Blogs list

Robbie and Kristen Hickey - Adventure on tap

Plaza de Ponchos - The oldest market in Ecuador and one of the biggest in South America is in the Plaza de Ponchos, Otavalo. This is the square in the center of the market, which overflows into neighboring streets in every direction and takes up almost a third of the town. On Saturdays, artisans come from all over to sell their products. We were advised to wait for another day and save some money but we decided to experience this cultural phenomenon in full form. For Robbie, markets are usually a huge pain, seeing how each stall has a tarp hung above it around six feet high but this one was not to be missed! Besides the massive amounts of handmade items for sale, another draw to this market is to see and meet the Otavalenos themselves. They are one of the most prosperous indigenous people in Latin America, succeeding in the modern world by using their artisanal skills while continuing to uphold their traditions. This is illustrated in their clothes and the textiles they weave. Scenes of country life, full of colorfully dressed people and animals are intricately weaved or embroidered onto shirts, scarves, blankets and of course, ponchos. The traditional dress for women is a wrap skirt secured by a woven belt; a lacy, embroidered white blouse and alpargata sandals made of cactus fibre. The number of gold beaded necklaces worn are significant to their status in society and red beads are meant to ward off evil spirits. Men wear white pants and sandals, a poncho and felt hat. Otavalenos wear their hair…

Photo : Robbie and Kristen Hickey February 16, 2015

Dave Decker - Dave Decker's election blog

Apathy is Alive and Well - The apathy towards democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador seems to be alive and well with respect to the candidates running for office.  In Pasadena we have had six individuals come forward to present themselves as candidates for town council... my colleagues and I have been elected by acclamation as Councillors.  In countless other communities throughout the province this pattern has repeated itself and I am wondering if voter apathy isn’t rooted in or even a side effect of “candidate apathy”.   I think you would be hard pressed to find a candidate or elected officials who wouldn’t agree that apathy is an issue.  Everyone talks about increasing voter turn-out... but is this any more than lip service?  The Western Star has given all candidates equal footing to voice their ideas and thoughts on their respective municipalities.  Although when looking through the ‘soapbox’ webpage, I note I am the only one who has voiced a thought or idea.  In theory I don’t need to maintain a blog as I have been acclaimed; I have no goal of winning the hearts of voters...  but a blog of this nature means more than just earning a vote.  It allows the residents of our communities to connect with their potential officials.  It is a pathway to ensure accessibility and accountability.     One could certainly say that the written word may be outside the comfort zone of some candidates... but to only have one blog active of the countless individuals seeking your vote is shocking.  It is a display…

Photo : Dave Decker September 06, 2013

Haley Kawaja - Haley Kawaja in Africa

Jambo and Jumping - I had barely opened the door of the taxi when two small arms wrapped themselves around my legs and a smiling face looked up at me and squealed “Jambo!” “Jambo!” I laughed. “Sasa kijana?” (something like “what’s up kid?”). He replied with another smile, unlatching his arms to put one small hand in mine and lead me to the main event. The laughter and colors of 30 children chasing balloons, soccer balls and each other greeted my eyes and ears like a festival. After completing our training workshop a month earlier in systemic child counseling and how to effectively manage vulnerable children, we’d brought these kids to the SWAK (Society for Women and AIDS in Kenya) grounds for the first meeting with the counselors. An outsider would never know that every one of these children grew up in one of the largest and most horrific slums in Africa. Every child had a story. Every one of them had seen more hardship and struggle before the age of five or six than I had seen in 20 years. “You see that one?” A counselor asked me. “His mother abandoned him three months ago. We don’t know who the father is. And her? She’s HIV positive, and an orphan, and taking care of her three siblings. She’s eight.”After two hours of the children playing and getting to know each other, and two hours of the counsellors carefully observing the dynamic of the group (who was taking part? Who was sitting by themselves? Who was shy? Loud? Aggressive?)…

Photo : Haley Kawaja March 18, 2013

Ivan Emke - Field notes

The Nicaragua of My Imagination (part 1) - Nicaragua is one of the countries that has occupied a corner in my imagination over the years.  Back when I was in graduate school, I hung around with a lot of leftists.  As my mother would say, “don’t trust anyone who wasn’t a communist when they were in their 20s!”  Well, she didn’t quite put it that bluntly, maybe, but I always listened to her.  But back in that day, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were trying overthrow the American-backed dictators.Not only were ideas clashing, but people were actually putting their lives on the line for these ideas.  On the student radio station, we’d broadcast updates from the wars of liberation in Central America.  But that was 25 years ago.  Where is Nicaragua now?These are my thoughts I have as I wait for my flight in an airport lounge (that’s certainly an oxymoron – “airport” with “lounge”).  There is a spirited collection of folks waiting to board the plane, including a couple of groups of volunteers, with their tell-tale identical T-shirts related to a water project or a housing development.  Nicaragua can use the help.  It is the second-poorest country in our hemisphere (after Haiti).My first morning here, a Sunday, I meander through the maze that is Managua, a city destroyed by an earthquake in 1972 and never really rebuilt.  A city ignored by three generations of dictators and then torn apart by civil war.  I haven’t been able to find a good map, so I have to rely on my sense of direction.  The only…

Photo : Ivan Emke May 18, 2014

Ivan Emke - Southern Exposure

What I did on my winter sabbatical - Back when I was a youngster, every September, almost without fail, we would get the same writing assignment. The 30 or so students at Malcolm Public, a one-room rural school covering eight grades, would take out their pencils and a clean piece of lined paper and write a full page on “what I did on my summer vacation.” The earlier grades, not yet encumbered by the restrictions of literacy, were allowed to use their full creativity and draw pictures. Of course, we were all farm kids, so even the term “vacation” needed to be taken in context. We all had to work, at least part of the summer, but it was a vacation from school. I kind of wish I could read some of the essays we wrote back then. I’m sure they seemed quite different from the ones written today. This was before people carted their families off to Disneyplanet (and even before Canada’s Wonderland was finished). It likely seemed pretty tame — we helped with the chores, baled hay, fixed fences, went swimming in the creek, caught fish and frogs with our bare hands, visited relatives and friends, camped in the woods in the next township over. It was another world. But that practice of taking time to reflect on periods of time spent outside of one’s usual activities has stuck with me. Back then we were students, and a couple of months every year we had a sabbatical from our studies. It was expected that we would not come back less intelligent…

Photo : Ivan Emke May 31, 2012