December 12, 2011

Best Joy of Paintballing

So I went paintballing over a month ago. It's always been something on my bucket list, if I had one. If you read my blog, you already know I enjoy painting and hitting people. It should've been a big deal, right? I haven't gotten to writing about it until now and without the photo evidence on my phone, I would hardly remember doing it. But really - the details have been smudged, not unlike the paintballs that exploded on my terribly fashion-forward size 44 coveralls.

Ben's birthday brought me to paintballing. It's a little odd to think that just a few hours before the late-night party snacks, easy banter around the dinner table and regular birthday festivities, we were shooting each other down in fogged-up masks. A 5-year-old's dream come true I'm sure.

We headed out to Paintball Paradise in the Northend of the city (read: boondocks). The event coincided with the city's annual Santa Claus parade, so there was a bit of weaving and strategy involved while exiting the city - all good training for the sport right (is it a sport?). The grounds were equipped with both indoor and outdoor facilities - we opted with indoor when we were told low temperatures can mess up how paintballs fire from the barrel, and it was kind of cold outside.

Exhibit A: Corner Gas gone SWAT
After the crew was rounded up and waivers were signed, we chose our coveralls and were each given a mask, a gun and 100 rounds. We were given a safety talk on what to do when we're shot, where to go and how to safety our guns when out of play. The facility was made up of a random array of walls, wheels and little building things. I didn't really focus on a game plan - I just didn't want to get out before  firing my gun. I thought maybe my innate sense of danger and archery skills had prepared me for this moment. It had not.

We played a few rounds and I didn't manage to hit anyone, or use very many of my paintballs (I ended up handing them out like candy between games). During the briefing we were told a paintball to the skin felt like being whipped with a towel. It was definitely a sharp pain. My gloved hand was barely skimmed and it hurt like the dickens. It bruised up immediately and to this day still isn't evenly toned.
Angry bruise.

Tragic hip.
So many times I thought my hiding spot was mint, and I would be instantly attacked by rapid fire after retreating. I barely had time to scream I'd get bombarded so fast.

I tried to kneel like this guy in the magazine. It didn't work out for me.
After a few rounds, I was verbally dissappointed I wasn't successfully hitting anyone. My friend Ivan noticed my lack of hits and volunteered himself and another friend to be unarmed targets for me and another girl to shoot at. The 4 of us entered the shooting grounds and they pranced around like antelope while we unloaded (or tried to unload) on them. We got the thrill of a hit and Ivan got the ache of a welt the size of a timbit. (It was a selfless and commendable act; one I would never do).

Paintballing was a pretty good time. If I could do it again, I would practice aiming before going in. The air tank shoots the paint a bit off kilter, and if you're a newbie wanting to try, here's what I learned: never assume you're safe and don't be afraid to shoot a lot of rounds. Then you'll be ballin.

September 22, 2011

Poetry: Because Sometimes We Wanna Be Emo

This place

I like to think I’m alone

No one can reach me, hidden encased.

These strings are picking my soul

Apart, in this place.

This darkness is a shroud,

An emptiness covers my face.

I see my own body in a silence so loud,

I can taste the dirt, in this place.

I’m broken, shattered, in tears

This hunger feels vain.

In as many pieces as there are fears,

The ground crumbles, in this place.

It’s easier to know,

Than to wonder and let these thoughts race.

Take this veil, let it go,

I don’t want to be here, in this place.

My heart bleeds, Your hands bled,

A bride waits draped in lace.

The curtain's been torn; my spirit fed.

You’re sitting here beside me, in this place.

September 11, 2011

My Art Portfolio

I've recently had the chance to rekindle my hobby of painting this summer.  I was unemployed for most of it - which gave me time to reevaluate career paths and to paint. Painting is a forgiving creative art that allows me to design whatever I want, however I want. I've learned a few things this summer:

1) I will never be able to paint like Bob Ross. If you've never seen this guy, watch him. He creates masterpieces in flawless one-stroke motions and it always turns out beautiful. He accomplishes this in half an hour on PBS. Here he is painting a happy little glacier:

2) Trend: I tend to improve with each painting I do. But like any good parent, I have my favorites.

3) I'm more creative when I'm not trying to be. Creativity doesn't happen in a box. I painted one painting with very little planning in mind, which allowed me to freely release my creative energy. Maybe because I had no expectations going into it, I couldn't be let down. Regardless, it's a personal favorite.

4) Painting involves embracing mistakes and the unexpected. It's about trying for something, probably failing, but still making it work. Paint is a pretty powerful medium. It allows you to express, but it also allows you to hide. It sets a mood, it can harsh your mallow (think tacky colored walls). It's decorative, it's protective and it's pretty subjective.

Anyways, here's some of my work if you'd like to check it out. By all means, I'm open to peer critique.

Painted this instead of studying during 2nd year.
Granted, Rock Flour is a geographical formation.
My African sunset.

