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Toddish McWong returns to Canada after 7 days in Scotland

Toddish McWong's inaugural 7 day visit to Scotland

I am now back in Canada.  It was an incredible learning experience for my first trip across the Atlantic to one of the most important cultural and historical ancestral homes for this country called Canada.  Canada is probably the most Scottish nations outside of Scotland.  Our first prime minister, many of our explorers, BC's first premier, Vancouver's first mayor – were all born in Scotland.

And yet… Scotland is a country that is learning from Canada.

My trip was initiated because a life-size picture and video-interview of me were used in the photo exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  I have written about the exhibit here: Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Here  are my pictures from the exhibit and the reception at the closing of the event on St. Andrew's Day

 Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

Seven days were spent exploring the towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr.  I attended the reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibition This is Who We Are, and I explored Canada-Scottish historical connections at the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle.

I also visited many exhibits about Scottish poet Robert Burns at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow's University of Glasgow, Burns Cottage in Alloway and the National Burns Historic Park, near Ayr.

Here are pictures from my 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, and my first two days exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland:
A little bit of Glasgow and Edinburgh

2009_Scotland_1 003 by you.
Welcome to Scotland – Gee that train looks very Harry Potterish!

It's been a busy few days in Scotland.  I first arrived late on Saturday night, after a 9 hour layover in Amsterdam's Schipol airport.  I took the train to central station and went for a walk through the touristy bits – where I also discovered both Chinatown and the Red Light District. 

2009_Amsterdam 045Dragon City Restaurant in Amsterdam.  I also discovered restaurants named Asiandam and Cafe Slutery Oost-West, and Eat Mode- Asian Fusion Kitchen.

2009_Amsterdam 052 It must be Chinatown.  The sign says China Town Supermarkt!

The Bulldog pub was toooo full, so I went to The Blarney Stone where I met an Englishman named Robin.  I drank Kilkenney and he drank Guinness.  I told him about our 1st Thursday Kilts Night where we recieve a pint of Guinness.  He told me it was his birthday, I asked the waitress to give him a free birthday beer.  Instant friends + the guy from Boston beside us.

Here are pictures from Amsterdam

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

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I flew into Glasgow late on Saturday night.  After all the locals breezed easily through customs, I was left with two people from China to fill out landing forms. (What are these?)  I was the last person through, and the service was very kind.  I changed some money, and took the bus into town where I soon found a hotel.  My plan was to check out the local nightlife.  But my shoulder and back were really hurting.  I had injured it on the weekend, then reinjured it again on Thursday.  This was part of the reason why I now was on holiday.  If I can't work… I'm going to Scotland for Homecoming.  I quickly fell asleep after taking more Motrin.

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Sunday morning.  I go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery down the street.  But
first I check into Beanscene – a local equivalent of Starbucks or
Blenz.  Inside the cafe I am greeted by a picture of Johnny Cash. 
There is a poster of Norah Jones's new album.  I am in the right place.

2009_Scotland_1 006 Todd eating Stoats porridge – a good Scottish breakfast that is having a revival.

I order up porridge and coffee.  I meet a local man who tells me about some of the local sights to see, after we discuss Johnny Cash.  He also tells me that Glasgow's Chinatown is nearby. 

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Next I meet a Chinese woman who is teaching architecture (or is it art) at the local Art Institute.  Ju-Li is from China and has lived in Scotland since 2004.  She has just married a man, who has had to go back to America, because he doesn't have a UK passport, even though his grandparents were from Scotland.  This man who's ancestors left Scotland for a better life in the USA, is trying to get back into Scotland to be with his Chinese bride.  We both laugh at the absurdity of it.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is amazing.  It's also part museum.  The Main hall on my left has lots of taxidermied animals.  There is an elephant, a giraffe, a moose, an ostrich… even a platypus and a cheetah. Suspended from the ceiling is a WW2 Spitfire fighter plane.

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It is a thing out of a Christopher Robin or Narnia Chronicles book or movie.  Upstairs I discover exhibits on Wild Bill's Wild West Show – when it came to Glasgow, as well as Robert Burns and dinosaurs. 

2009_Scotland_1 024 Supposedly the legendary Haggis is the taxidermied concoction above, set beside a culinary haggis for eating.

There is even a taxidermied haggis!  (photos to show after I return to Canada).

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2009_Scotland_1 035 The Burns exhibit features a picture of Burns as Latin American revolutionary Che Gevera– no doubt reflecting on Burns universality for freedom and equal rights.

I had really wanted to visit the Hunterian Museum, which is showing Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns as part of the Homecoming Scotland events.  But it is at Glasgow University and consequently closed – forcing me to return to Glasgow on Monday.  Anyways, I spend the afternoon at the Kelvingrove, where a Doctor Who exhibit is downstairs. 

2009_Scotland_1 046 People do wear kilts and play bagpipes in Scotland!

I get lost trying to find the train station to Edinburgh.  I get distracted by the sound of bagpipes, as I find myself on Nelson Mandela Walk.  Policemen lead a parade of pipers.  About 12 bobbies (policeman) in reflective yellow jackets escort 16 pipers.  I think these are the first kilts I see in Scotland.

2009_Scotland_1 049 Winter Shindig in square at Glasgow.

I discover the Winter Shindig that takes up an entire square.  There is
a stage for as one of the finale events for Homecoming Year.  But
nobody local seems to know who the band is.  There is a large outdoor
ice rink, and a ferris wheel.

