Archive for February 2014

New Beginnings, New Challenges, New Life

Tim Shields

Another year has gone by and each New Year means a new start, a new resolution and maybe a change in our goals. We often make new resolutions and set new goals such as improving our attitude to be more sociable, or focusing on and excelling in our studies, or even just learning something new, something that we have never tried. Moreover, some of you who are reading this might be looking forward to start a new life in another country. And that is what I am writing about, my new life in Canada.

I moved to Canada during the summer in 2013. I’m from Sabah, Malaysia and yes, there are not much people from Sabah in Canada. I’m half Chinese and half Sabah native, which is quite unique. Anyways, when I moved here I didn’t want to go outside because it was too cold and I was not used to the weather. I started out quite rough because I knew no one here, and I couldn’t speak my own language except for my own family. I had zero knowledge about Canada, all I knew is they loved maple syrup.

Just kidding!

I spent two months locked up in my room most of the time and admittedly, there times when I cried because I missed my friends back in Sabah. It was quite challenging to accept the fact that I'm so far from home.

Despite all those barriers, I managed to overcome them in no time. My dad and I went to Vancouver School Board to arrange my school documents. At the Vancouver School Board, we found out about this event called Newcomer Orientation Week which was held in August. The event was for students and teens who were new to Canada. There were activities, workshops, and helpful guides for them to have an awesome kick start in Canada.

To be honest, I was reluctant at first and I didn’t want to go because I was so shy. But I forced myself to go and guess what? It was the best decision I’ve made because it opened my eyes to so many new things. I learned that the government trains students to do volunteer work and helps them grow in terms of socializing with crowds and boosting their confidence. Even though these students come from different backgrounds or even different schools, they were still able to communicate and work together well. It was a huge turning point for me and my way of thinking. They taught me that we all face difficult challenges but with perseverance, we could get through it easily, and that there will always be someone to help you, only if you ask for it.

When I started school, I felt the same type of homesickness that I did during my first week of stay here in Canada. I’m currently in grade 11, studying at a secondary school in East Vancouver. I started in September of 2013 and was absolutely dumbfounded by the size of the school when I first saw it. To me, it was huge because my former school in my motherland was small. I looked like a lost child when I was roaming around the halls, looking for my class. I even went in the wrong class for 2 weeks! I was very quiet and shy in the beginning. Thankfully, I managed to make a friend! It took quite a while for me to adjust in a new environment. I started socializing with more students when I was in P.E class actually. Students were very friendly to me; they just come up to you and sparked up a conversation, which was a surprise. And I learned from them, I started to talk more and more in class and gradually became confident bit by bit. If you are new student and are struggling to make friends, you have to be patient and not give up easily. It is hard, but with patience and kindness, you’ll find the right friends at the right time.

I guess I wrote this because I would like to encourage you to be courageous. Don’t doubt yourself. Just go for it. Keep yourself busy with volunteer works, sports, and roaming around Vancouver to appreciate its beauty.  Discover new things by joining clubs in school such as tech club, choir, dance team or even a leadership club. It is all worth it and plus, it’s free! And if possible, get a summer job because you will gain experience and learn new things besides earning money. Try to socialize more too! And you must, MUST, try ice-skating. Even though I fell so many times when I tried it, I still had real fun. You should visit the PNE too and try the ‘Hellavator’. That is all from me and I hope to write for you again next time!

- Sharon


Nick Kocharhook

What is it you do
that makes me

Do you know how it feels
to be on the receiving end
of your smiles and speech?
Do you know that you shine
brighter than the sun?

To know that you feel the same as I do
is a threefold utopian dream.

Maybe this is just a dream
And maybe I don’t want to wake up.
Right now,
I am happy. Right now,
All is good.

Never do I want this to change. 

- A love poem by Jose
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Posted by VANITY Blog

The Transition From Air-Conditioners to Heaters: A Productive Ramble.

Christopher John SSF

I like change just as much as I like uncomfortable situations, which is to say, a lot. There’s something about the novelty, that extra rush of adrenaline triggering my lizard, that makes me want to seek it out and bathe in its sweat-inducing, blood-pumping, knee-jerking effect. I become the change physically, mentally, and spiritually. Or maybe I’m just an adrenaline junkie who drinks too much coffee, that’s much more probable.