A friend challenged me to paint him and a friend on their bikes.
I accepted his challenge.
Unfortunately, he looks like Darth Vader on a bike.

This was 1 of a 3-part landscape scene.
I painted over the third scene.

I turned this one upside down and it looked way better.
The water used to be clouds.

This one is for a friend - it's kind of a surprise.
Too bad she subscribes to my blog.
Painted this one to match my bed colors.

This is the one where I let my creativity and lines go.
There was no plan.

Here's my super pro art kit. I've considered upgrading to a bigger box.

August 22, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It's the end of August, which for most young people means returning to school in the fall. After deciding to extend my "leave of absence" at the University of Manitoba for the Education program, I began exploring different career options early this spring. A workshop, a few meetings with advisors, and a visit to Red River College led me to Graphic Design. I felt I had quite possibly found a career I would enjoy and have the skills and abilities to do. 

For those of you who don't know exactly what Graphic Designers do, here is how Manitoba Job Futures defines it: 

"Graphic designers conceptualize and produce graphic art and visual materials to effectively communicate information for publications, advertising, films, packaging, posters, signs and interactive media such as web sites and CD-ROMs. "

If you would like to learn more, click here.

It's a pretty big leap from teaching to designing. Graphic Design sounds like a flexible profession, and I don't feel like I would be limited to a certain type of job even though it seems really specialized. I could work for magazines, newspapers, advertising firms, all sorts of companies etc. Canada is littered with media and I could be the girl behind your next menu layout, or promotional poster. I could almost work for anyone and help promote or visually enhance any idea.

I would've jumped at the chance to take Graphic Design at Red River College this fall. Unfortunately, the application deadline was back in February - 3 months before I was even considering it. So instead of bumming around another year, I considered studying out of province. My thorough internet search (I think I looked at one site that listed a bunch of institutions) led me to the Visual College of Art and Design in Vancouver. I gave them a call, spoke with their admissions guy, had a phone interview and applied in June. The interview process was reassuring as the man I spoke with talked me through my interests and abilities to see if Graphic Design would be a good fit for me. I appreciated that he cared to see if we'd be a good match, instead of hastily encouraging me to apply in order to boost enrollment. I've spoken with countless people this summer, and I don't think we can ever know 100% if a career is right for us. Sometimes we just need to take a risk and go for it. 
I was officially accepted last Saturday. It was kind of a long time coming.

I've never been to BC but I've always wanted to visit the west coast. I hear it's beautiful, lovely, trendy and just a great city to live in. I've heard of people going there and staying there. I've also spoken with random sales associates that moved to Winnipeg from Vancouver this summer. Maybe I'll fit right in, or maybe I'll wish I was back in Winnipeg after 7 straight days of rainfall. Maybe my pockets won't be deep enough. Or maybe I'll begin to cheer for the Canucks or Lions. Who knows. I'm praying that visiting Vancouver (which begins tomorrow) will open my eyes to whether or not I should move out there for studies this fall. I think the deciding factor won't be the city, but the school. If I find it to be a driven school where I would receive a solid yet enjoyable educational experience, it will probably be worth the risk. 
Um, Wow.

I've been on a lot of fences these last 2 years. This will be the biggest one. These next 2 weeks could very well change my life. Which is okay - I'm all for leaving comfort zones. That's where we discover great, new things, adventure, where we find ourselves relying solely on God and not ourselves, or where we learn more about ourselves and how the sum of all we've been through has brought us to where we are today. Life is a journey, and unlike my driving, I'm open to taking risks.

Hey Vancouer, I'm coming to see you tomorrow. Show me what you've got.

June 25, 2011

Pembina Valley: Leap of Faith

I'm going to camp this summer. Training begins tomorrow.

I'm praying it will be a fulfilling experience, serving God and serving others.

I want to trust in the sufficiency of God, and try not to focus on my fears and weaknesses. I fear a lot of things (mostly irrational), but I believe God is big enough and loving enough to help me overcome those fears and anxieties. God can use camp to change lives. It's not about what I can do, but what God can do, and He can do anything. Camp changed me 9 years ago. I'm willing to take that risk again and let Him work in me this summer.

I'll be learning a lot about trust and faith this season. This will be the biggest adventure since Europe, and I'm hoping it will change me for the better. Like good clay, I want to be moldable. Like a good student, I want to learn.

I'm letting go and I'm walking out in faith.

Life consists of peaks and valleys, triumphs and struggles, joy and sadness. Without one, would the other mean as much? Could we have compassion without suffering? Without valleys, would the peaks be as high? How much do we use comparison on a day-to-day basis?

Things change, people change, and I'll change. I have faith that the Spirit is always here by my side, walking with me. He's my secure rock - everything changes but God and I'm glad He loves me.

