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Jungle Adventures Part 1: Into the Rainforest
June 18, 2015

“We might not see any animals, but we will get mosquito bites”, Darwin, our jungle guide, assured us on our way into Manu National Park, 20 000 km2 of protected rainforest in Peru’s Amazon basin. He also assured us that we would see lots of feathers, “well, they will be flying.”

Darwin is his real name, he insisted, moments after picking me in  Cusco. Most people don’t believe it is, since it’s almost too perfect for a nature guide. Stumbling to the bus at 5am, I hadn’t even noticed.

We did see a lot of animals on our tour, mostly birds: woodpeckers, parrots, macaus, waxing, egrit, and many others whose names I’ve already forgotten. Driving through the cloud forest on the way to our jungle lodge, we saw different species of monkeys swinging through the trees. At an animal sanctuary, we saw a boa, a tapir (the South American elephant), and more monkeys. The monkeys at the sanctuary were so used to people that they’d run up visitors and cling to anyone fooolish enough to have a fury ponytail. There were also some absurdly large cucarachas in our lodge. Many species of spider (including turantulas) were also seen, but not by me. I skipped the jungle night walk on account of my perfectly rational fear of spiders the size of my head.

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This monkey unexpectedly (and uninvited) ran up my back, strangled me with his tail, and stuck his head between my legs as he quickly made his way back down.

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Ilon, with the adorable monkey who took up residence on her neck for 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin is a dedicated conservationist who spends his spare time plantiIMG_1135ng palm trees to make homes for disaplaced birds. So hewas serious about protecting the animals. Our first night, he warned us not to fuck the animals. “When you see a monkey. don’t fuck it. Don’t fuck the birds,” he warned us, in his fairly good English. The least mature of thr group, I giggled and asked whether he meant for us not to fuck with the animals.

“That too.”

 

I went to Manu on a 4 day trip organized by Vilca Tours. Darwin used to work for a fancier tour operator but he says Vilca treats their staff much better. Along for the trip were Peruvian-born-american-immigrants Raquel and Ricardo, along with their very American teenage sons, Ryan and Bobby. At almost 18 Bobby had taken to growing facial hair to “make him look older.” Bobby filled our otherwise peaceful jungle walks with endless chatter about trendy iPhone apps, MTV, scorn for his ex-girlfriend, and schrill screams every time a branch so much as grazed his arm. Ryan was much quieter, and volunteered to use a machete on our Anaconda expedition, where we went hacking through the rainforest without a path. At one point Ryan sliced through a branch filled with killer jungle ants, about 50 of which fell onto his head and scurried down his shirt. Ryan panicked, as did Bobby, who immediately abandoned his brother, running 20 metres back. Luckily Olivia, an 18-year-old Brit with a fair bit of courage, was along for the hike. She helped Ryan pick all the bugs off while Bobby fiddled with his phone, hoping to post the whole thing to Instagram.

There was also Ilon, and cheerful Dutch medical student, and an unwed American couple, Joel and Emily, who only coincidentally happened to share the same last name.

Joel encoutered his own troubles on the Anaconda expedition when he stepped into some wet mud and sank until his waist. Darwin had to dig through the mud to bale him out. The day before Joel had tripped and fell and inot a spiky jungle tree, leaving him with eight thorns stuck in his palm.

Together, the nine of us made a rather merry, if eclectic, band of fools for Darwin to drag around the jungle. We ate extremely well, since we had brought along Frida, our very own jungle cook who was wonderful about making me vegetarian food. We also had to young helpers from the local Machiguenga tribe who helped us all get around the jungle.

One of our favourite activities was playing “jungle beach”, where we would sit on the sandy banks of the River Dios de Madre and sunbathe.

Olivia, Ilon and I enjoyed covering ourselves with jungle sand to exfoliate. Bobby enjoyed taking pictures to “make his ex-girlfriend jealous.”

In the coud forest, we saw a dozen cock-of-the-rock birds. Minutes later we found ourselves with a turd-on-the-bus after Bobby stepped in jungle scat on his way back into the bus.

It was a fabulous tour with wonderful animals, perhaps none more colourful that my jungle comrades.

In the end Darwin was wrong about the mosquito bites. I had very few. In fact, I escaped from the jungle without any injury. Ilon pointed to my luck when the boat landed back in civilization. Still marvelling at my good fortune, a jungle wasp immediately flew into my shirt and stung my armpit. Ranforest conquered.

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Bobby taking a selfie with a Tapir.

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Me, swinging on a jungle vine like I’m Tarzan.

