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Three weeks have come and gone. It seems like just yesterday that I was packing my backpack and heading to Pearson, yet it also feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been home. Life is funny that way I guess. 
After my ten beautiful days on being introduced to Israel through Taglit, I spent a day and a half winding down from group travel and soaking in the last few days with strangers who have become dear friends. And then Israel got an extra dose of love when The Zupnik party of one turned into the Zupnik party of three. I spent three days showing Mom and Dad around Tel Aviv (which they thought was insanely hot) and then we headed to Ein Bokek which is by the Dead Sea. At that point we no longer thought Tel Aviv was hot. We walked out of our car into Ein Bokek at 9pm and it was 42 degrees…AT 9pm!! It genuinely feels like a heater is on you at all times. The next morning we all woke up bright and early and made our way over to Masada. I enjoyed round two a lot more because it was a lot quieter (because of the hell-like heat) and so I was able to explore and learn a lot more. The Dead Sea was our next adventure which my parents had VERY opposite experiences with. My dad sat down to float, immediately decided he hated it and went to the pool. He laughed as he remembered that many years ago his mother had travelled to Israel and came back and reported that she did not like the Dead Sea. He now understood why. My mother on the other hand loved to float. The heat on the other hand, not so much. 


From Ein Bokek we traveled to Jerusalem. We spent a full day shopping, and then another full day at Yad Vashem. As long as I live and as long as I continue to study and read I don’t think I will be able to understand and comprehend the level of hate it took for the Holocaust to take place. It was my second time at Yad Vashem and this visit one particular thought stuck with me. The holocaust did not take place in dark, hidden places. The oppression, the humiliation, and the extermination took place in broad daylight. Whilst entire neighbouring populations went about their normal lives. It wasn’t just the Nazi’s who are responsible for the inhuman and despicable treatment of human beings, it was everyone who stood by and did nothing. That idea alone is why I believe that the responsibility of bearing witness is so important. Ignorance is sometimes more dangerous than hate, because without it hate cannot flourish. 

After that tough and taxing day a little ray of sunshine in the form of a 6’7 man child named Matthew came into town. Our party of three turned into four and we took the old city by storm the next day. We spent six hours walking through the four quarters. 

Because we did a tour we were able to visit Temple Mount, which is something I never expected to do. Security was super strict going into Temple Mount- shoulders, necks, elbows and ankles all needed to be covered and you were not allowed to touch members of the opposite sex- even for a picture. Despite all of this or maybe because of this the area surrounding Temple Mount and the Muslim Quarter was probably the most peaceful area we were in all day. It didn’t have the hustle and bustle that the other quarters did but I guess when entrance is extremely limited to outsiders that will be a side effect. 


From Jerusalem we made our way south to Eilat where Matt got his first taste of desert heat. Our bus ride there ran into a detour and ended up being seven hours instead of three and a half so by the time we got there the only thing on our minds were: where can we get beer?! Eilat is like the Niagara Falls of Israel. Super touristy, a boardwalk filled with carnival like games and shops, and Vegas style hotels on the water. We had an early night as the next morning we were up early and ready to go as our tour picked us up to head to Jordan. 

The border to Jordan is ten minutes from where we were in Eilat and it was one of the more chill borders I have been too. It was a walking border meaning you go through security, passport checks etc and then you have to walk about five minutes through no mans land and cross into Jordan. All in all the hardest part was carrying our bags in that heat. We met our driver and he took us and a group of about 15 off to find the lost city of Petra. Arriving in Petra was a bit surreal. Tucked away in a town is the visitors entrance which then leads you into the winding canyons that leads to the lost city. It’s easy to understand why this city was actually lost for a long period. The day in Petra was incredible. Seeing a world wonder is a privilege and standing amongst the remains of a once bustling city that dates over 2000 years old is a humbling experience. While we were there I couldn’t help but laugh that back at home my fellow Canadians were celebrating 150 years, while I was standing in a town that dates back to 312 BC. What struck me most about Petra was it’s size. When we rounded the corner and saw the treasury for the first time I couldn’t help but gasp. Standing at about 40m tall the Treasury is a work of art. Coupled with the fact that it was built BY HAND and without cranes or lifts or modern tools and I was blown away. The treasury, while the most famous site, is only a small stop on the whole tour of Petra. In all we walked about 12 km that day, visiting ancient tombs, theatres, and marvelling at the ancient aqua-duct’s carved within the canyons. Our first day in Jordan was a pretty impressive one. 

