Vaccine

I had my second shot of the vaccine last week. I chose to stay with the Astra Zeneca. I felt relieved and happy as I walked home. Then I felt a wave of gratitude. I’m just one of the few people in the world that are fully vaccinated. Only 9.4% of the world’s population are fully vaccinated. In Canada, 13% of our population are fully vaccinated. Only 20% of the world’s population has at least one dose of a vaccine. (All the data is from Our World in Data, as of June 14, 2021)

When I got home, I thought of my parents and the courage they had to start a new life in Canada. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if my parents didn’t move to Canada. While some Canadians are angry at our government for being so slow, a lot of them appreciate how fortunate we are.

The side effects from the second shot were quite mild. I just felt a bit tired and had a mild headache. Ths was a far cry from the side effects of the first shot where I had the chills, body aches and a sore arm. I took an aspirin the next day and felt better a day or two afterwards. I was told it will take another week for the second shot to take its full effect. I’ll still continue to wear a mask. People can still contract Covid-19 even when they are fully vaccinated. This Delta variant that’s out there now is even more transmissible.

Today I was chatting with someone at my condo. The conversation turned to vaccines and he just dismissed it. I thought he was vaccine hesitant. He then launched into a long tirade on stuff you hear about in conspiracy theories. Everyone from Bill Gates, George Soros, Dr. Fauci, Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford (the Premier of Ontario), the World Health Organization, CDC etc… were somehow linked to this massive fraud about the virus, vaccines and 5G. He also said he felt safe telling me this. Trust me he said, the truth is already coming out.

It took almost 20 minutes before I could change the subject to something else. He surprised me. While we never had long chats, he was always friendly, helpful and down to earth. He just seemed normal. I hope that one day, he’ll see the world differently and come out from this mental trap.

p.s. I hope the barbershops will open soon. I haven’t had a haircut since the fall. I’ve been wearing a baseball hat when I go out to keep the hair out of my eyes.

Just A Dollar … please

Sometimes when I head out the door to take some pictures, I have no idea where my feet will lead me. One night, they took me to the neighourhood where I do my volunteering. It’s a lower income neighbourhood, lots of immigrants because of the higher proportion of cheaper rental apartments (although this is now changing). There’s also a fair amount of street people.

Within a few minutes, someone asked for change. That day I didn’t bring a lot of change and besides a lot of places don’t deal in cash anymore. But I gave out the bit of change I had. Then a older, thin woman with torn clothes asked me for money. I said sorry, I don’t have anymore. She stood right in front of me. Her eyes connected with mine but she quickly withdrew her gaze. “Just a dollar, please….” she asked again. I didn’t have anymore coins. I knew I had some bills in my wallet (note: in Canada, the $1 and $2 are are coins)

I shuffled away to another block as she continued to wail and let out a sad cry. A couple of blocks away, I took out a $5 bill and walked back. But I couldn’t find her. I stayed around a bit, checked the entrance of the liquor store and the dollar store but she was gone. When I got home, I reheated some leftovers and quieted my guilty conscience.

Images

I’m in a weird state of mind these past couple of days. The weather has been a bit off but is getting back to normal. I found out my brother’s health isn’t the greatest and he has to take some really expensive meds to deal with it. His company is not covering it and he is fortunate that both the public health care system here and the pharmaceutical company is covering it. My sister is working crazy hours. There’s news that 215 bodies of children were found in unmarked graves on a residential school. This is Canada’s sad history of colonization. From 1853 to 1996, over 150,000 were children forcibly removed from their families to be “educated”. So many were abused and never found a way home. Some that did, lost their ability to communicate with their family because they didn’t speak their native language anymore. And they came home with many scars.

Anyways – that’s my frame of mind. And with that, I leave you with some pictures and a short video. This is what I see from my window. It’s a big maple tree which gives me some shade and privacy (but not in the fall and winter). I took this on a rainy day last week. It just rained all day. You can see my t-shirt being reflected in the window. The sound of rain was actually quite soothing.

  1. This building used to be a library that opened in 1909. It’s now home to a theatre. I don’t believe these doors are original. But they look a bit beaten up.
2 wooden double doors framed in stone.  The doors are dark mohagany in colour with brass handles.  They have a glass window at the top.  One of the doors has a copper or brass mail slot.

2. I just like the two colours side by side. I wish the paint was glossy though.

Red door and blue door beside each other. The are in matte finish.

3. This is one of the few times I’ve seen doors with the door handle in the middle.

Black door with black frame.  The door has a big round metallic handle in the centre.  Above the door is a lamp in old metal frame.  The building has a white background which helps make the black door and frame stand out.

4. I don’t know the history of this building. The weather beaten door still has some elegance to it. I hope the owners will restore it.

