Monthly Archives: November 2012

*~Edd!e: A Romantic, Teen-Thriller and True Story

Sometime early on in my five-year high school saga, I found my first love on a website called Nexopia.

I just checked, and somehow it’s still around. Anyway, I was fifteen years old and had had a few “relationships,” each one last less than two or three weeks.

I was not looking for my first love when I joined Nexopia… not at all. I was more than familiar with dating websites like LavaLife, where I would prank unsuspecting men looking for a casual encounter by setting up a time and place and imagining them waiting for this beautiful blond, eighteen-year old model to show them a night of fun and of course nobody showing up. I did this once… Maybe twice.

So I joined Nexopia.com because my friends all had profiles. You could personalize your page with HTML codes you could copy and paste and have things like a cursor that would sparkle and leave a trail of glitter-scat wherever you moved your mouse. Some people got very creative. This is when I think “Emo” and “Scene” became “things.”

Teens and pre-teens would post angsty poetry or fill out personality quizzes and see how many friends they could get to do the same. It’s really not that different from Facebook, but I think Nexopia came first and didn’t appeal to anyone that had grown out of acne or their training bras.

It was new: a strange and wonderful world.

One day as I signed in to post a new webcam picture I took of myself, I saw that a young, Hispanic guy with the username *~Edd!e commented on my wall.

“Hey, nice pics. How R U?”

I took a look at his profile and saw some fairly grainy webcam pictures of a guy with big brown eyes, buzzed hair, sparse facial hair, muscular arms, and a black baseball cap. There wasn’t a single picture without that hat. He lived in Alberta; about 1158 km from Vancouver.

I think my username was something like, $$$P.M.c.G-Unit$$$… I was in the middle of my Baller to Mall-Punk transition phase and I guess I thought dollar signs said a lot about who I was as a person. I replied, unsure of what I thought.

“Hey, do I kno U?”

He didn’t. He said he was browsing and saw my pics, thought I looked interesting and wanted to get in touch. I didn’t think this kind of behavior was strange. After all, in elementary school my friends and I would exchange msn contacts to collect the most amount of friends. This would often lead to getting to know another kids from a nearby school who you would get a crush on, see once, and feel too shy to mention anything about the (K) 😛 😉 messages we would exchange back and forth. A picture I drew of *~Edd!e when we were dating online.

Soon, we had exchanged msn addresses and we started chatting. *~Edd!e told me his life story, and I told him mine. However, his was much more eventful than anything I could even dream up.

*~Edd!e was born in El Salvador during the civil war and because his mother had lost track of the date he had no real idea of how old he was. He estimated he was eighteen, and he never celebrated his birthday.
I said he should just pick a day and celebrate, but he said it wasn’t that easy.
He had an older and younger brother. They all escaped to Canada as refugees and his mother now worked as a cleaning lady to pay rent. He said his older brother was involved in a gang that was widespread across North America, and that due to his brother’s involvement, he watched his youngest brother get shot in a park during a murder attempt on his brother.

I couldn’t believe that someone in Canada could have that kind of backstory, let alone someone I could meet on Nexopia.

*~Edd!e had had a hard time dealing with life after that and started doing drugs and even joined the gang. His brother had the intelligence to give little *~Edd!e a smack on the head, and tell him to leave the gang. The price of getting him out of the gang was for *~Edd!e’s brother to move to Vancouver and take care of business over there.

So now *~Eddie was off drugs, going to school, and DJ’ing in his basement. I don’t know how he afforded turntables, but then I never asked. To get this close, we had been chatting on msn for about three months. I was so blown away by his story, I couldn’t help but get a massive crush on him. I was drawn to his tragedy the same way people like to adopt abused animals and nurse them back to health. I wanted to make him happy, and be the one girl he could tell anything.

Somehow, I managed to fight past the (K) 😛 😉 stage of our relationship and straight-up type: “I like you.”

He was a bit sadistic and asked me what I meant. I pushed down the knot in my stomach and answered, “I like like you.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.

Oh goddamn it all…

“I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU” I typed, crushing the letters on the keyboard. I was seething.

As it turned out, he had a crush on me too. He told me the night before he was hanging out with his ex-girlfriend who tried to make out with him and he turned her down. He said it was because of me.

Let’s try at look at this from my naïve, fifteen year old perspective. Sure he said he was eighteen, but he didn’t know for sure. What’s more, I told him I liked him first and he never said anything until I did. Also, I knew he wasn’t an old man because we had chatted with webcams and I could see him moving around and doing silly things because I asked him to.

Long story a little bit shorter, we agreed to have an exclusive, online dating relationship.

Here is where things get messed up. Yes, you have seen nothing yet. Buckle Up.

Our online relationship lasted another five months before we decided to take it to the next level. In this time, we exchanged music files. He would make a track with is DJ setup, and I would record some vocals on Garageband and send it back with layer upon layer of reverb. We made some stuff that I remember sounding kind of good. I actually wrote him a love song and I still have the recording of it somewhere. Pretty cute right?

