One Week

One week. One week. One week.

There’s something terrifying, exciting, and anxiety-ridden about that last week of semester. Holy crap did I not see it creeping up on me, and like any old bird with its head on fire, I’m just thinking about all the stuff I have to do! I’ve got one big project that I’ve got to finish for Tuesday. Sure, I’ve got today, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Except that I go to school today, and work Friday-Sunday. Awesome. Let’s git ‘er done.

Except I feel like I haven’t accomplished much at all this semester except play catch up. I’m not taking a super full course load, and I’ve been spending so much time working that I look back and wonder, what have I really learned this semester? I bought a bunch of books that I haven’t had the time to read, work at a job that makes me want to read a bunch of other books, but again, no time. So what have I done this semester that I’m minutely proud of?

I’ve spent most of my time drawing these damn mushrooms.

As well as incorporating them into a poster series and pamphlet, both of which still need to be finalized before next week. Oh God. But aside from that, I’ve just got two exams in the first week of December and then it’s over. What’s that? The four most harrowing months of my life and it’s over just like that? For a few weeks anyway. For winter break, I’m planning on working a ton and improving both myself and my living space. Wow, I still haven’t written up about where I’ve been living for the last 7 months, have I? I’ll get that up once I finish putting up the final touches that’ll really make this place seem like mine. For right now, its just a place that I come home to sleep in.

But! I’ve got big plans for the 4 weeks or so that I’ll be off school.

I need a wall-mounted bookshelf because my proper bookshelf is full and I’ve been piling extra books on my desk, which is a monumental waste of space and makes my desk look cluttered all of the time. This bothers me.

With all of that space I’ll be clearing from my desk, I’ll have room for a tiny Christmas tree. :) We’ll just have a couple of presents, but it’ll be nice to look at, make this place really feel like a home.

From the Pioneer Woman <3

I want to make some pesto at home. :) I love basil. I love how pesto can be used on fucking anything. Plain pasta with pesto and chicken breast? AWESOME. Pesto pizza with some mozzerella, spinach, tomatoes, and balsamic? Double awesome. I haven’t cooked or baked in my kitchen for months now. It’s a right shame, really. Aside from the odd steak or bowl of cereal. :(

I want to read:

Graphic Design Books

  1. 100 Habits of Successful Graphic Designers – Sarah Dougher
  2. Graphic Design Manual – Armin Hoffman
  3. Sagmeister – Stefan Sagmeister
  4. Typographie – Emil Ruder
  5. Typography: Macro and Microaesthetics – Willi Kunz
  6. Typographie – Wolfgang Weingart
  7. Die Neue Typographie – Jan Tschichold (not pictured)

Other books:

Damn. It’s only after putting all of that together that I realise that’s a lot of fucking books that I want to read. I’m probably not going to get through all of them this winter. :( But, left to right, top to bottom:

  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins This is being made into a movie soon (trailer’s out) and has been such a popular book this year that I’ll have to read it. And then I’ll be stuck and have to read the sequels Mockingjay and Catching Fire. It’s basically a futuristic Battle Royal type thing where in the future, there are a few city states that, each year, send out a candidate and they battle for whoever has control of the country-world thing. That’s what I’ve been told, but I haven’t actually read it myself. There’s a bit of romance interweaved as well as, from what I can see, a bit of political warfare.
  • 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami My coworker has been raving about this book since it came out a few weeks ago. He’s a big Murakami fan, so I figured I’d have at this 900 page beast. Murakami is HUGE in Japan and this book is the latest one to be translated to english. It’s Murakami’s take on 1984 by George Orwell mixed with some romance and parallel universes. Or so I’ve gathered from his ravings and other sources of knowledge.
  • Damned – Chuck Palahniuk From the back, about a fat little girl who ends up in hell and something about marijuana? I’ve read a few pages of this when I was supposed to be working but it looks hilarious.
  • The Birth House – Ami McKay I read the back and wanted to read this. It was apparently a really big book when it first came out and was one of the first books I picked up and read when I first came to work at the bookstore.
  • The Virgin Cure – Ami McKay So her newest book that came out a few weeks ago and it’s been selling like hotcakes, so I figured I should read this one too. The Virgin Cure meaning the belief that if you have sex with a virgin, it will cure you of your diseases.
  • Dollhouse – The Kardashians HA. Seriously. They wrote a book. We read the first 5 pages. Should a quick and easy read and mostly want to read it to make fun of it.
  • A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard  An autobiographical book by a woman who was kidnapped when she was a kid and was held away from her family for a number of years.
  • Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern I’ve been told it’s The Illusionist intertwined with a tale of star-crossed lovers. Interesting concept about a circus that only appears at night every once in a while and a girl who was being trained in the circus to kill a guy, but she doesn’t know it, and she ends up falling in love with him.
  • Half-Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan Just won the Giller Prize and was written by a Vancouverite.
  • The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt Just won the Man Booker prize and has been described to me as a modern Western.
  • The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje Don’t know what it’s about, but been hearing such good things about it.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See About a chinese girl who has a pen pal and they get really close and tell each other everything as they’re growing up but then something happens and their friendship falls apart. It sounds to me something along the lines and feel of Memoirs of a Geisha, maybe it’s because they’re both asian-y.
  • Tell it to the Trees – Anita Rau Badami A reporter goes to a house to reports of domestic abuse. I think this book is a suspense/thriller book. I’ve been told it’s pretty scary. Something about a body being found on the lawn.
  • Steve Jobs’ Biography – Walter Isaacson Self-explanatory.
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein My coworker read this and said it’s really good. Also,  I’ve already been persuaded by the cover.

