Why I’m Not Finishing the #atozchallenge This Year

The annual A to Z Challenge – I look forward to it every April, and most years I managed to come up with 26 posts for the month. This year, it’s obvious I won’t be finishing the challenge since it’s nearing the end of April and I’ve only written 6 posts, even then, they were posted belatedly.

I thought that since most of the world is quarantining at home, I’d be inspired to write daily and write more. It’s been the opposite actually. Though I had the words in my mind, getting them out of my head and putting them down onto paper (or screen, in this case) was difficult. It was a case a of the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I thought of giving myself a few days before catching up with the posts I missed, but the more days I didn’t write, the easier it was not to write. Even this post had been sitting in my Draft folder for a few days.

Anyway, that’s it for me for this A to Z Challenge. Though I liked my theme this year and for a little while, looked forward to writing within that theme, perhaps I’ll revisit the theme in a future challenge.

Happy A to Z to the others who are still in the challenge!

(F)amous Players #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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Watching movies was one of my favourite activities when I lived in Toronto. Though the price of the tickets were scary (scary as in exorbitant), compared to the price of movie tickets in Malaysia, I still went to the movies about once every two weeks. It was a blissful escape, and also a treat.

The closest movie theater to me at the time was the Famous Players cinema at Yorkdale Mall (Unfortunately, this cinema is no longer at that mall, as it was replaced with another chain of cinema, SilverCity). At the time, I thought that Malaysian cinemas were a little more technologically advanced than the ones in Canada however, Canadian movie theaters excelled at providing a more pleasurable cinematic experience overall.

For one thing, there wasn’t only one concession stand opened (as is the usual in Malaysia sometimes) instead there were a whole slew of concession stands for patrons who didn’t just want to be offered a choice of sweet or salty popcorn with a soft drink – there were fast food stands and even an ice-cream stand – imagine eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching Brad Pitt on screen! Yummy! The ice cream, I meant. Speaking of popcorn, patrons had choices of powdered toppings to add to their popcorn too! This was a revelation to me!

Famous Players also had their own in-house magazines that came out every month – one for the masses, and another targeted at kids. It featured articles on upcoming movies, events that were going to be held in association with Famous Players, profile of actors, etc… I always grabbed a copy, good for reading on the bus ride home.

One time, while waiting for the movie Lord of the Rings: Two Towers to be screened, I had the pleasure of experiencing the ushers dressed as characters from the movie (Frodo, Arwen and Gollum) enter the cinema hall, go right up to the front, announce the movie and hope that we would enjoy it. After that simple yet very much appreciated personal announcement, the patrons clapped! Of course, I clapped too.

Watching a movie at Famous Players, is just another one of those things I miss about my time in Toronto.

Yes, I kept the ticket stubs

(E)thiopian Food #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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This might sound strange, but when I think of Ethiopian food, I think of Toronto.

It was Janice’s idea to go out for Ethiopian food that night. Most of us hadn’t ever tried it, but Janice said that it was one of her favourite cuisines. Those of us without access to a car met up at a subway station nearby, and walked to the restaurant. Janice was already there; we were seated in a corner of the restaurant. I truly didn’t know what to expect because I had zero knowledge of Ethiopian cuisine. Naturally, Janice did all the ordering.

When the food came, I was pleasantly surprised because I thought it looked sort of like roti canai. Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad after all, I remember thinking.

But that’s where the similarity ended. I like a little spice in my food, chili spice, and though the stews served with the injera were delicious and filled with spice, it wasn’t the type of spice I craved.

I remember the dinner itself being filled with laughter and conversations aplenty but I hardly remember the taste of the food. My taste buds weren’t a fan and in fact, I never tried Ethiopian food again after that night.

Now though, older with a more mature palette, I wouldn’t mind giving Ethiopian food another try. Maybe when I have the bread with the stew, I’ll be transported back to that night of merriment.

(D)ownsview #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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While looking up information and pictures for this post, I learnt that the subway station I used to know of as Downsview was renamed Sheppard West in 2017. I’m sure one of my friends in Canada would’ve alerted me to this but I suppose I’d shoved this little tit-bit of information to the back of my brain. Facing this information now, it saddens me a little, because it means another part of the past I valued has changed.

Downsview Station was my gateway to the rest of Toronto. I’d take the TTC Bus No. 106 along Sentinel Road, and stay on it till it terminated at Downsview. I don’t quite recall how long the journey took, but rummaging through my memories, I think it probably took about 20 minutes. That’s 20 blissful minutes of admiring the view outside, enjoying the rhythmic movement of the bus.