After a well deserved nights sleep the four of us, and our two new Aussie friends Kelly and Bianca, took off for day two’s adventures: a water hike. We drove about three hours into the desert (a hour of it down the scariest, most windy road I have ever been on) and ended up in this little river oasis between the mountains around us. We walked about two hours through what felt like a hidden jungle. It wasn’t as strenuous as the day before but it was harder because you had to concentrate on every step. I was SO impressed with my parents who tackled that hike like it was a piece of cake. (It was not). 


Day three led the six of us (named by our guide the adventurers) to Wadi Rum. We had no idea what to expect from this day but I think collectively it was all of our favourites. Wadi Rum is the largest valley in Jordan and is often nicknamed the Valley of the Moon, as walking through it makes you feel like you’re in another world. Films like Star Wars and The Martian have been shot there due to its other world like nature. We took a jeep across the desert and explored caves, mountains, and dunes. I did some of the scariest free climbing of my life but it was worth it for the #views. 


We drove back to the border around 6 and security going back into Israel was a heck of a lot stricter than leaving it was. Israel does not mess around with security (understandably so). After saying goodbye to Kelly and Bianca we made our way back to Eilat where we went out for one final dinner as a foursome. 

A final day in Tel Aviv spent at the beach and pool awaits us before Mom and Dad say goodbye and head to the airport tonight. It’s been such a special ten days with them; they’ve impressed me so much with their spirit and willingness to try anything. They really are the best travel companions and I feel pretty blessed to have the kind of parents who would come on this adventure with me. I know these will be memories we share forever and I’m so glad that Israel was a place we all got to experience together. 

Matt and I have a final day and a bit in Tel Aviv and then tomorrow night we are off to Budapest to begin our European adventures. 

I’m glad we will be back in Israel mid august because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye yet. It’s a country that has surprised me, challenged me, and welcomed me. And I have been inspired by its resilience and chutzpah every single day I’ve been here. When I hear the word Israel now it will mean so much more to me that just another country. It’s a place with deep meaning, strength and a people I’ve come to love. I know that Israel can sometimes be a dividing subject but I feel more confident than ever in standing beside it (which does not mean I will always agree with it). 

Yom Tov, and big love to all. 

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Taglit (Hebrew for discovery) or Birthright as many people know it was something I knew I was going to do since I was a little kid. I didn’t know much about it except for the fact that it was a free ten day trip to Israel paid for by various donors so that Jews across the world get to experience what life is like in a Jewish state. I got accepted and soon it was time to leave. I walked into the airport in Toronto having zero idea what to expect. But I was hesitant because is anything in life really free? I thought there MUST be some strings, some cause I’d need to support, or some pledge I’d have to sign. I didn’t grow up super Jewish and I come from a multi faith home, would there be other people like me or would they all start singing in Hebrew spontaneously and in cue? As the plane left Israel and I settled in for a comfy 11 hour flight I thought to myself: what did I get myself into? 
Fast forward to ten days later and I’m thankful for how wrong I was. Birthright was the gift of a lifetime simply because it gave me the option to explore something I’ve never been given the chance to before. And while there were a few spontaneous Hebrew sing offs I also managed to come out with lessons that will last a lifetime. 

1.) It is okay to go on an adventure alone

The majority of people will be by themselves or only with one other person but when you go alone you’re free to do whatever and are so much more open to meeting and getting to know those around you. 

2.) Everyone’s Jewish identity will look different. And that’s okay. 

Before birthright I had pre conceived notions that being Jewish meant a certain thing and that I was not it. I was wrong. I only have one Jewish parent and it’s paternal which I thought meant I was less than. My trip leader quickly dissuaded what she calls, an antiquated thought. I can proudly and confidently say I’m Jewish. There were people on my trip who were orthodox, many who grew up attending Hebrew school, some with only one Jewish parent, and some with two but who grew up very secular. But we were all Jewish. 

3.) Jerusalem is a magical place

No matter what religion/background you come from Jerusalem is a must do. It’s incredible that the worlds three largest monotheistic religions converge in one spot. The Muslim, Jewish and Christian quarters intertwine together to create the masterpiece that is the Old City. It’s a messy relationship and one that doesn’t always work- but it sure is a beautiful one. It’s like walking in an open air museum, and everywhere you look there is another story to be told. Above all the most beautiful thing to me was the power of human connection. At the western wall I was taken aback by the amount of people who all felt connected to the same thing. And I know that’s true in the other quarters as well. As much as we are all different we are so much more the same. 

