28 February, 2010

"There is power in the collective experience"

"It feels good to let your heart show."

So says this analysis of the Canadian Olympic sporting experience. It's a good misty-eyed video of Canadian pride and nationalism, with a bit of navel-gazing, to boot. ... so, truly Canadian, I guess?

27 February, 2010

A golden Olympics for Canada?

On the eve of the last day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, it seems to me that Canada has both met and failed at its own expectations. The Canadian Olympic Own the Podium (OTP) approach to achieving best-ever Olympic results did not live up to the initial demands of, what, 34 medals? Are you kidding? For a nation of a scant ~30 million (given the landmass), our current 25 is a phenomenal achievement. It is something we should be proud of, and never ashamed of. The Canadian public has been witness to some formidable performances, inspiring in their bravery (e.g. Joannie Rochette), their determination (e.g. the Kevin Martin curling rink's gold or bust approach), and their outright enthusiasm (e.g. Jon Montgomery's surprise Skeleton gold and fantastic post-win victory walk through Whistler). But we were also witness to anger (Pierre Leuders' frustration at the crashes and heavy snow on the bobsled track, though he was happy with a 5th place finish), more frustration (from Denny Morrison and some of his fellow speed skaters who were locked out of the medals until tonight), and the heart-wrenching sadness displayed by those who felt like they'd let their country down (e.g. Mellisa Hollingsworth's tearful apology to the entire nation); or worse, the let-down the Canadian Olympic Committee gave to our most phenomenal chance at breaking the disability barrier, and encouraging even more young people to take up sport (Brian McKeever, the legally blind cross-country skier will not be in the 50 km men's mass start Sunday morning).

Now, I don't know if our country should be apologist about this sort of stuff, or wave our maple leaf flag proudly. It's a mixed bag. It has been a mixed bag since Vancouver first decided to put in a bid for the games. There are still contentious land claim issues in the areas surrounding Vancouver, and it took a lot of appeasement to get the native communities on board with the Sea-to-Sky highway construction, and the various other development projects required for the games to run without a hitch in the Whistler area. There are a lot of housing issues in Vancouver, and a lot of denial about the marginalised populations found within the city. The red tent city that was put up for the games only roughly masked the issue, while the rest of us all pretend there weren't one-way bus tickets purchased for a number of people (or that the rest of Canada hasn't purchased one-way to Vancouver bus tickets for a number of people either). The green-washing campaign is a mild success (as it was, I'm sure, in Lillehammer (who builds Olympic venues next to bird sanctuaries, really?)), but there will likely be odd ramifications as a result of it. Sure the Skytrain was expanded, but a 2.5 hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler (not to mention traffic jams) is hardly eco-friendly.

The successes, though? An overall peaceful games; no violence has broken out (knock on wood, one day to go). Ample back-up and contingency plans made sure things followed through no matter what the problem (be it a broken ice resurfacing machine, or some glitchy hydraulics, or very unfortunate weather patterns). And, if luck has it, the Canadians in the crowd might actually come away with a better sense of themselves, despite the foreign press sniping from Great Britain and Russia, both of whom, surprisingly enough, are set to host upcoming games. Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, apparently had to make a special request in Parliament that Canadians be more blatantly patriotic during these games, waving the flag a little more, donning some red and white and getting out there to cheer on our nation (so says Tom Brokaw at least).

As someone who was in pre-games Vancouver (November), it was clear that big things were afoot, but just how big, it was hard to tell. I would never have anticipated the spectacle and the splendour that's been on display, and it is heartening to think that such a great product could have been made in Canada. Hopefully we'll be able to take this and roll with it. The debt will also be rolling with us (to the tune of what, $2 billion?), so why not the guts and glory as well? The teamwork, whether from the construction crews, or the nation-wide RCMP force that was cobbled together for ceremonial and enforcement detail (gotta love the red serge) has been simply phenomenal. If nothing else, I hope there's some glue left over from the games, and that it might just make us all stick together better, and choose to work on our problems and issues in more collaborative ways than playing the divisive blame game. The evidence is there: our athletes got together in ways we would never have expected, coming out to cheer each other on, and reporting on each other's results while in the midst of their own games; if they can support each other, why can't our whole country join together and do the same? And why can't it be about more than just sport? We strive for excellence in sport, and we can hold on to our athletes (or shame them when they leave, like the now Australian ski Olympian), but our brain drain problem is still prevalent.