An old weather beaten door with cracked paint on the frame. The frame are made to look like columns and is a pale aqua / green colour.  The door is recessed about 3 feet inside and is also a pale greenish / blue colour.  There are faded blue tiles at the step although some are missing.

5. Not a dream – a bad dream.

Neon sign in red "It Was All A Dream".  The word dream is cursive.  The background is dark and some of the sky and power lines are reflected.  It makes for a bit of a moody feel.

Have a safe week everyone.

Dark Knight

I don’t know why my mind is the way it is. On most days, it comes up with interesting ideas, supports me, helps me solve a ton of problems and is responsible for my odd sense of humour. And then there are days when it just does everything it can do destroy my confidence and stomp on any fledging dreams that I may have. Go on … I dare you. Just try to dream big things.

When I fight back, it responds by listing every failings I have. I tell it that failures are the stepping stones to success. But it just laughs and knows how to gnaw at my insecurities.

In the morning, it’ll tell me to move on and stay strong. It’ll give me encouragement, remind me of past successes and work on my resolve. But tonight, my insomnia rages and I have a battle to fight.

Tinkling Glasses

The other night I was at my desk when I heard an odd sound. It sounded like the kitchen faucet dripping steadingly on the sink. I walked to the kitchen and the tap wasn’t dripping. The sound was from one of the kitchen cabinets. It was two wine glasses vibrating against each other. I’ve heard that sound before when the medical helicopters that are based downtown fly low and close to my condo. When that happens, it’s usually quite a few wine glasses vibrating together. But it was quiet outside.

I touched the kitchen cabinet and the shelves and didn’t feel any movement. There wasn’t any sound coming from behind the wall from the neighbouring condo. The plates were still. I touched a few wine glasses but the sound continued. This was strange. I stepped back to make sure it was coming from that cabinet and it was. There were more wine glasses at the top shelf. I reached up and the sound stopped. I stood there to see if it would come back but it didn’t.

I’m sure somewhere there is a logical explanation. Some of you are probabyl thinking “Oh that Matt, he’s a strange one. His Grindr probably says he likes ghosts and spirits. It’s probably a gay ghost looking for wine. (I don’t have a Grindr and I ran out of white wine). I do believe in spirits and ghosts. Someone arranged for me to see a medium after my dad passed away. It was quite an interesting experience. But that’s for another entry.

Post Pandemic

It’s hard to imagine what will happen post pandemic. It’s slowly becoming a source of anxiety for me. In the past year, there have been days when I don’t speak to anyone at all. This happens if I pick up my newspaper and mail but the security guard isn’t there. And if I stay in, then it’s likely I won’t be saying anything or seeing anyone face to face.

I’m fine not seeing and interacting with people everyday. I’ve known for a long time that I need periods of solitude. At one Christmas dinner, I found myself slowly detaching from everyone and ended up sitting on the stairs beside a cat. The cat eyed me nervously. I extended my hand out and let it sniff my finger. I picked it up and placed it on my lap. But it got fidgety and started to look around. I bribed it with some gentle neck and head screatches. It kept me company for awhile until it got tired of me. Perhaps it realized that it had stooped too low for neck scratches and needed to regain its pride. But the cat gave me a few minutes of “cover” while I figure out what else I can do.

With vaccinations underway now in my country (Canada), I guess we might be opening up by the end of the year. While I’m looking forward to hanging out with family and friends, I’m also somewhat nervous. Inevitably, I’ll be attending some large gatherings with the extended family. It’ll be nice to see them, I know I’ll have moments when I need to “look for a cat”. Maybe I should just adopt a cat. I could tell people I have to leave early because I have to look after my cat. But I know when I get home, my cat will be annoyed at me because most cats are solitary creatures too.

On a more serious not, what is the new normal? What will it be like when we can take our masks off? How do I know if others are really vaccinated? Should I keep my mask on? Will the racist attacks continue? Will some of the kindness and sharing that showed up during the pandemic continue? Will people feel that they can now stop helping those in the community? I don’t know if I will resume my volunteering work at the library. I would like to. I’m sure the parents are equally nervous too.

I hope we will continue to remember and treat front line workers with respect and dignity and push for better wages and working conditions. There were so many victims – the eldery, BIPOC, the homeless, those who have had medical treatments cancelled or postponed, people who have lost jobs … the list is almost endless. This pandemic revealed how unfair and inequitable our society is. The rich were primarily insualted from this. I just hope going forward, we find a way to fix this.

Springtime Blooms

It’s spring and I thought I would share some blooms from a few trees I saw during my walks.

  1. I think this is a yellow Magnolia blossom. I’ve never seen one in yellow before. The trees were just off the main street by the sidewalk.
closeup of yellow magnolia blossom, the blossom is very yellow at the stem and faded yellow at the top.  It has just started to bloom.

2) This is one of the reasons I like spring. The trees are blooming and for a brief time, things just look perfect.

magnolia blossom just starting to bloom.  The blossom is mostly white at the tips and is streaky purple white at the base.

