Cell phone hacking becoming more common

The only $5000 figure Ashraf Ashley Khalatabadi hoped to see was in Lotto winnings when she opened her mail. Instead what took her breath away was a cell phone invoice and a pending notice of cancellation from a leading cellular company that asked her to pay $5828.14 immediately. Khalatabai who prefers the name Ashley could not get over the shock initially.

Khalatabadi is a hairstylist and works hard juggling multiple roles as a mother of teenage kids and long hours at her job.

“First I got mad at my kids. I thought they had been having a party with my phone.” But when she checked out the details on the invoice she found out there were more than three thousand dollars worth of downloads and none of them were on her phone.

Khalatabadi said she contacted the cellular company and registered her complaint about fears of a hacked account. But they were not very sympathetic about her situation. She disputed the charges but there was no one who could help her out.

She recalls her wallet got stolen during Christmas time while she was working at a local hair salon. ” I reported it to the police but my wallet was never found. I believe they used that information to hack into my phone service.”

At the moment Khalatabadi and the phone company have not resolved the issue but she hopes that some one will help her out and re-invoice her for the correct usage.

Environment and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Organic farming: a healthier career choice

“If you were given a choice to grow your food than buying it at the local supermarket, what would you do?”

Scott Crook at the UBC farm

I put this question forward to Scott Crook, a student at the “Sowing Seed for the future Practicum”.

“I would grow my own food. It is cheaper, fresh, healthier for us and the environment. I get to work at my own pace at the farm. It is great exercise. I cannot find any reason why not to grow my own food. “Crook said.

Crook got involved with the UBC farm as part of the practicum for his certification and has never looked back since. While on location Crook took me on an informational tour of the farm which amalgamates a farmer’s market and plots of land where students perfect their craft.

Organic farming and learning to manage agricultural farms has become increasingly popular among both male and female students in BC. According to a report issued by the Government of Canada, “Organic farming is booming in Canada”. In 2008 there were 444 organic farms in BC, as stated by a report issued by the Canadian Organic Growers.

Environmental protection and social responsibility are two of the main reasons Crook was inspired with to take this career path.

Checking out plants that have sprouted

“If you love nature this is the right place to be. I cannot be at a better place than this. I am learning how to avoid toxins, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And it is animal friendly farming” Crook said with a passion in his eyes.

Statistics Canada website states, “Since 2000, the number of certified organic producers in Canada has plateaued, after nearly tripling between 1990 and 2000. In 2003, the country had 3,100 organic producers – 1.3% of Canada’s farmers – farming just over 390,000 hectares.”

This means organic farming students like Crook may find it viable to take it up as a small business. Initially he wants to work for an established farm to gain further insights. Crook acknowledges he is on a successful track to becoming an organic farmer. Yet as with all career paths this also comes with challenges.

“There are days when it rains constantly. Then it is my job to protect the seeds from getting washed away. You have to put in long hours at maintaining the land otherwise the produce may not turn out the way it is supposed to be.”

In the program Crook got hands on training for all the processes involved in agricultural sciences. The most exciting part was learning how to work with a farm tractor.

I saw Crook and his colleagues in action with the tractor which seemed to be a fun process visually.

Crook put me in touch with reality, “It may seem like fun but it is a very technical process to get land prepared for sowing the seeds. You cannot risk going wrong with the very first step.”

“Do you still want to keep on doing this?” I asked.

“Absolutely. I would love to own a vineyard some day and make my own wine”, said Crook with a big smile on his face.

Crook is very clear about his future goals. He is motivated towards applying his skills through an apprenticeship program at local farms in the Lower Mainland.

I put Scott on the spot and asked him how he would describe himself in three words- “fun, adventurous and committed”.

“That’s the best attitude to life.” Crook said


Documenting memories through the Camera Lens

Miranda and Reilly Lievers are photographer husband and wife duo at Blue Olive Photography who captured Cinnamon and Galib Bhayani’s intercultural wedding in Vancouver. I sat down with them at their Gastown home studio over looking the Pacific Ocean for a Q & A session.

Miranda and Reilly Lievers- the force behind Blue Olive Photography

Faiza: Why did you choose to be a wedding photographer?

Miranda: It was kind of by accident. We were into other types of photography. This one time Reilly booked a wedding and in a panic he made me come with him. We found that really rewarding and fun. I know what the photos from my parents and my grandparents weddings look like. These photos will stay with the couple for generations to come. Their children and their grandchildren will be looking at the pictures we created for them. There is no better job than this in the world.

Reilly: We enjoyed it so much that we’ve been doing wedding photography for eight years now. We’ve photographed over 200 plus weddings.

Faiza: How many mixed/intercultural weddings have you covered?

