Face-to-Face With History

28 01 2012

So, bit of a surreal life this month.  Our first Commission meeting put me in a room with Sinjin Smith (aka father of beach volleyball).  A few days later, I am talking volleyball development and best practices with some of the most prolific minds in our sport (Pat Powers, John Kessel to name a few).  The awe of their accomplishments quickly fades and I quickly shift into “sponge mode” and trying to learn all I can from these guys.

Today is our final meeting (though technically we still have our Finance meeting next month) and today I am literally staring at a face of contemporary history (if that makes sense).  It’s the Medical Commission today and the doctor seated directly in front of me (less than 4 feet from me) is Fidel Castro’s son.  It’s amazing to stare (secretly) at his face and see the younger (very cleanly shaven and more attractive face) of the Cuban leader.  Dr.Castro has a much sharper nose, but it’s eerie to see the exact same eyes as the infamous dictator.

You can google Antonio Castro Soto and check him out (he’s a renowned Orthopedic Surgeon and is the Team Doctor of the Cuban National Baseball team).  The photos online don’t do him justice as there is something unsettling and intriguing about sharing the same space with him.  Can you imagine what his life has been like?  I am ridiculously curious, but obviously was raised as a polite Canadian girl who would never ask such impertinent questions.  Not even after a couple glasses of wine.

It’s a crazy little wonderful life I lead.


Queen of Quotes . . . and Confusion?

15 12 2011

As you know, I am slightly addicted to quotes.  But, sometimes they just cause more confusion and then I am actually forced to think for myself to sort it out.  Today, I am musing over what is a healthy level of expectation. 

All the coaches, entrepreneurs and self-help gurus in the world will tell you that if you don’t set high expectations you will never succeed.  You have to set your expectations slightly beyond what is reasonable otherwise you will never push yourself to something extraordinary.  I would say that this is my default setting.  I have incredibly high standards and expectations (and I’m also super humble).   ;)

Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations.” ~Ralph Charell

But, setting the bar so high isn’t always a pleasant experience because inevitably, you suffer the blow of disappointment.  There is nothing more soul-crushing than hearing the words “I’m disappointed in you”.  I would venture to say that a lot of my work ethic is based on the avoidance of ever hearing those words or seeing that look on someone’s face.   Or worse, being disappointed in yourself.  Ouch, that one really hurts.

Oft expectation fails, and most oft where most it promises; and oft it hits where hope is coldest; and despair most sits.” ~William Shakespeare

So maybe we are better off going with the philosophers who believe that lowered expectations are the key to happiness.  We all know some rather grumpy people who feel like the world owes them something – that makes for an unhappy life of unfulfilled expectations.  So maybe we need to lower our expectations in order to be happy and risk being a little bit less than extraordinary?  Though this guy seems to have managed to be extraordinary while keeping low (Zero! Really, zero?) expectations.  Hmmm . . .

When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” ~Stephen Hawking

And once again I am confounded and wrapped up in my quote riddles.  How do I get anything accomplished without having high expectations?  Well, here is my best guess:  Reserve high expectations for yourself and appreciate everything else for what it currently offers.  Having high expectations of what the world can offer or other peoples’ behaviour is futile.  It leads to disappointment and you waste a lot of time worrying about things you cannot control.

Good is not good where better is expected.” ~Thomas Fuller

So, I will venture to continue to push myself with high expectations, while releasing any expectations of others.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be surprised by what life offers, instead of thinking “yeah, that’s okay, but it’s not what I asked for”?   I think I’d like to try that out.  I will leave you with these two quotes for you to ponder:

I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.” ~Dalai Lama

Keep high aspirations, moderate expectations, and small needs” ~William Howard Stein

“Once we reach a certain age, we tend to recalibrate our expectations. We expect less from the world once we’ve seen it up close.” ~Marianne Williamson

“The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of other, but of oneself.” ~James Baldwin



My Boss Sucks

23 11 2011

Let me preface this by saying my life is awesome!  But, I do enjoy a good rant, especially if I get to make a list.  So here’s why my boss sucks today:

1) he has ignored my advice which is now resulting in a near riot from 3 NFs; one of whom took their disappointment to Facebook.

2) he continues to email me non-urgent information, but has not responded to my emails marked URGENT that have really strict deadlines and we are unable to move forward without his approval.

3) he sent me an email today that has a list of 5 corrections that I have to make to a letter.  He cc’ed two other people.  Thankfully, one of them responded immediately to tell him that everything was accurate in the letter and no changes are required.  The comment across the office was “he has lost his mind”.

