October 2, 2012

Dining With a Homeless Man

For the first time in my life, a man asked me out for supper and I said yes. Just jokes - he didn't ask me out to supper, he asked me for supper. It all began at Polo Park. I was at the bus stop about to head home when a homeless man approached me. I don't usually provide spare change, but after I said I didn't have any change he asked me to buy him some food. I've always said I would rather buy a hungry man a meal, than give him with money. In that moment I decided to put my words into action and say yes. His face lit up instantly and he nearly skipped as we walked towards the mall. Now I wouldn't normally advise a lone girl to buy a stranger a meal, but we were at Polo Park and you can't get much more public-setting than that.

As we walked to the second level, I learned the man's name was Peter. I asked him what kind of food he would like and I smiled as he exclaimed, "Chinese food!" However, once we ascended the escalator, he quickly ran over to Cultures. Not Chinese food, but I guess he would rather have that. Peter chose some corn, fresh fruit and chocolate milk. I found it funny that he turned down the partly-skimmed white milk because it wasn't homogenized. Hey, I'm fussy about certain foods too.

I asked if he would like me to sit with him, so I did. He was a very kind man and very harmless. I learned that he mainly took the bus from polo park to downtown. Sometimes he would visit the soup kitchens, and sometimes he would visit his family in the north end. He was struggling to find a job as I'm sure most homeless people do. I agreed that it was frustrating to look for a job, but the key was to keep trying. (It was horrible pep talk - anyone who has read my previous blog posts know how I handle job loss).

I also learned that Peter receives a welfare check every two weeks, so he does have a bit of help aside from the spare change or food he receives from strangers. It was enlightening to talk to Peter and see things from his perspective. I asked if it was alright if I prayed for him. He seemed okay with this, and I couldn't hold back my tears as I prayed for God's protection and love over him. Here was this man, homeless for whatever reason, not that different from you and me. When we take away our possessions, our titles and all of the things we take for granted, in the end we're just people.

The only thing I didn't give Peter was my phone number, I drew the line at that. But I was very humbled to spend time with him, as I had to push away my judgemental and selfish nature in order to do so. I believe God was showing me how to be selfless and look outside of myself. Extending God's love to those in need is something I should want to do. As Thanksgiving approaches, I can't help but reflect on all that I have to be thankful for. Others only dream about some of the things I have. As a society we've created these social barriers of interaction, but they can be easily removed if we only stop and take the time to listen. Like the old saying goes, it shouldn't be about what we can receive from others, but what we can give to others.

August 6, 2012

Musings of a Traveler: Not that Far to Go

Before you read this post, click to check out this complimentary Coldplay song:

I recently went on a road trip to Fargo,  North Dakota. I had researched maps and directions, bought travel insurance, and solicited friends and co-workers for tips. I packed my car and headed south with passport and coupons in hand.

Instead of relaying a third person account of my trip, I'm going to give you a first person narrative. Here is my trip in thought blurbs:

  • Ah early morning and hours of driving into the unknown. Time to put "Wild Ones" and "Miss Independent" on loop?
  • Oh my gosh, here's the border. I hope he doesn't search my car. Aw crap, the car ahead of me has kids - they will probably question the kids and ask if those are their actual parents - this will take a while. 
  • Prayer answered, I got through the border smooth! Weird how he only asked me questions about being alone. He didn't ask how long I would be in the states, or how much money I had, or if I was carrying any food, animals or firearms.
  • Woooo! Never driven this fast in my life. It's like playing leap frog on the interstate!
  • Okay, so I've just taken a random exit into Grand Forks. What do their gas stations look like?
  • Just going to pull up next to this pump. I'm a classy co-op member, I don't pump my own gas. Why are there five options? I think I want unleaded, but what's super unleaded? The superior choice? I don't know what to do. It's like choosing the wrong wire to disarm a bomb - my car could explode if I make the wrong choice.
  • West Acres is pretty nice. Their service is really friendly. Never met people that excited about the price of Pump-Foam soaps before though. The men are very chilvarous. Twice, two guys went out of their way to hold open a door for me. This one guy had walked through, saw me coming and ran back to hold it open so I could walk through, and then apologized profusely for not being there. Were you previously employed as a butler? It was a nice gesture, albeit unnecessary.
  • Wow, Loreal True Match Foundation is $8.50 at Target!
  • That awkward moment, when you're shopping in TJ Maxx and you find a jersey that's your size and a dad comes over and picks out a jersey for his eight year old son a size down from the same rack.
  • Yes! She let me buy the blazer off the mannequin! 
  • This mom is calmly exclaiming "Marco" in the electronics section in Wal-Mart. She and her son Polo must have a secret system for communicating.
  • Wow this Texas Roadhouse is busy. I'm going to go ask that host how long it will be for a table for 1. 
Host: It will be about a forty minute wait.
Me: Oh should I come back at like 9 or should I put my name on the waiting list.
Host: You could put your name on the list.
Me: Maybe I should just come back at 9.
Host: Are you here to eat?
Me: Yes (No I'm here to sweep your floor, why else would I be here?)
Host: Oh okay, yeah if you come back at 9 you'll get right in.
  • Why are people eating peanuts while they wait. Oh that is a HUGE barrel of peanuts. Shells litter the wood floor everywhere! But the service is really friendly, and it seems genuine. Maybe they get paid more.
Server brings out steak: Would you like some A1 or 57 for your steak?
What I wanted to say: Excuse me R2-D2, but I don't speak robot, and no, I don't want to put a plane on my steak. (After asking Brittney to repeat herself 3 times, I found out it they were steak sauces). derp derp.
  • This is the most uncomfortable sleep of my life. Right below sleeping in an igloo, because snow isn't falling onto my face every time I shift positions.
  • Yay morning! Time to drive home. I'm going to miss this. 
  • Customs guard just asked me if I was by myself. Well no, let me just pull this baby out from behind my seat...
  • Here's Winnipeg - ah, praise God for a safe trip. I couldn't have asked for a better one!
So there it is. I highly recommend shopping in Fargo. You can google coupons online and use them down there on top of discounted merchandise - simply awesome! The people are friendly too, and they drive like brandonites.

Until next time, I dare you to do something different alone! It's refreshing, and you'll probably learn something about yourself.

July 19, 2012

Knead You Now

So I knocked something else off my "bucket list" last week: I went for my first massage. I know, "whoa Chui dial it back a notch you wild, wild beast" but seriously, it's been something I've wanted to try first-hand for awhile so it became a birthday gift to myself. You're probably thinking, okay... what kind of an adventure can you have lying on your face for 45 minutes? But oh, you will find out. I mostly signed up for a massage because sitting hunched over at a desk all day hasn't inspired proper posture with me, and I knew my back could use some restorative therapy.

FYI: Some health benefits of massage therapy are:

- Increased blood flow and circulation.
- Release of lactic acid build up.
- Reduction of the build up of scar tissue that make up those achy knots.

So how did I choose a place? I asked a co-worker if she'd ever been for a massage, and fortunately she raved about this guy who won an award out in Saskatchewan for his deep tissue massage. At first I was hesitant to have a boy massage me, but I decided to go for it.

Flash forward to the evening of, the man-massuese greeted me. Soft music was playing in the background, attempts at feng-shui were found in the foyer. I followed him upstairs, and that's when it started to feel like a wedding night. Mind you, I'm a happily single, won't-date kind of girl and I have no experiential right to say that it felt like a wedding night experience. But I have talked to married friends and seen enough movies to know that many people are anxious about the wedding night and its potential for being awkward. That's probably due to all the expectations leading up to it, and other personal things I will leave untouched.

So there we were, this man-massuese and I were standing on a cool laminate floor, the lights were dimmed, and a fan was slowly creaking back and forth. I nervously said, "So this is my first time..." to which he re-assuredly replied, "Oh really? Okay, well don't worry about it we can do just with what you're comfortable with." He then went on to tell me that some people remove most of their clothing, or leave it on and it was up to me and my comfort level. He also told me he would be using lotion, so if I didn't want to get gunk on my clothes it was a better idea to not have them on.

There we were, standing there awkwardly with a bed between us, until I said, "So... do I just take off my clothes and get under the sheets?..." To which he replied, "yeah, I'll just slip out and come back in in a minute." Cool. Man was it awkward when he came back in - I was lying there with the sheets over me, resting my face on this giant donut-shaped cushion. Then he got down to business.

We talked about his award. Which apparently was not awarded to him as an individual, but the company he worked for. It was a People's Choice award, which his company here in Winnipeg also won. Right, that makes more sense. How would one win a deep tissue massage award? Would you have a time limit to massage your clients - last one standing with the least knots wins?

Long story short, apart from the initial awkwardness that the man-masseuse was a man, it was a professional experience and he did a pretty good job working out my aches. Apparently I had a lot in my neck. At one point he asked if I turned my head left a lot. I was like, weird question but GASP how did you know I work a receptionist job and the door is on the left? Apparently tension points reveal a lot about our posture and daily habits, which didn't really surprise me but the specificity of it freaked me out a bit.