Miranda: About 25-30 per cent of the weddings we have covered were intercultural. Especially being in Vancouver you come across many as it is a very multicultural city.

Reilly: The trend seems to be growing and we are getting more and more mixed culture weddings as time goes by. More people are stepping away from traditional roles and people tend to choose partners different cultures with much more ease than before.

Faiza: Have you found that Vancouver is particularly more focused on mixed unions than other cities?

Miranda: Vancouver is definitely unique because the city has a very multicultural character. We have covered weddings in Edmonton and Calgary where there is less diverse population. Majority of the people living there are Caucasian. Here in Vancouver due to the large number of mixed population you will see more mixed culture weddings

Faiza: What challenges have you had to face on intercultural shoots?

Reilly: Language mostly. Spending an entire day in a room where people are talking to each other in entirely different languages can be a bit tricky. You have to watch body language to understand whats happening. Because we shoot in a very photo journalistic way we have to pay attention to whats happening and why its happening when there are four different languages floating around in the room.

Miranda: So it has happened that the bride’s family is speaking Cantonese and the grooms family might know only English. Both families may be experiencing the same thing as us where they are unable to understand the language. So we follow along and understand the traditions that way.

Faiza: Can you think of a funny story that happened on a mixed wedding shoot?

Reilly: One funny story we had was at a Hindu wedding . The groom had not really been prepped for what ceremonies will take place. He sat there looking stunned the whole three hours while the couple had to walk around the fire. I think he really wasn’t prepped at all. He did not realize he had to all these traditional ceremonies. His eyes got wider and wider and wider and by the end of the day- he seems pretty exhausted

Miranda: (Laughs) Yeah that was pretty intense.

Faiza: Have you noticed any common trends among intercultural weddings in Vancouver?

Miranda: One of the common things we have noticed mostly with South Asian and East Indian weddings is how the timely and untimely things are. Some of our clients affectionately call it “brown time” . Things will just run an hour late, or two hours late or some times even longer. We have had scheduling conflicts that way. We worked with a wedding planner who just had done western weddings and she was planning this south Asian wedding. She was panicking because everything was running late.

Reilly: It wasn’t really even that late…probably by like 45 minutes which was actually pretty good for us. We were the ones who were trying to let her know that everything was fine and things were running on time as was expected for that wedding.

Faiza: So you guys were the experts on mixed weddings there then?

Miranda: (smiles) Yes. We were. We had worked with clients from different cultures before.

Faiza: Any outrageous demands mixed couples make?

Miranda: Probably the number of family photos that are expected in some cultures. It is important to capture photos of literally everybody that’s there . We have had a six hundred people wedding and we have had to go through a whole bunch of family photos in a very small amount of time. It is not impossible and it can be done but it requires the cooperation of everyone that’s involved in the shoot.

Reilly: We don’t tend to get a lot of outrageous demands. We’re pretty laissez faire about how we do things and what somebody thinks as an outrageous demand might really be status-quo. So we go with the flow. A lot of our clients come from outside Vancouver to get married here. We also get a lot of clients from mixed cultures who come here to get married.

Faiza: Makes me want ask another question. Have you asked people why are they choosing to get married in Vancouver?

Miranda: People have ties to family here, some have lived here before, or studied here. Simply also because it s beautiful place. It is cheaper to go to a tropical destination and Europe or the US. It is actually more expensive to come to Vancouver to get married as compared to a destination wedding. Its more expensive to have a wedding in Vancouver than other places.

Faiza: Which one was the most unique multicultural wedding?

Miranda: I think the Chinese and Filipino wedding. It was such a great combination of two cultures. They had the filipino cord and veil ceremony, the 13 coin money dance followed by the Chinese tea ceremony. It was very elegant.

Faiza: Thanks so much for your time Miranda and Reilly. I think you have one most special job in the world.

Published articles

Mixed Unions in Canada

Cinnamon wore a sari for part of her wedding festivities

A study of 16 ethnic groups in Canada has discovered that marrying outside of ethnic lines means better pay and more power.

The study completed by Leger Marketing Poll for the Association of Canadian Studies in March 2005 demonstrates mixed exogamous couples command substantially better incomes than their non-mixed endogenous union counterparts.

According to latest figures released on April 20, 2010 by a Statistics Canada study based on the 2006 census about 4 per cent of all couples in Canada are mixed unions. The reasons for these results might rest in diversity and access to different communities which could create a completely more complicated understanding of self.

“I think I make better Chicken Korma Curry than my wife. She says I am more at ease in following her cultural traditions than she is. Honestly I never felt I had the transitional phase of adapting, it just fell into place,” says Jerry Chan, an accountant at a Vancouver firm. He met his wife Fatima Ahmad, who has a different ethnic background, at a fund raiser for a local charity.

