Saturday, 27 October 2012

Screams in the Night

A dark industrial area on a gloomy, rainy Vancouver night. Nervous bodies walk down a dimly lit back street. Sounds of screams pierce the dark while creatures of the night sneak about, seeking their next victim. Around the corner you are welcomed to the dankness of "The Daily Grime", a place where souls are lined up to experience blood curdling horror of a wicked, twisted imagination. You are at the Dunbar Haunted House.

The Daily Grime
Dunbar Haunted House has been spooking and scaring Vancouverites since 2004. Family-run and created to celebrate Hallowe'en, Dunbar Haunt has supported BC Professional Fire Fighter's Burn Fund, The Christmas Bureau and the Vancouver Police Union Charity Foundation for several years. Last year to the tune of $67,000. This year will be sure to beat that as the popularity of this annual event is larger than ever.

Dunbar Haunted House
My first visit to Dunbar Haunted House was four years ago at their former location, a residential house on Dunbar Street. With a wait of maybe twenty minutes (on a weeknight) and admission by donation my friends and I entered this small house of horror. It was a thrill for the senses and amusement for my friends as I screamed my head off (not because I was scared...I was just startled by monsters jumping out at me!!) This year's visit and my third one to the haunt over the years was by far the most memorable. The line up at their new location was enormous and we waited almost an hour. Covered tents were set up to keep everyone dry from the rain while costumed volunteers and a band kept spirits light. The theme of "The Daily Grime" was evident outside the warehouse with props, light, actors and signage. The dark and rain naturally created a mildly spooky ambiance. As our group of seven inched closer to the start of the tour we became giddier and wondering who was going to be freaked out the most. We split into two groups so that we could experience the haunting fully. I was, once again, put in the front of the line. It was indeed a scream-fest! More accurately it was a scream-and-laugh-fest. You knew what would be coming but you still screamed, jumped and laughed nonetheless. It was a well spend $10 and having it go for charity was worth it. I highly recommend Dunbar Haunted House to everyone who enjoys a good haunting.

Friday, 26 October 2012


Recently I had a conversation with someone who was on their way to Italy. They were headed to Venice for the first time. I expressed to them how much I enjoyed Venice when I visited there eons ago. We chatted a bit of their plans and what I saw of the city. After the conversation I began to reminisce. I visited Europe during my first backpacking trip in my early 20s. What kept coming back to me about that trip was how, even through one of the most tumultuous times in my life, I was content. That trip was a "breather" from a trying time in my life, one that spanned almost 5 years. It was a small yet significant reprise for me.  I can remember sitting on a train in Germany, listening to music after having had a laughing fit with my traveling companion Izabela. I looked out window at the Bavarian landscape, taking in the dark green of the Black Forest and the weathered castles poking through the trees. I smiled to myself - I could have gone on for ages in that frame of mind and heart.  The word "happy" was insufficient to describe what I felt. I was content, so very content. Having had such emotional chaos I needed to know something else, even for a short time. To experience, to know that I did not need anything else at that time. My problems had not disapeared  when I returned to Canada, however, I did have something to cling to and strive for as I worked through them. Perhaps that is why, to this day, that trip has been the best one in my life. I was content.


Do you have a nickname? Something someones calls you affectionately? Un-affectionately? Something that has stuck with you since you were a kid? A shortened version of your name? Something you're known for? Many of us do, myself included. And so do cities. Some of them so famous that you know exactly which city is being referred to by its famous moniker. I have decided to compile a list of city nicknames that I know of (and plenty I've taken from Wikipedia and online searches). The ones I am familar with are listed first and then are the ones I have looked up:

Vancouver, Canada - No Fun City, Lotus Land, Van City
Toronto, Canada - T.O., Tronna, T. Dot
Winnipeg, Canada - Winter-peg, The Peg
Thunder Bay, Canada - The Lakehead, T Bay, Tunder Bay (w/ a Finnish accent!)
Sault Ste Marie, Canada - The Soo
Chilliwack, Canada - The Wack
Fort McMurray, Canada - Fort Mack
New York City, USA - The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps, Empire City
New Orleans, USA - The Big Easy
Philadelphia, USA - The City of Brotherly Love
Reno, USA - The Biggest Little City in the World
Los Angeles, USA - The City of Angels
San Fransisco, USA - The City by the Bay
Detroit, USA - Motor City
Chicago, USA- The Windy City
Boston, USA - Beantown
Hollywood, USA - Tinsel Town
Las Vegas, USA - Sin City
Paris, France - The City of Lights & Bridges, The City if Love
Beijing, China - The Forbidden City
Rome, Italy - The Eternal City, The City of Seven Hills
Jerusalem, Israel - The Holy City

Nairobi, Kenya - Green City in the Sun
Havana, Cuba - City of Columbus
Venice, Italy -  City of Water, City of Masks, City of Bridges
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - The Wonderful City
Lima, Peru - The City of Kings
Mumbai, India - The City of Gold, Bollywood
Hong Kong, China - Pearl of the Orient
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam - Pearl of the Orient -yep, same as HKG
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Paris of Latin America (only in early 1900's), The Port City
Seattle, USA - The Emerald City
Adelaide, Australia - The City of Churches
Sydney, Australia - The Harbour City
London, England - The Square Mile
Budapest, Hungary - The Pearl of the Danube
Prague, Czech Republic - The Golden City
Saint Petersburg, Russia - The City of White Nights

Now by all means this list is not extensive - it would be too long to post. Of course locals have their names too, as you may have guessed from some of the Canadian cities I listed. If you have any city nicknames to add, please do so in the comments section!

