Opera Briefs

26 September, 2012

I'm not sure how I feel about opera, and I'm not sure I'd pay full ticket-price of $60 a head to find out. In fact, opera's just not something I thought about very much - India has it's own classical dance + music + drama forms.

So I volunteered for Tapestry's shows over last weekend to find out more. It's always a great idea volunteering my way into things which I don't have previous exposure to - it gives me a chance to talk with the people involved & learn more than I would as an audience member.

Opera Briefs, the show I helped out with, was a good place to start, though it wasn't traditional opera. In fact, Tapestry New Opera helps develop, as the name suggests, new pieces. Big advantage: they're in English, and have contemporary-ish themes, so I know what's going on rather than trying to frantically Google my way through the classics.

Tapestry had a program called LibLab where writers & composers were paired off in different combinations and they wrote short sketches that could be developed into full-length pieces based on audience feedback.

The sketches were funny, poignant, and much much more intriguing than any short story I've read. I think it was a combination of the writers being fantastic (I felt pangs of envy throughout) and the performance artists being nothing short of brilliant. The music was appropriate too, but I've to say, it was hard to isolate it given the force of the writer + artist brilliance.

I'm hoping to catch a full length, more classic opera piece tomorrow, to contrast... if I manage to leave office early enough to get door-tickets. Fingers crossed.

City Cider Festival

26 September, 2012

You'd think I'd notice when temperatures dropped from 33 to 14 and the sun stopped setting at 9 so it got dark out by 6:45. But honestly, the first time I noticed that summer had given way to fall was when I saw that *I* was the most scantily dressed person on the road and everyone else already had on their jackets and pants (I did a double-take when I saw pants on the road, I haven't seen anything full length for the last 3 months).

It gave me a jolt of pride really, given that I'm person who turns off the fan every now & then in Chennai. I'm assured that I'll feel the cold come winter, particularly when my nostril hairs freeze. That's an exact quote, not a witticism. Apparently it's a well documented physical phenomenon, one that I'm quite looking forward to after hearing the stories.

Anyway, long leadup to the fact that fall's here! And that means it's time for cider, soup, garlic (each of which have a festival dedicated to them!) and all the glory of comfort food. Bring. It. On.

Not Far From the Tree organized Toronto's 2nd City Cider Festival at the lovely Spadina Museum orchard a couple of Saturdays ago*. I love NFFT & anything they do (and I'm not alone in this - their founder Laura Reinsborough is one of the speakers at TEDx Toronto this year), so I offered to help. Awesome decision, as always.

Can you imagine anything more idyllic than picking apples from the orchard, then letting people press their own cider on the orchard grounds, while jesters and dancers wander around, and musicians play in the background? Oh yes, you can see the castle of Casa Loma in the background too. Talk about picture-postcard perfect. It really made me feel like I was getting the full Toronto fall experience.

More than 600 people came to the event, we churned out 200 liters of cider, and a fantastic time was had by all. I loved the turnout from families with kids, it's just such a great event to expose them to. Check out pictures here.

*Yes, I'm way behind schedule, as acknowledged and compensated for over the last 2 days.

Writer's Circle: Lillian H Smith Library

24 September, 2011

I'd just gotten back from Panama (read about it here) with a duty-free souvenir that was more painful than Customs, even. The husband and I got home at 1am (hello, 16 degrees in Toronto, happy to see you after 30-degree Panama weather), devoured a packet of banana chips because the airline's idea of a vegetarian meal was three slices of uncooked brinjal and a crusty piece of bread, and then, for some reason, decided to stay awake a while more.

My favorite notebook 
So I finally woke up jet-lagged and bleary-eyed, did three rounds of laundry (the downside to long vacations) and just as I was sitting down with a relieved sigh, my phone insistently reminded me that I'd foolishly committed to attending a mid-day writer's circle the day I got back. I groaned & deliberated but finally decided I'd go, because I was starting work soon and couldn't take a rain-check.

It was a memoir writing group, and while I don't plan to write memoirs just yet, it must be said I have a remarkable way of committing every single tiny detail to memory and being able to wax eloquent about each (just ask my husband about one of our early fights :D) I figured it was as good a writing exercise as any. The rest of the group consisted of seniors, and we essentially picked topics from a box, then wrote about whatever the topic inspired for 15 minutes before reading out what we'd written.

I took along my favorite notebook for inspiration, and soon had two pages of crossed-out scribblings while everyone else had written out three pages of solid text. Never in my life have I felt so tempted to copy :P I managed to string a couple of paragraphs together while the group read out their pieces, and the gasp of appreciation and the chorus of 'aaah's made. my. day. I should totally do this more often.


September 24, 2012

So, like I said here and here and here, I went vacationing in Panama and planned to blog all about it. After procrastinating while I mentally edited and reviewed all that I had to say, I realized there's no way to write more than just the highlights. Here they are then, along with some photos that I finally managed to un-lazify myself enough to upload.

- We spent the first couple of days in Panama City, soaking in the flavors (bajjis! bondas! roadside food! Except, of course, they call them other things. Still. Felt just like being in India. My stomach rejoiced.) and doing all the touristy stuff we'd been told to do.

Here's a picture of us at the Panama Canal. We're blocking the canal because we were slightly more interesting than it. Seriously, I thought it would be really dramatic, I mean, humans had shifted land and fused oceans and ships would be carried between oceans. It took half an hour and was kind of like watching the bathwater run out when you pull the plug. I felt more awe at my queso empanada.

- The next two days were spent at one of the lesser known San Blas islands, population: however many people were staying at the five resort cottages that week. What. A. WOW. Here's the Playon Chico airport where we landed, and that should give you a sense of exactly how rustic the place was. We were asked to weigh ourselves before boarding the flight (which, incidentally, made pitstops along the way, just like a local train), security consisted of sniffer dogs, we had to take a boat to go anywhere (including to the resort) and the whole thing was just too cute.

