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The Thais that bind: Memories of exotic Thailand

 

Thailand is one of the few places that will always have a special place in my heart. The memories, the people, and the beauty of the country have made it worthwhile spending so much time there.

I decided to go on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip to Thailand. My friends and I didn’t know much about the country, but decided to go anyway. Once there, I met some new people, made some new friendships, and got a chance to step out of my comfort zone.

Anytime I saw something unique to the country, I had to try it out regardless of costs. I even thought about moving the return flight date further ahead. The air was magical and the cities were breathtaking. I didn’t know it at first, but I ended up exploring so much of the place that I could be someone’s else tour guide.

Let’s begin with Chiang Mai

My friends and I landed at Chiang Mai airport and quickly moved on to the hotel. From there, my friends and didn’t want to spend much money on travelling costs, so we either rented bikes or motor vehicles, then hit the road.

On the way over to the local spots, bars and nightclubs, I had some of the delicious local fish and curry dishes. The nightclubs in Chiang Mai were amazing and I met a lot of friendly locals that took the gang partying after hours.

Exploring Pai

The next stop was Pai, which was about 4-5 hours from Chiang Mai. I had heard a lot about this place, as it was a hippy playground where free-spirited people came to party. I thought this would be perfect! The mainstream hotels and clubs were quite commercially-oriented, and so I decided to venture deeper into the hidden gems.

I got a chance to see the White Buddha, visited Pombok falls, and had a great time meeting the locals. The Tha Pai Hot Springs were another brilliant adventure, and one that was unique to the place. Although a bit far, the Lod Caves were definitely worth the visit.

Ayutthaya and Sukhotai

These two cities were some of the most amazing ones on the trip. I wanted to explore the arts, culture and history of Thailand, and Ayutthaya gave me a peek. This was the peaceful part of the trip, as I just sat there with the monkeys playing around.

The temples, the museums, and the views were stunning. I remember a particular moment when a monkey sat next to me eating my banana. It was an surreal experience and something that doesn’t happen to me every day.

Partying at Koh Samui

My final destination was Koh Samui, the party capital of Thailand. It was a long flight in, but well worth the investment. The island wasn’t overpopulated as I expected, and I didn’t really see too many rough crowds anywhere. I dropped off the bags and headed over to Na Muang to check out the waterfalls.

Renting a bike from there was easy, as I headed on over to Chaweng beach. That’s where I met up with a lot of friendly locals who took me to beach parties that were away from the mainstream action. I spent my final night on the fine sands at Lamai and caught the flight back home the next day.

All in all, it was a great experience. I had a blast and Thailand showed me a different side of myself. I didn’t know that I had this inner adventurer inside of me. I didn’t know that I could say “yes” to things I had never tried before. I found itexhilarating, to say the least.

She The People: Laughter is a women’s movement #too

 

Spending time at a comedy club can be an uplifting experience that leaves one with a warm glow, but The Second City show “She The People” is also absolutely hilarious and brings tears to the eyes. As the subtitle suggests, ‘Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It for Themselves’ it is a show for women, and men—I took my partner with me and he shook with laughter—acted, written, directed by women. If the purpose of the show is to demonstrate that women can do it by themselves, they totally succeeded. Not only are The Second City women capable of writing, directing, acting, singing, dancing, and putting a show together without male input, but they are equally capable of making the audience shriek with laughter while making cutting political statements.

The show is an edgy collection of sketches—I counted at least 20—that portray situations that women live through on a daily basis, in the attempt to deconstruct and highlight the sexism that still exists in everyday life. The show was originally conceived and written for the Chicago theatre before the #MeToo movement broke. The Toronto edition has been updated to better reflect the present time, a different geographical context and to draw inspiration from the #MeToo movement. It is unquestionable that the sheer number of women coming forward to speak out against sexual harassment and various shades of sexism could no longer be swept under the rug. The vast explosion of incidents worldwide have made us all more receptive to conversations highlighting not only the injustice in a largely male-dominated society, but the stereotypes that revolve around women, including racism and misogynism.

