Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My first digital story!!!

I developed an interest in digital storytelling a few months ago and found a website that has good instructions on how to create your own digital stories. It's called Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling and it's managed by the University of Houston's Dr. Bernard Robin.

I started reading through the material and by some stroke of luck or serendipity, I was perusing some free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by Coursera in July and came across the Digital Storytelling course to be offered for 5 weeks starting in September. So I enrolled and started on September 8. 

This is the last week of the course and in those 5 weeks, I learned how to identify the story I wanted to tell, my target audience, the learning outcomes, and the theme of the story (know this already from teaching). I also wrote my script for the story and received feedback from other students enrolled in the course (already know how to do this too). I narrated my script using a digital voice recorder (already do this as part of my work), downloaded it to Audacity (free audio editing software which I used once before) and did some edits. I sourced royalty- free music (thanks to many artists for sharing without compensation) from Jamendo (this was new for me) and downloaded wevideo (new for me) which is a free (with major limitations) video editing software.

The learning curve for me was navigating the software and using several value added features to my story e.g. the volume of the music, transitions, timing the images, audio and music, removing background sounds, fading in and out and using what is known as the Ken Burns Effect.

I chose to tell the story of my parents (wedding picture below) and the challenges they faced when wanting to get married over 60 years ago but belonging to two different faiths. The story is still as relevant today as it was in 1952. Here is my story titled: Breaking Down Barriers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Deja Vu or what?

I had a great day with my 7 year old granddaughter Sabreena on Saturday. Last week we made a date to go to the fabric store. I told her that she could pick out some fleece that she liked and I would make her a jacket with a hood. After the fabric store, we'd go for lunch and she could pick the restaurant. 

I picked her up at 10:30 and off we went with pattern in hand to Fabricland. As soon as we walked in the store, we saw a faux fur fabric with sequins and she took a liking to it. Not the most expensive fabric in the store I am sure but it was $36 per metre so it wasn't the least expensive either. I took her to the back of the store where there were bolts of fleece in every colour and description and she gave each one a cursory look before moving to the next, and the next, until we looked at all of them. She found a few that she commented on but in the end, she said: Nani, these are nice but can we go back to the front and look at the pink fur?"  

So we went. I tried to distract her with other less expensive fabrics but alas, her mind was made up. It was going to be the pink fur with sequins and nothing else would do. Then I needed some different fabric to line the hood of the jacket and of course it was the white fur with sequins. So that's what we bought. Then it was another examination of other fabrics whereupon she found a totally sequined and very shiny fabric which she wanted for a top. Not being able to resist a 7 year old, I bought enough to make a top too. 

What's the Deja vu moment? I remember having a similar experience with her mother about 38 years ago. Sharm was 2 and she wanted a pair or black shiny shoes with one strap across the top. Robin and I looked at every children's shoe store in Winnipeg and we could not find a pair. So we drove 4 hours away to Fargo and found a children's shoe store. At that time, money was scarce but we found a pair of shoes. Only thing was, they were $40 - for a pair of child's shoes! Fortunately for us, there was a white patent leather pair with one strap at the top for $15 and we tried to interest Sharm in that pair but her mind was set on the black pair with the one strap. Then we found a black patent leather pair with two straps for $12 and we offered up that pair. But she gave us a partial smile and stuck to her initial decision that it had to be a black shiny pair of shoes with one strap at the top. So that's what we came home with - a black shiny pair of shoes with one strap across the top. Hmmm, so much for trying to convince her that something else would do.  

So back to me and Bren: We still had to decide where to eat lunch but she was so excited to get home for me to to start sewing that she decided that we could go to Subway and get two sandwiches and then to McDonald's for a strawberry/banana smoothie and we'd take it home to eat in the sunroom. That way, I wouldn't waste any time in a restaurant having a leisurely lunch.

After a quick lunch, we went to my sewing room in the basement and started cutting out the top which I lengthened into a mini dress. 