2009_Scotland_1 054 These guys wore the biggest ugly-est sporrans I have ever seen.  They made it themselves, and they carry all their magic tricks to promote the Glasgow Science Centre.

I meet two young men wearing kilts.  They have HUMUNGOUS sporrans which are FILLED with THINGS.  They work for the Glasgow Science Centre.  They show me some of their tricks and offer to set my hand on fire.  It was cool… and it did not hurt.  Okay… I sort of knew the secret, and they confirmed it with me.  One of them took a video – very cool… look carefully because it appears that after the flash – a pigeon flys out of above my hand. (video coming after I return to Canada).

2009_Scotland_1 053 Click for video to see a pigeon fly out of a burst of flame from my hand! Courtesy of the wild and kilted guys from the Glasgow Science Centre.

Did I say I get lost trying to get to the Train Station?  People have been so helpful.  But unfortunately I end up at the Central Station where I ask for Edinburgh, and the ticket seller hears Hellensburg.  Fortunately I don't get on that train, and go back for a refund.  Eventually I find myself on a crowded train to Edinburgh where I spy a man wearing a rugby shirt that says “Famous Grouse.”  As Famous Grouse was a whisky sponsor at our 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, I have to go ask about his like for Famous Grouse.  Surprise!  There is an empty seat beside him, which he offers me.  We have a good time talking about rugby, Famous Grouse, as I explain the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner to him, and the lady across from me.  His name is Roy Dewar, the lady is Hellen.  Roy buys me a Tennent's beer for our 50 minute train ride.

2009_Scotland_1 066 A friendly Scot buys me a Tennant's beer to celebrate my first full day in Scotland.

It's Sunday in Edinburgh.  I check into my lodging at Salisbury Centre – a holistic health centre, run by a woman whose auntie is a friend of mine in Vancouver.  For the evening, I decide to walk into town in search of Homecoming events.  I discover the free Caille (traditional dancing) event at The Hub.  The band is called Whiskey Kiss. 
2009_Scotland_1 084 Whiskey Kiss played the St. Andrew's Day Ceilidh to celebrate the Homecoming Finale – click on the picture for video.

They are led by an  accordion player.  I like the band instantly – even though he plays button accordion.  They have a comely lass playing fiddle and a braw fellow on the drums.  A fellow also plays on the penny whistle flute and bagpipes.  But the big surprise is the additional of a dj who adds in ambient sounds and scratches – very cool.  I love their versions of Van Morrison's Blue Eyed Girl and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.  But they also lead traditional country dances that include The Canadian Bar Dance, and The Virginia Reel.

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How to start a ceilidh.  Everybody waits on the dance floor while the
ceilidh leaders gives dance instructions, then the band gets going, and
the dance leaders start the dancing off!  Too much fun!

2009_Scotland_1 083 People are dancing and really having lots of fun! – click here for video
2009_Scotland_1 085 This is a great little video of the dancing – look for the big guy in a kilt – he's not afraid of a little kilt swirl!  Also look for the Asian woman who seems to really be enjoying herself!

Another surprise, there are Asians dancing.  Most turn out to be students from university.  They are from Taiwan or China. 

2009_Scotland_1 088 Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh!

I chat with some of the young Scots and ask then if they think that St. Andrew's Day should be a national holiday.  They agree, but say that St. Andrews' events are slow to catch on. 

2009_Scotland_1 094 Young Scots enjoy the Ceilidh, and actually wore kilts!

The patron saint of Scotland is certainly not as big as the patron
saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.  I meet a young Scots woman whose
kilted boyfriend is missing a sporan… and kilt socks.  He is actually
originally from Bulgaria… but he loves Scottish music and Scottish
women – okay… just one woman in particular.

Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Toddish McWong goes to Scotland: attends reception at Scottish Parliament and does live radio interview back to CBC Radio Vancouver

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 111 After hosting the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner for 12 years to celebration Chinese-Canadian and Scottish-Canadian arts and culture, I finally made a visit to Scotland. 

This is my first ever trip to Scotland… and I almost didn't make it.

It's the year of Scotland Homecoming, celebrating the 250th Anniversary of poet Robert Burns, and the 2009 version of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner was one of the listed events of Burns Suppers around the world.  The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner is the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver (550) and we were chosen as the only Burns Supper in Vancouver to auction off one of only 250 specially made bottles of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky as part of the Scotland Homecoming celebrations.

Earlier this year, my photo was included in a web photo exhibit THIS IS WHO WE ARE, for Cultural Connect Scotland created by Harry McGrath – former director of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 108Harry McGrath, Harry's brother-in-law and sister Gavin and Isabelle, Scottish minister of Justice Kenny MacAskill + Todd Wong – photo Todd Wong collection

On St. Andrew's Day, November 30th. There was a reception for a specially created version of photo and video THIS IS WHO WE ARE: Scots in Canada.  It is part of the finale events for Scotland Homecoming.  The event was co-hosted by First Minister Alex Salmond and Presiding Officers Alex Fergusson.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 077 Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister quoting Scottish born John Buchan, Scottish writer and former Governor General:

“For Canada, in one sense is simply Scotland writ large. Since I came here a year ago, I have never suffered for one moment from homesickness.  I find pine forests and swift streams, and trout, and salmon, and mountains, which are Scotland on a grander scale; and I find in parts of the prairies, green rolling hills like my own Borders.” – John Buchan, the creator of the Governor Generals Literary Awards in 1937,
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In the exhibition, a lifesize picture of Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong is featured in the Culture section.

