Archive for December 2014

What's Up, Vancouver? (January 2015)

Polar Bear Swim
January 1, 2015
English Bay
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Christmas at FlyOver Canada
Everyday until January 4, 2015
Canada Place
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The Whistler Holiday Experience
Everyday until January 4, 2015
Whistler Conference Centre
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Ice Skating at Robson Square
Everyday until February 28, 2015
Robson Square
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Unplugged: How to Hack a Million Dollars (An Open Mic Meetup)
January 13, 2015
887 Great Northern Way #101 VancouverBC V5T 4T5
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Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Presents New Music Festival
January 15-18, 2015
The Orpheum Theatre
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Vancouver Sketch Comedy Festival
January 16-18, 2015
The Waterfront Theatre (1412 Cartwright St, Granville Island)
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Divers' Weekend at Vancouver Aquarium
January 17-18, 2015
Vancouver Aquarium
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HTML 500 Vancouver: Canada's Largest One-Day Learn-to-Code Event
January 24, 2015
Rocky Mountaineer Station
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The Now Year

It’s almost the end of year 2014, which means it’s the season for New Year resolutions again. Have you ever set a goal and achieved it? If yes, then good for you (but still read on)! If no, then keep reading.  A lot of us would probably say, “oh I will try my best to lose some weight,” or “I will stop drinking soda,” or “I will stop procrastinating” and the list goes on. But do we follow through? We set resolutions in the New Year to change our lives for the better. That’s good, right? But hold on, why do we have to wait for the end of the year? Why not start now?

I’d like to introduce to you what I call “The Now Year.” Start now, (yes, NOW) and when the new year comes, you’re already ahead of yourself! No more waiting for January 1st to sign up for that gym membership- start midway December before all the Holiday parties (and all the eating) start!

With this new idea introduced, it brings afloat the topic of “living in the moment,” where one lives life to the fullest now, whilst not worrying much about yesterday and tomorrow. Now is important because that is where you are now. Now is where you can make things happen! So if you want to change something in your life (like what you would say in a New Year’s resolution), you can’t do it yesterday. You can do it tomorrow, but why wait? Do it now, in the NOW Year!

So let’s change tradition. Instead of saying “Happy New Year,” be grateful for what is now and say “Happy Now Year!”  Be reminded that the next year is still tomorrow, and what matters most is the present.  Be in the moment! Live in it!

Aside: It’s interesting how changing one letter can significantly alter the definition of a phrase. It takes one small thing to change a big thing. Do you ever think about that too, how our little good deeds result in bigger rewards? That could be a good Now Year’s resolution: do more good in the community!

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the ‘present.’” –Shifu, Kung Fu Panda

Live in the moment (yes, that means now),

- Jose

My Christmas Wish

Courtesy of: Markus Spiske

I was never really given a personal allowance, instead, I was always given a sum of money every week that would be enough for my commute to school, and anything else I needed. Money for personal use, well, that wasn’t really something I had growing up.

Part of it was because money was tight, but that was something my parents never wanted me to know. They took it upon themselves to hide anything that may indicate financial struggle. Even though I never had an allowance, I didn’t think I needed one, because when I was a kid, when I wanted something, they would give it to me. Every time.

My parents struggled to put me through school, mainly because they wanted me to go to the best private school in the Philippines, and not once did they complain about shouldering the huge expense by working longer hours and placing themselves in debt.

I only learned about our financial situation when we moved to Canada, when I was finally old enough to understand why they did all that they did, and why they never wanted me to learn about their hardship. They just loved me so much, they didn’t want me to be bothered with all the stress of not knowing how to pay the month’s bills or this year’s tuition.


So now that I have a job, now that I earn money to pay for my own tuition, I think it’s only fitting to pay them back. Every time I get my paycheck, I save some of it for my parents. I have a plan, you see.

Every Christmas, starting from way back when I was five, my parents would always surprise me by pretending to have forgotten about what I wanted, then giving the gift to me when the day was over; it’s a tradition that has so much more meaning to me now that I know the full story behind everything they’ve ever done.

My plan is that with the sum of money I’ve stashed away, I’ll use it to buy them the things they want, and as it grows, so will the gifts. Small gifts for now, given that I’ve only been working for a few months or so, but as the years go by and as (hopefully) my paycheck grows and the sum increases, I can give them the things they’ve gone without just for my sake.