Breen was my little helper, cleaning up the mounds of sequins from all the cutting I was doing. 

The dress was completed within an hour but since it was a shift dress, I added some darts to the front and back to give it a bit more shape. Then I added a belt which completed the outfit. So, my grandbaby got a nice new shiny dress exactly like she wanted. 

She added a bit of faux fur I had from who knows what? This was just for the photo op.

The fur lined jacket was cut out and sewn a bit later and by that evening she also had her pink fur jacket with sequins.

That was my Saturday. And to think I had an awful cough that made me feel like heck. Spending the afternoon with my grandbaby sewing the outfits cheered me up tremendously. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bounty from my garden

We planted about 12 tomatoes in June which I thought was a bit too late to get anything from the arden but my garden rewarded me with about 40 pounds of tomatoes - so far. I still have to pick some more. I'm hoping for another 20 pounds. I spent yesterday dehydrating a big batch and roasting another batch. 

Part of my bounty

Prepping for the dehydrator

Laying out the dehydrator trays
I decided to roast a batch with onions and herbs like thyme, Newfoundland Savory and some of my custom blend Sandra S seasoning. This blend will be in my forthcoming cookbook which I hope to have released in Spring 2015. If you have never used Newfoundland savory, you MUST try it. I was introduced to it by my best friend Catherine in 1979 and since then, I have been using it - albeit, sparingly - every time I make roasted chicken, stuffing or veggies. This is one of the best herbs that I have used - and I have used many spices. 

Roasting tomatoes
This was a good way to spend Sunday.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Feel good news

Today's news makes me feel hopeful for the world. If you have been reading my blog posts for the last couple of years, you will remember that last year, I trained and climbed Kilimanjaro with my daughter Sunita, my sister Sabena, and three friends. 

On Day 5 of the trip, Sunita, Sabena had to abort the rest of the climb at Mawenzi Tarn because Sunita succumbed to Acute Mountain Sickness. Descent is mandatory and rather than risk death, we chose life. Sunita, somewhat disappointed, felt that she was ruining my trip but I was going to have it no other way but to go down with her. Sabena was feeling equally bad as she was really suffering from the dust storm that was raging the night before.

We descended to Horombo Huts on Day 6 and then to Marangu Gates on Day 6. We were accompanied by our lead guide Godfrey. During those two days, on that long solitary walk back down, we had lots to talk about. I spent some time talking to Godfrey, respect for him growing with each conversation. What I did not blog about is the details of those conversations. I am now happy to share some of those details.

Godfrey and I talked at length about his life, his dreams and his realities. He told me about his wife and daughter and how much he wanted the best life for them but with the responsibility of taking care of his father and of his bright younger brother who was expelled from school because Godfrey could not afford the tuition fees, my heart at once went out to him. Then my head took over and I became suspicious that this was another "feel sorry for me" story that is told to every gullible tourist in an effort to extort money, although he did not ask for any money.

During our conversations, I asked if could choose to do anything else but the slavish work of mountain guide, what would he choose. He said that he wanted to start his own gear rental business but every time he saved a few hundred dollars of the USD $2,500 he thought he needed, some emergency came up and he had to spend it (sick parent, sick child, brother's tuition fees).

Something in me made me think that Godfrey's story was different and by the end of the climb, going only from gut feelings, I was convinced that he was telling the truth about his life. I guess it was my implicit respect for him - a stranger only a few days ago - and is concern and regard for getting us over the very rugged Mawenzi Tarn, high altitude and some long paths over two days down to safety. Or maybe it was the care he took to make sure our tent was set up in just the right spot out of the wind at Horombo Huts. Or maybe it was the care and concern he showed when Sunita was throwing up along the long walk to Horombo and the encouragement he gave her to eat some soup that night. As a mother, I can be a protective lion and I cherish the thought that someone was looking after my cub.