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Why Denying Montréal Students the Right to Vote Has No Basis in Law
March 25, 2014

I moved to Quebec in March 2012, six months before the last provincial election. Falling right within the 6-month residency requirement, I registered and voted without any problem. Last election I lived and voted in the district of Sainte-Marie Saint-Jacques, I now live in Westmount St-Louis.

Amid massive media hysteria around out-of-province voters, I went to the Quebec electoral offices this morning to change my address and riding. Arriving at the offices, everyone was friendly and kind. As soon as I sat down, I was asked to provide a Quebec driver’s licence or health card. I have neither. I have Hydro-Quebec bills, T4s, letters from Revenue Quebec (I pay Quebec taxes) and a Montreal lease. I am currently trying to find an articling position in Montreal so that I can join the Quebec bar in 2016.

I was not asked to provide any of that evidence or asked if I intended to remain a Quebec resident. The woman interviewing me declared that as a student paying out-of-province tuition I was not domiciled in Quebec. The end. When I insisted that I had voted in the last election she retroactively declared that I was not eligible back then either and that I’m lucky I haven’t been charged with voter fraud. It’s hard to argue with someone over an administrative decision when you’re being accused of a serious criminal offence. Upset, I left the office.

I walked around for 15 minutes thinking about the logic. A year and a half ago, I was “domiciled” enough in Quebec to register and vote without any trouble. Having now spent much longer in Quebec and paid more Quebec taxes, I’m no longer domiciled here. I went back and insisted the office manager explain this decision. When he came out I shook his hand and introduced myself. He responded by asking me if I was recording our conversation. I promised I wasn’t and then I pointed out that I had voted last election. I was immediately told that it was no problem to simply change my address and this was done by looking at my passport and a Hydro-Quebec bill. But no one ever pointed out to the woman who had previously denied me that she had made the wrong decision, even though she was sitting right next to me while my address was being changed. She was helping a nice young man from Alberta register (he had a health card and driver’s licence) while telling him that the fact that she let him register despite the fact that he is an anglophone proved that there was indeed no discrimination going on.

I disagree. There is clearly systemic discrimination of students, anglophones and allophones. Unquestionably, the people who work at the registration office have discretion to apply Quebec Election law. However, decisions must still be a reasonable interpretation of the law to be legitimate. Even with discretionary power you can’t deny someone the right to vote because you don’t like their hair, but you can if they’ve only lived in Quebec for 5 months.  This is what we call the rule of law, where decisions must follow statutes, rather than the rule of man, where people in power can decide things however they like. So what does the law say?

Elections Act:  Every person who  (1) has attained 18 years of age,  (2) is a Canadian citizen,  (3) has been domiciled in Québec for six months, […] is a qualified elector. The domicile of a person is the domicile established under the Civil Code.

The Civil Code states that: 75. The domicile of a person, for the exercise of his civil rights, is at the place of his principal establishment. 76. Change of domicile is effected by actual residence in another place coupled with the intention of the person to make it the seat of his principal establishment. The proof of such intention results from the declarations of the person and from the circumstances of the case. 77. The residence of a person is the place where he ordinarily resides.

In making the decision as to whether I could vote or not, the electoral officer only considered one factor: the type of tuition I pay. However, this factor is not mentioned anywhere in the law and is based on different time limits. One must live in Quebec as a non-student for a year to qualify for Quebec tuition. Yet the Election Act says you need only be a resident for 6 months. By insisting that I need to pay Quebec tuition to qualify to vote, the electoral officer was essentially rewriting section 1 of the Electoral Act to read “12 months” rather than 6 months. Had the legislature wanted to make the requirements for qualification the same for both they could have written “1 year” in the Election Act, but the legislature didn’t.

If having a Quebec driver’s licence of health card were the only way to prove “intention to be domiciled” under the Civil Code, the Quebec legislature could have written that requirement into the legislation. But it didn’t. Instead article 76 speaks only of “intention” and “circumstances of the case.” I was never asked about my intention to be domiciled in Quebec while attempting to register (though I did try to argue that I would be joining the Quebec bar, the electoral officer wasn’t interested). I was never asked where I ordinarily resided (the electoral officer was more interested in asking me about where my parents live). Now were the circumstances of my case examined in any way. Instead, my tuition status and lack of Quebec identification were the only criteria used to declare my ineligibility.

It’s always extremely problematic when an administrative decision maker fails to consider the law when making a judgment, because it leaves open the possibility that they will be motivated by personal bias or irrelevant criteria. This is especially true with voter rights, which are protected by the Canadian Charter. This morning I witnessed an electoral officer operate with impunity as she repeatedly made decisions that adversely affected constitutionally protected electoral rights (she denied three students in the 30 minutes I was there).