So that was my latest adventure. Nothing too crazy and spontaneous. I trust my actual wedding night won't be as awkward, because I'll have known him longer than a combined 5 minutes. And hopefully this post didn't make you uncomfortable, but until next time: don't forget to stretch it out, and drink lots of water to flush out those toxins kids!

June 10, 2012

Just a Bit of Throttle

I'm blessed with a lot of freedom. It allows me to tackle my bucket list. I don't have an actual list, but there have been things I've always wanted to try or do before I'm 30, or die, whichever comes first. These include:

Trying out for a dance team
Visiting a casino
Travelling to Europe
Starting a blog
(I realize I'm just listing previous blog articles. But I'm not going to post my non-existent list and make it existent now am I?)

Anyways, you probably think I'm being morbid, but death is actually a stigma related to this one:

Driving a motorcycle

Before you gasp (I've already heard enough of them to put all of my asthma attacks to shame) hear me out: Driving, not just riding, a motorcycle has been simmering on the back burners of my mind for awhile now and everything fell into place this spring for me to give driving a motorcycle a chance. Take note, I still don't have my license and this motorcycle thing didn't go as well as planned, but it was definitely a learning experience. This is my story:

It started in March with my dream of putt-putting around Winnipeg on a scooter, something small and functional - maybe a Vespa. Sure it has the cool factor of a mini-fridge, but it gets you where you want to go. I was determined to make it look sporty, or at least Euro preppy. I quickly exchanged this idea when 2 bike-experienced friends of mine convinced me that motorcycles were a superior choice. The buying prices were about the same, and motorcycles have about 500% more power and infinous amounts of cool factor. Being able to take my bike on Kenaston would also be a great bonus. My Comptroller at work suggested I take the Motorcycle Safety course even if I only wanted a scooter, as it should make me a safer rider either way. So I signed up for the course for the first week of May. It's a 21 hour course designed to prepare you for driving a motorcycle, as a written test is not enough. Just because you can pass a written test does not mean you can make safe passes on a 2-wheeled motorized vehicle.

Commitment made, I looked into buying a bike. When I found out a co-worker was selling the EXACT motorcycle I wanted for a great price, I could not say no. Flip, I could buy it and re-sell if I wanted to. It is a red Honda CBR 125 - my Fit's baby sister. What a cute pair they make and model.

So I wrote my Class 6 test, bought my bike and gear and waited to take the course. I rode as a passenger a few times with my friends to get a feel for turns and gear shifting. I also got a bit of practice driving my bike around on the grass field of a school (making tracks all over their ball diamond - oops) and mistakenly thought that would be enough experience for the course.

This is the dream, but not on grass.
Course day arrived and the first task was choosing a bike. Most of the Honda CBRs were already claimed but I managed to snag the last one although the seat seemed a bit higher than the one I owned. I knew I would struggle to push the bike out to the practice lot, and dreaded this part of the day. So I'm pushing this bike with a dry weight of 280 lbs, slow and awkwardly unbalanced, nose to the handlebars, scared out of my mind that I'll drop the thing. Of course no one else is struggling as much as I am. The instructor comes up to me and says, "So I guess pushing the bike isn't your favorite thing?" You've got it. There's nothing in the world I love more than pushing the weight of 2.5 family members on a crazy carpet on asphalt. I was also 10th in a single-file line of about 35 people. I guess pushers behind me started getting impatient and pulling away from the pack because the instructor walking with me held out his hand and exclaimed, "whoa- no passing!" And I'm like, "What? It's like someone driving 20 km/hr down a single lane of construction on Waverley with 2 open lanes on either side, and you're not going to let them pass? Flip sakes!" I didn't say that outloud.

I don't actually ride in those boots.
After losing most of my dignity and pride, and dropping my cool factor down to 5% save my helmet, jacket and gloves, we started the riding portion of the day. Without boring you with a detailed descripton of my lack of skills, it didn't go well. I fell during lesson 1 and the rest of the day went downhill from there. I had no time to react when the bike dropped. I just fell like a loose board on a hot day. One second I'm panicking, the next I'm pinned to the ground with a bike on top of my leg waiting for someone to peel it off me. After fall 2 on the Honda, I said good-bye to the trace amounts of pride I had left in reserve chambers, and I switched to a low-riding cruiser - the Kawasaki Emlinator. Similar in engine displacement, but with a lower seat height - I could at least flat foot it when stopped. It went okay, I still struggled to make tight turns, and once we started turning in first gear, I messed up, grabbed the front brake (a huge no-no when turning) and fell over. This one was my worst fall - the bike was still running as I was pinned under it and because of the way I fell, the whole bike landed on my ankle. My ankle is still swollen today.