It was all of those things and more. It was the collective gut feeling of me, Sunita and Sabena that made us, over the next two days in Moshi, think about how we could help Godfrey. We finally decided that we would fund him to start his business with an interest-free loan and hope that he would take the opportunity to build a better life for he and his family and most especially his daughter who deserves a fighting chance to education and a good life. 

When we met him two days later, we told him that we would help him and he hugged us but we must have looked like any other group of tourists who made grand gestures and wild promises but who, soon after leaving, forget those they left behind. We asked him to put together a business plan which he did but it was far from a real plan. Donna F, one of the friends who went with us, offered to help Godfrey put together a more realistic 3 year plan with achievable goals as well as a sound repayment schedule for the interest free loan. Donna L tried to source some external funding similar to my crowd-funding KIVA. Programs I looked at would either take too long or would require particular criteria to qualify for funding so we didn't pursue that.

In March finally had everything in place - a sound financial plan and Godfrey had already started sourcing some inventory from other guides. We sent the money, putting our trust in Godfrey that he would make this work and we would get our money back eventually. I am happy to say that Godfrey's business has taken off and he has already made is first quarterly repayment of $250. That has to be my BEST "feel good" story of the year. 

If you or anyone you know is planning to climb Kilimanjaro and you need/want to rent gear (which you will most likely need to; we did), you can contact me by posting a comment on the blog, or you can contact Godfrey at the information below.

Godfrey's contact info.

Rental gear

Rental gear

Rental gear

Rental gear

Godfrey's daughter (who will have a good life)
We did not get to the top of Kilimanjaro although we got as far as about 15,000 feet but in the end what we got from this experience was so much more ... faith in humanity.

Oh Happy Day!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beat it, beat it...

I don't know anyone who does not know or like Michael Jackson's music and there is a new generation of Michael Jackson fans including my 7 year old grandson Ronin. He has been relentlessly watching Micheal's videos and teaching himself how to moonwalk and do the dance for Beat It.

Since a kid sized Beat it jacket is hard to find, I decided to make one for him. It took me  several hours spread out over a few days but it's finally done and I have to say, it looks very cute! It was intended for Halloween but I think he'll be wearing it more often. I'll have to post a picture of him actually wearing it. 

                                                             Ronin getting his jacket! 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Keynote speaker at upcoming SAGE conference

I am very proud to be invited to be the keynote speaker at the   VTAM/TEAM SAGE Conference (Vocational Teachers Association of Manitoba and Technology Educators Association of Manitoba). 

This is quite an honour and a bit like coming home. I recall as a new teacher how I looked forward each year to to attending this conference and never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would one day be a keynote speaker. 

The conference is going to be at Winnipeg Technical College (now Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology). I have a special affinity to MITT as it was the last place where I taught as part of the public school system. I am posing some questions that I want the audience to think about because they were the same ones I was grappling with when I was a vocational teacher. 

I do hope that non-vocational instructors attend too as do administrators who work in vocational schools but may not themselves have a vocational background. I am also facilitating a workshop on how a professional growth plan really helps teachers focus on their professional development. I like that a number of the workshops will focus on teaching and learning in addition to subject matter content.

If you are a Manitoba teacher or know one who may be interested, pass the information along.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

... still a proud mama

My baby graduated from her Corrections Canada training program in Regina and we were supposed to go to the graduation ceremonies yesterday (first time she's attending a post-secondary graduation). But I guess it was not to be. Our flight was booked for at least a week and Thursday when I was trying to check in, I could not. 

After several failed attempts, I finally read the email from Air Canada carefully and noted that the time they had for my check-in at 11:55 am was was much later than the 8:15 am flight we were supposed to get. Air Canada cancelled the flight so even if we got there are 12:10 pm, we'd miss the graduation. 

My consolation prize was a couple of photographs emailed from Sub just after her graduation. I am very proud of her. She is coming home for a few days before going back to Edmonton to start her new job. 

