Monday, February 28, 2011

Skating at Habourfront

We went skating at Harbourfront on Saturday evening. Ken and Tom organized the evening for our group. We started pretty late at 9:00 p.m. I arrived early having already been in the downtown area in the afternoon.

It was snowing quite heavily when I arrived not long after 8:00. I decided to put on my skates and go for a few laps around the ice while I waited for more people to show up. A short time later I saw Ming pass by as I was taking a break on one of the benches on the west side of the ice.

Tom and Florianne came next. They were pretty much on time. We all skated around as people drifted in throughout the next hour or so to join us.

Ken was a bit late. But, he appeased us by bringing two Thermoses full of hot chocolate for everyone to share.

After the skate we headed over to Marché at Brookfield Place (formerly BCE Place) for dessert/drinks/snacks. It's quite a popular hangout being so close to the Roger's Centre and Air Canada Centre.

A few people had light meals while the rest of us indulged in desserts. I ended up getting a seasonal fruit crepe which was quite lovely. We sat and chatted and the few of us who were photo enthusiasts took pictures of everyone else.

All in all it was a great evening. Hopefully we'll get the chance to do it one more time before spring hits and the ice melts.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wheelchair Access

One of my pet peeves is when able-bodied people use the handicap button to open doors. That annoys me quite a bit. It's unbelievable how lazy some people are. They can't even open a door for themselves. No wonder people here in North America are in such bad shape.

I'm sure they think to themselves, "The button will always work. Why should I worry about it breaking and a handicap person not being able to use it?"

Well, strange as it may seem, it finally happened. I was walking through the Eaton Centre the other day. At the north end near Sears, I saw this lady in an electric wheelchair coming towards the entrance from outside. She pushed the button to open the door and nothing happened.

Fortunately I was only steps away and walked over to open the door for her. She was thankful for that. But, I'm sure she would have rather not had to rely on the kindness of a stranger to help her out.

So, the moral of the story is to get off your lazy ass and open doors under your own power (to anyone who already isn't doing that). Cheers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

House Cleaning at Mary's Place

Tony organized a group of us to go over to Mary's basement apartment on Family Day to help clean up. In this picture are Dickie, Tony, Iris' brother (I can't figure out an English name for him still), Iris, me and Tony's friend Brian (sitting).

We each were assigned an area to work in. Dickie and Brian started in the bedroom and I started in the kitchen. Tony, Iris and her brother were in the living room area first, but Tony moved into the bedroom closet later and Iris joined me in the kitchen. We passed things to her brother to either be recycled, given to Goodwill or thrown out.

Mary was like Tony and I in some ways. She liked to "collect" things. If you have a large place it's not that big of a deal. But, if you're confined to a smaller space then it tends to shrink rather rapidly. We all had that problem. I found some rather old food items in her cupboard. Some I'll try to eat. Others weren't worth taking the risk.

Dickie found some neat things. Mementos of her travels through Europe back in the 50's or 60's. That was pretty cool to see. Tony will go through a lot of the things and decide where to send them. Some items will go to her relatives if they wish to have them. Mary wasn't extremely close to many of her surviving relatives. None lived nearby and none were able to make it to her funeral unfortunately.

Tony will try to give other items to different organizations depending on whether or not he thinks they have historical value or some other worth to each particular group. Mary had a lot of different interests from stone carving to painting to sewing and knitting. As well, she was one of the few Asian women in the Canadian military in World War II. So Tony will try to work all that out when he can.

We spent four or five hours there and got through a reasonable amount of stuff. But, I believe there's still quite a bit more to do. Tony thinks we're at least half way through, but I'm not so sure about that. We still have to find a home for her bedroom set as well. Whew.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dinner at Tony and Iris' Place

We had dinner over at Tony and Iris' place this past Thursday. Normally I would have gym night on Thursdays, but for the past two weeks I believe the high school (where we rent the gym out) has been using it. So I've been free to do whatever I please.

This was the first official gathering at Tony's place since he and Iris got married. And the first time that they've invited people over since last summer. Tony used to have people over on a semi regular basis, but things had been piling up around his apartment. Iris helped him clean up and now they're planning to have more get togethers.