He also told me that he was a part of a DJ group called DJ Tiesto, and that the ‘e’ in Tiesto stood for his name.
The group couldn’t sell commercially so they chose one guy to represent them and created a new persona, DJ Tiesto. I chose to believe him, although I wasn’t without my doubts.

Lo’ and Behold, *~Edd!e’s brother invited him out to Vancouver to come live. He showed some doubt because of the gang involvement, but I encouraged him to move so we could meet in person.
His brother had found him a place on a street nearby my house. He remembered the street name but not the house number. I started getting a lot of exercise walking up and down that street at any chance to guess which house would be his and thinking seeing some Hispanic person might be a clue.

I pressed him for the house number, but in the end the plan fell through and he had to move in with his aunt and uncle in Delta, about a 2.5-hour bus trip from my house. I didn’t make any preemptive walks out that way.

So *~Edd!e moved to Vancouver, and of course I was thrilled! I was super nervous meeting him so I planned for us to meet at a bus loop in a very public area. I hadn’t told my parents the truth about meeting him on the internet, but said we had met while he was visiting Vancouver and had been chatting on msn ever since. I didn’t keep it a secret because I couldn’t not share all these awesome songs we had made together.
They knew everything else about him. I had shared his tragic story, our Internet dating, and our meeting place and time. They told me I could invite him over and he could sleep on the futon in the basement so he wouldn’t have to bus back to Delta at night. I love my parents.

The moment of our meeting was pretty uneventful. He got off the bus and I recognized him instantly. We shared an awkward hug and hopped on a bus to go see my high school. It was a cold, December night and we walked down a dark road to the back entrance of my school. The gates were locked, so we walked back.
Somehow, I worked up the courage to make a bold move. I stopped walking and grabbed his hand. He turned around to face me and I kissed him. I still remember the cold drip of his nose on my cheek. Gross, but I was willing to ignore it.

He was visibly shocked, and then exclaimed how cool that was and that he wasn’t expecting a kiss for a while. We got back on a bus and went to my house. My mom met him and showed us how to set up the futon bed in the basement, left us alone to say goodnight, then made damn sure I went to bed in my own room two floors up.

*~Edd!e and I’s relationship continued in this manner. He could sleep in my basement when he came over, but when I visited him in Delta I had to come home every night. He got a job at McDonalds in Metrotown mall, and I went over to visit him one day when he got off work. It was a week before Christmas.
We went around the mall and he said we wanted to buy gifts for my mom, my dad, and my sister. I helped him pick out a coat he wanted to buy my mom that was on sale; a pretty big gift but a nice gesture.

A couple days later, he came over with a big bag of goodies. He said he wanted to bring gifts since he didn’t get to give anyone Christmas presents. Along with a couple $10 watches, he gave my sister a bottle of Lacoste perfume. My mom was surprised by the winter coat, but accepted it. She started thinking something wasn’t right here. How could he afford this stuff if he works at McDonalds? *~Edd!e had also sent me a few gifts during our online relationship. I once got a package in the mail with three beautiful rings that I was pretty sure were made with Swarovski crystal. My mom knew about these gifts, but kept her suspicions to herself for the most part.

Things developed. He came over for Christmas dinner and watched the party unfold. We’ve always had a fairly musical Christmas because my dad is a musician and my mom, sister, and I played piano, guitar and sang. *~Edd!e didn’t end up contributing anything because his turntables were still in Edmonton. He made it through the family event without many problems, but my family noted how he never took off his black baseball cap and was very quiet.
“That’s just the way he is,” I said. Not to mention he had a hard family history.

In January, he told me his brother gave him a hummer for Christmas. I wanted to see it so badly! He said he didn’t know where it was parked, but that he didn’t want me to see it because it was ugly and painted four different colors. I then started to scan every parking lot for multi-colored hummers.
I told my parents, and they casually asked me why he would continue bussing from Delta for 2.5 hours every day when he could drive the hummer. I asked *~Edd!e, and he admitted to not having a driver’s license.

One day I got a call from the Police. They said they found a wallet with my ID in it. I had given my school ID to *~Edd!e so he could get cheaper bus fares, so I told them it was his. The police told me that there were actually a few different people’s ID’s in his wallet, and that they were very curious about that. I asked *~Edd!e about it over the phone later, and he said his Edmonton friends gave them to him so he could have their pictures while he was gone. I was suspicious of there being another girl, so when he went to the bathroom the next time we hung out, I took a quick look in his wallet to find an Edmonton Driver’s license with his picture on it. I didn’t want him to know I peeked, so I kept it to myself. No girl’s pictures were found. A few months went by, and the questions kept on piling up for my parents.