The last student she denied got upset and so he was escorted out of the building by security. I took some pictures so that students in Quebec can know how they will be treated when they attempt to exercise their civil rights. As a result of taking pictures, I too was escorted out of the building and banned for life from returning.  So I guess I’ll have to wear a disguise next week when I return to elect a government that respects students, the constitution and the rule of law.

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That was the Mexican trip
July 12, 2013

So I tried to bring the K-pop to the Mexicans and the Mexicans didn’t want it.

It happened at Xochimilco, an indescribable little town with Aztec canals full of brightly coloured boats. I planned to share photos of it but Mexico planned to steal my camera so it seems imaginations are in order.

All the other boats had adult gondoliers but ours was manned by a couple of boys.

Every time I leave Mexico City and return I become even more horrified by this place and it’s constant noise and smells. But then I remember that I can by 50 cent tacos on every street corner and I’m okay until I’m not hungry anymore.

Hyukin (pronounced Huggin) is a Korean who speaks Spanish and knows all the moves to Gangnam Style and once spent the day on a boat with me horrifying Mexicans with his dance moves and enthusiasm. The Mexicans were so happy they invited themselves onto our boat and made away with my camera.

I’m telling it all wrong. It was a wonderful day. There was pizza and beer and dancing and 12-year old Mexicans getting drunk and 17-year old Mexicans being drunk and we only had to haul her face out of the river once.

On the way home Hyukin confessed that he searched through everyone’s bags before we left the boat. He never found my camera.

So it was wonderful. Mexico is always so excessively wonderful.

Google Stock image is a sad replacement for fotos with friends

Google Stock image is a sad replacement for fotos with friends

A House Full of Cheeseless Quesadillas
June 16, 2013

I’m spending the summer in Mexico City, doing an internship with Disability Rights International, (http://www.disabilityrightsintl.org/) an organization that advocates for the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities. I’ll be writing about my work for McGill’s Human Rights Intern’s blog soon.   Otherwise I’m staying busy with the endless activities offered by this enormous city: kickboxing (once), salsa dancing (a few times) and pretending to understand Spanish (daily).   I’m living in a big house, which I’m sharing with four roommates. Prior to my arrival the house was mostly populated by Brits, so of course it was filthy. I spent the first few days cleaning away, earning me the not particularly lovely nickname of Senorita Escoba. I live with two Mexicans, Debra and Francisco,  a Frenchwoman, Daphne, and an Australian, named either Nick or Nico. There is also one dog (Momo), countless spiders and dead cockroaches and two scorpions (though only one was discovered alive).   Daphne is my favourite because she’s French and let’s me use her blowdryer. She also practices kickboxing a few times a week, meaning I don’t argue with her when she writes ridiculous things in my journal. For example: “My roomies are so mean to me. But I deserve it. They are the best. They will help me get back on the right path. Bless them.”   Daphne is dating a Mexican named Nyvse, whose most redeeming quality is his ability to flush scorpions down the toilet while I hide in fear. Last week Nyvse was mad at me because I “hurted” him when I stepped on his foot. I was told to stop damaging people like a fucking bus and that his forgiveness could be bought for a taco.   Then there is Francisco, whose signature feature is his ability to stare intensely into the depths of your soul, discovering all vulnerabilities, which he will then use against you at the most oppertune moment. Notable Franciscisms include: “Wow your legs are a lot bigger than mine,” and “you know in this light you kind of have a beard.” I’ve yet to decide whether we will be best friends or whether I will dedicate the rest of the summer to destroying him. Having yet to prove his ability to kill a scorpion I am leaning toward the latter.   Then there is Nick, whom I barely know because he ran off to Australia to refortify his accent, which was, regrettably, becoming largely comprehensible. I eagerly anticipate his return, since there clearly isn’t enough crazy here yet.   gg gggg goo

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On a weekend trip to Puebla, with Francisco and Daphne

And now my feet are dirty… again
June 2, 2013

I’ve been in Mexico City for a week now, which means that in a few more months I should be used to all its noise and people and traffic and food and smells and noise.

There are 22 million people in Mexico City (that’s also the population of all of Australia), which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that every single one of them takes the same metro line to work as I do. Many metro lines reserve the first few cars for women and children only, which is great, unless you forget about this and get into one of the later cars exclusively populated by men.

The upshot of such a large population is that every night feels like Canada Day. Not so much in the sense of ra-ra patriotic celebrations, but in the sense that there are always a ton of people on the streets and in public parks and squares. There are vendors selling ice cream and churros, as well as buskers, clowns and tourists.

