“maladjusted” in Victoria tomorrow

You may have heard about this from me or Val already, but a heads-up if you haven’t: the “maladjusted” play is happening in Victoria tomorrow at the Songhees Wellness Centre. It’s a Forum Theatre performance, meaning among other things that the play is interactive and meant to explore community problems; its topic is on the mental health system, treated from different angles. From the description on the Eventbrite page:

‘maladjusted’ engages audiences with powerful images and authentic voices weaving together three very personal narratives: A young teenager struggling with sadness over her friend’s suicide is misdiagnosed by her doctor; a young homeless man who is legitimately taking prescription meds gets thrown into dangerous circumstances by social workers, who are from within a mechanizing system, trying their best to help him; and finally, there is all of us, unable to adjust to the needs of a maladjusted mental health sector, who become potential agents for change.

Val has been helping coordinate the local production, and it looks like it’s going to be pretty good. There are only a few tickets left. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there too.

Voting in Victoria’s municipal election

The mayoral election in Victoria is coming up in November 15th, and for once choosing a candidate was not an easy decision. I ended up doing quite a bit of research, both on the mayoral candidates and on council candidates, and I thought it best to share my conclusions for any undecideds still left.

For mayor, of course, the choice was between Fortin and Helps. I did not understand the discontent over Fortin. He’s progressive, environmental, compassionate, and apparently a great guy. Victoria is improving through his tenure. The budget overruns with the Johnson Bridge should be expected, and the issue seems just an effort to rally up voters who define themselves as “taxpayers” exclusively. So as an incumbent he looks great—except we have a choice, in Helps, of another seemingly progressive, environmental, strong candidate. I had friends endorse either candidate very convincingly. So I had to do quite a bit of city council motion reading, debate-watching, canvasser-questioning, and so on.

In the end I chose Fortin. One reason is that he is an experienced mayor over whom I have no objections. Another reason is that, as I understand from a couple of sources, Helps’ relation with council is strained, and since those council members are likely not going anywhere, we might end up with a more dysfunctional council if she wins. But the greater reason is that, through my research, I grew convinced that while Fortin is authentically convinced of progressive causes, Helps has more of a flexible, “pragmatic” position. The positive spin on Helps’ malleability is that she listens to the public on the issues that matter to them. The negative, as suggested by her stance on issues like the Mason St development site or the Crystal Pool vote, is that there’s a chance, not high but fair, that she will take a conservative or centrist position unless there’s an outcry big enough for her to backtrack. That could get tiring. She says that she does not want to be placed within a left-right continuum; I would like a mayor that is comfortable working and deciding from the left.

Council (each voter can vote for up to eight candidates) was a difficult decision too, mainly because there were (a) many candidates, and (b) few credible ones. Choosing the first five or six was easy; the rest was tough. A good tool to decide was the Dogwood Initiative’s survey of candidates. I am still a bit unsure on two of the candidates I chose, though I’m afraid their chances are low anyway.

The most difficult, vaguest decision was for School Board Trustees (we can vote for up to nine). There are very few materials to help one decide, and, again, not very many credible candidates. Most say the same things, mostly about wanting to either keep good public services or being financially responsible, and reading between the lines of their small differences is difficult.

So here we go, my choices for this election (* indicates most uncertainty/second thoughts):

Mayor – Dean Fortin

Council

  • Marianne Alto
  • Ben Issit
  • Erik Kaye
  • Jeremy Loveday
  • John Luton
  • Pamela Madoff
  • Ian Hoar (*)
  • Charlayne Thornton-Joe (*)

School Board

  • Edith Loring-Kuhanga
  • Diane McNally
  • Deborah Nohr
  • Rob Paynter
  • Jordan Watters
  • Nicole Duncan (*)
  • Bev Horsman (*)
  • Ruth MacIntosh (*)
  • Ann Whiteaker (*)

If you feel I included some bizarre choices here, or that I’m missing a really fantastic candidate, I would love it if you let me know. Remember to go vote!

The Bluff Box

Victoria readers (and especially Fernwood neighbours): a friend of mine is collaborating with a Metchosin farmer to bring local, organic, delicious food weekly from Sea Bluff Farm to Fernwood, from June to November. They called it The Bluff Box. It’s similar to a CSA program, except you pay as you go: $25 for a small box, $40 for the family-size box. I hope you sign up—we need 20 committed customers to get this going!

Mexican House of Spice

Inside the Mexican House of SpiceA friend of us tipped us to a new business in town: the Mexican House of Spice, at 2220 Douglas St. As the name suggests, the store stocks Mexican spices, but it has a lot more stuff: tortilla flour, cheeses (fresco, panela, oaxaca…), tostadas, cactus, dried chiles, tomatillos, tamales, piñatas, and a long et cetera that includes goods from all over Latin America and Africa. It’s a bit like Perolas in Kensington Market, in Toronto. Spread the word and visit the store, to make sure it stays in business!

Neither here nor there

You may have heard that Toronto elected a new mayor this week, a man about whom the best I can say is that he has a pretty potent voice. I was dreading his election for a while before we moved to Victoria, since I started reading more and more angry comments in online news articles on Miller, the previous mayor, and seeing fellows with “Rob Ford” buttons on the subway. On election night I was glued to my computer, exasperated with the results, reading anything I could find on the topic, and wondering how will the new political situation play out.

A couple of days later, after reading some article on Ford to Val over dinner, I realized there was something incongruent going on with me: though I cared very much about what would happen to Toronto under him, I didn’t even know the name of the mayor of Victoria, the city in which we actually live, much less his policies or initiatives. It was as if my mind was still living in Toronto and I refused (or didn’t care) to grow roots in my new town.