After 3 falls you have to speak to the director and your situation is assessed. It was now a safety concern for me and the other riders, and he asked if I wanted to keep trying. (I think the health concern was that I would die of embarrassment). I didn't have the confidence in my ability to continue so I withdrew. I collected my gear and the director drove me back to the service centre in a golf cart AKA the motorcycle rider's ride of shame. Needless to say, I didn't pass the course.

I kept my bike a secret until my parents knew. And just for fun, this is how my youngest sister reacted when I told her about my bike:

Bless her heart.

Driving a motorcycle does not come without its risks, but it's mostly only as dangerous as the rider. You have to be extremely defensive and very aware of your surroundings. It's about gearing up for the crash, but it's also about cruising down a highway with nothing between you and the world. Even if I never attain my class 6, riding as a passenger is something I would love to do on those warm summer days. Maybe one day my dream of driving a motorcycle will come true. It's really expensive to keep trying for now though. Until next time, happy safe driving, and watch out for those bikes!

April 22, 2012

What It Was Like To Tryout for the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Dance/Cheer Squad

We also had to submit a photo
with our registration.
Ok kids, it's been awhile but this is something real new that I've tried: Today I tried out for the 2012 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Cheer/Dance Squad. The question people (including a camera crew at the tryouts) keep asking me is: What made you decide to try out for this? Here's a simple answer: I'd always wondered if I had what it took to be part of a dance team, and I really like the idea of a group of people coming together to cheer on/entertain their community. Don't we all play better with a bit of encouragement?

This year is different than past years because the Blue Lightning Dance Team will be merging with the Bisons Cheer Squad. That changes it from being strictly a dance thing to a combined skillful stunt thing. We're not talking sideline pompom shows, we're talking scorpions and double twist dismounts.

Did I have any experience? No, but the ads also said it wasn't required. I soon learned how misconceiving that was. Experience is a huge asset, and if you don't have it, you will probably fall on your face - quite literally. (Thankfully I didn't do that).

The tryout lasted 6 hours start to finish including registration. It took place at the Upperdeck Sports Bar at McPhillips Casino (there were SO many people at the Casino on a sunday morning). Anyways, the first tryout was stunting, and the second was dance. We were encouraged to do both. We were to wear specific attire and have our makeup and hair all done up. I had to buy a midriff bearing sports top, because I didn't own one. Turns out wearing little clothing, is also a safety thing, as clothing can get caught and cause injuries during throws.

The turnout for the day was over 100 people, with just a handful of guys. (Not unlike my Zumba class).
That's me top left: Stretching, Ooo so talented
- Winnipeg Sun
Post ample amounts of stretching, we were assigned to groups. I was put into a very lovely group, however none of us had any stunt experience. I chose to be a flyer (the one that goes up) because I thought it would be easier than being a base (the person who supports your feet and pushes the flyer up). I would stand in front of them, jump up into a tuck position, and on 2 counts they'd push me up into a half. They call it a half, but my feet are around chin level and I'm standing straight up, so it's pretty high. My job is to hold everything in, lock my knees and stand as rigid as I can, so I'm easier to support. I stand up, pause and come down on another 2 counts. It was a basic concept but man was it a rush: I'm standing on 4 hands, and one girl is holding my ankles - that's all the support I have when I'm up there. I have spotters and it feels surprisingly stable up there, but wowee. I was proud of myself for not having any bad falls, although it's hard to when your bases are spotting so well. I'm very proud of our new group - we did really well for our first time!

A Half Up: What I did!
Flyers rotated with all of the base groups and one group taught me how to fall into a cradle. When I was in the air, I reached my arms up, they tossed me up, I snapped my arms down and fell into their cradled arms. It was scary and I muffled a scream both times, but you learn to trust your bases. Other girls were doing double twists into a cradle. Yeah.. That was nice to watch. I rotated through various groups, whom were all very nice and willing to teach. The major issue I had was locking my knees tight enough. They felt locked, but apparently they weren't. 

It was great to see the talent out there though: some girls were doing twists, and arabesques, and scorpions in the air. I marvelled at their flexibility and ability to stay so balanced when all you've got are a few hands holding your ankle. After trying this, I have a newfound respect  these wild stunts.

