Friday, 31 August 2012

The Tower and the Magic

Lost my tripod yesterday, thought I had left it at the hotel where I did the interview but phone calls elicited nothing. Meant I couldn't film today; originally thought I had lost my video camera which would have meant a far more serious crime. But still, a tripod will set me back a bit.

Went to buy a new one but not quite enough on my travel card.

Was looking at my bank balance and thinking about my options. Have been thinking about teaching English in China, to get more money, but honestly I don't think I am extrovert enough.

What I really want to do is either work in Iraq, or do more video work.

When I didn't get the last job I applied for at the library (one of a few!) I was offered feedback. She said I should look at what I really wanted to do - the unspoken being that she knew the job I had applied for wasn't what I wanted.

She was right. It's just that what I want to do isn't easy to get, and I might not get it.

Was invited by the owner for drinks out on the patio tonight. It's a lovely outlook - the CN Tower and a park. The CN Tower lights up with different colours at night. Spent the evening with her, her partner and my French friend drinking Martinis and French wine. It's great to feel a little bit drunk sometimes and their stories again inspired me.

The owner is originally from Morocco and I was talking about how I was trying to teach myself Arabic. She was saying she forgot her Arabic for a while, but used Arabic songs to teach herself again. And the French lady, Chantal, was telling me about how she left her life behind in France to start a new one in Canada, and how it worked out so well.

I felt the same, like my life in NZ wasn't really living, more like an existence. I'm not sure I believe in God anymore to help me out like I used to, but I do need some kind of miracle or good luck to set me on a good path again. It seemed to happen for this French lady. Is just trying to follow your heart enough to start the magic?

I enquired about filming from the CN Tower to get some views of the city for the doco. I was told it would cost $1000 an hour. This is how the world works now. What chance have we against a world that only wants profit?

But fuck it, that's ridiculous. If I decide to film I'm going to go up there anyway. They can only ask me to leave.

Un petit peu de Québécois

At Clarence Castle, another Toronto hostel, but this one is unusual because it hosts a lot of Québécois people, so there's a lot of French thrown around. I like this, but a barrier to communication - I am way too old and uncool anyway.

(The owner seems to like me - she calls me Helene whenever she sees me. I like her too).

But there is a (real French) lady from France who has a book being published - she contributed recipes she had researched and tested of colonist French cooking in areas like Nova Scotia, where it mixed with different influences - the native Americans, the kind of food that grew wild. It's so interesting.

And it was interesting meeting her. She, like me, lacks a certain confidence but she has achieved anyway. She reminds me of other creative people I have met - emotional, vague, gets excited about certain geeky things ...

So there is hope for me yet. I think that has to be a stand out for this trip - meeting inspiring and encouraging people. I soak it up like a sponge.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

5 minutes of the other half

Last night I interviewed a young Assyrian guy who was talking about what it's like for new Assyrian migrants in Toronto, and also an iPhone app he has created to listen to streaming Assyrian music.

It went well - it was fun, a great guy and it finished late so as a favour he organized a free night's stay for me at one of the flash hotels that he works for as IT support.

It was so nice, lots of little perks like aromatherapy incense, all kind of zen. And then there was the "intimacy kit". Lol.

(I can imagine if you lived like that all the time, it would be hard to care about the rest of the world).

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Another one night stand

At Canadiana Backpackers for one night, before heading to another hostel.

Was wandering around Toronto's Little Italy today trying to get some shots of 'italianess' to show how historically multicultural Toronto is. Now I feel dog tired. Not brilliantly successful. There's always the thing of people not liking being filmed but it's such a pain to ask (and get turned down. I never take it very well). I will review what I've done.

Came back and got invited to hang out with some people from my room: Swiss, German, Finnish and Swedish. There have been so many Germans at these hostels. These were very cool in a nice way, though I felt shy and awkward. They seemed very 'evolved'. The people at the other hostels weren't as friendly or as interesting - at the HI-Toronto the guys seemed to spend their whole time either on pub crawls or hitting on girls or, sensibly, both at the same time.

(Funnily enough one of the guys from Sweden's mum works with refugees and migrants and he knew all about the Iraqi refugee community there).

Am in the kitchen surrounded by Japanese who are cooking really good food and I wish I could have some.

Too cool for school

Just to show how cool Toronto is, the Lit Espresso Bar in Little Italy served me raspberry lemonade in a preserving jar (alongside my lemon curd and cranberry scone).

I do like this.

I think the last time I saw a jar used as a glass was when I was a Massey
student at a keg party. Your jandals stuck to the floor the next morning from all the beer.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

In this slightly weird hostel for one night and am sharing my room just with one other guy - a surfer dude from Adelaide with a massive hangover. I hope he goes out. We don't appear to have much in common, the room is quite small and he's been not super friendly. On the website it said a mixed dorm of 4.

