Wednesday 27 June 2012


I met a girl from the Congo named Nilame, while teaching, this year.  Throughout the year she has told me about her life.  When she was a toddler her father was murdered.  Shortly afterwards, her mother went to Uganda to retrieve some money; it was supposed to be a two week trip.  She got stuck there, due to war, for three years.  During this time Nilame and two of her five siblings sat in front of a candy stall owned by her abusive paternal grandmother.  Her mother had told her to sit there and watch for her return.  Nilame says that the best day of her life was the day she finally saw her mother returning.  No feeling could ever replace that reunion.

She lived in a refugee camp after this for a few years.  Eventually, she was able to come to Canada.  Nilame entered school, for the first time, in grade 5.  She could not read or write any language, and she did not know any English.  She says her life had finally turned around.  This held true until this school year.

Early in the fall her mother got sick, and lost her job.  They could no longer pay the rent.  The whole family become homeless.  An added complication to their life occurred when her younger brother ran away, and stopped going to school.   She has tried to help him, but to no avail.  Nilame has bounced from place to place all year, but rarely missed class.  Amazingly, none of her classmates know that she is homeless.  She is a survivor. Our school is recognizing this with an award for perseverance at graduation this Friday.

We were talking this week about her struggles, and I noted that despite her rough year she was always happy.  Her explanation was that Jesus spoke to her and He promised to always fill her heart with joy.  She says that, in a sense, this has been her hardest year since moving to Canada seven years ago, yet she has never felt better.  I asked her if Jesus was always that specific with her?  Nilame smiled and said, "He is."

Thursday 14 June 2012

Junk Car Economics

When I was a kid we actually moved into town because my mother hated that our country neighbours kept adding more junky car wrecks to their property.  One day, the huge hedge wasn't enough and we packed our stuff and moved into the suburbs.  I hated the suburbs...still do.

Where my mother saw ugliness Bruce Fish saw beauty; beauty of a system.  Bruce Fish had an uncle that always said it is better to have four $100 cars, than one $400 car.  (Add a zero for today's economy).  He taught Bruce the value of this via some old Reliant K Cars. You'd choose one to be the main drivable one, and then you'd strip parts from the other three, as needed, to keep it running.

I saw this in action once.  Bruce Fish was installing a "new" wind shield on a car in his driveway.  His uncle was showing him how to put in place, and seal it up right.  Another time French showed them all how to  "boost" a radio and pop the working one it into the uncle's good car.

Bruce Fish's uncle gestured a lot with his quart bottle of Molson Ex and said: "look go get yourself  four cheap ass cars, build up one good one.  That is just good economics.  swig  Just make sure it is four of the same model.  I learned that the hard way." He started loudly belly laughing then slapped a playful headlock on Bruce Fish.

I still see him driving that car when I get back home.

Monday 11 June 2012

For the Boys

"For the Boys" is something I've heard many times this year in my classes.  Sounds pretty harmless...right?  The first time I heard it a boy described one of my classes as not for the boys.  What he meant was that there was a dearth of cool people i.e. fellow "for the boys" type guys.  Therefore, the lack of cool lads would make my class boring.  In a sense, it means "one of the guys", but in a very lurid way.

French and I got into a discussion about it recently when we made this video:

Some of the boys who are "for the boys" called the video soft and said he'd never make a video like that.  French asked them to explain.  The boy expanded and refined his argument by calling it gay.  French then felt compelled to wise the kid up.  He heard French once, but he gets this "for the boys" opinion reinforced constantly by all of his peers.

The big problem I have with this philosophy is that being "for the boys" is against the girls. Here is one example:  The "for the boys" guys were making a list of girls to invite to a party that were easy.  They even went into detail about what skills they wished the girls to have.


French went through a "for the boys" attitude for many years.  I've consoled many a broken heart in his wake.  Eventually many men grow out of this...phase; some don't.

...what do we do about "for the boys"?

I'll start with my three sons.

Friday 8 June 2012

Motorcycle Hustling

Last weekend French went down to Pittsburgh and picked-up a motorcycle that he had purchased on eBay.  He took it down to the Market last night to show it off to the other motorcycle lads.  One of the guys that saw it was very interested and wanted to buy it.  French said: "make me an offer."  They haggled a while and settled when he offered French $6000 cash for it.  French had only paid $4500, so he debated for a bit then signed it over to the guy on the spot.

French said he liked the bike, but even after a few fees, duty etc.,  and the trip down to PA he made over a grand profit.

French and Pancake are heading back down, this time to Philly, to pick up some more bikes.  Always on the hustle.

Monday 4 June 2012

Guitar Break

I work at a school that has gone from 1200 students down to about 500.  When this happens space starts to open up in the building.  French had an idea to use some of that space the other day.  He showed up during our spare and we heading out to the now vacant tech wing.

He opened the door; don't know how he had the key.  Inside were two guitars.  One was his Ibanez acoustic that he bought for $40 at a garage sale.  He fixed it up and it was now a serviceable guitar.  French had borrowed another one from the music class.  Our school no longer has a guitar class, so it was a long time since it had been played.  It was a small beat up Norman guitar, but it had a nice warm sound.

We played through many songs; the sounds of Fred Eaglesmith, Matt Mays, U2, Ryan Adams, and Johnny Cash rang out.

When the bell rang he tucked the guitars under some old paint tarps by a an old lathe.