Tag Archives: Abbotsford

Does Living in Abbotsford Embarrass You?

Livingsocial put out a facebook ad a while back about Abbotsford’s “Bucket List”. What are the 365 things you need to do in Abbotsford before you die? I must confess, the first thing that sprung to my mind was “Leave.”

Abbotsford is a city that takes a little too much pride in its folksy-ness. If you’re a kid growing up here with a love for science, literature, and very particular styles of Norwegian Black Metal, it’s a culture that can kind of get on your nerves. You want to flee from the blank stares of disgust and confusion to a place that’s not a conservative party stronghold! A place where one can find intelligentsia, symposia, or at the very least some decent dim sum. Unfortunately, many Abbotsford escapees are struck down by real estate prices and an unfriendly job market.

The more I meet other professionals in this town, the more I get the sense that they feel they are settling by moving here. They believe that because they didn’t have the grades, the charisma, or overall business sense they are banished to view Canada’s Pacific jewel at a distance while knee-deep in the Cow manure. Their dreams have taken a back seat to adult reality.

It’s a good thing I’m living the dream here.

When I worked in Vancouver, I was subject to management that wasn’t even on this continent for an hourly pittance. Now I have my own company, and I feast or famine on my own efforts. I belong to the Fraser Valley Ruby Brigade, a programming club so renowned that it attracts developers from Vancouver to its austere ranks. This city has so much room to grow technologically. And I do this all from a nice, new, affordable two bedroom apartment where I live with my beautiful wife. Am I embarrassed to live in Abbotsford? As it stands right now, I’d be embarrassed to live anywhere else.

The Trip Part 11: Why the Tokyo Tower can never catch a break.

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As a major landmark, the Tokyo Tower has seen a lot of action on TV and film. Destroying a 1000 foot tall tower is a sure way to get a rise out of any audience. The tower has run afoul of Godzilla, Mothra, Ultraman, Sailor Moon, and the many sullen psychic teenagers of the Clamp Manga series “X”. However, as Sara and I found, there is another reason that the Tokyo Tower gets the shaft so often.
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We started off the day attempting to wander the gardens outside the Imperial Palace near Tokyo station, but inclement weather put a stop to that.
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After a warm bowl of ramen, we decided to make our way to the Tokyo Tower. Tokyo is such a huge city that you can’t really get a sense of how the whole thing looks from any one point like you can with Vancouver or Seattle. Narita airport an hour outside of Tokyo, so we couldn’t see the city from our airplane. The Tokyo Tower’s observation deck seemed to be the best vantage point by which to get a holistic view of Tokyo.

The Tower was impressive even from the ground. Seeing it loom over the gate of the Zozo-ji really captured how Japan has one foot in the past while reaching out into the future.

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When we got to the foot of the tower, we finally got to see a monkey. He did some tricks while his trainer tried to play the “straight man” part of a comedy double act with him. I felt a little guilty enjoying the act because the monkey did not look like he wanted to be there, but I set out on this trip to find a monkey, and a monkey I did find.

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After getting a my picture taken with Noppon, the Tokyo Tower mascot, we got in line to get our tickets. Since it was the 50th anniversary of the Tower, it was really crowded. It looked like people from all over Japan were paying a visit. We were sandwiched into an Elevator with about 8 other people. At the observation deck, smooshed up against the windows, we finally saw how big Tokyo was.

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There was nothing but buildings for as far as the eye could see. There were patches of green here and there from the city parks, but there was no way to see where the city ended and the country began. It was magnificent but a little terrifying. The green hills of Abbotsford were never so far away.

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There were also a few musems located in the base of the Tower. There was a trick art gallery, a wax museum, and even a 3D Yatterman anime. Even after coming thousands of miles, the setup of these museums seemed a little familiar, like I was on some sort of field trip. Now, I visited the Tokyo Tower as a tourist, and of my own free will. If I had to come here 3 or 4 times over the course of my grade school career to yet again experience the wonders of the Statistics Museum (they had one there, I’m not making this up) ,I might have grown to bear a little disdain for that orange and white behemoth. Considering that I’d be stuck up there with a class of other bored teenagers, and the wonderful memories that experience would bring, I probably wouldn’t mind sitting in a theatre watching Godzilla and his friends rip that thing to rivets.

