Tutoring Calculus in Bhekulwandle [Seed of Hope]

Carl hooked me up at Seed of Hope with one of their after school programs led by a great guy name Musa. Musa leads tutorials and discipleship programs with jr and sr high students living in an impoverished area between holiday town Amanzimtoti and Durban township Illovo.

The students who showed up were told to bring questions and questions they did bring. The junior high students worked on multiplying fractions and I showed them how to break numbers down to their factors. Four grade 12 boys arrived with curve sketching questions from their calculus class - a unit I am in the middle of teaching to my class back in Calgary.

One of the challenges that I could see the students are faced with attempting to complete rather complex math operations and tasks without very clear understanding of the roots of these operations. Fortunately, the boys are very diligent and bright, but I fear a lack of access to a willing teacher hampers their ongoing understanding.

Very fun to help out, but I'm not fooling myself into thinking that they will be impacted long term by this. I do hope they were able to get through the week with a little less stress.

Big Bird Snack

Just enjoying a little ostrich jerkey - product of South Africa - to supplement my lunch today in Bhekulwandle.

Ingredients: raw ostrich meat, spices (salt, irradiated spices: nutmeg, black pepper, cloves), sugar, yeast extract, preservative: potassium sorbate, vinegar (with caramel colorant).


3 continents in 24 hours

Amber drops me off at Calgary airport with some kisses.
I am tagged for chemical testing before entering security (gotta be the goatee).
No chemicals have made contact with me.
Eat home made donuts Amber packed in my laptop bag.
Read about what I can learn from the poor.
At the gate I overhear a conversation between an Arab father and a KLM agent as to why his 1 week old son can not fly - no documentation - the wife is in tears, so is the 6 yr old son.
On the plane, an amazing story in Calgary Herald about 2 people surviving a winter plane crash for over 40 days in Yukon 50 years ago.
Drink, yes, a free Heineken please. I can do this.
Chat with my seat mate, Margot, a middle aged French teacher from Saskatchewan who lives in Turkey with her Turkish husband - she has political views.
Another drink with your meal sir? Yes please.
My visit to the loo lets me see a bit more of the 8 seat wide plane. At the front of both economy sections there are little beds for babies. Brilliant.
I get a high score on the inflight Tetris game.
Blaise's card is opened over the Atlantic.
I watch a Dutch movie about some mechanics who train for a marathon (De Marathon) and then The Bourne Legacy.
Not sleepy, so I don't sleep, but I develop a headache after eating breakfast at what is 11 pm for me.
The view of the ocean waves and the transport freighters as we approach the Netherlands are awesome.
My connection in Amsterdam involves waiting in 3 lines: get a boarding pass, go through security, and finally board the plane. 
I am barely awake. I crumple into my window seat (on the wing), cover myself with the blanket and try to sleep for the next 5 hours.
I skip the first inflight meal because of nausea.
I get intermittent naps in and feel refreshed enough to chat with the London couple next to me who are visiting family in their native South Africa.
We chat amicably about community development and education.
I saw the Sahara from 10 km in the air. Barely.
I read some more from my book.
Spend some time praying behind my sleep mask.
I crack open the chocolate treats from Amber.
Wreck-It Ralph entertains me.
Acadia's card is opened over Chad. The flight map shows that we have flown over Libya, Chad, Central African Republic, The DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe before entering South African airspace.
Amazing lightning storms as we descend into Johannesburg.
Customs is quick and easy. Yes, I am here on holiday.
OR Tambo airport is dead. Internet ain't free, but nice to read kind wishes from folks on facebook.
I find a corner with seats where I can park myself for 7 hours until my flight to Durban and I blog.


New Years Eve 2012 Beer Tasting

Now becoming a tradition, the Robiroost hosted a beer tasting as a New Years Eve party. It has been and is such an event that there seems to always be a contingent of attendees who don't even like/drink beer. Happy to have them there.

Everyone attending came from our Dragonfly Cohousing circle except a contingency from Regina who was passing through bring with them some delightful drink from Bushwakker brewery and debates about workers unions.

The sampling came from those sampling and what a delicious review. The evening's top four of twelve are as follows:
  • Trois Pistoles (Unibroue)
  • Maximus IPA (Lagunitas)
  • Innis & Gunn Spiced Rum Finish - (Innis & Gunn)
  • Chimay Tripel (Bières de Chimay)
Then we had a 4-way tie. The middle ones were:
  • Blackberry Mead (Bushwakker)
  • Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (Lakes of Muskoka)
  • BNL Imperial Chocolate Stout (Flying Monkeys)
  • Chico IPA (Bushwakker)
The lowest scoring, though by no means bad brews:
  • XXXXX Stout (Pike)
  • Trephination Double IPA (Bushwakker)
  • Attilla the Honey (Mt. Begbie)
  • Apricot Summer Weizen (Okanagan Spring)

A great time, hopefully to be replicated annually. Happy New Year!