I’m a simple guy with no real need for anything other than food and internet connection, so who knows, maybe with enough time and effort I can get them a vacation in Hawaii for the Winter, and, maybe with my brother and sister, buy them a house when we’ve all grown up. It’s the very least I can do.

- Carlo

Trying Out New Things

Winter is absolutely my favourite season. There is hot-chocolate, eggnog, gingerbread, snow, Christmas…who doesn’t love Christmas? You don’t have to celebrate Christmas, but the general jolly-ness of the holiday always makes my day. In Vancouver, the absolute must-do during winter is to go skiing, or snowboarding. If you feel like speed is not your thing, there is always cross-country skiing, but that’s not what this article’s about. I’ve never skied before coming to Canada. But at the urging of many family members and friends, I decided to go for it.

As a kid (>12 I think), they were very cheap season tickets. Going with a friend is probably a good idea, preferably somebody who knows what they’re doing because learning (at least for me) was not easy. Yes, skiing and snowboarding look cool, but when you’re actually on those flat pieces of plastic, the ground really does seem to move fast. My first time snowboarding, I couldn’t go down the bunny hill. But of course, everything gets better with practice. Unfortunately for me, my dad thought I got enough practice on the very first day.

So off I go, with him at the top waiting and me on a green. Yes, green runs are supposed to be easy but that was actually the first day I was on a snowboard. So precariously I turned and stopped, turned and stopped, sometimes just edging my way down the hill. However half way down, the wind started to pick up and before I knew it, I was in the middle of a blizzard. There was snow and wind blowing everywhere, sometimes so thick that I could barely see which way is up and which way is down, only relying on gravity. And that didn’t work so well as gravity also made you fall. So there I was falling and stopping and going slower than a person walking. And there wasn’t anything I could do; walking back up was way too far, so I kept on going.

After almost 2.5 hours I finally saw the shadow of chairlifts at the end of the run. Words cannot describe the relief I felt; there wasn’t a happier sight. I finally got on the chairlift, taking me up in less than 10 minutes, and of course, falling again when I got off. But I went back. Even though I was terrified afterwards, I went back again and again, and now, snowboarding’s my favourite thing in the world.

So the moral of the story? Skiing is awesome, and there’s a reason Vancouver hosted the winter Olympics. But more than that, it’s to always try something new. To try, try again because one day, you’ll succeed. One day, you’ll look back and realize these experiences have made you far more as a person, and be filled with pride. That day, you’ll be a happy person. 

- Selena

The Philosophy of Gifting

The holidays are within us! A time for wonderful moments. A jolly gift giving season. So, what kind of gift are you expecting? Would you want money-gifts? I wouldn’t, so I’ll explain it, I’d rather share someone’s time. Why? I’ll explain my principles for gift giving.

·       Sentimental Things - cause true, genuine, human EMOTIONS, and they strengthen BONDS.
·       Luxury Items - anything you don’t necessarily need. Something you’d WANT but can’t easily BUY.
·       Functional Stuff - the USEFUL and COOL stuff, the gifts that creates life IMPROVEMENTS.
·       Money and Cash - anything that can be SPENT. I absolutely dislike this option, but I might consider it if I need, not want, something from the HOLIDAY SALES.

To start with, the Sentimental Things are always my favourite, except when they are too sappy. They give you the best emotional reactions to gifts. Sometimes, they might not even look like material gifts, but they exist. Also, they also mean that you care more for the other person receiving this type of gift.

Examples of (Cool) Sentimental Things:

·       Any custom-made gift made by you. Works well if you’re artistic, musical, or crafty.
·       Anything that involves one of the person’s most valuable interests. Tickets for movie lovers, a sketchpad for artists, a fancy pen for academics, a chessboard for thinkers, etc.
·       Finally, what other thing beats sharing your time? Spending your time with a person beats any gift; discuss intellectual ideas, talk about the past and the following year, go around town visiting holiday hotspots, and get a cup of coffee. Make people appreciate you, not your wallet.

Remember that thought does count. Gifting anything expensive without putting thought into it makes you seem materialistic and egotistical. Then it puts guilt and a feeling of awkwardness on the person if he/she returns a “cheaper” gift.

Examples of Luxury Items:

·       What a child typically wants, the latest PlayStation/Xbox/Laptop/Apple/Android. Gaming consoles, stationary and portable. Enough said.
·       He buys Bvlgari jewellery, Louis Vuitton shoes, and the priciest Gucci bag. Then grandpa gives them to hermit cousin who does not care whether he’d taken a shower or not … seriously, think before buying senselessly.