Downsview station, I thought, was one of the most modern ones in Toronto, spacious, bright, a little futuristic. Seeing the station from the bus, always put a smile on my face. The station was the last stop on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, and from there, I’d take the train south and stop at Yorkdale maybe, or continue on to St. Patrick. Other times, I’d stop at St. George, and take a train on the Bloor-Danforth line east and get off at the Bloor-Yonge station.

The former Downsview Station (Image credit: Eja2k)

Who knew I could be so attached to memories of a train station?

(C)hinatown #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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I’m Asian, so visiting Chinatown in Toronto, was inevitable. Getting there, I’d use the subway and get down at the St. Patrick station located at the intersection of University Ave and Dundas St. West. I’d walk west along Dundas St. West until I reached the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), always a favourite stop of mine whenever I’m in the neighbourhood. I don’t go in to see the exhibits though, rather I’d hangout in the gift shop, browsing, or buying small postcard prints.

Just a typical day in Chinatown (Image credit: City of Toronto)

The first time I ventured into Chinatown (according to my journal) was on September 16th, 2001 –

Only today did I finally eat rice after obtaining a rice cooker from Chinatown. Chinatown was great! I went into a grocery store and found that they sold ‘Maggi mee perisa kari!’ Expensive though, one pack was about 45 cents. I bought plates and glasses too – they were fairly cheap.

Sadly, I no longer have that rice cooker, nor the cheap plates and glasses. Stuff I left behind when I came back.

I don’t have a single picture of Chinatown, I wish now I did since my recollection of that place is so faded.

Author’s Note: I’m way behind on my posts for this challenge. Somehow I thought it’d be easier to blog daily during this restricted movement order but it isn’t. As of right now, I’ll try to play catch up until the moment comes when I’m done playing catch up. Thank you, dear readers though for reading whatever I’ve written, whenever I’ve written them.

(B)enjamin Boake Trail #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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During my second year living in Toronto, I moved out of my studio apartment on Assiniboine to the ground floor of a 4-storey house on Benjamin Boake Trail. Though I spent only a year there, it became my home away from home, and I revisit that place often in my memories. An article I wrote in 2012 best describes my fondness for that place –

Living in Toronto, Canada, as a graduate student in the fall of 2002, I had ample time to stand and stare. I even had the perfect place to indulge in this introspection – Rafaella’s patio.

I remember the first time I met Rafaella. Her house was the last one I had to see that autumn day. As I stepped inside, I fervently wished that it would be the house that I’d be living in. I didn’t have the energy to meet anymore prospective landlords if this didn’t work out. So I prayed hard.

After spending many minutes touring the space Rafaella had advertised for and answering questions from her son because she didn’t speak fluent English, she looked at me and declared definitively: “Yours is like an Italian name. Okay, you can rent from me.”

And just like that, I became her tenant.

I rented the lower ground floor of her four-storey house for the next school year. The main entrance was a set of sliding doors that opened out to Rafaella’s garden in the back.

The garden was not substantial in size but every available bit of space had been lovingly utilised. Along the left wall were tomato plants which had begun to ripen. When it did, Rafaella would collect them and can the tomatoes. I was a proud and grateful recipient of several such cans. As a student on a budget, those cans were like gold to me.

On the far wall, opposite the sliding doors, was where Rafaella’s herb garden flourished. There were stalks of basil, parsley and a multitude of other herbs – the names of which I never learnt – growing along the wooden fence. Their fragrance perfumed the air. There were also a pear tree and a plum tree in the garden. The pears were the sweetest I have ever had; the plums, I never saw bear fruit.

The spot in which I sat and stared was the patio, immediately outside the sliding doors. On the right of the patio, there was a trellis where vines of green grapes crept upward, reaching for the rays of the sun. There were two chairs on the patio, the kind that had narrow wooden slats along the back and the seat.

When I sat there, the trellis and the trees provided enough shade from the sun, and from that vantage point I could see all the neighbours’ houses. When I closed my eyes, I could even hear the rustling of the leaves on the pear tree. Harmonious melody.

If you’re interested, the complete article can be found here.

The other reason I love this place – the awesome kitchen, which basically took up half the space!

My (A)partment on (A)ssiniboine #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘O Canada‘.