Right before he moved to Vancouver, I told him I loved him. It was true. In fact I was so blinded by this love that I never thought to ask the questions my parents did. I took his answers at face value, and naively assumed that they didn’t really affect me either way.

On a Saturday afternoon, I met up with *~Edd!e at a train station for a surprise. He took me to the parking lot, and he showed me a beaten up blue Volkswagen. His uncle had lent it to him for the day so he could drive me around town. I asked about his not having a driver’s license, and he said he would drive carefully and not get caught. I noticed that the keyhole on the driver’s side door was missing and I asked about it. He said his uncle locked himself out of the car the day before and had to break in to get his keys out. Okay then.

When *~Edd!e drove me home, my parents came out to see the car he drove. My mom saw the hole in the door. He drove back to Delta that night and my mom came into my bedroom and sat me down. She asked me about the car, the drivers license, the hummer, the gifts, the gangster brother, everything. I told her everything I knew, but it didn’t even come close to answering all the question she had. My mom was very careful and left me with a new set of questions to ask *~Edd!e when he got home from his drive. She never openly passed judgment on him in front of me, but merely transplanted the doubts she had into my own brain. My mother is a very smart woman.

*~Edd!e called when he got back home, and I started to ask him these questions. I had so many, that he smelled that something was up and he asked why I was so curious. I told him I was talking with my mom about the hole in the car door, and he got very quiet.

“I don’t see why you need to tell you mom something like that” he said.
“I didn’t. She saw the hole and I was curious about it too” I answered.
“I don’t want you talking to your parents about me” he commanded.
“Why? They like you, they just want to know some things” I pleaded.

“If you don’t stop talking to your parents about me, I’m going to kill myself.”

I believed him. Knowing his past with drugs, his disturbing upbringing, and his brother’s involvement with gangs I wouldn’t put it past him.

“Ok, I’ll try” I said.

I slowly dragged myself upstairs, totally stunned by the interaction. My sister saw me and asked me what was wrong. I said nothing, and went to my bedroom. Five minutes later, I heard a soft knocking on my door and choked voice calling my name. “Paula, can I come in?” said my sister.
She came in, and told me she was worried about me. We had always been able to tell each other everything, and that she could tell something was very wrong. She asked if it was about *~Edd!e and I broke down.
I cried as I told her everything that had just happened. My sister held me through both of our shock and she quietly let me know that our family loves me and that they don’t want to lose me.

I knew that it would be impossible to sustain this lie. I had to tell *~Edd!e that I loved my parents too much to shut them out of my life. I called him and told him just that, and added that I love him but if he chooses to end his own life because I wanted to talk to my parents then it’s his own choice and not my fault. My parents had done nothing wrong and were only looking out for my best interests.

*~Edd!e’s voice sounded strange when he answered. He told me he had a gun with him. I cried through the phone that I was sorry but I couldn’t shut my parents out of my life. He hung up.

The next week, *~Edd!e told me he was moving back to Alberta. His mom had become very sick and needed him at home. I went to the Greyhound station with him and said a teary goodbye with mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure if he was leaving because of his mother or because I had betrayed him. Either way, the separation was a blessing in the end.

A couple weeks of peace  after months of stress, drama, tension, or crying, I realized that whatever was going on with him was wrong and needed to end. I think I stopped loving him when he gave me the ultimatum of my family or him… clearly my family will stick around longer and not move away if they’re mad at me.

My mind was clear for the first time, and I called him in while my parents were in the house and broke up with him. He told me that if he started using heroin again it would be my fault. Heroin Again? I didn’t know there was a first time.  Good Riddance I thought… this guy has too many issues for a now sixteen-year old girl to deal with.

I cut him out of my life completely. I told him I couldn’t speak to him anymore. A month or two later he called me from an unknown number and asked what I was doing since he was in town again. I told him I was busy and didn’t say where. I was paranoid of him showing up unannounced at my home for weeks but he never did.

I chalked it up to his being a compulsive liar, although I’m now fairly sure there was more to the story than that.
A few years later he added me on the new Nexopia, Facebook, with a message saying he was curious about what I was up to. I took the opportunity to creep his profile and saw he was actually DJ’ing and had a trashy girlfriend. I chose to ignore the message.

Never once have I ever regretted this relationship. From beginning to end, we were in contact for 12 months. I don’t think there is anything in the world that could have opened my eyes to the crazy things people are capable of and at the same time teach me that if everyone around you thinks something is wrong – something is probably wrong. Love is a scary thing for me to this day because it requires so much trust, and if you love someone badly enough it can leads to blindness even when the unanswered questions are slapping you in the face.

I wonder if *~Edd!e is still out there, if he really doesn’t know how old he is, if he has a gangster brother, and if he still tells people he is a secret member of DJ Tiesto… Perhaps he really is and it’s a huge house-music conspiracy. Who knows?