3) I think this is a cherry tree although the blossoms are white. I usually see cherry blossoms with a some pink. It was just sitting beside an office building.

 a cluster of white cherry blossoms

4) There was a late April snowfall here. Most of the snow melted or blew off by the afternoon.

snow covering red flowering buds of a tree.

5) A bit of snow covering the buds from a tree.

snow coverin  a cluster of yellow flowering buds of a tree

6) At one of our local parks, they put fencing around the cherry trees. They didn’t want people standing too close to each other taking pictures of the tree. Sometimes people would move picnic tables beside the tree and take their pictures by the blossoms (annoying). The worst ones are the folks who pull the branches down so the blossoms are close to their faces when their pics are snapped.

Anyways – enough ranting. Because of the fencing, I had to use a telephoto lens to get this shot. I like the fragile beauty of the cherry blossoms.

cherry blossoms with snow on top.  Some of the blossoms are opened while others are still closed.  These ones are mostly pink.

Life During Wartime

When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes tell us stories about the war. They saw us watching war shows on TV and then play with our toy guns afterwards. In the TV shows, the stars don’t die, only the bad guys. So they would tell us what it was like during the war. Some were simple stories, like how hard it was when there wasn’t food to eat. The lesson was not to ever take food for granted.

One day, my dad told us he killed a Japanese soldier during the war. We knew he wasn’t a soldier. It happened in wartime Manila. My dad was walking on street There was a young boy walking about 40 yards ahead of him. A shot rang out and the child fell. My dad hid and tried to figure out where the shot came from. He couldn’t see any Japanese soldiers. Eventually he figured it came from underneath a metal roofing sheet on the street. He circled around, lifted the metal roofing and there was a wounded Japanese lying there. The soldier was surprised. My dad grabbed his rifle and used the bayonet to kill him.

As a kid, I thought this was just like the war shows TV. The good guy won, the bad guy lost. As I grew older, some other details started to come out. My dad was so troubled by this that years after the war, he went to a priest to seek guidance. As years go by, I began to better understand the trauma of war. Both of my parents saw first hand the horrible deaths and cruelty from war. There wasn’t anyone for them to talk to. You survived and that’s your reward.

At one of our family reunions, one of my uncles wrote down the discussion about their family during the war and it had even more information about my dad and his encounter with the Japanese soldier. My dad would have been in his early 20s and the family had been staying at a friend’s house. My grandfather had already been severely weakened after being imprisoned by the Japanese. One of my uncles had a homemade shortwave radio and knew the Americans had landed. It would be just be a matter of days when the fighting would come to their city.

A few days later, American fighter planes attacked and bombed the city in an effort to drive the Japanese out. American soldiers launched mortar attacks in the city. There was a lot of “collateral damage”. Many civilians were killed and injured. As the explosions got closer, my dad’s family fled and grabbed what they could. The house caught on fire just as they ran out the door. They headed for a nearby church. The explosions thundered around them. As they neared the church a sharpnel cut into my grandfather’s arm and left it dangling. He had more wounds on his abdomen. A bullet whizzed by my dad’s head. My aunt saw my dad’s face lit up by the glowing shell. As the children gathered around my grandfather, he told them to leave him there and go to the church.

But my dad and the older siblings half carried and half dragged my grandfather by his coat to the church. The steps were littered with dead bodies. They had to step on them to get inside. There were some dead Japanese soldiers inside. A worker at the church came and warned them that the Japanese soldiers might return at night. They had already killed the civilians that had been hiding in the church. He told them to hide in the back behind the altar where there was a lot of rubble. He pulled out a cot from a closet and my grandfather laid down on it. As my grandfateher grew weaker during the night, he asked to speak to each of the children. They had anticipated him dying at night but he didn’t. During the morning, my dad decided to go look for a way to get to the American soldiers and to find help for his father. That’s when he encountered the sniper.

At the reunion, my dad told everyone that he had misgivings about the death of the soldier. The Japanese soldier was already weakened by his wounds. But my father was angry about the shooting and knew the soldier would shoot again, perhaps at them when they left the church. So he did what he had to do.

After he returned to the church, my dad told his family about the soldier and the way was now clear. They carried my grandfather along until they came along an American soldier on a truck. My dad pleaded with the soldier to take them to a hospital. At the hospital, my grandfather underwent surgery. My dad and my uncle waited in the hallway that had buckets of arms and limbs. My grandfather survived the surgery.

+ + + +

When I was in my early 20s, I was settling into my first job. While I’ve had some tough patches in life, it was nothing compared to what my parents went through. I think knowing that they survived one of the worst periods in history, it gave them the courage to face whatever obstacles life threw at them. But I also know it must have scarred them and affected them in some ways. Unresolved trauma can have lasting effects. I never saw how it affected them. Somehow they found a way to either deal with it or compartmentalized it.

