Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Donation Button

Just a very quick update, a follow up to my last post, I have added a donation button on the right hand side of the blog for Matoto's Ten Day Event. The button is HUGE so you can't miss it. If you need any paypal help (the way to donate online), let me know. If you want to donate but don't feel comfortable doing it online, let me know.

I nu wali. Thank you.

And I'll only be doing this for eight more days.

And then again next year.

And the year after that.

And the... well, you get the point.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What We Can Achieve in Ten Days

I keep writing and rewriting this post. It is now 11:55pm and I have been working on it since 8:00pm. There are stories of Tanzania I want to relate, there are ideas I want to impart, but trying to cram it all into a blog post just isn't working. Instead I will sum it up with a personal story and a statistic
  • While having a discussion with some men in Tanzania, it came about that they believed they were safe from contracting AIDS because they never sleep with a woman when she is bleeding. It is always the woman who carries the disease because women, I was told, were unclean. That was how God had made it.
  • According to a UNICEF report, 79% of Guinean girls between the ages of 15-19 believe it is okay for a husband to hit or beat his wife under certain circumstances.
Beyond just learning to read and write, education helps slow down the spread of infectious disease and teaches girls that it is never okay for a husband to beat you. Eduction is key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Today is the launch of Matoto's Ten Day Event and I would like to invite you to join us. We have built a school in Kubian, Guinea and now we need to fill it with desks, chalk boards, teachers and students. Ten Days is a deceptively simple idea. We have teams of 10 and each member has 10 days to find 10 people to donate $10. The goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of the event.

There has been a lot of smack talk between the teams about which team is going to raise the most (and by 'smack talk', I mean I've been threatening Team Snow Monkeys with total annihilation) but in the end, the team you donate to is nowhere near as important to me as your donation. Heck, you can even donate for Erin D (Snow Monkeys leader) and her underhanded tactics of cornering the beginners class before the rest of us have sign up sheets, I don't mind. The money will all end up in the same place and that will help educate five villages in Guinea that previously lacked access to education.

Clicking this link will take you to our event page where you can donate either to a specific team *cough*TeamMoondance*cough* or to the general pot.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dunna Day

We had our Matoto Gala last night. I'll hold off on saying it was a rousing success until we get the final numbers but we made a profit, everyone had a lot of fun, and even half our alcohol supply accidentally locked away in the kitchen didn't damped the spirits.

You know what did dampen my spirits? The realisation that I took my camera with me and then left it in my bag at the back of the stage. I don't have a single picture of the night. Oh well. Without a working TARDIS there's really nothing I can do about that.

I had big plans for today. It was the day that I was going to get all those little jobs done. You know those jobs, the non-essential jobs you tend to ignore when life is busy. I need to pour drain cleaner down my bathroom sink. I need to actually wash out the litter box. I need to get the vacuum hose underneath the heaters. I need to give the cats' their annual bath to get rid of the excess winter fur...

...Okay, maybe I've been procrastinating on that last one because I enjoy being alive. The point is, I was going to update the layout of the blogs, I was going to respond to a couple of overdue emails, I was going to clean out my fridge, I was going to do so much!

Here's what I did.

I woke up at 6:30 after five hours of sleep. I told my cats, who had come for their morning snuggle, to f* off. I then rolled over and went back to bed.

I woke up just before 9:00, cuddled with the kitties and then actually got out of bed. I showered, dressed, and some how managed to wander down to the coffee shop in time to meet a friend before the Matoto board meeting.

I made it to the Matoto board meeting in a bus driven by a lady who obviously thought she was part of the Melbourne Formula One race going on this weekend. Here's a hint, bus lady, Victoria BC is a long way away from Victoria, Australia.

See? BIG difference!

We had a perhaps surprisingly productive board meeting given our Saturday night, then I came home and I did nothing. Not one of my catch up jobs has been crossed of the list. Save for a 25 min foray over to Subway and back because I was too lazy to cook dinner, I have sat in pretty much the same place on my couch for seven hours.

My mom calls these 'dunna days' for 'do nothing days'. You'd never get anywhere in life on nothing but dunna days, but every once and a while, it's a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

After The Ball Is Over...

Life lately has been crazy and awesome and difficult and amazing and stressful and invigorating and soul-destroying and life-affirming. In short, it's been life. And it's been busy. And after this weekend, that will change a little because then I will be done with this:
It's hard to believe all our hard work is actually coming together. I wasn't part of Matoto for their first Gala (nor did I even know about it to attend) so I'm excited both as an organizer and as a participant. I'm also nervous. What if it all goes spectacularly sideways? What if no one likes the silent auction items? What if you can hear crickets during the doundounba (circle dance) that closes the night? What if I trip walking up the stairs while carrying the bottles of wine and smash them all? Why am I more concerned about the wasted wine then the loss of revenue? At this point, I just have to sit back, take a deep breath and see how it all plays out.