Not all gifts over $100 are considered luxury, thoughtless freebies. Some of them actually are bought to add interest and practicality to gift exchanges. Additionally, some of them might be liked by others depending on their functionality.

Examples of Functional Stuff (That Are Actually Cool):
·       iPhone lens. They are absolutely awesome. Photographer or videographer, both would agree that those glassy attachments are the best things ever since Converse Chuck Taylors.
·       A year of Netflix, eBooks, a fitness watch, or a flash drive (USB) are all possible picks. This is the 21st century, better adapt to it rather than stay traditional in the past.
·       Clothing will always be in someone’s must-have list. However, not all kinds of clothing should be gifted. Usually, scarves, earrings, hats, belts, sunglasses, and other accessories are the safest categories to pick from.

Money and Cash:
Should you even consider it as a possible gift idea? Think about gift cards, cheques, Christmas money. Do you sense the “I-don’t-have-time-to-do-something-thoughtful” feeling when receiving or giving money? The problem is that the gift card or cash has a limit attached to is, $25, $50, $100. Why must you be bought, treated like an object, like you’re just some kind of businessman’s business? Why not be treated as a human whose emotional response is more valuable than temporary feelings of power from having $50 to spend at Walmart? Two answers: the person does not care about you or the person just does not know enough about you, so buys a gift card or gives money to be safe.

To end this, why not think about giving someone a combination of the three? Let’s say, your time and company, something useful but valuable and hard to get. For example, spend the holidays together, give the techy person- a smart-ring or a smartwatch, the gamer- a newly released video game, the fashionable- a beautiful scarf, the artist- sheet music or an arts book, the intellectual- something new to learn.

I have skipped many types of people, you can probably find out the type of person you’d gift yourself. Remember, thought over price. The value of a gift is better found by the reactions of the receiver, not on the price it displays in the stores. A present can be as rare as life, friends and a future to look forward to, or it can be as simple and lovely as a nice conversation under the winter atmosphere. 

- Angelo

Things To Do in Vancouver This Christmas Season

Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. No one really knows the exact date of his birth, but most Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25. On this day, most people go to church, where they participate in special religious events. During the Christmas season, they also exchange gifts and decorate their homes with lights, Christmas trees and mistletoe.
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays because I like how families and friends gather together and have delicious Christmas dinner and spend time with each other. I always enjoy spending time with my families and friends. So I have made a list of activities that I will be doing during the holiday season. You can also go to some of those events and get into your Christmas spirit!
Bright Nights at Stanley Park
It’s nice to go with your family and friends to check out millions of twinkling lights sparkle at night in Stanley Park. For seeing the lights, entrance fee is by donation, meaning that you can pay what you are willing to pay. The money goes to the BC Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund. You can also buy a ticket ($6-11) to ride on the train for an experience of lights and live music. It opens from November 27 to January 4 (Closed on Christmas Day). This event is definitely on my winter activities checklist. I love looking at beautiful lights and sipping hot chocolate with my friends.
Get a Real Christmas tree
If you live in an apartment (like me), you probably aren’t allowed to have a real tree. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a single house, why don’t you get a real Christmas tree? There are plenty of places around the city to get a real tree and have fun decorating it:

·       St. Stephen’s United Church at 54th and Granville Street, Vancouver
·       November 28 – December 21.  7 days a week 10 a.m. – 9 p.m
·       Lord Byng High School parking lot at 3939 West 16th Avenue, Vancouver
·       December 4 – 18
·       Monday to Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
·      Eagle Ridge United Church at 2813 Glen Drive, Coquitlam
·      November 28 – December 21
·      Monday to Thursday from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
·       All Saints Anglican Church at Royal Oak and Rumble, Burnaby
·       November 28 – December 21
·       Monday to Thursday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
·       Lonsdale Quay – East Plaza 123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
·       November 28 – December 21
·       Monday to Thursday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
·       Prince of Wales Secondary School at 2250 Eddington Drive
·       November 30 – December 21
·       Monday to Friday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Weekends 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
·       Corner of Marine Dr. and Taylor Way, West Vancouver
·       November 22 – December 23
·       Monday to Friday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Weekends 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Go For a Walk and Check Out the Light Displays Around the City
There are many amazing light displays around the city. Some places you should check out are: St. Paul’s Hospital, Harbour Centre, Canada Place, Jack Poole Plaza, Robson Square, Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival in East Vancouver. They have amazing light displays there.
Going to the Christmas Market is the number one thing to do on my holiday activities checklist. There are over 50 unique vendors, beautiful lights and delicious food. This is the 5th annual Christmas Market in Vancouver. People love going there. It is back again in the heart of downtown at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza– 650 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

November 22 to December 24, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on December 24)
Come to the VanDusen Garden (5251 Oak Street) this holiday. Enjoy drinking hot chocolate while walking through the beautiful light decorations. Take photos with Santa and enjoy holiday treats!

