Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moccasins, meet iPad

So, I got an iPad. iPad 2, to be precise.

But let me tell you, it was no easy feat.

It started just over a week ago. My parents returned from their trip to Las Vegas and my mom told me she bought me a present while they were there. So I showed up at my parents house, expected to be met with the usual: a t-shirt, maybe some jewelry. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the bag to find an iPad! And yes, also a conference t-shirt.

"Why did you get me this?" I couldn't help but ask. My parents always got me great gifts... for my birthday, Christmas and graduation. I didn't often get such an amazing gift unattached to any occasion.

"Because you're such a great daughter," my mom said, huge smile on her face. [Insert awww here.]

The iPad (first generation) also came with a gift certificate so that I could exchange and upgrade to the iPad 2.

I waited for iPad release day (Friday, March 25, 2011) with baited breath. I left work at 3 p.m. to get in line for the 5 p.m. release time.

The line up won't be so bad, I told myself. After all, this is Ottawa, not New York City or L.A.

And, of course, I was wrong. The line up stretched down the hall, through a long corridor that lead to a ramp - outdoors. But I was so excited I didn't mind. I tried to pass the time by reading my book, "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao," and catching up on phone calls.

Eventually I made some line-up friends. A guy buying two iPads for himself and his wife; a woman with an e-book reader looking to upgrade her technology; and a lovey-dovey university couple getting matching iPads. The line continued to grow and the male half of the couple was interviewed by the local Ottawa news station. As soon as the line started to compress and we made it inside, the excitement begun. The Apple staff hyped up the crowd at around 4:50 by running to the back of the line, shouting and clapping in t-shirts, then running back into the store.

At around 5:45 I made it to the front of the line. A guy was giving out tickets to reserve the iPads and I got a ticket for exactly the one I wanted: a 16GB white iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G. I was met at the front door and matched with my salesman, and in the span of a few seconds he had my iPad in hand and I'd picked out my baby blue Smart Cover and SIM card.

"I'm tax exempt," I declared, and I could see the brief annoyance cross his face. I hesitated, "And I have to do an exchange. And to make things more complicated, it was purchased in the U.S."

"You can't exchange it in Canada," he said quickly.

I felt the air knocked out of me. As dramatic as it might sound, it felt as if my world was crashing down on me. The anticipation had been building all week, and increased four-fold as I waited in line. I left the Apple store completely dejected. My mom met me for pad Thai (ironically) as a consolation, and I felt horrible being so depressed about her wonderful gift.

"I have a confession," she said suddenly. "I didn't buy the iPad. I won it at a conference."

And we laughed. Laughed until tears stung our eyes.

This still didn't change the fact that I wanted an iPad 2! After hours (literally) deliberating with my mom over how to exchange the iPad within the two week exchange period, my boyfriend, R.J., said to me, "Let's just hop in the car and drive to Syracuse." That's why I love him.

Cut to 2:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26.

We wake up, groggy but slightly excited. Stop at my mom's to pick up a thermos of coffee and scrambled egg sandwiches. Stop to pick up R.J.'s younger brother, Fur, who decided to accompany us on this spontaneous road trip. And we were on our way to upstate New York.

After a Dunkin Donuts pitstop and a few early morning laughs, we arrived at the Apple store in Syracuse's Carosel Mall. As we'd been warned by the salesman my mom spoke to on the phone the previous night, there was already a lineup at 6:30 a.m. I was tenth in line. I knew I had good chance, but that there was no guarantee.

9 a.m. rolled around and out came the ticket man. My heart rate sped up a little, recalling the experience only hours earlier.

When the ticket man came to me he said, "We only have 64GBs left." My heart sunk. I knew it was much more expensive and that I had to make a quick decision.

"I'll take it!" I said. What the heck? I'd waited in two line ups for a total of over 5 hours and was making a 6 hour roundtrip. Surely nearly 12 hours of my life is worth an extra 48GBs? (I bet none of our ancestors in moccasins thought we'd ever be using such a measurement.)

So I left the store with my black 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G (la creme de la creme), baby blue Smart Cover and Apple Care. And I haven't looked back.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One-Minute Book Review: The Moon of Letting Go

The Moon of Letting Go and other stories (Richard Van Camp)

This book was given to me as a gift by a professor who requested that I speak to her Native Lit class about my master's research. A pretty awesome gift, especially considering that I read and loved Van Camp's coming-of-age novel, The Lesser Blessed.

