The Community Associations’ Winter Carnival 2016

Today was a day filled with children and activities definitely outside my comfort zone.  Today the Community Association held its Winter Carnival.  Today I played with children of all ages. Some were three and some were eleven and the others were all the ages in-between.

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Yes, I helped out at the colouring contest table sponsored by the Ogden Seniors 50+ Activity Club.  We had a multitude of Christmas pictures to colour, crayons, and prizes to be won.  The kids lined up at our table excited to spend a few minutes shading stockings, wreaths, and Christmas trees with the waxy crayons. A chance to win a five dollar McDonalds gift card was an easy enticement for many of the young people tagging along behind their Mom or Dad as they wandered from booth to booth.  Alone in their zone, they chatted quietly about their schools, their ages, their siblings and in some cases current world events. “Yes, I am good with colour and drawing”, “My favourite colour is pink”, “I don’t live around here”.  One young artist didn’t want to enter the colouring contest, he knew he wouldn’t be back this way again.  Another so intent on her art, didn’t say a word.  Quietly, she slid the crayons back and forth transforming the white paper to green, yellow and red.

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The carnival, so much more than our little colouring corner tucked into the back of the hall. It is a gathering place.  A place where old friends can reconnect after months or years of not seeing each other.  I ran into a young woman I hadn’t seen is 10 or more years.  I knew her as a cashier at Safeway working part time while in high school.  It took me a few moments to shake off my past image of her and accept a new one. So grown up now.  She has two children and is the imaginative creator of unique candy bouquets.   This event is a hub where local entrepreneurs  set up business for an afternoon, hand out their business cards in the hope of a future sale or commission.  Where home based artisans can share their artistry, adding to the vibrancy of our community.  The hall was filled with the soothing scents of peppermint soaps, chocolate arrangements, and the sharp aroma of herbal oils.  My eyes were treated to the sparkle of semi precious stones strung into bracelets and necklaces, and the bright warm colours of knitted winter hats and scarves.

Christmas carols hung on the air and kids acted out their favourite Christmas messages on the 80 year old auditorium stage.  The floorboards creaked as a Taekwondo team kicked and jabbed their way through their sparring program.  Little girls dressed in mukluks, their faces painted as Hello Kitty,  turned and twirled as they worked to figure out the hula hoop moves so easily managed by the older more flexible teenage girls.

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The Calgary Multicultural Orchestra treated everyone to a selection Christmas songs including winter wonderland, jingle bells and the first Nowell. (that is how it was written on the sheet music)  A beautiful and inspiring arrangement brought the sound of Christmas to our hearts.

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At the end of the day everyone had fun, Christine and I tried our own hands at colouring, and four young aspiring artists won gift cards worth the price of a McDonalds Happy Meal.

 

December 2016   Cheryle

WHEN SHOULD WE MEDITATE?

The question of when to meditate can be answered with a quick “whenever you can”.  However that is an answer easier said than put into practice.  In an ideal world our lives would have sufficient unencumbered time to do everything we want, when we want to do it.  Today, that is hardly the case, we rush, from waking through the day keeping up with all of our obligations until we fall into bed at night and hopefully a restful sleep. With all of this busyness, when do we find time to create and maintain a meditation practice? 

We have all been told how important it is to meditate daily.  The benefits are well documented, the reduction in stress, anxiety, an increase in a calm wellbeing and the achievement of a tranquility we cannot obtain any other way. What wonderful attributes to aspire to.  Unfortunately, aspiration alone does not bring about peace of mind.  We have to exercise our intent through consistency, determination, confidence and patience.  

Deciding to meditate or setting the goal to meditate daily is the very first step to creating a successful practice.  Bringing that decision to fruition involves all of the steps we normally follow in order to accomplish any endeavour we undertake.   

How long will you meditate? 5 minutes 3 times a day,  15 minutes, 1/2 hour an hour?  How long do you want to meditate, how much time can you dedicate to meditation?  How much time will offer you the benefits you are looking to cultivate?  Once you determine how long you want to meditate make that an agreement you keep with yourself.

