Monthly Archives: July 2007

Stuart Mackinnon, Gung Haggis dragon boat paddler, off to China to do presentation on Norman Bethune

Stuart Mackinnon, Gung Haggis dragon boat paddler, off to China to do presentation on Norman Bethune

Stuart Mackinnon with musician Michelle Carlisle of the Halifax Wharf Rats, at Kilts Night event – 1st Thursday of each month at Doolin's Irish Pub – photo Todd Wong

Stuart Mackinnon joined the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team and social club in March this year.  He quickly became an enthusiastic convert to dragon boat culture, fitness and camaraderie.  “Mr. Mackinnon,” as he is known to his students at Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver, was so excited about dragon boats and seeing junior teams in the community that he decided to sponsor and manage  brand new dragon boat team for for Killarney students –  the Killarney Cougar Dragons even won 2nd place medals at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival for the debut entry.
row: Steven Wong (coxswain), Deborah Gee, Irene Peng, Linda Chen,
Michele Shi, Taylor Yee, Sally Chan, Dipa Barua, Eddie Ha, Cherry Chen,
Garry Ly, Wayne Li, and Garvin Pang.

Front row: Mr. Mackinnon (Manager/coach), Chi Hsi, Justin Yee, Christine Chin (den mother), Aleck Pham and Justin Chow.

Stuart has been a great asset to our team.  He embraces both the Chinese and Scottish sides of our personality… and is also fiercely Canadian.  Since joining the team he has bought a kilt, and will be featured in a ZDF television feature on the German public television documentary about multiculturalism in Vancouver featuring the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. It will air in December 2007 across Europe. Stuart is also now a regular at our kilts night events at Doolin's Irish Pub.

Below is a Vancouver Sun story about Stuart's trip to China.  We are all very proud and supportive of Stuart.

Canadians pay homage to Bethune

Educators, teachers will fly to China today and follow in the footsteps of the revered doctor

Kelly Sinoski,
Vancouver Sun –
Published: Monday, July 16, 2007

than 200 Canadian educators will fly to China today to pay homage to
fellow countryman Dr. Norman Bethune, who is considered a national hero
and martyr.

The 222 educators, teachers and administrators will
follow in the footsteps of Bethune — all the way to his tomb in
Shijiazhuang, where a statue, museum and hospital are dedicated to him.

Canadian-born Bethune, who died from an infection in China in 1939,
aided the Chinese against the Japanese invasion in 1938 and became a

was so revered in China that Chairman Mao Zedong made an essay
documenting the final months of the doctor's life required reading by
the Chinese population.

“I'm getting very excited,” said Stuart
Mackinnon, a teacher at Vancouver's Killarney secondary. “I like the
idea of a Canadian hero away from home; that really tickles me.

“Everyone in China knows Bethune. Even the lowest of the lowest peasants who aren't well educated say, 'Oh Canada — Bethune.'”

visit to the tomb is part of a 19-day trek to China, which starts with
the second annual Sino-Canada International Educational Exchange Forum
in Beijing.

Mackinnon, a speaker at the forum, said honouring
Bethune, a “selfless contributor to society,” fits well with the theme
of this year's forum: what role does civic and social responsibility
play in our education system?

“We're trying to tie in Norman
Bethune and other heroes; people who had a strong conscience and sense
of responsibility,” he said.

“I believe we can strengthen our ties with China by celebrating this historical figure, common to both of our histories.”

forum is aimed at bringing Canadian and Chinese educators together to
discuss issues in public education and sign friendship and exchange
agreements. Mackinnon said the Chinese are interested in modernizing
their education system and want to learn some techniques in place here
to churn out more critical thinkers.

The trip will include stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Lhasa, Tibet, along with visits to rural villages and schools.

“This is a way of meeting with the people and sharing with them,” Mackinnon said.

The educators are paying their own way, with Mackinnon paying about $5,000 for the trip.

Tianjiao International Education Group, a private Canadian-based
company specializing in travel for education and exchange between China
and Canada, is sponsoring the forum and has negotiated discounts for
hotels and flights.

Company spokesman James Zhan said Tianjiao
has spent about $10,000 on renting the forum space. The Chinese
Education Bureau is also spending $10,000 for the Chinese participants,
he said.

Zhan said Chinese choirs will sing in Beijing and at the
memorial in tribute to Bethune, who is “the great pride of friendship
between the two countries.”

“He is a Canadian who is so much respected in China,” he said. “His spirit is really good.”

Collisions happen in dragon boats.

Collisions happen in dragon boats. 