I’ve been in Canada for a bit more than a year now, and alas, I’ve fallen into a monotonous routine birthed by school and my ever-persistent aversion to homework. Albeit, my methods of procrastination may not be the most conventional for a teenager. I prefer books to the internet (Twitter and Tumblr are too complex for my simple minded self). I suppose at first, it was just my utter loneliness that drove me to take a shot at finding companionship in books. Soon, it turned into an addiction where I could hardly pull myself away from this fictional world of metaphors and similes. I’m trying to find a balance, now that I actually have some friends.

It’s challenging, making friends in a country that has a culture vastly different than what I’ve known all my life (there’s quite a disparity between watching American T.V and living it). Now, people that know me will attest to the fact that I’m an extrovert that finds pleasure in attention and random conversations with strangers on the skytrain, but I was conflicted; I wanted to “be myself”, but High School turned out to be a runway where “myself” wasn’t good enough. I went through a black clothes, head down, loner phase that I’m in all honesty, rather embarrassed about. I’m not insinuating that people that wear black clothes and don’t have much in the way of company should be embarrassed about it, just that I wasn’t a person that could be satisfied that way. In my defence, it was because I missed India. I missed being semi-popular, and I achingly missed my best friends, (let’s call them Z, P and D for the purpose of this text). Being invisible seemed like a better option than attempting to fit in, with my barely understandable accent (pfft Canadians can’t even pronounce my name right), my accidental use of British English (people look at me weird when I say ‘dustbin’ instead of the Canadian-accepted ‘garbage can’), and a somewhat jet-lagged brain. I also don’t get my fashion sense until the start of my Grade 12 year, though admittedly the few outfits that turned out well were probably those that I ‘borrowed’ from my elder sister. 

I’d enter a mall, get assaulted by the sudden, comforting warmth and remember, for the tenth time that day, that I’m in Canada where Heaters beat Air-Conditioners, even in the summers (though disappointingly, I haven’t met an actual Eskimo that lives in an igloo yet). I missed Mumbai’s salty, humid air that had a lingering scent of spices, and more often than not, urine.

But other than these moments where depression and longing would hit me faster than I could say ‘kutta’, I was happy. Living the dream, even! The roads were well-paved and the buildings didn’t have paan stains on every wall. I was surrounded to the point of being swamped by people of all races, from far away countries that spoke a multitude of languages. It was different, fascinating. Vancouver happens to be one of the many multicultural cities where I didn’t stand out like a sore thumb but I was still an individual with a valuable story. So I embarked upon a perilous journey, fraught with dangers of the unknown, personal demons and skeletons in closets. A generally non-judgemental folk (not necessarily including High Schoolers here), allowed me to experiment with clubs, volunteer organisations like Leave Out Violence (LOVE), subjects I liked, and an education system wherein my future did not depend upon the much dreaded End of The Year Final Exams. I explored this new land, while at the same time delving into the depths of my mind, my thoughts about religion and spirituality, my sexuality (I could be something other than heterosexual and that would be okay? Mind blown!), my passion for history, psychology, sociology, and other social sciences, and my music (I went to my first live concert!).

I found ways to express myself positively to the people around me and suddenly, I didn’t feel as socially incapacitated and oppressed as I did in India. I’m not implying that India doesn’t have its glories for me. As cheesy as I may sound, growing up in such a tight knit society that was above the petty grievances of religion and language barriers with an unquestionably peaceful co-existence (SHIKHAR), gave me a well-rounded perspective of society and the relationships we form in it, making me what I am today.

A part of me will probably always be the eight-year old Rhea who eats pani-puri at the roadside stalls every other day (which may or may not be hygienic), and buys 50 paise Coffee Bites by the dozen at Mahavir’s.

I realize that I’ve probably been a little too candid in this emotional purge of words, and that makes me feel vulnerable, so I shall end this rather cathartic rant on a quote from one of my favourite poems:

“I am large, I contain multitudes.” –Walt Whitman, Song of Myself. (Section 51)

- Gargi Parkale (Guest Blogger)

TED Talks Tuesdays: The Danger of a Single Story

Every Tuesday, we'll feature a TED Talk that we think could empower and inspire immigrant youth. Today's featured TED Talk is by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was born and raised in Nigeria. Having written numerous critically-acclaimed books that have started to reshape African literature, she is an inspiration to many.