4.) There is beauty in tradition

Judaism is built on tradition. As a millennial I think we often equate the word tradition with the idea of outdated. But while in Israel I learned how wrong that is. My biggest lesson would be the idea of Shabbat. I was fortunate enough to spend Shabbat my first week in Jerusalem. Friday morning I hit the machane yehuda market (more on this later) where people were getting their challah, flowers, and sweets for Shabbat. In the midst of the business everyone wished me Shabbat shalom. That craziness of the market was juxtaposed with a quietness like I’ve never seen only a few hours later. The city literally shuts down by 5. Every. Single. Week. Can you imagine that happening in Toronto? We can’t even seem to turn off our lives for a few hours let alone for a full 25. As I spent that Saturday morning and afternoon with my friends in the park I realized something about tradition: it’s beautiful. It’s usually meant to preserve something special. In this case time with those you love. 

5.) You’ve never experienced a market until you’ve been to the ones in Israel

From Machne Yehuda in Jerusalem to the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, the country is full of markets that will light your senses on fire. You’ll smell every single spice imaginable, see more candy than any candy store you’ve ever been to, get the best fruit smoothies I’ve had to date, all while walking past stands that sell vintage denim shorts and art and jewelry. As a first time shuk go-er you will probably immediately buy a Hamsa bracelet and something with a Star of David on it (I now own both) but the second and third time you go you will see the beauty in just wandering and watching. Mind you it’s busy as hell and you will be hotter than you can imagine. But visiting the shuk will be an experience you won’t soon forget.

6.) Interacting with locals will improve your trip significantly

The five days that we got to spend with the IDF soldiers assigned to our trip was the best five days of the trip. It’s one thing to read and learn about the conflicts going on in a country. It’s another to visit that country. But when you get to visit that country and walk around and learn from the people who live and work in it everyday it’s a whole new thing. Before birthright all I knew about the IDF was that it was mandatory service. Taglit gave me the chance to learn so much more. The IDF is filled with all different types of people from different walks of life. But they all are willing to die for their country and I think that’s pretty incredible. Can you say the same about your country? 

7.) Israel is so much more than a conflict zone. 

Yes Israel experiences a lot of conflict. And yes you will see soldiers everywhere you go. And yes it doesn’t have peace agreements with multiple countries that surround it. But that’s only a part of its story. Israel is a country of innovators- it has the second highest rate of start ups only after Silicon Valley. It is a country of nature- rivers and mountains in the north, cliffs and caves in the desert, the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. Israel has it all. I’m so thankful that our tour guide Karen showed us the beauty of Israel and how deep it is. Israel is also a country filled with people just like you and me. It’s people aren’t walking around everyday thinking of conflict and war, they are thinking about everyday life. Want to know what my Israeli friend and I spent the week talking about? Boys. Life here may be a different reality than I’m used to at home but I was reminded that at the end of the day humans are all the same. 

8.) You won’t want to leave when it’s over. 

Israel is a country that gets under your skin. It is a place that touches the deepest parts of your soul and teaches you something new everyday. I extended my trip two months- with two extra weeks in Israel and I am SO glad I did. Ten days on Birthright is simply not enough. That’s because for the Jewish people (no matter where you are in the world) Israel is more than just another country- it’s a place you can call home. You have the right to a citizenship and the state was created for you. That concept really hit me while on Birthright and it’s something I’m STILL blown away by. 

9.) Never give up

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “chutzpah” used before. It’s used to describe someone who has a shameless audacity. Israeli’s have chutzpah. The desert covers over 60% of Israel. In 1955 President Ben Gurion challenged his people to make the Negav a site for innovation and growth. At this point there was nothing there. It was dry, vast and VERY hot. You’d think he was nuts. But not the Israeli’s. They tried and failed and then tried again and eventually the Negav became a success story. Today it is a site for innovation. With army bases, global organizations, investors and startups moving south, the region is slowly making its mark. They built thriving spaces from nothing. Chutzpah. 