Another reason for the dinner party was that Iris' brother just came into town (this past Monday). He's going to be staying in Toronto for six months studying English. They found him a place at Yonge and Finch for now. I'm not sure how long he plans on staying there. That area is quite heavily populated by Koreans, which could either be good or bad depending on how you look at it. He won't have to go far to get traditional Korean food. But, he'd better be careful not to fall back on speaking Korean too much if his intention is to improve his English.

Tony and Iris arranged to have hot pot for dinner. They had all the normal hot pot fixings like thinly sliced beef and pork and an assortment of vegetables and fish balls etc.

Iris invited her bridesmaids Eunjung and Mariko. Tony invited me and Andrew and Gloria.

After dinner we played an old, traditional British game. I can't remember what it was called. I'll have to find out. It's played with coins on a slate board. The idea is similar to shuffleboard. You have to slide your coins down the slate tablet between white lines. That's basically the premise behind how you score points.

We played guys versus girls. It started off quite evenly with the girls eventually pulling ahead by a couple of points. We came back with a late flurry to win 14-12 in the end. For our victory I suggested the girls should give us back rubs. Unfortunately that didn't happen ;-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Limehouse Winter Hike

Tony and Max organized another snow hike for the U of T international students this past Saturday. Art and Judy Loveless hosted the event out of their home in Limehouse as they've done many times in the past.

It was a lovely day, not too cold with partially sunny skies. Pretty much ideal for what we were planning on doing.

Everyone met at the International Student Centre on St. George, north of College at about 12:30 p.m. Max rented out a school bus, but I drove one married couple up. The wife was pregnant and thought the school bus ride might be too bumpy.

The drive up to Limehouse was uneventful. We arrived at about 2:00 p.m. Mrs. Loveless and her friend Marion had made cookies and tea for everyone. A small bite to eat before going out.

By 3:00 we were out the door. Mr. Loveless led one group along the "easy" route, while Max led the other group on a more strenuous hike. We would be going through crevices which were tight and may include some climbing. Most of the people went on this one.

We stayed out for, perhaps, an hour and a half. I'm sure everyone had fun. Not everyone was properly dressed though. I can understand why... many of the students have only been in Canada less than a year. This was their first winter here. I saw a lot of people in jeans with running shoes. They probably were a bit cold and wet by the end.

Mrs. Loveless and her friend, Marion, prepared a lovely dinner for everyone upon our return. All told, there were around 50 people in total. Quite a large number to say the least. It took them many days to prepare so much food. They cooked mostly East Indian fare. Dessert was wonderful too, with and assortment of pies and other sweets. It was great.

I have to send a big thank-you out to both Art and Judy Loveless and Marion too. They put in so much work to give a group of newcomers a taste of what rural Canadian life is like. I'm sure they enjoyed it thoroughly as did I. Until next time...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dinner at Seoul House

Not my photo

This past Thursday I went to dinner with my gym night team, Tropicana. We have a couple of weeks off because I believe the high school gym we rent out is being used by the school.

We planned to meet at Seoul House, a Korean restaurant on Steeles, west of Yonge at 6:30 p.m. It's not far from where I play hockey on Friday nights. I noticed when I drove to hockey that I passed a Subaru car dealership and an Active Green + Ross garage. Since my car is basically a Subaru Impreza (it's a Saab 9-2x) on the inside I thought I could go by for an oil change before dinner.

I contacted the Subaru dealership and their basic oil change was $50. A bit steep as far as I was concerned. The Active Green + Ross had a deal for $19.95. I called them in the morning and asked if I should make an appointment. I said I wanted to come by at around 5:30 p.m. They said I didn't have to make an appointment, just to come in.

At a little after 5:00 p.m. I left my place and headed up Yonge to get an oil change. As usual the traffic was terrible. It took longer to get to the garage than I expected. I didn't arrive until 10 or 15 minutes to 6:00.

When I went in to the Green + Ross it was empty. The fellow at the counter was on the phone. I waited a short time until he finished speaking with the person on the end of the line then asked him if I could get an oil change. He told me that I had to come back because they were busy. I thought he was joking, but I guess he wasn't. The garage was pretty small. I think they had three bays. He said there were two mechanics there and that they would be busy the rest of the night (until they closed at 8:00 p.m.). This sort of annoyed me because I called earlier asking if I should book an appointment and the person said I didn't have to. Anyway, what could I do? I just left. But, I was still too early to go to dinner.

