Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reads from the city proclamation to announce “Italian Day in Vancouver”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reads from the city proclamation to announce “Italian Day in Vancouver”
Yesterday I was at Saltspring Island for a board meeting of The Land Conservancy of BC. We held the meeting in the home of Briony Penn, a founding director of TLC, and the current vice-chair. She showed her this Globe & Mail article of her home.
All of the house’s lumber was cut down on the property, or salvaged. The roof
Check this link to see the G&M photos of the housebuilding in process – some interior shots too! http://
Gung Haggis paddlers had lots of smiles on last Sunday’s practice. Four of our five practices have had sunshine… pretty lucky! Hillary and Anne took on lead stroke duties. We had two brand new paddlers Florian and Tara, who did really well. They did so well, we had them paddling the boat by themselves at the end of the practice. – photo Todd Wong
Our practices are Sundays 11am – 1pm, and Wednesdays 6pm to 7:30pm. 2012 is our teams’ 15th anniversary since starting as Celebration Team, and the 10th anniversary after being renamed Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. Over the years, we have won dragon boat race medals in Vancouver, Vernon, Victoria, Richmond, Seattle, Portland, and Bamff. We have also won the Hon. David Lam Award for being the team that best represents the spirit of multiculturalism at Vancouver’s Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, and also the Community Spirit Award at the Lotus Sports Club regatta in Burnaby.
“I think it’s an interesting idea — we have these Chinese unions combined with St. Patrick’s Day,” said Nick Hsu.
The 43-year-old was part of a group of family and friends who travelled up from Seattle to parade.
For 2012, I brought some of my dragon boat hand puppets from home, as I did for the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade, when I had walked with the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. We interacted with many of the children watching the parade, who were delighted to see the plushy dragon toys! We encouraged them to “pet the dragon’s head for good luck”, which many children including adults such as CelticFest chair Joanna Hickey did.
Gung Haggis paddler Xavier MacDonald strutted the streets in his kilt with a Chinese lion head costume – photo Todd Wong
Decorating the car, and everybody wears a necklace with green hats optional! What a great group of people! We were entry #73, and we decorated the car from the middle of Granville St. Bridge – then moved onto the Howe St. onramp, as the parade filed into order starting at Drake. St.
What to expect at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2012 Dinner…
Dr. Jan Walls is beloved in both Chinese and Academic and other circles. He is a scholar of Chinese language, as well as a former cultural attache for the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. We love him because he performs the ancient tradition of Chinese clapper tales. We are daring Dr. Walls to set the poetry of Robert Burns to the rapping beat of Chinese bamboo clappers.
performers include Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums, and the Black Bear Rebels celtic ceilidh ensemble…
More on them in later posts…
What are you wearing? Kilts and tartans, as well as Chinese jackets and cheong-sam dresses are preferred. But our guests are dressed both formal and casual – be comfortable, be outrageous, be yourself. If you want to wear a Chinese jacket or top, paired with a kilt or mini-kilt… that is great!
We might have a kilt fashion show for 2012… we might have a Chinese cheong-sam fashion show… we will see what happens. One year, one guest dressed up like a Chinese mandarin scholar. Another year, two guests dressed up as cowboys.
The doors will open at 5:00 pm, All tables are reserved, and all seating is placed in the
order that they were ordered.
you bought your tickets through Firehall Arts Centre, come to the
reception marked Will Call under the corresponding alphabet letters. We
have placed you at tables in order of your purchase. Somebody who
bought their ticket in December will be at a table closer to the stage
then somebody who bought it in mid January, or on the day before the event. We think this
is fair. If you want to sit close for next year – please buy your ticket
you are at a table with one of the sponsoring organizations: Historic
Joy Kogawa House, ACWW/Ricepaper Magazine, Gung Haggis dragon boat team –
then somebody will meet you at the reception area and guide you to your
The Bar is open at 5:00 and Dinner Start time is 6:00
expect a rush before the posted 6:00pm
time. We have asked that the 1st appetizer platter be placed on the
table soon after 6pm. Once this is done, we will start the Piping in of
our performers and head table. We sing “O Canada” from the stage, and
give welcome to our guests. “Calling of the Clans” is done for sponors, and reserved table clans – if you would like to have your clan or group announced, please reserve a table of 10.