Carly Heffernan, director of the show commented “I do think the #MeToo movement has made audiences more receptive to a show like She The People. More and more individuals want to support women telling their own stories with their own voices. For She The People, the movement also directly affected some of the show’s content. The Second City, being a satirical sketch comedy theatre, should reflect the world around us, no matter how tough, unfair, or just plain absurd that world may currently be. Shining more light on uncomfortable issues is how we move forward and more than ever audiences are craving the catharsis that comes from that light being shone.”

Carly’s words are reflected in a sketch that sees one of the six female characters waking up following a ten-year coma and learning that all her favourite actors are sexual offenders, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey. But that is not all! Donald Trump is President of the United States. Every shock from receiving such astonishing news was measured by the water she was sipping being spat into the face of the unwitting deliverer of the news.

Another sketch sees the character of a school girl who complains to her female teacher that a boy pushed her. The teacher tells her that no one will believe her. After all who else saw! An early warning to prepare the girl to the reality that women are not to be believed when they speak out. Although, as the teacher adds, things are getting better, which also means they are getting worse.

Many aspects in the present culture include stereotypes  of immigrant communities. In this sketch, the character of an Asian woman is asked where she is from. It seems still common enough to assume that non-white people are from a faraway land. However, as it turns out, she is from Scarborough.

Which woman has not feared becoming like her mother? I have and overcame it, and so did the character in another sketch. After being confronted with the realization that she is more similar to her mother than she likes to admit, acceptance kicks in.

A few sketches address the issues of women’s looks, body image, outdated beliefs of femininity, and how women are depicted in adverts. Advertising still relies heavily on gender stereotypes, pressurizing women to attain impossible standards of beauty and perfection. Women are still judged based on their looks rather than what they say, states the character hiding under the guise of a dinosaur. In another sketch, a strip tease performance never ends as there are multiple layers of spandex to remove.

In the penultimate sketch, an alien has taken all men away, aside from Justin Trudeau whose mother fought off the invaders. With no more men around, what are women to do? How do they envision their life to be? Will they stop wearing a bra? Perhaps even wearing pants will be optional! They could have their first elected female Canadian prime minister! They will even ensure that the Ontario’s sex ed curricula stays the same. With a finale that sounds like a hymn for women to find self-assurance and self-confidence, the possibilities seem endless.

As Carly stated “it was an absolute joy to work on!” It certainly was an absolute joy to watch!

One of the best jobs I ever had

 

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have can be laughably out of step with reality for those who wear a uniform to work. Another old adage that seems eyeroll-worthy is work hard and have a good attitude at whatever job you can get.

If you must work a terrible job that you feel is beneath you, isn’t a heavy chip on your shoulder proof you’re not a failure? Doesn’t commiserating about the misery of your shared hell with co-workers prove it’s only temporary?

We are living in a brave new world when it comes to job availability and opportunities, not only much different than what our parents faced, but even compared to the experience of older siblings.

The work hours aren’t always traditional, the benefits don’t always exist. Tantalizing dreams of a side-hustle taking off, and the promise of virtual workspaces giving us the independence to travel the world are the reward for being unable to afford a mortgage like previous generations.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to teach a woman the first formal English classes she had ever taken. She came to Canada for freedom as a Vietnamese boat refugee, and my classes were her first time to learn after decades of factory work. I was proud to teach her basic grammar skills, and see her writing, reading, and speaking improve so dramatically in a few months, and the pride she took in her hard work.

However, I wasn’t really suited for teaching. I needed a change, and wanted to try something new. I didn’t put any attachments or expectations on outcomes. I told myself that I would immediately move on when the time came.

The job I took was some called brand ambassador or hawker, I prefer newsie. I took a job handing out newspapers in front of the subway. I had had articles published in a paper before, and tried not to think of it as a downward step. One of the first surprises about the job is, that it actually paid the same as my other job teaching English as a Second Language.

I got up before the sun rose, put on my green apron, and did my best. A younger me would have hid behind sunglasses or scowled. I said good morning to every person who passed by, and was determined to hand out my quota of bundles.

On my first morning, I wondered what my co-workers would be like. I worked with a group, I stood in the middle of three fellow newsies. They were approachable and funny. Some were actors who appreciated the flexible schedule. Everyone had multiple creative projects, bands, and auditions.

