Look What He’s Doing Now!

I am always fascinated to learn what my former students are doing. Last week I was delighted to get a glimpse into the current life of  Justin Bong Kwan who was in my grade five class in Hong Kong in 2003.

My grade five class in Hong Kong in 2003. Justin is in the back row third from the left. 

Justin and I maintain a social media connection and he read a blog post I had written about my feelings regarding the current political situation in Hong Kong.  He thought I might be interested in some articles he has published recently on related topics and he sent me the links to them.

Giving Justin a hug the day of his high school graduation

After high school, Justin received degrees from the London School of Economics and Politics, Durham University and City University in Hong Kong. He is now a practicing barrister in Hong Kong. Besides his law career, Justin does freelance writing and I read these four articles of his with great interest.

Justin’s opinion piece in the South China Morning Post was about the triad’s connections to the current demonstrations and the role they have played in politics in the past. It took me on a little walk through Chinese history, a subject I learned so much about as I prepared to teach it to Justin’s fifth-grade social studies class.

In an article in the Hong Kong Free Press Justin looks at what might be an alternative to the contentious extradition bill that sparked the current demonstrations initially.

 Another piece published in the Brussels Times highlights the irony of the EU’s position on Hong Kong’s extradition bill. 

A fourth piece in the South China Morning Post looks at how British capitalism and the Chinese work ethic have combined to make Hong Kong the unique place it is. 

Justin is an excellent writer, obviously a great critical thinker, and has established a career for himself in two fields. It makes me pretty proud, especially when he told me in a recent message that he credits me with giving him the ‘writing bug’  in grade five. 

Here are a few posts about some of my other former students.  I’d love to know what more of them are doing and where life’s path has taken them. 

She’s Done It Again

Ivan Is Here

Multi-Tasking- Wisdom From a Former Student

My Students in New York

Meeting Our Students in Toronto

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Are They Star Maps?

When I show these works of art by Jitish Kallat to kids at the Winnipeg Art Gallery they always think they must be star maps. The children are quite surprised when I tell them they are really raindrop maps or designs. The artist Jitish Kallat calls them Rain Studies. He makes them during the monsoon season in Mumbai, India.

Kallat uses watercolor pencils to make dark circles on woven paper.  Then during rain showers he steps outside and holds up the paper to the sky, allowing rain to fall on it for a certain number of breath cycles.  A breath cycle is breathing in and then out.  The raindrops leave an imprint on the dark circle and he sprays it to preserve it and then wipes the paper dry. In these three pieces, you can see how the length of time Kallat remains outside makes a difference in the designs.  Kallat has noted the number of breath cycles he held each circle up to the rain. The first one was for two breath cycles, the second for four and the third for seven.  Kallat uses a BC abbreviation and he pencils in the number of breath cycles by each dark circle.  He also records the time and date of each rain study. During some of the rain studies, it must have been raining quite hard and in others, quite lightly. The images do look very starlike, almost like astronomical charts. Kallat says in a New York Times interview that nature makes the artwork.  He doesn’t.  

Kallat’s Rain Studies are part of the current Vision Exchange exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It closes in just a couple of weeks so if you haven’t seen it already you want to be sure to go before summer ends.  

Other posts about the Vision Exchange exhibit……..

Warli Art

Don’t Forget About Us

Wrestling Farmers

Carpet Conversation

Sports Equipment and Salt

Hyphenated Lives


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Filed under Art, India, winnipeg art gallery

I Wasn’t Planning To Read This Book

I ordered the book Slow Medicine because someone recommended it for our church library and I am the church librarian. Before I put the book on the shelves I leafed through it and found myself stopping to read an intriguing account of how the author of the book Dr. Victoria Sweet saved a man’s life on a trek through Nepal by pulling a stubborn thorn out of his leg.  

I sat down and started the book from the beginning. I was totally drawn in by one interesting story after another about Dr. Sweet’s patients.  Victoria Sweet is a great believer in modern ‘fast medicine’ and appreciates the way new medical technologies and treatments save lives. But she wants to make the point that there is also a place for more measured, holistic, thoughtful, and simpler approaches to medicine. She calls it ‘slow medicine.’ 

