December 31, 2008

Arnab's Year in Cities, 2008

For an accomplished world traveler, there were only a handful of cities or towns that were graced with my preSENce overnight:
This list is part of an ongoing meme [from, via] cataloging places that I stayed in for one or more nights over the course of a year. An internet meme is a concept, idea, or belief that is transmitted from one source to another.

December 30, 2008

Under the Moroccan Sun

Morocco. It has been said that the rich heritage of Europe, Africa, and Arabia come together in this place. As a fusion of the cultures of the East and the West, I was intrigued by this crossroad to civilizations. On my flight into Marrakech I met with another solo traveler from Canada - Abby. After arriving at the airport and exchanging our dollars for dirhams, the Moroccan currency, we shared a taxi to her hotel in the new part of the city. I had booked no room in advance, so she joined me in my quest for a hotel. I wanted to be situated in the heart of the old city within the walled medina. We were told that it was a short walk from where we were. My target was Hotel Ali, as a friend had suggested it for its great location.

Forty five minutes later we walked through the gates into the old city. An intricate network of narrow lanes with even narrower alleys awaited us. Apart from foot traffic, scooters whizzed past us with only inches of separation between pedestrian and driver. Cars were rare as the roads were not wide enough to accommodate them. Small stalls lined the streets with spices, carpets, jewelry, crafts, and every day items on sale. Abby tried to take a photograph of a mountain of spices, but the shopkeeper frowned and wagged his finger, so she refrained.

I was tiring from carrying around my luggage under the Moroccan sun, so we stopped at Cafe Arabe for lunch. Reclining on a couch in the open air rooftop terrace, I sipped some iced mint tea (the national drink) and then ate a chicken tagine (the national dish) for rejuvenation. I determined my current position on a map and estimated the direction that I would have to walk to reach Hotel Ali. The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque was my landmark. Towering over the other structures inside the old city, it could be seen from most points inside the medina. I could see that some distance yet remained.

December 28, 2008


A burger is a special type of sandwich composed of a bottom bun, one or more patties (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable mishmash, etc), other secondary ingredients (cheese, bacon, tomato, pickle, etc), condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc), and a top bun. The bread, the patty, and the eater are usually circular in shape.

Vancouver has its fair share of burger joints. Vera's Burger Shack offers high quality burgers at a modest price. The BC Burger at White Spot is a personal favourite of mine. Fatburger, the "White Castle of the West", is not very impressive. Other outfits, namely Burger Heaven and Hamburger Mary's, offer an unique selection of meats including elk, kangaroo, and ox. Before shutting its doors to the public due to increasing costs, Wally's was another prominent figure in Vancouver's burger landscape.

A low price point and decent taste were Wally's hallmarks. A steady stream of people, some tearful regulars trading nostalgic tales and some just wanting to try it once while they have the chance, were in the line up. I was in the latter category, seizing a chance to savour this portion of Vancouver's burger lineup before it was removed from the roster.

December 24, 2008

On The Sails

The iconic sails of Canada Place become the backdrop for a dazzling Christmas flavoured light show during the holiday season. The multipurpose facility located on the city's waterfront contains a hotel, convention centre, Vancouver's original IMAX theatre, and a cruise ship terminal. A 15 minute stroll around Canada Place provides a refreshing breather from the daily grind. During the cruise season, glimpses can be caught of the minutiae of preparation (cleaning, loading, boarding, etc.) that the massive ships go through before each voyage.

Festive Spirit

Exactly a month before Christmas, hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery . It was time for the second annual lighting of a large Christmas tree in the city centre. Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks had the honour of flicking the switch.

As the magical moment came near, the revelers counted down from 10 and watched the Christmas decorations come to life. It was a rather lacklustre ceremony, but all was forgiven as everyone was in a festive mood to mark the start of the holiday season.

RT: Year One

In September I completed my first anniversary of working diligently at ResponseTek (RT), an employer of mine. As a principal developer of the flagship Customer Experience Management (CEM) product and visionary founder of the Council of Office Lunches (COOL), I was given great responsibility and many learning opportunities at the organization. While helping ResponseTek grow as an organization, I also grew as an individual (includes net gain of 15 pounds over the year).

“You won't realize the distance you've walked until you take a look around and realize how far you've been.” - Anonymous

Some of the highlights during my time there:

  • Good times with my friends and collegues at various events and gatherings, COOL and otherwise
“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.” - Charles de Montesquieu


  • A grand slam of feature packed quarterly releases (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)
“You will achieve grand dream, a day at a time, so set goals for each day / not long and difficult projects, but chores that will take you, step by step, toward your rainbow. Write them down, if you must, but limit your list so that you won't have to drag today's undone matters into tomorrow. Remember that you cannot build your pyramid in twenty-four hours. Be patient. Never allow your day to become so cluttered that you neglect your most important goal / to do the best you can, enjoy this day, and rest satisfied with what you have accomplished.” - Og Mandino

  • Introduced valuable documentation practices into the organization
“Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one.” - Baltasar Gracian

December 22, 2008

Iona of Solace

On Good Friday, a paladin of the people was seeking a moment of peace. I would find it at Iona Beach Regional Park in Richmond. It features a massive sewage pipe stretching into the ocean. There was no stench emanating from the sewer, so my nostrils enjoyed the natural scent of the sea as I walked on top of it. Around 4 km in length, I completed the round trip in two grueling hours.

It was quite chilly, so I did not break a sweat during the strenuous walk. The breeze wafted through my hair, as the wind flowed languidly around my aerodynamic form and into the Straight of Georgia. I was one of the few people on the jetty apart from a handful of birdwatchers, joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists. 300 species of birds reside in the area.

The North Shore can be seen in the distant and Vancouver Island on the horizon. Fantastic views of the Vancouver International Airport were afforded from the jetty. Planes flew overhead as I strolled along the pebbled surface. There were a few Plexiglas shelters along the way where I rested. A sewage treatment facility and an outhouse lie at the end. Upon arrival I made a significant contribution to the complex ecosystem, gazed at the open skies, and then headed back.

December 21, 2008

Shady Business

I was meeting a friend so that we could visit the newly opened Starlight Casino in Queensborough. One of the restaurants there had been recommended. As I was getting into my friend's car I viciously collided into the side door frame of his vehicle. A *crack* sound resonated through the September sky. It was not my head that had been split in two, but my spectacles. The left arm had snapped cleanly off the rest of the frame.