War is a constant threat here. And like I’ve mentioned before serving in the IDF is mandatory. Everybody serves their country despite the cost it can have. Here’s the thing about Israel though: you are always serving. Even once one finishes there years of mandatory service they are in the reserves for a few decades. Meaning they can be called back at any time. No matter who they are. A CEO of a start up can be called back and has to serve. That’s wild to me. Yet people choose to stay here. That doesn’t dissuade them. The threat of war, the process of serving, the trauma of serving, none of that dampens the spirit of people here. Chutzpah. 

10.) Learning is a lifelong process

Being in Israel set my brain on fire. I probably asked about 100 questions every single day of Birthright. Yet when it finished I still had 1000 more. Ten days isn’t going to wrap Israel and Judaism up in a neat little package for you. Like my tour guide Karen liked to say “it’s a lasagna” there are many layers. Birthright lit a spark in me to know more about my Jewish identity and the importance of Israel. It’s now on me to go home and continue to ask questions and learn more. Travelling to new places should do that to you. If you feel like you’ve learned everything once you’ve left a place you probably missed a lot. Don’t stop asking questions and NEVER stop being curious. Knowledge is what really separates us all and I’ll forever be indebted to Birthright for giving me the gift of not just a trip to Israel but a wealth of knowledge I’ll carry with me for life. 

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Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year. Flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, and the darkness of winter is beginning to lift. However for more than 33 million people spring represents a whole lot more. For more than 33 million people spring means one thing: College Basketball.
Over the course of three weeks in March, 68 teams vie for the chance to rule the universe of college basketball. It is a sporting event like no other, no other event in the world can match it…underdogs will rise, brackets will be busted and the world will watch as college kids, yes KIDS, see their dreams come true. There is a reason its called March Madness.

March Madness

March Madness; Quick Facts

But why do people care so much?

1.) You get to play along.
Even if you aren’t playing in the tournament you are able to have a stake in it. Millions of fans and non-fans alike follow the excitement by carefully selecting a bracket that details who they think will win in each game. These brackets are so prominent that a number of Presidents have even filled one out.

For Matt Patriarche, 25, his bracket was important enough to drive 21 hours to Florida. Patriarche is a teacher and he spent his March break driving down South to watch as many basketball games as he could:

“There is just something about March Madness. You connect with it on a different level than any other sporting event. Maybe because the players are in College and thats a relatable thing, or maybe because the upsets can be so big. You never know what is going to happen. And thats really exciting.”

And while Patriache’s bracket was just for fun, there can be a large amount of money waiting for those who bet right. The amount of money that is attached to #MarchMadness is astounding. There are so many types of bracket bets, from small ones to big ones, from free to expensive. The amount of money that circulates within the tournament and the amount of bets that can be made allow for non-basketball fans to get into the game. It is estimated that 9.2 Billion dollars was wagered on the 2016 tournament. That is on top of the 8.9 Billion dollars that is estimated to have been wagered illegally on the tournament last year.

2.) The Speed
March Madness is the largest national single-elimination competition anywhere in the world. Every game somebody is sent home. There are no second chances. And that makes the tournament a do or die situation. People love to watch total knockouts, and this is a tournament that is filled with 67 of them. The tournament is set up with four regions, with 16 teams in each region seeded 1-16 based off their performances in the regular season. The four teams that advance out of each region battle it out in the #FinalFour, one of the biggest events on the U.S. sports calendar each year. Because these games are single elimination, anything can and does happen. As previously mentioned a lot of people make bets, and the majority of those bets are wrong. Late night host Jimmy Fallon phrased it perfectly while writing a “thank you note” on his show: “Thank you march madness upsets. for giving sports anchors a chance to be just as wrong as weatherman.”
Upsets are common and sometimes a number 15

Twitter reacts to Villanova’s loss

seed defeats a number 2 seed early on. The games are built on excitement. This year there have been HUGE upsets. No.1 seed Villanova lost to No.8 seed Wisconsin and No.2 seed Duke lost to No.7 seed South Carolina.

 

 

 

3.) The Stories
There is a huge human aspect to #MarchMadness. The players are in the college age range bracket. These are kids and the audience gets to watch them live out their dreams. And in #MarchMadness these dreams can happen to anyone. In this years tournament No.7 seed South Carolina is in the #FinalFour. This is a big deal as the Gamecocks haven’t won a NCAA tournament game since 1973. Everybody loves an underdog and South Carolina is just that.


NCAA Footage of South Carolina’s Road to the Final Four.

