Marius conquers the mountain

I’m not a morning person. The sweet smell of napalm in the morning makes me want to go curl up in a bed. Emme kidnapped me at 2:30 AM to go up to Grouse mountain and investigate what fun stuff there was to do. I had never been up there before, and the sights were simply astonishingly beautiful, but it comes at a price: your calves.

Crowding in to see the Today Show

The Today Show gathering - thanks to Emme for the photo

We got up there right in time to catch a couple of glimpses of “The Today show”, which to my sadness is not hosted by Katie Couric anymore, but Meredith Vieria who is so photogenic she should be studied. The whole crew was there: Matt Lauer (who has quite a fan following… mainly 45+ women who comment on how “young” his skin looks), Al Roker (who won’t stop smiling while he reads the weather), Anne Curry (who does most of the reporting in Vancouver not in Grouse, and who normally does more controversial topics like Haiti) and the beautiful Natalie Morales (who is eye candy). But as they posed for pictures and yelled behind the athletes, we asked people why there were there, and although some wanted the chance to be on television, some of them were actually ending their night after a Monster party. Emme actually kissed one of them for some bet, at which point I started wondering what I was doing there.

It ends up I was there for comical purposes as they knew I had no experience on the snow or ice whatsoever. They made me hold the camera, put me on skates and tied the camera to my neck, so I wouldn’t drop it. We met a fellow UBC student who was there for fun and a man wearing shorts because he felt Canadian. If you listened you could actually hear the pride on his voice, and deservingly so as Canada is beating the odds in the games. The man in shorts was interesting, but afterwards on the way down we met a man who trekked up Grouse mountain almost every day. He said he climbed up 594 times, but also timed himself and took notes every time. That sounds like obsessive compulsive to me, but that’s just my opinion. What surprised me about this man is that he said it like it was something as ordinary as going for the groceries. The mountain is HUGE and to climb it in 45 minutes is a super human ordeal. Even though it is illegal (in the off season), there are world records and everything (24 minutes and 22 seconds), telling me that there are a lot of these iron-man people out there. Do they all suffer from OCD or are they simply adrenaline junkies? Whatever the reason, they deserve as much recognition as the athletes because they accomplish the extraordinary. If the winter games are about the “amateurs”, then people like him deserve recognition as well. And for that matter so do the people that make it to the Olympics, because it is an amazing accomplishment and they should not cry when they don’t make it to the podium or say they have failed their country, because just by being present, they are making someone in the world proud. I think too much emphasis has been put on the medals, when we have to recognize everyone that makes it here to Vancouver. That’s what the Olympics are all about guys: amateurs who accomplish the impossible. And I am speaking as a person whose nation has three athletes, and for me simply participating here is way more valuable than a gold medal.

At the mountain top with Emme and Katie

Anyway, after skating for a while Brie suggested snowshoeing. I had no idea what this was, I thought we were going to put on those funny looking snowshoes and start walking. I was wrong: we started climbing. Now here lies the problem, I have climbed a lot of mountains before, but I use my whole foot. I have a very weird balance center, and I know it, so I need my whole foot to climb up anything. In snowshoes you use the bottom part of the foot (those little bumps) so you are essentially tip-toeing up a mountain. Let me repeat that: tip-toeing up a mountain. It’s brutal. I think its really cool that people do it every day and have adjusted themselves to it, but it’s definitely not for me. My calves are still hurting and my lower back is not functioning correctly. But the trip was worth it. The view of the mountain and the city is beautiful and like nothing I have seen before, its simply breathtaking. The day was perfect too, it was sunny and nice, the perfect day to tip-toe up a mountain.

Would I do it again? No. Maybe in the summer when I can wear shoes, but snow shoeing is something that everyone should try and then just leave it to the pros. I felt bad at myself because there was an old couple (and I mean old, like 70) in front of us (we began, and were immediately the slow group) that was just going at it like Speedy Gonzalez. We didn’t make it to the top, which was perfectly fine with me, but we still got a great view. I recommend it to the athletic people out there, not to the ones that prefer being taken up by a gondola, like me. Also, if you think you are going to be slow, don’t get Dawn as a guide as it was her first time up the mountain at sunrise and she was stuck with us, so just let her go to the top with the not so out of shape ones, although she was an AMAZING guide.

In the end it was a great experience that I will remember as long as my legs hurt and for a long time after that. For the younger folks I think the Monster party is fun if you snowboard and such, but I asked around and it doesn’t seem that cool. Everyone should experience it, and on a last note, help us find Saxel the mouse as he has been kidnapped. He is a really timid creature, and deserves better treatment.

Mario Poising as Quatchi

I'm the king of the world

Contagiously Canadian

I have been present in many crowded events over my 21 years. New Year’s in NY 2009, New Year’s in Toronto 2010, when Peruvian President Fujimori resigned in 2000, to watch Britney Spears drink coffee in Boston, between others. Yet not once have I felt the energy I did last night while I was walking through the streets in downtown Vancouver. I had the brilliant idea of going to see the awards ceremony for Maelle Ricker at the huge screen on Robson square.

