Terima Kasih For the Memories

It’s the last day of my trip, and I leave for the Changi airport (I’ve been in Singapore again for the past six days) in about an hour to start the trek back to Canada. It’s been an amazing month, and I feel so blessed and grateful for the chance to have made this trip. From the University of Toronto David Chu Travel Scholarship in Asia Pacific Studies and the Peter Walker Travel Scholarship that made it possible financially, to our wonderful professor Ibu Rachel that set up an amazing field course for us, the beautiful and friendly people we met in Indonesia, my extraordinary host family in Singapore, the amazing staff at our hotel in Bandung, family and friends who prayed for a successful trip and encouraged me to go, fellow students, and new friends in Singapore who showed me around, there are so many people that came together to make this trip possible. I hope there will be other trips after this one, but even so, this time will always hold a treasured place in my heart.

I hold a debt of gratitude, and before I leave, I want to make the intention that over the next days, weeks, months to come, I take these experiences and translate them into action. I want this trip to be a means of becoming a better, kinder person, who is engaged in service, who is a better social planner, who is improved for having made the journey. The blogging dropped off over the past couple of weeks as we became more involved in our research and it became increasingly difficult to verbalize internal reflections, but one of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot during the past few weeks is that fun is a luxury that few can afford to have. Bandung is an amazing, trendy city, but it is also a city with tremendous poverty. $100 Canadian goes a long way, but the equivalent amount, 900,000 rupiah is difficult to earn.

In the past couple of weeks I hiked through the tropical rainforest, visited volcanoes, dined in the mountains/hills of Bandung, visited museums, and shared experiences with new friends. It’s been great, and now that the trip is coming to an end, it is tempting to think of the next stamp on the passport, the next neat sight to see, the next cool picture to take. Except the majority of people in Bandung are simply making a living. The roadside vendors, the men who carry a portable stove on their backs so can they can sell their wares, the men who play the guitar for you when your angkut (minibus) stops at a traffic light, the people carving wood into familiar shapes in the forest to sell to tourists, so many people are simply trying to feed their kids, and seeing this helps you realize that the abundance that we have, from plentiful water, to clear air, to trees, to education, are gifts that demand to be used in the appropriate way.

Terima Kasih (Thank you) for reading the few entries about the trip, and hopefully there will be more reflections/stories/pics in the weeks to come. The actual work begins now!

Love is a Steaming Cup of Chai

It’s been nearly three months since my last blog post. I took a bit of a break to work on my research project, and then the gap grew larger as I started to think about the process of blogging itself and ask myself: Does it make sense to share one’s thoughts and reflections with a wider audience?  I was pondering the question while taking a class about improving the quality and state of one’s heart, and in that context, it felt like chattering about one’s feelings and reflections was indulging in a thinking process that could have just as well gone in a journal. Today though, I opened an almost empty notebook and found an unfinished blog post about falling in love with Toronto that was dated from this past summer. The short entry led me back to the blog, and reading the small number of posts here was a beautiful reminder of moments in Toronto that touched my heart, and people I’ve met here that have left an indelible imprint on my heart and mind. It made me wish I had blogged more often, as it is a qualitatively different type of reflection than the (also important) experience that occurs when I pick up a Moleskine to jot down thoughts.

And since I leave Toronto in about a month for the post graduation chapter of my life, I’ve included it below as a reminder to keep the same joy and peace in my heart as I soak up this last bit of time I have in this beloved city, to have trust that the next chapter will hopefully bring forth goodness and adventures in equal measure, and to remember to blog along the way.

My love for Toronto is a steaming cup of chai with the Roommate, sweet mangoes for breakfast, a late night guitar jam session on the beach, finding the way home using the CN tower, a smile from a stranger on the elevator, new challenges at work, walking the tree-shaded streets of U of T, hearing birds outside my office window, sitting and watching the lake sparkle at the Harbourfront and seeing the Ford Centre full of people excited about the ballet during a evening stroll. It’s  watching trains go by from my apartment window with my nephew and stretching our imaginations to create stories about where people are going.  Even after so many months, my love and happiness with this city still feels like an unexpected gift.

Sometimes the thought of whether something is right or whether you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing is so strong that the attention can be intensely uncomfortable. It is difficult to be completely relaxed and open when you’re analyzing your experiences and emotions constantly. But from first term when I frequently thought about what Toronto meant, without realizing it was even happening, a natural, easy contentment with Toronto has slipped into my life. ~ May 28th 2011.