During these events a favourite pastime of the Mexican couple is to sit on park bench already populated by a Canadian and proceed to attempt to suck each others tongues out of each others faces while the Canadian cringes in horror.

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I’ve found an apartment in Coyoacan, a bohemian neighbourhood to the south of the city famous as Frida Kahlo’s former stomping ground. Indeed, her famous blue house (now a delightful museum full of her gruesome paintings) is only a ten-minute walk away.  I’m living with two Mexicans, a French girl an Australian, as well as a dog, countless spiders, cucarachas and a single dead scorpion. Together we make a rather handsome bunch.

I’ve been reading the Alquimist in Spanish, which is rather ridiculous since it was originally written in Portugese. My Spanish is coming along swimmingly, unless an important part of learning a language is being able to understand people when they speak to you. In that case I’ve still got a ways to go.

The One Where the Man Gets Damned
November 15, 2012

This week I got into an argument with my Internet service provider over whether I would have to pay a fee for cancelling my services. When I first signed up they said there was no contract – but when I asked about cancelling they said I’d have to pay $100 cancellation fee. I insisted that they never told me about the fee. They agreed to go back and listen to my first call.

So a few days later Mindy from evil company calls me to say that there was indeed no evidence that I had been advised of the fee. Evil company was therefore graciously willing to split the cancellation charge with me, so I’d only be paying $50. If I wasn’t happy with that, Mindy kindly pointed out that the company would have no problem sending me to collections.  Apparently it was my responsibility as a consumer to inquire as to whether evil corporation was willing to screw me for cancelling my service in anything less than before-I-die. After numerous kind words exchanged on both sides, Mindy finally greed to have her manager call me back.

And so I spent the next hours furiously reading over the contract provisions in the Quebec Civil Code and ignoring all my actual law homework relating to the contract provisions in the Quebec Civil Code. Eventually I came across this little nugget in the  consumer protection act: No costs may be claimed from a consumer unless the amount thereof is precisely indicated in the contract.

Not wanting to confuse them with my superior knowledge of the bargain theory of consideration, I diligently highlighted a list of simple provisions and articles from the Civil Code to use in order to tell evil corporation how badly they could go suck it.

When Mindy’s manager finally called me back I had my arsenal ready and waiting.

“Ms. Hazlett?”

“Yes.”

“Hi. This is Ben from B2B2C. We’ve decided to let you cancel your contract without paying the cancellation charge.”

And so I swallowed my articles and provisions, and thanked him for his  consideration.

But what would have happened had I not been a law student with a pretty good idea of my contract rights and where to find them?

At this point my legal knowledge has saved me exactly $100. Eighty some more arguments like this and year one is easily going to pay for itself.

So I return to stressing about the latest assignment/quiz/memo, still high off the taste of consumer protection justice.

Recently, I was reminded of this winning attitude when I asked one of my classmates whether he too was stressed about our intense workload.

“Of course not. I worked so hard to get into law school I’m not going to stress about anything now that I’m here.”

Which reminds me of my favourite mad cow disease joke, where one cow asks another cow if she’s stressed out about catching the disease:

“Of course not. I’m a bunny” answers the second cow.

In conclusion, I know nothing about law school, and B2B2C is the worst.

If you could be any insect which would you be?
November 1, 2012

I think I’d like to be a worm and be rid of back pain

I think I’d like to be a fly and never have to chew

I think I’d like to be a butterfly and fly south every winter

I think I’d like to be a beetle and make a solo album

I think I’d like to be a firefly and have everyone else be jealous of my shiny butt

I think I’d like to be a spider and eat all those bugs above that have it better than me

 

*Another post from my little brother James.

Canoeing is not something really easy to do, mainly if there are two Mexicans in the same boat
October 26, 2012

*Guest post from Mexican Jesús Rendón, on the anniversary of his first year spent in Canada.

1. Down is something very important. I am an animal supporter, but have to confess I bless ducks for such feature, also, they are not sacrificed, are they?
2. Sun in these latitudes sets earlier and despite the fact I am not a depressive guy it does affect me a little bit.

3. Not all Canadians are  bilingual (you will find some Canadians speaking more than 2 languages though!), however, they are such kind and nice people, always willing to help others (ok ok, there are some exceptions, it’s like saying all Mexicans are lazy :p).


4. Not sure why Europeans consider North America as only the USA and Canada (I always thought their education system was excellent, again, surprises :p).

5. There is no better song to get bears away from you than “Guantanamera”, especially if it’s sung by a beautiful girl and two handsome guys with a beautiful voice of course.

6. “Schmetterling” is the nicest word in German :D. Oh and touching the German topic… Germans are (most of them), really easy-to-love people, they are not cold and bored as I thought.

