Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It Feels Like Summer - A Week of Endings & Distractions In Kingston!

I want to sit here. All day.

I have nothing to blog about.

Because, realistically, have I done any work the past week? Have you looked outside? How could I possibly get any work done? When I could go frolic in the sun? When I could sit on the benches outside Stauffer Library and people-watch the day away?

But, realistically, this also means I must have taken at least 8754357849357 days and nights off since the day I handed in my last term paper. Um. The prospects of finishing my thesis in the timeframe I have aren't looking good. When will I actually start working on this MRP?

I'll let Future Barbara worry about this.

Because, it's the end of the term, and it feels like summer. And ergo, it feels like summer vacation. Not only does it look like summer outside, it feels like summer in a vacation sense of the word. Sandals, sunglasses, a big floppy hat, and leisure reading. That's what I feel like doing right about now.

And also, I can't concentrate. Because it's the end of the term, it's been a week of endings here in Kingston. A week of endings for this so-called grad life of mine. And this vacation-like setting makes me feel like I'm done this degree.

But first...


Did I mention the weather?

Did I mention that the ice cream shop downtown near the lake just opened today?

Did I mention I can now sit by the lake and read without worries of snow/hail/freezing temperatures?

Did I mention that my new jogging regime (inspired by the weather) has me addicted to running and fixated on studying everything there is to know about daily exercise? And ergo, NOT studying my thesis topic?

Did I mention that I still haven't fully decided on a law school for next year yet? And ergo, I've been spending much of my waking hours researching, wracking my brain, trying to decide once in for all which institution I'd like to spend the next three years of my life in?

Did I mention the end-of-year bonanzas in Kingston every night this week?

And lastly, did I mention that the World Figure Skating Championships can be streamed live everyday this week?.


And, like I said, it's also been a week of endings here in Kingston. Enough to distract me from doing my work. It's been such a great semester. And now, summer's here. People are leaving. My schedule is changing. My daily routine will probably change. And, in less than two months, I'll be leaving Kingston too.

First, it's been a week of finishing up my last duties as a Politics TA. 700 exams were marked, recorded, checked, re-checked. Yup. I'm officially no longer a TA. And, I'm almost 100% sure I probably won't be a TA again in the future. Oh, this is bittersweet. I'm going to miss it.

It's been a week of undergrads moving out of Kingston. I swear, I must have seen a dozen first years trudging down University Avenue with suitcases in tow. Have a fun summer, kids! Let the grad students take over Kingston while you're gone, yea?

It's been a week of friends moving out, moving back home. Plus, Housemate #1 just moved out today. Oh god, I hate goodbyes.

It's, basically, been a week of mass exodus out of Kingston. This town is going to be so quiet the next few months.

It really does feel like summer vacation.

Oh, summer. I can't wait to enjoy you.... after I write this thesis. So, in the midst of all the goodbyes, farewell lunches, dinners, and parties, I need to get back to work. Back to the library I go. Tomorrow.

"In my end, is my beginning."
- T.S. Eliot

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Day I Went To VOTE - Canada Votes (in Advanced Polls) 2011

Wasn't the weather yesterday beautiful? It was over twenty degrees, the weather was flawless. What a perfect long weekend.

And, even better? Yesterday, I voted. For the third time since I was eighteen.

And so here, my friends, is the story of The Day I Voted in the 2011 Canadian federal election, doing my part to have my say in electing Canada's 41st Parliament. It was such an awesome voting experience (minus the glitches), particularly because of my encounter with the Elderly Registration Officer discussed below.


My story stretches back to this past Wednesday, when I arrived home from Kingston for the first time in two months. TWO months. And, to tell you the truth, I was excited to vote in my riding. I knew I'd be voting in my riding no matter what, so my parents and I made plans weeks ago to vote in the Advanced Polls while I was home. Since I'd be Kingston on Election Day, you know?

But, the thing is, as I chomped down on my first homecooked meal in months that evening, my mother informed me that I didn't receive a voting card in the mail. My parents received theirs, but mine was missing. And I knew my Kingston address wasn't listed as my permanent one.

What? I know. I went from confused to worried in a matter of seconds.