There were people who walked by or got off the bus that I looked forward to chatting with every morning whether they took a paper or not. I learned I had a nice smile.

I was outside in winter in temperatures so frigid my hair froze, but I also got to marvel at some of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.

When the job eventually ended, I don’t think the job of handing out a newspaper even exists anymore, I knew more about my preferences. I could be an early riser, and I liked being a teamplayer.

We can embrace the future or fight it. A lifelong career at the same workplace may no longer be possible, but it isn’t necessarily a punishment. It is practical to be open-minded. Instead of justifying all the reasons why something isn’t the right fit for you, or how a job doesn’t match your career plan, just gather experience without judgement, and be open to what can happen.

My fear of navel-gazing

 

As a young adult, I created a bucket list of things I wanted to do in my life. I started with wanting to build a multimillion-dollar company, sidetracked by the idea that money was important. It took a few years and gaining a bit of success to realize it was an empty pursuit. So I focussed on finding a life partner and having children. As I learned more about the world, built my company, found love and had children, my bucket list grew. My life expanded and I found myself wanting to have a bigger impact on the world—to find a way to make it better. I found that the daily act of trying to make it better gave me a sense of inner strength.

I noticed that those who were guided by the desire to make money, as I once was, were also limited by it. They didn’t grow much beyond it and seem to shuffle through life, terrified of failure and constantly worried about what people might think of them. They take fewer risks and fear the bigger world beyond the mighty dollar. Sadly, they never end up making a real difference in the world.

When I think about people who have made the world better by their actions, I am drawn to those who lead and force positive change to happen—people like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and recently Malala Yousafzai. They stood up to a society that shunned their ideas at a time when the world needed leadership, and were guided by a strong moral code. These are the people everyone knows; however, there are so many others I am blessed to have met, who are determined to make a better world through their actions and words. They make a difference every day in the way they choose to live and in the way they help those around them. They don’t help others to gain recognition, but to make a positive impact on the world. I’ve noticed that people who want to make the world better are more focussed on the world around them—they look outward rather than becoming absorbed by their own inner drama—they aren’t sidetracked by their own positions.

This drive to focus on the world outside them allows them to find love, experience success and failures—and grow from both.

I’ve found that those who focus inward often become consumed by their own inner issues, they fear change and refuse to gain experience in the world beyond their door. Sadly, they often wrestle with depression, and the positive impact they might have on the world never gets realized. It’s a terrible cycle some people get into and I am beginning to wonder if one can slip from focusing outward to focusing inward? So my bucket list has grown to include items that force me out into the world from moving to another country, to trying to make the world better in my own small way.

I have travelled to a lot of places, but the area I’m drawn to again and again is the Caribbean for its beauty and its people. Unfortunately, tourism has pulled the population away from all other industries, to the point where manufacturing and local food production is almost non-existent—take, for example, the island of Barbados, where agricultural production is unable to sustain the local population, which now relies on importing most of its food.

Realizing that the greatest need in the Caribbean is to improve local manufacturing and food production, I began to research the best ways to inspire leadership in these areas. Time and again, I came across innovation hubs, places where artists and entrepreneurs collaborate. Cultural centres, shared work spaces, technology hubs, all create a culture of productivity and collaboration. The key to building a successful innovation hub is to sustain it long enough to spark and fuel productivity.

As I did more research into tourism, I came across changes happening in the hospitality industry. Airbnb was educating travellers to the benefits of renting homes and experiencing local communities. More and more travellers want local experiences and the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture, from food to arts and environmental experiences. By studying the changes happening in the travel industry, I realized the the trend for all-inclusive resort experiences had peaked and the new wave just building in the industry is experiential travel. From glamping—glamorous camping—to luxury tree-house suites and ultra-luxury canvas habitats. Travellers want to experience the local culture in a natural luxury setting.