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada census, 5.9 per cent of married and common law couples in British Columbia are mixed race unions making it the province with the highest percentage of mixed unions in the country, higher than the national average of 3.9 per cent. Trailing in second and third place respectively are Ontario (4.6 per cent) and  Alberta (4.2 per cent).

Once prohibited through legislative measures and looked upon as taboo through social norms mixed marriages are a growing trend in BC.

Does the Vancouver born Chan think he fared better financially, by marrying outside his ethnic group?

“Absolutely, we both enjoy six figure incomes. I don’t think I shared so many commonalities with any girl till the time I met Fatima. My parents emigrated from Mainland China and were slightly surprised when I informed them of my decision. But they were happy to see I found the right person.”

Ahmad’s family initially questioned her decision to marry Chan.

“Jerry picked up the language, the jokes and traditions so quickly that they [the parents] feel he is more the son then I am the daughter of the family. Now they think we’re a heavenly match made in Metro Vancouver,” says Ahmad with a laugh.

Mixed race unions not unusual for BC

This is not surprising as BC has a long history of interracial mingling University of British Columbia sociology professor Renisa Mawani’s work on the history of mixed race unions in the province Colonial Proximities: Crossracial encounters and Jurdicial Truths in British Columbia 1871-1921 examines how mixed unions are not a new phenomenon but that society’s view of them has evolved. She traces the history of how mixed race peoples treated as a threat to pure race are now considered a successful part of a multicultural society.

For example, the merging of two cultures brings a unique understanding of the institution of marriages and unions. Even the ceremonies become more vibrant.

“Anytime I hear the couple is from two different cultures it gets me excited as there is room to get even more creative. The more diverse the cultures the more interesting the ceremony,” says Angela Girard, a wedding planner at Reflection Events, Vancouver.

Girard says there is no ‘one glove fits all’ rule available for mixed race wedding ceremonies. Does she find it is easy to bring everyone together on common ground?

“There are rarely occasions when I have run into an impasse. The whole marriage scene is about love and compromise. If the [couple] can get past the first step amicably the path for the future will be easier,” Girard says.

According to another study by Leger Marketing Poll for the ACS 74 per cent of the respondents would not oppose their children marrying outside the racial group, compared to only 14 per cent who were resistant to mixed marriages.

“Our daughter will have a choice of growing up as a whatever she may choose to be,” says Cinnamon Bhayani , a new mother. Bhayani, a Metis French Canadian, is married to Kenyan Galib Bhayani whose family background is Ismaili. The two met while they were working at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond.

Cinnamon and Galib: Celebrate their mixed union

Ethnicity was never an issue for the Bhayanis. They had other commonalities to consider in their decision to solemnize this union such as their love for photography and travelling.

“Galib showed me these photos of the Galapagos Islands that he took on a visit there that were breath taking. This drew me to him as we had similar interests. It started as a friendship at first.”

Both families were very supportive of the union.

Is love enough to conquer all battles?

“Absolutely not,” says Danielle Wong, a Vancouver mother of two daughters both with partners outside their racial group.

“My eldest married a Canadian of East-Indian descent. They met while they working both freshly out of University. Love conquered all but not the little things such as deciding menu items on a combined family dinner. It took a lot of adjustments for each,” Wong says.

The younger daughter is married to a psychiatrist whose parents emigrated to Canada from the Philippines??? . They met in university.

Wong says she is proud of what her daughters have achieved. One daughter is a beauty consultant and her son-in-law is a doctor working in Vancouver, They live affluent lives and have fulfilled their dream by overcoming the mixed marriage hurdles.

For Ahmad “, As long as your partner has the right personality traits – colour, gender, race or culture fade away. The only things that matter are ambitions, passion and the urge to live life to the fullest with the one person you desire to be with.”

life, Published articles

Vancouver: Greenest City on Earth

Mayor Gregor Robertson announced his green plan which intends to make Vancouver the greenest city on earth by 2020. To achieve this goal a list of guidelines has been set out. One of the suggestions proposed is to reduce water consumption by 33%. This announcement made headlines in local papers which caught my eye. Our team consisting of Brandi Cowen, Aaron Tam, Brent Wittmeier and myself set out to find the truth.

The style of this news piece is futuristic. In this broadcast you will see the what happened in the process of filming it and the challenges we had to overcome to put it together for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy and let me know what you think.



Satellite children: Negotiating ethnic identities

This is post is part of my preliminary research on Satellite Children (referred to as sat-kids) in Vancouver. I am interviewing several people who identify themselves as sat-kids and some of their stories are reproduced here as first hand real life experiences.

Who are they?

Ka Tat Sang, Faculty of Social work at University of Toronto writes, “Satellite children are children of ethnically Chinese immigrants to North America who have returned to their country of origin after immigration.”