I think this photo is from the photo archives sessions we did for CBC television performance special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”.  I was wearing the Royal Stuart tartan and holding the Chinese lion dance mask.

The reception at Scottish Parliament went well.  It was good to see
Harry McGrath – coordinator of the project again, along with his
photographer friend Graeme Murdoch.  They kept pulling me along to meet
their family members and some of the VIP dignataries such as:

  • Assistant High Commisioner of Canada, Claude Boucher – yes we spoke some french
  • Alex Fergussion MSP, Presiding Officer (Speaker of the House) – who co-hosted the event
  • Donald MacLeod of Victoria BC – who was a sponsor of the project

I met many other people such as:
a Canadian student in Edinburgh who's uncle in Coquitlam is proprietor of Roane's Top Quality Haggis
Calum Colvin – one of Edinburgh's top artists.
Linda Aberdeen, from Calgary, the organizer of Calgary Highland Games

I was introduced to the audience to good applause and as an example of cultural fusion, as an evolution and renewal of Scottish culture as it is shared and embraced by many people of different ethnicities.  It truly becomes an example of one of Robert Burns' most famous poems A Man's a Man for All That:

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Hopefully, the exhibition can come tour
Canada and become a book with all the unused photos and video
interviews not used in the exhibition.

Stephen Quinn commented
on my “non-existant” Scottish accent. And to think I didna like or ken
Scots in Canada, when I was a wee bairn.

The reception finished at 8:30pm.

Pictures of the event are here on flickr:

Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

After the reception, we next walked to Jenny Ha's Pub around the corner and up the street to celebrate and relax. 

But I had to go back to the Parliament building to do a radio interview back to CBC Radio One Vancouver for the ON THE COAST afternoon program with Stephen Quinn.  The phone reception was very good with no time delay.

Stephen asked me about my first visit to Scotland.  I replied it all feels somewhat familiar because I am finding street and place names that are the same such as Dundas St. or Buchanan St.  We talked a bit about the exhibition and how I had just met some Canadians here such as the organizer of the Calgary Highland Games and Chad – a student at the University of Edinburgh.  Chad wants to start a “Canadian Club” at the university and hopefully have a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner event for his friends to help celebrated Canada's multicultural fusion and “Canadianess”

Stephen also asked me about my “sypathetic” Scottish accent.  Yes… I am trying my best to fit in.

I am wearing my kilt about town.  I am meeting other kilt wearers – two of whom are also on the “X Marks the Scot” web forum. 

I am meeting Asians in Scotland.  Mostly they are students at the universities.  But one woman is an teacher of architecture in Glasgow.  Other people run Chinese restaurants in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

More later….

Gung Haggis paddlers compete at Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta: 1st in B Final 5th in A Final

AMAZING paddling Stories from today's races. 
Challenges and big leads…
Missed Opportunities and lots of boat collisions.

2009_Oct_Ft_Langley_cranberry_canoe_race 111 by you.
Our team's favorite photo from the weekend. Sheer determination of our paddlers as they paddle along the beach. Our lead stroke Tzhe really leans out to help pull the boat forward away from the beach. – photo Todd Wong

Our paddlers on the Gung Haggis Bacon Explosion and Gung Haggis Hot
Chili teams proved their competitiveness, team spirit and sportsmanship.

Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta
October 10th, 2009

In the weeks prior, our 2 rosters had filled to 11 paddlers per team,
so we had to recommend to paddler friends Remus Wong and Tricia Pang
(Gung Haggis Friends at UBC Long Boat), to paddle for Team Naluwan,
home team of Richard & Karen Mah and Oliver Wu who paddled with us
at Richmond races.

Then in the final week, we had 4 paddlers unexpectedly drop out or be
sick.  We are thankful to Marciel and Michael, and Johannes for filling
in for us at the last minute.  We are also happy that friends Lisa
Venables, Maggie and Harvey (Richmond) and Carolyn (former GH paddler)
could join us for Ft. Langley races.

Final Rosters

Gung Haggis Bacon Explosion
Raphael – Captain
Dave Samis (steer final)
Adam (steer first race)

Gung Haggis Hot Chili
Debbie Poon (captain)

2009_Oct_Ft_Langley_cranberry_canoe_race 008 by you.

 Gung Haggis Fat Chili leads the race in boat #2.  Todd is lead stroke, while Harvey steers. – photo Deb Martin

First Race (Right turn oval X ) 5 boats

GH Fat Chili

Good start… and we were 2nd going down the first stretch.
We caught up to the team on the 1st turn… taking the inside edge.
We raced neck and neck down the stretch.  Steersperson Harvey got us
the inside track and we entered the 2nd turn.  Coming around the 2nd
turn, the other team tried to hold us back… their lead stroke stuck
their paddle in front of our boat, trying to push us back…
But we stayed ahead of them.  As we cleared the last pylon, our front
paddlers tried to turn the boat… left… but the back of the boat was
blocked by that other darn boat… and a third boat, came into the
logjam.  We were pushed off towards shore and had to hold the boat,
while two other boats, turned behind us and down the 3rd stretch.  We
righted our boat, and headed into the 3rd turn trailing fast behind the
Pirates team.  We came down the final stretch hot on their heels and
and catching up… We placed 3rd.

