Summer Discoveries: 2019
Each season, I want to share my discoveries with you in the fine arts, film, food, literature, music, photography, and travel. And, in turn, I hope you’ll let me know what you discover each season too!
This past summer I was grateful to have traveled throughout Asia and back home to Canada for a month to visit family and friends. And I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some talented writers and a great publishing company and hope to share some projects this Fall that I’ve been fortunate to collaborate on. So, stay tuned!
Books & Magazines
I’m always inspired by President Barack Obama’s summer reading list, and as an editor, I’m trying to make a more concerted effort to read more this year — and based on the kind advice of an author — more fiction.
It took me awhile, but I finally finished reading The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture by Euny Hong, which is a great primer on pop culture South Korea, although perhaps now a bit dated. But I appreciated her fun and thoughtful takes on a wide range of topics, including, Korean culture, education, food, and philosophy.
“… the philosophy underpinning Korean food. Confucianism made its way into every aspect of life — even food. Food is based on the theory of the yin and yang, and the five elements. Every meal has to have five tastes: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty. There are also supposed to be five colors and five texture … That’s why Korean food is so healthy. It’s based on the philosophy of the cosmic energy.”— Lee Charm, as quoted in The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong
And in keeping with my travel reading — in which I like to read books about the country I’m in — I read Amita Trasi‘s book The Color of Our Sky, about “a sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends in Mumbai, India.” Heartbreaking story and a decent read, but I think the writing (and editing) fell short.
Happy Colon, Happy Soul
My friend, Karen Giesbrecht, allowed me the privilege of reading and editing an early draft of her book, Happy Colon, Happy Soul: An Exploration of Why and How We Share Food. And it was wonderful to hear that she recently got it published and had a book launch in Vancouver (Canada) in August. I know I may be a bit biased here, but I encourage you to go buy her book.
It is about the importance of food, not only for our bodies physically, but as a way to nourish one another socially and spiritually.
Karen is a dietician who has been a key part in growing a more humane way of feeding people on the margins of society in Vancouver. She has done this through cafe-style programs that foster community around a table, as well as by transforming the way neighborhoods and institutions approach feeding people.
She has also looked at larger issues, such as equitable and sustainable food security options, through a community food network called Planted. I’m always honored to eat at her table as her food is always thoughtful, fresh, and delicious — and conversations just as nourishing.
The Wild Coasts of Canada
Scott Forsyth is an extended part of my Filipino family. He is, among many other things, a talented Canadian photographer who takes breathtaking pictures, not only in the far reaches of Canada but also in his day-to-day life.
I’m jealous of the Canadian destinations he travels to through Adventure Canada. And his photography inspires me to shoot better photographs and makes me want to explore my home country more.
This past summer I enjoyed flipping through a few thoughtful and well-designed inflight magazines with Philippine and Vistara airlines, as I’ve waited for people to board and planes to take off.
I’m a sucker for good editorials, crisp layout designs, and interesting stories, and both publications met these standards for me. And I found out you can actually read both magazines online.
On a short flight from Bangkok to Manila I was really impressed reading through the the content of Philippine Airlines’ magazine Mabuhay.
Among other things, its July 2019 issue had these engaging stories:
- Philippine-born chef, Yana Gilbuena, who did a string of pop-up restaurants in 50 American states
- How to embrace a vegan lifestyle wherever you are in the world (there are vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Manila!)
- Exciting art museums in Shanghai
- Global social gatherings for queer introverts through Queeret
- Ethical fashion
- Underground restaurants in Toronto
- Indigenous Australians fighting back against the razing of ancient sacred trees for highway expansion two hours away from Melbourne
- And Filipinos “influencing the zeitgeist”
Vistara: The Inflight Magazine
- An article on the dying art of Cheriyal scroll painting being revived in the city of Hyderabad
- An overview of the current landscape of water issues the global village faces
- A feature on the Indian architect Hafeez Contractor
- And a look at an Indian literacy program
Film & Netflix
1st Annual Little Tibet Film Festival
The Shepherdess of the Glaciers
We had a chance to attend the first-ever Little Tibet Film Festival in the mountain town of Leh (in the northern Indian province of Ladakh). It was hosted by a wonderful and fairly new organization called Tendrel that focuses on promoting “local learning experiences.”
We saw a screening of The Shepherdess of the Glaciers by award-winning Ladhaki filmmaker Stanzin Dorjai Gya. It’s an intimate documentary of his sister, who is a one of the last shepherdesses who still lives with her flock, in the high Himalayan plateaus and valleys in Ladakh.
“…over four seasons, the film depicts both her world of icy loneliness and that unbreakable bond between humans and animals. The Shepherdess of the Glaciers also reveals the ancestral wisdom of those Ladakhi shepherds whose environment and livelihoods are under severe threat.”— Film description on The Sheperdhess of the Glaciers Facebook page
We learned that goats provide a source of rich fertilizer for valley villages in the area and are important for agriculture in this vast region. And this dying vocation is threatening that important resource for agriculture.
Among the many awards this film won in 2016, it received the Grand Prize at the Banff International Film Festival.
We also saw a short documentary called Mindful Travel by film maker Wilder Nicholson that you can watch online. It touches on many of the environmental issues the town of Leh faces with increased tourism and what tourist can do “to not only minimize environmental impacts but to engage in the local economy for meaningful and mutual cultural exchange.”