Irony though: 1. The indigenous Kuna village of Playon Chico had wifi and huge TV's, and our resort didn't... shows you what visitors want! 2. It was easily the best-run resort I've ever been to, bar none. Excellent food, three courses served promptly at each  meal, two tours a day to different islands, a trip to the mangroves where they let us hold ocean creatures briefly (not that I volunteered, eurgh), all-inclusive price, I can't rave enough about it.

- We took the boat-flight-bus over to David (pronounced Dhaaveeerd). The bus part was super interesting - we were the only non-locals on the bus, and there was this awesome salesman who gave out freebies for quiz questions, got everyone's attention, and then sold hard. Respect. We kept going out and getting lost in David, so we ended up seeing quite a bit of the city.

- We spent a day on the highlands at Boquette, which I was very excited about because I'd heard of three fantabulous restaurants there. When we got there though, I got distracted by all the trees - there were fruits growing from every tree, you could make yourself a dessert bowl! It made me very happy, so then I skipped up the hills and sang Bollywood songs because it felt like the right atmosphere for it, and my husband was very embarrassed because I finally managed to beat him at something, even if it was only Antakshari.

- Last two days (thank God for that, this blog post is getting annoyingly long now) were at Bocas del Toro, the most popular island, though I can't say why - there were sand flies and about 5ftx25ft of sand, and extremely weedy water, and two restaurants with touristy prices, and, and this annoys me the most - everyone spoke English. For the rest of our trip thus far, we'd had to communicate via Google Translate screenshots which we'd saved as photos (no wifi anywhere!) and we spent our time at Bocas missing San Blas very much.

I'd write a concluding paragraph, but I think this post has gone on quite long enough, so I'll just say this: go to Panama. Where else can you get a 3-course meal for 2 people for $5? Grazie, senor.

Hello again, brain: My new job

24 September, 2012

I'm exactly five blog posts behind schedule at the moment - I meant to write about Panama, a writer's group I wrote with (oh, the irony), the Cider Festival, Opera Briefs, and (and this probably explains why none of the other posts have materialized), my new job

I was super kicked when I heard I got the job, particularly since it meant I'd finally get to introduce myself in Toronto as a single entity rather than a part of a couple (RIP 10,000 versions of this conversation - Person: So, what do you do?/What are you doing in Toronto? | Me: Well, I moved here with my husband, his job transferred him, so...) 

It's been a week since I started working, and it's definitely the most challenging role I've taken up so far - as you can probably tell by the fact that I tweet about once in two days at the moment (my personal internet time's been relegated to between 6:50am and 7:20am). But I love feeling like I'm stretching myself and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

My office is about half an hour away, but there's an underground path pretty much from my house, all the way up to the reception at my workplace. It makes me feel like the boy who dug a route to China, it's kind of lovely not having to be above ground and combating traffic at all. Plus, I've discovered that the subway's so smooth, it can't even give me motion-sickness, so I've been polishing off a book a day on the commute. Now that's what I call productive use of my time.

Tomorrow's one of those pressure-packed days where I've back-to-back meetings, including lunch & dinner appointments (alleluiah! no 6:15am-6:45am lunch prep for me!). My husband's schedule conveniently cooperated by making his day like that today (double bonus! early dinner for just me!). So I've the next hour to catch up on all those posts. Here we go.

Writer's Group
City Cider Festival
The New Job

Panama Souvenirs & Ontario Health Cards

12 September, 2012

Half my husband's salary gets deducted towards Canadian taxes (I wish I were exaggerating). The taxes are meant to sponsor our healthcare & child benefits, which is funny because I can't remember the last time I saw a doctor in India, and I don't plan to have kids in the near future. 

So it's kind of ironic that the day my (much resented and hard earned) Health Card arrived in the mail, I had to use it. Turns out I brought back a heat boil from Panama - one that morphed slowly and painfully into an aching, huge abscess.I don't recommend Googling that, they're not pretty. 

I waited patiently for it to go away by itself but woke up this morning feeling like I'd been fighting all night and was barely able to sit, so given the Health Card was in the mail, I figured I may as well put it to good use. Plus, it's the prettiest picture I've seen of me on a Government-issued card (I have a low bar, clearly) and I was eager to show it off. I take my kicks where I can get them.

I finished an entire novel by the time the doctor called me in, but except for the wait-time of about twenty minutes, the whole experience was remarkably smooth (and I say that despite having been injected, cut open, and then drained). The doctor was friendly, went straight into action, and warned me when things were going to get painful - and may I just say, as someone who's gotten a tattoo on a very bony finger - this was way more intense. She did a pretty good job distracting me.

Same story at the pharmacy - I'd to wait ten minutes while the prescription was scanned and sent to my insurance company, but at the end of it I was handed over a bag of antibiotics with incredibly detailed instructions on how to use them (I love my family pharmacist in Chennai, I do, but I can't imagine him having the time to sketch things out for me that clearly!) and no bill.

I'm happy to see the taxes are being put to good use. It's going to be hard cribbing about them if I can get a good night's sleep.


I just got back from a truly unique week in Panama, and I've plenty of stories about the most well-planned vacation I've ever taken (could be because the husband was in charge of the agenda - we spent two days each in the city, the highlands, the beach islands, and two very memorable days on one of the indegenous islands - I feel like I know the country really well now).

That said, I've 1.5 years' worth of vacation memories carefully preserved on my camera which haven't even made it to my computer yet, so I'm not sure when these Panama stories will make it to this blog.

Soon, hopefully. I'm aiming at writing something up by Friday.