June 9, 2011

Farewell Apples and HB Pencils

About a year ago from today I decided to take a Leave of Absence from my Education degree at the University of Manitoba. A year ago, I thought by this time today, I would want to finish my Education degree. I struggled with the decision to return, and after thorough reflection, I decided to not finish my studies this fall.

I can't express how much I admire teachers that care, teachers that positively impact lives everyday, and teachers that play an important role in lifelong learning. We remember our teachers, and the lessons we learned, both directly and indirectly. It takes a lot of determination, courage and wisdom to be a good teacher. Hopefully we've all been blessed to learn from a teacher that really "resonated" with us.

I was going through a box of Education-related stuff filled with handouts and materials from my practicum experience and I found the student feedback sheets I had asked my EAL (English as an Additional Language) Geography class to fill out.

A lot of their feedback warmed my heart, and a lot of it made me laugh. Although teaching isn't the path I've chosen for now, I won't forget the experience and skills I've gained from it.

I had asked them what they liked about my teaching. I had some overstated answers like, "everything is perfect" and a couple of "nothing"s. Pretty standard answers - they spanned the spectrum. I laughed because one kid wrote in all-caps, "YOU GOT A LOT OF PATIENCE!" Fighting for classroom control was a challenge, so it was nice to see this screamed at me.

For what they didn't like, or would like to see improved, I got this:
"Turn your volume up" - Solid advice, I can be a quiet speaker.
"Miss Choy's teaching is a little boarding"
"THERE WAS NOTHING TO NOT LIKE YOU!" Bless his heart. I might just frame this one.
"Be funnyer" Touche.
Under additional comments, one student said "good person" which made me laugh. So concise.
"Miss Choy you are a good teacher. I like you have class with us. I can learned everything was very simple to know it and easy to remeber it! I learned lots from you! Thank you!"

That's something I think every teacher wants to hear - "I learned lots." That lightbulb moment was one of the most rewarding things about teaching: Helping students learn concepts and realize a passion for their work, and helping them figure out where their skills lie, or challenging them and giving them an opportunity to stretch their limits and grow.

I'm definitely going to miss many things about teaching, and I'm not sure if I'll ever go back and finish it. For now, I'm going to close this chapter of my life.

Last year I received one comment that made me cry on my last day of practicum. Under additional suggestions the English student had written, "Find a different career." My CT and friends told me to disregard it - the comment was written out of spite and for unjustified reasons. Funny thing is, I've ended up taking this student's suggestion and I'm going to follow it.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Our grad quote)

I'm stepping off my Education path. We'll see what path I take from here.

May 30, 2011

Club Regent: Betting and Bettering

I almost made it through the month of May without writing a post. But here I am squeezing one just in time to fill in my archives.

My friend Andrew Parker and I were in the area and we decided to give Club Regent Casino a visit as I'd never been to a casino, and I wanted to see the giant aquarium. The parking lot was jammed full this Saturday night (I bet everyone else wanted to see the aquarium also). That or this is where the middle-aged Winnipeggers go clubbin'.

Walking into the main area was an eyeful. Winding rows upon rows of flashing machines were everywhere. Security cameras were deceivingly tucked away into cliffs, and to my surprise and slight dismay, there were clocks. The entire place had a cheesy beach theme to it: Rocky cliffs, palm trees, artificial waterfalls, and the ceiling was painted a calming baby blue. There were a few sections of Black Jack, Poker and Roulette, but the complex was mostly filled with machines (Bingo machines, Slot machines, Deal or No Deal Machines - sans Howie). Society has gone more digital and standardized, and the casino world has followed suit (aha).  

It was like this, but nearly every machine was taken.

I recall seeing the airport ads for the Casinos of Winnipeg, and I didn't see anyone looking that happy. Most of the hardcores were staring at their machines, intently focused on the whirring slots, flashing buttons and fluctuating numbers. I'm not much of a gambler, and I've never liked taking big risks with money (in Monopoly I avoid buying lots and instead hope to make all of my money by fervently passing Go, and in poker I'll up the ante to 10 when I have a full house because there's the chance someone else might have better).

After perusing a bunch of machines, we discovered that different sections of machines offered different minimum bets. One empty section had a minimum of $40, with a progressive (read: Jackpot) of about $160,000. The casino employee informed us that some people drop $60 and win $4000. But after speaking to us, he quickly retreated saying he'd never risk anything like that because he didn't have any luck.

Andrew seated himself down on a 1 cent machine, with a minimum of 40 cents. I watched as he pressed his luck and the numbers went up and down (but mostly down). I didn't know what I was looking for - the line combinations made absolutely no sense (2 men, 1 diamond and a hay bale made $2, what?). 

It looked like the machine would win and we'd have to say good-bye to Mr. Sir Wilfrid Laurier until we hit the shuffle round, which I think is the equivalent to free spins (we had to ask the guy next to us). We sat back and watched the screen shuffle the cards about 5 times. We must've hit something pretty good, because the pot climbed up to about 635. Add that to the other pot of 165 and we had "eight dollars exactly." We high-tenned, printed our voucher and we got out of there. That 5 minute experience was enough of a gamble, and we were leaving with more than we'd arrived with, so that was a plus. That almost never happens to me when I dare to gamble. (I keep using the pronoun we, but I didn't really contribute anything besides moral support).