The Argument Against Modernity’s Dominant Formulation

Sometimes you read articles that make your heart sing with their intelligence and insight and overall wonderfulness, and as you read, you find yourself whispering intentions and prayers to yourself to go at your work with a bit more determination and focus. Today that happened as I read a lovely article by Massey, and wanted to share bits of it here as inspiration when my enthusiasm stores run a bit low. =) The article as a whole is about different ways of disrupting and problematizing popular academic and general conceptions of globalization,why such disruptions need to occur, and why we need to construct ‘space-time’ understandings of the  process of globalization.  The chapter was assigned as one of this week’s readings in a class I’m taking this term titled Global Urbanism and Cities of the Global South. In the 2 years of my program, I think this is the first course offered about ‘other’ parts of the world, so I’m excited to soak up as much as I can. (Because as interesting as Canada is, my heart and brain is craving to learn about urbanism in other contexts).

The quote below talks about how we need to recognise the particularities of the modernity story. It predicates an extensive discussion about why popular conceptions of globalization (one for example being that globalization is about free unbounded movement) need to be deconstructed, and outlines four reasons that the author is uncomfortable with unquestioned usages of the term. One particularly interesting part of the piece is the way she demonstrates how different powerful geographic imaginations are utilized to construct a particular understanding of economic globalization and the implications of this knowledge production. The international movement of capital is valorized and celebrated, whereas the international movement of labour is discussed in the context of protecting local people and controlling immigration.  It is a fascinating piece that warrants a read in its entirety.

“The standard version of the story of modernity – as a narrative of progress emanating from Europe – represents a discursive victory of time over space.  That is to say that differences which are truly spatial are interpreted in being differences in temporal development – differences in the stage of progress reached. Thus Western Europe is understood as being ‘advanced’, other parts of the world as ‘some way behind’ and yet others as ‘backward’. Euphemistically to re-label ‘backward’ as ‘developing’ does nothing to alter this process of thinking of spatial variation in terms of a temporal series. (..) It is this act which deprives these spatial differences of their ‘real import’, deprives them of  ‘the full measure of the real differences which are at issue.’
Ironically then, not only is this temporal structuring of the geography of modernity a repression of the spatial, it is also the repression of the possibility of the temporalities (other, that is than the stately progress towards modernity/modernization/development on the Euro-Western model. Indeed it is in these terms – that is, about the existence of other temporalities and stories – that the argument against modernity’s dominant formulation is usually posed. In other words, for different temporalities to co-exist there must be space.

Massey D (1999). Imagining globalization: Power geometries of time-space. In A. Brah and M. Hickman, M. Mac An Ghaill (eds). Global Futures – Migration, Environment and Globalization (pp.27-44). New York: St Martin’s Press.

A Matter of Perspective

Because, look – just look at the world below! The entire superstructure of a city reduced to a mere toyscape. Little toy cars moving about on little toy roads – noiselessly, aromalessly; little toy trees and little toy people. A city with a thousand years of history reduced to a view from a window. All its gates and gardens and towers; its monuments and markets, its politics, its ugliness , its many irregularities reduced to a fine palimpsest of design. This was the undeniable miracle of flight: not that it allowed you to travel great distances in small amounts of time, not the actual physics of getting 200 tonnes of metal to stay up in the air. No. It was the miracle of perspective. The fact that down there could be anywhere.

~The Pleasure Seekers, p. 214.

Planes are the Place I Think Best

I’ve been back in Toronto for a couple of hours now, and unpacking my suitcase, I’ve already realized that I’ve forgotten my indoor sandals, the base of my Krups kettle, and my USB key (at which point I abandoned unpacking and gave myself a proper scolding about being a more careful person). Now that that scolding is out of the way, today’s podcast episode is about my reflections from the flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Specifically, I’m talking about the difficulties of detaching from things,the importance of recognizing the blessings you have (and using them properly) and what landing a plane indicates about goal-setting. You can hear it here.

p.s-I had to stop the recording at one point, and the sound changed afterwards. Please excuse the audio quality!

Liveable, Walkable, Affordable

I love reading and visiting different communities and learning about how they implement different principles of city building. Today, I read about a neighbourhood in Hamburg, Germany, that is bringing together ideas of walkability, green space, mixed use and affordability to create “the neighbourhood of the future”, and it made me excited thinking about travel post graduation and learning more about the development of cities through real-world experiences and encounters.

You can read the full article here.

The Power of Video: A Beautiful Video from TEDxDubai

The theme of TEDxDubai this year is The Beauty of Small Things, and the event promo video is a time-lapse of Dubai’s growth over the past ten years. It’s a stunning watch, and a great reminder that outside of North America planning looks very different, (and it’s important to understand different contexts) and as planners, it’s important to be able to tell stories in multiple ways. We spend most of our time thinking through words and written text, but the medium of film can create space for entirely different conversations to occur (To read more about the event, their Vimeo page is here)

TEDxDubai 2011 | The Beauty of Small Things | Main Titles from METAphrenie on Vimeo.