down. And when I do write, sometimes I surprise myself with what I end up saying.

Writing, I think is both a way to think aloud and preserve ideas I’ve come to a conclusion about in my head or random observations; the blog is just an archive in that sense. I also have a draft saved on my email account where I journal on-and-off, as well as a word document on my desktop, but I think the stuff on my blog is more developed in terms of exploring what I have to say. Sometimes when I post something, I secretly hope that other people will read it and offer their opinions, other times I forget about it as soon as I click ‘publish.’ Blogging provides a lot of revelation and I’m still guessing at its destination, but I do know that it’s going somewhere good.

Being extremely luck to be in a gifted program, I hear the words ‘autonomous’ and ‘initiative’ almost everyday. I think it’s kind of drilled into my mind, actually. In terms of its successfulness, I think I’ve come a long way from where I was two years ago. I learned that most teachers are quite willing to accommodate if I want to work something around (especially in TALONS). Although it does depend on the class; some are more suited for individual learning and exploration, different teachers also like to work differently.

This is just my opinion, but teaching initiative is a bit of an oxymoron. I don’t think anyone can teach anyone else initiative. The way things work in schools are an example. School in the largest sense is to prepare kids for ‘the real world.’ However, most things done in school is quite frankly, a waste of time and quite unrealistic. Still, I think school represents a passage of life. Even if I’ll never use trigonometry beyond Math 12, there are still plenty of skills I’ve learned from just attending the system, like interpersonal relationships. While not entirely practical, I think schools do teach kids to grow up, albeit in a roundabout way. In the end, although schools are more effective operating in a compliant fashion, individual classes can go a lot further in trying to encourage students taking an initiative.

As for blogging being a chore, very few posts I write are mandatory for class. Blogging is still an experiment for me, but I’ve written tons more than I did last year when I was minus a blog. Quite recently, I’ve been writing everyday, but there are periods where I go without a new entry for weeks. The last post I wrote about Catcher in the Rye fermented for a week before I was able to wrap it up to my liking, but ‘the 8 o’clock 143‘ only took a short hour. Between writers’ block and blogging obsession, I guess what I’ve learned is to not worry so much about quantity, writing will come around when I have something to say.

(To Mr. Watt:) It’s a tad overdue, but I hope that was what you were looking for.


The whys of the world

Being a teenager, one of the most annoying questions I get asked is “What are you going to be when you’re older?”

I hate that question. I feel annoyed that they would expect me to know, and yet, at the same time, I experience that momentary panic because I don’t know. And then, like a sluice opening, doubts and fears for the future would come rushing out. I don’t know what I want to be. I don’t know what I want to study. I don’t know what I’m interested in. I don’t know who I am.

In this way, Hatsue in Snow Falling on Cedars knows and this is what makes her so poised.

“It was something Hatsue herself had once felt but had since emerged from as if from a dream, discovering the truth of her private nature: it was in her to have the composure and tranquility of an island strawberry farmer. She knew in her bones what she wanted, and she knew why she wanted it, too.”

Hatsue understands her purpose in life and how to live it. With this knowing deep inside of her, she knows who she is. I think that’s what Ishmael struggles with throughout the story.

A Japanese girl and a white boy, they grew up loving each other in the hollow confines of a cedar. But Hatsue comes to realize that it was only puppy love; ‘they had been too young, they had not seen clearly, they had allowed the forest and the beach to sweep them up, all of it had been delusion all along – she had not been who she was.’

Ishmael isn’t been able to let her go though because he doesn’t understand the whys of it. He doesn’t get why they’re not right together nor which part of him she had loved and stayed many years for. As he’s thinking about his father and the goodness he believes is not in him, he flashbacks to the Strawberry Festival and his father’s conversation with Mr. Fukida. “We believe his heart is strong, like his father’s,” Mr. Fukida had said. “Your son is very good boy.” He re-reads Hatsue’s letter: “I wish you the very best, Ishmael. Your heart is large and you are gentle and kind, and I know you will do great things in this world…” and realized what he’d already had the knowledge of.

In the end, “Ishmael gave himself to the writing of it, and as he did so he understood this, too: that accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” Understanding his heart, he begins to understand ‘limits and the grayness of the world.’ He begins to move on…

Singing out cuz it’s springtime ❤

After missing practice this morning, I got my dad to drop me off the side of the road so I can run home instead. It had all the signs of a really sunny day, though it was only 8:30. The sun was shining brightly, melting the frost off our car. So when I arrived home 20 minutes later, I waited to cool off before I can go indoors and decided to pay my background a much-needed visit.

There was heavy dew on the grass and all the plants looked dead, although it won’t be long until my parents start gardening again like they do every spring with an energy for it that escapes my understanding. I noticed the heavy moss growing on the convulsive-looking knots on our cherry tree (whose cherries are only used to through at my brothers and to feed the birds), the seat atop the willow where our treehouse used to sit and wondered how I managed to forget all these details. I think the birds surprised me the most though; I forgot how vibrant their trilling is, their song reminding me of spring and mornings when I would wake up to their familiar sounds weaving a melody with the geese (I wonder when those birds will return; I quite miss their honking).

And now, with the hot sun coming through the window, and the songbirds singing, it seems like the outside world is calling out “spring’s here!” Thus, I will end this post and go outside to enjoy some of this glorious weather.

In-depth #4

A few weeks ago, I was trying to calm myself down enough to go sleep. But really, what I wanted to do was to go outside and run. I needed to run; I had so much energy I was literally bouncing up and down in my chair. I needed to escape into the street and feel the cool evening air on my face, close my eyes in the dark and be airborne those short milliseconds between each slap on the cement.

At 10:00pm though, that image wasn’t very realistic, so instead I went on Facebook chat and asked my friend if she wanted to run before school the next day. No big deal. Being the crazy people we are, we met up at 7:45 by our lockers the next morning.

We ventured into the frigid air in our gym strip and started up the crunch behind the school. The crunch,.. it’s hard to adequately describe its intenseness, but simply it’s a steep climb underneath the power lines. It goes up for a few miles but we stopped at the tennis court that was our destination, our legs giving way. Thankfully, the view was more than enough to distract us from our tired limbs. The sun had just fully come out while we were climbing and suffused the landscape in a warm glow through the thin clouds.

Since that morning, we’ve continued what became our Thursday tradition with other people joining our straggling group. We’ve progressed from walking up partway to jogging the entire monster and every time, my legs feel less cramped than the week before. Sometimes, glorious sunrise greets us at the top. Other times, the sky is a myriad of clouds. A few times, we stand panting with the rain streaming down from the dark canvas of sky. I never know what the weather is going to be like, but I can always expect to be standing at the top with sweat dampening my tshirt peering at how far up I’ve ran.

And after warming down, a quick shower and change of clothes, I can honestly say that there’s no better way to start a school day!

Besides this, some highlights since previous in-depth post:

  • First time doing the crunch WITHOUT walking 😀
  • Increased 11km to 13 km as the longest distance jogged
  • New 10km time: 50 minutes. Heck yeah!
  • Starting morning runs with Phoenix running club again.

Goals until next in-depth post:

  • Practice more push-ups and sit-ups
  • Go under 4 minutes for 1km
  • Run 3 times a week consistently
  • Pay the gym a visit (apparently there’s a lovely new machine down at the Aquatic Complex)
  • Look into spinning

And before I forget, here’s fitness #2: Go for a run 😀

Running, walking, or any other exercise in the morning makes my day approx. 9000x better (not even exaggerating!). Not only do I feel positive from having done something productive, I’ll be happy and energetic all day long. Science explains it as the endorphin rush.