The happiest people were the ones at the aquarium.

It was a neat experience - not something I'll be frequenting, as cool as the aquarium was (it had almost all of the Finding Nemo fish!). 

Even though I didn't win anything, I probably left with more than a lot of people left with that evening. It's a little bizarre that money itself is being used as a form of entertainment, but I guess some people think the chance of winning outweighs the risk of losing.

Risk is defined as exposure to danger, harm or loss. I believe in taking some risks, like stepping out of comfort zones or trying new things. But in terms of money, I'll bet I'm just going to stick with losing at Disney Monopoly. 

April 18, 2011

Shoot, It's All About Perspective

So I've decided to invest in one of my long-term hobbies and have enrolled myself into a short Photography course at Prairieview. It starts in 2 weeks and I haven't done much to prepare myself. I guess I'm expecting to just show up and be a student of fine art - let the teachers do the teaching. But I know that if I'm going to maximize my learning experience, then I should prepare by familiarizing myself with the basics of shooting with an SLR.

I enrolled in Photography 2 - Focus on Creativity (got to love those play-on words). I'm technically supposed to take Photography 1 as a pre-req, or have equal experience. I know it makes myself sound like a pretentious swank (man I love thesauruses), but I thought I was too good for Photography 1. I was afraid I would already know most of what they would be teaching, and would therefore be wasting my money when I could be challenging myself instead. So to determine which course I should take, I made a call and the Prairieview employee gave me a short, verbal test. It went like this:

Prairieview Employee: "Ok, what do you know about depth of field? How would you make the background appear out-of-focus and the subject sharp?"

Me: "Um. You would change the aperture. The smaller the number, the narrower the depth of field?" (I answered most of this as a question- I was only 85% sure). She replied, "Good." and I breathed a sigh of relief. One question down.

PE: "How would you make moving water sharper or blurrier to show movement?"
Me: "Um. I would change the shutter speed."

PE: "Good... What do you know about the rule of thirds?"
Me: (Drat, I don't really know about this but I remember my friend mentioning it when she took the course - let's make stuff up). "Um like not just centering your subject." Yes, my profundity is mind-blowing.

Apparently that was a suitable answer, even though there's much more to it. I plan on educating/refreshing myself on some photography lingo to avoid sounding like a fool in the classroom. But for a more detailed description of the Rule of Thirds, click ici.

PE: "Do you know about white balance or how to read a histogram?"
Me: "I know a little about white balance, but I don't really know much about histograms." (See what I did there? It's all about forming an answer by rephrasing the words already present in the question).

I feared that was enough to drop me down to Photography 1, but my shoddy answer didn't seem to affect the standards set in place because she thought I was ready for Photography 2. I guess I'll be the ultimate judge of that in May- I may get the hang of it, I may not.

This course focuses on creativity, which I'm looking forward to. I received an email forward from a friend that held some creative photographs - serendipitous? (Nah I don't believe in that but the word is cool). They aren't interesting because of content, but because the photographers were able to construct new images based solely on angle and perspective.

Take a look.

Somebody get a tissue. We have a situation.

Note: I don't know these guys, nor am I related to them.

April 10, 2011

Uh Oh, What Are They Trying to Sell?

Do you like to be marketed to in stores? When I'm shopping at a large department store and I feel like browsing on my own, I don't really feel like being approached by someone trying to sell me something I don't need. Sometimes these marketers have promotions that align with my current deal-seeking wants, but more often than not, they don't. For those of you who want to avoid being approached in a simultaneously stealthy and polite way, here is:

Chui's Practical Guide to Avoiding In-store Marketing

This is key to avoiding in-store marketing. If you're not conscious of your environment and what's around you, I can't help you. Those who wander around carelessly unaware are more prone to attacks- I mean approaches- because they walk in a cloud of tranquility and unsuspectingness (yes that's a word).

Exhibit A: Familiarize yourself with the store's floor plan.

First, Know your Exits: Most department stores have roomy aisles with multiple access points. Be aware of these access points. As you're walking and browsing, do a visual scan of your surroundings. This is so if you see someone you want to avoid, you can  quickly slip into one of these exits or alternative walkways without wasting precious time - time that would allow the marketer to encroach. The footwork-technique you use is up to you. (Some like to pivot, some like to shuffle).

Second, Identifying the Marketer: While you're sweeping the premises, you might see one. He/she is probably well-dressed and will be wearing a company logo somewhere, whether it's embroidered on his/her chest, screen-printed on a hat or adorned on a lanyard. This logo adds authenticity and company unity. They "represent." Marketers may work in pairs, and may or may not be clutching a clipboard. (Product sign-up sheets are attached to these clipboards- if you're given one of these, you've failed).