 

March Madness is more than just basketball. It is an event that spans three weeks and captures the attention of the world. The money, the upsets, and the human connections all play roles in making people mad about a game of ball.

Will you be watching? Let me know.

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Trump was supposed to talk abut Black history, instead he talked about himself. 
Whats Trending With Em is my take on the things you see trending on your social media dashboards. Sometimes it will be political, but you will also be reading about my take on sports, entertainment, and most definitely whats going on in The Bachelor world. For this weeks edition it was inevitable what I was going to write about. As someone with a political science background the past two weeks of Trumps Presidency have been fascinating. Scratch that, as a living breathing human, the past two weeks of Trumps Presidency have been fascinating.

Two Weeks Under Trump

  • Gave the go-ahead to beginning construction on a wall  along the U.S. border with Mexico.
  • Reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy, which bars federal money from going to foreign nonprofits which promote or perform abortions.
  • Obamacare is already in the process of being repealed.
  • Moved forward on the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
  • Signed an executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days.
  • Fired attorney general Sally Yates after she refused to defend the President’s order on refugees, saying its legality was unclear.

Trump’s latest scandal (can we call it a scandal when acts like this have become an everyday occurrence?) is over his speech surrounding Black History Month. #TrumpBlackHistory trended on twitter shortly after.

This is because he used his speech for Black History Month to talk about himself, his relationship with black voters, and his views on CNN. February 1st was the first day of Black History Month. A month in which people in both the US and Canada celebrate and honour the important people and events in the history of African Americans/Canadians. Usually Presidents commemorate this month with a speech that recognizes this and they talk about people who have changed the course of history; Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman etc.

But not Trump.

While he did mention some of these names- he focused more on attacking the media rather than focus on the importance of these figures. In his opening remarks Trump used Martin Luther King Jr as a segue to talk about his war with the media:

“Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.”

Trump sure does have the uncanny ability of bringing any kind of story back to him.

He then continued his tirade against the so called “fake news.”

“But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.”

Oh yes, thank you SO much Fox for your factual reporting.

Trump then diverted the speech back to HIS relationship with the black community.

“If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years.”

Well this part is confusing. He lost the black vote by quite a bit: According to exit polls, Clinton got 89 percent of the black vote, and Trump got 8 percent of it. He was also in pretty hot water with the black community (and everyone else) just a few weeks ago when he tweeted that Rep. John Lewis (who is a civil rights hero and marched in Selma) is all talk and no action. So I’d say Trump ISN’T doing well with the African- American community.

And that was basically the end of his speech. It’s BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Yet Trump has seemingly turned something else into a conversation about him.

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This isn’t the first time Trump has taken a moment that should be reserved for something special and turned it into an attack on the media. When he visited the CIA for an official visit that was intended to commemorate the work they have done he instead turned his focus to the media. He used his time there to describe journalists as the most “dishonest human beings” while complaining about the way crowds at his inauguration were portrayed by the media.

This is the new normal people.

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God bless LuLulemon for pushing me to create goals every year. Goals were always something I shied away from in the past because I hate being locked into things #commitmentphobe. BUT now I see the beauty in making plans and being audacious in calling out the things I want in my life.
Alas I have created my 17 goals for 2017. I would LOVE to hear yours!

17 goals for 2017.tumblr_oj3eo5opeh1uzomqmo1_500

1.) Go to Israel #holyland

2.) See my sister more

3.) Go back to Budapest and take Matt to get a tattoo where I got mine.

4.) Try spinning

5.) Learn to run

6.) Start my/revamp my blog

7.) Apply to freelance writing positions

8.) Begin to have conversations about my future career and pin point what my actual big #careergoals are.

9.) Be a better friend

10.) Start a savings jar

11.) Send letters

12.) Run a 5k

13.) Backpack from Israel- across Europe and back again in the summer of 17.

14.) Bike to buckhorn and back from the cottage

15.) Practice kindness

16.) Read at least 25 books by the end of the year

17.) Go to bed without electronics at least 5/7 nights a week.

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Imagine the most stressful day possible. Nothing went your way, you’re fed up, and you are tired. Now imagine not having a bed to go home to. You don’t have a place to go take a bath, or to cook a meal. You don’t have a place to call home. Imagine what that would do to a person.

Bianca Armstrong saw that reality among the homeless population in Toronto and wanted to set up a long term and sustainable program that provided a solution to the brokenness she was seeing in the women she encountered.

