Contribution: Variety Show of Hearts Telethon

Last night I helped take in over $900 for a good cause while answering phones at the annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon.

From 9 p.m. to midnight, the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Leaders of Tomorrow Community Outreach team answered calls backstage as metres away, Global TV personalities, thankful families and generous businesses encouraged callers to donate. 

The job mostly boiled down to paperwork, and lots of waiting. And with 150 phones in the cue, and an evening time slot on a Saturday night which also happened to be Valentine’s Day, there was a lot of waiting.

Our team took up most of the table, along with our Company of Young Professionals (also a VBOT division) counterparts. The others we met ranged from seasoned pros to first-timers.

There was the proud grandmother whose two grandkids were born at three-and-a-half and two pounds each. Both healthy and born to families who were able to benefit from transportation and accommodation provided by Variety.

There was Miss Teen B.C. 2012-2013, beside the current title-holder, who has volunteered three years in a row and was staying an extra hour because the telethon was going to be short volunteers between midnight and 1 a.m.

There was the Malcolm Gladwell-style curly haired gentleman who came on a date. We talked about service work and agreed we’d both volunteer next year.

The event was energetic and fun and run, like many events, by tireless volunteers. It was a great opportunity to get involved, and quite a humbling experience to take calls from individuals, couples and families as they contributed $25, $109, $200, $500 to help other individuals, couples and families.

While I won’t chair the community outreach committee next year, I think a great team goal for next year would be to come back to present a giant cheque on camera, having fundraised for the cause. Of course, over and above quietly putting in our hours backstage.

More information on Variety – the Children’s Charity is available here.

From Newton: a (re)brand new day

I’ve come to learn a lot about my city over the past two months. The most positive aspects, I learned today.

The elections saw many headlines about the main concerns for Surrey, be it crime, transportation or debt. I wrote some of these myself, and a lot of them focused on change. Whether it was how much the city has changed under a decade of Dianne Watts, or how much needs to change under her successor: the stories coming out of B.C.’s second-largest city were not particularly positive, and the general attitude among voter and voted was a desire to see difference.

This morning, I found myself at the Newton Business Improvement Association meeting about how to rebrand a community that has seen its fair share of (not particularly positive) headlines. 

What came out of it, though – what I got out of it – was a strong sense of what Newton is doing right. The community, like its city, has a strong and vibrant multicultural core. It has it’s own cultural centre, a leading local art supply store and hidden culinary gems. The area is home to Western Canada’s largest undergraduate school of business, and it has the space to be able to host events and festivals. 

Over the next year, I have the opportunity to have a hand in the marketing and rebranding of the community I work, live and (will eventually) play in. And I’m excited.

It can be easy to lose that sense of community in a city as large as Surrey. It’s also easy to overlook the potential in front of you in favour of the established a two-bridge drive away. While it would take a lot of change to pull my heart and mind entirely away from Vancouver, I think a little change locally – change that highlights what we have to celebrate here – could go a long way.

A second graduation to a second year

Last week, I graduated – my second graduation this year, I’ll add – from the Vancouver board of trade’s leaders of tomorrow mentorship program.

Open to post-secondary students in their final year of study, the program pairs participants with a board of trade member who shares similar professional or personal interests. It also gets you networking at events, volunteering in the Vancouver community and honing leadership skills.

I was nervous when I first joined. Thrilled, but nervous. About 50 per cent make the cut and not only that, but I got chosen for my volunteer committee of choice. Good signs. But not having the backing of a business background was threatening, and learning I was to be mentored by a marketing pro was a minor disappointment. Print is dying, they say. No jobs in journalism, they add. I wanted someone in my industry to tell me otherwise, or at least tell me how “they” didn’t apply to me.

I felt like the awkward, lanky girl, nobody wanted to dance with; the kid with two left feet and half-inch thick glasses chosen last for the dodgeball team. LOT orientation night about a year ago saw me wandering around, anxious, desperate, looking for my mentor.

I found out at the end of the night I was neither the awkward girl or the scrawny mathlete: I was the girlfriend who didn’t even know she’d been dumped. But I had, in fact, been dumped.

Whatever it was – fate, karma, kismet, act of God – my second mentor was the editor of Business in Vancouver. And with her help, I’ve connected with true blue foreign correspondents, authors of books I’ve read, editors, journalists and some fascinating people. I’ve had my first freelance (and paid-for) article published, with several more in the works. I started learning Arabic, and I developed a plan for how to get to where I would like to be professionally.

It has been an incredible year, and one I will be looking back on for years to come – for guidance, for reflection, for perspective. I’m also thrilled to have been selected to sit on the LOT program advisory committee. The chance gives me a second year to be part of a life-changing, life-lifting program.

As I graduate from being a student with the board of trade, to a Company of Young Professionals member, I look forward to more opportunities, more goal-achieving and goal-setting, more events and networking, and ultimately, more confidence-building.

For a year-end wrap-up video – which was played at the LOT graduation evening, go here. Yours truly has the pleasure of being in the still frame for the video’s thumbnail, mid-speech. I also share part of what made this past year so spectacular..

A week in the life – July 27, 2014

This ‘week in the life’ post could become a regular blog feature. It would of course require having weeks like the one I just had to inspire fresh and interesting content that continues to beat the ‘big week’ bar. And if that’s the case, I certainly won’t complain – this was quite the week.