In Leh, we found the same major environmental issues being discussed as other places in Asia — namely plastic and water scarcity. Interestingly, the traditional Ladakhi toilets that are environmentally friendly, and have been used for to fertilize land in the past, have unfortunately given way to wasteful, Western-style toilets that have become more abundant with guest houses multiplying in the area.
I continue to be challenged to look at what we face collectively and individually when in comes to our impact on the environment, and what we can do.
Netflix has that great option to download television shows and films. And it’s been a saving grace for flights, long bus rides, and when we’re stuck without any internet (which can happen a lot in India with power outages and intermittent internet). Here’s what I’ve watched and enjoyed this past summer:
- 13 Reasons Why (Season 3): It takes on difficult subjects, and while a bit sensationalistic, I appreciate how it at least portrays that people and life’s problems can be complex.
- Mindhunter (Season 2): Because I’m fascinated with the genre of serial killer crime thrillers. And it has an interesting storyline of how the behavioral unit at the FBI was formed and has interesting characters.
- Orange is the New Black (Season 7/Finale): Funny, raw, and poignant. I think I liked this last season the best. It touches on, not only important social issues like immigration and mental health, but personal human stories. I’ll miss this show.
- Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2): Yes, I’m a bit of a nerd. I love the film-like quality of this series, how it intertwines the original Star Trek story, and the time travel of course.
Queued up: Black Mirror, Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee, and The Good Place.
From spending time with the aforementioned Karen Giesbrecht, here are two recipes we cooked up one night with the help of some of her housemates. One for vegans/vegetarians and one for those who like some meat on the plate:
- Vegan Beet Walnut Burger by dietician Desiree Nielsen
- Skirt Steak Salad with Blue Cheese by Deb Perelman, author of Smitten Kitchen cookbooks
And of course, what Karen has taught me (and I’m still improving on), is that a recipe is just a guideline. Feel free to freestyle on ingredients, create your own recipe, and tell me about it. I miss having a kitchen to cook in!
There’s was a lot of chatter about the “beyond burger” when we were in Canada in July: “The world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef without GMOs, soy, or gluten.” But I have yet to tryit.
I’m glad vegetarian alternatives are making their way to the mainstream, but there are other delicious alternatives to meat out there.
That being said, I went back to Calgary with no intention of eating a lot of Alberta beef, yet ended up having my full, and then some. When in Rome…
Here are my recommendations of Calgary restaurants for you to try:
- Heaven Restaurant — a Venezuelan place to fill up on arepas with gluten-free, meat, vegan, and vegetarian options
- Ke Charcoal Grill & Sushi — the best of both worlds; beef and fish
- Native Tongues Taqueria — got my fill of delicious Mexican food here
- Modern Steak — I had the best steak in my life, and the waiter had long and interesting stories about the menu and the cows
Calgary Folk Festival
My sister treated us to a night at the Calgary Folk Festival in July, which was celebrating its 40th year anniversary — and it didn’t disappoint.
There are just some musicians and bands that perform so well in live concerts, and one of them is Sheila E (pictured above with her band), also known in the 1980s as Sheila Easton and Prince’s drummer.
Go see her and her band perform live if you have a chance. She is a true performer and at sixty-one years of age is still going strong — still banging the beat of her of own drum — literally. She was the showstopper at the Friday main stage.
Other favorites musical acts of mine included the following:
- Montreal’s Half Moon Run
- Bluesy, Canadian born, L.A.-based vocalist Ndidi O
- Cuba’s Yissy García and Bandacha (their trumpet player pictured above)
My friend Chris passed this beautiful song and video to me by Tim Baker:
Travel: Things To Do
Bangkok: Massage and Food
The best place for layovers. Thai massages and pad Thai. Rinse and repeat.
Manila: The Upside Down Museum
We had a sixteen-hour layover in Manila and family members took us to the Upside Down Museum where you can take fun and mind-bending pictures.
It falls along the lines of other “trick-eye” museums and encourages the snap-happy photographers and models among us.
Vancouver: Latin Festival
It was our first time going to the Latin festival, Carnival de Sol, in Vancouver, Canada, despite it being the 11th year it has been put on. We got our fill of Latin food (churros and arepas), dance, and music.
Standoff: Indian Relay Race
I was told about the Canadian Indian Relay Racing Association by another member of my extended Filipino family, photographer Julie Vincent. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to go down to an August relay and experience it myself, but it is now on my list of things to do when I return to Alberta.
Instead, I saw a wonderful photo exhibit at the Central Calgary Public Library, put on by Julie and her partner Jason Lawrence (one of their photographs pictured above). It looked at the world of the Indian Relay and made me want to learn more.
They’re having another exhibition in Calgary, October to November 2019, at the Peanut Gallery And I encourage you to check it out!
The Rocky Mountains in Canada will always feel like home to me. I was introduced to my love of hiking here, I’ve camped here, and I’ve taken many road trips up here with family and friends.
I had a chance to see the new-ish Banff gondola, and I was really impressed with how they’ve upgraded the site. There are beautiful views all the way around and it’s accessible to people of all ages.
What Were Your Summer Discoveries?
I’d love to hear about your discoveries and recommendations from summer 2019: what were your favorite books, music, restaurants, recipes, travel spots, or moments? Leave a comment below, or get in touch with me!