And I noticed this had happened to me before, when we moved from León to Toronto. I would be reading Mexican news intensely, while I barely cared about local Canadian politics. Back then we thought we’d only be in Toronto for a couple of years—in parallel to our current situation—, which perhaps made me feel uncommitted to my new environment. But eventually I started to care more about Toronto, to feel an inner warmth whenever I returned from a trip, and to get informed and involved in my community. I kept interested in Mexican affairs, of course, but differently: from afar, not from an artificial within. My interest or lack of interest for local politics was a symptom of my degree of adaptation to my new home. I can see it happening again today.

So now my life is split in three places: the one I first knew, and that grows slightly more foreign every time I visit; the one I just left, to which my unconscious still takes me in my dreams and worries; and the one where I am and should be, still rather unknown and strange, until I gradually decide to truly turn to look and discover it.

Picking apples

Val is ready to pick some applesA new friend here in Victoria told us about the LifeCycles Project and its fruit picking activities: if you have a fruit tree in your garden you can call them, and they’ll schedule a team of volunteers to come pick its fruit. You get a share (about a quarter), the volunteers get a share (another quarter), and the LifeCycles Project donates the rest to local non-profits. Turns out our friend is a team lead with LifeCycles, and was wondering if Val and I wanted to join in. Let’s see…

  1. spend a few Sunday hours chatting and doing light work outdoors,
  2. get lots of ultra-local, organic, delicious produce,
  3. and contribute with local food banks and community centers.

Awesomeness from every angle!

Mushi inspects the fruit of our labourWe spent some three hours last Sunday picking apples from three different trees (King, Golden Delicious, and an unidentified third kind). In total we collected about 200kg of fruit. Our share was two boxes, about 15kg! Fortunately they keep well.

So far it’s been apples every day, as well as applesauce and apple salad. An apple pie or crumbler is rumoured to be in the works this weekend. I guess I’d normally get tired of so much of it after a while, but the fruit tastes fantastic and I am quite fond of it, having picked some of it myself.

The picking season is nearly over, but I think there will still be a few trees to pick, so if you’re in Victoria let me know if you’d like to join, and we can go together!

Tacos!

(Non-Spanish-speaking friends: I hope you won’t mind that I occasionally switch back to my mother tongue. For now, in case Google Translate mangles my clear and beautiful Spanish, a summary: if you’re in Victoria you must try the tacos at Puerto Vallarta Amigos!)

Hace una semana, me escapé unas horas de la oficina para ir con Vale a probar los tacos de Puerto Vallarta Amigos. Cuando escuché de ellos por primera vez no se me antojaban; quizá por el nombre: suena agringado, como el Café México a una cuadra de distancia, como el tipo de nombre que alguien pondría sin mucho conocimiento sobre la cocina mexicana. Además, el puestito sólo abre entre semana para el lunch, y como se pone en el centro de la ciudad me queda medio lejos de la oficina, así que no es muy práctico visitarlo. Pero escuché un par de recomendaciones y me enteré que tenía opciones vegetarianas, así que Vale y yo decidimos intentarlo.

Puerto Vallarta AmigosEl carrito de tacos se instala en la esquina de Wharf y Yates, y no se ve como los puestos en México; más bien me recuerda a las camionetas de comida china que se ponen en Toronto, en la universidad (por St. George) o por el palacio municipal (parece que aquí en general no hay comida callejera, ni siquiera hot dogs). Los taqueros trabajan dentro de la camioneta, y ponen unos banquitos afuera para que la gente se siente si quiere (supongo que por acá es mucho pedir comer parado y malabareando el plato, el taco, y el refresco).

En fin, la taquería lleva tan sólo unos tres meses aquí. El dueño se llama Toño (Tacos Toño!), y por lo que veo es un negocio familiar: él cobra, su esposa y dos hijos preparan los tacos, y otro hijo se pasea por la calle haciendo no supe qué. Creo que tienen tacos de pollo y de res, pero también de papa con espinacas, de frijol con queso, y de chorizo de soya (resulta que Toño es vegetariano). El día que fuimos también había de hongos portobelo, pero esos no están en el menú.

Chorizo de soyaLos tacos están buenísimos: las tortillas como deben estar, un poco aceitositas, la cebolla y el cilantro frescos, y las salsas sabrosas y picantes, una verde con aguacate y una roja. Lo único que falta es un poquito de limón, pero aquí es caro. Igual y para la próxima Vale y yo nos llevamos unas rebanaditas para ponerle ahí. El chorizo de soya estaba delicioso, quién sabe si porque ya llevo más de seis años de vegetariano y ya se me olvidó cómo sabe el de verdad, pero me sentí de vuelta en México, momentáneamente. Acabé comiendo unos doce tacos (dos órdenes) de varias cosas, y con muchas ganas de regresar. Si nos quedara más cerca, ahí nos la pasábamos.

Deer at UVic

Deer at UVic entranceAs I rode to the University this morning, I saw this young deer grazing the lawn. I slowed down, and he (I think it’s a he?) followed me with his eyes. I spun my bike around to get a better look of him and snap a couple of photos with my phone, which he allowed for a moment before deciding to walk away.

Deer walking aboutI think this is the same deer Val and I saw yesterday afternoon walking through a path between some trees, just a few steps ahead of us.

I can’t get over these deer (I’ve been awed by several apparitions already); but apparently many people here have: they just bike or walk past them, and some local residents even dislike them because they make a mess of their gardens and munch on their flowers and veggies.