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The first place I lived in when I moved to Toronto for post-grad was a studio apartment in the university’s student residence on Assiniboine Road. The buildings are hard to miss, hulking and brown. As an international student, I could live on campus during my first year and the most affordable place at the time was a studio apartment. I remember being excited at having my very own place, for the first time in my life.

The apartment was furnished – I had a desk, a dining table (that became my second desk) and a couch/ single bed. I had a cosy kitchen, a reasonably sized bathroom and a little store room, in which my suitcases lived. For a small-sized Asian, the space was more than adequate.

The neat thing I learnt about living in an apartment, since I’d never lived in one before, was the existence of a rubbish chute. Initially, I wondered where and how I was supposed to dispose of my trash! Thank goodness for the information booklet that explained that there was a chute on each floor for that purpose. And oh, the laundry room in the basement was also another revelation, though being a scaredy cat due to watching too many movies about things that go bump in the night in laundry rooms, I always made sure to go when I knew it wouldn’t be completely deserted.

Though I lived there for the better part of my first year, it never felt like a home away from home. It was functional, a place to sleep, study and prepare my meals. Sadly, I can’t even remember what the bathroom looked like, and what it felt like to walk through the hall from the lift to my apartment. I wish I had taken more pictures then but I’m glad I at least did take a few of the place.

While preparing this post, I searched online for the residence and much to my pleasant surprise, found a video of a virtual tour of the residences on campus.

Theme Reveal Time #atozchallenge

The theme I eventually decided on for this year’s challenge was actually a theme I contemplated writing about for last year’s challenge. I even went so far as to list out the potential post ideas for each letter of the alphabet. I’m glad that I kept that list though because at least now I won’t be starting from scratch.

From 2001 – 2003, I lived and studied in Toronto, Canada. It was my first time in that country and I spent those two years experiencing many firsts. I’ve written about some of my experiences in Toronto before but only superficially. I’ll be using this challenge to dig deeper into those experiences, which is something I’m quite excited about. So, this year, my theme for the April A to Z Challenge is

(I’m so excited about this theme, I even made a logo!)

As usual, I’m still at a loss as to what to write for those difficult letters X, Z and Q.

#atozchallenge 2020 is upon us!

February, despite having an extra day this year, zoomed past, and now we’re in March! I still have February feelings which is why I was a little bit caught by surprise when I got the notification email that sign-ups for the April A to Z Challenge is now open. Whaaattt???

I signed up (No. 91) but I’m panicking a little because I truly have no idea what I want to write about this year. This is in contrast to previous years when I had several theme ideas swirling in my head.

The theme reveal is slated for the 16th of March, there’s no obligation to participate in the theme reveal but if I have an idea what to write about by then, well, I can get started on what my posts will be like in April. Crossing my fingers and toes.

Anyone else joining or thinking of joining the April A to Z Challenge this year?

I Survived the 2019 #atozchallenge

This year was my 8th time participating in the April A to Z Challenge, BUT only the 4th time that I’ve completed the challenge properly, posting all 26 posts in the month of April.

I enjoyed writing my ‘Food Memories‘ post even though I was a little apprehensive at first whether or not I’d have enough food memories to reflect on. But I needn’t have worried, I had more than enough anecdotes, some I even forgot myself until I started writing about them!

When I wrote my posts, I tried to include as many details as I could, including the specific name of the restaurants where I had certain food (if I could remember them) and also the dates (or years) when I tried that food. I tried hard to dig up facts from the memories instead of just writing about the emotions I felt.

Though I still mainly wrote my posts on the posting day itself, I did have some posts written ahead. I didn’t schedule those posts to go live at a certain time and day however, since I preferred to re-read them again before finally clicking that ‘Publish’ button myself. I would then tweet about the post, and if I remember, log onto Facebook and post it on the challenge page too.

One of the most amazing things about this challenge, is finding new blogs to follow, so this year I’d like to give a shout out to these bloggers for entertaining me with their posts throughout April:

  • Allison & Her Camera, who shared about her eco-journey. Also, her pictures (which she takes herself) are pretty amazing!
  • To My Recollection, a blog belonging to S.M. Saves who posted mostly scary flash fiction. She even managed to write a 4 (or 5?) part flash fiction during the challenge!
  • Planet Simon, who posted about sci-fi films throughout the challenge. Some of his posts reminded me about movies I’d forgotten, and best of all, his posts were short and sweet!

Looking forward to next year’s challenge already!