Monday, January 16, 2012

Karma in a loaf

I've always believed that if you do something nice, somewhere down the road, you'll get something nice back. This isn't exactly my motivation for doing good things, but it's nice to believe in.

And if I doubted before that the good does come back, I no longer can.

On Saturday, Miya and I stopped at the Bagelshop to pick up some bagels for lunch. It was a bitterly cold day, with a windchill driving the temperature down to around -30. A man was standing outside the Bagelshop asking for spare change, his bare hands chaffed with cold.

On our way out with a warm bag of a dozen fresh bagels, I asked him if he wanted one. He accepted and thanked us.

We were parked just around the corner and as I was pulling up to the main street, I saw a loaf of artisan bread in a plastic bag, lying on the middle of the street. It was still warm enough that steam clouded the bag. I looked around to see if anyone was coming back to pick it up - but there was no one around. I thought of just leaving it, but knew the next car to come around the corner would likely crush it. So, I opened my door and scooped it up.

Give a bagel, get a loaf of bread. Now that's some tasty karma.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Price of Sex

This afternoon I went to the Library and Archives Auditorium for the screening of a rather grim documentary called 'The Price of Sex'.

This feature-length documentary is about young Eastern European women drawn into sex slavery - tricked into becoming prostitutes, imprisoned in brothels, abused and discarded. It is narrated by Mimi Chakarova, a woman who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria and later emigrated to the United States. She returns to Eastern Europe to find out why so many women from Eastern Europe were become victims of sexual trafficking. Her story is deeply personal and very courageous. Working for over a decade, filming undercover and risking her own safety to gain access to people and places controlled by sex traffickers, she pulls back the curtain on the horrors of human and sex trafficking.

It was an honour to have the filmmaker, Mimi Chakarova, there at the screening today. After the film, after the applause had died down, she spoke a little about the film and then fielded questions from the audience.

After hearing theses stories (like that of a woman who fell more than 3 floors trying to escape her brothel prison, only to be returned to her pimps half-paralyzed, still forced to service clients), the audience not surprisingly wanted to know what we can do. How can we fix this problem? How can we stop this travesty??

Sadly, there are no clear answers. A rep from Human Rights Watch spoke about the challenges faced in addressing sex trafficking, such as the economic depression which has left many young women without any options to earn a living, and the corruption among police and intergovernmental agencies. There is no simple thing that we could go home and easily do in  order to feel better and forget that women as young as 10 are taken from their homes to become sex slaves in foreign countries.

Yet while there is no easy solution, there are things we can do, such as support the work of those NGOs who help trafficked women and lobby our own governments to effectively address human trafficking. But to be honest the problem is much bigger than all of us. It will take many hands and many voices to make real and lasting change.

But I, for one, want to be part of it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Letter #1: Myself, 2013

My goal for 2012 is to write 100 letters.

The first letter, oddly enough, is written to myself, one year hence. When I was about 12, I began writing letters to myself which I would write in the early days of a new year, seal up and open the following year just after midnight. I wrote about this last year at the beginning of the 365-blog challenge.

Although I diligently kept up the annual letters throughout my teens and twenties, sadly in recent years I've let it slip. I didn't have a letter to myself to open on the dawn of this new year. But there is one sealed and ready for 2013.

I'm going to also create a sort of new year's letter with Miya for her to open a year from now. Perhaps I will sow the tradition with her. 

In writing these letters, I don't try to capture or sum up the whole year - I have journals (and this blog) for that. Instead I write about where I'm at in the moment and some of the things I hope for myself in the coming year.

When I was young, these letters were often full of dreams and longing. I had many new horizons to explore, places to discover. As I get older, these dreams change. But no matter how old I get, I don't ever want to stop dreaming.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go. - Theodore Roethke.