Gung Haggis Bacon Explosion – (2X left ovals)
GREAT start… and BacEx is in the lead down the first stretch.  Other
teams get hung up in collisions.  BacEx makes the 1st turn with nobody
near them.  The final team has just finished the 1st turn, when BacEx
is making the 2nd turn.  They are 10 boat lengths in first place.  But
why is Tzhe drawing on the right side, when they are turning left? 
BacEx is on the wrong side of the buoy.  They paddle backwards, as the
2nd place team passes them.  They start paddling forward when the 3rd
place team passes them… they jockey for 2nd place along the turn…
boats colliding.  Finally they start to pull away out of the 2nd turn
and down the 3rd stretch.  At the 3rd turn they are 2 boat lengths
behind the 1st place team.  Down the 4th and final stretch they paddle
hard… creeping up to the tail.  They make their move in the final 1/4
stretch… gaining seat by seat… 4 seats behind… closer… 3 seats
behind…  almost there… one seat behind… will they make it?  So


We eat our Chilis…  Deb has made a cranberry/craisin chili.  Raphael
makes a bacon explosian chili.  Everybody is happy.  We mingle and chat
with our cheerleading squad led by Deb Martin, Jonas & Wendy,
Alissa & Ryan, Debbie's dad KK, Lisa's mom Peg, sister and nephew,
Remus' daughters Rebecca and Sarah, Brooke, Brooke's mother, and
niece.  We have enough cheerleaders to fill a boat.

The 1st race of the 2nd round of reverse ovals…
A team takes the first turn too sharply… people lean the wrong way…
people fall into the water.  The other teams are all racing down the
2nd stretch along the South Shore.  The small rescue boat goes to their
aid.  Race organizers are trying to tell the competing teams to stop
the race, but they can't hear.  They call the teams in, and boats are
sent out half empty to try to help rescue the wet paddlers.  But the
rescue boat has managed to take 4 people at a time to the South Shore,
while 2 paddlers remain helping to bail the capsized boat.

A meeting is held, and the races are post-poned because of the high
winds.  One woman is sent to the hospital to be treated for
hypo-thermia, but she is later reported to be okay.
Teams are told to reconvene at 1:30, and a decision will be made.  We go off to eat more chili,

At 1:30 16 teams remain to paddle.  4 teams have quit, gone home or to the beer garden.

Gung Haggis Hot Chili

Gung Haggis is racing against the other lower 7 finishers, including
Naluwan which contains friends Richard & Karen Mah, Oliver, Remus
and Tricia.

We go over the tactics needed to do good turns, and a good beach run. 
We change the start from a 6-6-6 to a 6-8-8.  We are lined up near the
North Shore at the start.  We tell our races to watch the red flag,
along with the air horn.  We think we hear an air horn… We feel a few
paddles take a stroke… but we don't start… yet… The flag goes
down/ hear the air horn… We paddle… hard… Eastwards… toward the
bridge…  I can see somebody on the bridge holding up a pumpkin… Our
boat steers a bit to the right where three pumpkins are thrown into the
water.  Steersperson Harvey wants to go where we have the best chance
of finding a pumpkin – not like last year's Gung Haggis teams – who
both missed pumpkins in the A final.

We are paddling hard towards the pumpkin.  There is another boat in
front to the right.  I am lead stroke… I keep paddling because it is
hard to pick up a pumpkin because of the raised bow in seat one.  Lisa
shouts “I've getting it!”  She is in seat two left.  While everybody
else is still paddling… she bravely bends down with her body to get
the pumpking bringing it to her chest.  I will ask her later
“Were you bobbing for pumpkins?”

She brings the pumpkin into the boat, and shakes the water from her
head, grabs her paddle and takes good hard strokes.  Our boat is the
first to emerge on the East side of the bridge because the 1st place
team missed their pumpkin and had to back up.  We are first all the way
to the 1st turn.  As we turn left, I call out “Take it easy”, I spike
my paddle to help facilitate the turn around the 1st buoy.  We have a
good sharp turn, we call a power series and race back under the bridge
towards the 2nd buoy. Another good turn, and we head North towards the
beach.  As we approach the beach, we feel our paddles hit the bottom of
the river, as Harvey turns the boat right.  Devon jumps out of the boat
to do the cranberry juice walk.  He has to balance a glass of juice on
his paddle and walk up the beach.  We try to push the boat forward, but
we are beached. 

“Back up!” I shout.  A few pushes, and we are free.  “Paddle forward!”
and our paddles scrape against the shallow shore.  Our boat moves to
deeper water and we move up the river.  Devon has finished his juice
walk, and he runs to our boat.  We draw left to bring the boat closer
to shore to pick him up.  He scrambles in, as we paddle forward, turn
right and cross the river.  The other boats have all finished turning
at 2nd buoy… Thankfully, because we now have to go around the same
buoy – but in the opposite direction.  It's a tight turn… So I spike
it hard, by turning backwards in my seat – pointing the paddle towards
the left front of the boat, to help facilitate the turn, as Harvey
completes the steering arc at the back of the boat.  We call a power
series and head Eastwards again towards the bridge and the finish line
beyond.  We can hear people chanting “Go Gung Haggis!”  We emerge on
the other side… and call another power series… heading to the
finish line buoys.  2, 4, 6, 8, 10… We call a finish and paddle
hard.  “More, More, More! 10 more strokes… we count them down 9, 8,
7, 6, 5… as we cross the finish line… 4, 3, 2, 1… We rest and
look back to see Naluwan battling it our with another team…. paddling
hard to the finish line.  Our friends finish 2nd.  We cheer on the
finishing teams.

