I Keep Trying

Last night at young adults we did another Rob Bell video, very good stuff and it leads to challenging discussions. You always learn things about people that you never would have thought of when you stick them in a circle and encourage them to talk. The quiet people have a lot to say, amazing stories to tell.

This year, more ministry than ever before. I mean really life impacting ministry, not just in-church stuff, but street ministry, outreach ministry. Not just paying for missionaries to go overseas (I did that as well) but all the local stuff. Soul winning, life saving work.

The Car Will Start When It Wants To So Buzz Off!

It’s been one week with the car, now granted it wouldn’t start on Saturday, Sunday I needed to get a boost, Tuesday it wouldn’t start, Wednesday I needed to get a boost, and now the weather is warmer and it starts most of the time. My neighbour’s car wouldn’t start and he asked me for a boost and I told him I need someone to give me a boost first lol.

Even with the dying battery (I’ll replace it as soon as I can afford it) it’s been uplifting to have a car, even if its simply parked. I even hooked up the stereo properly (there’s a stereo in the dash that hasn’t been hooked up properly), but not the radio cause the antenna wire is destroyed.

Now If I had some more money I could go somewhere, lol!

Losing a few inches off my waist is good news

The thing about helping the poor is that they can never really help you back.

I had a meeting with a new potential client and I realized that 1.) I don’t have enough bus money so I’ll be walking for about 6 hours today 2.) I lost my beautiful ties when I lost my home but I do have enough for a $1 tie from the dollar store.

The tie I purchased feels like it’s made out of paper, lol. The meeting went okay though. I’m really hungry and I’ve been drinking a lot of free coffee. I’m living out of a suitcase and a bunch of garbage bags, and the garbage bags are starting to tear.

God Bless America!

I woke up in the morning, ate breakfast and headed straight to work. There is always too much to do. In fact I had to switch my “to do” list from small note paper to large note paper.

I did my emails, my phone calls, paperwork, computer work, research and errands (banking, post office etc.) I find that sitting in heavy traffic wastes about 2 hrs a day of my time.

Around 3pm I was finished working. Way behind schedule, though satisfied that I did a good amount of work for the day. Lingering in the back of my head is the thought “I wish I had done even more this week.”

I packed my clothes into my new suitcase which at the time of purchase was super cute, however way to small. I unplugged my water fountain and was on my way.

By 4:30pm I was on the road. Headed down the 401 toward Mason. I made a detour in London to finally meet my 83 year old pen pal of 8 years, Daphne. We’ve been snail mailing regularly since the 90’s and she’s so fun to talk to. We exchanged photos and did a few phone conversations here and there. What does a mid 20’s brown man and a mid 80s white lady have in common? Thanks to Jesus we have tons in common. At her apartment we ate cookies and drank instant coffee while chatting about all sorts of great adventures from her past, and my future plans. Daphne is amazing, she showed me her binders of missions work, with over 7,000 (yes seven thousand) total pages of adventures for God. My binder only has a few hundred pages. Over the years she’s saved all the letters I’ve sent her, and I’ve saved all of hers in my treasure box. She’s lived her entire life for God. Her husband died a few years ago and she no longer drives but she dreams about maybe going to Australia for one last mission trip. I prefer being friends with people like Daphne over people my age who only drink and go clubbing. Older people have a better perspective on life.

Around 7:30pm I left and picked up Mason who lives way out into the country. We were driving off when he asked if I’d like to go say goodbye to his mom and Eggbert.

Around 8pm Mason and I were on the road. He kept asking where we were staying, and along the way we would see “Holiday Inn” everywhere so I told him we would stay at Holiday Inn. I actually did think we were staying there because I thought that’s what I booked online.

Anyway, we got to the USA Michigan border around 9:30pm and they asked us to pull over while they searched our car. I was nervous because we weren’t allowed to be present while they searched our car and I was wondering what would happen if they simply stole our $500 in cash or planted something on us. I obviously watch too many movies about this stuff. It happens to others I’m sure. 95% of the people waiting for their car to be checked were non-white. Just saying.

Anyway, we were on our way about 30 minutes later and the border officials were perfectly nice. We toured through Michigan, and then a long drive through Ohio HWY I-80. Wow! It was fantastic. It was really really good. Nothing better than a long drive in the middle of nowhere, it really clears your mind. Since Mason moved we’ve been mostly chatting online, you’d think that we’d be chatting the whole way but for this long stretch of road there was complete silence as both of our lives are at turning points.

What was hilarious was that we stopped at a toll booth for a toll road, which was unexpected. I was worried that it would cost us about $150 in tolls because in Canada we have Highway 407 which is extremely expensive. Mason and I drove on it (407) for about 45 minutes and it cost about $40.00. And today we were to drive on this US toll road for about 3 hours! Well needless to say I was worried. Anyway I asked the lady in the booth approximately how much we might have to pay and she calculated for about a full minute with a calculator. I thought “Oh boy it’s going to be a lot”. Well anyway, she finally told us “It might be up to $2.30”. Oh we laughed and laughed. I think I may have even said out loud “God bless America”.