Collisions happen in dragon boats.  Protect your self, and your hands. 
In 2003, Gung Haggis raced in Portland.  A team from LA, had an
inexperienced steersperson that couldn't handle the power of competitve
level paddlers, and she lost control of steering, and turned sharply in
front of us.  We called “Hold the boat” and they called “let it run” –
but we still hit them with a “bump”

This picture is Gung Haggis Fat Choy hitting LARD at the 2003 Portland 6-16 races – photo by Ray Shum and posted on

I will coach teams to keep paddling – even if boats come so close that
paddles are hitting each other.  Sometimes we practice these situations
with other teams.  If the paddlers on the “near-collision” side all
stop paddling and all the paddlers on the “clear” side keep paddling –
then the boat will be over-powered to turn towards the “impending

In 1999, Unipharm went head to head, side by side
with another team in the Novice B finals at Alcan.  Paddles collided at
the beginning and the start… but the boats never did.  The race
referees in the chase boat watched them carefully, and told them after
the race not to  protest, because no collisions occured and the teams
finished 1st and 2nd.  It was an exciting race.  Having another team
beside you can push you to give more, or make you over excited and
forget your technique.

Above all… watch out for your safety. 
One dragon boat race isn't worth a broken hand or finger. It's been 2
months since my right baby finger was hurt (smashed on the boat gunnel
and requiring 5 stitches), and the pain can still be sharp at times. 
Definitely cramped my musical performing life.

Gung Haggis had what looks like near collisions at the 2007 Alcan Dragon Boat Festival… but it was only steering challenges.  The water had some strange currents and it was difficult for everybody to control their boats on Saturday afternoon.  We chased the CC Dragons, nipping at their tail… then we were asked to let it run… we did a running start, and still finished in third place.  One of our paddlers Sarah posted this video of our Saturday afternoon race:

Check out this Youtube video:
Here's what happens in a collision between two dragon boats… 
and nobody holds their boat to stop the impending collision.  Gee… it's a mens' boat loaded with testosterone…
the side that gets hit sits up straight – or leans into the middle to
yell at the other boat or to avoid the crash… and the non-collision
side keeps paddling and leaning out…

This video from the 2007 CDBA Sprint Dragon Boat Regatta Men's Final – that were held last weekend.  CDBA organizes the San Francisco Dragon Boat Races
held at the end of September.  I have raced there in 1999 and 2001.  Our Gung Hagg paddlers
Dan Seto, Pam Huey and Kristine Shum raced there in 2005.  And we all
have medals from those races!

Gung Haggis dragon boat team getting ready for Fraser Valley races at Harrison Lake

Gung Haggis dragon boat team getting ready for Fraser Valley races at Harrison Lake

Harrison Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with a hot spring rumoured to be somewhere in the middle of the lake.  There is a hot spring pool for the public, and a more luxurious one for hotel resort guests.  There is a lovely sandy beach, with a lagoon.  It's a great place to visit.

In 2005, we were the team with the fastest posted times going into the Recreation Finals at the at inaugural Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Races.  We were pumped.  We felt we had a date with destiny.  We were anticipating medals.  Only 4 boats in the finals.  75% chance of winning a medal.  And we had the fastest posted times.  But it didn't happen.  We fell behind at the midpoint, and chased the other boats in to collect a 4th place ribbon.

Last year, we passed on the FVDBR in favor of the Greater Vernon Dragon Boat Races at Kalamalka Lake. But this year we are returning to Harrison Lake  on July 21st., and will head to Vernon for July 28th and 29th.

We had our final two practices before the race on Sunday July 15th and Tuesday July 17th.  Both practices felt good.  24 paddlers on the boat Sunday – but not everybody is going to races in Harrison or Vernon.  Some will just join us for Vancouver Taiwanese races on Sept 1 & 2.

Each month we are rotating captains for our team.  Stephen Mirowski will captain our team for the two races in July.  He joined the team early last year, and also quickly began learning to steer.  Due to an injury that prevented him from paddling at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, Stephen steered for the team.  This time he is our drummer. It's good to learn all the different roles on a dragon boat team, as I help mentor him into a coaching role for our team. 

We are also integrating some new paddlers onto the team.  Gerry and Joanne have 10 years of experience and paddled on seniors teams.  I have known them for many years, and am happy to have them join Gung Haggis.  Andrew and Emma are brand new paddlers and have been making steady improvements with the 2 or 3 practices they have had so far.  I always ask new paddlers to simply focus on the timing, and to keep the paddle stroke short.  After they get the timing down, the next step is to work on their reach and rotation.  Get the paddle in early, then deep, and the power comes naturally.

