Doctor shortage gap widening between rural and urban Westman

Through a lengthy Freedom of Information request, this data-driven project uncovered a growing doctor shortage in rural Western Manitoba and provided insight into the continuous problem of doctor retention in small towns. This article ran in The Brandon Sun in April 2016.

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Winnipeg Thin Air Festival

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Image from here.

This year is the 17th annual Thin Air Writers Festival. It’s eight days of readings and discussions led by renowned writers, as well as author-led writers workshops for anyone who’s interested. During classes this week, I got the pleasure of listening to three readings by four very different authors.

The first was a discussion led by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan who are primarily performance artists, who also work in film, installations and evidently the written word. The two work have worked together for over 25 years and co-create everything that they make. It was interesting to hear how collaboration works, especially since writing is often seen as a solo-mission. They read several short stories from their book Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World which is an imagining of common stories, such as Tonto and the Lone Ranger, from a female and a lesbian point of view. Their spin is an interesting look into gender and sexuality hierarchies throughout history.

The second discussion was led by Michel Cormier, who is a world-travelled journalis. His new book The Legacy of Tiananmen Square is a look into the lives of those involved in the Tiananmen Square protests in China, 20 years later. Cormier had an interesting take on journalism and described feeling embarrassed about the way news stories attempt to capture their subjects whole story in a 2 minute window. Yet as a journalist himself he has had many profound interviews with people in war torn and politically stratified counties.

Lastly we got to listen to a reading by Jim Nason from his book I Though I’d Be Happy, which is a fictional story about several characters who climb Mount Olympus and confront the various ideas of happiness throughout their journey. Nason’s talked about how he creates characters and what he puts them through in order to seem authentic, he also described how interesting and rewarding research can be. His take on inspiration and its unexpected nature  was very interesting. My take away was that characters and stories can take start with real life inspiration and that dedicating time to writing everyday can be fruitful.

These readings couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. Since starting school I’ve had a hard time feeling creative, especially since I’m in such a creativity based program. I’m getting used to the demands but I find myself questioning my ideas and even my abilities as a writer. I feel slightly more confident listening to other writers and their personal struggles with writing and techniques for being creative!

Here is a video about the 2011 Thin Air Festival:

Changing with the Seasons

For the last year this blog has been about exploring my interests, finding my online voice and playing around with photography. I’ve loved every minute of it, but now that I’m a student again it’s time for a shift.

Three years ago I endured the rigorous application process for the Creative Communications program offered at Red River College, since then I have been slogging through University courses waiting for the fun to begin! It’s finally here and with a week of full-time school under my belt the rose-coloured glasses are coming off and I’m realizing how tough the next two years are going to be. CreComm is fast paced and demanding with a huge emphasis on professionalism, all while being an avid social media-er.

Meaning: my twitter feed is going to blow up in the most employable fashion, and I’m going to be revamping this blog.

The core of this site is about adventure and a positive lifestyle, this part won’t change. What will change, however, is the scope of my adventure and the subject matter of some of my posts. Since a student budget doesn’t accommodate travelling far and wide I’ll be exploring little old Winnipeg instead. What all this comes down to is a new localized theme that isn’t a departure from what I already write about.

Recipes will be as local and seasonal as I can manage, outings will feature interesting places in and around Winnipeg, and crafting will be done with locally found material. As a student it can be hard to afford an environmentally or morally guilt-free lifestyle, I hope I can disprove that!

Toronto

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Toronto was too much fun. Hence the lack of pictures accompanying this post! We spent five whole days exploring the city, eating delicious food and ironically partying with friends from Winnipeg. Neal’s brother and his fiance graciously put us up in their spare bedroom, chauffeured us around and showed us a funky side of Toronto that I honestly didn’t know existed. It was a real treat to hang out with those two all week long.

Once we got to Toronto our schedule became immediately more relaxed and we finally settled into vacation mode. The only must do’s we had in mind were: a trip to Canada’s Wonderland, a visit with Neal’s Great Aunt and seeing our friends Mobina Galore play a show in a city-wide music festival that was happening while we were in town. We checked everything off that list and then some.

Our first day exploring took us to Kensington Market, an eclectic area filled with specialty food shops, restaurants, bars and one-off stores. We spent the better part of a day wandering around, sipping on coffee and buying several knick-knacks and art prints. The area is quite large, spanning several blocks it was full of “hip” stylish people and reminded me of bigger and better Osborne Village (my Winnipegger comparison).