Buy Your Raffle Tickets:
raffle tickets… this is how we generate our fundraising to support
this organizations dedicated to multiculturalism and cultural harmony.
Food prices have been rising, but we have
purposely keep our admission costs low so that they are
affordable and the dinner can be attended by more
people. Children's tickets are subsidized so that we can include
them in the audience and be an inclusive family for the evening. We have some great door
and raffle prizes lined up. Lots of books (being the writers we
are), gift certificates and theatre tickets + other surprises.
FREE Subscription for Ricepaper Magazine:
Everybody is eligible for a subscription to RicePaper Magazine,
(except children). This is our thank you gift to you for attending our
dinner. And to add value ($20) to your ticket. Pretty good deal, eh? Ricepaper Magazine
is Canada's best journal about Asian Canadian arts and
culture, published by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop,
This dinner is the primary fundraising event for:
The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team
continues to promote multiculturalism through
dragon boat paddling events. Some paddlers wear kilts, and we have been
filmed for German, French, and Canadian television documentaries + other
Since 2001, Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop,
has been a partner in this remarkable dinner event. ACWW works actively
to give a voice to ermerging writers. ACWW is the publisher of Ricepaper Magazine.
Historic Joy Kogawa House committee joined our family of recipients in 2006, during the campaign to save Joy Kogawa's childhood home from demolition. The Land
Conservancy of BC stepped in to fundraise in 2005 and purchase Kogawa House
in 2006 and turn it into a National literary landmark and treasure for all
Canadians. In 2009, we celebrated our inaugural Writer-in-Residence program.
This year haggis dim sum appetizers will
be served. Haggis is mixed into the Pork Su-mei dumplings which we introduced a few years. This year we are adding vegetarian pan-fried turnip cake to represent “Neeps and Tatties.” Our signature dish is our deep-fried haggis won-tons served with a special sauce.
after 6:00 pm the dinner formalities begin. People
are seated, and the Piping in of the musicians and
hosts begins. We will lead a singalong of Scotland the Brave and give
a good welcome to our guests, and have the calling of the clans – all
the reserved tables and large parties of 10. This is a tradition at
many Scottish ceilidhs (kay-lees), or gatherings.
From then on… a new dish will appear somewhere around 15 minutes –
quickly followed by one of our co-hosts introducing a poet or musical
performer. Serving 40 tables within 5 minutes, might not work
completely, so please be patient. We will encourage our guests
and especially the waiters to be quiet while the performers are on stage.
Then for the 5 minute intermissions, everybody can talk and make noise
before they have to be quiet for the performers again.
Check this video from past year's Dinner
Expect the unexpected: This year's dinner event is full of surprises. Even I don't know what is going to happen. The idea is to recreate the spontaneity of the very
first dinner for 16 people back in 1998 – but with 400+ guests. For
that very first dinner, each guest was asked to bring a song or a poem to share. I
don't want to give anything away right now as I
prefer the evening to unfold with a sense of surprise and
wonderment. But let it be known that we have an incredible
array of talent for the evening.
by Robbie Burns and Chinese Canadian poets. What will it be? We often
like to read “Recipe for Tea” – a poem by Jim Wong-Chu, about the
trading of tea from Southern China to Scotland
Our non-traditional reading of the “Address to the
Haggis” is always a crowd pleaser. But
this year, audience members might also be reading a different Burns poem to
tie their tongues around the gaelic tinged words. Will it be “A
Man's A Man for All That,” “To a Mouse,” My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose,” or maybe even “Tam O-Shanter?”
The evening will wrap up somewhere
between 9:00 and
9:30 pm, with the singing of Auld Lang Syne – we start with a verse in Mandarin
Chinese, then sing in English or Scottish. Then we will socialize further until 10pm. People will
leave with smiles on their faces and say to
each other, “Very Canadian,” “Only in Vancouver could something
like this happen,” or “I'm telling my friends.”
