May 2011 Archives

May 2011 Archives

Destination Cuba!

By Nadezhda Ramalchanova

After eight years of living in and out of Canada, I finally received my first Canadian passport. I was so thrilled and excited and I could not wait to take my first trip as a new citizen. Many people think that travelling abroad with a Canadian passport is a way to feel proud to be a member of one of the most respected countries in the world. As a new Canadian, I simply wanted to feel this way, so my best friend and I decided to organize a trip; and since my birthday was coming up soon, we decided to take a week off school and travel to one of Canada's top destinations -Cuba.

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Open letter to all Montrealers:

By Philippe Noeltner
Let's run into each other on the paths of the Mont-Royal Park. I want to see you running, riding your bike, flying your kite or walking your beautiful dog. I just want to notice you there; show me that you appreciate this marvel of a place that should be considered and cherished as our national garden. 


Remember that the Native American tribes and inhabitants of Hochelagua showcased this sacred and mystic mountain to Jacques Cartier as their own prized possession all the way back in 1535. Our forefather, Cartier, found it to be of a royal standard, which is how it got its name of the Mount Royal. This royal mount indeed has been home to the greatest view of Montreal on the expansion from the new world to our cosmopolitan city. Do not forget that the mountain was chosen in 1643 to bear the ever-present Christian cross, to give thanks to God from saving the first colonies from a cataclysmic flood. You surely do not realize it, but at this time, the park was an untouched mountain, much like a wild horse: dominant, sullen and untamed. We had to wait for the industrial revolution and for the city of Montreal to hire the famed Frederick Law Olmsted to render the unapproachable mount into one of our favourite outing locations in the whole world, where you and I stroll carelessly at our convenience.


If you went to the park yesterday, you could see that we all use this natural space for very different purposes, which surely fit our distinctive lifestyles and personalities. You and I can be quite different but head to the same place, we can almost hover on the green grassy hill overlooking a descent to the castor lake and at the same time, have a contrasting view on what we ought to be doing. You could be reading as I could be writing, you could be resting as I could be engaged in a furious soccer game at a six-year old's birthday party, you could be listening to latest rock tunes as I could be listening to cool jazz ballads. The point that I am trying to make is that we can undertake each of our individualistic or collectivistic adventures together at the same place, facing one another. The park has space for all of us, and you ought to be taking full advantage of it: seize it! Remember when you were playing hide and seek in the thick woods of the mountain or when you first rode your bicycle through the Olmsted path? This park was your oyster.


This Mount Royal has something to offer to people of all ages. You have no excuses or trump cards to play to avoid walking, running or biking up to the famed lookout. You only have great reasons to challenge the uphill path: it could be a fittingly romantic place to arrange a rendezvous or the backdrop for the perfect afternoon stroll while catching up with an old friend. If breath-taking views are not your personal favourite, you could catch African drums beating away, unveiling the sounds of exotic foreign continents; you could be deeply attracted to a 'tam-tam' improvisation session, lured by these sweet melodies, like a bee to spring nectar. If the 'tam-tam' beats are not part of your musical scene, there are weekly medieval re-enactments; you can enter the ancient and lost world of knight Templars and crusaders by becoming the warrior that you have always dreamed to be (all for fun, that is).


You have to see, that this park is for us to find and be ourselves, to be happy and create memories. I want all of us to come together on this mountain fit for a king, and better a Montrealer!

Image source: Flickr

By Reuben Clyde

Saturday, April 30, 2011, on a warm spring day in Canada's largest metropolis, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) held the largest event in it's storied history. The event was the largest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event in North America and was only the sixth UFC event held on Canadian soil. In front of 55,000 screaming fans, the homegrown superstar from Saint-Isidore, Quebec, Georges St-Pierre fought with heart and skill to defend his welterweight title in spectacular fashion. The Featherweight championship pitted Canadian Mark Hominick against the explosive young champion Jose Aldo. Aldo proceeded to pound Hominick with vicious combination punching and leg kicks for four straight rounds, before the Canadian developed a massive hematoma on his left temple. Amazingly, the doctor and referee allowed the fight to continue, and Hominick finally awoke and seized the opportunity. In the fifth and final round, he took down the champ and punished him with five minutes of relentless "ground and pound" striking. Although Aldo took the win by judges decision, the young Canadian cemented his place at the top of the featherweight division with his incredible display of courage and tenacity.