I've just discovered surveillance cameras in the lounges. Why? And the lounge lights are on a motion sensor so they switch off after a while even though you are still there. Sooo annoying. They also photocopied my credit card - I did question this but they said they had to. The place is run by Indians. Not to be racist or anything.

(It has really bad reviews on all the websites but everything else was booked).

Went to the Bata Shoe Museum today which was slightly disappointing because I thought there would be some shoes of Lady Gaga's. But they had a pair of Elvis' loafers, Elton John's platforms and a boot that belonged to John Lennon. Also a large and beautiful collection of beaded American Indian moccasins. I guess it's the kind of thing one might see at Te Papa. I just thought there would be more.

(Below is the "Game Centre" of the hostel, consisting of dusty glass chess and backgammon sets and a pack of cards. Among other things, there is also a doll's head).

NB. Roommate just went out. Woohoo! But ... he locked me out. Damn it.

Classic Canadiana

I remember having this 25 years ago, and I still like it. Buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. Breakfast on my last day at HI-Toronto. It's booked out tonight so I have to move elsewhere.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

HI - Toronto

Late night in the lobby, Hosteling International Toronto.

Another groovy hostel.

Feeling shitloads better

Back in a backpackers, Hosteling International Toronto. Feel happy cos I can trek around, Toronto is a cool city.

Interviewing an Immigration Counselor tomorrow, an Assyrian lady.

Had lunch today at the Hard Rock Cafe (he paid :)) with a guy who runs a 24 hr streaming Assyrian radio station - just songs - and he created an iPhone app for it. Clever. He is a godsend because I can interview him about the overall picture and history of Assyrians in Toronto and he is totally onto it. Have been trying to get someone like this for the past few weeks. He answered a message I put on Facebook.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Just bored

I think I'm just bored. The family are nice and it's so good of them to have me to stay. I felt guilty this morning because I got up really late and the daughter-in-law was doing all the housework and the dishes were done. Oops.

Have gone for a break at the local library. Last night was supposed to interview a guy who got his leg blown off guarding a church in Baghdad but it got postponed. Have to wait for a new time.

Booked into a backpackers downtown but may postpone for the interview. Have got one with an Assyrian immigration counsellor on Wed so that's something good.

Maybe I'll feel better once Im in Toronto itself. I loved it when I lived in Cambridge, Ont. It was the most exciting thing ever! One reason why staying in these suburbs has been such a shocker. This suburb - Mississauga - barely existed when I lived in Canada.

The shopping centre across from the library consists of Indian dress shops, restaurants and Subway.

I don't know if I get cultures living in cultureless contexts.

Food issues

I have finally found out why I don't like some Assyrian food.

Tonight, at a church celebration we had what was for me an almost indelible meal. Usually there are things I like or will eat even if there are some I can't. But tonight it was almost a pass up. There were whole raw salad vegetables consisting of spring onions, parsley and radishes (no dressing). Then boiled pieces of lamb, bread rolls, and some raw pickled veges (mostly cabbage).

I had a bread roll that I dipped in the boiled meat liquid, and a few tiny bits of pickle veg. Luckily I wasn't hungry so I had a legit excuse.

There's nothing like plain boiled meat to make me feel uneasy.

But I found out the reason why they eat it this way - because back in the days in Iraq it was hardly ever fresh:

In the mountains where they lived they would dry the meat for storage. Then all they had to do was whip it into the pot, add water, maybe some vegetables or even put it just with rice, or bulgur wheat - and ta da! Reconstituted.

It still makes me feel ick, but at least now I know why they do this. And the reason why when people ask me if their food is awesome and I can't say absolutely 'yes'.

I also heard more things - that they would store grains in whole cow skins, sewn up and tied at the feet. They left the neck open and this was where you could scoop grain from.

That someone would take the wheat to another village where they had a water mill to grind it. That the summers were busy gathering and drying everything for winter. That they would dry grapevine leaves to make dolma, strung up in a round and hung to dry in the shade.

It sounds kind of lovely in a way. Would I have liked that life? I don't know.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Feeling a bit low

The lethargy I was feeling at the family's house has come back, though I didnt want to admit it on the blog at the time. I dont want to be an endless source of downness.

I think its because I'm waiting on 3 interviews, two of which haven't returned my messages, and staying here, its stuck out in the burbs and I have nothing to do but wait, really. My hypervigilance goes into overdrive as I dont want to be a pain staying here and want them to like me. Then I'm off to a hostel to wait again, I guess..