We stopped at a truck stop to get some food because we wanted to make our road trip official – but it was really nasty in there. We couldn’t stand it so we left, but before I did, I purchased a lotto ticket from a vending machine, which is something we can’t do in Canada (that I know of). I won $2 on a $1 ticket however they wouldn’t let me cash it in because apparently the business hours were closed for cashing in lotto tickets in Ohio.

Anyway about 50km later we were at a familiar sight – McDonald’s. It was great. Vending machines of all sorts, a shoe buffer in the bathroom. We took some fancy Indiana catalogs from a display rack and then ordered our food. The worker took our order with pencil and paper, and then added it up that way. At first we thought we were in real Amish town but later found out the cash registers were down for the day. He looked Amish so I’m not sure what to believe. I also remember the lady in the tollbooth used a hand held calculator and didn’t have a modern register. She used a pen and paper also.

Anyway, as we sat down to eat, Mason showed me the Holiday Inn brochure he picked up and went on and on about how cool it was with the pool and hot tub and Internet and arcade etc.

Anyway we continued our drive and had to take a big detour through some Ohio city because of construction. It was fun but we were really behind schedule.

We pulled into long straight Indiana Amish roads about 2:30am. It was so peaceful and nice. About 3:30am we pulled into the Holiday Inn and the lady there explained that all of her reservations were checked in already. LOL. Anyway I was beginning to worry. We went right across the street to Ramada Inn and finally got some closure – we had a real reservation there! Ha!

At 4am I was in bed trying to sleep, but I couldn’t. Anyway around 6:30am my pal Margaret called, she was in the lobby with donuts (yuck, she didn’t realize that I can’t stand sugar in the morning). Well I told her we had barely slept a wink and we would meet up with her later. I felt extremely bad about this. See she was there because I promised her we would help her with her ministry that hands out coffee and donuts to people in the morning and saying nice things to them. It’s part of a church initiative. I can’t explain how badly I felt for not being able to do it. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep that night, but so far this year I haven’t been getting the sleep I need. I’m over working like crazy. I’ve gone overboard and it’s making me sloppy.

We slept for a few more hours and though still extremely exhausted from the long drive and not-so-good sleep, we woke up, showered and got ready for our day.

I walked through the hallway towards the lobby, and saw Margaret fidgeting with something in her jacket. (A hat she had knitted for me.) We exchanged hugs and talked for a few minutes before heading back to my room to meet Mason. Well, after that Margaret drove us to her house where we got the grand tour, and met with Emily: a friend who works in a factory by day and lives in a beautiful house she commissioned herself. Emily is full of spunk. I learned later on she even does such things as skydiving! Wow! I won’t even jump on a trampoline.

We met Anna, we met Sarah, a black girl who reminded me of Lauren. We then spent a few minutes deciding where to eat lunch while I took pictures of one of the super fat cats they owned.

They decided on a Chinese buffet. At the buffet we ate some really good food, had some good conversations about Indiana, Canada, road trips, street gangs, Jane and Finch and a whole page of other conversations. American people have heard of Jane and Finch which is really sad for Canada. After we ate one of the most sumptuous buffet meals ever in a really nice place, the bill came, and I figured once again that it would be just like Canada – about $45.00 each person. Wrong again, It was $6.00 per person including taxes and drink. I realized that some places in the world simply have a lower cost of living. Obviously if we were in New York City we’d be broke by now. But honestly, God bless America.

We paid and then left for our next destination: The Old Bag Factory. It was closed when we got there. Apparently everything closes early in Goshen during the weekends. So we went to a nearby store that was very interesting. This store had products from all over the world, but paid the creators fair prices for their work. The store was non profit and was run by volunteers.

Anyway after spending a good hour there I was really bored (not to mention exhausted). We went to a Christian coffee house to meet Trea and her baby, Gav. I had a strawberry smoothie while we all chatted, for about an hour or more. It was so nice to meet all of these people especially since I had heard so much about them over the months. Also, a christian coffee house – only in America. This kind of store wouldn’t survive 1 year in the Toronto area, no way. Rights activists would have it shut down for one reason or another.

After all of this we headed over to Blockbuster to pickup some videos. It seems like Blockbuster in Indiana had way more of a selection that Blockbuster here in Canada. I’m not quite sure. Anyway, it took about another hour to get our videos because they had to sign me up with a new membership card because my Canadian card wasn’t valid here. We then went to a large grocery store to get snacks, another errand that took about an hour. I wanted to get some fresh cut fruit however Mason wanted some junk food. Well they had had a huge selection because they had 1 isle dedicated to sugary drinks, another isle dedicated to chips and another isle dedicated to candies. Massive 3lb bags of candies even! Is there a health crisis in America yet? Oh yes and I shouldn’t forget, they have 3ltr bottles of soda here compared to our 2lr bottles! Wow! And you can even purchase real liquor in the grocery store, something you can’t do in Canada that I know of. It’s just right there in the regular isles. Not that we purchased any.

Anyway after our amazement we left and went to the hotel, nobody else was going to be joining us because they all had previous plans. I was too tired to argue about it.