These short stories are divided into four sections: Healing, Medicine, Teachings and Love. While the stories don't shy away from the grit and grind of rez and urban Indian life, many of the stories have happy endings (or maybe just endings I've interpreted as happy) and show that there can be a good outcome for someone who might typically be called "the bad guy."

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I loved the three stories in the last section, 'Love.' But, I was particularly struck by the title story, "The Moon of Letting Go" (from 'Medicine'). It's the story of a mother and son, estranged from the other members of their family--an ex-husband and two sons--who get "accosted" by the last medicine man in their community, known and feared for practicing black magic. The line between black and white, good and evil is blurred as the mother and son spend time with the mysterious medicine man, moving forward with a weary trust and belief.

It reminded me of this one time I personally came into contact with some black magic, but I'll save that story for another time.... (Ellipses are so Van Camp.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 Days & 40 Nights

I don't consider myself religious per se, but I am spiritual. Add to that the facts that my parents are semi-practicing Catholics (my mom goes to church every Sunday and my dad on Easter... sometimes) and my grandmother is traditional, and you get me! A veritable mishmash of religious and spiritual practice.

One thing my family has always happily practiced is Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Fat Tuesday.

For those of you non-Catholics (or non-Christians?), this means stuffing your face, particularly with pancake feasts in my experience, and being completely indulgent before beginning Lent: giving something up for 40 days and 40 nights. And sure enough, 2011 proves no different. I stopped in at my parents on my way home from work last night and enjoyed three pancakes topped with blueberries, strawberries, bananas and fresh whipped cream. Yum!

My weakness (and subsequently, my waistline's) is sweets. I love ice cream, birthday cake, apple pie, Rice Krispie squares, you name it! So, I figure this so-called Lent is a good opportunity for me to give up sweets, in some way, shape or form, with a little extra motivation/guilt attached to it.

So this morning I decided to give up "cake- and pie-type" desserts. Only then I stopped by Starbucks after lunch and saw this:

Cute, delicious cake on a stick.

So is it a cake or a lollipop? I wonder, as I let two people go ahead of me in line as I contemplate my decision. It hasn't even been 24 hours! You're stronger than that.

"I'll have a Skinny London Fog," I order, with only a slight grumble in my voice.

I've made it too easy on myself. A slice of key lime pie could qualify as something more tarte-like and what the heck is tiramisu, anyway? And oh, the Cake Pops!

I needed a bigger challenge, so here it is...

For 40 days and 40 nights I will not touch a drop of chocolate.

No chocolate bars, no mocha lattes, no Fudgesicles, no chocolate chip cookies. (Unless the cocoa content is 70% or higher because then it's heart-healthy, right?)

Wish me luck. I will need it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Outfit Fit for a Chief

I've always loved fashion, but never been one to fret over what I wore.

When I was a girl living on the rez, I would walk to the K.Z. Store to get the latest Seventeen or YM magazines and plow through them, entranced by the glossy pages that featured beautiful girls, interesting makeup that I longed to touch and, above all, fashion. In fact, I was so into the industry back then that in sixth grade I am quoted in the yearbook saying that my greatest goal in life was to shop at the world's biggest mall: the Edmonton Mall. (Which I've achieved, in case you're wondering, twice-over. Guess I'll have to find a new purpose for life.)

That being said, I never worried too much about clothes. I have confidence in my fashion sense (stick with the classics with a sprinkling of trends is my motto) and I've always seemed to have enough luck at being neither under- nor over-dressed.

But, I have a big day at work next week and... I don't know what to wear!

I am proud to say that I've been liaising between members of my community and the university where I work to form and foster a tangible, mutually-beneficial partnership. On Tuesday, our Chief and Director of Education are coming to the university for three meetings and a lunch, and I will be there throughout the day.

So I've narrowed it my outfit choices down to four options:

1. The Suit

You can never go wrong with a classic black suit, right? Not necessarily. Our Chief dresses well, but I can't remember ever seeing him in a full suit and tie. He's more of the ribbon shirt and vest type.