Decide when the best time would be for you to meditate.  Does your lifestyle offer you the opportunity to meditate at the same time in the same place every day?  Some people prefer to begin their day with a quiet meditation practice to gather their energy before facing the chaos.  Others find that calming the mind before bed works wonders for a deep restful sleep.  Would taking time during the middle of the day recharge and refresh you, make your more alert for your work and business?  

 Answering the when question occasionally involves answering the where question.  Where can you meditate during your day? There are many opportunities during the day,  many places that offer the quiet time needed to meditate in your room at home, your office, the bathroom at work, while waiting for a Doctors appointment, as a passenger in a car, taxi, on a bus,  

bench-for-meditation       or in the park outside your office at lunch.

Granted the Doctors office is not the optimal place to meditate, however it can offer you a quiet time to slow down during a day that is running on fast forward.  Rarely do patients talk to each other while waiting to discuss their personal health concerns with the Doctor. You don’t need to sit in the lotus position.  Quietly, sit in the waiting room chair,  close your eyes and begin your practice.  I usually keep my sunglasses on.  Nobody even knows my eyes are closed.  Set an alarm on your phone and place it in your pocket, it will silently alert you when the appropriate time has elapsed, without alerting anyone else.

While creating your meditation practice you may wish to consider if you prefer to meditate on your own, with a group or a combination of the two choices.  Each option has it advantages.   Give yourself the opportunity to attend a group meditation at one of your local meditation centres.  See how meditating with others may expand and enrich your own private practice. 

Be diligent and consistent in your effort.  Return each day to your practice.  Sit for the agreed time.  Maintain your focus on your chosen object, gently bring your mind back when it wanders off to finish the shopping list, or think about that email you need to send to a colleague. 

Follow the teachings you have been taught,  give yourself time to develop and grow within your practice.  Understand there will be days you will be frustrated, your mind won’t cooperate.  It will open a multitude of doors, releasing all sorts of thoughts and images to crowd out any attempt at calm.  Be patient.  There will also be days when your concentration will be like a sharp knife you steadily hold on the object of your focus.  Recognize and be aware of these small victories they will build your determination to continue, your confidence in yourself. 

Be determined not to give in to procrastination, laziness, or other attempts to avoid your practice.  Our mind can play many tricks on us in an effort to lure us away from meditation.  Meditation is a way for us to exert control over our mind, over our emotions.  It is a way to rein in the chaotic or looping thoughts.  Our Ego doesn’t want this,  it wants to be in charge, allowed to do whatever it desires with emotional abandon all the while wrecking havoc on our lives.  Each time you overcome an obstacle to your practice you strengthen your confidence.  Honour yourself –  Keep your promise to yourself meditate everyday.

Be confident in your ability to continue, have faith in yourself.  Practice daily.  Step by step your initial attempts will become an anticipated and appreciated daily habit. You will overcome any barrier you may place in your path.

Be patient. The benefits won’t be noticeable right away.  It will take time to build your practice and to see the positive results. Your friends and family may recognize the benefits before you do.  Keep at it.  Little by little you will become calm and experience more of the beauty in life.

Only you can experience your practice, reap its benefits, overcome the challenges.  Only you can appreciate your effort and only you can know when is the best time for you to meditate.  The first step is to decide to do it and then follow through. 

Bring harmony into your life, begin your practice. 

Cushion or Chair.jpg      Your meditation chair or cushion awaits you. 

 

Cheryle, October 2016

COME DRUM WITH ME

Drums on a Blue background   An unusual event took place in the Ogden House auditorium on May 5th, 2016.  For those members sitting in the lounge at the time, they heard and felt a rumbling never before experienced at the club.  What could it be?

a drum circle begins

A drum circle, of course.

As we arrived, each of us looked around the auditorium, skeptically, and wondered what had we gotten ourselves into?  The chairs were arranged in a large circle with a drum sitting in front of each spot.  Jamie Gore,  a Drum Circle Facilitator with Circles of Rhythms, greeted us and invited us to select a seat and a drum.  There were colourful Cuban Tubanos, shapely Djembes, and graceful Frame drums, all waiting to release their voices with just a touch from a drummer.