So I hopped on the phone and dialed my local Elections Canada information hotline, and chatted with the representative I was sent to. After a few minutes, it was apparent that he couldn't find my name on the voters list.

Cue my panic.

What?! I've lived in this city since I was eleven years old. Don't do this to me! Why am I not a registered voter in my home riding? I need to vote! I NEED TO VOTE! I WANT TO VOTE! And so, half an hour later, after some nagging and persistence, I was on the list.

After that little glitch, I was ready to vote!


So yesterday evening, my parents and I were heading to the Living Arts Centre (where I had to play piano for the evening). But prior to driving over, our first stop was the local middle school where an Advanced Polling station was set up.

We thought it would only take a few minutes. You know, walk in, vote, walk out.

But, no. Apparently, it wouldn't be that easy. We reached the entrance of the middle school and the line was so long that it stretched all the way out the middle school.

There was only one table facilitating the exercise. Apparently, advanced polls take twice as long as voting on Election Day, because of the hassle of taking us off the voters lists used on Election Day.

The 5 minutes we expected to spend at the polling station stretched to 55 minutes.

ONE HOUR. Waiting to vote. Needless to say, many people gave up and left.

We were running late, but decided to stick it out. And I'm glad we did. There's nothing better than watching democracy at work. And better yet, people enjoying exercising a democratic right.

And so, as per usual habits, my parents and I made friends with the people standing around us in line. Nothing bad about being neighbourly, yea?

Honestly, it was such an awesome voting experience. It warmed my heart to meet all these people who were EXCITED to vote.

We met an eighteen-year old boy voting in his first election.

We met a young Chinese family who arrived in Canada five years ago, moved to our neighbourhood a year ago, and was voting for the first time as Canadian citizens.

We met an elderly couple who filled me in on all their years of voting experience. The history nerd in me wanted to hear their take on the 1993 federal election.

And then came the most adorable encounter with an old man so fervently enthusiastic over watching youth voting.

I was taken aside by an Elderly Registration Officer who wanted to double check that I was at the right polling station because I didn't have a voting card.


However, Elderly Registration Officer was adorable and so helpful. He worried that I would up and leave since I was going through such a hassle figuring out this voter registration business.

"YOUNG PEOPLE DON'T VOTE ENOUGH. I'LL SORT THIS OUT. JUST PLEASE DON'T LEAVE!" he begged, taking my driver's license to double check the voters list.

Aw. Of course I won't leave. I want to vote!

Finally, after my registration issues were cleared up, my parents and I reached the front of the line to vote. We were crossed off the voter lists, handed our ballots, and we each walked behind the cardboard box to mark our ballots.

As I walked over to stuff my ballot into the ballot box, I looked up to see the Elderly Registration Officer standing by his table clapping. And I swear I saw tears in his eyes.

Aw. Isn't that adorable reaction to voting, ever? I was so touched.

He shook my hand as I walked out. So proud that he was witnessing young people voting so enthusiastically in a federal election.

There's just something special about exercising our right to vote. And I'm not just saying this because I study politics. There are so many others, in countries all over the world (including the one I was born in), where people only WISH they could participate and vote in a free and, most importantly, fair election.

So let's do that Elderly Registration Officer and our country proud by voting in this election, yea? We live in a country where we can actually do that.


ALSO, Rick Mercer has a message for all of us. CLICK HERE.

"There are more than three million young eligible voters in this country and as far as any of the political parties are concerned, you might as well all be dead. In fact in some elections, in Quebec for example, the dead have a higher voter turn out.

It is the conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote. And the parties, they like it that way. It's why your tuition keeps going up.

So please, if you're between the age of 18 and 25 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around, do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all around the world are dying to do.


- Rick Mercer, March 30, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lessons Learned From Grumpy Old Men - My Trip Home From Kingston To Toronto

Yesterday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to figure out my packing situation for the long weekend. I've mentioned a number of times on this blog, prior to my trips home, that I'm a chronic overpacker. Ever met those people who don't know the meaning of "pack lightly"? Even if they're only going to be away for a few days? That's me. I never know what to pack. Even when I was younger, I'd pack my life away in numerous duffel bags on my way to sleepovers (until my parents would throw their hands up in frustration and made me re-pack).