I had misjudged the height of the vehicle, believing it to be of regular height when in fact it was quiet low. The collision caused no damage to the offending car, so no insurance claims were filed. The impact was strong enough to cause severe damage to my eyewear. My friend laughed with unabandonded glee at my misfortune for several minutes straight. He even phoned some of our other friends to tell them of my mishap, tears forming under his eyes as he shook uncontrollably whilst recounting the incident. Several more bursts of laughter followed, his mirth untouched by compassion for his fellow man.

The only store in the vicintiy selling glasses was Wal-Mart. I showed the optician my new pair of monocles and asked if he could fuse them together. He studied them carefully before coming to the conclusion that he could not. He scotch-taped them together, but they soon dislocated. At the restaurant I could not read the menu or see my food properly, relying on my other senses for guidance. We then went to another friend's house where I was barely able to watch the debut of the new version of 90210 on television.

I would have to wear sunglasses indoors and out for many days thereafter until my new glasses arrived.

December 17, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

The importance of tasty food and natural beauty can never be overemphasized when gauging the general level of happiness experienced by the people of a city, province, or country. I celebrated British Columbia Day by going to Vancouver's tastiest vegeterian buffet. Saravana Bhavan is a worldwide chain of restaurants serving South Indian staples offering a "synergy of taste and quality". While the quality of the food at the Vancouver branch is comparable to average fare available anywhere in India, it vaults into the upper echelon of Indian restaurants in the city. I had several dosas and finished my meal with a cup of filtered coffee.

I headed off to Charleston Park near Granville Island after my lunch. The park is a haven of the rich, both in accumulated capital and leisure time. It offers a grand view of the False Creek skyline, with the residential condominiums that have sprung up across the waterway in Yaletown serving as a backdrop. Yachts are docked along the shoreline, beautiful women are tanning, and ducks are floating in the pond in this idyllic locale.


“There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy” - Joyce Grenfell

December 15, 2008

Short Tracked

The Pacific Coliseum will be hosting short track speed skating events during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The Vancouver stage of the ISU World Cup Short Track competition was held as a test event for the venue. Learning experience taken from this competition can be applied to the big show so that everything runs as smoothly as possible when 2010 rolls along. Every detail from how the event was organized to the track conditions on ice to the performance of the ice miesters will be painstakingly analyzed to see what can be improved.

Only the lower bowl was opened to the public, with a surprisingly large concentration of Koreans. The rest of the fans had Canadian, American, Chinese, and Japanese origins. Skaters from these nationalities were also the ones in medal contention. There were individual men's and women's races of 500, 1000, and 1500 meters and men's and women's relays of 3000 and 5000 meters. Canada finished with a medal count of 6 (1 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze). They narrowly missed out on a gold in the exciting grand finale of the show. Apollo Ohno, the world's most famous short track skater, powered the US team to the slimmest of victories over the Canadians. The fetching female skaters wore form fitting outfits made of cut resistant material. I refrained from doing the same, maintaining a low profile throughout the competition so as not to affect the results.


"That's the beauty of our sport. On any given Sunday, anybody can win." - Apollo Ohno

December 13, 2008


The third longest underground river in the world runs through Puerto Rico. The Rio Camuy is covered by an intricate system of caves. Currently the public is not allowed into the caves to see the subterranean spectacle, but other wonders await within the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy. There are two massive sinkholes in the area. The larger one, Tres Pueblos Sinkhole, is 400 feet deep and 650 feet in diameter. A trolley takes tourists around the sinkhole, stopping in each quadrant for a different view of the gaping void and the river below. Early inhabitants of Puerto Rico used the site as a garbage dump, since they could just toss rubbish into the basin and it disappeared from sight. Now the Rio Camuy Caves Park is a protected area.

The Spiral Sinkhole is smaller and more accessible by foot. A staircase has been built that allows visitors to descend the 200 steps into a lost world. The flora and fauna differs vastly from the world above. A glimpse into a foreboding cavern is available from near the bottom of the sinkhole. Hundreds of bats can be seen, heard, and smelt, hanging from the roof of the cave.

“I am much mistaken, however, if he has not fine strata in his nature. He is capable of rising to heights as well as of sinking to depths.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of The Lost World

December 09, 2008


Apart from mosquitoes and birds, my third main nemesis in India was the cockroach. No matter how many I disposed of, dozens would spring up to replace their fallen brethren. Many came into direct contact with the soles of my sandals. Others were coated with toxic subtances emitted by cans of bug spray. Some were flushed down the drain, swirling into oblivion. The objectionable creatures were resilient, surviving even after taking considerable punishment. They hid in my cabinet and under my bed, in the shower and under my bedsheets. They lived in my room and in my nightmares. Being an amicable fellow, I never deliberately hunted them down. Our coexistence was peaceful until they disturbed my serenity. They would rear their ugly heads when I least expected it, forcing me into taking defensive measures for the protection of my sanity.

Studies have shown that the antibodies needed to fight of cocroach allergens makes people more susceptible to asthma and other allergies. They are the ultimate survivors, having randomized escape patterns so that their enemies cannot predict their trajectories. Most horrific of all were the cockroaches that could fly. Combining their powers of indestructibiliy with airborne capabilities, they made for a very formidable foe. The epic struggle escalated. Usually every room in an India room has at least one resident gecko responsible for insect control. I enlisted the aid of these little lizards called 'tik-tikis'. They thoroughly enjoyed munching on the disgusting critters. 

December 08, 2008

Incredible !ndia

While crossing the street in front of my office building in Vancouver, I noticed an interesting message plastered on a public bus passing by. "Not all Indians are polite, hospitable and vegeterian" it boldly stated.

The punchline was the picture of a Bengal tiger underneath staring right back. The Government of India's Ministry of Tourism promotes the nation through the Incredible !ndia campaign. This eye catching advertisement was a step in the right direction for marketing one of the world's premier tourist destinations.

December 06, 2008


Although I am a fine piece of art I had never been inside the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). An opportune time to visit presented itself when an exhibit showcasing the "Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art" arrived at the establishment. On Tuesday nights, the VAG has extended hours and entry is by donation. I made a generous one to secure my entry to the KRAZY! attraction. The celebration of visual culture was named after the comic strip Krazy Kat.