Wanting Wontons & More…

One of my favorite dish is wonton noodles. There are at least two types of wontons. One with shrimp and one with pork and shrimp. While I enjoy both, the one I grew up with were the ones with pork and shrimp. I can’t remember how or when my mom decided to show me how to make them. It could have been her persuading me that if I wanted to eat sooner, I could help (hint hint…). Or since this was one of my favorite dishes, she probably asked me if I wanted to learn how to make it, then I should roll up my sleeves and help.

When she made wonton, she would prepare the soup on Saturday. Sunday morning was reserved for making the wontons. The pork was sliced, minced and then seasoned. She told me to use meat from the shoulder (pork butt) and never to use ground pork. The texture wasn’t the same.

She showed me several times which part of the pork shoulder to use. It was a small but tender part. But I could never identify it. My first attempts at wrapping were awful. They were overstuffed or underfilled. If I twisted the top of the wonton too hard, then that part wouldn’t cook properly. Some didn’t seal properly. It took a few sessions before I became somewhat useful. When I did, she would let me wrap the last plate so she could start cooking.

Once I learned how to wrap them, I moved on to slicing the meat and then mincing them. It really means chopping them with the cleaver many, many times. After the meat was minced, it was seasoned and then pounded quite a few times. By pounding, I mean you take that hunk of meat and slam it back down. Dad would always show up in the kitchen joking that the house was shaking. A lot of times during these wonton sessions, mom and I would just chat about what’s going on with relatives or with my dad. It was also a chance for me to practice my Cantonese. Sometimes she would ask what was going on at work or maybe share a story from the past.

The other day I was shopping at a Chinese supermarket. I was pretty well finished and walked by the meat counter. There was a young guy standing behind the counter. Even with his mask on, I could tell he was cute. Well, I just had to buy something. So I got some ground pork.

I decided to make wontons on Sunday. It has been many years since I’ve made it with my mom and I’ve never made since she passed. I had already purchased wonton wrappers a week ago. I knew the texture of the ground pork would be different. But I figured I could just keep mincing it and maybe that would be ok. After I finished mincing them and pounded them, it looked ok. I added some seasoning and knew I was forgetting something. I could hear the voices of my mom and my aunt. There were giggles. “Look he’s going to make wontons!” “Don’t forget the cornstarch.” I added some cornstarch. More giggles followed.

Minced meat with shrimp for the filling
wontons (uncooked)

Surprisingly the wrapping came easily after the 4th or 5th one. I didn’t make soup, I just wanted to test out the texture and taste of the wontons first. I ended up with about 1 1/2 plates of wontons. The texture from the ground pork still wasn’t right despite the mincing. I blame this on the cute boy at the meat counter. The meat still needed a bit more seasoning. Not bad but it wasn’t good enough to share with anyone.

I’m sure I’ll try again. I know I can come closer to recreating the ones that mom made. But I wish I can recreate that experience with her.

Comments From The Past

A couple of years ago, my sister cleaned out boxes and boxes of stuff from the basement. Among the things she found were some of my old report cards from Grade 1 to Grade 5. My mom saved them. Judging from the report card, our school year was was divided into semesters and there was a grade for each semester. We even got graded for conduct. My parents (usually my dad) had to sign it and also assign a grade for “home effort”. We were also graded on penmanship. The report card would have days attended and missed. In the final mark, it included the average grade for the class, the number of students and how I ranked (I was never the top student).

I wondered how the parents felt if their child wasn’t t ranked high. It must have been hard. Also included in the report card was a small space for the teacher to write a brief comment for each semester.

When I read the comments, I chuckled at some of them. So here they are. For each semester, I just put the comments in a bullet (a = first semester, b = second semester etc…). I have no idea what happened in Grade 1. I think the school might have made changes to the semester system.

Grade 1

a) A neat boy; but is aloof and doesn’t mix with others.  Should learn to be more sociable

a2)  very passive; should try to participate in oral work

a3)  needs further practice in penmanship

b) is not as diligent as he used to

c) should try to participate more actively in oral work

Grade 2

a)  obedient, attentive, has a very soft voice

Grade 3

a)  helpful and does good work

b)  well behaved in class; does not recite unless called

c) has become careless in his work

Grade 4

a)  should keep up the good work

b)  absent minded at times

Grade 5

a)  should try to concentrate more in subjects where he’s weak; try to recite more often

b)  Could do better if he involves himself in all activities

c)  needs to overcome his shyness; should express himself

d)  tries his best to be active during discussion

I was a very shy and quiet kid, a classic introvert. I still consider myself an introvert and a situational extrovert. My penmanship is still poor and am absent minded at times. I don’t know why my mom kept this. But I’m glad she kept it. It’s interesting how my teachers viewed me back then and how my personality started to take shape at that age.