But, no matter. Because, I'm home! Home for the long weekend! Ah, it feels so good to be back. Hope everyone has a great long weekend, it's sure to be a good one!

But, I learned a lesson on my way home yesterday.

Hopping on the city bus (with just a mere backpack, duffel bag, and purse, I know, WHAT A PACKING SUPERSTAR!), I headed over to Kingston's local bus terminal where my Coach bus was leaving at 10:00 am, bound for Toronto.

I arrived an hour early, with time to kill. So I walked over to the Tim Horton's located beside the terminal to get some breakfast. As I walked in, I blinked. The coffee shop was full, and I mean full, of old men. Not that it was overtly weird... but it kind of was. Oddly fascinating.

Because, it was like a scene from the movies. I mean, it wasn't like there was an old man convention going on. That bus terminal is pretty much located in the middle of nowhere. It just looked so fascinating, you know? The tables were flooded with old men, chatting.

Think of that classic, stereotypical scene of old men sitting around a coffee shop chatting with their friends about life. That's what I saw. Old men in corduroy pants, plaid shirts, jean jackets, perfectly parted gray hair, cell phones bigger than your forearms. The coffee shop was full of them. All sitting in their old men cliques, chatting with their friends over coffee.

But that wasn't the weird part.

Luckily, I spotted an empty table, hurried over to dump my things on the table, and turned to order a breakfast sandwich and tea to satisfy my growling tummy. After I was handed my order, I sat happily in my corner, unravelled my sandwich, and happily texted my friends that, YES, I WAS AT THE BUS TERMINAL AND I WAS COMING HOME, BABY!

Until, of course, my penchant for eavesdropping got the better of me.

At the table beside me sat a clique of five old men. And, after listening for a few minutes, I figured out two of their names. Albert and Johnson. Cute, right? Except, their conversation was far from endearing.

"Albert, we're going to die soon," Johnson said glumly, chomping on his chocolate dipped donut.

"Why do you say that?" Albert asked.

"Because, we're old, damnit," Johnson snapped. "All our friends are gone. We're bored everyday. I say, we're going to die soon too."

"How did we get so old?" Another man chirped, sighing dejectedly, "We really are going to die."

"What do we have to live for?" the fourth one wailed, "We're too old to golf, too old to shop, too old to do anything."

"We might as well just die," Johnson sighed.

How morbidly depressing. And as I looked around, eavesdropping on other conversations, the other old men at other tables were talking in the same vein.

There was the conversation about Smith with the "bad heart" and how "he had it coming." The conversation on how "bingo was getting boring." The conversation on how "the grandkids don't visit anymore." The conversation on how "life is so boring, we might as well just die." They all seemed to reach that conclusion.

It was so sad. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to reach over and give them all hugs, but, you know, they would have thought I was insane.

I remember volunteering at retirement homes with my parents last year, playing the piano for elderly folks just like the men in that coffee shop. And just like the men in that coffee shop, they all sat in their beds or chairs. Wistful, sad, bored, lonely. Th men in that coffee shop kept saying life was boring. That they felt so alone.

No one deserves that, you know?

How sad, how lonely it must be to live life like that. And, that's the thing. Yesterday was just a wakeup call for me. That there are people out there, young or old, who may need someone to talk to, who may need someone to entertain them in the midst of their current issues. There are people out there who are lonely, who may have problems they haven't told anybody. Sometimes, people just need someone to care about them. Someone to love them, to be their friend.

We all might be busy and overwhelmed with this grad life, but it shouldn't stop us from checking in with our friends, relatives, parents, to see if they're doing alright. There are many people, older or younger, out there who may need help valuing each day we're given. Who desire friendship, love, companionship. Let's not get so wrapped up in our own affairs that we forget to check up and spend time with those we care about, yea? Seeing those men yesterday greatly concerned me. Whose checking up on them, I wonder?

Sorry, that was a little sappy. End corny blog post. And, I've just given myself a major guilt trip for skipping out on volunteering at the retirement home since September.

Boo to me.

I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend, spending time with those you love and those you care about!

"The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence, it comes about that, at their first appearance, innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen."
- Aldous Huxley

"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."
- Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The "Thesis" - Getting Started On This Masters Research Paper (MRP)

Some people are calling it our thesis. Some people are calling it our Masters Research Paper or MRP. Whatever it is, I have to write one. As soon as possible. Under enormous time constraints.