All I can do is share the story with others, but not to warn people about the ‘dangers’ of Internet dating.
The problem wasn’t the Internet, it was the two people on either side of their monitors taking webcam photos and posting them on Nexopia. – One so naïve and desperate to make an impression that she takes on a rescue mission to save a poor El Salvadorian refugee boy with her love – and One who is so deeply traumatized by something that they only feel empowered by manipulating people and can’t handle the threat of control being taken away so they keep them in the dark.

So now I am a much wiser person who writes potentially incriminating stories about past follies on the internet for everyone to read. But I don’t regret past mistakes; I learn from them.

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Mumbai, what is it about you?

I have done some travelling in the short while I have been on this earth but there is only one place with a magnetic pull where every minute I’m not there I feel like I’m missing out. I have seen many different cities and explored many countries such as England, France, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the list goes on. However, the one city that really left an imprint on my psyche is Mumbai.

Even though the new name struggles to roll off the tongue, the energy of the city quickly infuses your being through it’s daily do-or-die decisions like crossing the street. Those who haven’t loved India are the ones who have tried to resist being taken with the flow. The beauty of this massive metropolis is not only in the pretty twinkling lights of the Queen’s Necklace traffic at night, but also the dirt, the stink, and the pollution. Mumbai offers plenty of bad and so-called “dirty” things as any city does, but it’s intensified by its volume compared to Western cities. However, without the contrast we cannot truly appreciate the good things.

Unfortunately, I find many visitors focus on the bad things in Mumbai and fail to see the beauty that shines through the dirt. My experience was definitely influenced by having a nice, air-conditioned flat to stay in just off the Colaba Causeway and having friends who have lived in the city for their whole lives. I had it really good during my month and a half in Mumbai, but that doesn’t make my opinion any less valid. In fact, most tourists passing through don’t have the chance to see a lot of the great people and places I did, so consider my experience one of the many facets and faces Mumbai has to offer. I love this city.

To be honest, I didn’t even take the time to see most of the tourist destinations. I didn’t go into the Dharavi Slum area, and didn’t see the Dobhi Ghat. However, I caught the local train from Churchgate to Goregaon (an hour-long ride) a few times a week, got an inside look at the famous Film City, and made it out to the club more times a week than I’m willing to admit. I spent every moment in Mumbai spoiling myself and reaping every pleasure I couldn’t afford back in Vancouver. I ate delicious desserts every day from a great cafe called Leo’s Boulangerie, indulged in a couple of Thai massages, and drank all the Whiskey that came my way. This city taught me how to party, and how to get mix business with pleasure.

However, I can’t say the city whispered in my ear and told me how to talk to taxi drivers so they don’t rip me off. It was the collective energy and attitude of sucking every drop out of life that came through the people I met and shared my experiences with. It’s the personal interactions you have while travelling which are the most memorable, and I have since made a vow to help every tourist I meet by being a good host and showing them sides of the city they wouldn’t normally see by inviting them to join me and my friends and family. The best meals I have ever had when travelling have always been home-cooked.

So, needless to say, I got to enjoy a few home cooked meals during my stay. Before my trip to India, I had no idea of the variety in Indian food. Having a limited choice of Punjabi restaurants in Vancouver, I was surprised to learn about the joys of eating Idli off a banana leaf at 3 in the morning… and Dosas with omelettes and sambar from a street-side shack for breakfast after an all-nighter. There was also Sri Krishna Sweets, where I would go with my friend and buy one of everything so we could taste each one. Oh, how I dream of Ghee.

I definitely didn’t get to try everything edible, but at least I know I’m going back. The day I left Mumbai was a Sunday, and my friend and I had to catch a bus to Hyderabad that night at 8 o’clock. Our party-animal friends spent the day with us and dropped us at the bus fairly inebriated. We knew we weren’t coming back for a long time, and Mumbai had started to feel like home. A tear or two found it’s way to my eye as I looked out the window and we drove away.

I found it a lot easier to fly out of India than I found it to get the bus to Hyderabad. When I got back to Vancouver, my days were full of meetings, reunions, and work, yet somehow I felt like I was doing nothing. My body was still buzzing from the energy in India, and the pace in Vancouver felt unnaturally slow. I knew from the moment I left Mumbai that I had to go back and try to live there.
From that moment, everything I have done has been to increase my chances of moving to Mumbai. I did lots of research on Visa requirements and seriously considered signing up for a job I didn’t want just so I could be there. However, I just couldn’t get my ducks in a line for a permanent move in January, so I am going back to Mumbai for ten weeks to see what I can do. Perhaps the charm will wear off on my second visit, but I doubt it. There is something about the energy of this city that measures time by the breath. I will go back. How do I know? I just bought my plane ticket.