Exhibit B: An example of a marketer. Note dress shirt and lanyard.

Avoiding Hot Spots and Eye Contact: If you're far enough away from a marketer, you can just take the long way around (also known as The Perimeter). Most marketers choose to be stationary, and "camp-out" in open spaces with moderate people movement and flow. However, if you find yourself close to one, it's important to avoid eye contact. Once your eyes meet, they're aware that you're aware of them, and they'll usually take that chance to approach you.

Walk Like You're On a Mission: Keep your eyes focused straight-ahead and make it look like buying that bottle of shampoo is of utmost importance. Walk swiftly in a determined fashion, with the (optional) casual swing of your arms. Do not take the risk of glancing back to see if you've been noticed. That's a rookie mistake.

But that's it for now kids. If you feel like being solicited, by all means, talk these people up. But if don't feel like it the next time you're shopping for runners, try to be sneaky. Or the next time you're shopping in the ladies department, try to skirt this issue. Just remember, the more nonchalantly you act, the less likely you'll be to offend and the more aware you are, the better prepared you will be to react.

March 30, 2011

How Being Laid-off Feels Like a Break-up

Elle: You're breaking up with me because I'm too... blonde?
I have a lot of time to contribute to my blog nowadays. This is mostly due to the fact that I was laid-off last Monday. But the company I worked for wouldn't call it that. It was apparently just my time to go because they couldn't afford to keep me on. If it's not technically a lay-off, maybe I should call it a break-up because it sure reads like one (subsequent break-up stages retrieved from here). They also provided me with zero notice (maybe I should've seen the signs). But this is how it went down:

On Thursday my supervisor asked me if I could work at the Newport center on Friday and Monday, to provide an extra hand. I agreed, under the impression I would return to my current job, as I still had steady amounts of work to do. Things were pretty normal, I suspected nothing.

Monday at 3:30pm I was asked to call my job placement agency - whom I technically work for. This was sign/flag number one. In the entire 4 and  half months of my employment, I had never been asked to call them. I didn't get through and left a message. I logged on to fill out my time sheet for the day. The entire sheet for the week was locked out - I couldn't log my hours. This was sign/flag number 2. She, my recruitment consultant, didn't call me back until I was waiting at my bus stop. She immediately told me that "today was your last day."

A thousand thoughts bombarded me. What about all the work I had to do? Do you mean my last day at the Newport center, or my last day with the company? What about the friends I had made - will I see them again? What about the personal belongings I had left?

She basically told me I wasn't allowed back into the building and that she would pick up my things for me.

Enter: Break-up Stage 1 - Denial
She spent at least 10 minutes telling me it was over, as I was having issues understanding how it could be over, just like that. I couldn't believe they were laying me off so suddenly, without even asking me to clean up my desk. I didn't want to believe they would give themselves the added stress to sort through the projects I was working on and figure out how I had organized things. After 4 and a half months together, I thought I deserved more consideration. I mean, we'd been through meetings upon meetings, endured late-nights, managed stressful deadlines and we'd gotten through many paper jams together. After all that, this was the way they were ending it?

Enter: Break-up Stage 2 - Anger
How dare they end things so abruptly? Maybe they're just one big jerk of a company that I'd be better off without. If this is the way they treat people, well it's good to know. I'm glad I got out of it when I did. Insert 'more angry feelings that read like a break-up' here.

Enter: Break-up Stage 3 - Bargaining
This is when you try to make compromises to save the relationship. I guess I did this when I offered to go back to clean up my desk and clarify the status of my projects. Maybe if I did this, the relationship could be salvaged - we could end on good terms. I could say my good-byes. However, they rejected this offer.

Enter: Break-up Stage 4 - Depression
This is when we realize that things really are over. We feel like we'll never meet anyone else who will make us feel the same way as this person did. We fail to take care of ourselves properly in our misery. This stage hit me when I went to pick up my personal belongings. They were in a little pile in the corner, and handed over to me in exchange for the building key I had. This paralleled Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," especially these two lyrics:

"Mmmm to the left 
Everything you own in the box to the left 
In the closet, that's my stuff 
Yes, if I bought it, then please don't touch (don't touch)" (I just like that she repeats 'don't touch')

"Baby, drop them keys /
Hurry up, before your taxi leaves" (I did need to catch my bus right after)

I didn't really partake in the other emocore (emotionally-hardcore) motions, but I did veg in front of the TV in my sweats, eating chocolate while watching the characters on TV enjoy their day jobs. I had friends tell me that I would find another job- a better job, and that I deserved better. I stopped going to bed at 10pm, and started staying up late and sleeping in on weekdays - because I could.

Break-up Stage 5 - Acceptance
I'm in this stage now. I don't seek to change things, although I wish I could talk to some of the friends I made that I will now probably never see again because I didn't have the chance to get their contact information. I guess I figured there would always be time for that...