How? Why?

Well, technically, this MRP isn`t due until August 13, 2011. Plenty of time, right? That`s four months away. I can kick off my sandals and go frolic in the sun all I want, right?.

No. Sit down, Barb.

Because, as per usual, I`ve put myself in another dilemma. Voluntarily. So, basically, I`ve been given a job for the summer, right for the beginning of July, ending the last week of August. And, theoretically, I should be happy about this job, right? Like, wooo, money for law school, that`s always good, right?

Well, I suppose. If it wasn`t for the fact that, because of this job, I have to move out of Kingston at the end of June.

And, because of this job, I have to hand in a FINAL DRAFT of this MRP by June 27, 2011. Two months earlier than the projected deadline. And (smack me now), I need to have a first draft written by the end of May.

In a month.

And did I mention the MRP should be 60 to 80 pages long?

Do you hear that sound? It`s me. Banging my head on my desk.

I don`t know why I did this to myself. I want this job, but that also means enormous pressure to get this MRP done before I start this job. I won`t have time to work on my MRP this summer, from home.

And, to top it off, I know nothing about part of my MRP topic.

Yeah. Goodbye, social life.

But, fine.

I`ll stop complaining. I won`t get anything done this way. Let`s get this started.

So. I need to get this done. And I will. (I don`t have a choice, do I?)

My MRP is a comparative paper on the politics of campaign finance reform in the Philippines and the United States, and its relationship to the representation of women in Congress (or successful outcomes from Congressional elections).

Interesting, right? I love my topic. I actually, literally love it. Doing this Masters degree just showed me how much I love the study of elections and political parties.

Problem is, I`m not the greatest expert on American politics, or American... anything. And so, studying campaign finance reform in the U.S. is mostly foreign to me (apart from what I`ve read in the news).

That`s why my shoulder hurts. I just took out 20 books from the library on American campaign finance reform and regulation, dumbed them in a Metro grocery bag, and lugged them home.

And so, dear readers, because of this limited knowledge on American politics,I have a favour to ask. If there`s anyone out there reading this who is an expert (or have some knowledge) on campaign finance reform (in the US or otherwise), please shoot me an email (located in the About Me section). You`ll be my new best best best best friend. And your knowledge will be greatly appreciated!

Now, I`m off to create a reading schedule for myself. I need to get writing, uh, soon. Wish me luck!

"In life, we all have an unspeakable secret, an irreversible regret, an unreachable dream and an unforgettable love."
- Diego Marchi

"I learned there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead, others come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me."

- Dr. Seuss

Second Semester Officially Over & Home For The Long Weekend!

I`m officially done with the most stressful month of my life. And that`s not an exaggeration. I handed in my very last (albeit, pretty crappy) term paper yesterday. But, that`s the thing. It`s done! It`s over! And now, back to a regular blogging schedule.

I can`t believe I survived.

There were moments in April (actually, in this year) where I thought I wouldn`t.

And with that last paper, and with the last day of classes 2 weeks ago, it`s time for a break. So I`m heading home for the Easter long weekend, tomorrow. (!!!!!). Oh, relief. I haven`t been home in two months, I can`t even imagine what my mother`s cooking tastes like anymore. Anyway, I`ll be home for four days, and will be back in Kingston this coming Monday. Home! Home! Home! I`m so excited.

And, starting this Monday, when I get back to my regular spot at the library, I start working on the last thing keeping me from my Masters degree: the Masters Research Paper. Thesis, whatever. But, more on that in a later post.

And yet, despite the joy and relief of having second semester over with, there`s the reality that, while my graduate program lasts until the summer, some don`t.

Meaning, many people are starting to leave, moving out of Kingston for good.

Insert sad face here.

Are you as terrible with goodbyes as I am? Because, trust me. I`m terrible at them. I can`t imagine what it`s going to be like moving out of Kingston in June. You know, that eighty year old Gramma that bawls her eyes out whenever she has to say goodbye to someone, even if they`ll only be apart for a few months?

That`s me. I`m your eighty year old Gramma.

Several friends I`ve made in Kingston will be leaving in the next week or so. A couple are leaving for exchange (to Europe!!), some are in programs that only last until April, and some are moving out and working on our thesis from home.