Tickets now on sale
through Firehall Arts Centre
Gung Haggis paddlers paddle neck and neck against each other in the Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta on Oct 8th 2011. Both teams are battling for 3rd place in the B Division Final, trying to pull ahead of each other for bragging rights over each other. Both teams finished in the top half of 24 teams, finishing 11th and 12th overall. The Gung Haggis Flying Cranberries on the left had 4 rookies and and was anchored by seasoned paddling friends from the Eye of the Dragon team. The Gung Haggis Firey Chili boat on the right had some of our more experienced paddlers with 2 rookies, combined with experienced paddling friends. It was an exciting race final that celebrated the friendship of beginner and veteran paddlers, helping and supporting each other, in one of our favorite races of the year.
I am very proud and happy with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. It has been 10 years since the inception of the team in 2002. Back then we only did two races a year, the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and its regatta two weeks preceding. The team had initially begun as the Celebration Team in 1997 which I had also founded and coached, and was renamed in 2002 because: 1) to give the team a new bring more sense of identity with multiculturalism and 2) bring more recognition to the fledgling Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.
The Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team finished the last paddling event of the year last week with a paddle down Harrison River from Harrison Hot Springs.
We started paddling in March – following the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner – which the team is named after. Both created by Coach Todd Wong, to celebrate multiculturalism. The dinner does it with poetry, music and food. We celebrate by paddling and eating
We paddled on Burrard Inlet for the Lotus Club regatta. It is a tradition for us to start our season by racing in May at the Barnet Marine Park. My first-ever dragon boat practice in 1993, was here at the Lotus Club as a spare paddler for the Headliners dragon boat team. I am always glad to support the Lotus Club, and we have many friends at Lotus. Too bad, the weather was so wet and rainy that we could not bring out our Chinese dragon and lion for ceremonial dances.
We practiced in False Creek 2X week – Sunday 11am and Wed 6pm
Debbie (black shirt and red tartan head band) leads warm-up at the big Rio TintoAlcan drago boat festival in Jun. Debbie started as one of our youngest paddlers, and is now an assistant coach and team leader. We raced in the Rec E Final for medals, and came a very close 4th – just missing a medal by split seconds.
We had 3 paddlers from France on our team: Anne, Leo and Alice. Beside me in a red team shirt is Aidan, this season's rookie of the year – male.
We went to the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival in August. It was the hottest day yet of a damp
cold summer, and 37
dragon boat teams came to Steveston to enjoy the balmy 25 degree
the sea. The 2nd annual
Steveston Dragon Boat Festival was set at the Britannia Historic
just East of Steveston Village. After 3 races, we came 3rd in the C Division Consolation.
– photo Deb Martin
We always enter two teams at the Ft. Langley Canoe Regatta for Cranberry Festival. Gung Haggis Fiery Chilis had some of our veteran paddlers and paddling friends. Steered by Todd Wong (myself), and captained by lead stroke Karl Castillo. 2nd seat is Michelle and Dave, 3rd seat is Carly and Tracey (both from Flight Centre team), 4th seat is Aidan and Steve, 5th seat is Remus and Caroline.
Gung Haggis Flying Cranberries was steered by steered by our friend Harvey, and anchored by Johnny and Maggie in seat 5 – all from the Eye of the Dragon team. It was captained by lead stroke Debbie. 2nd seat is Xavier and Keng, 3rd seat is Sara and Gerard (in Sara's first race), 4th seat is Leo and Christian (both promising rookies).
We dressed up for a Halloween's Eve Day paddle to Granville Island
– photo Dave Samis on Todd Wong's camera
Deb and Debbie had big smiles, as the paddled down the Harrison River on Nov 27th, Grey Cup Sunday. It was our last official paddling event of the season. Last year, some of our paddlers joined me on some of the final days of the 5 day “Paddle for Wild Salmon” from Hope to Vancouver. We wanted to recognize the salmon migrations on the Harrison River, and the bald eagles that feed on them. Our idea was to paddle and drift pass the eagles feeding on the spawned out salmon – but we ran into a strong headwind that slowed down our travel speed. After paddling almost 4 km, we turned back to the Harrison Lake. “A grand failure” was what rookie paddler Xavier called it, while we ate dinner in Agassiz while watching the 2nd half of the Grey Cup Football Game.