For Sunday practices we warmed up and moved into working on our starts.  Stephen next had us working on endurance pieces… During the middle of the practice, I moved from paddling lead stroke to a coaching role and helping people improve their paddling technique.  After we finished a final 500m race piece, people felt good.  The boat was moving well, people paddled in time.

As we paddled towards the dock, I asked Stephen to ask each team member to call out their favorite ice cream flavor.  “Chocolate!” I yelled… other flavours soon followed.  Vanilla, Strawberry, Mango, sorbetto, were called out.  “Tequila!” yelled Wendy, followed by quizzical comments and laughs. 

“Hold the boat!” Stephen yelled.  I told the team, that I wanted one more practice start. We were now relaxed and happy.  Thinking about ice cream does that to a person.  I told the the team, I wanted an explosive start, with a big yell, deep paddles, and the best start of our day.  The team readied itself, and on Stephen's call the boat jumped forward, leaping with each stroke, lifting with our faster “Up” strokes.

“Hold the boat!” Stephen called… before we raced past the barge at the entrance to the South East harbour area.  We all patted each other for a job well done.  It was a really good start.  We were tired, but we pulled it off.

On Tuesday, we had another good practice.  Stephen was sick, so steersperson Deb Martin came up to drum to start off our practice (Deb drummed for us at Alcan, and for the two previous years and wants to steer this year).  Steven Wong steered and I did lead stroke as we worked on starts and a practice race.  I moved to the back and coached paddlers there to help build more cohesion, as our timing was off.  We did some group drills with paddlers working in groups of 4 or 6 at at time, to build timing cohesion and for resistance training.  It all came together for a final race piece.  It felt good. 

After practice we went for dinner at Congee House Restaurant where our team prides itself on fitting as many people around a single table as possible.  Tuesday the count was 15.  We ordered about 10 different dishes including sweet & sour pork, buddha's feast, salt and chili dry ribs, chicken chow mein, and cantonese steak.  Our bill came to less than $10 per person with tip.  Our team likes to eat.  Hopefully we won't be too fat to paddle dragon boat races for two weekends in a row.

Here's directions to get to Harrison Lake

What do do in Kitsilano on a Sunday? Farmer's Market? Folkfest? Spanish Banks?

What do do in Kitsilano on a Sunday?
Farmer's Market? Folkfest? Spanish Banks?

Sundays can be lazy…  I haven't been rushing to go off to Church since January.  I first blamed it on being busy organizing the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner and related events… then dragon boat paddling started… and I had to prepare my coaching lessons before going out on the boats… and then the weather got too nice to spend indoors… or maybe it's because my girlfriend makes such good tasty breakfasts on Sunday mornings?

Sunday mornings in Kitsilano… walks along the beach… shopping along 4th or Broadway… But now there is something brand new and “very Kitsilano-ish.”  After having lovely french toasts with my favorite “lazy maple” bacon, we headed over to the Kitsilano Community Centre after noon, to attend the inaugural West Side Farmer's Market.  The market is held on the Eastside parking lot behind the community centre and adjacent to the playing field.  Just East of Larch and between 12th and 11th Avenues.

I hadn't even been there 3 minutes, when I bumped into organizer Mel Lehan.  He was surveying how everything was going… acting as a good will ambassador.  He told me that the Farmer's Market had been doing well at Trout Lake Community Centre, and it was time for one on the West Side.  Mel lives close by, just over on MacDonald St.  Mel is an incredible community organizer in Kitsilano.  He helped Mel co-founded St. James Community Square, helped organize the Kitsilano sign at the south end of Burrard Bridge, plus so much more.  The Vancouver Courier interviewed Mel for this story: Mel Lehan instigated the Kitsilano Farmers Market to give West Siders a …

And then we bumped into former city councillor Fred Bass, who lives close by on Larch St. Fred was wearing his biking gear, as he bikes almost everywhere.  Last summer, I introduced Fred to dragon boat paddling, so now he introduces me to people as his “dragon boat coach.” 

There was lots of fresh produce.  I loved the smell of fresh basil… and wanted to buy some, but knew anything would be sitting in a hot car while we had dragon boat practice in the afternoon.  I checked over the freshly frozen lox… all the fresh raspberries, cherries and blueberries… I even considered buying some ostrich leather to make a new sporran.  In the end we settled on some mango jam.  $10 for a large jar.  I used to love this mango grill sauce – but now I can't find it anywhere.  I plan to mix the mango jam with other sauces to create some special marinades… yum yum!