We watched the first movie called 11:14 (2003). An excellent dark comedy with many twists and turns. After we started a zombie movie which really sucked. Half way through that Sarah called us and invited us to Steak and Shake for a snack. I was almost too tired to go but I went anyway. I had a tuna melt, Margaret had cheese fries, Mason had cheese fries also (I think). Anyway we then met Sarah’s ex boyfriend who now does work for Comedy Central. We chatted for about another hour, and then Margaret drove us home. The steak and shake was packed. Groups of friends just eating and chatting. I like to eat and watch tv. Margarets group likes to do this thing where you pay for your meal and you pay for a strangers also, and if possible give them a note that says God loves you. So we did that, it was neat and I promised to do it more often.

My goal was to take about 100 photos during the trip, however as luck had it I took about 20 photos and only 5 came out nice.

Well when Mason and I got to the hotel, we finally had a chance to look around. We toured around to see the gigantic swimming pool, the well stocked arcade, and other amenities including bunny rabbit and bird-in-a-cage. Mason logged onto the hotels internet on his Palm Pilot so we could look up a good map to use for tomorrow’s driving home. He’s so into technology and I’m not really anymore. Not so much these days. Give me a good old paper map, a pad of paper and pen.

Around 11pm I eased into bed while watching “Unique Whips”. Unique Whips is about an auto customization company in New York called Unique Autosports. They do all kinds of car customizations. I try to watch that show every time it’s on now.

Sunday morning: We woke up around 8am. Still with a sleep deficit but at least it’s not that big anymore. We ate some toast in the breakfast room then I showered (by the way, awesome hotel for the price, unbeatable). Mason and I packed our things, tidied up the hotel room, and checked out.

We warmed up my gorgeous 1998 Mercury and it sputtered for a while, made me a bit nervous (it was cold out) and then as it warmed up it started to sound beautiful (for a car that is). You know the car didn’t give an ounce of trouble the whole trip, I was so glad. With my luck we should have gotten 5 flat tires. Margaret pulled up about 9:35am and we followed her on a 30 minute drive into the city for church. We pulled up to a large building and as we were walking in, I gave Margaret a Canadian loonie and toonie. For 15 months she didn’t believe that those were the real names so I was finally able to prove it to her.

It’s funny how something can be very real to one person and complete nonsense to someone else.

While coming into the church we were greeted with handshakes, coffee, donuts, a bulletin (which I might still have). Apparently visitors even receive a welcome package with a music cd. I was very impressed. Talk about VIP welcome. The worship was really good. One of the songs I couldn’t get out of my head went like this:

The highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God
The song is called Indescribable by Christ Tomlin

Now came time for communion. They got out a big cup filled with juice and a giant stick of bread. I’ve done communion hundreds of times but this was different. I leaned over to Margaret and asked “are we all going to drink out of that cup?”. She laughed and explained that everyone breaks off a piece of bread and then dips it into the cup. I was relieved. Margaret later told me she saw the look of fear on my face when I was asking her about it.

The pastor gave a fantastic sermon from the heart. I was impressed that nobody in this church of about 500 adults wore a suit. Mason was the fanciest dressed haha! The pastor talked about real Christianity vs. people who just say they are a Christian / Catholic. After the service we took a tour of the church while wishing it was my own home church. Mason said that he wants to move to Indiana just to go to church there. I agreed. A good church will do that. It makes people sell their homes and move. I wonder how many people moved because Jesus lived in a certain place. I bet a lot. The bible says that people came from all over the world just to meet King Solomon. How much more would they want to hear from the Lord Himself.

After church we all drove to Blimpies which was like a Subway Restaurant, (Mason now doing all of the driving). We met Jimmy and ate some subs. I had the tuna again. I know, I need to try new things. We listened to Mariah Carrey on the Blimpie stereo system. Afterward we went to Emily’s to finally see her custom made house I’ve been hearing about for the past 15 months. I got the grand tour and I was extra impressed. She had about an acre of property backing right onto the forest, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, hardwood and plush carpeting. Beautifully furnished with old woods. A modern home with old world charm. The backyard view was amazing. What impressed me the most was that this young American girl was such a go getter. She wasn’t concerned with finding a man, she just worked hard, built up her own house, her own land, her own furnishings. She follows God and nobody bosses her around.

Every road trip has to come to an end. I was sad because it was 1pm and time to leave if we were to stay on schedule. I took some more photographs, gave Margaret a hug, and then we left. Mason had an easy time driving through I-80, then I-69, a different route than which we came with. The fact that it took me 15 months to do this trip concerns me. During the drive home, I was sad, to tell you the truth. I wished my friends lived closer to me. Even Mason lives about 2 hours away now days. Worst than this, years before my friends and I would just drop everything on a whim to hang out, that’s not the case today. So many responsibilities, so much to do, so many conflicting schedules. Everyone has to check their calendar. Emergencies come up, some friends have children, others have cancer.

We got to the Canadian border around 6pm, however there was a massive traffic jam there so we didn’t pass through till about 7pm. Frustrating to just wait in traffic!