In this TED Talk, she tells us why paying attention to a single story may cause us harm. Our own cultural lives and the cultural backgrounds of other people influence us everyday in the way we think, feel, and act. Oftentimes, listening to a single story limits us from recognizing that people who come from similar cultural backgrounds do not possess the same exact beliefs, behaviour, and experiences. Single story causes misjudgment and misunderstanding.

As Chimamanda points out, single story can produce stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are false, but  that they present an incomplete story. 

Trust me when I say that you won't regret spending 19 minutes of your life watching this:

Favourite quote from the talk: "All these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make the single story the only story."

What's Up, Vancouver? (February 2014)

Robson Square Ice Skating Rink courtesy of Jason Pier

Looking for fun things to do this month? Listed below are some of the biggest happenings in Vancouver this February! Click the links to know more about the event:

Robson Square Public Skating
November 15, 2013 to February 28, 2014

Hot Chocolate Festival
January 18 to February 14, 2014

CBC Toque Sessions - Free Concerts in Vancouver
Thursdays and Fridays from January 23 to February 28, 2014

Roots and Branches - African Revolution
February 8, 2014

24 Hours of Winter at Grouse Mountain
February 8-9, 2014

BC Family Day at the Vancouver Art Gallery
February 10, 2014

After Hours at Vancouver Aquarium
February 12, 2014

YOUnique Free Youth Conference
February 15, 2014

Youth 4 Action Leadership Clinic: "Beyond the Bin - Strategies, Actions and Inspiration for Zero Waste Schools"
February 15, 2014

2014 Metro Vancouver Sustainability Youth Summit
February 19, 2014

Disclaimer: The events page is for informational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, we are not affiliated with the hosts and organizers of the events listed on this page.

The Month of Firsts

New Year: Fireworks and Resolutions

I know it’s late for a New Year's resolution post, but I purposely waited for January to be over (totally not because I’m behind my schedule) before I made this post.

Anyhow, let me just put out the fact that I’m a very superstitious person. With all my beliefs including feng shui and astronomy, one can claim that I treat January as a big deal. I call it: the month of firsts.

This entails me trying to do everything in the most amazing way possible so it will be amazing all throughout the coming year. Sounds crazy isn’t it? Or is it actually confusing? Okay then let me elaborate: if, for example, I make a coffee and realize that it will be my first coffee of the year, I’ll say to myself “hey it’s my first coffee of the year. Better make it special”

I know it sounds childish or crazy...or CRAZY in all caps, but I have this preposterous theory that every first activity/chore in the first month shall be done wisely. If it is done horribly, then it’ll be horrible the whole year.
Why am I writing about this? Is it because I don’t have any idea for our January post? ‘Course not (seriously, no.) I’m doing this because... I want us to see the beauty of firsts.

Now that January is over, I have realized how silly I’d been. I spent the whole month trying to do things nicely; Getting frustrated when they come out wrong. I’ve wasted the opportunity to actually live in the moment.

This does not only apply to new beginnings; it is actually applicable to everything. Presentations, we get so nervous on how are we going to look like that we forgot we’re actually there to present; Family events, we keep on asking where everyone is then forgetting about the people who actually showed up.

Main point is, look deeper. Experience deeper. Think deeper and Live deeper. Let’s not get caught up with superficiality. Most of us think we’re not doing this, but in fact, human vanity is normal. It’s just that we get too much divulged into it. So maybe this year, we can stop fumbling on getting worried about how things are going to turn out. Instead, we can start savouring the journey!


- anonymeh
    “Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda

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Vancouver Immigrant Youth (VANITY) Blog is an online space made for youth, by youth. Here, you will find stories and experiences written by youth immigrants who once felt how challenging it was to be a newcomer in Vancouver. If you are a newcomer in Vancouver (or anywhere in Canada), we hope to give you all the resources you need to feel comfortable in this country. We hope to give you tips and advices on how we adjusted to our lives here as youth immigrants. Through this site, we want to empower you to bring out your full potential.





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