Looking upAs I watched the crowd chant “Oh Canada” with huge smiles on their faces I felt a sense of false nationalism that has seemed to invade everyone here for the winter games. People dressed in black, yellow and red holding Germany’s flag were trying to follow the words, and everyone hugged each other as Ricker’s face zoomed in unto the screen. I have decided that every time Canada wins gold I’m going up to Robson Square and simply enjoy the happiness these people are having, as it is as real as it can get. An elderly woman came up to me as she saw I was taking a lot of photos and videos, and thinking I was still recording looked straight into my camera and yelled: “I love Canada!!”. I should have asked her to do it again but she just left yelling woos and yeahs towards the immense crowd. In total there were many chants for Canada and I participated in most of them, because even though I am not Canadian and know absolutely nothing about the rules of any winter sport (in particular Biathlon, I get lost every time I see it on the TV), I actually cheered on for Canada because I was proud to be on Canadian soil and surrounded by such great people. So from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for hosting the Olympics, they are amazing fun.

Now, of course my night didn’t end at 8. Afterwards we walked through Granville where we saw a man with an actual eagle head, a ton of jugglers although this one in particular impressed me with her skills, and my friends dragged me to Doolin’s “irish” bar where the tequila shots are cheaper than the Guinness and everyone was having a miserable time. Yet although my night was nothing short of fun (I ended up in Numero Uno Pizza being asked by a 70 year old woman what language Peru spoke and my whole life story leading up to UBC) my core memory of last night was of the following woman:

We were cheering Canada in the middle of the street when this woman dressed in something Bjork would wear came up chanting for Canada in a very thick accent. She looks younger in the picture above, but I thought she was 60. I asked her where she was from and she said Norway. When I asked her why she was cheering for Canada she said: “because I love Canada, and I am here, right?”. She took a picture and kept on walking, but I still remember her, not because of her weird clothing style, but because she was having fun by herself, minding no one’s business. She chanted on along with the drunk college boys, and was obviously having more fun than anyone on that block because she was doing it for her own sake. If you ever see her roaming the streets of this lovely city please tell her she has my respects. And she should have yours too.

‘One Day’ – Matisyahu Show is what the Winter Games are all about

Taking a shower under the rain is always fun, but it’s even more fun when you are watching a great artist perform. Matisyahu is a reggae/rock/hip hop artist who’s orthodox Jewish beliefs do not interfere with his praise for peace. He reminds more of Bob Marley because beneath a lot of the incomprehensible lyrics (which there were a lot of last night), lies a message about peace. Here is one of his videos and the final song of last night:

The crowd was filled way before 9:30 when the show was scheduled to begin (I was standing in the long line to get in at about 7:30 and waited about half an hour) at the LiveCity event in Yaletown.  By the time I was inside the Quebecois band Malajube began to play, and although they started off pretty slow, by the end they had the audiences attention and people were jumping up and out and pulled up into the crowds. By 9:30 I saw people of all ages around me: at my right I had a group of middle schoolers that must have been 14 tops (they still had braces and awkward looking haircuts… which is also the reason they don’t serve alcohol inside – be warned), and to my left I had an elderly woman with fake red colored hair, who eventually sang the lyrics of “Jerusalem” with all her heart. I don’t know how she followed him, as he sings differently in person and changes his tempo a lot. I didn’t like his performance that much, but by 10 pm I realized I wasn’t there to see Matisyahu, I was there because this was a once in a lifetime experience. I heard more than 10 languages that night, and by the end of the show, that was what is was all about. People from all over the globe came halfway across the world to see him sing about peace and unity, and although everyone cheered for either Canada or Poland or Belgium, everyone in the end was chanting with him the lyrics to the video above: stop with the violence/down with the hate/one day we’ll all be free/and proud to be/under the same sun. I think that’s what made the event worthwhile, that even if it was just for one hour, the event became a microcosm of what the Winter Games are about: World Unity.

Photo by Phillip Jeffrey

After “One Day” Matisyahu left and the fireworks and water show began, and I was blown away. If you haven’t seen them yet, please do, it’s worthwhile and technically impressive. The big screen shows clips from the events, and praises the extra-human achievement the athletes do everyday, but also emphasizes on people cheering on the streets. Seeing all those people genuinely happy can only make you love the Winter Games even more.  And even if we are not winning Gold Medals, we are still winning just by being in this great city. I recommend the show to everyone, as it is beautiful and simply heart-warming.

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Fun at the Saxony House

Hidden in the bushes of Stanley Park, overlooking the city at the beautiful Vancouver Rowing club, lies the Saxony House, a house that really offers it all. We got in at 6:30 and I had one of the best sausages I have ever had. They sell the idea of true German food by saying: “have some German mustard kid” every time you get a hot dog (‘hot dog’!!!! Ack!!!! It’s a German Sausage Mario!! Don’t let the Saxon’s hear you calling it a hot dog. Darn American schools – emme), and at that moment you feel like you’re following an order more than a suggestion because of the thick accent, but you don’t care, because the mustard is really fantastic. Now I’m not a food critic because all of my reviews would be something in the range of: “this food was delicious” to “this food was good”, I am writing here to talk about the fun you will have if you go to the Saxony House.