Wednesday, December 10 to Sunday, January 4. Closed on Christmas Day
Going ice skating in winter is a must. There are lots of rinks in Vancouver. But my favorite one will always be the Robson Square Rink (800 Robson Street (Robson & Howe)). It is in the busiest section of downtown. If you own a pair of skates, then good news for you, you get to skate for free! Just bring your skates, get changed and have fun! But don’t worry if you don’t have your own skates. Rentals are available for only $4. One thing you need to remember is that they only accept cash. So don’t forget to bring some cash! There is a concession stand right beside the rink. They serve many snacks and drinks.
·       Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
·       Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
·       Christmas Eve, December 24 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
·       Christmas Day, December 25 – Noon to 5 p.m.
·       Boxing Day, December 26 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
·       New Year’s Eve, December 31 – 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
·       New Year’s Day, January 1 – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Don’t’ forget to give back to the community. There will be lots of events happening in your neighborhood. Why not taking time and volunteer? Check with your community centers, soup kitchens or food banks. Enjoy your holiday by helping those in need!
Do you have some old clothes lying around in your wardrobe; do you have some canned food hiding in your cabinet? Donate these stuff to the people in need. Your donation can make a difference in someone’s holiday.

Also, don’t forget the animals! Check out the animal rescue centers. Help out or donate. Let the animals have a happy holiday as well!

Get a Job
Christmas is approaching and that means shops are going to have sales. It will be a good time to get a job at the retail shops. They will be looking for employees to help out during the busiest time of the year. Earn some extra $$$! 

- Lu

Culture vs. Ethnicity

Photo courtesy of: Children at Risk Foundation

The Newcomer’s Dilemma

What is your group of friends like? Do you share the same culture and race? Is it your own home country’s culture, more of the Canadian culture, or a bit of both? Are they also immigrants?

The newcomer’s dilemma is this:

Who would your first friends be for your first time in a Canadian school? Fellow immigrants, from the same origin country? Most likely.

Those who share your interests, like video games or art, but are from a different culture? Maybe, but it’s rare because of a culture/language barrier.

Or perhaps, you are a culture vulture who hangs out with different kinds of people, regardless of their backgrounds.

The actual question is: would you join a group of immigrants, or do the opposite, immerse yourself immediately with normal English speakers?

At my school, I usually notice new immigrant teens banding with other immigrants from their home country, myself included, I was sent forced by the school to befriend a group of racially-like immigrants on my first days of Canadian high school. I disliked the school’s decision to do that, it left little room for possibilities, but it paved the way for my adaptation to multicultural Canada. It went like this, I was introduced to friendly newcomers, I felt safe and comfortable, I spoke my language with them, then I slowly, but successfully, pushed myself to adapt to Canadian culture.

Actually, I lied to get your sympathy.  That did not happen to me (because I’m just weird) but it usually does to most newcomers (who aren’t weird at all). The forced, and societally imposed grouping reinforces stereotypes, usually negative ones. It’s also extremely pointless if the goal is to achieve a multi-cultural, inclusive society in schools. Placing immigrants to their own distinct racial groups can weaken cultural adaptation, which even at the cost of extra convenience and comfort become counterproductive. This is because people will want to be with other people they can relate with, and this paired with forced grouping, is what makes casual intercultural relationships difficult. Different groups are going to have different expectations from other groups, because their large sizes make stereotypes visible.