There was a half an hour guided tour through the exhibit which provided a high level abstract of the different forms of art on display. Photography was not permitted within. After the tour ended, I went through the displays again more thoroughly. A small library had a collection of comic books available for reading, while another hall had anime classics projected on to the wall. Anime and manga are Japanese cartoons and comics respectively, and they have gained a large fan following around the world. I played Pac Man for the first time in a room containing playable versions of gaming consoles from different eras. Graphic novels and animation are visual forms of storytelling and artistry that are evolving at a rapid pace, and the KRAZY! exhibition strongly demonstrated the potential of the diverse media.

December 03, 2008

The Arecibo Observatory

Amidst the dense jungle around Arecibo, a gigantic structure faces skyward. Puerto Rico is home to the world's largest radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory. It peers into space, seeking answers to man's questions about the cosmos. Falling under the auspices of Cornell University, the celestial observer has been seen in films such as GoldenEye and Contact. A thousand feet in diameter, the awe inspiring instrument is used by scientists from all over the world for research purposes. The dish does not move, only the receiver. The antenna can be positioned in any angle as it slide along a cable far above the spherical reflector. SETI@Home relies on observational data provided by the Arecibo Observatory in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In operation from 1963, the telescope can be used during the day or night. Its visitor center is only open during the day though. It has a small science museum, a theatre, and an observation deck from which the public can view the giant device. The film that describes a day in the life of the observatory is an interesting watch for the scientifically inclined. Only professionals are allowed to walk on the on the tiled surface of the reflective dish. Special footwear, resembling snowshoes, are required to traverse its near 40,000 aluminum panels.

November 30, 2008

Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter

I visited the Notre Dame de Paris on my second day in the city, and met up with an outspoken Frenchman named Jacques there. We had worked together in Bangalore. Undergoing restoration for the past several years, the landmark Gothic cathedral still maintains its historic appearance even as many aspects of it have been modernized. The famous bells of Notre Dame are now rung by a motor, so a hunchback is no longer necessary to ring them manually. I walked in and around "Our Lady". Independent of my presence within it, the church contained a massive organ. It has around 7800 pipes and is fully computerized.

Jacques then took me to the Latin Quarter, a lively area full of restaurants. Located near several universities, the name of the district is derived from Europe's ancient language of learning. I enjoyed a donair at a food stall owned by South Indians. Jacques introduced me to the wonder that is Orangina. The carbonated beverage is a mix of several varieties of citrus. The French soft drink has high juice and orange pulp content, and I immediately became a fan. We went to a grocery store to pick up a large bottle before. Several drinks later we bade farewell.


"When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door." - The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

November 27, 2008


A friend of mine was leaving town so a goodbye dinner was scheduled for her on a Friday night. After wrapping up at work for the week I found myself with an hour to spare before I would rendezvous with my friends. The Vancouver Pride Parade was scheduled for that weekend. Parts of Davie Street, the heart of the city's gay district, had been closed to motorized traffic so that the "Big Night Out" street festival could take place.

I wandered the area, looking dazzling and attracting admiring gazes. Mayoral candidates were also out and about trying to gain favour with the community. A beer garden and a stage featuring musical performances had been set up. Beautiful men, muscular women, and others spanning the diverse spectrum of humanity were present. Almost 400,000 people attended the parade that Sunday, making it one of Vancouver's largest public events.

November 26, 2008

Finn Slough

On the south arm of the Fraser River lies one of the Greater Vancouver region's most unique communities. Finn Slough is a part of Richmond, but it has a character all its own. A slough (pronounced 'slew') is a marshy place or a side channel of a river. Finns are people hailing from Finland. A group of them first settled in this wetland area in the late 1800's. They built their homes by the dykes of the Fraser, fishing for a living. They could sail to the front door of their houses, which are built upon stilts or float with the tidal waves.

Nowadays many of the historic houses are in a state of disrepair. Some are still inhabited. Nature has also started to reclaim boats that lie abandoned in the marsh. the isolated community smoothly coexists with its surrounding environs, but its future is up in the air as the prospect of urbanization looms.

November 24, 2008

Morocco - Sands of Gold

After burning some of my vacation days in Portland and Puerto Rico, I decided to use up the remainder in a country that always intrigued me and a continent I had never set foot upon. Morocco would be my gateway to Africa.

I spent several days in Marrakech (or Marrakesh), escaping the hubbub of the city for a six day desert adventure and two separate day trips:
  • Marrakech
Desert Adventure:
  • Ouarzazate
  • Tazzarine
  • Merzouga
  • Erfoud
  • Tineghir
  • Todra Gorge
  • Dades Gorge
  • Ait Ben Haddou
Day Trips:
  • Ourika Valley
  • Essaouira

Over the days I would cross a variety of unpredictable terrain, with sand, snow, shops, and sea within hours of each other. The weather cooperated during my visit, with not a rainy day to be seen. The desert climate left me very warm during the day and quite chilly during the night. My complexion and diet both became olive. I traveled solo and as part of groups, and enjoyed a few dates along the way.

November 23, 2008

The Wagah Border

In 1947 India was partitioned into two sovereign nations by the British. India and Pakistan were born amidst much bloodshed and suffering, and a rivalry has existed ever since. Lahore, the capital of Pakistan, is only around 50 kilometers from Amritsar. The only road border between these two is located near the village of Wagah at the Attari-Wagah joint check post. The border crossing hosts a daily flag lowering ceremony at sundown. Soldiers from both countries shout patriotic slogans, march, and simultaneously lower the flags as onlookers cheer on from both sides.

Following a quick meal in Amritsar, we caught a local bus heading in the general direction of Pakistan. After taking the public bus as far as it would go, Stein and I hopped onto a cycle rickshaw, before walking the final few hundred metres to the border region. There was a festival atmosphere complete with spontaneous outbursts of dancing, tasty treats being sold by vendors, and lots of families with children present. As the time for the ceremony drew near, the soldiers wisely divided the crowd based on gender. A limited amount of stadium seating is available to watch the ceremony, and it is subdivided into sections for men and women. The unruly male segment of the crowd started pushing and climbing over each other in order to get a prime viewing position. It was reminiscent of the grape crushing portion of the wine making process. As the ceremony came to an end, everyone spilled on to the street to take photos with the soldiers, the large gate separating the two countries visible in the background.


"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."

- Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister on the eve of independence

November 22, 2008


After spending many hours copiously poring over thick textbooks during my university years I had lost my habit of recreational reading. A surplus of free time in India led to the resurrection of this hobby. As public libraries are uncommon in India, I borrowed books from roommates or coworkers or purchased them from sidewalk vendors. In the present, my arduous transit journey from home to work to home provides a daily 150 minute long time slot suitable for reading. Once (or if) I procure a seat I pull out my book to read or peruse one of the free newspapers that are distributed to the ridership.

A voracious reader, over the past two years I have enjoyed at least 32 books spanning from classics such as 1984 and Slaughterhouse Five to recent bestsellers such as The Kite Runner and The Da Vinci Code. Repeat authors appearing in my reading list are Rohinton Mistry, Michael Crichton, Paulo Coelho, Chetan Bhagat, Dan Brown, and W. Somerset Maugham. Non fiction such as Guns, Germs and Steel and Freakonomics or comedic relief in the form of 3 Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) provide a welcome change to the emotionally heavy efforts by writers of Indian origin. For instance, The Namesake and Fine Balance have their happy moments but are primarily depressing. A varied diet of books makes for an interesting read each and every time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

November 02, 2008

Shatabdi Express to Amritsar

After a few days wandering around Delhi and a day trip to the Taj in Agra, it was time for Stein and I to head of to the Punjab. We had an early morning train to catch. Homeless people were still asleep on the floors of the train platform as we boarded the Shatabdi Express to Amritsar. The Shatabdi trains are the fastest in the Indian Railways fleet, equipped with such luxuries as air conditioning, a one litre bottle of packaged drinking water, and newspapers. Meals are also served on board. A little before lunchtime we arrived in Amritsar. A friend of a friend picked us up from the station and took us to the Golden Temple, the holiest site for followers of the Sikh faith.

After purchasing a pair of orange coloured bandanas to cover our heads we entered the place of worship. Guests are welcome to stay within the complex. Accommodation and food is provided to all. We were given a room in one of the niwases ("houses"). After making sure we were comfortable, the friend of a friend suggested we visit the Pakistani border and bid us farewell.

November 01, 2008

Burnaby Six Day

The Burnaby Six Day indoor track cycling championship at the Burnaby Velodrome was light on attendance but high in excitement. The velodrome is a part of the Harry Jerome Sports Centre on Burnaby Mountain. There was a considerably higher degree of difficulty in finding parking outside than seating inside. Around a hundred fans dotted the bleachers of the velodrome as some of Northa America's top cyclists zipped around at lightning fast speeds in front of them.

The track was 200 meters long, 6 meters wide, and had inclines up to 47 degrees at its steepest corners. The riders were clocking times of 10-20 seconds per lap. A minimum speed of 30 km/h must be maintained to keep balance, but speeds of 70 km/h are sometimes reached. A century ago six day races were extremely popular among North American sports fans, but unfortunately it faded from the public consciousness. This was only the second such race of the six day format held in Canada in the past 30 years.

October 29, 2008

ARNABirth Celebrations

Three years ago, ARNABirth was celebrated amidst the hubbub of Durga Puja in Kolkata. I feasted on a sumptuous dinner of hilsa fish and rice at Oh, Calcutta. The upscale restaurant is located in the Forum shopping complex and serves authentic Bengali cuisine. Coincidentally, my travel companion was also born on the same day, so we paid for each other's portion of the feast.

Two years ago, I had returned to the fair city of Vancouver. The Shaolin Warriors were in town as well. I was awed by the superbly choreographed blend of kung fu and dance moves demonstrated by the troupe of traveling monks from China. Around 500 AD, a Buddhist monk had journeyed from India to China and established the Shaolin monastery. Discipline, spirituality, and martial arts expertise were united to form the Shaolin Warriors - the legendary masters of kung fu. Particularly popular was the artistry displayed by the miniature monks. The child performers impressed with their dexterity and high level of skill.

This year, the celebrations spanned several days. The global television audience trailed the World Cup and the Olympics, but family, friends, and coworkers all joined in on the fun. A BC Lions game, my first hot pot experience, and dinner at the Cloud 9 revolving restaurant were some of the mentionable highlights.

October 28, 2008

The Namesake

One of my favourite books is The Namesake, written by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Boston-based Bengali author tells the quintessential tale of a young man born and raised in the West to Indian parents. A Bengali man has an arranged marriage and then brings his new wife to North America. They build a life together and start a family. The son is caught between two cultures, struggling to define his identity. The father is a heart attack prone university professor and the mother is a lonely housewife. The novel was adapted into a film by Mira Nair and starred Kal Penn as the title character. My namesake, Arnab Sen , worked as an art department trainee for the movie.

"Two Worlds. One Journey."

October 25, 2008

Samurai Girl

I was taking an innocent lunchtime stroll in downtown Vancouver. Around the intersection of West Pender St and Homer St, a woman's voice yelled out "Stop!". Unaccustomed to hearing this phrase uttered outdoors, I came to an abrupt halt. The voice belonged to a women who was directing foot traffic on the sidewalk I was on. She said they were filming a show called Samurai Girl, and I would have to wait before I could cross. She conferred with someone on her walkie talkie before waving me through, sternly warning me not to look at what was being filmed in the alleyway that I was crossing. I only took a quick glimpse, failing to spot Samurai Girl in action.

Samurai Girl is a six part mini-series event that premiered on ABC Family channel. It is the tale of a teenage girl whose family is brutally attacked at her wedding. She trains to become a ninja so that she can find out who is responsible for the crimes and bring them to justice.

October 21, 2008

Comedic Talents

The most famous comedian to emerge out of Canada in recent years is Russell Peters. The Indo-Canadian comic focuses his talents on generating racial and rude humour, hilariously mimicing the accents of people from different nationalities. Russell Peters is often criticized for reusing material. Most of his fans have only come to this realization after repeatedly watching all his performances on YouTube. On his first tour to India, the first by any North American comic, he visited Bangalore. A mixed group of Bangalore's nouveau elite and foreigners were in attendance. He performed to a full house at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, an auditorium that was constructed in the shape of a violin.


Back in Vancouver, after enjoying a hearty meal at Hamburger Mary's Diner, I went to the Jupiter Lounge for another night of rib tickling laughs. The meal at the seventies style diner consisted of a mish mash of free Range Canadian bison, venison, and musk ox (the Arctic burger) and a chocolate milkshake. The Comedy Night for Diabetes was an event to support the Canadian Diabetes Association. Four comedians were scheduled to perform in the fundraiser but one did not show. A stand up stand in was quickly located and performed adequately considering he had no preparation. The roster included host Paul Breau, Seth Perry, the hyperactive headliner Simon King, and an unknown comedian.