Subhadra's graduation (4th from the right in the front row)

Subhadra with some of her instructors

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Visiting Regina - on purpose

We went to Regina last weekend to visit Subhadra in her Corrections Officer training program at the RCMP depot. I quite enjoy a prairie drive with the endless big open skies and the fields of wheat, flax, sunflowers, soybean and all the other crops that keeps us and much of the world fed. 

Before I went, I checked out some hiking trails outside of Regina and decided that the Wascana Trails seemed like a nice trail to do a day hike. So the plan was to go on Saturday morning and do a 3-4 hour hike. All well and good but the weather did not cooperate because the rain that was supposed to fall in the  afternoon and night started in the morning just as we reached the trailhead. So the best we could do was to sit in the car with the window barely wound down and take some pictures so I could at least say I was there. 

Most people think of the prairies as flat and boring but the trails looked very similar to the Pembina Valley area hike that I did in June. The Wascana Creek runs through the hiking area; it looks more like a winding river through rolling hills and valleys. 

On the way back to the main highway, we passed the Condie Nature Refuge (used to be called Boggy Creek and still has a small house by that name close by) and stopped for a few minutes. By then the rain had stopped but it was too wet to do much more than stop for washroom break and take a few pictures of the lake (actually a reservoir which was dammed by CN for their steam engines. There were a few birds that I did not recognize and I wished it was a bit drier so we could walk around a bit. I satisfied myself with the pictures and went back to Regina. 

Afternoon and evening spent walking the mall and being thoroughly amazed that there were so many, many people everywhere, and I really do mean - EVERYWHERE -  wearing Saskatchewan Rough-riders clothes and even green hair! Apparently, the fans are so loyal, they can even be found on the beaches in far off countries where no one else knows what a  Roughrider is, wearing their team clothes. On this day though, there actually was a game because when we were out for dinner, several came in after the game will full attire. I guess you have to be from Saskatchewan to understand.  I didn't quite get it but then I am not from Saskatchewan. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Slipping in a hike in Banff

This was a busy month for birthdays Breen on August 8, Zaman on August 9/10 (started on Aug 9 and was actually born on Aug 10) , Ronin on August 13 and Sunita on August 14. So happy birthday to each of you. 

Since Zaman turned 60, it was cause for a big celebration so I flew to Calgary for the birthday party and while I was there, we did a girls day hike at Johnston Canyon just outside of Banff. 

We (me, Bena, Shakila and Terry) made it up to the Lower Falls and it was as lovely as I remembered it from 1975. This time I was wearing hiking gear rather than the wooden Dr. Scholl's sandals that I was wearing back then (to be fair, we didn't know we were going for a hike so we were not prepared with the appropriate footwear).

Shakila and Terry waited for us and Bena and I hiked to the Upper Falls, took some pictures and made our way down. 

We found a nice picnic area just outside of the canyon and had a lovely lunch that we packed from home. The hawk below was sitting on the table when we arrived and we shooed him away. He was not a happy bird so he alternated between the ground and the nearby tree squawking at us until we finally ate and moved away.   

Then it was off to Lake Louise for a photo op. That was also as beautiful as I remembered it but the glacier between the two peaks is significantly smaller than I remember it. Global warming or is global warming a conspiracy theory and the melting glacier is only a mirage. 

The Canadian Rockies can inspire awe whether you see it for the first time or the 131st time. This has only been a few times for me but I still marvel at its beauty. No matter where your eyes turn, there is a glorious scenery to behold. 


Banff Springs Hotel

Rockies behind Banff Springs

Mountains from downtown Banff 

Bear-y scary!! 
We headed to Banff where we visited Sulfur Mountains Pool, The Banff Springs Hotel and had a lovely dinner before heading back to Calgary to arrive home at 10:30pm. The birthday party was still continuing from Saturday and it was Monday evening. That's another Guyanese multi-day birthday.