7. More than 6 Coronas don’t make you a king but a happier guy.

8. “Bienvenue” is used in lieu of “De rien” in Québec.

9. Canoeing is not something really easy to do, mainly if there are two Mexicans in the same boat.

10. If you mix more than one language, what stops you to mix the systems of measurement too? After all, mixing is good!

Heritage Minutes: Ones you’d actually want to see
October 16, 2012

It has recently been announced that the Historica Dominion will be bringing back the Heritage Minutes (funding partner-finding permitting). While the Minutes are generally beloved by all English-Canadians, there have been some criticisms that they present a patriarchal (none about women after 1918) and colonial vision of Canada. Try watching this one without noticing that it ends with an Aboriginal person kneeling, actually kneeling on the floor, before a white woman

So I’ve taken the liberty of imagining a few scenarios for future Minutes that highlight the really important (and slightly less problematic) aspects of our heritage:

1-    Cabin in the woods, circa 1900. Boy inside sits next to the fire with some toast but is dismayed to find that the butter dish is empty. He asks his mom for some margarine. “I’m sorry little Tommy, margarine is illegal in this country. Only Newfie bootleggers can get ya some of that stuff.” Tommy looks off forlornly into to frozen abyss while a voiceover reads: “And so margarine remained illegal in this country until a shocking decision of the Supreme Court in 1948, which boldly pointed out to the government that they cannot make something illegal for absolutely no justifiable reason.”

2-    Scene: Palace of Westminster, London, 1868.  A frustrated little Nova Scotian, weary after a long boat ride, is pleading with the officials: “Sirs, I complain that the Parliament of this country, by an Act passed in the last Session, overthrew the constitution of the colony of Nova Scotia, and destroyed a description – nay, in fact, a reality – of independence which had existed in that colony for nearly 100 years. You handed over our Government and destiny to another colony and parliament which is to sit at Ottawa, distant not less than 800 miles from Nova Scotia. I therefore petition this government to release Nova Scotia from the Canadian confederation.

And so the British Prime Minister answers, “There is not, in my opinion, in any colony a stronger feeling of loyalty than there is in Nova Scotia, nor do any of our colonies possess a population with more business-like and active intelligence. In short, Ottawa needs you! Motion dismissed. Now be on your merry little Canadian way.”

The Nova Scotian boards a ship home, starring across the Atlantic toward Canada, his new home. A slightly arrogant voiceover points out: “Canada: easy to get into, impossible to get out of,” and then giggles.

3- Then there is this one:

4-    Winnipeg, June 14, 1985. Two young kids on the street.

“What should we do today Skeeter?”

“How’s about we kill, rob and maim some old ladies?”

“Good idea, Chip. The best part is that all laws in Manitoba were declared unconstitutional yesterday, so Manitoba is totally like one big legal vacuum.”

“Sweet, we can totally get away with anything. Let’s go steal some maple syrup and force an Indian to stoke a fire for us.”

“Dude. Sweet!”

Voiceover: In 1985 the Supreme Court found all Manitoba laws invalid, as they were not translated into French as the constitution mandated. Unfortunately for Skeeter and Chip, the Court used a process of delayed invalidity. Skeeter and Chip are now serving life sentences in prison where they eat nothing but margarine and burnt toast.

It actually happened:

Supreme Court Margarine Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margarine_Reference

Nova Scotia was Québec before Québec was Québec

http://ns1758.ca/antifed/newscot_anticonfed-1868june16.html

We do not pay nearly enough attention to Manitoba:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_re_Manitoba_Language_Rights

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”
September 22, 2012

“I remember sitting in one of my first university lectures, when the professor issued a memorably stern warning: “Don’t let your schooling interfere with your education” he cautioned, quoting Mark Twain. I took his warning to heart, promising that I would not get too caught up in my studies, that I would take advantage of the many opportunities on campus. Then I, like I imagine most of my peers that day, completely forgot Twain’s words, buried myself under a mountain of books, part-time jobs, and scholarships applications, only to emerge four years later, degree in hand, completely dazed…”

This is how I began my application letter to McGill law school, an ultimately successful endeavour. And so it is time to begin yet another university degree, the first two cherished and only a little crumpled at the bottom of some drawer somewhere.

So don’t be surprised if this blog goes silent for a while. I have never managed to heed Twain’s advice and balance schooling and education, preferring instead the no-fun-no-outside-life approach to university.  I have ended my existential wanderings about the globe in favour of at least three years in Montreal, a bed without bugs, a lifestyle that supports blender ownership, and only a partial inability to recognize myself.

And so this blog could, for the few years anyway, be renamed “Emily, in the library.”