"Somebody gonna get hurt real bad!" - Russell Peters

October 19, 2008

The Louvre

On the banks of the river Seine over 60,000 square metres of prime Paris real estate is occupied by the finest museum I have been to. As I am a man among men, the Louvre is a museum among museums. Opened in 1793, the Louvre hosts a massive collection of artifacts, paintings, and sculptures. Six million visitors a year wander its wings after entering through the glass pyramid entrance and descending into the underground lobby. Tickets can be purchased from vending machines. A useful map of the grounds that highlights the premier attractions such as the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo is also available. With treasures from all corners of the world on display, it was an easy mistake for many tourists to make when they assumed that I was one of the specimens in the Louvre's collection and started snapping pictures.

The collection was so extensive that my entire day was spent at the museum, including lunch at the Louvre cafeteria. Several tourists took ill with cases of museum fatigue and had to be removed from the premises. The Musee du Louvre was formerly a fortress constructed in the 12th century. Three wings, Sully, Denon, and Richelieu, frame the central courtyard and the recently constructed pyramid. There is also a smaller inverted pyramid and an underground mall attached to the Louvre that I stumbled upon. The eight curatorial departments are (1) Egyptian Antiquities, (2) Near Eastern Antiquities, (3) Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, (4) Islamic Art, (5) Sculpture, (6) Decorative Arts, (7) Paintings, and (8) Prints and Drawings. Room after room, corridor after corridor, new spectacles await.

October 18, 2008

Vancouver Whitecaps

On Thanksgiving weekend the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club faced the Puerto Rico Islanders in the USL First Division final. Although the Islanders were the higher ranked team based on regular season standings, the Whitecaps had been controversially chosen to host the final due to a more favourable bid. The pre-game ceremonies followed the traditional FIFA format, with both teams being accompanied by miniature soccer players as they came on to the field. After a scoreless first half, Vancouver took the lead early in the second before Puerto Rico equalized. Four minutes later the Whitecaps again took the lead off a header. They held on for the remaining few minutes, capturing their second USL title in 3 years but the first on home soil.

As the world's most popular sport soccer appeals to the lowest common denominator. There were no hooligans present at this game, only 5800 well behaved fans. After the final whistle blew, a slow and steady stream of ardent supporters (the "Westside Rowdies") ran onto the field. Eventually all the fans that were not sitting in the grandstand area congregated on the soccer ground as the Whitecaps accepted the championship trophy in front of them. There was much singing and merriment as one by one the players took their turn hoisting the trophy.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Puerto Rico Islanders 2:1
Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, BC
Sunday, October 12, 2008


White is the colour,
Soccer is the game,
We're all together and winning is our aim,
So cheer us on through the sun and rain,
Because Whitecaps, Whitecaps is our name!

- Whitecaps theme song

October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day: Raise A Reader

The theme is poverty for this year's edition of Blog Action Day. Poverty can seem like an overwhelmingly huge issue to tackle, so I will focus on a particular aspect only. The inability to read is often times a significant barrier for low income individuals, severely restricting their career options. Being able to read allows for digestion and understanding of a broad range of subjects. Whether used for education, entertainment, or self-sufficiency, reading is a skill that once learned becomes used in almost every aspect of daily life.

The Raise-a-Reader program was first introduced in Vancouver in 2002, and has since spread to almost 30 communities across Canada. Volunteers sell newspapers on Raise-a-Reader day, with all the proceeds going to local literacy programs. The Vancouver Canucks and its players have always been strong supporters of the program, so I was not surprised to see legendary Canuck Stan Smyl selling papers at a street corner on this year's Raise-a-Reader day. I was impressed though by the the range of people who were engaged in the noble undertaking.

People from all strata of society were involved, from celebrities to firefighters to school children. Block after block, each street corner in the downtown core was occupied by a group of newspaper toting volunteers in an impressive display of people uniting for the common good. I gave a generous contribution to a particularly enthusiastic volunteer, who handed me my special edition copy of the Vancouver Sun and applied a "I helped Raise-a-Reader today!" sticker to my bosom.


"Even heroes have heroes"

October 13, 2008

Vancouver Giants

The Vancouver Giants were victorious against the Spokane Chiefs in what turned out to be the last home game of the 2007-2008 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) season for them. I met a friend of mine at Pacific Coliseum, the former home of the Vancouver Canucks and current home of Vancouver's junior hockey franchise since it was founded in 2001. Unlike their NHL counterparts, Giants tickets were inexpensive and easily obtained on game day minutes before the puck dropped.

The action was fast paced and exciting, with a lot of the chances being generated by youthful mistakes by players on both sides. We sat in the upper bowl. Directly behind us were a group of women who heartily debated which spa was the best in town. The heated exchange spanned multiple periods but their was no winner. Spa Utopia and Spa Ethos emerged as the two top contenders though.

The Giants were eliminated from playoff contention in the following game of the best-of-7 Western Conference semi-finals. The Chiefs went on to win the WHL Championship, which Vancouver had captured two years earlier. In a strange twist, they had lost in the WHL Championship Finals last year before going on to host and win the more prestigious Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup pits the host city versus the champions of the three major junior Canadian hockey leagues - the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

October 12, 2008

Go Abroad

A critic of my lackluster efforts to secure an ARNABride once pointed out that I must be doing something seriously wrong if I could not locate half of the earthly population. I have identified that part of the problem is that I am not where they are. For instance I am working in the IT industry, which is rarely graced by a woman's beauty. Not only are ladies avoiding my vocational area en masse, they are also vacating my geographical region in large numbers. When I went to the Go Abroad Fair held at the Canada Place convention centre I was surprised to see such a high quantity of beauties looking to head oversees.

The fair maidens were fleeing to places both exotic and mundane, but all to locations I would not be present in. From teaching in Korea or Japan to studying in Europe or Australia to volunteering in Africa, a world of opportunities was open to them. I could not begrudge them their chance to go beyond borders. Crossing cultures is becoming more and more common in the global economy. Although I have not volunteered or studied overseas, I have worked internationally. My yearlong stint with Satyam in India was an eye opening experience, and not just from a career enhancing aspect. I was able to live and work alongside people from all corners of the globe, resulting in a highly rewarding voyage of discovery.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

October 10, 2008


Surrey is the second largest city in BC and one of the fastest growing communities in the nation. A high percentage of the population inflow is made up of new immigrants to Canada, with quite a few coming from the Indian subcontinent. When Surrey decided to have a festival to celebrate its multicultural makeup, particular attention was paid to this community. In a brilliant move by the city of Surrey, both the Prince of Honour and the crown prince of bhangra headlined the first day of festivities.  Bhangra, a dance form that originated in the Indian state of Punjab, has gained immense popularity worldwide for its energetic style and accompanying music beats.