Cheers! Eeva

P.s.  Over the years I have had about 7 nicknames....some I don't like & some I love! Eval Kneval signing off (hated that one when I was a kid cuz it was based on a mispronounciation if my name). :-p

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Meaningful Travel

The first time I heard about volunteer vacations was when I was a studying massage therapy. The student clinic's part-time receptionist had gone to the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean to volunteer with a group that was working with sea turtles. She spent mornings and part of the afternoon with the sea turtles and the remaining time was hers. It was obvious when she described her experience that she had a great time. Soon thereafter, I saw books and came across websites about "volunteer vacations". I started thinking that it would be a great way to see some areas and to give back. A good friend also pointed out that it would be very rewarding for me as well. Giving even more meaning to my travels :-) So I have decided that I will do that.

Now comes the research into organizations that: 1) I want to give my time to and  2) those that would have me! I have looked into some sites, though the planning of this is still in its infancy. I need to learn more about quality organizations, where to volunteer, types of volunteering I would like to do/be qualified for, etc.  Below are some sites that I have learned a bit about. The one place that I really really really really want to volunteer at is the N/a'an ku se Foundation in Namibia, Africa  I first read about it in a edition of Outpost magazine and I was immediately intrigued. They have wildlife and medical volunteer positions. No experience is necessary and you can volunteer anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. Their website has complete information about the foundation, volunteering and what to expect. I am wanting to go for the complete 3 months. I am so drawn to this place. Who wouldn't be? They work with both people and animals. Although I don't have an extensive medical background I do have a good understanding. Furthermore, I can get all my First Aid training while completing my continuing education for my work. Having that training would not hurt. So this is on my itinerary (pending they will take me). Wohoo!

Now I need to learn more about other volunteer opportunities. There are plenty out there along with websites/communities that show multiple organizations. Plenty offer room and board in exchange for working on (organic) farms, teaching, etc. Those are all great but I would like to work with girls and women. We are the greatest resource in the world but in many places, sadly, we are not treated equally or with the respect that every person deserves. Education is lacking in more than one sense of the word. Girls are not allowed to go to school or must stay home to care for others. Societally, many people think that girls/women do not need education. How much that needs to change. I would like to be able to volunteer so that I can learn more about life: my life, their life, the life of the world. I do not know what to expect and that is probably a good thing. Nothing like being taken by surprise I suppose. I recently learned about the Half the Sky Movement and I am intrigued. It is a book and now a foundation. I am trying to get a copy of the book from the public library so that I can read a bit more about them in addition to the webpage. If I like what I learn about them I will consider volunteering with them. I want to work with quality organizations and ones that resonate with me.

Now I am going to be honest. We all know volunteering is a great thing to and for a cause. I, however, had selfish reasons for wanting to volunteer.  I though that I could do something helpful like picking produce on farms so that I could save money. place to stay and some food in exchange for work. I am also sure that there are others out there with the same idea. It may not be a noble reason but the end result is the same, right? I still may try to do somethings like that with Help Exchange or WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We'll see. Though, I can say this for sure. Volunteering with organizations that resonate with me more (like N/a'an Ku se and/or similar to Half the Sky) my desire would be to help, learn and grow.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

20 minutes to midnight

This evening I went out to a belated birthday celebration. Jena had organized her group at The Tap & Barrel, a restaurant/bar in the Athletes Village area of False Creek. It was a nice time to celebrate Jena, reconnect with a couple of old acquaintances and make some new ones.

At the end of the evening I headed out the way I came, alone, in the direction of the Skytrain at Main Street. I decided to walk along the "seawall", past the moorage of the Dragon Boats with Science World twinkling blue and red lights behind it. I paused and leaned against the post rained-on rail, taking in the reflection of lights of BC Place and the intermittent lights of traffic on the Cambie Bridge. I took in the calm on the waters of False Creek, the clearing sky and a quietness that is uncommon in a city centre, even with the blanket of night.  Soon, though, I began to hear more. The traffic din grew a decibel louder. The chatter of voices arose. The hum around me ensued. I began to notice movement around me. The couple on a nearby dock, kissing and laughing as they were caught up in love, or simply lust. The barely noticeable body taking their black and white dog out for a long awaited rain break. The group of friends laughing at a new found memory. I looked to the time on my phone. It was twenty to midnight. A Skytrain shuttled past. Again my eyes looked towards Science World and the movement on the nearby roads. Behind me I heard the not-so-distant sound of police sirens wailing. A thought flitted through my mind: "Someone's life is about to change." I thought of how our lives move. How standing there; everything, everyone was inert in regards to my life and me to theirs.  Much was happening around me but nothing dissected my life. Or did it? It made me wonder for a moment of the mechanics of chance; of how life goes. Or does not go. I looked up and saw the that the clouds were lessening from earlier in the day. I saw a few stars but did not feel like observing. I pulled out my phone once again. It is one minute to midnight. I tried to take a picture of Science World but the battery was so low it did not  allow it. I headed to Main Street Station and caught a train downtown and subsequent bus home.