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Reality Becomes Fiction with “Crulic: The Path to Beyond”

The film “Crulic: The Path to Beyond” is an animated documentary of a young man who died at the age of 33 from starvation in a Polish prison hospital because of a hunger-strike in opposition to his unfair treatment by the Polish and Romanian law system and his false conviction of theft. The film is beautifully animated on multiple platforms including paint, stop-motion, photography, and composited pieces of video and drawing. The sound design brings to life the character of Crulic and his family, and immerses us in the multiple worlds such as Romania, Italy, Poland, the Prison, and the Hospital.  It also brings to life Crulic’s hunger-induced hallucinations in combination with surrealist design in animation.

The film illuminates injustices in the prison and legal systems in Eastern Europe, and has been funded and supported by many national film commissions.

An interesting discussion followed the film as my fellow Connexions colleagues and I discussed how it can be classified as a documentary as supposed to a drama. One of the arguments brought up against it were the “dramatizations” of the story of Crulic. The film gave a disclaimer at the end stating that it had taken liberties in the creation of characters and dramatization of events in order to tell a more compelling story. However, I find that that dramatization of a story does not remove all documentary aspects or any of it’s credibility as a documentary. If one were to tell their life story, they would paint it in colors that would make it interesting for the listener. With that said, the fact that Crulic is deceased means that there is no verifying how “dramatic” the events leading up to his death were.

The other argument against Crulic being a documentary was that it had none of the tell-tale signifiers of a documentary film such as archival footage and interviews. Information about how the story was constructed is not explicitly given during the film. However, it is implied that much of the story was taken from Crulic’s writing from his imprisonment as well as interviews with his sister and mother. I think that taking a person’s diary and rewriting a story based with the inclusion of details gathered from interviews is just as valid as a personal interview. The animation and characterization of the animated people in the film is just as relevant to us as our own imagination would be if someone told us the story through a radio broadcast. Just because it looks like a cartoon, doesn’t mean it isn’t as real as our own memories. Since “Waltz with Bashir” is a documentary consisting of the animation of memories recorded in interviews; “Crulic: The Path to Beyond” is a documentary consisting of the animation of someone’s diary consisting of their memories. Perhaps it is even more accurate since the medium of a diary is much more personal, and one is less likely to censor and embellish their story if it is only being recorded for the sake of their own memory.

In the end, the consensus of the group was that there are no black and white lines defining a documentary as opposed to a drama or narrative film. In the end, we are all telling stories of life and the human condition whether it be how large corporations are inhibiting the rights of free speech of a Swedish filmmaker, or telling the life story of a man who died of self-induced starvation while fighting for his rights.

The Website

Big Boys Gone Bananas

This is an old blog I wrote in May 2012 for the DOXA Connexions program. Big Boys Gone Bananas is a documentary follow-up to the film Bananas!* detailing the legal battle the filmmaker Fredrik Gertten with Dole. The film is a Coproduction between Sweden and Canada. Read on!

The tagline for the screening at the Pacific Cinematheque: Fredrik Gertten says film is about freedom of speech and the right of the “little person” to take a bite of JUSTICE out of the big boys.

Talk after the screening with Randy Hooper, a Fair Trade activist with Discovery Organics

Big Boys Gone Bananas is the story of Fredrik Gertten and his production team in Sweden and their battle against DOLE fruit company after the release of their first documentary BANANAS!* depicting the mistreatment and abuse of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers. The fruity giant came after Gertten before the world premiere of his film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and proactively came after the filmmaker and began to spread falsities about his filmmaking practices and his documentary subjects in the film BANANAS!* before even seeing it.

The film does not use the opportunity as a way of making Fredrik Gertten a superhero, and BANANAS!*, the victim of corporations and the media. Instead, it follows the legal processes and investigates the ways in which mainstream media and government can be controlled by corporations as a way of educating the public. The story of Gertten and BANANAS!* is to show how this seemingly impossible force can be beaten, and is shown as a source of inspiration for others hoping to achieve similar goals that involve overcoming big industry and big money through grassroots and bottom-up efforts and storytelling.

The film calls out against PR firms, news media, and even professionals that have been brought over to the “dark side” by putting their name on an opinion piece written by a PR company, paid for by a client such as DOLE.

There is a call for support for independent storytellers, such as bloggers who can have a large role in influencing public opinion like the Swedish blogger who called for a DOLE boycott.

However at the end of the film, there were some issues that I still couldn’t find solutions for within the film itself. I don’t mean to say that a film is supposed to give the answer to the problem it exposes, but these are general questions I would like to see more discussion on as the film has screened as a part of the Justice Forum.

First of all, the success of Gertten against DOLE would not have been possible without the Swedish government. The Swedish government is much more centralized that the Canadian government, and is already suspicious of American neocolonialist tactics and reacts by being very protective of it’s own economy and industries. Without the support of the Swedish government, the lawsuit would not have been dropped. Do you have any ideas on how one might fight successfully against large corporations in a country like the US and Canada, or any idea on how the fight  would have played out in North America instead of Sweden?