Our friends and team mates congratulate us… and we exchange race
information.  Tony compliments us on a beautiful race…. the most
beautiful he has seen!  Our turns were tight, and we avoided any
collisions.  He is pumped up, and he tells the GH BacEx team to make
sure they grab the pumpkins (avoiding last year's fate)!

A Final 

Gung Haggis Bacon Explosion

BacEx had a good start.  They pulled away from the two team on their
left side.  But somehow they veered left and cut them off causing a
collision.  BacEx corrected and led the way to the closest pumpkin. 
Marciel grabbed the pumpkin, but lost his paddle at the same moment. 
Luckily, Raphael, sitting behind him, grabbed it with his left hand,
and a moment later Marciel was able to grab it back.   BacEx emerged
from under the bridge with four teams to their right.  The centre most
team was in the lead.  All the teams had to do a left turn around a
buoy.  BacEx made their turn behind the lead team,  they paddled hard
to go back under the bridge.  But they were still on the North side of
the bridge.  They had to race to the South side of the river and make a
right turn at the 2nd buoy.  Teams further south were closer to the
buoy.  They were in 5th place by the time they made their turn.

As BacEx approached the beach,  there were 4 boats already there… 
Raphael jumped out of the beach and held out his paddle for the juice. 
We walked quickly up the beach.  We had done this walk the previous two
years as well.  Two years ago, he had tripped climbing out of the
boat.  No tripping this year.  BacEx boat moved up the beach to pick up
Raphael, cutting off another runner from his boat.  BacEx paddled hard
towards the finish line going under the bridge.

Collision as they emerged under the bridge.  Oops, BacEx veers left. 
Another boat emerges colliding with the other boat.  Gung Haggis Bacon
Explosion turns tries to take the outside line, but the 2 boats are
pushing Northward off course.  BacEx slows down, waits for the boats to
pass, cuts right, and heads for the finish line…  Wheewww what a
finish.  One of the boats back paddles, then turns right to cross the
finish line.  The other boat does not finish.  Gung Haggis BacEx
finishes 4th or 5th in A Final for our highest ever finish in A Final.

Good races all around for everybody!  People on both our teams had big
smiles on their faces. Lots of compliments to our steers people Harvey,
Adam and Dave… and to our team captains Raphael and Debbie.  Thank
you to all paddlers for joining us.  It was the first Cranberry regatta
for many paddlers, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.  WARNING: Some are
even planning for next year already.

More pictures here on flickr:

Cheers, Todd


Here is a message from race organizer Cheryl McIntosh ( who paddled with Gung Haggis in Vernon 07)


What an exciting day – We never get wind like that in Fort Langley. 
But thank you all for being understanding and flexible in our day.  I
want to thank everyone for being to helpful when we had paddlers in the
water and let you know that the one that went to the hospital for
observation is fine and at home.  She phoned to thank all for your
help. Better safe than sorry. 

In case you did not hear the announcement at the midday meeting the
winner of the chili contest were
Best Meat – Cran-vores
Best Cranberries (and Veggies) – Canoe Yahoo

Here's the results from the final races

Final B
GH Hot chili 8:33.21
Naulwan 9:22.72
PP Apple blueberries 9:34.43
KS Chickens 10:03.87
Canoe Yahoo 10:17.18
DF Cranberry Kickers 10:31.76
Saints Preserve Us 10:45.15

Final A
FLCC Flatwater 7:00.49
Misfits 7:55.09
Cran-ivores 8:05.75
SOAR 8:38.81
GH Bacon Explosion 9:24.81
Sturgeon Bashers 9:25.79 DNF – outside of finish buoys
Crusaders 9:51.25

Great racing everyone and congratulations to Flatwater for placing
first overall. 
I am so glad we were able to have our last races and everything was
I ask each of your teams if they have any comments or suggestions for
next year please email me.
And of course thanks for helping put the equipment away after the last

I hope everyone had fun, enjoyed the festival and races, and that we'll
see you next year.

Kelowna Dragon Boat Festival – Day One

I am paddling in Kelowna with “How Wet Can You Get”

– formerly known as Scotia Dragons for the past decade, they changed their name this year.

I last raced in Kelowna in 2001 with GM Team (also known as Canadian, and later Roli), and in 2002 we raced a Gung Haggis Fat Choy team supplemented by paddlers from the 39th Brigade Army team.

The race site is on Okanagan Lake, just north of the new Bill Bennett Bridge and beside the Grand Hotel.  There is a small beach that is used for the loading and unloading of dragon boats.

There are many people I know and have paddled with over the years o this team.  I was invited by my paddling friend Lisa Venables, who joined the team this year after paddling the previous 8 years with O2P.  Steers William Cheng and I last raced together in 2001 when I coached the Civil Serpents and we brought him on as steers.  Back in 2000, Manley was on Dragon Hearts novice team, when I drummed and coached the Dragon Hearts Rec team.  Cal Kelly joined the Gung Haggis team for the Taiwanese Race 4 years ago.  And Connie Pan works at the Vancouver Public Library with me.