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While the Tokyo Tower was really impressive, I could understand it if people have a love-hate relationship with it. For some, it would be a birds-eye view of their city that couldn’t be achieved on any other building. For others, it would conjure memories of crowded elevators and dull field trip lectures. Personally, from now on I prefer to look at the Tokyo Tower from the exterior, and I sincerely hope it continues its prime function of transmitting all those wacky Japanese game shows.

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Movie Night at Trinity Memorial United Church

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Sara and I attended a movie night at our church last week. We had seen the feature before, but we were told there would be discussion afterwards and pizza by donation to boot. The movie in question was 2004’s “Saved!”. It’s the story of Jena Malone as Mary, a Born-Again teenage girl attending a Christian high school. One summer, her boyfriend admits to her that he’s gay and she sleeps with him in order to “help” him. The boyfriend ends up being sent to a Christian re-education home and she ends up pregnant. The rest of the movie revolves around her defending the dignity of herself and her friends from Christian Teen Queen Hilary Faye, played by Mandy Moore.

“Saved!”, in my opinion, really captures the dramatic relationship Abbotsford has with religion. We have churches on every other corner, and most people have some story about an uncomfortable encounter with a true believer. The nice thing about the movie is that it’s not a polemic against Christianity or religion in general. The characters all want to have some kind of salvation, whether it’s the approval of the church, God, or their peers. When we circled the chairs for the discussion, we started to talk about the difference between the mega-church sensibility of the high school in Saved! versus smaller congregations like Trinity Memorial. We decided that it came down to a difference between faith and belief. There is a lot of belief in larger churches. Moral ambiguity often gets sidetracked in favor of passion and conviction. Faith is a harder concept to put down in words. It is not simply believing in something despite evidence to the contrary. That would be called denial. It’s more of a mix of a sense of being loved and a sense of thankfulness. It’s hard to attain something that personal in a large church, but many people attend them because it’s so easy to ride the wave of enthusiasm.

Some members of the youth group were on hand to offer their thoughts. We learned that the mega-church youth groups were grand affairs involving youth ministers for every age group. They said they preferred Trinity Memorial’s youth group because they could spend more time getting to know people rather than just playing games or doing activities like at the mega-churches.

The amount of personnel at the mega-churches is mostly supported by the large amount of funds donated to them by the congregation. I asked everyone there what Trinity Memorial would do with that kind of money. The short answer was that it would paralyze us. Long drawn out arguments over what to do with a large inheritance have plagued many church boards. If Trinity Memorial put more energy into raising money than providing a friendly place to worship, we would lose that which makes Trinity Memorial what it is today.

It’s hard to tell what makes a place of worship the right place for anyone. A church is more than just having a relationship with a higher power. They are called communities of faith for reason. You can have deep discussions, find spiritual guidance, or just put yourself in a position to help others. At the end of the day, a church must more be a part of you than you are a part of a church.

Abbotsford and Social Justice 12

It wasn’t the only bastion of intolerance in the city, but it was a good place to draw the line. Everywhere else in BC, Social Justice 12 was just another elective class for high school seniors. Students would learn how to analyze issues of intolerance in their world, as well as some strategies to combat that intolerance. The Abbotsford school board, however, voted to postpone the course and censor certain sections that dealt with homosexual rights. The irony was not lost on the 96 students who had already signed up for the course.