I headed north towards Steeles. I was close to Centerpoint Mall, so I figured I could go there to kill a bit of time. When I drove into the parking lot I noticed a Canadian Tire there. I decided to go in and inquire about their oil changes. The girl at the counter said they were $30 and that they could do them pretty quickly. I told her I was meeting friends for dinner soon, so I didn't have much time.

Well, of course, they took longer than expected. I watched as the clock in the waiting room hit 6:30, then 6:40, then 6:50. It wouldn't have been that bad if I could contact someone from our team to say I was going to be late, but I didn't have anyone's phone number. Anyway, I finally paid and was able to go.

I headed out as quickly as I could from the mall. I knew the restaurant was on the north side of Steeles a bit west of Yonge. Unfortunately I didn't check the exact address. I thought I would be able to see it driving by. Well, that didn't quite happen. It was situated further in off the road. I ended up wasting a few minutes driving around lost.

I arrived at the restaurant at 7:00. Half an hour late. To my surprise no one had ordered yet. And I wasn't even the last person to arrive. I was relieved about that. One car with three people (Andrew, Winnie and Wendy) came after. They had been stuck in traffic they said.

We ordered soon after that. Sang Hee (who organized the dinner) ordered some traditional Korean appetizers for everyone to share. Of course they brought all the little small dishes of appetizers too. The items on the restaurant menu were quite wide and varied. They had Korean, Chinese and Japanese. Probably too much as far as I was concerned.

I ordered Dolsot Bibimbap. It's a Korean rice dish with meat and vegetables in it. I figured since I was in a Korean restaurant I'd order Korean food. It made sense to me. I've had Bibimbap before and it's something I know I can handle. Some Korean dishes are too spicy for me. This one had spicy sauce on the side. You could add as much or as little as you want. Of course I hardly added any.

Dinner was good. We chatted about a lot of different things. Rupert told us about this TV quiz show he likes. We saw a clip on their iPhone. It was pretty crazy. They ask and answer the questions so quickly.

We also chatted about old television shows that we liked. Most of the guys spoke about shows they watched in the 80's. I suppose you can get a feel for how old our group is by the stuff we talk about.

All in all the evening was good. I think we all had an enjoyable time out. Thanks go out to Sang Hee for sending the Evite out. We have one more week off from gym night. So, I'll see the gang for floor hockey the following Thursday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Skating Outdoors

My friends and I went skating last week at Mel Lastman Square. It's the former site of North York City Hall. It's along the Yonge Subway line at North York City Centre stop. Of course, the picture above was taken at Toronto City Hall at Nathan Philips Square. It's just a representation of what it's like to skate outdoors.

I quite enjoy skating outside. It's really fun. Much more interesting than skating inside a grey concrete box where people normally go. You get to see the skies above you and the surrounding scenery. You may have to battle the elements though. But, if you're dressed properly it still can be nice skating while it's snowing or windy.

We hit the ice pretty late on Saturday when we went out. The traffic was terrible because it snowed quite heavily just before we got on the road. It was closer to 9:30 p.m. by the time we got started.

Luckily for us, the rink guy had just taken the Zamboni around the ice before we got on. As well, at that time of day there weren't a lot of other skaters on the ice. So that was good too. It gave me, for one, a bit more space to skate around and swerve in and out.

I really wanted to skate around the ice in a clockwise motion, but I really couldn't go against the flow. Everybody always skates in a counterclockwise direction because it's easier. But, you'll never learn if you don't go the other way.

Anyway, I had a great time. Afterwards we went to the Wendy's fast food restaurant across the street from the rink. I thought they would have had hot chocolate there, but they didn't. So my friends had a hot tea and coffee and I had a Frosty. I know it's a strange thing to have in the middle of winter, but I like them and haven't had one in a long time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

OOTC Dishwashing Crew - 2011

This is a photo of the 2011 version of the dishwashing crew at the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church. From left are Sam, Yonni, Pattra and myself. Missing are Harim and Daphne (who took the picture).