Each drum style, is unique in the way it looks, the sound it makes and in the way it is played.

A cuban drummer a   The Tubano, a tall floor standing drum, is played by used two beaters to hit the drum skin and by striking the hard straight side of the body with the beater handles.

A couple of djembe drummers   The Djembe, a goblet shaped drum from West Africa, is held between the legs, and is tilted slightly forward to allow the voice of the drum to escape through the bottom of its hollow body.  The drummer beats the drum skin with their open hands or the drum rim with their fingers.

a community drum with two frame drums  The community drum and the frame drums are used to keep the beat and set the pace for all the other drums.  Historically,  the frame drum is believed to have been styled after the original drum, which was developed from the grain sieves used by ancient agricultural communities.

a bunch of percussion

As the short hour flew by, everyone had an opportunity to try out each style of drum, and to play one of the percussion instruments which had been laid out on the floor in the centre of the circle.

a painted drum  We drummed for ourselves, we drummed for each other, and we drummed for those fleeing the fires in the north.  We energized our bodies, our minds, we played with our hearts and our spirits.  The room vibrated and bounced to the sounds we made.  Our faces broke out in smiles, our feet tapped in rhythm while our arms beat in time to each other.

a djembe quartet

 

A flute soars    Karin Foster, a musician and a Circle of Rhythms drum circle volunteer generously treated us to two haunting melodies played on her American Indian Flute.

A mother listens to her daughter play a  We sat quietly and meditated as her energy and love filled the room.

I had a drumming good time and look forward to the next drum circle, but from the looks on the faces of the members sitting in the lounge as we left, the next circle will need more chairs and more drums.

a gourd sound

Cheryle – May 2016

Originally published in the  Ogden House 50+ Seniors Activity Club – June Newsletter

 

 

ALBERTA THAI CANADIAN ASSN 2015 STAMPEDE FLOAT

This year marks the first float entry by the Alberta Thai-Canadian Association into the World Famous Calgary Stampede Parade.

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The parade kicks off the city’s 10 crazy days of its’ western heritage celebration.   During good years, businesses shut down, parties rage, bulls are ridden and Stampede Park hosts thousands of visitors each day.  During poor years, businesses slow down, parties pop, bull is spoken and Stampede Park hosts thousands of visitors each day.

Participation in the Parade is a triumph for the businesses and non-profits who are lucky enough to be approved entry.  It means millions of people will see your float live or broadcast on TV.  The possibility of increased business because of the exposure can be translated into additional clients, revenue or membership. Not to mention the bragging rights that come with the acceptance of entry and the anticipation of receiving the coveted Best Float designation given by the Parade Judges.

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The current President of the Alberta Thai Canadian Association (ATCA) is an intelligent, tour de force woman, who has a definite vision of what the Association can achieve and the road map to its success.  She is able to rally the membership to whole heartedly strive to execute new ideas in order to deftly move their organization into the diverse cultural arena that makes up Calgary’s multi-national population.

ATCA Entry on the way

The ATCA entry, conceived out of love for their homeland Thailand and their desire to share it with the world, brought together over 100 people to create. Visionaries, organizers, planners, designers, builders, choreographers and audio specialists spent months working to achieve their dream of the beautiful float following the 80 people representing different aspects of Thai culture.

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The Thailand Sign Bearer, a young Thai woman dressed in a gold Thai Chakkraphat, led the way gaily waving, smiling and enjoining the audience to visit Thailand, if just for a moment. Next came the ATAC Banner adorned by the Serpent of Thailand and carried by four ladies.  Dressed in traditional Nung long skirts and Sabai shawls, they walked in front of two young men also in traditional dress who carried the Canadian and Thai flags.

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Following the Banner and the Flag Bearers were Thai and Canadian ladies in traditional dress carrying gold and silver Pan Pum offering statues.