On the first day of this Kelowna Festival, we raced two times, and came 2nd in each race.  Our morning race time was 2:20 – losing by 4 seconds to RGL United

In our afternoon race, with increasing winds and rough water, we raced
2:26 – losing by 10 seconds to Without Warning – where Dan Seto is

But… we made it into Diamond Division – the second highest tier – so
we are in the top 20 teams of about 80-100 teams (I don;t know what the
final total is).  We are in lane 1 – so we probably had the slowest
combined time,  (they always seed the fastest team in the middle eg. 3
for 5 teams).

But we have 5 or 6 “borrowed paddlers” – so with each race the entire
team improves as we learn the race calls, adjust to the stroke and
pace, and help bond as a team.  But the other teams have borrowed
paddlers, and are adjusting too.  Also in Diamond Division are SFU
Scaly Justice Bytes with Stuart Higginson and Ron Chin + Booze Cruise
with mercenary paddlers Manfred Preuss + Carolyn Jeffries & Alex
Kwok from CC Riders.

The weather started off raining this morning… but cleared up for our
first race.  Sunshine actually happened.   But winds blew up after our
2nd race – causing a boat collision – but they kept going.  Sun and
heat arrived in time for beer garden time after the races.

I chatted with lots of dragon boat friends. 
Manfred Preuss is here with his wife Kathy, paddling on Booze Cruise, 
Manfred paddled with Gung Haggis at Rio Tinto Alcan this year.

Carolyn Jeffries from CC Riders and the CC Riders Coach Alex Kwok are also on Booze Cruise.

Maggie and Harvey are racing with Dragon Hearts Beat, as is James Yu (coach of Metro Van 44 Cheeks)

Allison Adachi and Wade who came out to practice with us on Tuesday are here with a mixed Chilliwack team.

Guen from Shaggin' Dragons is wearing her bunny ears on the drummer's seat.

Lee who paddled with us at Taiwanese last year is here with her Sudden Impact team

Lots of paddlers from Kelowna, including the Blazing Paddles who insisted on buying me a beer for steering for them in Vernon.

Winetasting in the Southern Okanagan: Summerland and Naramata Bench

Wine tasting and exploring in Summerland and Naramata regions of Southern Okanagan

– Part One

2009_Aug_Kalamalka 085 Todd & Deb taste the delicious fruit wines of Elephant Island Orchard Winery.

I am glad that my girlfriend Deb enjoys wine tasting, and trying out the many different Okanagan wines of BC.  On BC Day, August 3rd Monday, we travelled with friends to the Summerhill and Naramata Bench growing areas.  Only 2 hours south of Vernon, where Deb's parents live, the area is dryer and more sun drenched.  The hills are softer and less steep than Kalamalka Lake's Predator Ridge and Kalamalka Park.

It probably started with our official first date when I brought over a bottle of Summerhill Cipes Brut sparkling wine to help celebrate her new job.  3 months later we explored the Kelowna area wineries of Mission Hill, Quail's Gate, Mt. Boucherie, and Summerhill Pyramid winery.  We also drove up to to Silver Star ski resort to try out the 2nd annual Okanagan Summer Wine Festival. 

Last year, we took our friends Craig and Zsuzsanna to Summerhill Pyramid winery, and Sumac Ridge Estates.  This time we felt it we wanted to explore farther south to Summerland and Naramata Bench – where Deb hadn't been in 20 years, despite being raised in the North Okanagan.

We visited Thornhaven, Dirty Laundry and Sleeping Giant fruit winery in Summerhill, part of the “Bottleneck Drive” group of local wineries to promote the growing wine business on the west side of Okanagan Lake.  Then we visited the Naramatat Bench, home to BC's largest concentration of wineries, but only had enough time to visit Elephant Island Orchard Winery and Soaring Eagle Estates – before they closed at 6pm.

Grapes at Soaring Eagle Estates.

Thornhaven Estates was the first winery we checked in at.  After the 2 hour long drive from Vernon, we ate our sandwiches in the car.  But we could have relaxed and eaten on the lovely and inviting adobe styled outdoor patio at Thornhaven.  It looks exotic in the “Great White North” of Canada – but the Sonoran desert plateau of the American Southwest actually extends all the way into Canada near Oosooyoos.

More pictures on Toddish McWong's flickr link:

2009 July Winetasting

2009 July Winetasting

Todd in Vernon, at Kalamalka Lake

Kalamalka Lake is one of the beautiful and accessible vacation spots in BC's Okanagan. 

Todd Wong paddles an outrigger canoe on Kalamalka Lake.  Todd's friend Craig brought the outrigger canoe up for the weekend.  It is 20 feet long and weighs only 22 pounds. 

Kalamalka Lake Provincical Park.

After being here for last weekend's Greater Vernon Dragon Boat race, with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team, I returned to spend time with my girlfriend Deb and her parents at their lakeside home.  I came up on Thursday night after work.  Construction on Hwy 97 just after the Coquihalla Connection and on the new William Bennet Bridge connecting West Bank to Kelowna, stretched the usual 5 hour trip to 6 hours.

Life is relaxing here, as we spend time swimming, canoeing and kayaking in the lake.  Sometimes we take the border collies out for walks in the park.

But the Terrace Mountain fire is raging again.  Yesterday the fire jumped its fireguards and 1500 people were put on alert.  Ash and smoke filled the sky.  The sun turned an eerie orange through the hazy smoke, as it glistened on the water.  Today, the evacuation order has expanded to affect 2500 people in the Fintry area.  We are keeping our fingers crossed a fire doesn' happen in the Kalamalka Lake Park, where many people are vacationing and enjoying the recreational activities of swimming, picnics, boating and cliff jumping.