Holland Park, located just across the street from the Central City complex, was the site of the first Fusion Festival. Music and food from around the world were enjoyed by the public. I had some venison purchased from a First Nations food stall and then wandered over to the main stage to watch KS Makhan perform. After he left, the crowd waited in anticipation for Surrey's own Jazzy B to arrive. After entering to much fanfare, the bhangra superstar kept up the pace throughout the night, demonstrating some slick dance moves in the process. Rows of chairs had been set up in front of the stage and this prime real estate was occupied by children and the elderly. The mass of humanity that had been standing on the edges of the seating area far outnumbered those with seats. They started to slowly creep forward. Sensing that the show was nearing its end, the pace of encroachment increased. Soon enough, the sitters had all vacated the area near the stage and the rest of the crowd closed in. The tempo and the number of rhythmically moving hands in the air increased dramatically as the night drew to a deafeningly loud close.

October 05, 2008

In Flanders Fields

Ypres is a historic town in West Flanders, Belgium. The site of several significant battles during World War I, the town was left in ruins by the conclusion of the war. The most famous of these is the Battle of Passchendaele. Soldiers from Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations combined forces against German troops, engaging in brutal trench warfare that resulted in 750,000 lives lost.

Reconstructed after the war, several Ypres landmarks were restored to their original likeness. One of these structures, the Cloth Hall, is located in the centre of the town and houses the In Flanders Fields war museum. The original Cloth Hall was one of the largest buildings of the Middle Ages, having been constructed in the 1300's for the unsurprising purpose of storing cloth. The museum had a closing time of six o'clock in the summer months. I arrived a little after five, but was denied entry since it takes at least an hour to see in detail. My friend Bart, who was showing me around Belgium, tried to explain that I was visiting from Canada but to no avail.

We walked to the Menin Gate memorial which arches over a road. The names of 55,000 soldiers who died without graves are inscribed upon it. Its Hall of Memory, although massive, was not large enough to hold all the names of those who had perished. 35,000 other names were inscribed at the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. We drove to this solemn place on the outskirts of Ypres. The largest graveyard for soldiers of the Commonwealth anywhere in the world, row after row of white tombstones line the field. The name, rank, and regiment are given when the information is available, but the exact details of many of the men buried beneath the 11,952 graves remains unknown.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae

September 25, 2008


July 14, 2008 - I was busy sitting at my desk in my office tower when the reports started trickling in. Many parts of Vancouver's downtown core were going dark. I quickly saved my work on my computer so that I would not lose it and checked the regional power provider's website to see the extent of the electrical outage. BC Hydro was reporting that almost the entire business district had been affected. My building was located in the eye of the hurricane. Panic engulfed the businesses of the city with their near absolute reliance on electricity. All around me buildings were engulfed in darkness, stores were shuttered, food started to rot, and office workers were given the rest of day off, as my building remained unaffected.

With the generators working admirably to provide electrical power, it was business as usual for my coworkers and I. At lunchtime I ventured outside into the empty streets of Vancouver. An eerie silence was my only companion. I surveyed the deserted cityscape in search of an establishment providing food. After a long trek I arrived at the intersection of Burrard and Smithe. A solitary hot dog stand was all that separated civilization from anarchy.

A dignified crowd of about 20 working professionals who had not gone home or to the beach had formed a queue at the famed Japadog stand. The purveyors of specialty hot dogs, Japadog, infuse Japanese ingredients into the North American staple. My Terimayo hot dog was coated with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and seaweed. I devoured it in a few minutes. Japadog says that "Our English is very poor. The followings may make mistakes. We are sorry" but "We will do my best for supplying most delicious hotdog in the world". They lived up to their promise, escepecially in a time of crisis.

September 21, 2008

Thums Up

It is quite common for a country or region to have a signature drink. Usually it is alcoholic in nature. A small sample from the world of beer would include Steinlager (New Zealand), Heineken (Netherlands), Guinness (Ireland), Corona (Mexico), Foster's (Australia), Medalla Light (Puerto Rico), and Budweiser (USA). The king of beers in India is Kingfisher. United Breweries, run by the enigmatic Vijay Mallya, has the lion's share of the Indian beer market and is the third largest producer of spirits worldwide. Although quite tasty, it is not the beverage that unites a people. This honour belongs to a carbonated soft drink: Thums Up.

After Coca Cola was forced to withdraw from India in the 1970's a homegrown cola rose to take its place. With no serious competition in the cola market, Thums Up ruled supreme. In the 1990's government hard restrictions on soft drinks were lifted, and Pepsi and Coca-Cola soon entered the market. Thums Up stood toe to toe against the massive marketing might of Pepsi Cola for a time, until Coke's entry made it a three way tango. The Indian owner of Thums Up eventually relented against this international onslaught and sold Thums Up to Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola would ideally have liked its namesake drink to be the flagship product in its lineup. so it tried to marginalize Thums Up. Reducing its marketing budget and focusing its promotional efforts on Coke were not enough to eliminate the beverage. The nation's love affair with Thums Up was too strong. Deciding to build on its distinctiveness, Coca Cola repositioned Thums Up as a manlier alternative to Coke and Pepsi. As a drink that distinguishes men from boys, Thums Up was a constant source of refreshment during my journeys through India.


Taste the Thunder!

September 19, 2008


Aishwarya Rai, the world's most beautiful woman, was scheduled to perform in front of me on August 17th. She was to be accompanied on stage by her husband Abhishek Bachchan and her legendary father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan, where they would dance to beats of popular Bollywood film songs. Aishwarya remarked “I am thrilled to be a part of such a splendid event that promises to promote Indian cinema on a global platform. An event of such a magnitude will surely be something to look out for and I am eagerly looking forward to it”. I too was eagerly awaiting my audience with her, when I heard the devastating news that she would not be coming.