The dance component was okay, considering it was to be my forte out of the two. It was a fun dance that was choreographed for us, and some girls were nailing it. But I failed to catch onto all of the choreography just right, and to be honest, I was pretty sloppy. There were a lot of really amazing dancers though, like wow - they had the choreography, and the finesse to weave it all together and make it look good. A lot of the stunters were really nervous to dance (and vice versa) but some of them were rocking both skills - I was very impressed, it was really entertaining to watch. I also have a new respect for the dance team, and their ability to hit the choreography so flawlessly. 

Where you will not see me.
I was new to both cheer and dance, and there were times I really wondered why I bothered to try out when I was clearly out of my league, and looked a fool. I think others thought that too sometimes about me, but it takes courage to face your fears and chase those dreams you wonder about. Unfortunately, I wouldn't respect cheer as much if I had never tried out. The tryouts were a good experience, and I have no regrets. Plus, when else would I have had the chance to try stunting? 

I was humbled to realize that many of the people there were warm, encouraging and extremely supportive. Cheerleaders didn't have the best rep in my books, but this experience completely changed my opinion. These girls and boys were just as supportive off the field as they were on. I look forward to seeing them cheer on the bombers, and recognizing a few friendly faces.

We know that pre-conceived notions are wrong, but usually the best way to break them is by trying it out for yourself. Maybe not for all things, but some things. Cheers to trying new things- you might learn a thing or two if you can set aside your pride. Until my next adventure, I encourage you to go and be an encouragement to others!
I will still be cheering!

January 9, 2012

Meeting Frank Kennedy

So if you've ever been to the University of Manitoba or participated in any sort of athletic activity there, you've probably heard of Frank Kennedy Centre - the university's major athletic hub next to the IGAC centre. I was a student at the University for 4 years - I lived on campus for 2 of those years. Never had I been inside the gym or seen the gritty grotto (I still haven't). The only time I'd been in the building was to write my final exams.

A year has gone by since I took my self-defense course and it was time for me to participate in an athletic program again. Then I found out it was free week. Basically anyone can come to the centre and try out any program or facility; e.g. give the racquetball courts a swing. I drove from the B Lot to the U Lot post-work. I got there really early and I already felt like a fish out of water. I didn't know where to go, or what to do, and everyone else was confidently walking around in their adidas yoga-tops and polyester-mesh basketball shorts. I decided on Zumba because of the rave reviews it's had.

I had over an hour to kill so I asked the peppy desk workers (probably Kinesiology students) if there was somewhere I could "chill" before my Zumba session. (Yes I said that). They grinned and said, "Oh! You could go to the weight room! Or there's a sauna!" Yeah, not exactly what I had in mind. I'm an English student - I wanted to curl up on a cushy seat and read The Hunger Games.

I went to change in the ginormous locker room and headed upstairs, to find a bench or something. The hallways were bare - sitting was clearly not encouraged. It was like active living was forced on you already. I walked around until I found a large play structure. If kids played there, there must be a bench for their parents right? I found one in a secluded spot in front of the giant glass doors/walls that led to the pool. A kid was playing by the structure and his dad was plugging away on his laptop. While sitting there, this activewear clad middle-aged woman speed-walked by and said to the man," I hate free week. It's packed!" She was clearly irritated, and I thought, "Oh no, do I look like a freebie? I don't have a single bead of sweat on me and my shoes aren't actually indoor shoes - I've worn them outside!" I don't know if she knew the guy but she added, "ah well, they'll all be gone by the end of January." Ouch. Way to support an ongoing active lifestyle. Did she realize how haughty she sounded? Like having a full complex with people wanting to pursue athletic-ness was a bad thing. At the same time, I won't be there next week, so she's kind of right.

The Zumba class went well. The studio was really nice - walls of mirrors and laminate flooring. Our instructor was super enthusiastic and exclaimed how "fun" we were throughout the session. There were like 34 girls and 2 guys. The one guy was hilarious because he would start freestyling - I admire a healthily lack of inhibition in people. I too had issues following the steps. I couldn't keep up with the footwork at times and would just make it up. The music was a blend of reggae, latin and gangster. I stood in the second row and the girl in front of me Must have been a legit dancer - she had perfect posture, her hair was in a bun and she literally didn't miss a beat with the choreography. The girl to her left probably frequents clubs - she could've given J-Lo a run for her money.

Anyways, the session was a series of similar songs and upbeat dance/aerobic moves. It was more fun than a regular workout but I'm not sure it was as effective for me cardio-wise. I've followed other aerobic videos and was left gasping for air before the third cycle. Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough this time. It was a good experience, and it was Free exercise, which is win-win. Better yet, my no-go-to-the-gym track record has finally been broken. Personal best achieved.