We stopped for gas and got some donuts / coffee which I figured I would need. I was fairly quiet along the ride home except for going on and on to Mason about how excellent the trip was. Our long drive there was awesome, meeting excellent people who I had been hearing about and the simple fun we had.

I dropped off Mason to his house around 8:30pm and left right away. Eggbert had really wanted me to stay for dinner, she tried and tried to convince me but I was too tired and I had work the next day.

On the way home I was mostly silent except for my praises to God. It was a special weekend for me. A much needed mini vacation and some spiritual therapy. I kept singing the verses of the new song I learned;

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

I picked up some fast food and pulled into my house around 10:30pm. Exhausted but so refreshed spiritually.

Albion Mall

Albion Mall is one of my favorite malls for one reason: super cheap clothes. My mom complained that I have no problem signing over all my money to church or missions work but when it comes to my own wardrobe, I’m trying to spend less than $10 on an outfit. She’s right. And Albion Mall is where I like to get my wardrobe. Mostly track suits.

Albion Mall also has best tuna on bagel for $4.50. Sis and I went to a south Mississauga heritage site to see a beautiful house that’s over 100 years old. It has soaring 12ft ceilings and plenty of original items from the house including bathroom supplies. I wonder how it would be like to live in Canada back then. The products in the medicine cabinet are neat and not much different from what we have today; the labels are full of hype. The basement has an old washing machine contraption where you put your clothes in and squeeze, which is amazing because even though it’s 100 years old, it’s still more advanced than what the rest of the world has today. In Guyana we use a washboard to this day haha.

The beds were angled so your head would be higher than your feet and the tour guide told us that back then, doctors said this was better for your health. I might try it.

Family Reunion

Lets start off with me venting then conclude with something good.

Have you ever tried to do something good, and have it blow up in your face? This happens to me often, and I never seem to learn, and chances are I haven’t learned this time either. I helped someone get an apartment by paying first and last, 6 months of rent, signing my name for the apartment and helping them to move in.

The moving in was fun, because something good was being done for someone with a baby. I’ve done this many times before, and I will do this many times again. The apartment was nice, it did need an initial cleaning as most do, and in a crawl space were many empty beer bottles. Eggbert, and I packed what seemed to be 500 empty beer bottles into my car. We saw some grouchy church people pass us by holding all the beer bottles, shaking their heads. Later I would learn that a rumor was started that Eggbert and I were having a fling and that we were both drunkards.

Now for those of you who have never done this you’re thinking “ah, he shouldn’t have put up the money.” No. It’s the putting up my name where I shouldn’t have. This person over the course of 6 months has turned the apartment into a pile of poo-poo, like literally. I’ll explain more after. It started with the landlord calling me at all hours complaining that the tenant was not home, and the 2 year old baby was alone, crying. I couldn’t believe this to be true so I would go over to get some answers. I would get further calls of noise and dirty smells coming from the (basement) apartment, I would go over and get some answers. This got worst and worst until I got a call that the tenant had left, and that I should come over to see the apartment.

I went over, with 4 other friends, the same that helped move her in just a few months prior. Well, what we saw is something we are still talking about, something we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. A 800sq ft apartment turned into a garbage dump. Dirty baby diapers piled up into the bathtub (HOW DID YOU SHOWER?) and garbage everywhere. I mean, everywhere. I mean really everywhere. We brought 10 large garbage bags with us, and I had to go to the store to buy 40 more. Yes 40 more garbage bags.

There were some items we thought to be in good condition; particularly clothing and baby items and so we took those over to the goodwill donation truck at the Westwood Mall. The intake manager was delighted to get so much stuff all at once. It was such a stressful night that after I took everyone to Mandarin so I could drown my sorrows in shrimp and honey garlic ribs. A few days later we would read in the paper about a Mississauga goodwill donation that had to be burned because it caused the staff to get sick. We jokingly laugh, with a touch of fear that it could have been the donation we made.

The worst part of this story? The landlord told me she trusted me when she took in this tenant, and now she doesn’t trust me. I do this thing all the time. This year so far I’ve paid for 3 peoples first and lasts, 2 turned out very well and this one blew up in my face.

And now to some good stuff as promised. My friends invited me to go to their family reunion. I jumped at the opportunity because I’ve never been to a family reunion. I’ve seen them on tv in movies, but my family doesn’t do that kind of thing. This started off with a drive out to the country. A farm, maybe 10 acres or more. When we drove up I thought “wow look at this massive property.” Turned out that was simply the front yard. The backyard was 10x bigger and had several crops growing including corn which we would later pick, roast and eat.

We arrived rather early, and just helped with the cooking and the setup. One of my favorite things to do is walk around, so I walked around. I walked up and down that country road, enjoying the absolute nothing that was out there. Back at the property people were starting to arrive, young and old. The children wanted to play so we did some Frisbee games. I sat on a tractor. I had conversations.

Now it was the conversations that made this family reunion so much fun for me. So many different generations of family, from babies, to grandparents and I think there was a great grand parent as well.