4) he emailed me to tell me that I need to hurry up and finish a wire transfer with our accounting department.  Once again, this is because he has not responded to my emails marked Urgent Financial.  Slightly satisfied with myself when I resent the email fromNov 17 and tell him that as soon as he provides approval to our accountant, she can transfer the funds.

5) he is not emailing me directly for simple requests.  For some reason, the “Evil One” sends me emails saying that he is requesting an action to be taken.    The strange thing is that the task is something that she would normally do, but she cc’s him, so I do it.  Okay, this is petty of me, but I’m venting.

Since the last one was weak, I will stop now.

Did I mention that everything else in my life is amazing???  I feel better now that I had my little rant.  15 minutes left in the day until I can “punch out” and get ready for a friend’s BBQ.  May have to wear jeans tonight as it’s cool in the evenings, a chilly 24 degrees. ;)


In Remembrance

11 11 2011

Today is just another Friday in the Dominican Republic.  Bright, sunny & hot.  And despite being the only person wearing a poppy and the absence of snow, I am still thinking a lot of the service men and women around the world, particularly Canada and my grandpa.

Soldiers are just regular people with individual reasons for enlisting.  They aren’t superheros, but they are heroic because they make great sacrifices in the service of others (mostly strangers). 

It makes me think of this quotation:  “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ~Albert Pike (journalist, lawyer, soldier).

How do you say thank you for this?  Demonstrate respect and gratitude.  Perhaps, JFK said it best:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~John F. Kennedy

I hope you find some way this weekend to put your gratitude into action.  Need ideas? Check out Random Acts of Kindness.


What is “Enough”?

11 11 2011

 idea of having purpose in your life is a pretty daunting task.  Do any of us ever feel like we are doing “enough”?  I do harbour (not-so-secretly) a dream of somehow changing the world . . . problem is that I’m not really sure how I’m going to do it.  I do know that I want to find a way so that everyone can become the very best version of themselves (happy and healthy).   It’s a big dream of a society where people are kind, compassionate, generous, thoughtful, healthy . . . a place where abuse, greed, hatred, intolerance no longer exist.  Where people feel fulfilled and feel compelled to share their happiness and sense of wealth with others.

I once shared a related dream with one of the top volleyball coaches from the US.  I told him that I wanted to help “reform” our education system based on what I’ve learned in coaching (learning through discovery and experience rather than just regurgitating facts) so that kids get the tools they need to create their own happy & healthy lives.  He dismissed me with a “well, that’s a pretty lofty goal.”  I was left pondering if I am seriously deluded in my own abilities – how the hell am I really going to that anyways?  I believe the phrase “delusions of grandeur” popped into my brain that afternoon.

This dream is still swirling around in the back parking lot of my brain and I am sometimes able to convince myself that the work that I do is helping to bring this ideal forward.  As you could tell from my blog about the International Sport Symposium, I felt very connected to my work and my purpose.  I was able to talk and inspire hope in people about the future of sport participation and coaching.  I also know that my dedication to my work  helps others to do their work and so on . . . by providing support to the Presidents of our 41 National Federations, I am helping to build volleyball programs for kids or build volleyball courts where none existed before.   And of course, I truly that believe kids (and the world at large) have a greater chance at a happy & healthy life when they participate in sports.

But, there are also days where I am busy with spreadsheets and administrative “tasks” (read: chores) that I feel so insignificant. Particularly when I read about horrible things like the Penn State abuse case.  How is distributing sport equipment in Panama really helping the world when there are still educated people in North America who see a 10 year old being abused and say/do nothing?  How is that possible in 2011?   How is there a serial rapist who at age 22 attacked 3 women within 2 months and is now being released in Kelowna after only serving 6.5 years in prison?  And what I am doing about these crimes and injustices??  Nada, I’m afraid. 

Related to this, I am conflicted by two quotes:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  ~Edmund Burke

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.  The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” ~Helen Keller

 I just wish the guy who witnessed the abuse 10 years ago had read that first quote.  Anyways, in an attempt to make myself feel better about making a positive contribution to the world, I think back to a speech that I recently watched by the Dalai Lama called “Compassion in Emptiness”.  After reading about him (and a devout reader of his quotes), I expected to be blown away by seeing him “live”.

But, he is just a simple man with a simple philosophy of kindness.  The video showed that he isn’t a superhero, but really just a regular person who speaks about his beliefs.  When you think about it, what does his Holiness really do?  He is a charismatic speaker with a clear message and yet he is influencing the world.  He doesn’t really “do” anything.  He is simply living a peaceful life and encouraging others to practice compassion.