A Place Called Home is the story of Bianca’s quest to setup a homespace for homeless women in Toronto. A place where they could relax, unwind and feel safe.

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AP_17018733999309-1280x720.jpgWell folks, that’s it.

President Obama has given his final press conference just two days before President Elect Donald Trump’s Inauguration (I honestly never thought I would write that sentence).
In true Obama fashion the press conference was marked by his two cornerstones: laughter and hope.

Reaching out to the Press Cor, Obama asked for a continuance of excellent journalism. We are going from a President who appreciates the need for the news to a President who has a habit of calling the news fake. Welcome to 2017 people.

When the press conference got down to the Q&A portion The President covered everything from Chelsea Manning (he believes justice has been served), to Russia (please be nicer to Ukraine), and then onto his relationship with President- Elect Donald Trump…He called their conversations “cordial.”

Welp…

I thought the term “Cordial” was reserved for conversations with ex-boyfriends.
He says he doesn’t expect there to be enormous overlap. Which you know makes sense since the two have agreed on basically nothing in the past.

Obama then confirmed he would not be running for any sort of office anytime soon. He wants some R&R with Michelle and the girls. Which he so deserves.

And then as if we needed a reminder about how cool and hip Obama is he gave Ellen a shout-out. He credited her with changing attitudes around LGBT issues. Snaps for you Ellen.
He finished the conference as every dad would; by bragging about his kids. His message to them was simple and sweet and it should serve as a reminder to us all in the days to come:
“Both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help, but be patriotic to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed, but see that they have responsibilities to fix it. And that they need to be active citizens. And they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future co-workers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury. And I expect that’s what they’re going to do. They do not — they don’t mope.”

Let us all embody the spirits of Sasha and Malia. We will be active citizens and continue the conversation (even as Canadians) and above all we will not mope. We will rise.

 

 

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Matt Patriarche was destined to be a teacher.

Since he was a kid Matt knew he loved leading others and teaching those around him. It’s the reason he always wanted a younger sibling. When he was eight years old he got his wish and his younger brother Mitchell was born. Matt calls it the happiest day of his life. He grew up spending his summers at camp and when he was 15 he had the opportunity to work as a counselor in training. Matt says it was that first night in the cabin when he knew for sure that teaching was what he was meant to do. “Spending time with those kids…it was like something clicked and I knew that teaching was something that I not only wanted to do but was something that I would be really good at.”

“I knew that teaching was something that I not only wanted to do but was something that I would be really good at.” 

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Matt and his little brother Mitchell whose birth he says was “a dream come true.”

That passion lasted and Matt went to Queen’s University where he studied History and Fine Arts. In the summers he worked at overnight camp where he ran programs for kids ages 7-17. Post Queens there was no question in Matt’s mind what he was going to do. “It was always teaching.” Matt headed off to teachers college at Ottawa U in the fall of 2014, knowing that he was that much closer to his lifelong dream. Unfortunately that dream was more complicated than Matt anticipated. Matt like many young teachers has been hurt by the changes made to Ontario’s Teaching hiring practices. He cannot get a job in a school board; in fact he cannot even get an interview.

Young teachers in Ontario like Matt are not just jobless they are frustrated. Recent legislation that changed hiring practices within Ontario schools has pushed merit aside and new teachers resumes to the bottom of the pile. This new legislation has forced teachers to either work in the private sector with less security, move overseas for a job, or to change career paths completely.

            In 2012 the hiring rules for Ontario schools changed. Regulation 274 was introduced that stated that school boards must have two occasional teacher lists. One for supply’s and one for long-term contracts. If you are able to get onto a supply list you must supply for a minimum of 20 days in a year to be considered eligible to move onto the next list. The government stated that the idea behind the regulation was “to promote a consistent, transparent and fair hiring process for long-term and permanent occasional teachers.” Basically the government wanted to combat against worries about preferential hiring and nepotism.

When you break it down all this regulation did was make it nearly impossible for young teachers to get a job. New hires and supply positions now have to come from those who have been active the longest with the most seniority. Principles no longer have the option of interviewing candidates who they believe would be the best fit for their school and their students. Instead they are forced to hire teachers based on who has been on a list the longest. Young, bright, excited teachers are far from the top of that list, in fact many can’t even get on that list.