I knew this job was a temporary hook-up when it started. But when it ended, it was still a sad, little surprise. I'm also usually the break- upper because of the commencement of classes. So being the break-uppee was a new experience. But all in all my ex-job was a good experience and I enjoyed and valued it while I was there. I have no regrets and don't wish ill-will on either of the companies. It was just time. And because this is officially over, I can now move on to other things and new adventures in my life. I have faith that this is a small part of the greater picture God has planned for me.

March 23, 2011

My Spring 2011 Contemporary Traffic Jam: A Playlist

So, what do you like to listen to?

It's been over a month since my last post, and what better way to follow a post on love than by writing a post about music? I will later be sharing with you, an exclusive sample from my Spring 2011 music playlist. That's right, be intrigued.

Music: the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.

Just like the lovely definition above suggests, music can really deliver an impact- It's a different form of communication and expression. When we play it, we're not just taking it in, but revealing a window... into our souls.

You don't have to cringe and tell me that was cliche. I know it was. But it being cliche doesn't make it untrue. Windows are made out of transparent glass for the sole purpose of being able to see in as well as out, and music definitely travels further than surface level. We listen to music for different reasons, but what we listen to is indicative of ourselves. We ask that first question because we want to learn a little more about someone. Will people know your innermost everythings because you choose to blare Rebecca Black's "Friday"? Doubtful. But that's a different topic and post, one I will not be writing.

But back to the purpose of this post: What I like to listen to. My music tastes have gone through seasons. Currently I seem to be in a rock/pop/indie faze. I'm not sure if I'm using those genre labels correctly, but whatever.

So here is a glimpse into my Spring 2011 Contemporary Traffic Jam for your perusal. (I will be listening AKA jamming to many of these songs while driving AKA being stuck in traffic).

Go ahead and see if our tastes match. Or maybe you'd like to suggest some songs and introduce me to something different. (A few of these songs were actually suggestions from friends and are now featured on my playlist. You could be that friend, I know!). Or maybe you just want the answer to my post question. 

P.S. They should all be linked, so you can listen with ease. However, you might want to right-click "open link in new window" so you don't lose this page. I wasn't tech-savvy enough to make the HTML code work. But without further ado...

Chui's Spring 2011 Contemporary Traffic Jam: A Playlist
- A fun song, played in my favorite Winnipeg store - Forever 21. If Elly isn't in the version you're listening to, then "something's missing something."

- Discovered on a One Tree Hill soundtrack, the tune and melodic discord in this song has made it one of my favorites.

- That's where I want to live.

- One of those songs where your friends go, "Is that coming from the song, or outside?" when you play it in your car. I'd like to see your fancy footwork... ah...

5) Green Eyes - Take Me To the Pilot
- A cute song by a Winnipeg band. You can find them on itunes. Unfortunately I can't link to the store.

- It took me a few plays to like this one. Lyrics are a little repetitive, but it's groovy, baby... and it plays during the 17 Again credits!

- It's cute and catchy. Let's make it happen.

- I like these boys. I like their music.

- Magic soaking my spine: Please be assured I do not endorse the use of illegal drugs.

- I was sad to hear this group disbanded a month after I discovered them. I couldn't stop listening to them last summer.

- I don't know what's up with his hair, but I like the song.

- Good tune. Solid. (These were the only 2 comments on youtube).

- A la Andrew Parker. (I'm giving his blog a plug as well as credit for this song).

- When I listened to this walking from the bus stop, I felt like a brooding character from a movie.

- More from One Tree Hill.

- Do not be "oh it's sappy"-ed out by the piano at the beginning.

- Very talented man. A nice laid-back sound. "His voice is so smooth you could almost pour it on your pancakes." Ha ha nicely said Youtube user.

- I saw these guys on Conan (I've only seen it a handful of times), and they were pretty cool. 

- I heard this on the CMAs, and I loved it! Maybe my roots showing...

There you have it folks. A small seasonal sample playlist from my iTunes. 
Let me know what you think!

February 16, 2011

What Is Love? Baby don't hurt me...

Tonight I wanted to blog about something more meaningful than just the things I’ve done. My faith is very important to me, and love is arguably the foundation of the Christian faith. I’m not a theologian, nor do I (or will I) have all the answers regarding my faith. But I do believe God is love and showers an indescribable love onto His children.

But let's bring it down to us humans and talk about love. This word is used everyday, and probably tossed around carelessly like my cell phone. (That thing is on its third year, which makes it roughly 72 years-old in cell phone years). “I love this show!” or “I love Toffifee!” are examples of expressions we throw out non-chalantly.