There is a wide range of identity negotiating approaches in these interviews and the stats may vary as I progress further in my research. The idea came to me as a dear friend mentioned her trials and tribulations as a young Taiwanese immigrant to the luscious city of opportunity Vancouver with her younger sister. I have chronicled experiences of only two interviewees in this blog  to provide an idea about Sat-kids and what does it entail.  These individuals are very established Vancouverities and have thriving careers so in some ways these are their success stories. Yet it establishes why the issue at hand matters so much. I have many more interviews with a wide spectrum of impressions and thoughts.

On conditions of anonymity my interview subject opened up her heart to me for which I remain grateful. Never had I heard something so authentic and original in terms of feelings and emotions. As you read on bear in mind that it is a very brave attempt to convey her life story without breaking out into bouts of tears. I was teary eyed a few times during the interview but she kept a brave face and poured her thoughts out.

Some candid real life experiences:

Mary-Lou is the pseudonym I will use to refer to her, although she has an actual name. The gist of her story has roots in loss of a familial home, loss of identity and the struggle to embrace an entirely different culture and country as homeland. But the deeply embedded emotion I identified was the need to feel belonged- to claim some place as her own and carve her own niche.  I have written out her words verbatim below.

” I came here with my younger sister and my mother. My father came, stayed for a few days and left.  He is a very established Professor at a University in Taiwan. My mother is a pharmacist by profession. We are very well-0ff in terms of financial capacity.

It was a very new culture for me and my mother had to struggle to get us established. She cooked, cleaned and tried to get life together for us. I became a mother for my sister as I eventually learned to drive and had to drop her off and pick her up from school and other activities.

I do not feel that I was ever a kid, always a responsible grown up who had a child to look after. Part of the reason was that my mother could not speak the language as well as I could. She also had mobility problems and would get lost if she went too far away from home. So she stuck to friends and places where she could communicate easily.

My father would come visit every once in a while but never really enough to make me feel nutured. I always felt that he was more duty bound to come see us than anything else. I craved for a father. Luckily I had a mother and a sister, some of us here have no one at all and are completely on their own. I had a home to go at the end of the day.

I believe if my father had not sent us away we would be a normal family. But to him Canada was a land of opportunity for us. We could learn English get better education and if we chose we could c0me back whenever we wanted. But now after living here for so long I wasnt sure if I wanted to go back. As fate would have it I met my boyfriend who is from Taiwan, he moved back and that has motivated me to move back.  My sister adapted better than I did. Probably because she was younger and slipped right into her role.

My father got a mistress and when my mom found out, she was devastated. My father was not very remorseful about the break up of our family and that ate me up inside. Now I think I keep a more closer watch on my boy friend because of my experiences. You can call it insecurity if you like.”

The other interviewee is a successful, career focused individual with a well established life style in Metro Vancouver, yet memories are still fresh from being a sat-kid. Please note again that this is verbatim.

“1) Economic difficulties: My Dad was an entrepreneur in Taiwan, but did not have a formal education. So naturally, when coming to Canada, his only option was to continue with doing business. He found moderate success in his first 2 to 3 years; however, opportunities in Taiwan was still better, which eventually led him back to Taiwan.

I wouldn’t necessarily blame the government for my dad moving back to Taiwan. This is Canada….it is what it is….there’s only 33 million people in this vast land of ours. Taiwan is probably a little bigger than Vancouver Island and has a population of 23 million. The density of the population makes a big difference when considering economic opportunities. And Canada, while I’ve observed significant improvement over the last 10 years, still has a strong socialist ideology.

Everyone expects the government to feed them dinners; and the economic improvements came mostly from the new immigrants to this country. So, it was obvious that my dad would’ve found better opportunities back in Taiwan. It’s been 20 years now, and he’s been coming back two times a year. Each stay is around one week. I feel very lucky that our family is still together. The hardest was probably on my mom….now that I’m raising my own family, my mom can stay with my father three to four months of the year in Taiwan.

2) Social Issues: Never had the flashy cars….I don’t know if you can count a Honda Prelude as a flashy car….it was a gift for my acceptance to University. Definitely, the self-esteem played a factor in my highschool years. I was getting in a lot of trouble, grade 12 was the only year I was not suspended. Some of my friends ended up going to Jail….most of them had the satellite issues. I didn’t think I had a self-esteem issue in high school; I always felt super confident.

But in looking back at the things I did, I would definitely say that low self-esteem would explain a lot of my past behaviours. But at the end of the day, you make decisions for yourself…you can’t blame your parents or the environment. You choose where you want to go in life!”

Keeping these impressions in mind I want you to take away from this blog that it is not easy being the new kid on the block, especially when that “new kid” comes from a completely different culture and speaks an entirely different language.