We finished off the night with my first ever Ethiopian food experience and some drinks at The Clinton where our friends were performing. In an hilarious coincidence, six of us from Winnipeg–all on separate road trips–converged on Toronto at the exact same time, leading to some hometown bonding time! Two of the six were there as part of the North By Northeast music fest, which has tons of venues in downtown Toronto and features a variety of up and coming talents from all over the world. It was another perfect excuse to listen to live music all week long.

Our day at Canada’s Wonderland couldn’t have worked out better, and is one of my favourite memories of our trip. Since we went in the middle of the week, on an overcast day, before school was out for the summer, our longest time spent in line was 20 minutes. We spent the better part of the day riding coasters and I got to try the biggest rides in the park multiple times. Before that I had only been on roller-coasters at the Ex or . . . Tinker Town, so, I was glad to find out I hadn’t developed an adult fear of heights or motion sickness. Still, after several hours at the park we all decided our bodies had been thrown around enough for one day.

The calmer aspects of our time in Toronto were also some of the funnest. I loved meeting  Neal’s extremely sweet Great Aunt, who is the family historian and gave me a cole’s notes version of their family tree. We also got blessed with fantastic weather and spent an entire day in our hosts backyard being fed decadent snacks and blue cheese burgers, followed by several rounds of the most confusing board game I have ever played. Keeping with the food theme, I wish I had kept track of all the restaurants we went to while we where there, at this point it’s just delicious memories of ribs, sushi and perogies.

When it finally came time to head home I was caught off guard by how sad leaving made me. The fact that Toronto surprised me in such a positive way made me fall in love with it a little bit. It wasn’t the big city I was expecting and coming straight from New York made it so manageable in comparison. Even the subway system was easier! I really can’t wait to go back.

Govenors Ball

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When we first started dreaming about a road trip we where looking for an excuse to visit New York. Through a little research we found a music festival held in the beginning of July called the Govenors Ball. The playbill was littered with big name acts and it was hard to pick which of the three days we were going to buy a ticket for. We landed on the Saturday which featured Guns and Roses and Nas as the headlining artists.

The festival was held on Randall Island which is in the middle of the East River and between Manhattan and Brooklyn. We took the subway there, and got lost of course, but quickly found our way again as we joined a parade of well dressed Caucasian hipsters marching through the largely ethnic East Harlem neighbourhood. When we got into the festival grounds we realized that shoes were a terrible idea since it had rained hard the day before and the landscape was mud as far as the eye could see. Walking through the torn up fields was entertaining for the first part of the day until we realized there was no where to sit down and that we would be standing for nearly 10 hours straight. Even with sore feet the music was all worth it.

The festival had four stages which played music interchangeably throughout the day. My favourite acts in no particular order were: Griz, Japandroids, Alt-J and Nas. Leading up to the festival I was extremely excited to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but unfortunately they blew it for me when they played their most popular song “Home.” It broke my heart a little bit but it seemed like they were tired of playing the song that had made them famous, and that had brought so many people out to see them. We also managed to miss Kings of Leon playing an impromptu set in the afternoon thanks to a last minute schedule change and an increasingly muddier walk between stages.

Throughout the day the crowd grew exponentially and the grounds became a sea of people as the sun set. The final acts both played at the same time making people choose between old school rock and roll or old school rap. Early on we knew Nas was who we wanted to see and I couldn’t have been happier with our choice. He played a two hour set and covered all of his favourites as well as some newer, more mature songs. I can’t say I was a huge Nas fan before the concert but seeing him live got me excited about owning more of his music.

The subway ride back to the hotel was hilarious. Every car was filled with sleepy, mud covered festival goers receiving bewildered looks from everyone else who jumped on the train. We trudged back to our room wearing our muddy legs proudly and passed out immediately after our half-assed attempt at cleaning ourselves up.

 

Camping

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Camp Campg USA CAMPINGI love camping. I love road trips. And I got to experience the best of both worlds for two weeks straight with the best travel companion a girl could ask for. This trip encompassed all the fond memories I have of driving to Vancouver most summers as a kid, and was my first real road trip as an adult. I had never been to the East coast before this and had no idea what to expect, our excuse for visiting NYC was to see a music festival there and Toronto was all about visiting my boyfriend’s brother and his lovely fiancé.