Valentine’s Day was this past Monday. How many people said, “I love you” on this day? This phrase is expressed on anything from Tiffany wedding bands to cheesy coffee mugs. But what do we actually mean when we say these words? I believe love can be defined in different ways. The kind of love you express for PVR is probably not the same kind of love you have for a good friend, or for a significant other. (Sidenote: I don’t like the term “significant other” because a) It’s vague, and b) I think it sounds too starchy-collared. Unfortunately I don’t think “That extraordinarily cool person who isn’t me,” would work to replace the term).

I’ve been to Greece, and I still don’t understand a single word of Greek. However, being someone who can speak 2 languages and understand parts of a third, I completely understand the concept of “message lost through translation.” Some words just can’t be translated- maybe it takes an entire phrase to describe it in one language, and one word in another. Language is complex and interesting; it brings people together and pushes them apart... But I’m off topic and running on a tangent. And now let’s talk about Trigonometry… Cosine, Sine... I kid.

So there are 3 Greek words for 3 different types of love. I’m summing up/paraphrasing ideas from here:

1) Eros: This is the feeling of love. Let me paint a picture: You’re on a date, the air is tingling with unspoken attraction, there’s an infestation of butterflies in your stomach and you float through a warm, fuzzy cloud of intoxication. This love includes the passion you feel for someone- the romance: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. This kind of love feels good, but it’s not long-term because it’s based on feelings and depends on your situation. You feel good around this person, so you assume you love him/her at this time. But if tougher times come, or you begin to find certain habits more annoying than cute, you lose interest. You assume you no longer love them. This kind of love is fickle because it’s based on feelings, and we all know how those can change.

2) Philia: This is brotherly love, or the love between close friends. How would I paint this picture? You and one of your besties are spending an evening together. You laugh together, poke fun at each other, and sincerely enjoy the bond you share and the quality time you have with one another. It’s friendly, but not sensual. It’s comfortable, but not inflamed in passion (I realize friendships can be intense, therefore I chose to distinguish the difference between passions by adding that visual adjective). We may love others like a brother or sister, and truly care for them, but this love is still dependent on circumstances. Sadly, friendships break up just like couples do.

3) Agape: This is the way I believe God loves us. This is selfless love. This love is not confined to a situation or circumstance. It has no borders and is not a feeling. Feelings come and go, but this love isn't based on how we feel in the moment. This love is awesome and humbling, because it’s a choice. How can this kind of love be demonstrated? By the way we treat others. If we love someone with this selfless Agape love, we will ultimately seek out his/her well-being and try our hardest to act in ways that are in his/her best interests. E.g. I love her, and I know it hurts her when I do this so I will try my hardest to be considerate of this, and not do it. Learn more about God's Agape love here.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”- 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 (NIV translation)

I think we could all do with more Agape love. The kind of love where we look out for strangers or offer help for nothing in return; where we show a sincere concern for the well-being of others. The kind of love that encourages, and comforts. The kind of love that forgives and doesn’t choose to hold a grudge, but gives second, third and fourth chances.

This kind of love is something we choose to give- it’s grace-based. It’s not about what I can get out of the relationship, but what I can give or provide. This love is not without challenges, and we won’t always feel like loving this way, or want to be selfless. But like other things, I believe love is a discipline and it takes work, along with a progressive reorientation of our attitudes. As verse 6 from the above scripture passage states, this love perseveres through good times and bad. It doesn't give up easily, and is not fleeting- this love is long-lasting. The best part might be that this love is a choice, and we have the ultimate say in how we choose to live our lives and treat others.

I think it’s important to point out that of these 3 types of love, it’s possible to experience more than one at the same time. However, I think the first 2 would only be heightened by the strong presence of the third kind of love, the selfless kind. I.e. Your romantic feelings for someone would be enhanced by the assurance that your partner has a deep, considerate love for you.

There’s a great book out there which I haven’t read: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman which talks about the various ways we express love: Quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.

I mean to read it, but maybe you’ll beat me to it. 5 million people have, so there's something special about it at least...

I would however like to leave you with this thought: How might you treat your family, friends or even strangers in your life differently if you chose to love them agape-style?

Until next time, don’t forget to show yourself some love and take care of yourself!

February 8, 2011

Self-Defence: When Striking Back is Okay... and Fun

It’s about time I wrote a post about something recent in my life, and attending an 8 hour women’s Self Defence Seminar at a Taekwondo school is enough of an adventure to grace my blog. But before I delve into the details, I’m going to address a common question I’ve been asked: Why did you decide to take a self defence class?

One word: Skills. I thought it would be a good place to learn some physical strategies to protect myself or remove myself from dangerous situations. Before taking the class, I basically had no self-defence skills. My repertoire included: Keys between the knuckles, and running away. Not a very impressive martial arts resume for someone who works downtown. I don’t really need to re-annoint the COW (City of Winnipeg) as being unsafe, but now that I’m receiving overtime at my job at Investors Group, I’m also walking around and bussing at night. Realistically speaking, I’m more at risk for attacks being a small, weak female. So I hoped to gain some practical skills out of this. I figured after 8 hours, I would be able to defend myself against Chuck Norris.