God does the same thing for us. He invites everyone into His gigantic family which consists of all kinds of people of all ages and all backgrounds. Strangers are welcomed in and treated as family. And there’s lots of food :)

We spent the time talking and talking more, taking photographs, laughing, telling jokes. Someone told me they were going to propose to someone else, and then that someone else asked me what that someone said, but I won’t tell. I will be at the wedding though :)

Keeping my head above water

Okay so Peterborough last month was fun, so what happens when you do something fun? YOU DO IT AGAIN!

The trip started very early in the morning so we could get to Peterborough and do some major ditch digging. A friends house was being flooded constantly, and so several us would spend the better part of a day digging a ditch along one side of the property to run a proper drainage system so the water would run away from the house. The hardest part of this was hitting tree roots.

During breaks we did fun things – I played with the fattest and cutest dog in the world named Waketa, and I let Eggbert (age 13 or 14) steer my car while I push it down the street (the car was powered off and in neutral). I figured when I was her age I was already driving on the highway, she should at least get to sort of drive.

Waketa was in the back of the car and having a blast. I don’t know what kind of dog she was, a collie I think? Similar to Lassie. Except Waketa is super duper fat. She brought me a bottle of water while I was digging. Now that’s a good dog! Wouldn’t it be nice if all dogs were this great? Instead of just barking early in the morning or pooing all over the place.

After ditch digging was done, it was time to head on over to this other house for fun time. This house backed onto a lake, which as you know is one of my favorite things. We all swam and did a BBQ. The neighborhood children (2x 10 year old girls) came over to swim as well, and they both took a liking to me right away. I think it’s mostly because I’m super fun, and partially because I’m brown which is a huge novelty here. They were definitely country girls who’s lives consisted of swimming in the lake and the like. It was such a fun day and I wish I could do this kind of stuff everyday, even if I had to start it out with hard labor in the hot sun.

Actually I learned to swim today. When I was 6 years old someone held my head under water in the bathtub for a while, and my nose was already busted and bleeding badly so it sure helped me gain a fear of the water – so I haven’t taken the opportunity to learn how to swim. I mean in grade school our class would to go over to Westwood Secondary School to use their pool, but that was more of me and my friends spying on girls and getting out of class. Swimming in a lake is much different from being in a pool, the water feels endlessly deep and you feel like you’re a part of it. I can swim for like 50 feet with no problem, and it’s interesting how I just walked into the water slowly, and started swimming, as if I had been doing it my whole life.

Picture this: I was actually swimming with 2 young girls latched onto me, they were giggling and it was good exercise for me, even though I was already exhausted from ditch digging all day. Neighbors passed by on their boats waving to me, and I was invited by another neighbor to come over for a beer. The sun was starting to set, it was still nice and warm, the water was warm and I could smell bbq.

When we had to leave I simply didn’t want to, and neither did the 2 girls, who asked when I’d be coming back and wouldn’t let go of me. I wish I could do this more often, I wish this was my life!

You wouldn’t believe me anyway

Due to a computer failure, I’ve lost over 50 good journal entries. To complicate the situation, the website that I used to post my entries on has gone bankrupt and shut down. These entries told of my many, many great adventures like being stabbed at, almost blown up by a fire bomb, plus fun things like camping and visiting Lake Huron and eating dinner by a campfire. I also lost a lot of photos that I took with a digital camera. :( which means a lot of these things will become distant memories later on.

The internet is really growing, and technology is advancing a lot but I kind of miss some of the good old ways which were more secure.

I’m ending 2002 the right way, with prayer and fasting. And boy do I need the fasting! If not that, then bigger pants. Ha-ha, okay seriously, I watched Lord of the Rings part 2, gave away a ton of cool Christmas presents again, had 7 children under my care, petted a bunny rabbit, fed a candy cane to a bunny rabbit, went golfing, failed at building a go cart, failed at adding a motor to my mountain bike, and so much more.

2002 has been a good year, full of wonderful family and friends time, trips to New York and great lakes. Swimming and laughing and eating, what more can a person ask for? Oh – and there’s a redhead at church that my friends and I are all trying to talk to, I talked to her last week while my friends distracted her family for me, things are in motion!

I love New York and America!

I’ve been to New York many times. Some of my favorite memories include the Jamaica Avenue street vendors who will sell you anything, for almost any price. In the early 90’s I purchased a cassette tape of MC Hammer for $2 USD. Here’s how that went down.

Asif: do you have MC Hammer?
Vendor: Yes, wait here.
Vendor then immediately abandons his cart of cassette tapes with me, age 10-11 approx and runs down the crowded street. He was gone for a good couple of minutes and came back with the tape. Dude should have charged me $25 for all the work he did.

These days I go to New York for business and I don’t find anything to be cheap anymore. I had to sign a contract and get it to its destination and my pen ran out of ink, so I stopped into a stationary store to get the cheapest pen I could find – $20 for 1 pen!

After the September 11 attacks in New York, getting into the USA has been a little harder for me. I went to New York recently and they stopped us at the border, had bomb sniffing dogs sniff through my car, and had me remove all the items from the car. I was questioned about why I had so many bibles (because I give them away to people who give their life to Jesus) and why I had so much cash on me ($500 USD). They were obviously looking for a reason. People like that are dumb. The worst part actually, I mean the most uncomfortable part of this was that 99.9% of the people stopped at the border were colored people. Look I completely understand the need for this and to be extra safe, but come on.