Well, I should probably get off my bum now. And do some things I’ve been meaning to do.

One. Week.


Philanthrophy At Christmas Time

A little belated, but on the day of Christmas Eve, my aunt called us out to do some philanthropic work. Apparently every year, they go around giving gifts and money to the unfortunate. This was my aunt’s family, so I’m not directly related to them, as she married my uncle. We had plans that day, but my conscience wouldn’t really let us say no to helping people at Christmas, so I begrudgingly agreed to come along as well, and I’m so glad that I did.

We hopped into our giant van and went to pick up the goods. Which were boxes upon boxes with bags full of goodies inside. Snacks, food, cards… Extra things that they wouldn’t spend money on themselves, but I don’t think they even had money.

The first place we went to was a sort of old folk’s home. Being there, I just felt saddened by their situation. I know this is going to sound naive, insensitive, and shallow, but old people make me sad. My perception of them is rather paradoxical. They look frail, helpless, and after living for so many years, it’s amazing the strength they put forward to doing everyday things. And this is just the elderly in Canada. In Vietnam, if you’re unlucky enough to have selfish children (more prevalent than I’d care to admit), you’re stuck in these deplorable conditions, basically waiting to die.

I think there were about 50+ people in this place. Most were elderly, and there were a few that were mentally incapable. There were 3-4 people people in each room, each with a bed that looked like old war-time hospital beds. Many of these people had barely any possessions. Seeing some of them proudly boasting a grocery bags of their own things made you rethink your own lifestyle. It was just dismal to see these people with nothing to look forward to.

It was Christmas time, and if anyone were to get visitors, it’d be now. But no family, no one to come visit. Walking along the halls, the people would wait eagerly in front of their doors. I’d like to think that they were excited to have people there, but with a jaded perception of Viet people, I’m sure most of them just wanted what we were going give them (bag of stuff and about 20,000 Vietnamese dollars) and wanted us to gtfo. Not all of them, mind you. I hope.

Nevertheless, giving to people like this, and bettering their lives in at least one aspect for a day felt good. Even if I don’t do it on a regular basis, even though I am in no way a less selfish, more philanthropic person, it was nice to have done it. I’m glad I didn’t back out at the last second. I don’t think I’m such a wonderful person now, after one day of humanitarianism, that I’ve done my piece for the world and can just slack off for the rest of my life. It’s hard to explain, but it definitely made me rethink where I come from, how blessed I am to have everything that I do, how to live my life, and how to treat other people.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

In addition to individual gift bags, we supplied the complex with several bags of rice for communal use as a way of helping the (foundation? home? charity?) take care of these people.

After a bit of conversation with the people who run the place, a lot of thank you’s and well wishes were exchanged and we were on our way to the next destination, one on the opposite spectrum and quite a bit cheerier and more hopeful considering the subject.

A boarding school partitioned into two sections: community and education for blind or visually impaired children, and child care for mentally handicapped children. They have a braille printing room that I wanted to see into, but didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to ask. I’d love to see how one of those things work though. I guess this is why Google is my best friend.

The children were exuberant and downright giddy. Surprisingly, they were very well behaved for their age. I don’t say that because they’re blind, but because they’re Vietnamese. No, I don’t have a very high opinion of the people and I’m generally wary of them due to experiences and interactions with them throughout my life.

Moving on. They were very quiet, sat still, listened to us, smiled, were very grateful for their gifts, almost surprised. When we announced that we had little gift bags for each one of them, smiles lit up all around. It made me so happy to see them so happy. Yeah, I teared up a little, but only because none of them could see me get so emotional. I tactfully turned away from the people I was with.

They were laughing and joking with each other, as kids do, and it was nice to see that yes, they were just children being children. They weren’t so drastically different from everyone else and there is a predisposition to judge them as such, but it was a good reminder that we, as a race, are not so drastically different from each other. Children from each corner of the world are, after all, still children.

The kids treated us to two songs. A wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve (day).

Christmas in Xam Bo

Christmas in Vietnam is a strange feeling for sure. After all the years of Christmas being huddled indoors, hiding from the snow, spending the day in a light sweater and warm weather is a bit of a shock. A nice shock all the same, however.

Xam Bo is my mother’s village, about 15 minutes from the city of Hai Phong. It’s very rural, and very religious. A relative of mine always said (with great disdain) that people from there don’t work, they don’t do anything but sleep, eat, and go to church. Which is true to some extent. So of course, Christmas there is a huge affair. They decorate the village up in garish lights, in a display rarely seen back home. The church, the village’s center, as expected, is done up with no expenses spared. The Christmas mass, held outdoors is a huge spectacle, but to me, and my fellow Canadian youths, it was just another mass. Held at night, way later than we  had gotten used to staying up, and dragged on and on while we sat on rickety wooden benches that we brought from home.

At least, before heading into the church grounds, there were little vendors that sold balloons, candy, and popcorn that were delicious. As boring as the ceremony itself was, it’s hard to deny the very different feel of Christmas that you get abroad. Viva la motherland.

Because there's no snow in Vietnam, they dress their trees up with ratty cotton. It looks very funny. The first time I saw it, they had circled the entire base of a palm-like tree, and I thought it was just growing a cotton-like moss.

Glitter and confetti from Christmas crackers littered the streets that night.

One of the alleys (to call them streets would be too generous) done up for Christmas.

Back of the church.

The entire village (and surrounding areas) showed up for mass.

The front of the church (Nha Tho Xam Bo). Gorgeous, if slightly gaudy.