2015 was Matt’s first year out of teacher’s college. Excited about his future and confident in his teaching abilities he began to check the York Region, and Toronto Region’s school board sites daily. Every morning he would wake up and refresh the page hoping that there would be a supply slot that would open that he could apply to. That opportunity never came. He began to work a full-time retail job to make ends meet, and started volunteering in a classroom to fulfill his passions for teaching. For Matthew the new regulations meant putting his dreams aside for a year.

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In the summer of 2016 Matt was offered a full-time job teaching in a grade six classroom. It seemed all of his dreams were coming true. But there was a catch. The school he was offered the job at was a private school. This meant that he would be taking a significant pay cut, he would have little job security, and he would not be in a board. Taking the job meant a full year he would not be able to try to get into the public system. A system that has a union, adequate pay, a pension plan, and security. Matt took the job as it is his dream to teach but says he is aware of what he is giving up. Matt says taking the job has been like a double edge sword for him: “I love my job and my class but the private system isn’t something stable. While I’m it it I am not able to apply to supply, and my years here as an independent teacher wouldn’t translate to the public system. If I left the private system I would have to start again at ground zero.” Not only has it meant walking away from the public boards but it has also meant a pay-cut. Matt has had to continue to keep a part time job in retail to make ends meet. In addition to the 40+ hours he spends at school teaching and coaching he works an additional 20 hours a week doing all he can to make his paycheques last.

“If I left the private system I would have to start again at ground zero.”

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What Matthew means is that because of the new regulations his experience of having his own classroom and working as a teacher would mean little to nothing when applying to public boards. Before the regulations a principle could look at Matthew’s experience and hire him directly as a full-time teacher. Now Matthew would have to go back to outside work to make ends meet while checking his email daily hoping for an opening.

Many critics would argue that young teachers like Matt should be open to moving and commuting to smaller towns where boards may have more openings. The regulation would also make that choice more difficult. If you were a writer, or a banker, or a nurse you would be able to start in a smaller market and if you wanted to move one day you could allow your experience to speak for itself. It doesn’t work like that for Ontario teachers. Board to board transfers do not exist within this new system and so even if Matt was able to get into a board in a different town if he ever wanted to move back to the Toronto area he would have to start all over again.

For young teaching students now it paints a bleak picture of the future. Ron Oswon, the Dean of Education at York warns that these new regulations are harming the profession. Oswon said that the regulations have had a severe effect on education students. “It’s difficult for them to get into the teaching force. It may take several years for them to get a full-time job,” he said.

“The teaching force in general won’t be able to benefit from them and that’s a shame.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said the regulation is being unfairly targeted and that at its core the regulation promotes equity in hiring. A representative from the ETFO who wished to not be named said that the regulation should actually be helpful to teachers. “One of the things the regulation has done is create a clear pathway from the faculty of education through work as an occasional teacher, through work as a long-term occasional teacher and then hired. And what it does is provide lots of opportunities for the teachers to perfect their craft.”

Comments like that make teacher’s like Matt enraged.

For him those opportunities that the ETFO is referencing do not exist. Regulation 274 is a discriminatory practices that is hurting Ontario’s teaching force.


           Matt is not alone. There are thousands of young Ontario teachers in the same position as him. Matt is lucky that he has a full-time teaching job but when he looks towards the future it makes him nervous. Staying in the private system would mean doing what he loves but he would be sacrificing the opportunity to apply to a board. For him a board means security and a job that pays enough for him to support himself. However as long as this regulation is in place seniority will rule over merit, and these young teachers like Matt will have to continue to wait.

 

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Sexual Assault and College Campuses they seem to go together like cookies and crème. They shouldn’t. But unfortunately it seems that more and more this has become an alarming trend.

When I read about Erica Kinsman’s trial with Jameis Winston and Florida State I felt sick, when I watched the Hunting Ground I felt sick, and when I read “Emily Doe’s” letter to Brody Turner about her own sexual assault trial I felt sick. But what I never felt once was surprised. And that is what sickens me most.

And I don’t feel surprised because as a girl I have been trained and conditioned by society to accept sexual assault against women as a norm. More than that I have been conditioned to expect women to be found at fault. I’ve experienced the outer realities of this myself. It shocks me more when a man is found guilty of sexual assault than it does when he is found innocent. And thats wrong. And it enrages me.