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Next in line were the talented Thai and Canadian dancers who like fluid colour flowed along the parade route.  Their colourful outfits sparkled and jingled in the hot Alberta sun as they moved through the intricate dance steps to the music booming from the speakers mounted in the float.

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The last performers, the Muay Thai Boxers, like the protectors of Thailands honour, walked before the float.  Men, women and children throwing kicks, popping punches and entertaining the audience with their fighting antics.

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The last vision of Thailand on the parade route was the ATCA Float, drawn by a well camouflaged truck covered in fabric, ribbons and glitter.

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The float was adorned with a large triangular Golden Stupa, strategically placed amoung colourful exotic flowers and beautiful Thai ladies representing the 4 corners of Thailand. The lovely ladies, each outfitted in the traditional dress of their area waved and proudly exemplified the loving and generous nature of the Thai people.  A golden goddess waved from the centre of the float, representing a unified Thailand shining like a bright light out of the east.

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The passing of the float signaled the end of the ATCA entry, the audience members fondly waved and smiled as they watched a small piece of Thailand move further along the parade route.

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The Alberta Thai Canadian Association entry may not have won any official awards from the Parade Judges, but the award of confidence and success they won in their hearts is untouchable and immeasurable.

Cheryle July 2015

A DAY AT THE ZOO

A Day at the Zoo

Summer is here.  I know we haven’t yet reached the solstice, but the weather is summery and so are the outings coordinated by Ogden House 50+ Seniors Club.

What says summer better than a day at the Zoo?  On June 11th, a group of 50+ members journeyed through, the Canadian Wilds, Eurasia and Africa.

It was a sunny day.  A light breeze batted around the white seed packets of fluffy fuzz which fall from The Cottonwood and Poplar trees prodigiously growing around St. Georges Island.

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Upon arrival, our little group of 17 was dwarfed by the sheer number of school children, all walking in orderly lines holding hands while being directed by teachers and volunteer parents.  Their excitement was palpable, it propelled their tiny bodies forward so fast they appear blurred in some of the photos I took.

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Our first stop was the Penguin Plunge, where we enjoyed the antics of the Penguins playing in the outside pools while we waited in a short line to get inside the Penguin enclosure.   Lucky us.  Once inside we were treated to the overwhelming smell of fish and the chaos of feeding time. They don’t receive all the nutrients they need from the lifeless fish, so are given daily supplements to compensate for the lack of nutrition.

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The sleek black and yellow birds swam, jumped and vocalized as they enjoyed their lunch of dead fish.  .

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After the cool air of the Penguin Plunge the heat of the sun felt extra hot, as we trundled our way across the bridge to the picnic site.  Happily, we picked out two green tables shaded under the protection of the huge fully leafed trees.

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We sorted ourselves and took a few moments to decide where we wanted to visit first.  We had an hour and a half before lunch.  Everyone set out on their own adventures, some with buddies others on their own.  I was on the lookout for possible Calendar shoot spots. I had no preconceived plan of action, just to wander where my whim and the animals led.

The surprise of the day were the Peacocks.

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They were everywhere.  Each and every one was displaying their beautiful plumage fans. Everyone once in a while one would call, that eerie piercing caw of theirs, sending shivers down my back.

One in particular was a camera star.  He must be in love with the camera.  I observed that as long as a camera was focused in his direction, he flaunted his feathers. At one point, I put my camera down to change the lens, he brought in his fan and dropped the feathers into the beautiful trailing train.

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When I had finished the lens switch and brought the camera back up, he turned toward the camera, fluttered and fanned this tail out as wide as it would go.

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He was such a poser I had the best time snapping more shots of him than I should have.

As I travelled the African continent I encountered many of the favourite animals taking naps in the shade, walking about, relaxing with their babies or working on fixing their homes.