The last Tuesday of July, I organized a fun networking social in the style of a hit American TV show. The ‘Amazing Pace’ – Vancouver Board of Trade edition – had around 60 Company of Young Professionals members dashing around Kits deciphering clues, completing challenges and vying for the bragging rights of Amazing Pace 2014 champions.

Search #AmazingPace on Twitter and you’ll get a glimpse at what went down at the second annual pace: we had iconic striped envelopes in VBOT blue, team bandanas that allude more to another reality show, and challenges that got passersby involved in the hoopla. Teams had to busk for a buck outside the Granville Island Public Market – with maracas, bongos or a ukelele, no less; bust out the Bard in Vanier Park in front of strangers and complete a scavenger hunt that involved taking a #selfie with somebody’s dog. They also got their beach volleyball on at Kits beach and were tasked with tackling 10 hot peppers between each team of just as many members.

That Friday, I had the honour of hosting the White Rock Youth Ambassador Gala for the fourth time. The Miss White Rock pageant kicks of the city’s annual Spirit of the Sea Festival, which celebrated its 65th year this August-long weekend. For the first time in a very long time – perhaps even in the pageant’s history – we changed things up. Instead of the classic pageant ‘impromptu question’ (infamous globally for the weak, or simply wrong, answers it elicits, but generally a key way to showcase the strengths of soon-to-be community ambassadors) I had the opportunity to interview all 14 candidates for a couple of minutes to give the audience a sense of who they are and what they like to do, while also giving each candidate the chance to talk about and thank her sponsor, and demonstrate her ability to speak candidly and comfortably in public.

That night – late that night – I drove up to Kelowna to spend Saturday and Sunday on Lake Okanagan. Margaritas by the water with a good book nearby and a steady stream of great conversation was the best way to recharge after a week filled with dress rehearsals, events and work.


Feeling out Dark Table

dark table

(Above: A quick preview of my most recent Vancouver dining adventure.)

Key ingredients to a fully satisfactory foodie experience – presentation, garnishes, flare – don’t merely add colour and contrast to a meal. Visual plate appeal whets appetites, teases our taste buds and, after sense of smell, is the second part to enjoying a meal before chow, fare, food, grub or an absolutely alimentary masterpiece passes our lips.

At Dark Table, though, guests pay $39 to skip the visual digestion of the average dining experience over a three-course meal in complete, blinding blackness. The dark dining phenomenon – which has brought blackness to restaurants in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Toronto, Boston, Berlin and Zurich – has found a permanent home in Vancouver, giving diners the opportunity to not see what they place on their forks (or more accurately, in their hands) as they eat in public, and leave their blindfolds at home.

We chose our mains in broad daylight outside the West Broadway restaurant’s pitch black interior. Garlic prawns with citrus risotto and seasonable vegetables was the last thing to catch my eye as we were escorted into a waiting room.

From dimness to darkness, we congo-lined into the room around raucous laughter, clinking silverware and the sounds of guests taking stabs at what they were eating, and then attempting to do the same with forks. My hands on our waitress’s shoulders, my date’s on mine, we strategically weaved our way to a table-for-two, enveloped in darkness, surrounded by bodiless dinner guests

We felt our way around our table – one fork, one blunt knife and an individual packet of butter on what felt like a clean table cloth. I could have sworn it was red, but that was only a guess.

All wait staff at Dark Table are visually impaired. There are no night vision goggles, and communication relies on calling out over diners overcompensating for the loss of one sense by loudly filling up another. After glasses of red wine – Shot in the Dark, of course – our surprise starters arrived. Feeling my way around a fruit salad, which turned out to be half-made of vegetables, I struggled to identify grapes – which were actually blueberries – and honeydew – actually cucumber – coated in a mint dressing that didn’t quite appeal. The starter was messy, and forks just weren’t an option.

Eating in blackness toys with your mind. It lacks the romance of a dimly lit dining room, but brings an odd sense of personal intimacy that leaves you feeling alone with your thoughts and slightly disconnected from whoever you’re sitting with. The boundaries between you sitting as an individual, with your date, with everyone else, are completely in your head. Your actions are yours to judge. I imagine I can see my hands. I can picture where we’re sitting. But as the kitchen door occasionally opens and sheds light on the scene, I get glimpses of how disoriented I really am.

Dark Table is a cacophony of sounds: the occasional shatter of a glass, guests calling out pleadingly for Rose – who seems to be the only waitress working – and over-analytical guesses mumbled through full mouths about what’s going into those mouths turn a private dinner-for-two into a loosely shared group experience with people you won’t ever see again, and never really saw to begin with.

The main was manageable with a fork, with the prawns de-shelled and steak pre-cut. The meal was filling, but you pay for the experience. Dessert was an underwhelming palate-cleansing chocolate cake.

It was a unique experience that left me with a greater appreciation for how big of a role sight plays in the enjoyment of a fine meal – not to mention how challenging a simple meal out becomes without visual cues. Despite the fun we had guessing what we were eating, and our slightly amused anticipation to find out of how much food we’d spilled down our outfits over the two-hour sitting: Dark Table, like the annual ice-chilling Polar Bear Swim or trying soft shell crab – is an experience I feel completely satisfied trying only once.