But its just another aspect of being a woman. You wake up, you get ready, you go about your day, but you are ALWAYS conscious about your safety in a way men don’t have to be. And you learn this simply by going through life as a female.
When I lived abroad not a single day passed walking home from school that I was catcalled or leered at. Or there was the time I learned to keep my headphones on while on the subway because once a man on the subway gave me an “compliment.” Alone and feeling awkward I mumbled a “thank-you”- because society has taught me that women should always be polite. Well my politeness only encouraged this man to continue to harass me with his group of friends to the point where he tried to kiss me. Not a single person on the train looked up from their papers. I walked home terrified that night.
Or how about when here at home I instinctively put my keys between my fingers when I walk to my car at night because I have been conditioned to know that it wouldn’t be uncommon for a girl walking by herself to be attacked.

Thats the reality for women live in today. And I hope it makes you sick.

The case currently flooding peoples news feeds is an important and telling one. It involves 20-year-old former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who was sentenced Thursday to six months in county jail and three years’ probation for three counts of sexual assault.

On January 18, 2015, two Stanford graduate students biking across campus spotted Turner thrusting himself on an unconscious, half-naked woman behind a dumpster at a party. This woman has been named Emily Doe as she has chosen to keep her identity private.

Emily Doe’s letter is important because it is a slap in the face to woman. It is a reminder of just how marginalized we still are and just how sexist the institutions we are supposed to trust can still be.

Brody Turner was found guilty by a jury.

Unanimously. 100% guilty of sexual assault and rape.

There were witnesses. IT happened.

Yet the judge only gave him six months of served time (which will in reality end up being three). SIX MONTHS. Because the judge “feared anything longer would have a severe impact on Turner.”

And that my friends is why when people say there isn’t a need for feminism or that gender inequality doesn’t exist, I want to slap them in the face.

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My latest update on this season of The Bachelorette. etalk article found here
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The new season of “The Bachelorette” premiered last night and it did not disappoint. The men were hot and full of personality (read: drama), which proved for a solid start to the season.

The night started with a montage of JoJo falling in love with Ben during last season of “The Bachelor.” We would have preferred to not relive that heartbreak again, but it did make us that much more excited for JoJo to do her thing. Here are some highlights from the show:

Best Dressed: JoJo

What we missed most about JoJo: her outfits. What we missed least about JoJo: the envy we feel over her outfits

She looked unbelievable the entire night. We may have a larger crush on her than we do the guys.

Best Introduction: Luke

Our boy Luke came out on a unicorn, paying homage to JoJo’s entrance on Ben’s season. He also gave JoJo cowboy boots later in the night and what girl doesn’t love a guy who buys her shoes?

Best Instant Connection: Jordan

The first guy out of the limo was one of our standouts Jordan. His promo video of him being thoughtful in the rain shows us he is not only attractive but also sensitive. His opening line to JoJo about his parent’s marriage was short and sweet and made us believe that true love can be found on reality TV.

Added bonus: his butt

He obviously won the first impression rose. JoJo said they had an instant connection, which we believe because we also had an instant connection with Jordan through our screen.

Best Drunk Guy: Daniel

Daniel the Canadian got plastered, got naked, and yet somehow still got a rose.
Our favourite quote of the night did come from him though: “Have you been following the internet the past few months?” DANIEL SHE IS THE INTERNET.

Best LOL Moments:

•    Random Grant promised JoJo he won’t fall in love with two girls on this show…Grant did someone not explain this process to you?
•    JoJo kept telling guys they looked good and was not afraid to very obviously check them out. It was refreshing and something we may try on the subway today.

Top Picks: Jordan, James Taylor, Luke, and unfortunately Chad

•    Jordan is going to go far, the promo showed us that he professes his love for JoJo and like we said before: Olivia Munn could be her new sister-in-law. So why wouldn’t you pick Jordan? Or at least take him to the hometown round?
•    James Taylor the bro came out singing. SWOON. He was that funny guy in high school that girls friend-zoned but is now cleaning up. JoJo really likes him, but we sense heartbreak for them both down the line.
•    Luke was a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He is obviously some sort of hero and we love him. If he doesn’t win he would be a great Bachelor.
•    Some of the guys got bitter really fast. And by guys we mean Chad. But JoJo said she has a thing for “bad guys,” and if by bad she means terrible well then Chad is perfect for her!

Not going to say we predicted this, but we kind of did. Good luck JoJo.

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