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0079      Resting Hippo

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0075   Red River Pig Mother with spotted baby

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0063       Sleeping Gorilla

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0086   Zebras strolling around their enclosure

Zoo w Ogden House_0035          A  Misty Waterfall in the Rain Forest

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0108       Yellow Bird tending to its’ home

Zoo Trip w Ogden House_0107          Turtle taking a stroll

It was hot on my journey through Africa, so I was happy for the break when lunch time came around.  Back at the picnic table, we were treated to Subway sandwiches, chips, cookies and Juice.

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It was a yummy meal and a welcome opportunity to sit in the shade, catch up on where the others visited and what they saw.

After lunch we had another hour and half to explore more of the micro world of the Zoo.  Since being out in the sun walking around is not my natural habitat, I chose to stay and chat with a few of the others who also enjoy a quiet visit in the shade.

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By the end of the day we were tired but satisfied with our adventures.  We piled into our vans for the short drive back to Ogden House.  Everyone had an exhilarating summer day at the Zoo. One I am sure we will want to repeat next year.

Cheryle Baker   June 2015

Day 17: Your Personality on the Page – Blogging U – Writing 101

Today’s Prompt: We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s Twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

Monsters

Donny is asleep in bed, tucked in nice and neat.  A few stuffed toys are laying on top of the blanket draped across the bottom of the bed.  The room is dark and quiet, you can hear the gentle breathing of the 4 year old.

A few seconds pass.  Off in the distance a train whistle goes off.  The wind outside has picked up a little, the tree outside the 2nd floor window rubs against the glass, causing a squeaking scratching sound followed by a short tap tap.

Donny begins to whine a little and move about in his bed. His breathing starts to quicken. Over the next 60 seconds he moves more frantically and his breathing becomes erratic.

Donny takes an automatic deep breath as if he is rising out of deep water.  He opens his eyes, which dart around the room until they settle on the open closet.

A rustle is heard, coming from the closet.  Donny gasps, holds his breath, and squeezes his eyes shut.  As his he does so, out of the closet steps a Giraffe, head first followed by the body.

Still holding his breath, Donny opens one eye, the other quickly opens in terror.  In front of him reaching to the roof is the Giraffe. Behind the Giraffe peeks a Gorilla, and out from under the Giraffe’s legs walks a lioness, sniffing the air with caution.

Donny lets out a whimper and pulls the covers over his head. He is shivering and crying quietly, so as not to be heard by the animals.

The Giraffe checks out the light fixture on the ceiling, spinning the fan as he tries to nibble the wooden blades.  The Gorilla picks up a stuffed monkey left on the bottom of the bed and holds it to her chest as if it were her own.  The Lioness leaps up on the bed and pads up to the head where Donny is hiding under the covers.

Crying loudly now, Donny is visibly shaking through the blankets.  The Lioness sniffs around Donny’s head, then gently paws at the blankets. The Giraffe leans over grabs the blankets with his teeth.  He pulls them down exposing Donny’s teary face while the Gorilla lumbers up to the far side of the bed still cradling the stuffed toy.

A brave little boy, he opens his eyes, one at a time. When both are open the Lioness steps closer, gives Donny a big wet lick, lays down beside the startled boy and lets out a quiet gruff. The Gorilla tucks the little stuffed monkey in beside Donny and curls up amoung the other stuffed animals at the end of the bed.  The Giraffe takes a moment, folds his legs, settles down comfortably onto the carpet and rests his long neck and head on the bed.  His face nuzzles Donny’s.

Wary, Donny reaches out from under the blankets, touches each animal in turn.  As he pets them they let out small murmurs of contentment and soon begin to snore.  He takes long looks of disbelief, from the Lioness, to the Gorilla and to the Giraffe.  Little Donny falls asleep with a huge smile covering his face as the tears he shed dry.

Off in the distance a train whistle blows long and slow, the wind dies down and the sun starts to filter through the closed curtains.  Donny begins to rustle himself awake.  As he opens his eyes he looks around in expectation.  He is tucked tightly in his bed, alone.