So instead of wearing my Sunday best and going to church this past Superbowl Sunday, I pulled on some sweats and a t-shirt and drove out to Ryan’s Taekwondo on Pembina. For those of you who know me, you know I don’t really adhere to a strict exercise regime, so I was a little apprehensive about the day and the physical exertion it would entail. There were 7 of us signed-up, plus 2 leaders who were thoroughly trained in mixed martial arts, and/or Taekwondo. Inside the school I was slipping on my pair of  “runners” (Read: Street shoes) with 2 other participants when our instructor walked in. Although I had spoken to him on the phone, I took this moment to formally introduce myself and said, “I’m Chui.” He looked at me and simply replied, “I figured.” Based on this, it was safe to assume I would be the only Asian in the seminar, and I was. But I actually really respected our instructors, along with the knowledge and skills they demonstrated.

We began by explaining why we chose to take the course, and our leader lead us through some self-defence theory. This included topics such as: Intuition – Recognizing risk based on context, and characteristics that should set off red flags in our minds. 

For instance, some red flags include:
Forced Learning – When someone forces an association to build report with you. I.e. A stranger who uses the pronoun, “We.”
Lone Sharking – When someone offers to do something for you, so you feel indebted.
Typcasting – When someone puts you in a mould and thus encourages you to prove him wrong, or to elicit a response/reaction from you.

There are many other red flags to be aware of. It’s also important to note that many good Samaritans may demonstrate red-flag behaviours as well. The key variables to consider are context and situation. Are there other people around? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? If someone’s just offering help out of consideration and you refuse, most Samaritans would recognize your unease and leave you alone. Regardless, it’s better to offend someone, than to put yourself in a dangerous situation.

We read a true story (about an attack) together, and identified various red flags that were exhibited. This sounds very "of-the-textbook," but our leader made sure to stress how each situation is unique and by no means is there a tried-and-true formula for identifying potential predators.

After lunch we got into the fun stuff. They made us run lines and other various warm-up exercises to increase our heart-rates. Then our leaders pulled on boxing gloves and we practiced blocking/defending ourselves while they hit us. (This sounds more violent than it actually was). 

This won’t shock most of you, but  my favorite part of the seminar was learning how to strike. At different times during the day, I was labeled as “crazy” and “a diehard.” (Maybe because I was simply engaged with my learning experience and challenging myself, gosh). Anyways, striking included:
- Punching handheld pads
- Kicking with our shins (the hardest bone in our leg, that can take the brunt of a hit)
- Knee stomps
- The groin kick

All of these were practiced on our two leaders, aiming at the pads they held. (I thought the groin kick might’ve been a little too close for comfort for them, but they were experienced enough to prevent injury).

We learned how to get out of grab holds, which included distraction techniques and we also learned how to use resistance to work in our favour. Then we learned how to fall (or roll) to dissipate energy and reduce impact. During this we practiced falling while our leader “threw” us onto a mattress. I would describe it more as an assisted whip. He would hold both of our hands and whip us towards the mat and we would fall/roll onto it. Each time he asked if we wanted more speed, and each time I asked for more, being the reckless diehard I am (I did run a red light the other day). For our last throw, they encouraged us to try to recover from our roll and immediately take off running, or attempt to use the force from the throw to put more distance between ourselves and our attacker. Running after rolling was a little discombobulating, but possible!

Next we practiced getting out of chokeholds, which didn’t work so well for me, as I had issues turning either of my leaders over my shoulder. It’s not about size however, but about effective transfer of momentum. We practiced this forwards, and backwards – where you hold your attacker's thigh and lean backwards, so you land on him and he's basically forced to release you, for at least enough time to get away.

Finally we ended the seminar with some floor work, which got awkward because we were practicing a full mount on strangers...

While we were packing up, our leader (a master of Taekwondo, I remind you) told me I had a good kick. Maybe it’s natural – perhaps some Kung Fu in my genes. But being athletically disadvantaged, I was very pleased to hear this!

As I finish typing up this post, I’m still feeling the post-seminar pain. Specifically, the right side of my body is considerably sore, as we focused on right-sided strikes. My neck is also a little sore- I feel it when I speak. I also suffered some bruising on my knee and knuckle- shiners that I might admire too much. (I’ve pointed them out to everyone- "hey small-child-on-the-street, guess how I got this!") I feel a little beat up, which may or may not be ironic. The next few days after my seminar, I also had the pleasure of trying out a few of my newly acquired skills on my guy friends. Practice makes perfect right?

In reality, I hope I never have to use these skills. However, my resume is now a little more filled-out and I’ve learned a lot about getting out of certain situations. I would definitely recommend a self-defence seminar, or others like it, as it was indeed practical and very hands-on. But for now, stay safe my readers! And trust your intuition...

Exhibit A: Regular Knuckle
Exhibit B: Bruised Knuckle!