The ultra rudeness of the lady behind the counter was almost unbearable. She was nasty on a level that I couldn’t understand, she was speaking to me as if I was her personal enemy. She didn’t ask me where I was going, where I was staying, what business I would be conducting, she asked questions that I had no answer for. She asks “what’s your fathers name Asif?” And of course I have no clue what his name is, I never met the guy – so I tell her this and this made her very angry. She screamed at me in front of everyone about how suspicious it was that I didn’t know my fathers name, and so loudly that a supervising officer probably felt bad for me and he simply shut her up and let me into the USA with an apologetic face. After that I’ve been going without any issue.

New bike smell

Ah that new bike smell, I went to Canadian Tire and got a new mountain bike. Cheapest one I could find, because with my luck it will fall apart right when I’m trying to impress a girl.

A group of friends and I have been riding our bikes along the Trans Canada Trail which is this super amazing trail that goes across Canada. There’s a website for it also. We meet a lot of people and take photos and bring our cameras and snacks to feed wild animals. We’ve fed deer and bunny rabbits and saw a fox.

The ritual is as follows: work hard during the day, eat dinner, clean up after the kids, tune up our bikes, wave goodbye to the kids, and then leave for a 20km+ bike ride. Along the creek at night time do you know that tens of thousands of animals come out to play? Including baby snakes. It’s almost frightening because hundreds of them try to cross the sidewalk while we are riding and we don’t want to smash any of them, but there are so many!

When we get back closer to home we get snacks like a medium pizza for $5 or ice cream from Licks or Mcdonalds. We got invited to play baseball with some strangers we met and so this is a really cool thing to do plus it’s helping me get into shape and relieve some stress.

What I learned from the movies this month: always check your car before you get in, there could be a monster hiding in the back!

I like spring time because of all the rain. The downside to this all the mud that gets tracked into the house.

Ottawa Adventures 5

When I was 14 some of my friends kept journals. I thought it was a good idea so I started one myself and hid it under clothes in my dresser. One day I found out that my mom had read it, and in anger I ripped it up into pieces and threw it out. This is something I now regret. When you’re young, you want to be old. And when you’re old, you want to be young.

The first time I came to Ottawa I was around 12 or 13 years old. I was in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and we did a weekend field trip, staying at (according to my memory) the Connaught Barracks in Ottawa. Saving up the money to get there was damn near impossible for me because I also had to contribute money towards family expenses. This was angering to me because all my companions seemed to have the opposite problem: “what should I buy with all my extra money” syndrome. Extra money I thought? What is that?

I remember preparing for the trip by cutting my hair very short, thinking that I was being radical and later learning that most of my squad shaved theirs completely. My squadron took the bus from Brampton Friday afternoon and the drive to Ottawa was fun. I pretty much sat beside that same guy Forrest Gump sat beside on the bus, and I’m quite sure he was thinking that he was sitting beside Forrest Gump. (I don’t think the movie was out yet)

Let me explain something to all the parents reading this – parents send their male children to Cadets because they want to prevent them from getting into trouble. Parents send their female children into the Cadets because the girls are ALREADY into trouble. So you think this will be a place where your children will stay out of mischief, but actually it’s a place where a bunch of mischievous people can all join together. I don’t know what trouble my mom thought I was getting into. I wake up, go to school, come home, help with endless chores, then work to earn money for the family. Do homework (reluctantly) and then sleep. Summertime involved full time work, usually lying about my age to get jobs because I was too young. No drugs, no booze, no wild parties. I think one time in anger I told her that if anything she should have been the one to join cadets.

Anyway when we arrived at Ottawa and checked into a real army barrack it was the coolest thing for me. We had real Canadian Army soldiers training, with REAL guns and it was just super awesome. I ate meals with real soldiers and got poked (by accident) in the back with the business end of an assault rifle in the breakfast line. If you had a wayward child – THIS was the way to get them back on track right away. My uncle in North Carolina is in the US Army and so I’ve had the opportunity to use all kinds of awesome military equipment and I’ve visited the Fort Bragg base several times.

In the morning a lot of the cadets were being yelled at and having their rooms torn apart because they didn’t keep their rooms proper. The beds weren’t made the way they should have been, shoes weren’t shined properly. Not me though. My room was in tip top shape. My family has a policy, that if my bedroom isn’t in 100% perfect order, every single thing except the bed, desk and empty dresser gets thrown away or given away before I come home from school. This has happened to me several times and I’ve learned to keep things in good shape for the most part.

During one of the meals at the barracks we had a contest to see who can eat the most hot peppers, little did I know one day my diet would consist of them for a solid month. On Saturday we visited a war museum, and on Sunday we were asked to volunteer in a church, which I declined because I didn’t believe in Jesus at the time and felt weird about it. Little did I know that one day I would give my life to Jesus and do many thousands of hours in various churches.

Little did I know that parents would send me their boys and girls, mostly teens and I would take away their drugs and guns and ask them to give their life to Jesus and ask them to volunteer in church while they reluctantly decline.