These guys have been great helping out. Sam and Yonni are great with the dishwasher. Pattra, Harim and Daphne put the clean dishes and pots and pans away. While I'm at the double-sink pre-scrubbing all the gunk off the pots and pans before we run them through the washer. We run like a well-oiled machine.

Still, at the height of the rush, things can get pretty intense. Piles and piles of dirty dishes flood in after the youths finish eating. We really have to move quickly otherwise things will pile up in one area or another. Thanks to the extraordinary effort of this great team we always manage to squeak by.

Over the five or so years I've been helping at Knox, I've met a lot of wonderful people. Many of them have moved on, but there are a few stalwart volunteers. Vicki and Bill (the organizers) are two of course. And there's Pat and Holly who prepare the food, and Darlene who runs the sewing clinic. Pat has been around for a long time. He's a real trooper. I'm certainly blessed to have met all these amazing people.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dickie's Chinese New Year Party

Perry and Dickie organized a small gathering at Dickie's home for Chinese New Year last Saturday. Dickie's mom kindly made noodles for us. They were yummy. Everyone else brought snacks. Mostly junk food I'm afraid to say.

Perry brought his Rock Band game over for the Xb0x-360. He had Beatle's Rock Band as well as one of the original versions. I played it awhile ago at another gathering they had there. I have to say it's quite fun. Of course my favorite part is singing. It's similar to Karaoke. Playing the "guitar" is fun too. The "drums" are a bit hard though. It takes some coordination that's for sure.

There were other activities too. Some people played ping pong in the basement. Others just sat and chatted. Perry also rounded up a few people to play Scrabble with him too. It was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday evening.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mary Ko Bong's Funeral

Today (Tuesday, February 1st, 2011) was Mary Ko Bong's viewing and funeral. It was held at Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel on 467 Sherbourne Street south of Wellesley. I got there early with my friend. Ed, from our church was already there. He was waiting downstairs where the coffee machine was. The next people to arrive were Mary's neighbours, a young couple named Nicole and Chris. They were actually the people who found Mary that fateful Monday last week.

It was good to have a chance to talk with them. Beforehand we had only received sparse details of what may have happened to her. They cleared things up for us a bit by telling us what they knew. We knew she was found outside, but not much more. During the week Tony updated me saying that she had gone out shopping at No Frills. Nicole and Chris mentioned that they found her sitting, passed away, in her walker right in front of her door. Her keys to the door were at her feet. She had an emergency call pendant, but she never used it. Tony thinks she may have walked to the No Frills. I believe Chris and Nicole mentioned that another neighbour saw her being dropped off at her place by a taxi. It was an extremely cold weekend last week. And the sidewalks in her neighbourhood weren't cleared of snow very well. I'd be a bit surprised if she did venture out in such conditions. But, as many people have said, she was quite independent, possibly even headstrong. So you never know. Anyway, Nicole and Chris, said she looked peaceful when they found her. We were certainly glad to hear that.

Pastor Tom led the service. He, too, spoke about Mary's independent spirit. He also mentioned she visited the boarding homes with me (though he got the details wrong). He thought the people we visited were homeless or had drinking problems or something. They actually have mental illness. He also related a story about how Mary had made a small cross with a poem for his daughter Justine when she went off to university (Western Ontario). It was a sweet gesture to keep her spirits up while she was away from home.

Tony and a lady named Dora spoke too. Dora spoke about Mary's military service. How she was one of the few Chinese women to enlist in the Canadian army in World War II back in 1943. She was a instrument mechanic in Hamilton. They made optics for binoculars and compasses. As well she did entertainment the troops. She had classical training in both singing and dancing.

Tony spoke about her different interests such as stone carving and painting. Many of Mary's rock club members were in attendance. As well he talked of her adventurous spirit like when she worked in a hospital in England and traveled solo across Europe. I believe she mentioned to me at one time that she hitch hiked while she was over there.

Tony did a lot of work over the past week in preparing for the funeral. As the picture above shows he gathered quite a few items including family photos, artwork and carvings to give us a glimpse of the well rounded woman she was. It was a lovely tribute to a wonderful lady. Anyone lucky enough to meet her was truly blessed. Thank-you, Mary.