Saturday, January 24, 2015


Da Jin is a man who sees opportunity everywhere. He owns a small hotel in Inner Mongolia, has small enterprises with many other people and seems to know everyone! He is a happy man with a big heart who loves to show off his homeland with a broad smile.

One of Da Jin's passions is photography and to that end, has been building up a business around photo tourism. Want to see first-hand what life is like on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia? He's the man. Want to live on the land in yurts and live the grassland life? He's the  man. Want to photograph hundreds of Mongolian horses as they charge toward you in an apocalyptic cloud of dust? He's most definitely your man!

 He loves his people and will drive great distances (to get anywhere here, one must drive great distances) to deliver one of his framed prints of a nomadic family. Wherever he goes, people know him, smile, and wave.

DA JIN FUN FACT: While driving overland one day we had a tire blow out. The tire jack in the vehicle was not fitted for the SUV, so he masterfully balanced the jack on a collection of rocks for the extra height! Cringingly it worked and nobody lost an appendage! He just continued to smile and talk, though neither of us understood each other's language!


Friday, January 23, 2015


In his blue-green scrubs, Dr. Wong appears out of nowhere flashing a sincere smile. He furtively glances about speaking quickly and with no idle chat chat. His body is never at rest and eyes ever multi-tasking. Many of these attributes can be applied to a shark - always moving or they die. 

He is in his element here at Toronto East General Hospital. He is making a difference. This has been his home for 16 years. They are fortunate to have him.

But it wasn’t always this way. Before graduating from the University of Toronto as an orthopaedic surgeon, Wong had already graduated with a civil engineering degree as a young man. Timid by nature and uncomfortable with swearing, he was not suited for macho and rough construction sites. Soon after, and before the handover of Hong Kong, he emigrated to Toronto at age of 20 with his family. He now calls Canada home.

A family man, he wishes he could spend more time with his family. They are his pride and joy. He does manage to slow down a little for infrequent vacations. A beach here, a slope there, he is just happy to be with family no matter where they go. To his amusement, his wife loves to fish! Wong?… Not so much! But he goes along to keep her company because this time is rare.

I let him go, as I am taking up valuable time. On an average day, his fracture clinic will see 80-100 patients. Vanishing through the door with a large coffee in hand, he waves and says its been awesome!

WONG FUN FACT: Cheerfully admitting to a bit of an obsessive compulsiveness, he uses words to channel his energy. For years, if he feels down or under pressure or to cheer himself up, he will visualize a word. For a while his word of choice is, “Awesome"! He laughs when I bring this up! His staff teases him about it!


Thursday, January 22, 2015


Sisters Shunxian and Jing Lin live lives steeped in Chinese tradition as well as the cyber world. Belonging to the Hakka ethnic group, they live in a UNESCO World Heritage site in Fujian province in southeast China. Their home, like others in their area are traditional and ancient round structures called Tulou. These are large circular buildings with multiple floors and sleeping rooms arranged around the circumference, leaving the centre of the building open to the sky and where communal life is lived.

I stayed here for a little while in one of their spare rooms. The walls of the building are constructed of mud, straw and rice giving the massive building blocks tremendous strength, durability and protection. This particular building is part of the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster, recognized as a UNESCO site. I stayed in the far one which is built in an oval shape.

Shunxian is the younger sister and has a decent command of English. She returned from university for the summer to help her family run what we would consider a bed & breakfast. Her elder sister, Jing is married with a baby and conducts the elaborate tea ceremonies for tourists while trying to sell tea from the families fields.

Life here is simple, quiet but rich in culture, history and tradition. The surrounding hills and valleys are brimming with grapefruit, tea and a multitude of vegetables, some of which I have never seen before. Just because life here is lived traditionally does not mean that they are unplugged from the world! Everyone has a cell phone and in some ways are more connected that most in the west!


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Destined from an early age to be a visual journalist, Ken travelled from Canada's west coast on Vancouver Island to Yellowknife, then Whitehorse, before daring to make the jump to big city Toronto journalism at the Toronto Star. 

A multi-award winning photographer for 25 years, Ken was also a much-loved & respected manager of the photo department for the last five years before taking one of the Star buyouts.

I once found Ken in Toronto’s Distillery District consulting with a master printer at the Proof Studio Gallery. He was visiting the custom lab to print archival black and white prints for a unique photo/art exhibition with his wife and journalist, Rita Daly.

FAUGHT FUN FACT: The true north permanently acclimatized Ken to real winters. When he landed in Canada’s far northwest, his new friends showed him how to bring in the New Year by stripping down to his underwear, socks and boots in -20c temperatures before taking a ride on a snowmobile over a frozen lake. He lasted 25 minutes before having to thaw out in the nearest bar.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Cam Tilley is a McMaster graduate (Go Marauders!) who now attends the University of Toronto for his masters in engineering. He focuses his studies on the increasing engineering challenges faced by large urban systems and aging infrastructure.

A newcomer to Toronto, Cam can often be found around his Annex neighbourhood, jogging, checking out local pubs and everything in between. With Casa Loma looming high over his neighbourhood, he often challenges himself to run the 134 Baldwin steps to keep fit. 

After graduation and a landing a great job, he dreams of building a retreat cabin to escape the city for times of solitude. 

CAM FUN FACT: As a summer student valet at the Ancaster Mill, he was once required to drive a Rolls Royce for a wedding. He loved it, and was of course, excessively supervised.


Monday, January 19, 2015


Clare is a Renaissance woman who believes both science and poetry are the path to enlightenment. A writer by nature she is a communications consultant, dog lover and mother of two. 

Reading a good book or pottering in her garden is always more desirable than housework and when possible she likes to hike in the Laurentians with her husband. Can you blame her?! In her words, "The best kind of work is doing what you love". Words to live by!

CLARE FUN FACT: She is an ├╝ber fan of the original Thunderbirds series (the television series with the well dressed puppets from a future time controlled by not-so invisible fishing lines!) created by Gerry Anderson. Her favourite Thunderbird is Virgil.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


Danni is a highly regarded and talented artist based in Beijing, China. Her artistic talents have taken her to positions in the United States and exhibits in China and abroad. 

Danni has an eclectic studio in Beijing where she works, transforming field sketches and other sources of inspiration into paintings, collages and other mixed media pieces. The studio is small but filled with music, friends and many works in progress.

With other artists, she meets to socialize, exchange ideas and support each other's exhibits in the various art districts in Beijing. Life in Beijing is big, bold, colourful and vibrant. Her inspirations come from the hutongs, street life and ordinary life happening in the shadows.

DANNI FUN FACT: She lived in a big white house in Fayette, Iowa for several months as a guest artist at the Upper Iowa University. Not being a driver, she bought a $10 bicycle and would often be seen traveling large distances along cornfield-lined roads for inspiration!