On the ride back home from Ottawa (I’m still talking 1992-3 or 4 here) I was happy to be going back home, but at the same time thinking “one day I wouldn’t mind living in Ottawa for a while.” When my squadron arrived back in Brampton all of the parents were waiting there to pickup their kids. Except mine. This would be a recurring area of tension for me. It would be about 6 hours before my ride would show up. Yes, 6 hours. My superior, Sergeant X (I can’t remember his name, but I know he was a Sergeant who sleeps only 4 hours per night and has a loud voice) was not happy that my ride took long. Once again, and for the millionth time I was taking blame for something I had no control over. To make matters much worse, a massive house fire broke out down the street and Sergeant X couldn’t help as much as he wanted because he was obligated to look after me since he was the only adult left and I was a minor.

It was an embarrassing situation and I never went to air cadets again, and it would be a very long time before I would rely on anyone for a ride again. Even at age 13, I rather walk several hours than wait for a ride.

Fast forward. I guess I can scratch living in Ottawa off my list today. One fun thing about living in Ottawa now (2001) is meeting and greeting a new era of Air and Army Cadets from all over and sharing fun adventures.

I’ve had many beautiful adventures here in Ottawa these past 5+ months. The winter snow is brutal, I have no car, no money, and despite how sweet it’s been here, it’s been bitter to. It’s time to go back to Toronto. In a way, I feel defeated because I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to achieve, but I did achieve a lot nonetheless. My friends do NOT want me to leave but what can I do? I’ve run out of money and I don’t have a choice and I have friends waiting for me to come back home.

I’ll still visit Ottawa, especially for short weekend vacations and chances are, knowing me, I’ll end up owning real estate here one day to.

On September 11, when terrorists attacked America, I went outside of my apartment and walked down Carling Avenue and a white city worker stuck up his middle finger at me. I rode my bike pretty much around the entire city of Ottawa. I forged new friendships here that I suspect will last a long time. I learned a lot. This was a real learning experience for me. I’m certain that I’ll think about what I’ve learned here for a very long time. Hopefully for the rest of my life.

Ottawa Adventures 1

I’ve never done anything like this before, or maybe my whole life has been like this, I’m not sure – On August 17 on a whim, I picked up and moved. I left most of my furniture (which has been given away to different families who need it). The truth is I’m burned out. I’ve pushed myself very hard for a number of years. Working more than full time, at church every day, and in school full time. This wasn’t sustainable and I knew it. Or at least I know it now.

I’ve tried talking to everyone in my life and telling people to back off and give me some rest, but it’s not possible. Friends and family show up at my house at all hours wanting to hang out, wanting me to help them, and I’m hoping for someone to help me. I go to the Westwood Mall to get my groceries and 2, 3, 4 people who know me want to stop and chat for an hour meanwhile I have 3 assignments due the same night and I’m due to volunteer at the foodbank for a few hours as well.

So I’m living in Ottawa for a while, just a few months while I rest and get refreshed. I’m going through a really tough financial time right now as well so this is poor timing on my part, giving way too much money away, and not saving enough for myself. This fact has caused a lot of stress for my family as well. When you give $X to someone in need, as quietly as you do it, someone else finds out, then someone else, then someone else. Eventually the people who aren’t in need find out, and that’s where the trouble really starts. Money has the power to change peoples minds, to control it. Money can make a person think one thing or the other. Enough money, can even change the human heart (always for the worst). And so I’ve given away a fortune.

There is a food place on Carling Avenue that doesn’t have a name, just a sign on the window that says “Eat for a dollar”. It’s very popular and I’m there often, eating for $1 (tax included).

Black and White

“Dragon Whips his Tail”

His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth… – Holy Bible, Revelation 12:4

Woke up. Lounged around. Found out that the wedding was at 1 instead of 2. I did a mad rush to shower and get to church on time. The ceremony was great. It was so nice to see my best friends S and R get married. After a very sweet and long courtship. They are just 2 lovebirds and it was nice seeing them take vows. Its so cool to see my Christian friends court. Because everything is so pure and sweet and without DRAMA. I remember the many times S said she ‘slept over’ at R’s and I’d say “WHAT??”. And she’d explain how she slept downstairs and R slept upstairs and PARENTS supervised.

After the ceremony I met a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. I go my pics taken with the
bride and groom, my mom and sis. And a bunch of other people. My personal highlight of the day? I even got a kiss from a female friend I haven’t seen in a while, on the cheek of course, thanks L. What is it about a kiss from a beautiful girl, makes your whole day better :)

I took a taxi downtown Toronto. Anyway I go there right when the bus was about to leave at 9pm.
Halfway through the trip to Ottawa we stopped so people could get food and use restrooms.
I went into the restroom (the bus had a bathroom as well but I wouldn’t dare use it) and the stalls were filled, and so I figured I’d use a urinal for the second time in my life (other than when I was a kid
and used the kiddy urinals). The urinals were spaced to closely together, like 16 inches
apart, and this trucker guy to my right was looking over at me excessively. And he was not looking at my face!