Although I think dressing to the nines to show that a Chief commands that level of respect is important, a suit might also give the impression that the university is a stuffy, pretentious kind of place, so it's not my #1 choice.

2. The Tailored Dress

This dress is only ever-so-slightly less casual than the suit because it's equally structured. But it seems to convey a much less... stuffy, for lack of a new word, message. I'm liking this option, partially because it's my lucky interview dress! And I have a hot pink skinny belt that I can wear with it to add a little flair.

3. The Cardigan

Now we're moving into the more casual options. This outfit - black pants and a gray cardigan - is something I would wear to work any day of the week. I consider it one of those outfits where you can't go wrong. It looks professional enough for a last minute meeting, but it's not so serious that I couldn't still relate to students. But, for this purpose, I'm a little lukewarm on the cardigan.

4. The Wild Card

Although this type of outfit might be a little too laid back, I keep gravitating toward it for some reason. It's a fitted blazer that's made of gray jersey (sweatshirt-like) material. I don't think I could wear it with anything other than jeans, and I don't think denim would be appropriate. So, maybe I shouldn't be considering it, but I can't help it! This cardigan is fun, friendly and fresh.

I'm so glad that I have the weekend examine these four options more carefully before I make this very important decision!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Role Models, Part II

We arrived in Boston late night on a Wednesday after some trials and tribulations, including one speeding ticket - before we even left home - and an iPad that wouldn't turn on. My voice was hoarse because in the absence of our e-book (Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which was on the iPad), I decided to e-read my research essay, '"But it's our story. Read it": Stories My Grandfather Told Me and Writing for Continuance,' to R.J.

We stayed at the John Hancock Hotel, which I'd recommend to anyone who wants to stay in Back Bay on a budget (but be warned, it's a little *ahem* rustic). We settled in and went straight to bed, excited for what the next day would bring.

The alarm rang at 7 a.m. and I woke with a start. Normally, I'd hit snooze least three times, especially on vacation. But not this day! We got ready and headed to the Starbucks on our hotel's block, but I didn't need the caffeine. Already, my heart was pumping and my legs were shaking.

Although I did my best to hide it with a smile.

We boarded the T (Boston subway system that R.J. takes great pride in navigating) and got to Harvard University an hour early. Just enough time to take a stroll around Harvard Square and try - fruitlessly, I might add - to calm my nerves.

By the time 11:25 a.m. (t-minus five minutes) rolled around I could barely catch my breath.

What if I'm not smart enough? I wondered. What if I can't hold a conversation about her book? What if there are awkward lulls in the conversation? R.J. reassured me that things would be all right, but I was about to meet my academic role model - what if things didn't go perfectly?

By the time we walked into the Faculty of Arts & Sciences building and turned the corner toward her office, my heart had officially entered my throat. But as I passed her nameplate and knocked on her office door - knowing I couldn't turn back now - a wave of calm washed over me. Upon seeing her face, her height (tall) and her birchbark canoe earrings I could tell immediately that she wasn't the type of Harvard Professor I'd worked her up to be. Above all else, she was Native. And a woman. And an academic. A Native woman academic - kind of like me!

From that moment on our conversation flowed freely. Our first stop on the Lisa Brooks tour of Harvard was the plaque that comemmorated the original building that was Harvard College, its first Native graduates and its mandate (recorded in their Charter) for the education of Indians:

We had lunch with the Harvard University Native American Program's (HUNAP) Liaison & Recruiter, Jason, then headed up for a tour of HUNAP. Although I didn't view myself as a prospective student, they treated me in that way, which was very kind and flattering. We spent the afternoon chatting with a great mix of staff, students (grad and undergrad) and alumni. Of course R.J. and I couldn't leave without one cheesy tourist photo:

We stopped at the gift shop, the Coop, where I bought a couple of baby things for a friend who's expecting. No pressure or anything, unborn child. Then we said goodbye to Harvard.

R.J. and I celebrated the amazing day with Thai, wine and dessert to go (our guilty pleasure!).

The next day, Friday, we went for dinner at Lisa's home outside of the city. That part of the trip was so amazing, I believe that neither my words nor photos could do it justice.

But I'll say this much: we had a great kitchen table conversation.