Over 300 people gathered in the rain at the University of the Fraser Valley last Saturday in response to the School Board’s decision. Some were indeed homosexuals, some of them were families, some of them were fellow students, and others were just tired of seeing this kind of thing happen in their town. Religion is kind of a big deal in Abbotsford. There’s practically a church on every corner, and the local editorial page usually has a letter every week advertising the book of Leviticus. There are people with the same approach to faith who make no qualms about injecting themselves into the local political process, hoping to turn this town into an idyllic version of something it was when there were 75,000 less people and it didn’t take up 5 highway exits. Intelligent people see something like this and they get scared. Nothing can wash away scruples like the belief that God is on your side, never mind that the same God has been known to have it out for those who practice religion without scruples, and never mind that the United Church flew a banner at the rally saying “We are all God’s Children”. Indeed, the people who supported the school board’s decision would see a rally like this as a form of persecution, further evidence they need to keep “people like that” out of the public sphere. That’s okay. This rally wasn’t for them, anyway. It’s for those who value tolerance and freedom of speech, yet are afraid to speak out themselves. It’s for the thousands who make their home in this town, yet feel shut out by the rhetoric they hear. This rally stands to prove that it’s not religious fervor that drives this town, it’s passion for our beliefs. Anywhere else in Canada, having passion is only a human right. Around here, it’s your duty as a citizen.

The Civic Election, Abbotsford Style

Image provided by http://www.abbotsford-real-estate.info/

Image provided by http://www.abbotsford-real-estate.info/

My vote has been counting for a lot this year. We had a federal election last month, a civic election yesterday and we’ll have a provincial election this May. It goes without saying that the local sign makers are ecstatic. During the grand to-do of the US presidential election, there have been many grumblings on forums that we Canadians don’t have to deal with politicians who think The Flintstones was a documentary and other such nonsense. In Abbotsford, the town I grew up in and where I have chosen to live, the situation is a little different.

I would like to direct your attention to an organization called Abbotsford Families United. If you click the preceding link, you’ll be taken to their voting guide for the civic election which they e-mailed to anyone who signed up for their newsletter. You may notice these candidates are not chosen for their ability to run the city, but for their “strong stance” on homosexuals, sex shows and casinos. Never mind about the homeless on the streets or that school classes are overcrowded, if we don’t elect these candidates, as they claim, “You can expect to see pro-homosexual indoctrination right down to the kindergarten level in the public schools starting next year.” Yeah, you know, because if we allow that into the curriculum, how are teachers supposed to fit that in between classes on burning witches and oh, I don’t know, learning how to READ and WRITE!?

Luckily, this group’s choice for mayor didn’t come within spitting distance of winning the election. That honor went to George Peary, an man I’ve known to display capability and integrity in every position he’s taken. However, 4 out of the 5 council members and all of the school trustees in that voting guide were elected to office.

I find myself thinking about how California and several other states just passed measures banning gay marriage. The passage of Proposition 8 in California strikes me as a monstrous decision as I imagine it is to many Californians. Gay Marriage has become a more emotional issue for me recently. Over the past 8 months there have been many times when I’ve been sitting at home, watching TV with my wife and thinking “Yup, life is pretty close to perfect right now”. When I got married, I was able to celebrate my relationship with her in front of all my family, my friends and my community. It was, and still is, the best day of my life. If someone made a law that said that I couldn’t have that, that is was somehow wrong for us to be together, then I would break that law with a clear conscience and extreme fervor.

The Mormon Church spent over $40 million dollars to get that amendment passed, but it all had to start somewhere. Civic and school board elections may seem small in comparison to the break-neck races at the national level, but they are all vitally important to preserving our freedom. I shouldn’t have to tell you that even now people are literally dying for the right to elect their leaders and control their destinies. We will always have a section of society that believes order is achieved through fear, cruelty and dominance. Sometimes all it takes is one seat, one election for them to gain a foothold in the halls of power. So next time your local paper is full of candidates you have never heard of, take the time to learn about them, and for heaven’s sake, vote! Abbotsford Families United cannot claim a monopoly on all values. We all have values of one kind or another, and the only way we can honor those values is if express them in the leaders we elect.