I asked this question to Fredrik during the Q&A after the screening. His answer was that nothing is impossible, even in Canada. He directed that we support storytellers, challenge government, and break the isolation of these storytellers created by the media (that is being influenced by the corporations). He also called for journalists to be more active in questioning their sources, and for the public to support them.

Ii found the answer to be a little vague, but of course I don’t expect him to be familiar with how difficult it is to make progress in activism in a city such as Vancouver. Perhaps I am a pessimist, but I think it would take three Fredrik Gertten’s to have a chance at making the Canadian government take a direct stand against DOLE.

Lastly, the Justice forum is sponsored by CUPE BC, a worker’s union that I myself am a member of. The film was introduced by a Union Representative (I apologize for not remembering his name) and it brought up the interesting idea of increasing collaboration between independent filmmakers and unions. From audience suggestions during the Q&A, it was clear that both are invested in rights and quality of life rather than money. Why should there not be more funding for projects such a BANANAS!* from local unions?

P.S. If you are interested in taking action against DOLE, start by buying “FAIR TRADE” bananas. Also, take a look at the 10% shift program being pushed by CUPE BC. The program takes 10% of the money you spend, and reinvests it into local businesses such as grocers and markets, giving them more buying power and ability to compete with chain supermarkets locked into contracts with corporations such as DOLE.

http://www.tenpercentshift.ca/

The Original Post

The Girl from Germany

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I have had many strange encounters riding the bus over the years. 90% of these take place at night. While sometimes it’s creepy and frightening, most of the time it’s entertaining. Often the people are men, and these men are often drunk. I can remember seeing strange men on the bus since I started taking Vancouver transit when I was thirteen.

When I was that age, my only confidence was from the self-defense and rape-awareness class I had taken in school. The moral of the story was that being quiet and polite to these men when they approach you would encourage them. However, being mean and telling them to get lost can set them off and you put yourself at risk of attack. The woman teaching us liked to use the ultimatum: You will either end up In the truck, or Under the truck.

The solution was the look them dead in the eye and use sentences starting with “I” like, “I don’t want to talk to you”, “I would like it if you stopped staring at me”, etc.

This stuck with me and every time a drunken guy comes up to me to chat while I’m waiting at the bus exchange, I would assertively tell him “I don’t want to talk right now”. Sometimes this would work, but more often it would just spark a conversation.

Last night while I was sitting on the bus to go home, a young man of about twenty-five stumbled into the seat next to me nearly sitting on my lap. I had my headphones on and ignored him. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. There were many empty pairs of seats on the bus, but he chose to sit next to me. I could see him looking at me with my peripheral vision (because I’m so sneaky) but refused to acknowledge him.

The bus started moving, and he turned to me and said something. I pretended to not hear or see him, thinking he would leave me alone. I was tired from a long day at a film festival followed by a housewarming party, and it was one o’clock in the morning.

He proceeded to poke my arm in order to get my attention.

I took out my headphones, turned to him, and said, “Can I help you?”

“Hey, I just wanted to chat,” he said.

“Why do you want to talk to me?”

“Because you’re a, a, you’re cute and I feel like talking.”

“I don’t want to talk tonight” I tried to keep the smile off my face. He was so drunk and earnest; I could tell he had no creepy intentions. I still didn’t feel like talking.

For some reason, some men think that insulting a girl will get her attention and make her interested. This was the method the guy attempted next, but couldn’t quite pull off.

“I just thought you weren’t some stuck up b*tch who I could have a conversation with. I’m not trying to say you’re a b*tch though.”

I saw my opportunity for an out.

“You can say it if you want.”

He went for it.

“Ok, you’re a b*tch”

I subsequently reached for my headphones and put them back on.

“Then you shouldn’t talk to me.”

Poor guy, I was being a b*tch. I was only doing it because I couldn’t be bothered to amuse some drunken guy on his ride home! I was enjoying the Bassnectar playlist I had put together for the ride home, and wanted to zone out.

I could see through my peripherals (again) that he was trying to say something to me. I tried to ignore him, but he got to me and I couldn’t fight back the smile this time. It seems I had really played the part of being insulted well.

Off come the headphones. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I’m sorry, I never should have called you a b*tch. I wouldn’t even call my ex-girlfriend that.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Well, I do sometimes in bed because she likes that kind of stuff…” his voice trailed off.

“You still sleep with your ex-girlfriend?”

He is taken aback. He didn’t notice his phrasing.

“What? No, that would be impossible anyway because she’s in Germany.”

“I see,” and I was about to put my headphones back on.

“Please talk to me? I just want to talk because I’m bored and you look boring.”

Wait a minute. “I looked boring? Then why talk to me?”

“No that’s not what I said. I mean you look bored. I could talk to that guy over there but he’s playing on his phone and doesn’t give a shit. But you are really hot and bored so I thought I would talk to you.”