Think about someone you deeply admire – what do they really do that is so spectacular?  It’s usually quite simple. We do not need to turn the world on its head, we just have to seek happiness, inner peace and demonstrate kindness and compassion. 

After the passing of Steve Jobs, millions of people who had never met him, mourned him.  While he is highly regarded for his inventions and technological advancements, there isn’t much to be said for his interpersonal relationships (read Malcolm Gladwell’s article here).  So while he may have revolutionized our gadget world (yes, he changed the world), but does the invention of the iPod (which I adore) really make a positive difference in our lives?  Are we are better society?  Are we kinder and more caring because of Apple creations? 

So, I’m thinking this whole blog is really an argument to convince myself that it’s okay that I might not revolutionize education or create a global utopia (aka world peace), but that trying to live a good life and help people is “good enough”.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop striving for more, but in an effort to have inner peace, I can be okay with not being a revolutionary figure in the world’s history and settle for just trying to being a happy and healthy person who practices kindness and compassion.

And at the bare minimum, the Dalai Lama advises this:  “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”

Finally, a moment of gratitude for those that have served for our country. 

The First Two Minute Silence in London (11 November 1919) was reported in the Manchester Guardian on 12 November 1919:

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of ‘attention’. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still … The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain … And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

Very proud to say that all these years later, we still have the same reverence as the first moment of silence on Remembrance Day.  Yes, even here in sunny Santo Domingo, this Canadian is wearing her poppy and thinking of the sacrifices made by others (and missing my grandpa).


The brighter side of SD

5 11 2011

After being a little (okay, massively) critical of my work situation here in Santo Domingo, I want to also share the bright side of life here:

  • daylight from about 6:00am – 7:00pm (every day, year-round)
  • sunshine and heat
  • beaches year-round
  • the BEST avocados I’ve ever eaten – and they are available at the cart on the corner of the street ($10RD/25 cents for a piece of heaven)
  • fruit & freshly squeezed fruit juice is fantastic and available everywhere
  • I can walk to work everyday (on the days that it rains, it’s actually a treat to slosh through warm puddles and a bit of relief from the pounding heat)
  • I don’t have to wear too many clothes – those of you that know me really well understand my reluctance too many clothes and hate layering (though I do have to “bundle up” for the movies here – damn they love A/C) fyi, bundle up means wearing jeans and a shirt with sleeves
  • Barcelo rum – tastiest rum and it’s $10/bottle (here you don’t say that you are drinking rum – you have to identify yourself as a “Barcelo” or “Brugal” drinker).  My friend Tayson and I have an ongoing “argument” about which is better and are always trying to convince the other of our rum’s worthiness.  Neither of us have changed our minds and our liver’s are worse the wear for these discussions, but it’s all in good fun!
  • I get to teach the people, who are brave enough to ask, some “colourful” english phrases – they LOVE it!
  • It really is wonderful to teach people about Canada – often times shattering their illusion that we all live in some version of a reality tv show.  I still can’t believe they are so shocked that I know how to cook.  I think they truly imagine us all with personal chefs . . . in our big mansions.  When I tell people (even my well-traveled boss who went to university in Texas) that we have homeless people in Vancouver, they think I’m naive and really sheltered and I that I can’t possibly understand what poverty really is.  I smile and nod  and let them keep their fantasy of Canada and say a prayer for the people on the downtown eastside.  I would never compare poverty in Canada to the DR or Haiti – it’s just not comparable, but I wanted them to understand that we are not all wealthy in Canada.  But, I also can’t bring myself to talk badly about my home country.
  • Touching hands and kissing cheeks. I am onboard with these greetings and am going to bring this back to Canada.  You touch hands with everyone that you remotely meet.  If a guy walks by and says hi to Alex, he will keep talking to Alex and reach across to squeeze my hand and say “hola”.  I love acknowledging people in this way – it’s not a handshake, just a touching of hands.  After a year, I am also a pro at the cheek kiss – here’s the rule, women kiss cheeks even if you have never met them in your life, I touch hands with strange men (you know what I mean), and kiss cheeks with the men that I know.  You can imagine at a volleyball tournament where Alex knows EVERYONE, that I’m getting a lot of action! ;)  It’s impossible to feel lonely or left out when you are getting so much physical contact (even if I can’t understand what people are saying).  Canada needs a little more of this kind of affection – we’re kinda “cold”.  Hahaha . . .
  • Family values: family is so important here – they really take care of each other. I’m not just talking immediate family, but a very large extended family.  In fact, people who live in your neighbourhood become your brother or cousin (despite not having any blood relation).  It’s hard to break into a family as an outsider, but I think I’ve been adopted into Alex’s family.  I’m especially close to 3 of Alex’s primos (male cousins) and they are always making sure I have a seat and have something to drink.  They always make sure I am comfortable and I feel like I have security guards looking out for me.  Alex’s sister is amazingly funny, wild and crazy (opposite of Alex) . . . wish you could see her play volleyball – she used to play on the National Team so she’s very good, but she puts on a full show (dancing, squealing, taunting her opponents).  She is always happy to see me and we have a genuine connection – she really cracks me up while simultaneously annoying and embarrassing Alex.  He says they are like oil and water and it’s so true – Flor is spontaneous and only cares about living in the moment, being the centre of attention and having a great time.  Alex is much more low-key, very calm and thoughtful.  Flor Marie is Alex’s niece and we are like sisters – when I first started visiting their house, it was easier for me to talk with the kids (she just turned 9).  She’s such a great kid and you can imagine that I have great plans for her volleyball career!  Her birthday is the same as my sisters, so I told her that she is now my Dominican sister and she loved it!  And yes, I gave her a vball for her bday present.  She is the perfect age for my Atomic vball program! ;)
  • My coworkers: okay, there are some issues here, but the majority of them are lovely people.  My relationship with them is a bit awkward and tenuous, but since the hiring of the new Director I’ve been released from having to distance myself from everyone.  And the absence of the Evil One has allowed some relationship to strengthen (without their fear of retribution).  FYI, if you want to charm a Dominican, just keep asking about their family (kids, mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins . . .).  Ask for photos and you will probably be invited to the next family dinner (which is every night).
  • Street life:  everything happens in the street.  It’s much more common to hang out in the street outside your house or “watering hole”.  I think there are a few reasons why this exists here: 1) air conditioning (it’s pricey so it’s better to be outside where you can catch a breeze) 2) being outside is more inclusive – anyone walking/driving by can stop by for a quick chat and of course, a glass of Presidente.  There are no lineups for clubs here, you just go in and buy your bottle of Barcelo and some mix and go back outside to parking lot, meridian among a 6 lane street, or sidewalk and hang out.  Kinda makes you feel like a teenager who has nowhere better to go – except you don’t get in trouble for “loitering” or drinking in public.
  • Pedicures for $3 and hair straightened in about 15 minutes for $3.  It’s cheap, but as these things are a “necessity” for women here, it’s not about pampering and it’s more of a “get in, get out” task. Want to relive your childhood memories of your mom detangling your hair, just come here and get your head yanked all over the place.  Did I mention that a lot women have fake nails on their toes?  Long nails with designs on them.  Don’t worry, I may be an honorary Dominican now, but I’m still not going to get fake nails.  Though I did have my hair straightened last night – two things: 1) my hair is really getting long 2) Marloes is still my fav hair straightener!
  • Music: it’s everywhere and incredibly loud!  At first, this was very difficult to get used to (and there are a couple of days where the pervasive sounds of the city get to me), but now I find the constantly pumping of tunes (salsa, reggatone) comforting.  I may need my ears checked for hearing loss and I probably won’t be able to sleep in Lavington due to the overwhelming silence, but the sounds of Santo Domingo have become my “normal”.

And last night, I left the office and stepped out to see this amazing sky.  I literally stopped in my tracks, jaw agape and without taking my eyes off the sky, fumbled for my camera for this shot:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” ~Einstein

Sending you love and sunshine from Santo Domingo,


A Little Comic Relief

3 11 2011

Today, I got a little comic relief here in the office:

  Carlos is our jack-of-all-trades guy around here and he also happens to pay the electricity bill for my apartment.  Over the last year, my roomie and I pay him and he brings back the paid receipt and change.  I try to give him almost the exact amount, so he doesn’t have to worry about bringing back $$.

  Well this month, I gave him $1000RD (fyi, that’s about $25US)  for a bill that was just over $800.  He brought me back the receipt, but no change.  I wasn’t even going to bother to say anything as I feel guilty that he’s been doing this for the last 13 months.  Then he told me not to worry about the change, that it was well spent on Presidente (he means beer, not my boss).

  He walked away perfectly pleased with himself as if it was expected that if I give him too much money, he’s going to just buy beer with it!  I don’t know why, but I thought it was hilarious and awesome! 




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