Nov 6th, 3pm concert 6pm dinner
Ukranian Hall, 805 East Pender St.
Heart of the City Festival
First Nations, Chinese, Hawaiian, Ukranian, and British ethnicities and cultures mix together at Heart of the City Festival. David Nahanee's First Nations family gave the opening welcome and drumming to open the festival. Savannah Walling and Terry Hunter (back row) are the festival's founders and artistic directors. Todd Wong (right) was guest accordionist.
William Nahanee explained to me that his family name is of Hawaiian origin, as Hawaiians had come to BC with traders, and settled into the Squamish Nation. It is now a common name, he explained to me when I told him I had a friend named Nahanee in grade 8.
I played solo accordion in the second half of the program. I started out with the Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower), then a version of Scotland the Brave. Terry Hunter had give me an introduction to the audience mentioning how I am the creator of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, so I explained that I wanted to acknowledge that Chinese and Scottish pioneers were the founding pioneer cultures of British Columbia – not English and French as in Eastern Canada. I explained that my great great grandfather had come to Canada and ministered at the Chinese United Church, just up Pender St. It has been a pleasure to participate in the Heart of the City Festival, and I wanted to acknowledge the immigrant groups that have settled in Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside. The next songs I played were J.S. Bach's Toccata in D Minor and the St. Louis Blues, to acknowledge German and American pioneers to Vancouver, and especially Jelly Roll Morton who had lived at the Patricia Hotel over on Hastings St.
Bortsch soup, made from beets – a Ukranian staple, that I first had many many years ago made by a high school friend.
No Ukranian dinner would be complete without perogies. One of my favorite foods I like to keep stored in the freezer, and smother them with cream cheese.
Hornby Island is a jewel of the Northern Gulf Islands:
We go to Hornby for the Thanksgiving weekend
Much of Hornby Island is covered with sandstone – Todd sits on top of a nature sculpted rock – shaped by multitudes of wave action. We had a great time walking on Sandpiper Beach – just around the corner from the more famous Tribune Bay. – photo Deb Martin
It had been about 15 years since I last visited Hornby Island. I had talked with my girlfriend Deb for years about going to visit my cousins who have lived there since the mid 1970's. My first visit to Hornby was around 1970 on a family trip. I remember swimming and my father creating rafts for my brother and I to paddle on in Tribune Bay. I had many trips in the late 1980's and 1990's. I watched my cousin's children grow up, and now they have left the island and live out of province.
Hornby definitely has a laid back feel, and you can almost feel transported back into the communal hippie love vibe of the late 60's and early 70's. We visited the Co-Op store and the ring of little shops next door to it – that constitute the “downtown” business centre of Hornby Island. We also visited the Community Hall where a Fall arts and market fair was happening.
Thanksgiving Dinner was on Sunday at my cousin's home. They had invited some of their friends, and slowly I realized how I had met some of them 15 years before. After the dinner, I played my accordion – like I had done many years ago at Thanksgiving dinners on Hornby. My cousin Wayne also played some flamenco on his guitar. Also attending the dinner was their artist friend Wayne Ngan who specializes in pottery and painting. We went to visit Ngan's studio the next day where I bought a small pot.
This is a picture at the pottery studio of Heinz and Gerhard. Past visits in the 80's and 90's always found me selecting plates, cups or bowls. This visit selected the large blue vase that can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo.
On our 2nd day, we drove out to Ford's Cove and visited the marina where all the fishing boats are docked. It was almost so cloudy and misty that you couldn't see nearby Denman Island. The store is very small but not unlike a lot of marina stores up and down the coast. It has a little bit of everything and especially a large dvd rental collection. I had an Americano coffee as my cousin had told me they had good coffee.
