Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009 - No comments

Finn Slough

I have always had a fascination with Finn Slough. This swampy patch of land that rests on the banks of the Fraser River began as a Finnish fishing village over 100 years ago and is now home to a curious collection of rickety houses on stilts and decomposing fishboats that have become one with the shore. Mom and I spent a delightful chunk of afternoon exploring it recently. Picking our way gingerly across the precarious bridge, we were a little embarrassed as we were passed by a local with a wheelbarrow full of firewood making her way bravely back and forth across the planks. This little enclave has something of a “closed off from the world” feel about it, but I imagine the residents must have quite the tight little community going. Whenever I pass it, I like to imagine what it might be like to live in one of those cozy little shacks.

My family and this town go way back. My great great grandpa, Walter Lee, was one of the founding fathers of the city of Richmond. He even has an elementary school named after him. He arrived when the island was covered with farmland and Railway Avenue was nothing but a horse trail. On a recent trip to Chapters I picked up a local history book and smiled when I read that old Walter Lee was particularly fond of the Finn Slough area, too. Must be in my blood.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009 - No comments

A Sip of Home

The more you work at becoming an “insider” in another culture, the more you tend to feel like a foreigner when returning to your own.  I’ve felt it this time around in the little things – not knowing which setting to use on the dryer or getting confused by the buttons on the microwave.  A few days after coming home, I was in Starbucks and way overpaid the barista when I gave her three Toonies ($2 coins) for a three-dollar drink.  A Toonie looks just like the Turkish one Lira coin, and in my head it made sense!  I had to apologize for being Canadian but not being used to my own money.  :)  It is so incredibly wonderful to be back, and yet sometimes I am very aware that the ways of the world I grew up in and will always come back to are no longer my first instinct.

It was healing to my soul to run into a Turkish family in Sears a few weeks ago.  I spied their headscarves and decided to stalk them for a few aisles, just to see what language they were speaking.  And just as I’d hoped, it was Turkish!  I was so excited to talk to them, I nearly cried.  They were so surprised and honoured that this Canadian girl could speak their language – I think it made both them and me feel just a little more at home in what is, to varying degrees, a foreign country to all of us.

On New Year’s Eve, I stopped in at the Chinese take-out place by our house to grab our last dinner of 2008.  They were really busy, so I sat down to wait for my order to come up.  The owner asked if I’d like a cup of tea while I waited, and I gladly accepted.  This little gesture brought a rush of unexpected warmth to my heart.  Without even knowing it, she had made everything right in my world.  When she brought the steaming cup, I told her how in Turkey, all business and waiting and living is done over a cup of tea, and that one of the things I miss when I am away is being offered it by shopkeepers.  She sat down and started to ask me all about life “over there” and to tell me about growing up as a third generation Chinese Canadian who always felt a little out of place with other Asians because she never learned Mandarin.  She, too, knows what it’s like to feel confused about who you are and where you’re supposed to be from.  When my food was ready, I thanked for the tea and went on my way.  And as I walked out the door, I couldn’t help but smile.  Maybe home really isn’t that far away after all.

Friday, January 02, 2009 - No comments

Drip-Brewed Irony

A commonly occurring theme in this season’s CTV Christmas profgramming seems to be that of the big city business man (heiress, tax man) who, by reason of a snowstorm or a corporate assignment, inevitably finds himself in some small town dive of a diner, bewildered when he discovers they don’t serve espresso, just regular coffee. (With free refills, of course. Except in that one show when the diner was going under and all the locals were up in arms when a second cup was no longer on the house.) Seriously, I have witnessed this occurrence on my screen at least three times since coming home. And every time, I would laugh at the Big City Man and his uppity preferences.

And then it happened to me. Oddly enough, it was not the Big City Girl finding herself lost in the country, but the girl fresh off the plane from “backwards Turkey” arriving in her world-class hometown, just hours north of Seattle, the Coffee Capital of America. Mom had a doctor’s appointment downtown, and having left in plenty of time for snow delays, we found ourselves at the hospital complex with time to spare, so I thought I’d get myself a latte at the lobby coffee shop while we waited. Despite the cafe’s trendy looking exterior, I was surprised when, upon ordering, I received the same answer as my television counterparts – “Sorry, we don’t serve lattes, just regular coffee. But we can put steamed milk on top if you like.”

Hmm. Perhaps the coffee gods decided to have a little fun at my expense and teach me not to mock Big City People and their fussy tastes. Apparently I am one of them.

Friday, January 02, 2009 - No comments

Coffee and Religious Devotion

Excerpt from a delightful book on coffee that I came upon in my aunt's kitchen. Further proof (as if any was needed) that coffee is a gift straight from God......

The Muslims were convinced that the drink was a gift from Allah and were almost fanatical in their enthusiasm, as the following eulogy – or tirade – shows. Translated from the Arabic and printed, curiously, in the Transylvanian Journal of Medicine in the early part of the 19th century, the original is said to be the work of Sheik Abdal-Kader Anasari Djezeri Haubuli, son of Mohammed.

“O COFFEE! Thou dispellest the cares of the great: thou bringest back those who wander from the paths of knowledge. Coffee is the beverage of the people of God, and the cordial of His servants who thirst for wisdom....Every care vanishes when the cup bearer present thee the delicious chalice. It will circulate fleetly through thy veins, and will not rankle there: if thou doubtest this, contemplate the youth and beauty of those who drink it....Coffee is the drink of God’s people; in it is health....Whoever has seen the blissful chalice, will scorn the wine cup. Glorious drink! Thy colour is the seal of purity, and reason proclaims it genuine. Drink with confidence, and regard not the prattle of fools, who condemn without foundation....”