The Vancouver leg of the "Unforgettable" tour was slashed from the schedule for reasons that were not publicised. Rumours included low ticket sales due to inflated prices and an inability of the organizers of the event to pay the handsome fees demanded by the beautiful actress and her fellow stars. Tickets that were purchased by the disappointed fans of the icons of Indian cinema were refunded, leaving them with a full wallet, empty fantasies, and an unforgettable experience.


Dard hota hai jab dard chubhtaa nahii. (Translation: True pain doesn't even sting.)
- a line from the song Kajra Re in the movie Bunty aur Babli

September 18, 2008

Musical Weekend: Aerosmith & Jagjit Singh

Rock and roll legends Aerosmith, led by front man Steven Tyler, made their way to Bangalore to perform in front an enthusiastic crowd of youngsters. It was their first performance in India. Held on the expansive Palace Grounds, a crowd of 30,000 enjoyed the two hour long concert. Quite a few of my friends had come over from Hyderabad for the concert. I am not a fan but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I went also. I enjoyed the spectacle even though I was not familiar with all of the songs.

In the same weekend, ghazal singer Jagjit Singh performed in front of a much older crowd at Ambedkar Bhawan. A ghazal is a form of poetic expression that has Arabic origins, usually dealing with topics such as love and pain. The complete Aerosmith concert was shorter in duration than the first half of Jagjit Singh's marathon performance. Including the intermission, the concert lasted approximately five hours. The crowd here had a much greater knowledge of the songs performed by the artist having grown up listening to him, and sang along on quite a few occasions with their enthusiasm and appreciation increasing as the hours went by.


Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I'd still miss you, babe
And I don't wanna miss a thing

- Aerosmith, from the Armageddon soundtrack

September 14, 2008


Natalie. Nichole. Chrystina. Tiffanie.

The winners of the second season of the reality television series Pussycat Dolls Present would go on to form the group known as Girlicious. Opening for the Backstreet Boys later that night, they were signing autographs at the flagship HMV store in downtown Vancouver one day. Almost identical in artistic style and dress sense to the Pussycat Dolls, the band has a diverse makeup of performers. They also wear a considerable amount of makeup as I discovered when they walked past me, giggling and waving with great enthusiasm. They were also shorter in person than the statuesque figures I had seen on television so I was somewhat disappointed. The line for autographs circled the external perimeter of the entire store, with hundreds of eager youth waiting outside for a chance to meet them. I had to get back to work, so I did not join the lineup.

"Three girls in this group is great, four girls are Girlicious." - Robin Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls

September 12, 2008

Ranga Shankara

As a patron of the arts I attempt to support local artists wherever I may be. Ranga Shankara is Bangalore's most prominent theatre. With a modern design featuring stadium seating for a small crowd, it provides an intimate surrounding for both the actors on stage and the audience watching them perform.

With my flatmate Chang, I went to the 150th show of a theatre troupe called Evam. Located on the outskirts of Bangalore, we weaved through heavy traffic on Chang's motorcycle and arrived just as the doors were opening. He came to a grinding halt in front of the entrance and I hopped off. While he looked for a parking spot, I picked up our tickets. As he joined me, Chang pointed out a famous director, Girish Karnad, in the audience, but I was not familiar with his work.  

The play was titled 'Love Letters' and was the tale of two people who spent their whole lives writing letters to each other. Beginning from elementary school and continuing through to old age their relationship progresses and their lives unfold, with the only constant being the friendship and support they provide to each other through trying times. It was quite deep and tragic.

September 10, 2008

Cats Hold Grudges

On a day when it was raining cats and dogs outside, one of my colleagues was attempting to convince another that there is a famous phrase - "Cats hold grudges". The other colleague started making cat calls, refusing to believe that this was an authentic figure of speech. The cat and mouse game continued for a while, as they argued back and forth. As is often the case, they came to me to settle the matter. They were as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs as they awaited my reply. I grinned like a Cheshire cat, although I was unsure of the answer. The cat had got my tongue, and I could not provide a solid conclusion either way. The phrase did seem familiar but I did not remember a specific situation where I had heard it being used.

Even though curiosity killed the cat, we decided to further investigate the validity of this statement. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, we quickly researched the usage and popularity of this saying on the Internet. Using my catlike reflexes I opened up a web browser and typed in my search query. Taking a look at what the cat had dragged in, we discovered that the results were quite limited. Only a handful of articles discussing whether cats hold grudges were available online, and all were quite literal in their interpretations. As no consensus existed on whether cats hold grudges, it was not being used as a figure of speech by the common man. Now that the cat was out of the bag, the case was closed.

"Cat's motto: No matter what you've done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it." - Unknown

September 08, 2008


It was the summer of 2007. My year in India with Satyam had come and gone. An additional month of travel and goodbyes, and I was on a flight back. As Europe was the midpoint of the 20+ hour flight to Canada, I decided to spend a couple of weeks in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. My cousin was staying in Paris, so I enjoyed his hospitality there. He met me at Charles de Gaulle International Airport and located me with surprising ease. Together we lugged my baggage from the airport shuttle to the metro, through the railway station and the narrow streets, and up to his apartment. I deposited my luggage there, stripping out the essentials into my duffel bag and continued my travels.

Bart, one of my roommates from Hyderabad, met me in Brussels, Belgium. Over a whirlwind weekend he showed me as much of Belgium as possible.
  • Brussels
  • Bruges
  • Ghent
  • Oostende
  • Ypres
Five days had been allocated to seeing the Netherlands. Here my premier guide was Stein, one of my roommates from Bangalore.
  • Amsterdam
  • Delft
  • Den Haag
  • Eindhoven
  • Maastricht
  • Rotterdam
  • Scheveningen
  • Utrecht
The lion's share of my time in France was devoted to wandering around the City of Love.
  • Paris
  • Mont St. Michel
  • Versailles
My Eurotrip began and ended in Paris, one of the most captivating cities I have set foot on. After travelling through Belgium and Holland without a moment's rest, I returned here for a bit of relaxation before making my triumphant return to the Gateway to the Pacific - Vancouver.

September 07, 2008

Puerto Rico - Isla del Encanto

I went on a weeklong vacation to the island of Puerto Rico with my parents. Situated in the Caribbean, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States of America. Its capital and largest city is San Juan. Originally, this city was known as Puerto Rico ("rich port") and the island was San Juan (named after John the Baptist), but the nomenclature was swapped somewhere in its history, perhaps due to a cartographic error. Almost rectangular in shape, the coastline of the small island is dotted with beaches while the interior is composed of dense jungles and hilly terrain.