My objective is to develop a boutique-hotel concept focused around an innovation hub. We will offer travellers unique opportunities to experience the local culture with the boutique hotel sustaining an innovation hub for local artists and entrepreneurs. I have managed to build a great team to work on our first proof-of-concept site in Barbados—Canvas and Cave. My goal is to prove that the innovation hub sustained by the hotel will have a positive impact on local manufacturing and food production. At the end of this month my family and I will move to Barbados to work on this project and begin this adventure. We have the land, we have formed a consortium of investors, and we have the construction team; but I know that I’ll need more help as we grow.

If you would like to get involved, please contact me at sthomson@canvasandcave.com

Namaste India: Exploring South India

 

I was born an Indian, which meant that I was part of the most diverse country in the world. Thus, whenever life blessed me with an opportunity to travel around, I would jump straight into it. Up until this very day, I have always looked forward to holidays for a chance to pack my bag and go on an exploration. Having travelled to almost all the major cities, India taught me to appreciate even the simplest things in life.

Once during a two-month long vacation, I grabbed my tote bag and decided to explore the place that I called my hometown and its neighbouring state. The Indian culture is diverse, but the culture of Kerala is exquisite. Right from my childhood, I was brought up as a typical Indian lady, but this place left me smiling like a kid at a candy store every time I went out on a tour.

The busy streets were lined with buses, rickshaws, mini stores, and textiles shops that displayed mannequins clad in Sarees and Salwar (Indian traditional attire). The coconut-palm-adorned beaches at Trivandrum and lethargic backwater rides in Alappuzha can be equally calming and enthralling at the same time. Additionally, the Kathakali dance—a classical art form, the appetizing sadhya, elephant festivals, and snake-boat races kept me fascinated on my very first journey along the southern coastline.

While Kerala featured a typically tropical climate, Tamil Nadu was enveloped in a sacred aura. The journey through this state evoked my inner spirituality with its stunning temples and immense faith in Hinduism. I moved to Mamallapuram nestled in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. The super rock-cut shrines here taught me that there would be no other place in this world where even stones would tell a story. The backdrop of traditional Tamilian culture and sacred temples soon transformed to ostentatious churches and French seaside colonies at Pondicherry. After roaming around the city for a couple of days, and enjoying the delicious seafood, it was time for me to return back home.

Days passed by as I busied myself with the day-to-day responsibilities, all the while getting my bank account ready for my next trip. The freshness of living in my hometown kept me fascinated, and I was falling more and more in love with the traditional culture and practices. Though I became comfortable in my role as a content writer, I still wanted to go on an exploration so badly.

A year later, another two months of vacation came by and I decided to finish my exploration of South India. I caught the next train that left to Andhra Pradesh and landed at Hyderabad, which is now the capital of a newly formed State called Telangana. It was Holi, ‘Festival of Colours’ on the day I reached the place and a billion smiles welcomed me. By the time I found a place to stay, I was bathed in a myriad of colours. The more I stayed at Hyderabad, the more I wanted to explore but time was short and I had to move to the next place.

It was during my trip to Karnataka when I found my true love: Bangalore —my love offered a lot for me to see. The bars, the microbrewery, the endless fields of grapevines, and a city buzzing with life that was what Bangalore was all about. The city kept me enchanted with the well preserved colonial architectures, lush green parks, and green spaces. My relationship with Bangalore grew stronger as its true beauty unfurled in front of me through the various sightseeing tours. During my days there, I went for walks and jogs in the morning; something that I never even thought of doing back in my hometown.

My fairy-tale dreams were turned to reality by the Bangalore Palace which resembled the Windsor Castle in many ways. Before travelling back home, I bought a bottle of freshly brewed beer from a winery and boarded the bus. The wine kept me company during dull evenings reminding me of all the beautiful memories of Bangalore.

A couple of years later, whenever I am asked about the most exciting trip of my life, my mind always rushes back to those days that I spent exploring South India. I was an introvert my whole life and I still am, but this trip changed me and helped me do things on my own.

Amber Fairlie: born to do hair

 

Some people are lucky. They cultivate a passion in childhood and pursue that passion later in life. It’s commonly known as having a dream, and with perseverance and hard work, some can make their dream come true. Amber Fairlie is one of those lucky people who knew what they wanted very early on. Chief Stylist and Founder of The Manor, a boutique salon in Davisville in Midtown Toronto, Amber wanted to be a hairdresser as early as she can remember. One of her first childhood memories is of her cutting her one-year-old brother’s hair. As a little girl, she used to look at the covers of fashion and hairstyle magazines, and that alone would fuel her imagination to be the one featured in those magazines.