Cheryle – May 2015

Day 12 – Foreshadowing – Blogging U – Writing 101

Day Twelve: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Day Twelve’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

Day Twelve’s Twist: Include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

Sometimes Following the Rules Does Make Life Easier

Trying to navigate the crowds of anonymous people all wandering around in the market was beginning to frustrate me.  Their individual features have begun to blend together.  I am so glad, I am done searching for that last ingredient which will tie together all aspects of my dinner party.

It took me forever to decide what I wanted to serve.  I spoke to all my friends, researched various dishes on the internet and thought long and hard about how each dish would interact with the others.

I followed the recipe list, have all the ingredients now and am standing in the checkout line.  I can relax and enjoy the preparations for the evening.  I daydream about how wonderful the event will be, everyone happy, enjoying the food and refreshments, the company and conversation.

“I can’t believe she made us stand in line!” I’ve been living in this neighbourhood for 6 years, I paid my taxes.” Words spoken above the din of the registers and voices of the customers broke into my quiet thoughts.

“You’d think by now they would know where I live” a rough voice said behind me.

“I never received one of those card thingy’s” interjected another voice tinged with annoyance. “They certainly don’t make it easy to vote!”  “All the rules, the paper work”, “my tax return has all information they need, I don’t understand why I have to register again.” Whined another voice standing further back in the line.

“We stood there wasting our time while all those others were being waved through”. Chimed in the first voice.

Before I knew it I could hear my voice “Excuse me.  Are you talking about the election yesterday?”

“Yes” responded the man closest to me.  “Some people got cards, we didn’t and had to wait around to be registered”.  “It just stupid, they have all my information, they know where I live, at least they do when it comes time for me to pay taxes.”  “They’d find me fast enough if I didn’t pay.” He chuckled.

I looked him in the eyes, I could see he was one of the uncooperative people who don’t help out the census survey workers.  Yes, I saw many people like this as I walked all those miles, all those days, trying to get all the information I was tasked to obtain.  Consider, I was not allowed to turn in my sheets, until I collected information from at least 99% of the households in my area. Meaning I had to return to a non-reporting household 14 or 15 times, even then most likely walking away empty handed.    Yes, I know this person.  I can hear it in his voice and see it in his face.

I smile sweetly, the way only an old woman can. “Your taxes have nothing to do with the election.”  “The reason you were standing in the registration line, most likely, is because you were missed during the last Census.  If you weren’t home when the census collector came by or you misplaced the note with the return phone number they left.”

I switched to my, eat your veggies they are good for you, voice. “There are people who are wary of the census, thinking it is a ploy of big brother.  You must know that the Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments aren’t that coordinated.  Even though it would serve them well to share the information gathered, they can’t, legally, and don’t have the processes in place to do so.”

I looked from one to the other and gave them my best, I am so disappointed in you, voice. “Can you imagine some people abuse these workers terribly?  Should the worker have the unfortunate opportunity to have one of these people actually answer the door,  they refuse to answer the survey questions, complain in colourful offensive language, attack the worker personally and slam the door in the poor Census takers face, leaving them to feel the wind of the contempt on their confused face.”  “What a shame.”

I continued my quiet tirade, “Unfortunately, when the government can’t collect the most recent information, the old information is used and the people living in these non-reporting households have to go through the registration process to vote.  As you had to do yesterday.”

Every single one of the nameless voices standing behind in the line looked at me as if I had spots. One turned away with guilt written all over his face.  Nevertheless, in my pleasant old lady way, I proceed to explain the ins and outs of the complex election process.   “The information gathered during the census generates the Where to Vote Cards which were issued to the people you saw waived passed you and directed to their designated Polling Station.”

I raised my hands to mime weigh scales,  “MMM,   3 minutes answering questions at your front door, or 6 – 8 minutes standing in a line waiting to provide your ID, answering a bunch of questions then standing in a 2nd line to receive your ballot to vote?”  My eyes twinkled, “for me it’s a no brainer.

Off in the distance I heard “Ma’m that will be $15.40 please.”  Ah, my groceries are ready.  I turn around, leave the voices of the line-up, pay my bill and walk on home, happy with myself for speaking up.”

Cheryle  May 2015