“Ok, thanks. I think.” I go for the headphones-

“Will you please just entertain me for the bus ride?”

I sigh. I’m no longer tired, and this guy is so persistent…

“Ok, I’ll talk to you”

He proceeds to pump his fist and yell a loud, “Yes!”

Other people sitting behind us on the bus snicker, and I go a little red. Damn it, I just gave in! I’m so weak!

Oh well, it’s just a conversation.

So we talked. He asked me many questions, starting with my name. He then tried to guess what I did that night and guessed wrong about five times before giving up and asking. He asked me what was in my purse.

“Just some personal effects.”

He asks me to show him, but I refuse.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s over the line. I don’t see why I should show a stranger what’s inside my bag.”

“Oh, you have a line? Where is this line?”

“Between the public and private. You have one too, but it’s blurred because you’re drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk… And I don’t have a line.”

“Ok, so tell me about your ex-girlfriend in Germany.”

“What? Well, I guess I do have a line,” he said.

“Yes, we all have baggage we don’t like to share. Mine happens to be a purse.”

He started asking me a string of random questions. What do I do? What did I study? What kind of things do I like? He then asked me if I have tried bondage.

“I’m not telling you that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s inside the bag. Over the line” I said.

“I have never tried it. Well, maybe kind of. Not really…” he mused.

I stayed silent and hoped he would change the topic.

“So what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” he asked.

I knew the answer. I wondered if I should share the story, and decided it couldn’t hurt. It was nothing I was ashamed of.

“I dated a boy I met on the Internet for a year when I was 14. He moved to Vancouver six months in, and turned out to be a compulsive liar. He threatened to kill himself if I didn’t stop talking to my family.” I replied.

(I’ll share the full story another time.)

“Wow, do you regret it?” he was looking at me with deep interest.

“No. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it.”

“What was the biggest lesson you learned?”

“To listen to the people who care about you, especially if they are all telling you the same thing.”

At this point, I thought I had shared enough. I had become very interested in this guy and what had led him into having this conversation with me. Why did he want to know the details of a stranger’s stories of sex and love?

“So what is your story?” I asked.

“What do you mean? You want my life story?” he laughed.

“No, but why don’t you tell me about the girl from Germany, or what you did tonight?”

“Well I got home from work, and was really bored. I ate some noodles-”

“Kim-Chi?” I asked.

“What? You’re so racist!” He exclaimed.

“No I’m not! You said you’re a student, and students live off of Kim-Chi noodles!”

“Oh, right. Well, my mom made me real noodles. Not that fake shit…. So I was bored and I called up my friend but he was in the hospital. Can you believe it? In the hospital! So then I called my other friend and he wanted to chill. He asked me to come to Commercial Drive and so I did. He talked about his problems the entire time and I drank, and drank, and drank. Then I got on the bus to go home and here I am.” He laughed and lurched forward as the bus slowed for a traffic light.

“Ok, so I am a bit drunk” he admitted.

“So you got on the bus and now you want me to talk about myself? Aren’t you tired of hearing people talk about themselves?”

“I don’t know. I like talking to people. Tell me something else about yourself.”

“Why don’t you tell me the story of your girlfriend from Germany.”

“Ex-girlfriend.”

“Is she German?”

“Well yea, of course!” His eyes gaze upward and he thinks silently.

“Where did you meet?” I pressed.

He smiled down at his hands.

“She was a dishwasher at the restaurant I worked at. My boss was a Vietnamese guy who would say yes to everything, so I asked him to get her the job so I could talk to her. We had met a month before but she was living on the island with her boyfriend. Eventually we started talking and she asked me to hang out. So we started meeting outside of work and we would smoke up together. One day, I kissed her. Then I took her back to my house, and I banged her.”

He laughed and looked at me… clearly proud of himself.

“So then you two were together after that?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

He nods.

“How long until she moved back to Germany?”

“About a month. It was super intense.”

“So why did you bother having a relationship with her if you knew she was moving back so soon?”

“I don’t know. It was crazy. I was crazy about her.”

“So did she end it when she moved back?”

“No. She wanted to keep dating long-distance. I even went over to see her. Amsterdam has some beautiful women by the way.”

I listened silently.

“I broke up with her about a month ago. She wasn’t very happy with me. In fact, I think she hates me now. But it’s not like I didn’t want to be with her. She didn’t understand how hard it was for me to be hanging on when she wasn’t going to be coming back again.”

The bus was coming to his stop.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t make things work out. Do you keep in touch?” I asked.

“Yea, we chat every couple of weeks.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.

I wanted to tell him that it was okay. That I have also been in a similar situation, and just because it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you failed.

From his interest in my stories and reluctance to discuss the girl from Germany, I could tell he was hurt, and unsure if he made the right decision. He was looking for similar stories in others that would justify his decision to protect himself from pain by ending an undesirable situation: the long-distance relationship.

