Archive for March, 2011

March 25th, 2011

Last Day at the Beach

by Jan Owens, Learner, Writing Workshops

We coveted a swinging bench.

Waves of tourists and locals crowded the boardwalk on the warm early-summer evening. Families ambled by, six abreast. The heat was melting their ice cream cones faster than they could lick. The footsteps and strollers against the boards created an arrhythmic beat.

The waterfront in Burlington, Vermont had been rehabilitated from a brownfield in the late 1980s. Now, sailboats glistened in the late day sun and bobbed against their moors around the marina. On the pier, a restaurant with an outdoor deck at full capacity contributed to the happy din. The smell of fried food wafted on the breeze. Surely no one missed the dismantled petroleum processing plant.

A hundred meters ahead, we saw the benches. Suspended by chains from stout wood frames, they faced west across Lake Champlain. The sun was beginning to set, creating a palette of blues and purples on the horizon. If only we had a bench, the day would be perfect.

And then, as we walked past, the couple seated on the second bench got up. Three quick steps later, the sun bleached wood felt warm against our thighs. The chain of the swing squealed soothingly. A deep bow in the middle of the bench inspired us to sit close together.

From our front row seat we watched the parade. A group of university students in skintight downhill skiing bodysuits, goggles and toques ran by, their extra-long strides spurred on with ski poles. Mothers refereed tired children, and gaggles of teenagers passed in lock step, matched in fashion, scowls and speed.

As we watched the sun set, we agreed it was the perfect final day of vacation. We could now face going home.

About Jan Owens:

Jan Owens works as a professional musician. She practises her trombone and the craft of writing in Toronto.

Jan’s wrote this as an exercise in using specific detail to capture a moment in a travel experience for Ann Ireland’s online course for beginning travel writers: ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952).

March 3rd, 2011

J plus T

J Plus T

by Tara Sameshima, Learner, Photography Studies

To see more of Tara’s photos, visit her website:

This photo was taken for Rob Allen’s course on the basics of digital photography: ‘Digital Capture I’ (CDFP 383).

March 3rd, 2011

The Cats

by Tim Thiessen, Learner, Writing Workshops

“It’s illegal to kill a cat in Israel,” said the hostel manager when I asked about the cats.

“It looks like you guys have a bit of a problem.” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic.

“Yeah…we do.” he said, with a resigned tone.

This was Acco, a city on the Mediterranean coast in Israel. The guidebooks say that the streets are dirty and the old town is unsafe at night, especially for women, but they don’t mention the cats.

I had to be wary when I walked not to step on a forgotten tail left protruding into an alley. It felt like they could surround me in a moment and the glowing eyes in the shadows appeared to be contemplating such a move.

Their ribs told a story of an endless plight for sustenance. The way they skillfully slunk and scurried from the humans with matted, mangy fur skimming along the stones hinted at an ever-present fear of something. And those eyes, how they hypnotized! It was as though they saw into my soul and what they saw scared them. Even when they bolted for cover, they never took their eyes off of mine.

Walking through a courtyard, I witnessed a reason for their continued existence; a butcher, covered in blood, tossed a bucket full of entrails into the street. The second the pink mess spattered on the stones, it was surrounded by a boiling pile of fur.

I wondered, “What will it be like when the cats gain control?”

About Tim Thiessen:

Tim loves to travel and likes to write about it. He pets animals and walks the streets on his days off. If there is a beach you’ve been to, Tim is probably thinking about being at it right now.

Tim’s travel writing piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online course for beginning travel writers: ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952).

March 3rd, 2011

Bangkok Street Meat

by Allen McAvoy, Learner, Writing Workshops

It’s just past dusk as we round the corner on one of the narrow side streets off Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road and frantically scan the neon-filled, bustling soi for street meat. It’s unbearably humid and I’ve not eaten since early afternoon, making the need to eat something, anything, more pressing.

My friend is unfazed by the aromatic gauntlet but then as a Foreign Service Officer living in Bangkok for the last three years he’s had time to embrace to it. Not so for me; it’s my first time to Thailand; in fact, it’s my first night in Bangkok. And the fetid decaying meat drippings, roused from their congealed amber-like slumber under the unrelenting heat, commingle with stale urine and sour perspiration and assault my nostrils.

“Nadee’s the best; you’re going to love his food,” Ian says, clearly excited to share this authentic food experience with a long-time friend. “Just follow my lead; tomorrow we can try something more adventurous.”

“Tomorrow? Ah, let’s see how tonight goes,” I muse to myself, wondering whether travel insurance covers such questionable epicurean adventures.

For the uninitiated, “street meat” is chicken or beef grilled on carts or at stalls by locals and sold to residents heading home and tourists meandering to the night market.

Following my friend’s example, I saunter up to the makeshift stall and point at the various greasy, cast-iron pans grilling cubed chicken or chicken parts; sizzling garlic and red chilies; and warming basil rice and soy-infused noodles. The rivers of sweat streaming down my forehead do little to extinguish the warmth in my face as I place my order.

“It’s safe, don’t worry; I come here all the time,” Ian whispers to me, undoubtedly trying to alleviate any concern my darting wide eyes might betray.

My overactive imagination about the freshness of what I’m about to consume takes over. I have avoided street meat for thirty-plus years for this reason, but before I can change my mind, Nadee – unaware of my nervousness – graciously passes me my order. Caught, I put my hands together prayer-like, bow slightly, and take the steaming, heaping plate into my cupped hands like Oliver Twist.

Kap kun kap,” I say politely, as Ian has instructed; though I wonder if I shouldn’t wait to see how things go before I thank him.

Ian and I sit down on wobbly, condiment-stained, plastic chairs. We bake from the volcanic heat emanating from the carts nearby but I don’t complain; I’m too hungry. Instead, I break my wooden chop sticks apart and shovel the mixture quickly into my mouth. My mouth puckers as the warm chilies and tamarind sauce greet my tongue. The meal is the best, coriander-flecked, green-curried, egg-topped, chicken pad thai I’ve ever eaten.

The smile on my face – and my upheld hands holding my empty plate – tells Ian and Nadee I want some more.

The Thai word “soi” translates as “street” in English.
The Thai phrase “kap kun kap” translates as “thank you” in English.

About Allen McAvoy:

Allen has had a life-long interest in travel. He has history, journalism, and public administration degrees. He was enrolled in Ryerson University’s journalism program many years ago; however, due to family reasons he was unable to continue. He has a love of travelling, writing, and photographing. And it is this triangulation that motivated him to enroll in The Chang School’s online travel writing course. He has long talked about taking such a course, but it wasn’t until last year that a travel experience led him to act finally on figuring out how he could translate his travel experiences into something others would be interested in reading.

Allen’s travel writing piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online course for beginning travel writers: ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952).

March 2nd, 2011

Website: Damian Simev

Screenshots of websites by Damian Simev, Learner, New Media

Check out Damian’s “humble beginnings” site or visit his new website:

The original site was developed for Phillip Chertok’s course on creating algorithmic design, animation, and a dynamic interface: ‘Flash for New Media’ (CDNM 209).