Victoria basically walks us through her career as a physician in Slow Medicine and introduces us to the fascinating patients who taught her the importance of slow medicine- the value of listening to patients, observing them carefully, getting to know their families, histories and living situations, and being open to “out of the box” thinking. 

For example, she tells the story of a young boy who kept coming in with one ear infection after another.  It was only when she visited his farm home and realized he was swimming regularly in a stagnant pond containing animal waste that she understood why the ear infections kept recurring.  

Only after meeting a woman’s mother and discovering she had a rare skin disease at a fairly advanced stage was Dr. Sweet able to diagnose the daughter’s similar condition. Dr. Sweet says what made all the difference was the fact she stayed late at the hospital one night and met her patient’s mother who always only came to visit her daughter after finishing work. 

In another story, a man had terrible headaches.  Victoria took many, many hours to read carefully through the man’s mountain of medical records and eventually she found a clue in a previous doctor’s notes, that helped provide a remedy for the headaches.  

When a patient’s asthma seemed uncontrollable Victoria finally asked a respected Chinese healer to see her. Sure enough, the healer’s traditional medicines worked.  

I finished reading Slow Medicine in a park last Thursday. The perfect place to slowly savor its stories.

Slow Medicine makes the point that in a doctor’s haste to diagnose and treat he or she may not take the time to try different approaches, to find out about their patient’s home environment, to carefully go through their medical history and to really ‘see’ their patients and all the factors that might influence their condition.  

Victoria Sweet is an excellent writer and her book is NOTHING like a medical textbook.  It really is very interesting and engaging. I wasn’t planning to read this book but I’m glad I did. 

Other posts……..

Dad’s Medical Bag

Writing as a Healing Art

Being Mortal

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Filed under Health

5 Reasons ( No Wait a Minute….. 13 Reasons) Why I Go To Church

Last Saturday night we had people over for dessert and coffee. We were chatting about our plans for Sunday. When I said we would be going to church one of our guests asked, “Why do you go to church?”  It was a good question and the next day at church I thought about it. I came up with five reasons why I go to church.

Three fellows from my church who helped me set up our church’s Little Free Library.

 1. I like books.  I am our church’s librarian and I also maintain our church’s Little Free Library where people in our neighborhood can help themselves to books or donate them.  My library involvement at church gives me the opportunity to chat enthusiastically with so many people each week about books and reading. I love that. 

My husband Dave sings in a male choir at our church. Here he is playing the harmonica at their Christmas concert.

2. I like music.  Our church has some incredibly gifted musicians and I love listening to them.  On Sunday morning, I get to sing with lots of other people. Many of them grew up in the Mennonite church as I did, and we have a strong choral tradition. For us singing in rich four-part harmony is second nature.  At church, I get to hear and participate in great music-making. 

I work at a Thrift store with women from my church.

3. I like helping others.  Our church has a daycare, a children’s after school club, a mother’s support group, a reading tutor program, a senior’s residence, services for immigrants and a food bank. My church donations help support that work. Along with a group of women from our church I volunteer at a Thrift Store that recycles thousands of items each year with the proceeds going to help aid programs around the world. I feel better about myself when I know I am using some of my time and money to help others and my church facilitates that for me.

Our Mennonite church logo has a dove with an olive branch in its mouth- a symbol of our desire that people live in peace with each other and our belief that change can come about in non-violent peaceful ways

4.  I like to feel hopeful.  Often on Sunday mornings the things I hear at church help me to feel more hopeful about the state of our world.  Last Sunday, for example, our pastor talked about the horror of the mass shootings in the United States but then he reminded us that even the smallest actions on our part can make a difference in the world.  Sharing our love with others, and being committed to the way of peace Jesus taught us, can bring about change in our troubled world. His words inspired hope.

A stained glass window at my church

5.  I like time to be peaceful and quiet.  It is hard sometimes to find space in my week to just think and pray and be silent.  In church, I am not on my computer or looking at my phone.  Our church is a beautiful place with stained glass windows and thoughtful art pieces. It gives me the opportunity to be still and take a deep breath and rest my mind and heart before the busy week ahead. 

Since last Sunday I have thought of even more reasons why I go to church.