After high school, she went to study hairdressing, graduating with honours, got her first job at a glamorous Yorkville salon as an apprentice, then went on to open her own business in 2011. Her salon reflects Amber’s personality and positive outlook toward life and work.

In a recent interview, Amber talked about what it takes to make that dream come true and revealed her recipe for success. “Really there are no magic formulas to starting your own business” she said. However, she is a firm believer that in order to succeed in life, you need a great deal of education. She keeps up-to-date with hairstyle trends on a regular basis and she advises everyone who wants to start a career in this business to make the most out of their education.

I found her smart, disciplined, dedicated, and with the right dose of ambition—a woman who can inspire other female entrepreneurs who think of embarking on a journey that is challenging, but also rewarding, such as starting a business. As an entrepreneur, she states “You need to want to own a business as this involves a lot of work: attracting new staff; new clientele as well as ensuring that existing clients keep coming back.”

Her principal mentor is Ronnie Stan, Creative Director of Oribe, luxury hair care brand carried in her salon. “He is an international ambassador, travels the world, and encourages everyone to further their education, pushes to think outside the box, and be the best they can be.” She says that since the job itself is quite repetitive, it’s up to the individual’s ability to think differently and occasionally come up even with slight variations to their routine.

If Amber could go back in time, she would like to live in the 70s. She says that this era represents a pivotal point in hairstyling. Hair carried a strong political and social message, think of the Afro and punk styles. Also, Vidal Sassoon’s career as a hairstylist started in the 70s. He became famous for bringing back the famous geometric hair style called the Bob that became very popular among celebrities. Who can forget the iconic image of fashion designer Mary Quaint?

Hair is part of a person’s outward appearance, and as such has the potential to influence how one is perceived as well as how one feels about themselves. Amber knows that her work has a deep impact on the individual she shapes the hair of. She helps her clients feel beautiful and good about themselves and that alone makes her happy. She knows everyone is a gift to the world and with every shape she creates and every look she changes, she brings out that side of each individual. Amber knows that some clients are afraid of radical changes; therefore, although she likes to change the look, she is also mindful of her clients’ needs and customizes to those needs.”

Since she got into hairdressing, Amber has had numerous runways, photo shoots, fashion shows under her belt, and her portfolio keeps on growing. She is a very determined woman and nothing stands in the way between her and getting what she wants. She is a risk taker and always ready to take on a new challenge. Since she opened The Manor Salon, her goal is to inspire other hairdressers by making her salon a space where fellow stylists can develop their career.

If she had a superpower she would like to be a healer and help people feel better. But isn’t she already doing that?

Seth Rogen’s rocket: sound advice from a comedy star

I am on the platform waiting for the train home and after the ritual ding-dong sound that comes before an announcement, I hear “Hello TTC customers! Seth Rogen here, fellow Canadian and public transit user. I always hold the door for my mother because she raised me right, but holding a subway door for her would get me in trouble. I don’t need the hassle or the delay, so leave the doors alone!” This is one of the 13 messages being aired by the TTC to remind riders that there is an etiquette even when taking the bus or train.

After the successful experiment to utilize Seth Rogen’s voice in Vancouver by TransLink to give tips on transit riding etiquette and courtesy, it’s time for Torontonians to be entertained and educated while using the TTC. As Rogen himself announced on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon “Toronto got in on the action as well. They got jealous.”

Since the beginning of August, TTC riders have been entertained by Rogen’s hilarious friendly scolding announcements like, don’t clip your nails, don’t eat your dinner on the train and other gross enough bad habits. Yes, apparently people do it enough to require such reminders. So, let’s see how effective this experiment will be in helping “create decorum” as Rogen puts it.

In a public statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory’s comment on the move is an “example of how we’re moving the TTC forward in new and innovative ways.”