IMG_3388 by you. The sun shines orange through the smoke from the Terrace Mountain fire, and reflects on Kalamalka Lake. – photo Todd Wong

On Friday, I paddled the solo outrigger canoe that my friend Craig Brown brought up for the weekend.  It is 20 feet long, and weighs only 22 pounds.  It is a beautiful boat, and moves easily through the water.  Craig complimented me on my balance and my paddling.  I never hulied (tipped over) by accident.  I practiced tipping over on purpose, as Craig coached me on flipping the boat back over, and climbing back on.  When speeding motor boats went by, I paddled over to crash through their wake. 

“You're surfing now!” Craig called at me, as I rode the waves back to the shore.

Todd paddles solo outrigger! – photo Craig Brown.

Friday night we drove into town to find the airconditioned movie theatre.  We watched “The Ugly Truth” starring Katherine Heigl  It was pretty funny – more raunchy than the classic “When Harry Met Sally” – but surprisingly no nudity!

Saturday morning, Deb and I kayaked towards Kal Beach, along the many lake front homes.  We saw some teenagers rise sleepily from the dock where they had spent the night.  We talked with some swimmers who were friends of Deb's parents.  Then we paddled back and over to Jade and Juniper Bay.

Saturday night, Craig and I missed the big excitement.  After dinner we headed over to Alexander's Beach Pub.  While we we gone, a rattle snake was discovered in the garden.  The weather is so hot and dry, it would appear that the rattlesnakes are looking for water.  A rattle snake hadn't been seen at the Martin residence in 20 years.

Sunday morning,  Deb and I canoed around Rattle Snake Point, over to Cosens Bay.  Around the corner, we saw some teens jumping off cliffs.  We saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree, and a Kingfisher flying from one tree to the next. 

We saw 5 swimmers in wet suits, who were training for triathalons.  We had a short conversation about the benefitis of swimming and paddling in Kalamalka Lake.  They admitted they wouldn't decline a beer, even though it wouldn't be beneficial to their training.

We plan to leave tomorrow on Monday.  Possible activities will be another early morning paddle, followed by wine tastings in Penticton/Naramata area.

Eating on Mayne Island… 4 eateries… all delicious!

Holidays and good food go together.

2009_May_Mayne Island 171Menu board on the patio of the Wild Fennel restaurant on Mayne Island – photo Todd Wong

On Mayne Island we visited the Wild Fennel Restaurant, Springwater Lodge, the newly renovated “Brickworks Restaurant on the Bay” at the Mayne Inn Resorts, and I even had breakfast at the Sunny Mayne Bakery Café.  So I did indeed visit all four restaurants listed in the Mayne Island brochure found on the BC Ferry, and also listed on the Mayne Island Chamber website:

We had caught the 7:20 ferry from Tsawwassen, so I ate dinner in the BC Ferry Restaurant, which is basically a  mini White Spot.  I had the bacon & cheese burger with fries… but substituted a soft drink for the frozen coffee drink that had a lot of mocha in it!  Definitely better than Tim Hortons!

At 7am, Friday, I woke up early and wanted to find a place for coffee and breakfast.  Where do the locals go?  It's the Sunny Mayne Bakery Café where I found delicious fried potatoes and scrambled eggs, which I ate with ketchup and HP Sauce.  Perfect!  They even make cappucinos and mochas too.  I opted for plain coffee to which I added some chocolate, honey, and cream.  Located in the town centre on 472 Village Bay Road, beside Tru Value Foods.

2009_May_Mayne Island 092 View of Bennett Bay from Bricksworks restaurant at Mayne Inn Resorts – photo Todd Wong

We went kayaking on Friday, and was very tempted to try to buy fresh crabs from the boat hauling up their crab traps in Bennett Bay – but I didn't bring my wallet on our 2 1/2 hour kayak excursion.  🙁

Oh well, after burning up an appetite kayaking and hiking to Campbell Point, we headed to “Brickworks Restaurant on the Bay” at the Mayne Inn Resorts.  The Resort is undergoing some rennovations, so it looks like it is closed from the street.  But we drove in and found a lovely upscale setting.  With a stunning view of Bennett Bay, we sat down and quickly ordered the special of the day, “Seafood Wellington” – salmon, haddock and prawns baked in puff pastry.  At $18, it was large and reasonably priced.  We cut it in two and shared it, along with the vegetables and rice pilaf.  We sat on the remaining sun on the patio and enjoyed our dinner along with Strongbow and cider.  If we hadn't already planned to spend the sunset hours on the other side of the island, we might have stayed longer.  I was tempted by the $3.99 pub special of a chocolate shooter cup, filled with “your choice” of liquer….

2009_May_Mayne Island 097 Haddock, Salmon and Prawns stuffed into something called Seafood Wellington.  It's a good thing I like to eat my rice and brocolli.-  photo Todd Wong

History of the Springwater Lodge

We next drove to the other side of the island, back to the town centre at Miner's Bay.  At 6pm, there was still a lot of time to fill before darkness fell, and on a small island there isn't a lot to do.  Best thing is go to the pub!  The good ol' hockey game was on the tv set, next to the pool tables.  Detroit 3, Chicago 1.  We went and sat on the patio, enjoying the wonderful view of Active Pass where we had seen orcas from the ferry only 24 hours earlier.  The 3 people at the table beside us all ordered the $18 chipotle prawn special, and said it was very good.  The other table had ordered 2 piece Fish & Chips and that looked good and was much cheaper at $11.99  We ordered the 3 piece for about $1.50 more and shared.  We also ordered the Mission Hill white and red wines.  What a wonderful way to spend a summer evening… restaurant hopping and having wonderful food.  No Killer Whales were spotted, but the BC Ferries tooted their horns and passed each other in Active Pass.