In the afternoon we walked out to the bluffs at Helliwell Park. This is an amazing park with a fragile ecosystem along the bluffs. There are also lots of sandstone sculpted rocks along the shoreline. But it was very windy, and we were careful not to get blown about. It's a very steep drop off the bluffs. We didn't have enough time to walk the entire loop trail, as we went to visit another friend of my cousin's whom I had also met 15 years ago. She is now housebound due to old age, and I was asked to play my accordion for her. It was a great visit of sharing stories and playing music.
Deb stands on Whaling Station Bay – the tide was coming in. We went back on the next morning and saw the wide expanse of beach at the shallow bay. It's a great place to swim in the summer because the shallow bay keeps the water quite warm. I have promised Deb that we will return when it is warmer – maybe a Long weekend visit in May sometime in the future?
Here are the links to our 3 days or travel photos on Flickr photo site
Adrianne Carr, Green Party politician, came by the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth, and told me that her daughter had shared with her Joy's children's book “Naomi's Tree.” “It's a great book” said Carr, as we chatted about the importance of saving historically significant landmarks (such as Kogawa House), and conserving sensitive and important environments – okay, I told her I was a director for The Land Conservancy of BC.
Also great to see my friends at the booths such as Historic Joy Kogawa House, Ricepaper Magazine, Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, CUPE BC, Tradewind Books, Harbour Publishing, Vancouver Review, BC Book Prizes, VPL Foundation + more!
It was a busy busy Sunday, starting at 10am, because we had moved the dragon boat practice for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team one hour early to encourage paddlers to attend events at WOTS.
Deb & I arrived shortly around 1pm to see that the tents for Poetry and Childrens events were flat on the ground. We later learned that the wind tunnel on Hamilton St had threatened to lift the tents into the air. After past years of rain, road closures, and a library strike, this will be forever known as the Year of the Wind.
Storyteller Mary Gavan wrote on FB that:
George McWhirters steps off the “Poetry In Transit” bus, where Poetry Tent events were moved to after the tents were “put down” for safety. George told me that he had arrived at the Poetry Tent 10 minutes before his scheduled event to find the tents flat on the ground!
Rob Taylor read his poems on the “Poetry In Transit” bus, which didn't have any lights because of a dead battery. Transit attendants had to herkily-jerkily back up the bus while previously reading poets and host Evelyn Lau were still on the bus chatting with audience.
Christine Lowther reads her poems – not on the bus, but in the outdoors – from her collection “My Nature” at another location instead of the Poetry Tent.
Despite the early morning rain, and the sudden windstorm, this year was lots of fun. Great programming at WOTS this year. I was able to help out at the booth for Historic Joy Kogawa House, check in at Ricepaper Magazine, drop in at lots of author readings, chat with friends at the publisher tents, and buy lots of books, as well as scoop up some deals at the silent auction prizes.
I was able to see Jen Sookfong Lee, Wayde Compton, Susan Crean, and many other authors.
The elegant Jen Sookfong Lee read from her new book “The Better Mother” and also suggested to aspiring writers to never give in to Writers Block, nor interrupt their writing time. She admitted that she doesn't answer the phone even when she knows her mother is calling.
Wayde Compton is the current writer-in-residence at Vancouver Public Library. He spun a particularly captivating story about mixed races.
My friend Tetsuro Shigematsu was especially affected by JJ Lee's reading today. Tetsuro wrote on this FB that
Canadian poet and novelist, Joy Kogawa, CM, OBC, will read from her
lifetime of award-winning creative work. Born in Vancouver, her
best-known book is Obasan, a semi-autobiographical novel featuring her
family’s experience of being taken from their normal lives to an
internment camp during WW 2. Joy Kogawa’s first literary reading on Salt
Spring is presented by the Land Conservancy of B.C. to support the
preservation of Ms. Kogawa’s childhood home
as a heritage site that is also functioning as a writers’ retreat.
Refreshments will be served. Saturday, May 14 at 7pm