I've been working on a vlog (video blog for those not 'in the know'). After all my Irish themed posts, I thought a short story showing off the words that I say 'funny' by North American standards was in order. It's coming... as soon as I can find time to film it.

There's so much more to say but it's late, my laundry is done, and I'm so tired I'm wondering if anyone will complain if I leave my laundry in the dryer overnight.

They probably will. I guess I'll go get it. Until sometime next week!

PS. The title is a reference to Showboat and it's when I plan to finally get some decent sleep!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

The Cathedral in Monaghan. You can see my Grannie's house.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ireland Over the Internet

One of my favourite things about Google maps is the street view. I know that many people feel it's an invasion of privacy, but I just find it the simplest way to visit my family without getting on a plane. Sure, I can stand in the middle of Trinity College and stare at the cobblestones, I can visually walk the Mall in Armagh, I can stare at Galway from the Claddagh, or I can relive the view from the Diamond in downtown Monaghan, but the best part of the street view is looking at the homes of my aunts and uncles.

There's Uncle Kevin's house. It was the first house I ever snuck out of to attend a house party. I had my first real heartbreak when the boy I had a crush on picked another girl. I got dolled up with Elma and we attended a disco out in the middle of nowhere. Cormac introduced me to ABBA. I drove Uncle Kevin's car around the block just so I could drive on the left side (*ahem* Uncle Kevin, if you read this... I'm sorry, Lorcan dared me). 

There's Uncle Lorcan's house. We used to play ping-pong in the front yard. One year in the green across the road they had a bouncy castle and silly string. I still don't know why. We'd walk to Dalkey for crisps following the path of the DART. I just really like saying 'Dalkey'. We'd drive to the Forty Foot at night to go for a swim. My cousins and I would watch 'Home and Away'.

There's Aunt Eileen's. I decided to be nice one day and beat her downstairs to make tea; I set off the alarm and woke the whole house. I played soccer on the green in front of the house in my TEVAs and learned just how painful a cracked toenail can be. Cousin Frank mocked me for saying 'Armaaaaaaaaaaaaagh' instead of 'Arma' (for the record, nobody outside of Ireland understands me when I say 'Armagh' so I my accent can't be that Canadian). Anne taught me how to say all the counties in Irish. Elaine and Uncle Frank took me to my first hurling match.

There's Aunt Dympna's. I 'worked' in her hardware store. I won a game of horse shoes at the fair. I flew a kite at the beach in my gummy shoes. I looked at the town and said "it's a parking lot" and nobody disagreed with me. I asked the question "which is bigger: Ireland or Canada?" and learned that sometimes I should look for answers before asking my brother questions he thinks are dumb. I set off the car alarm and it made me drop my bag.

Then there's Grannie's. It has long since stopped being Grannie's. I can see the division in the middle bed room which was converted to two bathrooms when it was turned into rooms for rent. But I also see the grassy area where we played tag. There's the front room we accidentally locked ourselves in once. There's the bedroom with the large wardrobe which never led to Narnia. There's the church I used to light candles in for my granddad who died before I was born. There's the road which led us into town and to the ice cream shop with the jukebox. There's the other road which lead us to the graveyard where my granddad and aunt were buried. Behind the house, just out of view, is the backyard where we played frisbee golf 15 years before I even heard about it in Canada, where I made daisy chains, where we sang songs while turning cartwheels, and where I just remember being happy.

So thank you, google street maps. I see so much more than just a picture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Only Irish You'll Need

My dad's family is from Monaghan but have since scattered all over the island. I have an aunt as far north as Belfast and one as far south as Rosscarbery (which is a beautiful little town built around a parking lot). Over the years, I have seen my fair share of the Irish country side. The picture below was taken on an early morning walk by my dad just outside the town of Cashel where my stepmom's family lives.

Like all Irish road signs, the destinations are listed in English and Irish as they are both the official languages of Ireland. Irish was once on the brink of extinction, and although the number of natives speakers has dwindled to small pockets mostly in the west (regions known as Gaeltachts), making it compulsory in school has helped revive it. Still, the damage has been done and Irish is pretty much a language only kept alive by rule of law. Maybe that will change some day but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Shame, really.

Also, it doesn't help when tourists have no idea that Ireland has its own language.