Saxony House-1

Saxony House during the day by Ariene Colenbrander

At the start of the night you have folk music and everyone is having the time of their lives as they drink the really good (but no so cheap) beer. People dance and root for any German or Canadian participating in the events on screen (I think the German only root for the Canadians because they feel guilty for being more fun than them, and the Canadians for drinking their delicious beer) and when the events are over (which happens around 7:30) a really fun folk dance group sings traditional Saxony music and even songs they made up for the Olympics. As people get drunker the fun only increments and by 1030, the real fun begins.

The Saxony house has brought a DJ that is really good, he mixes songs like no ones business, and the transitions from one song to the other are almost perfect. I say “real fun” because here the atmosphere is a much younger one (after 10 I am thinking the average age lowered to around 28) and everyone is having young fun dancing to techno beats and Kid Cudi. I recommend everyone to get there, although get there early and bring a lot of money as you will be drinking a lot, but after 8 the line is just insane. It is actually a lot of fun, and you can actually learn about Saxony while being there, everyone is so nice as well. Did you guys know that Audi was invented in Saxony? I didn’t.

By the way guys, for Valentine’s day I’m going here: The Chinese Benevolent Association as it is also Chinese new years! I’ll be writing more about it tomorrow, but in this sunny day, I recommend it! Later on today I’ll also be watching either the German movie about WW1 “The white ribbon” or the chick flick “Valentine’s day”. I would rather see the WW1 movie to tell you the truth, but the other is about love and stuff. And what guy can say no to a movie with Jessica Alba?

A Glimpse of Me – The Intern

My first job was as a telemarketer for UBC. I wasn’t really a telemarketer, as I wasn’t selling a product, I was just asking for donations from people who were broke after college or newly fathered couples who were finding out how expensive diapers really were (that actually was a way one woman rejected my lame attempt at asking for donations. She said: “You are in college, you don’t know how expensive diapers are”… My answer was simple and got me a 20 minute disciplinary meeting with my supervisor: “How expensive can paper you poop on really be?”… the answer: $44.95 if they are for a baby, and $17.95 if they were for her). I started hating that job since not only was I getting rejected in the women’s department (I was kind of in the rebound, but let’s just say I was still waiting for an initial bounce), but also at my job. There is nothing worse than getting no after no at the place you work at. That’s why I feel sorry for telemarketers every time they call me. Not only cause I have no money whatsoever (I’m an international student at the most expensive university in British Columbia), but because their job really sucks. That’s why I try to talk to them for a bit and then tell them I’m not buying anything. They get even more upset if you do this, it’s like teasing them and leaving them with blue-phones.

You See Ladies I Can't Be All That Bad - Cats Like Me

My next job was at a kitchen. Here is a recommendation for everyone planning on working at a kitchen: don’t go with a hangover. I cut my fingers 5 times that day, and I eventually had to go home because my blood was ruining the chicken. I also disliked that job, but it wasn’t because the pay was crap and the cooking standards were awful, no, it was because I had to wake at 5:00 AM to go to that job. Let me put it this way: I am the epitome of a night owl. It’s 4:40 AM right now and I feel as awake as a clam chowder. I know that’s not the right saying, but the only other thing I could imagine as being as awake as I am right now is a caffeinated dog. I get weird ideas this time of day/night. Anyway, I hate waking up early, so I ended up cutting my hours to a minimum. I learned to cook some things though, although that job also gave me a tad of knife phobia, I have my roommate or girlfriend do all the cutting for me.  They like it ;)

My next job was at McDonalds, and I don’t care what people say, it was the best job out of the three. Yes, the food is disgusting, and I felt bad serving to some very unhealthy looking individuals as they were eating nothing but saturated fat and empty calories, but McDonalds provides a good opportunity for students as it adapts to your schedule and for single mothers who want a part-time job. It was relaxed, and the people were really fun to work with (I actually miss them a bit) so I have some fond memories of that place. I don’t eat there even if you pay me though, seeing how they prepare their meals is gross and should probably be illegal. But fun place to work at.

Mario the Intern

For a while I also worked editing wedding videos (which was pretty boring and I got to see some really unhappy couples getting married…), helping with some HIV patients in a clinic, and as a hobby I write and sometimes produce short films. I also write about film awards and have fun blogging for Ahimsa. Oh yeah, I’m Ahimsa’s intern, and it’s a sweet job. I get to make the sly comments that got me in trouble as a telemarketer, I can stay up late since I work mostly from home, and I get to work with wonderful people who I am going to miss once the internship ends: it’s the best of both worlds. Don’t think I’m a suck-up. I actually do enjoy working with Ahimsa a lot. And on that note I will end with some cheerful spirit: Go Vancouver 2010!