Be a Tourist at Home

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Home is where the heart is. Home is where we can let down our hair. Home is familiar. Home is far too often taken for granted. Of course I am talking about beyond the walls of where one resides. Travelling can be in your own back yard or across an ocean, each having something to take home a memory of a time well spent. Some activities are familiar, annual events, others are opportunities to join like minded individuals in the pursuit of music, art, dance or some other form of artistic indulgence. Today I had the pleasure of being a spectator at a cultural event and a choir performance.

My morning started with leftover, store bought, Chinese food. I was determined to celebrate Spring Festival the night before even if it was only with a dinner for one. Not nearly as wonderful as celebrating with a sumptuous meal in China but it made me feel good. Then it was off to Chinatown for the annual Chinese New Year Lion Dance and parade, a Dragon Dance, and various performances. All outdoors of course. In the rain.

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The celebration starts at The Gate of Harmonious Interest, in the oldest Chinatown in Canada (second oldest in North America), on the very popular Fisgard Street. Although I could not find a source for how many years the festival has been held I am confident in saying most likely minimum 25 years as I took my children to see the lion dances when they were young. (We would eventually see these in China)

We arrived later than planned which meant I could not see anything. I did get a sneak peek at one of the Lions hiding from the rain behind a set of red doors. The cabbages were strung from lintels, red lanterns crisscrossed above the heads of onlookers and a sense of anticipation hung in the air. There is always a thrill that runs through a crowd waiting for the first snap, snap of firecrackers, the black, slightly greasy smell of spent gun powder.

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Unfortunately the weather got the best of me, I managed to stay long enough to hear the bells, gongs and drums for the dragon dance but did not remain for the lions and their prancing, playful lunges to eat the cabbages and gobble the red envelopes. As one may surmise, I have been attending such festivities for many years.

A hasty retreat to a local Chinese bakery, where I encountered far more patrons at one time than I would on any other day, to buy a BBQ pork bun and two glutinous balls filled with beef. This is a rare treat for me that I had no intention of missing out on. It was rather sad to think I no longer relish standing in the rain, waiting in anticipation, with such a diverse, united, happy mass of people. (I have no idea how many makes a mass, but the sidewalks of Fisgard Street were filled). My Chinese cravings, cultural and gastronomical, were sated.

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Then off to listen to the Starlight Pops, a local choir, and their four piece combo. This concert featured the Disco era. Sad to admit this, but I recalled most of the pieces. The audience clapped along, some were singing under their breath and a few intrepid souls took the invitation to dance in the aisles literally. I wonder if the church they use for their performances has ever had such raucous patrons in their pews before.

It is a United Church, I have no idea if rocking, or in this case, doing the bump (look it up all you young people) to Saturday Night Fever, is frowned upon or not. If I did not know one of the choir members and the guitar player in the combo I would have been easily tempted to do the hustle. Not that they would have been surprised.

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Take a look at the events in your area. Step out of your comfort zone, go to an exhibit, a concert, a cultural activity. Be prepared to be dazzled at home just as when you are away. The experiences will enrich your life.

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