I went out for lunch last St. Patrick's Day. I struck up a conversation with the server when he asked about my Irish rugby jersey. We started chatting about Ireland and then I thanked him in Irish. Go raibh maith agat. One of the few Irish phrases I know. He smiled when I said what it was.

From behind me I heard a disapproving *tsk*. I glanced over my shoulder to see a girl in her early twenties staring at me with the attitude of a teen staring at their parent. She turned to her friend and in that fake whisper that you use knowing other people will hear she said "I've been to Ireland; they speak English." Then she turned back to me and seemed to challenge me.

Usually I back down when I don't think the person is worth my time but this time I didn't. It was St. Patrick's Day after all.

"I don't have time to explain 400 years of Irish history to you, but you might want to look up what 'póg mo thóin' means."

Revoking My Plastic Paddy

"I don't tell Irish people that's dad's from Ireland unless it naturally comes up in the conversation."

"Neither do I. Is that because you noticed that everyone seems to have some claim to being Irish?"


Two out of three siblings agree (and I'm sure the other one does too, he just wasn't there) that telling Irish people our family is from Ireland is a dumb way to start a conversation. Eventually it comes out because I always ask where in Ireland they're from and then they're shocked when I call them on the fact that Mayo isn't really 'near Dublin', but I don't meet an Irish person and immediately tell them my family's Irish. Surprisingly, however, a lot of people do and most of those people have never even been to Ireland.

People seem to have a real attachment to being Irish, even when it's been generations since anyone in their family has called Ireland 'home', and it can make it awkward for me to admit that my background is Irish. I'm instantly met with disbelief from any true Irish person or I'm instantly met with a story of some one's great-great-great-grandma who came from Cork (they think) in 1850's (they think) because of the famine (they think) but she passed down her love of Ireland to her children and so on and so forth... and then I understand why Irish people always roll their eyes when someone shouts 'I'm Irish, too!' without a trace of an Irish accent.

My dad being Irish has definitely influenced my Canadian upbringing and I'm proud of my Irish heritage but I'm not Irish.

And unless you were born there, neither are you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Rare Old Talent

As often happens in the lead up to St. Patrick's Day, my sentimentality for Ireland grows exponentially; I begin to wax poetic about my family, wistfully contemplate another year of St. Patrick's Day spent in Canada, and hum and sing more Irish folk songs than I will the rest of the year combined. (My apologies to my coworkers; they've put up with a lot of unusual sounds from my cubicle lately.) The past three nights, I've been singing "In the Rare Old Times".

Oh Ronnie Drew, with your distinctively deep voice and piercingly blue eyes (both of which still make me a little weak in the knees despite the 46 year age difference and the fact you've been dead for over two years), your version of this song will always be my favourite. I heard you sing The Auld Triangle when I was nine and I've loved you ever since.

Ireland has changed a lot in the 30 years I've been alive. Each time I return to see my family, I find something new. The peat bogs my dad used to take us out to are all gone. There's no need for peat when you have central heating so the bogs have been drained for farming. The donkeys that used to pull the farmer's carts to town even in the 80's have all been replaced with tractors. Dublin's north bank has undergone a major clean up since the days we used to drive through it coming down from Grannie's in Monaghan. All the cute, winding country lanes with their ridiculously fast speeds of 80kmh have been bypassed by the new dual carriageways which now cover the countryside.

Change is not an inherently bad thing but when it happens to a place you love and you're not there to watch it happen naturally, it can be a little shocking to the system upon your return.

With that in mind, I think I will sing this song before I go to bed. And Ronnie Drew, I hope I do you proud.

I'll save my rendition of The Auld Triangle for next St. Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Is Just Around the Corner

Every once and a while, life gets busy. Or I get lazy. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Either way, I start to put non-required tasks on the 'tomorrow' list. Then tomorrow arrives and I do it again. And again. Heck, it's been a week, what's one more day?

Then a week ago, I had a random TV show playing in the background as I worked on my computer. My head snapped up as I heard a familiar accent. It was an Irish accent. Not just any Irish accent but a northern Irish accent AND IT WASN'T RELATED TO ME! I instantly had flights of fancy about a trip back to 'the old country' to visit my family and to surround myself with Irish accents from all over the island. Then sane Andrea reminded me of my current back account.


Some times being responsible sucks.

I've been missing Ireland something fierce (to borrow an expression they use) lately. This April will mark 10 years since I was last there. TEN YEARS!! I went every three years prior to that. With St. Patrick's Day, an Ireland post just seemed inevitable.

Then it got really long, like James Joyce's Ulysses long, so I'm hacking it up into a series of posts which is part of the reason I haven't posted anything in the last little while. In the mean time, here's me on the Giant's Causeway when I was 16.