The fact that he continued to talk with her gave me mixed emotions. I think that it’s good he didn’t try to cut her out of his life because the relationship couldn’t be what he wanted. At the same time, I wonder if it’s cruel to keep talking with a girl who has feelings for him and keep her hanging on. At least he is facing his feelings for her and being honest instead of cutting her out and keeping his pain to himself.

The bus was slowing down and people were moving toward the doors. I stayed seated while he picked up his umbrella.

“Well I like you. You’re cool. Can I have your number?” he asked.

“I’m not giving you my number.” I said.

“Come on, give me your number” he persisted.

“Sorry, but I already gave in to having a conversation with you, I’m not giving you my number as well” I laughed.

I wondered what might happen if I gave him my number. He would call me I guess. I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing either. However, I wasn’t ready to start a friendship with this guy. He clearly needed to sort out his feelings about the girl from Germany, and I wasn’t the person to do it with.

We had entertained each other for thirty minutes on a rainy night, and that was where our relationship would end. I could tell he understood.

He smiled at me and said, “Okay. Goodbye”

“Have a good night.” I said, even though it was already morning.

The Frontier Gandhi and Other Highlights of SAFF Canada 2012

This year was the first South Asian Film Festival in Vancouver. The festival was put together by Hannah Fisher and Pat Bayes. Hannah Fisher had travelled all over the Indian sub-continent and found films from every country with the exception of the Maldives.Being a filmmaker and very interested in India and working with India, I found an excuse to attend. I managed to get some tickets to the opening gala featuring a dance performance and the film, Two Voices, One Soul by Makarand Brahme. I saw Chaitanya Chinchlikar’s Master Class videos film at Whistling Woods, and witnessed Jaya Bachchan discussing the Indian film industry.

I also managed to attend the Indo-Canadian Industry forum featuring John Dippong (Telefilm Canada), Jamshed Mistry (Entertainment Lawyer and Advocate at the High and Supreme Courts of Mumbai),  Jeet Matharru (Woman from the East), Chaitanya Chinchlikar (Whistling Woods International), and Makarand Brahme (Two Voices, One Soul). Many filmmakers attended such as Nimisha Mukerji and Meghna Haldar and I believe we all gleaned some information from the well-informed panel. There was a definite desire for coproduction between Indians and Canadians, and it showed through the questions the audience asked the panel and the passionate discussions that followed in the lobby of the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

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However, my favorite experience of the festival was watching the film The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, A Torch for Peace by T. C. (Teri) McLuhan.

The film is a historical documentary about a man who believed in non-violence in the same days as Mahatma Gandhi. Badshah Khan was a Muslim who lived in the Frontier Province which contained the Khyber Pass, the famous route that carried conquerors into India such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the British. He lived among a people know for their violent tendencies, but preached non-violence as a way of life. He joined forces with Gandhi and they spoke together about using non-violence as a way to gain independence from British colonialism.

However, when India finally gained independence it was with a partition. In 1947, India was partitioned into Pakistan, India, and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This partition was based on perceived regions dominated by either Hindu or Muslim people. This resulted in massive bloodshed and a border dispute which continues to this day. While Badshah Khan and Gandhi (A Muslim and a Hindu) had worked together for a unified freedom from the British, the British had left the country divided by territory and religion. This left both men feeling betrayed by their country. Badshah Khan returned to his home which was now part of Pakistan to continue teaching non-violence among the people in his village. However, Gandhi was idolized and branded as the man who led the resistance of the British even after his assassination.

Badshah Khan continued to live on and spread his beliefs on non-violence and education among his people, being imprisoned even at the age of 98.He spent 1/3 of his long life in jail. He was a man of love, and carried a message much bigger than himself. Because of political reasons, he was never fully recognized in the way that Gandhi was. The stories of him and his followers, the Red Shirts, were never told until Teri McLuhan tracked them down in the 1980’s.

The film was in the making for twenty-one years. Teri spoke after the film played at the Granville 7 cinema and described her journey of making the film. Through a personal drive and desire to make the film, she managed to acquire visas for herself and four Indian crew members to go under the radar and film on and off for many years. The interviews she has done are incredible, as some of the men and many of the women on screen had never been filmed before but were so passionate in their love and devotion to Badshah Khan and his message. Despite his amazing history, many people outside his region had never heard his name.

Teri is now searching for distribution, and is working toward a theatrical release in India. Teri expressed her desire to distribute the film for free on the internet but first needs to pay back her investors. Finding distribution can be difficult when a film has already been made, but when the film touches so much history that needs to be told, it is certain that distribution will come.

I think this film was the highlight of the South Asian Film Festival. When you see this film, you will realize its importance and why it needs to be distributed widely.

If you want to see the film, I encourage you to check out the website: www.thefrontiergandhi.com and spread the word about the film in order to increase its chances of getting distribution.

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