Going back to the question, we can say that you either have friends from your home culture, or you have friends who you share specific interests with (video gamers, artists, academics, and all of the other cliques). If you belong to the latter, the second answer, or even if you belong to both at the same time, then you have successfully adapted in some way. However, if you only belong to the first, let’s say an exclusive Asian-Korean culture group as an example, then it means that you need to absorb various cultures around you. It’s effective since it makes the definitions of “stereotypes” and “racism” obsolete, they just stopped getting used, and multiculturalism prevails if kept that way. 
So to simplify this, either you belong to a group of friends who share the same ethnicity and still keeps their home culture out of the house, or you have a mixed culture group of friends who you hang out with. Anyway, even if you mostly have country-culture immigrant friends, it won’t give you disadvantages if you become bicultural, having both your home culture and Canadian culture at the same time, proving that multiculturalism is possible.

Finally, some advice I heard from a Croatian friend, “…just accept different cultures, but you also have to observe and understand the differences.”

“Keep your language. Love its sounds, its modulation, its rhythm. But try to march together with men of different languages, remote from your own, who wish like you for a more just and human world.”

- Hélder Câmara, author of Spiral Of Violence

- Angelo

Does Culture Affect School Performance?

Photo Credits: Ryan Mcguire
In Canada, study shows that immigrant children outperform those local-born classmates. But is that always true? As a youth immigrant, I know that it is somewhat true. Not because they were born smart, but because their parents expect them to perform well.

At school, when Asian kids get an “A” in a math test, other classmates explain it as: “because they’re Asian.” I think it has nothing to do with races. Just because they are Asian, it doesn’t mean that they don’t work hard to get good grades. Getting good grades rely heavily on the hard work. They work hard so they deserve higher grades.

But you don’t have to be a “stereotype” to do well in school. Different people value education differently. They have different studying philosophies, each with its own advantage and disadvantage. Most people in Asia think that more homework means more practices, which leads to better grades. But students will be stressed from heavy work load. They don’t get any practical work. So it will be hard for them to get a job in the future. On the other hand, people in Western Countries prefer more extracurricular activities outside of school. So students can have time to explore their possible career options and just enjoy their free time. The disadvantage is that students in Western Country grew up in a friendly environment, so they are not as disciplined as the Asian Students. Some students don’t take studying seriously. In conclusion, it’s important to learn from each other.

Photo Credits: Ryan Mcguire
One disadvantage of being a stereotypical Asian kid is that you are pressured from parents and relatives. It’s really common to see parents comparing their children with the other parents. Even when you are young, they will ask you to plan your future. Parents expect their kids to be a doctor, an engineer, etc. I think it’s really unnecessary. Kids should have their freedom of perusing what they love. So when talking about stereotypical youth immigrants, you have to think about their stereotypical parents as well. 

People tend to think of stereotypical youth immigrants as well-disciplined and hard working. And I think that is a good thing. By having those good habits, we can succeed in school and have a bright future.

Make Yourself

Source: Rob Hogeslag

On July 2013, My family and I went to a road tip to Edmonton. The halfway city and a usual pit stop is a town called Jasper, an old city where many tourists stop by to gas up, have a quick break, or use the washroom. In my family's case, we had to do the last one. So when my dad parked the van, I got out and ran to the closest washroom. When I entered the men's room, I saw a Caucasian man with his 5 year old daughter with him. Of course I didn't care much about the girl because she was only a kid and her dad was with her anyway. So I proceeded to continue to a stall to let all the water in me out. On my way there, I overheard the dad say to her daughter, "don't mind him; he's here to clean the washroom." That got me so mad, I almost said things I would have said if there weren't a kid in the room. So I let it go, gave him a smug smile, and kept my rage to myself.

This true story tackles two things immigrants face in their everyday lives: racism and being included in a stereotype. This blog post will talk about the latter one. The first one will be for a different blog entry.

Filipinos are usually known as caregivers, nurses, and here in Vancouver, sanitation engineers (also known as janitors and cleaners). Don't get me wrong, I think these professions require hardwork and a lot of perseverance. I respect these people. However, it is not fair to classify me or any other Filipino to be in this profession just because of ethnicity. What that Caucasian male in my story did is to add me to the stereotype. What I failed to do is to correct him. What I did do (which could be right or wrong) is to let him get away with it.

Sherman Alexie, an acclaimed author you will or should have heard of in school said, "don't live up to your stereotypes". Now I'm not saying that caregivers, nurses, and janitors are bad professions, it's just that when people classify you to these because of the color of your skin and the accent of your tongue, take a stand and correct them.

There are many stereotypes out there that people would include you in. But don't make that let you down. Don't let that define you. Take a stand. Define yourself. Make yourself.

All the best (and more),
- Jose
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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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