Canada has a long way to go. Let's hope these Olympics are a sign of better things to come in the future, be they proper solutions to housing and homelessness, or respectful resolution of land claim and Native Peoples' rights (and access to education and clean drinking water etc.), or to solving national issues of promoting and supporting our home-grown talents as athletes, as actors, as artists and as all workers. Perhaps, hopefully, we'll start to recognise that "made in Canada" can be world-class and that striving to own the podium should be expanded to something broader and more far-reaching (and maybe more inclusive). The overall standings suggest that Canada has one of the highest levels of top ten performances of any nation at the Olympics. THAT in and of itself is and should always be a source of pride for our athletes. THAT should be what we strive towards as a nation, whether in the arena of sports performance, or in, say, medical practice. We may be an enormous slice of land with a scattering of people, outnumbered by the U.S. state of California, but we should always remember that we can band together and work towards common goals, and that it isn't bad to root for the home team.

24 February, 2010

Rough Go

Wow, I'm having a rough time of things lately. I have two jobs... and I have no money. I know I've developed a bit of a spending habit lately, but it's not outlandish (e.g. a magazine here and there, some new cosmetics, and yarn). The real problem is that I'm not getting any money in. I have been completely left out in the cold by my one employer. I never would have suspected the government to be so completely bungling about such things as meeting deadlines. Yes, I realise I SHOULD know there would be bureaucratic delays, but a 4 week delay for a 1 week turn around is unacceptable and incredibly unprofessional. As a result of the delay (and my resultant lack of inspiration to continue, and very real need for money NOW), I have landed myself another short-term job that works on a wage-basis and will thus give me a salary every two weeks... after I've worked for them enough to get back into the system. And the original project languishes as a result. I NEED to get the job done. It would be so great to get paid for my work, but I don't even feel like it's possible any more, and I still have a month left to get things done.

Everything feels so incredibly hopeless. I might as well be jobless, despite my constant working. My roommates treat me like I am jobless, and well, why not? I don't have any money, my debt is growing higher and higher, and I will not be able to pay my rent on time this month. February, of all months... the shortest one of the year, the one with so much hope for gold for Canada, and so much sunshine and glorious warmth here... it's all but empty and hollow for me, personally. Yes, I mostly have my health (though I'm fearing a potential return of bronchitis - third time's a charm maybe?), my wits, and an ability to work, but these contracts both end at the end of March and I will be left with a whole lot of nothing. Hopefully I'll be able to pay off my debt and cut up my credit card or something... probably just lock it in a box somewhere. But that's all just short-term. What I really need is a JOB. A real, live, tangible job that runs 9-5, and lasts more than three months in duration. I feel like I'm wallowing in self-pity, but I don't know what else to do. I will find something to do (i.e. a job somewhere, anything) if I can't find real work, but that doesn't solve my problems, that just lets me feed, clothe and house myself. Sure that's important. Right now it's top priority, but I really, REALLY want to feel engaged in my work and my life. I'm tired of feeling like I would rather just tune the whole thing out.

Oh, how I would kill to have a good job. And yet every time I go looking, I feel grossly inadequate. And that scares me. Here I sit, with two degrees and a decent amount of experience under my belt and I can't manage to find a $45000/year job that I qualify for. ... or that I qualify enough that it feels like I have a chance to actually get in on applications... ugh.