We started out stateside and drove through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania before arriving in New York. We did the drive in three and a half days and only had to stay in a hotel one night because of rain. Our first campsite was just past Minneapolis and was reminiscent of an old summer camp that had seen better days. We knocked on the office door and were greeted by a portly older man with a lazy eye who escorted us to our site in his golf cart. We seemed to be the only people in the park even though there were seemingly abandoned RV’s and trailers scattered about. That combined with a drizzling rain and some ghost stories I managed to spook myself pretty substantially. But with daybreak came the revealing of a cheery campground littered with whimsical lawn ornaments, beautiful old trees and a path down to little creek that flowed out into glassy lake.

Our second night of camping was by far my favourite. We made our way past Chicago (which we drove through during rush-hour traffic jams) to a state park at the bottom tip of lake Michigan. The campground was a lot more lively and we got to set up the tent in the midst of our neighbours belting out cover songs around their campfire. Once we were fed and showered we ventured out for a flashlight walk to the beach. We climbed up on a lifeguard chair and watched the waves come in until we noticed a firework show erupting across the lake, it was pretty magical. If we had more time I would’ve liked to stay at that campground for at least a few nights, but we had to get back on the open road.

The next day was all rain and I felt pretty defeated checking into a Comfort Inn that night. But two out of three nights with decent weather is better than none!

On the way back to Winnipeg we had a little hiccup with my work schedule, which left us with only two days to drive 23 hours. The drive through Ontario was much more tedious than we had experienced stateside. The speed limit was 90 km/h and the bulk of the driving was on a winding two lane highway with “Watch out for Moose” signs the entire way. I felt pretty bad because I had a pretty hard time with the driving on the way home, leaving the majority of it up to Neal. The provincial park we stayed in was pretty lacklustre compared to our other experiences. It was expensive, cold and the mosquitoes where out in full force (after-which I convinced myself I had contracted West Nile disease, but quickly dispelled the notion after a quick google symptom search). Not to mention the tap water onsite was undrinkable, which didn’t become a problem until we tried to buy a bottle of water from a drink machine in the morning and found out that the power had gone out in the campground. We made the best of out last night of camping but after that whole experience we both started craving a hot shower and a sleep in our own beds.

This entire trip was an exercise in juxtaposition as we spent half our time sleeping on the ground and cooking over a campfire, and the rest was spent in two of the biggest cities I’ve ever been in. But more on that over the next few days!

Big City Travels

LasVegasUSA9 TO2Over the past two months I’ve had to opportunity to take two trips to visit three major cities. I’m currently working on editing down the mountain of photos I have from New York City and Toronto, unfortunately the top photo is the only decent proof I have of being in Las Vegas. All of my travels where purely for pleasure and I feel a bit spoiled for being able to take so much time off work.

I wasn’t planning on going to Las Vegas this year, but the owner of the club I work at decided to take a group of us down for a four day party. A work christmas party you could say (he’s a pretty generous guy). This trip was my second time in Vegas and it was a totally different experience this time around. For one the Nevada heat was in full force as soon as we got off the plane and the wonderful weather continued the whole time we were there. That, combined with having a big group of people to party with, meant endless pool partying and too many buckets of beer. We did end up having one culturally sound experience at the ‘Beatles Love’ Cirque Du Soleil show, which was so breathtaking that I almost found myself in tears. The whole trip was such an amazing whirlwind that I needed a few days to recover after my so-called “vacation.”

When I did get home I was only at work for a few weeks before trip number two snuck up on me. This time around the boyfriend and I took two weeks off our real lives to drive down to New York and then up to Toronto, camping the whole way there. Even though we took our time getting from place to place the whole road tripping experience isn’t very relaxing, especially when you’re driving entire days in torrential downpour on the Interstate. But there’s nothing quite like an evening campfire to help recharge the batteries before the next long haul.

I have so much to say about this two week adventure that I have to break it up into several posts over the next few days to really do it justice. So stay posted!

 

My Beardyman

Beardy backbeard _1080956 _1080960 _1080966 Mommsa _1080977 _1090015 wild beardSomething that I didn’t know until several months ago, is that Festival du Voyageur has several different manly competitions during its 10 day run. One of which being a Beard-Off (or on, I don’t know). Anyways I became enlightened of the competition when my boyfriend stopped shaving his face last year and started claiming he was growing a beard for Festival. Regardless of the reason I’m down with the facial hair so I never complained, and I’m glad that I didn’t.

As of last Friday my man took home the top prize for groomed beard in Festival’s annual beard competition, and I am now dating a Winnipeg celebrity! It’s not that glamourous an award, but it was a ton of fun to watch and get a bunch of people out to cheer for my beardy man.

Partial photocred to Robert Tinker!