The Historic Springwater Lodge was originally built in 1892, and is the oldest continuously operated hotel in BC.  It was stopping point for miners headed to the Fraser River and Caribou Gold Rush. 

2009_May_Mayne Island 102 View from Springwater Lodge patio.  BC Ferries in the distance – photo Todd Wong

2009_May_Mayne Island 172 Peter smiles after telling us that he is the one (of the partners) that is responsible for the art work. – photo Todd Wong

After driving past the Wild Fennell 4 times on Friday, we went back on Saturday specifically for lunch.  It was the restaurant recommended by our kayaking guide,
and we also remembered it the book “Best Places to Kiss in the
Northwest – a romantic travel guide
.”  It's a cosy little place filled with art created by one of
the owners – Peter.  The food was very good, and not out of line with
any of the “west coast bistros” throughout Metro Vancouver – but it had
that special Gulf Island charm, and the prices are quite reasonable. The shrimp soup with wild mushrooms was very nice, and our sandwiches were delicious.  I had the smoked tuna clubhouse with shrimp and avocado aoeli.  Deb had the vegetarian hoagy with ceasar salad.  I think they were about $12 or $14 each. The restaurant is located at the Fernhill Plaza next to the Tree Frog Gallery, the Mackenzie Gallery of Fine Art and the nice store with all the glass work and pottery.

2009_May_Mayne Island 169Smoked tuna Clubhouse sandwich with shrimp and avocado aoeli, and with the Shrimp and Wild Mushroom soup of the day.  Yum!

2009_May_Mayne Island 170

Deb had the vegetarian hoagie with a caesar salad.  Lots of red and orange peppers, mushrooms, and greens.  Double yum!

Kayaking in the Gulf Islands: we visit Belle Islets Chain

Mayne Island is well known for its' sandstone formations which delight kayakers!

2009_May_Mayne Island 054 by you.
Todd and Deb paddle past Little Samuelson Island off Mayne Island.  It was time for a mini-vacation.  We caught the last Thursday night ferry from Vancouver on May 21st, and returned on the 5:05pm from Mayne to Galiano to Tsawassen.  We even saw orca/killer whales in Active Pass on the ferry from Galiano to Mayne Island.

2009_May_Mayne Island 053 by you.

Deb paddles past some of the fantastic sandstone carved by the wave action of the Georgia Strait.

We paddled with Mayne Island Kayaking, located at Blue Vista Resorts.  Owner Doug Peers was our guide, and he led us through the currents so we could see lots of harbour seals, a sea lion, oyster catchers, guillemots, and eagles.

See Gulf Islands National Park

See more pictures at:

Take your picture with some of BC's most fascinating people at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria

Photo Library - 2899 by you.
Where is Joy Kogawa in this picture? 
Where is Chief Dan George?
Where is Yip Sang?
Where is Emily Carr?
Where is poet Susan Musgrave?
Where are the Beachcombers' Bruno Gerussi and Relic?
Where is Amor de Cosmos?
is the interactive photo display in front of the Royal BC Museum, in Victoria BC,  for
the “Free Spirit” exhibition celebrating the 150th Anniversary of
British Columbia.  These pictures are from “The Party” display which
features 150 of BC's most fascinating people.  This picture was taken when Deb and I went to Victoria on August 8th to attend the “150 Years in Golden Mountain” awards gala.  
display also features Japanese-Canadian David Suzuki and other famous
authors such as Jane Rule, Douglas Coupland, PK Page and Dorothy
Check out the website and find Joy and David Suzuki in:
you can stand behind Joy, as Kogawa House committee member Deb Martin
is doing.  This picture of Joy was taken by Kogawa House committee
members Deb and Todd Wong- who is is also featured in “The Party”

The exhibition opened in March, and Deb and I went to visit “Joy” in April:
read our story: Traveling to “The Party” at BC Royal Museum

P4230223 by you.

 “The Party” exhibit with some of BC's “fascinating” citizens including: (front row) founding governor James Douglas, Betty Krawcyk, Joy Kogawa, Karen Magnusson, Herb Doman; (second row): Vikram Vij, Cindy Lee, Gordon Campbell, Gordon Shrum. – photo Todd Wong

Our second visit to the RBCM this year was to see the picture of Todd Wong in the museum when I was “voted in” along with Trevor Linden.
“Toddish McWong” installed at the “Free Spirit” exhibition at Royal BC Museum

Many friends have been taking trips to Victoria and returning to Vancouver, saying they have seen me in the Museum.

Photo Library - 2905 by you.

 Todd Wong stands in front of former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, but behind King Freezy, Chee-al-thluc, Chief of the Songhees people. Also in this picture are “The Beach Combers”, “The Raging Grannies,” Sir Matthew Bailiee Begbie aka “The Hanging Judge Begbie”, Premier W.A.C. Bennet, Rosemary Brown, Sen. Mobina Jaffer, Roderick Haig-Brown – photo D. Martin.