This was supposed to be my "free" year. I started a word of the year worksheet via Christine Kane, and the word I came up with was "free". It seems apt. 2009 was a year of finishing things and starting anew, of holding on to what I'd built for so long, of not letting go when I should have, of getting stuck in ruts, and feeling trapped at times. It was a good year all in all, and it opened my eyes a lot, but there were certainly times where I wish I'd been able to cut loose from everything and float off. So perhaps 2010 as a "free" year is a reaction a bit too far over from 2009, but we shall see. That's what these sorts of things are supposed to be like, right? Free. Free from debt, from fear of failing, from undue expectation, from frustration, disappointment...

Freedom comes in so many different ways. I'm not really sure I know what's going to happen this year, but I really want to cut away from all the raw disappointment I'm feeling lately, all the suffocating anger and frustration and resentment. I want to take a fresh breath of air on every morning and think about how I am free to decide how the day goes, how it will help me reach towards my goals and how I don't have to do things just because other people (or me, myself) expect me to, but because I should want to do them. And hey, maybe I'll even manage to free myself of some old constraints, misgivings, hesitations and encumbrances. ... and hopefully some of the extra stuff I've been hauling around but never use.

18 February, 2010

Olympic Fever

Forget work... or well, forget serious work. I have found myself a temporary part-time job for 30 hours a week so that I can pay rent while working on my other "more serious" contract job that hasn't paid out yet. ... yay. The perks are thus: I get to work with real, live human beings who I enjoy talking to, I get to work outside of my house and my bedroom (yay!), I get to talk with a boss who actually likes and respects me instead of trading e-mails with one who couldn't care less about me, AND I get a paycheque. Oh, the real perk right now is that I'm working in the lab, which means the radio is on, and I get to hear about Canada's Olympic progress.

Seriously, who's concentrating on work all the time right now anyway? The Olympics are on during work hours EVERY DAY, and these are athletes that, in some cases, curl at the local curling rink (SERIOUSLY!!! GO TEAM MARTIN!!!), or that went to the same highschool (as is the case with my roommate), so who's working 110% right now besides all our athletes? My workplace went so far as to provide a link to the federal government OTV (Olympic TV) website where we can watch streaming video on our lunch and coffee breaks without sucking up excessive bandwidth. Mostly, because I don't have a television myself, I've been watching streaming feed from the internet (the Canadian primary broadcaster) where I can see all the curling events and other highlights from the day. It's a great way to nod off before bed, AND I get to learn more curling strategy. Yes, curling, I'm a convert. My Dad took me to a game during the Canadian Olympic qualifications, and I've been playing in a rookie league for the past year. It's so fun, and challenging. I like how it's both a mental and physical game and hasn't become the emotional drain softball was when I was a kid playing in the city championships...

Plus I get to watch the hometown heroes.
Roar of the Rings Team Martin
Team Martin plays at the curling rink attached to my university, and also the one I've been taking all my curling lessons at. I know I've seen them play, but I really wasn't paying attention. It's hard to really see what's going on (particularly at the beginning, when I didn't understand the game all that well) without having an overhead view like the TV provides. But they're from our rink, and they're in the Olympics, and they're chock-full of talent. The lead and second are spot on with their shots and sweeping, and the third is also a skip so there's twice the strategy working in the team's favour, though, really, Kevin Martin is such a whiz... it's like he's the chess computer, Deep Blue playing against everyone else. ... or maybe he's Garry Kasparov... either way, phenomenal.

No matter what, it's been so entertaining, and engaging to cheer on all the red and white and maple-leaf-clad athletes representing Canada in our neck o' the woods. ... despite the wonky weather and the malfunctioning doobie-looking Olympic torch, I think Vancouver is doing a bang-up job of the event. ... even if I'm getting a really bizarre view of the games this year: government-sanctioned tv feeds with minimal commentator presence during the day, schmaltzy radio shows, video recaps and internet updates are the only ways I've seen anything Olympic-ish as of yet. I'm thinking of stealing some couch space at my parents' place on the weekend, just to get a more conventional view of things!

Anyway, back to live, streaming Can vs Sui men's hockey!