Dragonfly Cohousing Project Update

I attended my first cohousing meeting October 8, 2009, about a year after this project was initiated. Amber and I became equity members on October 14, 2010. So much has happened since (land purchase, development permit), but in the last few months:

  • building documents are being drafted with a building permit application going in in the next week or so
  • 33 of the 36 units are sold
  • our group of equity members have put together just over $4 million
My role in all of this has been in the membership/marketing team. I led an online media campaign on Facebook and Twitter for the month of February including remaking the website on WordPress and producing a video (and another that I just haven't felt too pressured to finish). I got to see the relevance of online advertising and creating a content calendar. I also got to see that it is quite easy.

We hope to have a mighty machines on the ground in early May with a move-in date approximately 12 months later.

King's Creek Ridge, Kananaskis

To celebrate turning 40, our friend Jana invited friends to do a hike off "40" in Kananaskis. Anne's suggestion to hike King's Creek Ridge won out and Wow! What a terrific hike!!

Almost everyone on the hike was from Dragonfly. We enjoyed a luxurious lunch at the summit complete with wine, cake, and chocolates. More and larger photos here.

A Grizzly Bear in our Campsite

This past summer, our family started camping again. Our second outing was on the eve of the August long weekend in the southern part of Jasper National Park. Knowing that camping spots were limited we were happy to take claim a walk-in space at the Jonas Creek Campground heading north on Highway 93. We set up our tent, explored and spent a quiet evening and night on the rise among the pines.

The next morning, after packing up our breakfast stuff, we drove up the highway to see the Sunwapta Waterfalls. We spent the morning walking down river to the lower falls and then back again to the louder, more impressive upper falls. Then we headed back to Jonas Creek for lunch and quiet time.

We parked our car at the bottom of the hill and began the 3 minute walk up the hill when another camper came running towards us telling us there was a grizzly up there. It was Friday and we could see that even in the couple hours we had been gone, the campground had filled up with just 2 vacancies at the bottom of the hill where all the RVs and trailers were. Speaking with a few other campers, we decided that we should lay claim to a more populated site for the time being - and have lunch while we waited for a park ranger to show up.

Amber prepared lunch at a picnic table beneath a towering pine with a squirrel hurling pinecones at her. I walked to the tent sites with 3 other people, one of whom blew a whistle ever 5 seconds, another armed with an ax, and a couple of us with bear spray. A couple wanted to retrieve their camping stuff and so did I. We could see the bear had stirred up a site where food hadn't been properly packed up (dirty frying pans etc.). We checked out the site the couple was just setting up when the bear had come around with a man behind it yelling bear. They had abruptly abandoned their tent and retreated to the lower area. Then we meandered cautiously to our campsite.

While our tent was untouched, our dining area was in shambles. The brute had dragged our table cloth onto the ground along with all of our dishes, stove and washing basin. He had bitten into and therefore ruined our 6 gallon collapsable water jug. Most revealing however was the blood on our table cloth. This bear was injured and was looking for food where bears typically avoid at all costs.

The group of us collapsed our tent, loaded everything onto the tent and we dragged it to the bottom of the hill to our new campsite. We arrived just as the rangers did. They interviewed a few of us and then went up the hill to look for the bear, rifles in hand.

We ate our lunch looking over our shoulders. About 30 minutes later the rangers came down the hill with the announcement that they were going to have to close the campground because they were unable to locate the bear and it was too risky to have people camping in the area. Almost immediately after making the announcement the bear appeared - it had been tracking the rangers. We were ordered into our vehicles and the rangers spent about 15 minutes trying to coax the bear back up the hill where they could destroy the bear out of site of us campers. We watched the fearless grizzly bear roar and even approach the rangers before he was slowly coaxed up the hill. We heard three gunshots.

The rangers were in a hurry to get the dead beast into the back of their pickup to avoid being mobbed by the campers. After they backed the truck up to the base of the hill - where our car had been parked initially - they half dragged, half rolled the carcass down and then into the back of the truck while a couple campers clapped for them. The ranger spoke to the gathered crowd about why they had to shoot the bear. It appeared that the bear had suffered an injury from a vehicle and was not able to travel quickly enough to satisfy its caloric needs and so it was going for easy food at our campsite.

We returned to our campsite to discover that the bear had been killed in the trees beside our site. I snooped and discovered this blood soaked footprint.


Beer Tasting Nov '12

Zaakistan reader and commenter Danny B, husband of the prolific blogging sensation Aimee at Simple Bites and Under the High Chair (how's that for a qualifier Danny?), happened to be in Calgary for a conference and as I had promised months before, I organized a social event around tasting kindly beer. Amber, Jae, Anne, Heather, Patrick and later Jasen rounded out the table, each of us providing 2 beer to try.