This is so sad. I hate saying goodbye. And, plus, There are so many things we`ve planned to do in Kingston that we haven`t done yet!

Like, for instance. I was supposed to visit the Kingston Jail with some of you. Is this not happening anymore?

Insert another sad face here.

And, to make matters worse, most of my housemates are moving out in the next week.

Break my heart, why don`t you?!

Well, anyway, to spare those of you moving out this week with my tearful salutations, I will end here with the note that I will see you all again soon. Be it in Toronto, in Mississauga, Ottawa, this summer. We will see each other again! And we`ll keep in touch!

And, I`ll brighten up, because I`m visiting home tomorrow! Woooooo.


"He told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. Goes backwards, forwards, and takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called ‘The Wheel,’ it’s called ‘The Carousel.’ It lets us travel the way a child travels, round and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved."
- Don Draper, Mad Men

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Last Day of Class As A Masters Student

I have nothing valuable to contribute to this blog today. This post will be brief, I just wanted to document today`s milestone in the form of a blog post. After I publish this post, I`m going straight to bed.

Because, well, I haven't slept. I'm tired, I'm burnt out, and, well, I think I have a fever.

Today was Black Wednesday. Meaning, I had two 30-paged major essays due today. Major, major essays. One of them worth 60% of my mark. And one of them, I`m basing my Masters Research Paper on. Which meant that the days leading up to today were absolute torture sent from Hades.

And, well, technically, I did sleep for a few hours last night. But those don't count, since I kept periodically waking up, anxious that I would accidentally sleep in and be That Girl running into my 8:30 am class late, panting, waving her essay in the air, swearing that I was going to hand in my essay on time andthatIjustaccidentallysleptin,iswear.

Well, I didn't sleep in. And I handed both essays in on time this morning. Those papers are now officially out of my life.

So. This is what freedom feels like.

And, as I skipped out of both classes, I realized that for the first time in two weeks, I wouldn`t be spending the afternoon at the library. It was a bizarre feeling, breathing in fresh air. Really. I literally spent about eight to nine hours at the library everyday these past two weeks, and it was a weird feeling not being there this afternoon. I`m pretty sure the other regulars at the library wondered where we were today. Like, if we were in a ditch somewhere. Because, us being at the library? It was a thing. A regular thing.

But, moving on to the point of this post. Even though the days leading up to today were torture, the efforts were worth it. Because today marked a personal historic moment: my last day of class as a Masters student.

I can`t believe I made it.

The term is almost over, our classes are over. There are still a few more assignments left to finish, but after the next week or so, that`s it. Just a Masters Research Paper to write, and we`ll have our degrees.

Bizarre, bizarre feeling.

When you`re knee-deep in assignments, drowning in stress, the end seems so far away. Like you`ll never get there. And now that I`ve reached the end of this semester, fulfilled a number of sleepless nights writing papers, I realize now that I`ll really miss my classes. I`ll admit, I loved my classes this semester, far more than I did with the last.

My last class today, held at the Grad Club, was bittersweet. I`m really, really going to miss my classes and, most importantly, the people in my classes. I absolutely loved my classmates in that Gender and Globalization class. And as our professor dismissed us this afternoon, it, um, got a little emotional. I`m surprised none of us broke out in song.

And so, today? I reached a milestone. Many of us did.

As of today, we have officially completed two thirds of our degrees.

Again, bizarre. I can`t believe the end is near. We`re almost there, friends. We`re almost there.

That`s all I have to say today. I just wanted to document today`s last day milestone on this blog. Because, it`s a pretty big deal.

But, right now? I`m going to sleep. After a night editing those papers, going to bed at 10:00 pm is probably a smart option. And, this weekend? After spending the last few weekends camped out at the library, it is imperative that the Grizzly Grill, Monkey Bar, Alfies (to run into our students, of course), etcetera etcetera will be factored into every night this weekend. Yes. Yes, it will.

I`m two thirds done this degree? WOOOO HOOOO.

Have a great last week of classes, everyone!

"We are not the same person this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy change if we, changing, continue to love a changed person."
- W. Somerset Maugham

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”
- Susan B. Anthony