Although some TTC customers would had expressed a preference for someone morel local, such as Drake or Mike Myers, Rogen with his voice and the unique laugh, and more importantly as a fellow Canadian, he is a fitting choice and close enough to my backyard! And he grew up taking the public transport, he cares about better manners displayed in public and he is not getting paid for it.

On the website, the TTC “thanks Seth for his time and generosity in this fun and unique project. We also thank our customers for doing their part in making riding the TTC a more positive experience for everyone.”

Did ambition hurt Smart Track?

A group of colleagues and I set up the Transit Alliance back in 2011 to educate the public on the need for dedicated transit funding and transit development. We believed that transit development was suffering because politicians used it to garner votes, but few bothered delivering on their promises. Our goal at the Alliance was to keep transit development in the public eye, so politicians couldn’t slink away from it. By keeping the level of discussion around transit constant, the public would demand development. We started the discussion on dedicated transit funding, we worked on building support on the use of tolls, and we advocated on the need to build the Relief Subway Line.

As I look back over our work, I realize that our biggest challenges came from politicians who tried to use transit as a stepping stone to power. Politicians, who created controversy over what and where transit lines should be built, were actually delaying the development of transit across Toronto. For example the Eglinton West subway line broke ground in 1994, but was cancelled with the tunnel filled in by Premier Mike Harris in 1995, to the horror of transit development experts around the world.

Political candidates (desperate for power) continually throw out transit plans that will garner the most votes. But transit is a complex issue and planning it properly to meet with population and density growth should be left to educated experts not campaign teams. Unfortunately, in Toronto few politicians listen to the experts.

In 2014 Mayor John Tory came out with a transit plan that was put together by some of the best transit experts in North America. Their focus was to create a transit plan that would help not just Toronto, but the entire region. And knowing the political road blocks likely to happen along the way, my guess is that they created a plan that asked for much more than what is essential, as politicians and public servants would invariably widdle down the plan over time. Mayor Tory’s Smart Track plan lived up to its name and was a smart plan for the entire region. Tory pointed out that the Relief Line was the highest priority subway line, but he also knew that the connections that moved people across the region were key to a strong transit network.

What many don’t realize is that politicians rely on public servants to deliver on their plans. Mayor Tory relied on his former chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat to figure out how to deliver Smart Track efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do it and seemed to have stalled the process. I’ve grown to admire and respect Mayor Tory. But I know him well enough to know that he would never point this out.

Today I learned that Jennifer Keesmaat, former chief planner, is now blaming Mayor Tory for her failure to deliver Smart Track. Her lack of willingness to take responsibility for her failures is shameful. But to blame Mayor Tory for her lack of success makes me wonder if she might have actually worked to hold it back? As chief planner, she could have added multiple layers of red tape, she could have delayed every aspect of the planning process around Smart Track and undermined the entire project.

I remember a dinner the Transit Alliance hosted with Jennifer Keesmaat as our guest of honour back in 2015 when she was Toronto’s chief planner. Keesmaat spoke about how great the Smart Track plan was and how it would help relieve gridlock in and out of the city. After dinner, I suggested that she should go into politics, that she might gain a lot of support. Her response – “Why do you think I’m here?”

Doctoring the results: bias against female students unmasked

Many women in Japan have recently discovered what they suspected all along that their dream of becoming doctors was shattered by the decision of several prestigious medical schools across the country that rigged their entry exam papers. These were marked down to stop them from pursuing a career in the medical field and ensure that more men than women were enrolled. The scandal, first uncovered at the Tokyo Medical University, quickly extended to other medical schools.

Last week the school admitted that the practice has been customary for more than ten years. Tetsuo Yukioka, Director of Tokyo Medical University in a press conference stated “We deeply apologize for having inconvenienced and caused people pain with such a serious scandal […] Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that and any organization that fails to recognize women will grow weak. And we fail to contribute to society.” He also stated that he was not aware of the rigging and that he was never involved.

The news came to light during an investigation regarding the son of an education ministry official and how he was allegedly admitted in order for the school to obtain research funds. Both the bureaucrat and the former head of the school were charged with bribery. The revelations have generated such a wide echo around the world to prompt the education ministry to order an investigation at many medical schools across Japan. Following this outbreak, the Education Ministry asked many medical schools to provide six years-worth of data on the genders and ages of all applicants.