All I can do is borrow their laptop, sleep and eat..

(They have wireless but for some reason its not strong enough for my iPad).

One more thing I have learnt

I think there is one more thing that I learnt from the Assyrian family.

7) Something about struggling.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A lot of Indians in Mississauga

Would you buy a used house from this man?

Mississauga, Toronto

Landed safely in Mississauga, but it's still part of Toronto, just one of the new suburbs sprung up, where all the houses look like they were made out of those cardboard kitsets we used to make up as kids, where the buildings are made of brick. All the same with tiny variations and so close together.

But definitely 10 steps up from where I was staying and such a relief to have privacy and quiet...

I never liked NZ's immigration policies, thinking they were too strict, but in Canada it is the opposite - its open arms to everyone. And it has created a building explosion in Toronto, and places that arent good for people to live. I think. This suburb is only 10 years old, and its completely full.

Staying with a lady and her family, her daughter is married to the professor I interviewed in Boston. They kindly I suggested I could stay with them. They've been really nice. The awkwardness of stepping into someone's family, and a different culture too, but I think its getting better.

Playing a waiting game with some potential interview contacts, feel a bit bad about presupposing on their generosity. Using the time to brush up on Assyrian - language, recipes, all good :)

She lives with a small grandson, Yousip, who demands alot of attention, but manages to be cute and adorable at the same time. Its nice getting some family time, I don't have it at home.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

6 Things I Have Learnt

.... from 3 weeks with the Assyrian family:

1) 12 new words in Assyrian

2) That I know stuff all Assyrian

3) That Assyrians are more emotional than me

4) That I never ever want to live in a suburb like Rexdale, Toronto

5) That it doesn't pay to try to make a documentary with a bored 4 year old with aggressive tendencies around. Don't do it.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The cutest, funniest thing ..

.. happened yesterday. Two of the girls (15 and 22) brought me some Tampax and asked what they for. They were pulling them apart and said their Dad had also asked what they were.

Must have been in some kind of donation package. Unfortunately neither my Assyrian, nor their English, was good enough to explain without a physical demonstration, so I had to oblige in a way that I hoped was tasteful. It was very cute (not my demonstration). Apparently they don't exist in Iraq. Oh the innocence of a world without tampons.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Promises, promises ...

Yesterday the father told me he would not do the interview I wanted with him and I got really upset as I have been waiting to do it since I arrived (and also because of stresses here and also no doubt because the film is now my whole reason for being..). He had promised a few times, twice here and once in Syria and I felt it would be core to any footage I shot here. I was cursing the Assyrians that day. It's often the case - they (mostly the men) enthusiastically say they will do something initially but when it comes down to it, they slip out of it somehow.

But he felt sorry for me, or something, and agreed to do it if I bought him some beers - dutch courage. So we did it today but it was a bit of a washout - felt like he was doing it under duress (which I guess he was) and lacked the candour and expressiveness he usually has. He also played down any difficulty the family was having, which I have been experiencing so much while here - his rants about not having enough money etc, the perpetual sense of slight misery as everyone is either tired from working shit jobs or the general claustrophobia from a small apartment and a lot of people in an environment that's crap.

This was the message I was trying to get through, so it was disappointing.

But at least it is done and I felt a huge surge of relief just afterwards that I can now move on.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Better today

Better day today. The mother had to ask me for some money to help with groceries because they didn't have any. I was only too happy to as I has intended to give them some before I left.

We went on a trek, I filmed them shopping (vaguely tolerated) and then we struggled back with it all - a week of food for 8 - to the apartment. Call it a bonding exercise. Maybe the money helped a bit too.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The saga continues

Am spending a tense evening alone with the daughter who has a problem with me. I have become the source of all frustration and evil.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Time to move ...on

I think my honeymoon with the family is over and am just going to try to get the filming I wanted done before I move on. Have had some issues with the 4 year old who is fairly strong willed (and strong) and just wants to mess with either you or whatever you are doing. Have felt emotionally and physically exhausted dealing with him so have tried to put some boundaries but this hasn't gone down well with one of the sisters who adores him, so now I am not talked to.

Another of the sisters had asked me to stay longer so I could go to her secret boyfriend's party, but she is not going now (her boyfriend says she is too jealous and I agree - she tried to get me to tell him to give her his Facebook password so she could check up on him - I said no. So am not the favourite there either).

The father has been angry about things - one is about one of the daughters and a cousin staying here not looking for work. Other things I don't know what it's about.

The photo below is of the building I am staying in. There are so many of these looming dull buildings full of migrants in such a non-descript landscape next to busy freeways, it could be anywhere. I find it depressing.