  1. I have a chance to meet and visit with interesting people.  
  2. My husband and I have made many life long friends at the different churches we have attended.  
  3. The church has provided my family with tangible support during some difficult times.
  4. The church has given us a moral compass when we have needed to make decisions.
  5. The church has sometimes been a place for me to question, rethink and reshape my world view.
  6. The church has played a role in helping us mark important occasions in our family life- weddings, funerals, child dedications, and baptisms.  
  7. The church is a place where I feel connected to something greater than myself, to the spirit of God, the creative force, the human family.
  8. The church gives me a bridge to the past. I am of Mennonite heritage and the church has been intertwined and entangled with the history and culture of my family for many, many generations. 

I’m glad my guest last Saturday asked me why I go to church. I couldn’t think of all these ideas right at the moment but maybe he will read this and his question will be answered. 

Why do you go to church? Or why don’t you?

Other posts………

Playing Church

Picking A Church Out Of A Cereal Bowl

Thin Places

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Filed under Religion

T is for Together




Tractor Riders



Together then

Together now

Other posts………

44 Years

Celebrating Our Marriage History in a Historical Building

Two Trees – Forty-One Years


Filed under Family

Cocktails in a Stable

Wednesday night we had a group of friends over to dinner. Before our meal, we took them to a bar called Patent 5 near our home in the Exchange District. We wanted to treat them to a celebratory cocktail to mark the fact that we will celebrate our wedding anniversary this weekend.  Patent 5 is located in a former stable. 

The Dominion Express Company, whose name you see over the front door of Patent 5 was a parcel delivery business. It was founded in 1873 in Winnipeg and built its headquarters at 108 Alexander Avenue in 1904.  The stable area for the company’s horses and wagons has been converted into the Patent 5 Distillery and Bar.

Patent 5 offers a menu of interesting and unique cocktails using vodka, whiskey and gin they make on-site.  The name is a reference to the kind of still they use to produce their alcohol.  It is based on an 1869 design by James Wilson who was issued Patent #5 for his invention. 

The interior of Patent 5 is steeped in history as well.  All the oak paneling, doors, window frames, chandeliers, and stained glass were taken from the fabled Oak Room at the St. Regis Hotel built in 1911. The hotel closed in 2017 but the beautiful interior of the Oak Room has been preserved in the design of Patent 5. The chairs in Patent 5 come from an old Presbyterian church in Melita, Manitoba and your cocktails are served in vintage crystal glasses.  
A former Eaton’s Warehouse built in 1926 is across the street.  You can see the signature letter E above the door. We had a great time at Patent 5. It was very fitting to drink a toast to the history of our marriage in such a historic place. 

Other posts……….

Lunch in an Old Train Station

A Fascinating Conversation in a Tiny Wine Bar in Lisbon

Snake Wine



Filed under Restaurants, Winnipeg

Dad’s Treasures- Part 5- A Tender Photo?

grandpa braiding grandma's hairI found this photo when I was helping my Dad do some downsizing for an upcoming move.  My grandfather is braiding my grandmother’s hair.  They are both in their 90s at the time. At first glance, this is a rather tender picture.  Grandma was no longer strong enough to braid her long hair so her husband was helping her.  

My grandmother had beautiful long hair.  Sometimes she let me comb it for her.  Grandma only told me after my grandfather died that she had always wanted to have her hair cut. But my grandfather insisted she leave it long. So she did until he died.  

Shortly after Grandpa died Grandma got her hair cut and permed.  When I visited her and complimented her on her new hairstyle she said she had always admired my other grandmother who had beautiful short, white wavy hair. 

Me with my two grandmas and Dave’s Oma at our wedding. My two grandmas are on either side of Oma. My Grandma on the left with the tall hat loved my other Grandma’s wavy white hair. 

It is lovely that my Grandpa braided my Grandma’s hair when she needed help. But if Grandma had been able to make her own choices about her personal appearance she wouldn’t have had hair long enough to braid in the first place.  Photos can often have a deeper meaning than what we might think at first glance.  

Other posts…….

Dad’s Treasures- Part 1- The Cowbell

Dad’s Treasures- Part 2- The Medical Bag

Dad’s Treasures- Part 3- The Hymn Book

Dad’s Treasures- Part 4- The Fern

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