Danny brought a couple beer from a local brewer in Québec - beer we can not yet access in Alberta. It basically won the evening. This was my order of preference:
  1. Ale Écossaise (Brasseurs Illimités)
  2. Green Reaper Fresh Hop IPA (Phillips Brewing Company)
  3. Delirium Tremens (Brouwerij Huyghe)
  4. India Pale Américaine (Brasseurs Illimités)
  5. Father John's Winter Ale (Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company)
  6. Saison D'Etre Farmhouse Ale (Alley Kat Brewing Company)
  7. Mr Sno'balls (Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.)
  8. Hobgoblin (Wychwood Brewery Company Ltd)
  9. American Dream (Mikkeller)
  10. Bloed, Zweet & Tranen (Brouwerij De Molen)
  11. St-Ambroise Framboise (McAuslan Brewing)
  12. Begbie Cream Ale (Mt. Begbie Brewing Co.)
  13. Ginger Beer (Granville Island Brewery)

a very good friend to have

Tamer is a very good friend to have. I knew him briefly in Montreal and was pleased to discover that he  and his family now lived local to us in Calgary. One of the things he has invited our family to has been lamb roastings.

As he is from Egypt, one way of celebrating his culture and sharing it is through food. Roasted lamb requires the right tools and so after discovering that purchasing a charcoal spit cost the same as renting one three times, he went ahead and got properly equipped.

The feast in September was well attended and very well enjoyed. One of the talking points were the seared lamb testicles (below). I tried some and if I could have gotten beyond the idea and beyond the texture, I'm sure they were very tasty.

Tamer is a very good friend to have.

A Visit to the Howe Sound Brewpub

Not realizing that the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company was in Squamish, I've actually missed sampling at the source several times before last summer. But, then I was informed...

I visited the brewpub with my wife and sister on the first night of our visit to the painfully scenic town of Squamish. I got sampler which gave me seven 3-oz glasses of their award winning brews that were on tap.

  • 4-Way Fruit Ale - Simply a fantastic summer beer; fresh and fruity. Tasted several times following this.
  • Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale - Not a particularly outstanding beer, but it's not my favourite style either. 
  • King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen - I was really blown away by this one due to its powerful banana notes and yet it didn't turn the flavour into something too sweet or sticky. Bought a couple litres a couple days later.
  • Devil's Elbow India Pale Ale - One of two Howe Sound beers I had had before hand. This is a nicely crafted IPA kindly flavours, but slightly unbalanced aftertaste. Quite enjoyable. 
  • Baldwin & Cooper Best Bitter - I don't remember what this tasted like. Will have to retry.
  • Rail Ale Nut Brown - Very tasty dark beer, but seemed a little thin.
  • Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout - Oh so yummy. A pint of this will keep you warm at night.

This is Howe Sound from the top of The Stawamus Chief.

Brad and I took a tour of the brewery a couple days later. Their first stage tanks (part of which is seen below) were being replaced the next day.

A King's Fold Retreat

Amber surprised me back in November with a quick getaway to King's Fold Retreat and Renewal Centre northwest of Cochrane (and nw of Calgary too for that matter). The two of us drove out after supper on a Friday evening up a snowy Forestry Trunk Highway (40) leaving our children with our housemates. We were greeted by our hosts, settled into our room, and then planted ourselves in the glory of their library in front of a wood burning fireplace. Oh the quiet.

We breakfasted with the half dozen other guests/hosts the next morning and then lunched with the same and some new guests later that day. We again delved into the book collections - myself into Bible commentaries on the book of Acts. The glistening outdoors drew us too however and we strolled down to the river with the centre's dog leading the way. The ice covered only a portion of the river and a fresh snow made the foothills clean. Cloud cover prevented us from seeing the Rockies, but there was enough beauty for one day.

Certain renewal. Inevitable realigning of priorities. Magnificent reminder of God's ever presence.

Motion Picture Soundtrack

Last night I watched the film The Impossible starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts about a family who is ripped apart by the 2004 tsunami. I didn't cry once. I cried several times. The film is emotionally driven as loneliness, loss, empathy, and shared humanity feature in every scene. A welling soundtrack accompanies all of those scenes so that I could anticipate a reunion or deep anxiety along with the character - my heart racing with theirs.

Two weeks ago I watched another celebrated film called Amour from Austrian director Michael Haneke (one of my favourites). The film portrays the care an elderly husband shows his now disabled wife and her response to being disabled - a very complex film with extraordinary characters. No where in the film is a soundtrack used added. There is some live and recorded music, but only music that the characters can hear as well. Because of the absence of a manipulating soundtrack, I share the quiet, loneliness, despair, and heartbrokenness of the characters in their space, in their time (it's also a very slowly paced movie).

So, which is better? To have a soundtrack or not? Would Schindler's List have been as powerful without John Williams compositions or Itzhak Perlman's haunting violin solos? The wisdom of a director and producer to know when a scene can be enhanced by music is more intuitive than formulaic and I do enjoy when that wisdom runs deep.