Afterward I got a tuna sandwich and twix and fruit punch for the rest of the ride and arrived around 130am. Got up at 7am. It’s nice to wake up with gentle sunlight splashing on my face. Its harshness weekend by the drapes. I ordered breakfast for $25 and it was very very disappointing :( I did try some ‘yogurt’ though, something I haven’t really honestly done.

Showered, and left for church. Pastor G preached about really knowing God. He talked about evaluating yourself and then coming to God in sincerity to repent and follow Him. About how some people know God, but get stuck in a rut and then begin to wonder, especially if Satan gets into their lives. Some ‘evaluate’ their current relationship with God and go back, while others dig deeper and deeper into troubles. He is using the book of 1 Corinthians and says he has one more sermon left
in that book. He preached that sermon because he was ordaining 2 deacons that day and there were some unsaved people in the service. Good stuff pastor! Kinda funny cause its the same kind of sermons we get at any other church. Except our pastors do not do much chronological teachings, it could be one topic this week and another next week, from one end of the bible to another.

After service so many people came up to talk to me, and to make things even more awesome, this was my first time in this church, and everyone was white and I was the only brown person, which I personally love. The people I sat beside when I arrived moved right away when I sat beside them. No big deal, another family invited me to a BBQ. This is what I love about church. You walk in. You’re family. Okay okay there are rotten churches to, but you know what I mean.

Another couple was moving to Nova Scotia for good and it was their last week there. Sorry to see u go!
They were serving lunch downstairs but I had to leave, I had other things on my schedule.

Hopped on the #85 back to the Hotel. I decided to do something I rarely do – to stop and smell the roses. So I got to the hotel, but then decided to walk around Ottawa, enjoying the downtown, Rideau Canal and all the great sights. And I figured my manly direction skills would get me there. Instead I ended up going west back towards the church instead of east to the canal, and felt so silly after I asked for directions. I was walking which made it worst.

So I saw beautiful Parliment, Rideau canal, which is s dirty, I mean there is lots of green stuff growing in it. I was thinking it would be like fresh spring water. Whilst walking down Rideau lots of those white flower things were blowing all in my eyes and annoying me. I had my camera to snap pics and I ended up at a park. Ok walking down the park holding a camera, during a hot day. well there were a lot of people bathing in the sun. Girls wearing skimpy bathing suits, some wearing thongs for some reason. I learned that there were 2 large colleges nearby, and then I clearly understood. I was wearing my long pants, t-shirt and favorite shirt which happens to be a very furry sweater type shirt.

So anyway I felt awkward there with my camera, cause I was the only one not nude. Well, I decided to just get out of that park, cause I was just pretty much walking through anyway. On my way out, some girl strips down to some sort of invisible thong type bikini, and my right hand unconsciously slapped me in the face so hard that it stung. I just turned around another way and laughed and laughed cause I couldn’t believe my own hand would slap me.

I stopped at a bench to let my aching feet rest, I had been praying and walking for 5hrs straight.

Walked back to the hotel, got my bag, went to the via rail station, ate some burger king, got on the train.
Train pulled in the Toronto station at like 10:30 pm. Took the subway to the bus station, got there at 11pm.

Ran up to get the 11:03 bus home, missed it. I didn’t actually miss it, the bus didn’t stop
at its usual place but stopped at a new place across the parking lot because of construction or something. Doh! There was another girl waiting there named Angela. She was a young single mom. (I never met her before). We had to wait for the midnight bus so we started chatting. She told me about her weekend and I told her about my weekend. It started raining so I insisted that she take my favorite shirt and wear it till we get in the bus (I found out we live a few streets down from each other in Malton).

Anyway I had crouched down on the ground next to her and her son, age 11 comes and says “hey mom ask him for his phone number, hes the nicest guy, not like the others.

I’m not really good at exchanging / asking for phone numbers. Back in grade 3 I liked this girl named Kaitlin, and I hid in the corner of my school while my friend Ronald asked her for her number for me :) I got her number but now I’m used to having my friends hook me up. I still remember that number to this day.

Anyway the boy really wanted to be friends. He was sticking around me and asking me questions and stuff while we waited. I even left for 5 minutes to make a phone call and he came looking for me in the station.

But anyway I got on the bus, enjoyed the drive home with my new friends, walked home, went to bed.
I’ll remember this trip for the rest of my life.

I was riding my bike yesterday and a little girl with very nice crimply strawberry blonde hair
jumps out from behind a short bush I tree type thing and says ‘BANG.’ And I stop (I wasn’t going very fast) and she says ‘what are u doing here’. And I said ‘I’m riding my bike is that ok?”
She said ‘yup’ and continues to play.

I purchased a bunch of good plants because all of mine have died because of lack of sunlight (Although I have a gorgeous one on my desk which has flourished) I purchased them and left them in the car, the next day the sun was out and it got very hot in the car, because when I went outside the plant was dry and withered, almost cooked. I wont be coming to Ottawa this weekend, I have so much work to do here. But I thought of something, wouldn’t it be interesting to live there for a while?

Contemplate: to view or consider with continued attention: meditate on

– Asif Zamir