After dragon boat practice, our team congregated at Mario's Gelato.  It's a new team tradition – go have gelato after practice.  As we were paddling back to the dock, I asked our drummer Stephen Mirowski to ask each paddler to shout out their favorite ice cream flavour.  Back came the enthusiastic answers, “Chocolate,” “Mango,” “Strawberry,” “Sorbetto,” “Durian” (I don't think they were serious…), but then neither was Wendy, when I prompted her to shout “Tequila!” to lots of cheers.  Our dragon boat team is a foodie team and it loves its ice cream.

The afternoon was coming to an end. After relaxing a bit, we decided to bicycle out to Jericho and check out the Folk Festival.  We both remarked that we hadn't seen so many vendors along the walkway before.  I was last at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival two years ago. It's a great place to find some real exciting intercultural music. People still talk about the workshops that featured Silk Road Music and Pepe Danza a few years ago.  Musicians meet… and music happens… it doesn't matter what  instrument, style, race, or culture.  Musicians come together, meet and make music.  Why can't politicians do the same thing?  Music is something that always finds ways to transcends racial and cultural boundaries.

Speaking of transcending racial boundaries… we bumped into friends Margaret Gallagher and Omar Kassis.  Margaret was taking a break from introducing acts in her role as a media host from CBC.  I told Margaret that I had caught the promos and her first show for “Flavour of the Week” the new cooking show she is doing with Fred Lee.  Blueberries are featured this week. gonna have to listen Wednesday 3:30 or Friday 7:30pm on CBC 690AM Radio… blueberries are my favorite.  I love the blueberry sorbetto at Casa Gelato.

We cycled all the way out to Spanish Banks. We checked out Spanish Banks Creek, where a salmon creek had been reconstructed with a holding pool.  Very nice… the tall trees kept the area cool.  We cycled past people having barbeques, people swimming in the water, people playing bocce, badminton and volleyball.  I remembered the sites where we held barbeques parties for the Gung Haggis dragon boat team on Canada Day weekends for the past 3 years.  Hmm… I think it's time for a BC Day weekend bbq for the team.

We watched the sun setting from the farthest point, past the last parking lot – just before Marine Drive starts to go uphill.  It's a lovely view with Georgia Straight to the West, Howe Sound with Lighthouse Park to the North, and Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver to the East.  It is peaceful and reminds me of all my family summer weekends in our little 17 foot power boat, fishing Howe Sound and Sechelt.  My dad used to launch our boat from Kitsilano's Vanier Park. 

We cycled back and to my dismay I discovered all the concession stands had closed.  It was not event 8:30 yet!  No fish & chips!  Darn.  We mosied past all the vendors again, listening to somebody singing Janis Joplin songs from the Folk Festival main stage.  Then I  saw the large video screen.  Wow!  Folk Festival finally goes 21st Century.  The images changed from performers, front view… back view… audience members… mothers holding toddlers… very cool… very folkfest!  And to top off my evening… I bought a straw cowboy hat for $5.

Alvin Tolentino's “BODYGlass” getting interesting and rave reviews

Alvin Tolentino's “BODYGlass” getting interesting and rave reviews

Alvin Tolentino is one of Vancouver's (and Canada's) most interesting and exciting dance choreographers.  I've known Alvin for a number of years… ever since he first walked into the Vancouver Public Library computer lab to do some word processing, when he first started up his company.  Wow! years ago. 

His new performance “BODYGlass” has been getting good press.  It is playing at Centre A, International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, as part of the Dancing on the Edge Festival.

July 11-14th
Centre A
2 West Hastings Street @ Carrall St.

Centre A / Exhibitions / BODYGlass

Alvin Tolentino and Peter Chin, choreographers Jeina Morosoff, glass artist translucence and solid state of glass in relation to the body and soul.

Company Erasgas Dance

Dancers: Alvin Erasga Tolentino, Peter Chin, Deanna Peters, Billy Marchenski, and Chenxing Wei. Music: Ted Hamilton Glass: Jeina Morosoff

Arts Features | BODYGlass shatters stage barriers |

Alvin Erasga Tolentino (left) and Peter Chin explore fragility and balance There's definitely a connection between glass and the body.”

Dance work reflects spirituality of glass

Alvin Erasga Tolentino, however, sees a connection. and reflective quality of glass, Tolentino sees a relationship to the body's spirituality. – 55k – CachedSimilar pagesNote thi

The Dancing on the Edge Festival July 5th thru 14th, 2007

Alvin Erasga Tolentino/Peter Chin Vancouver, BC/Toronto, Ontario translucence and solid state of glass in relation to the human body and sensation.

Dancing On The Edge Brochure 2007 copy

Alvin Erasga Tolentino. Peter Chin. Vancouver, BC/Toronto, Ontario. Premiere. BODYGlass of glass in relation to the human. body and sensation. Glass