When did this violent, testosterone-fueled sport shift from the fringes of obscurity to the mainstream of Canadian culture? When did Canada, the land of maple syrup, cuddly beavers and comically dressed Mounties become the effectual heart and soul of the UFC? Canada's reputation as a nation of friendly, non-confrontational, do-gooders is well known worldwide, but the reality is we thoroughly enjoy watching grown men pummel each other into submission. Violence has long been a part of our beloved national sport of hockey. When a fight breaks out on the ice, the entire stadium leaps to its collective feat to catch every vicious jab and thundering uppercut. So, it stands to reason that a sport whose entire focus is hand-to-hand combat would be immensely popular.

The UFC did not always enjoy such a hallowed status. The organization began as a single pay-per-view event that pitted eight fighters of different disciplines such as sumo, kickboxing, karate, and Brazilian ju-jitsu against one another. The first pay-per-view event was a huge success and eventually led to the series that it is today. The early fights was characterized by a 'no-rules' philosophy and sometimes included brutal tactics such as groin-strikes, headbutts, small-joint manipulation and hair pulling. These brutal tactics led to widespread criticism of the young sport throughout the United States. In fact, Senator John McCain called the sport "human cockfighting" and sought to have the UFC banned from all 50 states. Despite these early hurdles, the organization continued to evolve and incorporate rules and regulations to make the events safer. While enjoying increasing success throughout the United States, the company sought to increase its international exposure with events in Canada and elsewhere. Just as in the United States, the organization encountered much governmental resistance. Eventually, through public pressure, education of government and regulatory officials, the company was able to secure events in Montreal, Vancouver, and most recently, Toronto.

Today, the Canadian presence in the UFC cannot be ignored. The beloved welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre, is a Canadian national icon, and arguably the greatest pound for pound fighter in the world. In fact, CEO Dana White is fond of saying that St-Pierre is the most famous Canadian athlete of all time. Clearly, Canada's relationship with this young, dynamic sport is strong and will continue to flourish for many years.

Image source: Flickr.

A Stranger in the Hockey Season

By Rania Abo-Mathkoor

I see them excitingly talking about last night's game. The supporters of the winning team look happy, a bit too happy maybe. Those who support the team, which has lost are full of rage and unexplainable anger. And I, I just sit there knowing that I'm going to be lonely for weeks to come. That's when the hockey season announces its arrival, promising me with weeks of feeling like an outsider in most conversations. During the hockey season, I'm a useless being. I am not happy for the team who won, nor am I "unexplainably angry" for the team that lost. That's how the hockey season judges that I shall be left behind in most of conversations for the time being until declared innocent or until the season ends and leaves me alone till the following season.

You might feel confused reading this. "Who would have such a hard time accepting hockey?" In fact, writing this makes me feel even more alienated than I am in the chaos of the hockey season. I can imagine what kind of looks I am getting from readers. Too many Canadian Hockey-ish smirks directed at me at the moment! Personally, I never understood how someone could ever enjoy watching a bunch of other people playing games! I would argue that sports are to be played and practiced not enjoyed from a distance, but I do understand what kind of suspense a game can involve particularly in a win-lose situation. I know how it feels when you clutch onto your popcorn bucket (or whatever hockey people eat while watching games) not knowing what will happen next. Every minute and every second could have a major effect in the final result!

However, what strikes me the most as an observer is the obsession people get caught into! It can get to them emotionally and can be very time consuming, particularly for people who end up watching the games just to follow the crowd and blend-in. A teenager might just be trying to be like the "cool kids" in school, a common behavior among teenagers. A university student might watch it because he/she sees news and adds about it in every corner of Montreal in a way that makes it seem, at some point, like it is a must-see event. I don't know what causes such an obsession, and I don't know if people are really obsessed, or many of them are just watching it to keep up with this community of hockey sensation. All I know is that too much of anything can never ever be good to anyone or any community.

And so I get up and pour some hot coffee in my mug, and I sit there beside the window, watching the snowflakes as they fall. I check out the time and I hold my mug even more tightly, welcoming my only friend for the following weeks! Staring at the struggling drivers along with the snow removal machinery cleaning the sidewalks, I wonder which will end first: my lunch break or their boring ambiguous conversation, the hockey season or my life?!

Image source: Flickr.


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