 Renting a car is the best way to see all that Puerto Rico  has to offer. The driving skills of the Puerto Ricans match their grasp of the English language, making it relatively easy to both communicate and commute across the island. We used the oceanfront community of Condado in San Juan as our base, and made road trips across Puerto Rico. Our itenarary was packed:

Day 1 - Arrive in San Juan
Day 2 - Northwestern Puerto Rico - Arecibo Observatory and Rio Camuy
Day 3 - Northeastern Puerto Rico - El Yunque, Loquillo, and Palmas del Mar
Day 4 - Old San Juan
Day 5 - Southeastern Purto Rico - Rincon and San German 
Day 6 - Southern Puerto Rico - Ponce and Tibes
Day 7 - Depart San Juan 

As the local license plates boast, Puerto Rico is "La Isla Del Encanto" - the Island of Enchantment.

September 01, 2008

Indian Weddings

Three of my Satyam colleagues invited me to their weddings. None were taking place in Hyderabad or Bangalore though, as they all hailed from different areas. Due to scheduling conflicts I was only able to attend one of the three weddings. The first one was in Murudeshwara, a city in Karnataka on the coast of the Arabian Sea that is famed for having the tallest statue of Shiva in the world. Another was in Thanjavur, an historic temple town in Tamil Nadu. The marriage that I was able to attend was in the district of Erode, also in Tamil Nadu.

No two Indian weddings are alike. They differ from state to state, from region to region, and from religion to religion. Whereas Western marriage ceremonies follow a relatively standardized formula, the rituals and ceremonies that take place in an Indian wedding vary dramatically in length, order, pomp and circumstance. In this particular wedding the reception was taking place on a Saturday evening, while the actual ceremony was scheduled for before dawn on Sunday.

After attending the wedding of a friend from Canada in Chennai, and then relaxing in Pondicherry for a few days, I caught a train to Erode. I arrived early in the morning and my coworker picked me up, put me up in a hotel, and introduced me to a few of his old friends. His friends subsequently proceeded to introduce me to the local brew. After lunch we fell into deep slumber and got ready just in time to make it to the reception. The bride and groom to be were sitting on a pedestal in the center of the marriage hall, and all the guests were coming over to congratulate them. There was not much song and dance.

Several other coworkers had also made the journey from Bangalore to attend the wedding, so once the ladies were finally prepared we rushed to catch the tail end of the early morning marriage. Afterwards, it was time to feast. With hundreds of guests, rows and rows of tables and chairs had been set up in a hall. Everyone was provided a banana leaf as their plate, and servers made the rounds placing different items onto the large leaves. No utensils were used, only hands and mouths. After I was finished eating I rolled up my plate and threw it away, leaving a very low ecological footprint with zero non-biodegradable waste generated. We bid farewell to Erode after a brief temple visit and took several buses back to Bangalore.

August 31, 2008


During my grueling two-and-a-half hour daily commute to and from work, I spend a considerable amount of time on the SkyTrain. Since I leave my home before dawn, I don a blue fleece jacket to keep me warm as I wait for the sun to rise. The exhausting walk to the SkyTrain station leaves me drenched in sweat, and I remove the fleece from my bodice. At night on my trek home through the chilly streets, I again rely on my blue fleece to provide me with warmth as the moonlight illuminates my path. In the morning, I stand for most of the journey as there are no seats available on board the train. One day I was fortunate enough to get a seat, so I sat down, relaxed, and let the jacket slip from my hands...

When I reached my office I noticed my blue fleece jacket was no longer accompanying me. My coworkers suggested I go to the Lost Property office at Stadium SkyTrain Station, as they had successfully retrieved lost treasures from there in the past. I checked with the office and they told me that all lost items that are found by staff or good citizens are collected at the end of the day and then delivered to them the following day. Lost items are systematically logged into a database. The most popular item available on the lost and found shelves is an umbrella.

I gave a detailed description of my lost belonging, but it could not be found by the staff member on duty. I was asked to identify when and where I had last seen my jacket as well as provide a thorough description (material, size, colour, brand, etc.) of it. I tried again the next day, but the answer remained the same. My lost fleece had not been found. I checked eBay to see if it was being auctioned off to a collector of prized memorabilia, but it was not posted there either. Perhaps one day, it will return.


"Memory is not the same thing as intelligence. Some of the smartest people are the most forgetful people." -  Peter Graf, memory expert

August 10, 2008

The View From The Top

At the pinnacle of the 177 meter high Harbour Centre building is the Vancouver Lookout, containing an observation deck that gives a panoramic view of the most livable city on Earth and the Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant located directly above. Completing one full revolution per hour, it made for an ideal lunch outing. For patrons of the restaurant, the elevator ride to the top is free. Although entry to the viewing platform is not included with the meal, the prices on the menu already reflect a built-in premium to compensate for the unobstructed views it affords of the city, the mountains, and the waterways that make up the region.

I shared a mozzarella stick appetizer with my friend who was accompanying me on my high altitude journey, and completed my cheesy experience with some lasagna as the main course. Through the angled windows I watched the SeaBus ply its route across the Burrard Inlet from the Vancouver Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay, while several helicopters landed and took off near the rail lines and the Port of Vancouver. As the restaurant slowly rotated the 360 degrees over 60 minutes, I saw the Simon Fraser University atop the peak of Burnaby Mountain, and then Vancouver City Hall and Vancouver General Hospital, before seeing Vancouver Island in the distance, and the downtown core from up close. I noticed someone walking around on the rooftop of my office building and I was intrigued. The tennis court on top of the Holt Renfrew building in which I had encountered Liz Hurley was also unexpected.

Powell Street Festival

August 2nd, 2008 - A celebration of Japanese Canadian culture and arts, the 32nd edition of the annual Powell Street Festival, took place at its usual home in Oppenheimer Park. It marked the 80th year of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada. A stage and shopping stalls had been set up inside the park, while food was being sold on the side streets. The first performance I witnessed was by Chibi Taiko ("little kid, big drum"). Taiko are Japanese drums and this ensemble beat them with great enthusiasm. I had come to see my friend Daizo perform with the Okinawa troupe. He provided musical accompaniment to the Yuaikai Ryukyu Taiko. After watching a high tempo performance comprising of music, song, and dance, I enjoyed some wild salmon cooked in a traditional manner over a fire.