The Tokyo Medical University kept the female student population at 30 percent, due to concerns about female doctors’ leaving their career following pregnancy and to take care of their children. The message is clear: since women will eventually quit their jobs to start a family, there is no point bothering with education! Let’s let the men do the heavy lifting.

In Japan women are massively underrepresented in politics, certain professions including medicine, and as company executives, accounting for more than 40% of the workforce. According to a 2017 World Economic Forum survey, Japan ranked as 114th in a list of 144 countries for gender equality. The lack of female doctors positions Japan well behind other advanced countries. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2015 Japan had 21 percent of female doctors against the OECD average of 45 percent.

That Japanese companies are more likely to promote men than women was known; however, the malpractice carried nowadays by educational institutions of denying female applicants entry in one of the most advanced economies in the world carries a very powerful weight. When it comes to equal opportunities, some societies are way behind.

Interestingly enough, a Japanese Internet portal Joy.net conducted a survey of Japanese female doctors, asking for their opinion on Tokyo Medical University’s test score manipulation, and found their responses rather surprising as they expressed understanding as to why the score was rigged. In other words, if even women justify the reason behind the rigging, that demonstrates that acceptance of gender inequality is so deeply ingrained in the female psyche that women do not fully embrace the concept of being on par with men; or to put it bluntly they have come to accept dishonesty and discrimination.

Furthermore, if it is true that women are more likely to quit their jobs after they get married and have children, then it is time for their male counterparts to take their share of childrearing responsibilities and for the Japanese society to create a work environment where it’s easier for female doctors to return to the workforce after maternity leave. In other words, it is time to start a discussion nationwide about putting in place a gender balanced policy in all professions across the country.

Staying strong on the Danforth

 

Like many Torontonians, I went to the Taste of the Danforth festival over the weekend. This year was a special celebration as it marks the festival’s 25th anniversary festival and it’s also taking place just three weeks after a deadly shooting on Danforth Avenue where two people were killed and 13 injured.  The Taste of the Danforth carried a message to stay stronger together to heal and show resilience as the Danforth and as a city. The spontaneous memorial, which was set up at the Alexander the Great Parkette after the tragedy, was moved to accommodate the Celebrity Stage. There visitors could pay their respects to the people who lost their life that night and the 13 that were injured.

The festival has typically attracted 1.5 million visitors each year. However, this year, it was predicted to host record numbers. On Friday night Prime Minister Trudeau and Mayor Tory opened the festival taking a moment of silence to remember that night and the victims including the two young women, Reese Fallon and Julianna Kosiz. T-shirts and buttons were sold saying #DanforthStrong and #TorontoStrongTogether. The proceeds will go to the Toronto Foundation set up to support the families of the victims. A benefit concert took place at the Danforth Music Hall where Billy Talent performed among other bands.

Many security prevention measures were in place this year. Security guards and police officers were on duty, garbage trucks were placed at major intersections, and street litter bins were sealed. It’s a sad reality we are all forced to face as a community to have to anticipate the next evil plan.

The festival featured three stages with live entertainment with Greek music and dancers as well as other cultural dances from around the world with teachers giving 15-minute dance lessons.

The Taste of the Danforth is a festival celebrating food, Canada’s multiculturalism and the Danforth’s Greek heritage—200,000 residents of the GTA are of Greek ancestry, the third largest Hellenic community outside of Greece. Here everyone has the opportunity to experience being ‘Greek for the Day’, eating chicken souvlaki, gyro sandwiches, and spanakopita.  Let’s not forget the smashing a plate in typical Greek tradition! Apparently, there are many legends that go around about this custom, one being why wash your dishes when you can break them? My favourite legend has it that the voluntary breaking of a plate is a form of controlled loss, and helps the person who breaks the plate in dealing with the death of a loved one. This is quite fitting and cathartic given this year’s circumstances.  So, as a Greek for a day, I ate chicken souvlaki, smashed a plate, and then shouted ‘Opa’!