Saturday, February 14, 2015


This is the group I met up with in Beijing last July. We were a group of foreign journalists (the four in the middle, plus myself taking the photo!) invited by the Chinese Government to visit Tibet.

From left: Guo Likun, who was assigned to me as translator since I was the only non-Chinese and do not speak Mandarin! She is a reporter based in Beijing for the Xinhua News Agency. Yin Ling is Publisher of Sept Days from Montreal. Huang Yunrong, Editor-in-Chief of New Leaf Weekly from Vancouver. Yang Hengjun is a consultant with the Tianda Institute based in Hong Kong. Jiang Changxin is Online Editor with The Vancouver Sun in Vancouver, and Sun Linhu, our ever-laughing and patient official Beijing government guide who put up with all our idiosyncrasies!

We explored a bit of Beijing and got to know one another before making the long and fascinating trip to Lhasa in Tibet. Many adventures were had along the way!

I featured Yang Hengjun yesterday and will feature more in the weeks to come.


Friday, February 13, 2015


There is nothing slow about Hengjun. He walks quickly, his eyes always darting about, his gestures are quick and his laugh and wit are always at the ready!

I met Hengjun in Beijing just after he landed. He was tired but still managed a quick wave and never broke step as he headed to his suite to sleep. The next many days were going to be a whirlwind and he would be in his element!

Hengjun is a consultant for the Tianda Institute, a Hong Kong-based strategic studies think tank. If you think this attracts awkward, scholarly, bookish types, you would be very wrong in Hengjun. He is a man of great warmth, wit and possessing an enviable vast social media footprint. He is in short - an enigma.

In one day Hengjun laughed and joked about bargaining with Tibetan farmers for the best price for cordyceps, proudly unwrapping the the small fungi from a tissue in his jacket pocket - to taking university academics to task with piercing and difficult questions on domestic policy in China.

Hengjun is a man you want to have with you during times of stress and difficulty! He will engage you and distract you and you have no idea that he is doing it to help you!

HENGJUN FUN FACT: While on a tortuous nine-hour drive to Lhasa in a private bus, we vaulted out of another pothole, throwing him clear into the air, and landing on the floor of the bus! He laughed and continued telling the story from the floor of the bus!


Thursday, February 12, 2015


He's not the big green cartoon character with a massive belly, tiny trumpet-like ears and the voice of Mike Myers. But he does have the spirit of the character and shares a fantastic name: Shrek! At least, its his middle name!

Sheresh Shrek Maddela was with a group of friends in the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto one afternoon about to go out and have a bit of fun. Seeing I was handing out the Hello cards, he also filled one out and posed. The best image was this one where he was completely natural and spontaneous!

SHREK FUN FACT: I didn't speak with him long enough to get a fun fact. But he and his name are sure fun!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


No dog. 
No pony. 
No bull. 
This statement on her advertising business website sums it all up. Creative partner and co-owner of Off To Market, a Toronto advertising and marketing agency, Dawn is a straight shooter. Pulling no punches, Dawn is as direct and clear as she is passionate and caring for others.

With a career in advertising and marketing at the big agencies, Dawn knows a thing or to about delivering a message. This is true of her other interests.

Dawn stepped out of the boardroom and into a boxing ring to put her drive and fighting spirit to work raising money for cancer research with the Fight To End Cancer. She is petite, but don't let the big blue eyes and infectious smile fool you, she is a fighter!

DAWN FUN FACT: She taught herself to quilt and to knit and loves making little knitted hedgehogs. Now that's creative, no bull!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Allan has worked for the past 25 years in the back offices of Your Neighbourhood Credit Union in Kitchener, Ontario, rarely showing his face at the front counter. "I prefer the low profile and obscurity of being behind the scenes".

Much of the work he does has a direct affect on staff, members (customers) and the bottom line, so it is important to get things right the first time. "That’s what it said on my performance review"! Proof that bankers do have a sense of humour!

Allan loves to travel regardless of whether it is near or far. He can speak five European languages just using hand and face gestures! It is also helpful to be married to a linguist. 

He has studied industrial relations, accounting, photography, had a pilot’s licence, was a platoon sergeant, and played music off and on for 50 years. This is a guy with a lot going on!

ALLAN FUN FACT: I vote in every election and pay my taxes on time but that’s not really fun.


Monday, February 9, 2015


People move from home and country for many reasons. For work, for love and for a change. But Alice moved for heavenly reasons! “I came to Canada to see Northern Lights”, she laughs! She has yet to see them.

Growing up in the streets of Seoul, Korea, half a world away, it seems so far away for Alice who now calls Toronto home. She’d like her sister to move here and be closer, but no way! Too cold here! She moved to Toronto by herself, without family here. It gets lonely, but she has a close circle of friends.  

Asked what she would do when she finally sees the Northern Lights, she laughs and says she’d have to move back to Korea! “No, I would stay, I love Canada. The people here are so nice and kind and friendly."

Alice moved to Toronto in 2012 to pursue education. She was a programmer for access control security applications in Korea but now is taking internet programming. “It is hard, but I am ok with it”.

ALICE FUN FACT: “I am 31 (in Korean years) and I love to go to sleep with lots of stuffed animals! Not many know that about me."


Sunday, February 8, 2015


Raised by his grandparents and aunts, the 12 year old Virgil finally made it to Canada four years after his mother emigrated from their home in Suriname, South America to further her education. Due to complications with a visa, Virgil had to stay four years longer.

Barrow now calls Etobicoke, on the west side of Toronto, home. His office is the padded floor of a boxing ring at the Kingsway Boxing Club. He is a head coach at the gym and though it is his work, it gives him much more satisfaction that his past information technology background.

He only just found out his great grandfather was a Samurai, so his love of the sweet science and a fighter's disciple must flow through in the blood. In addition to Japanese, he is also a mix of African, Portuguese, Chinese and German. Barrow is a man of the world.

Barrow is a quiet man, not given to outbursts or trash talking. He coaches his students and fighters by encouragement, example and an understated power and intensity.

Virgil once had a deaf client confined to a wheelchair. He was impressed by the man's courage and will to learn. Virgil had to change the way he taught and communicated with the student. He says the experience he says made him a much better coach.

VIRGIL FUN FACT: With his gleaming smile, Virgil says many would never know that he is actually fluent in Dutch. Not surprising given Suriname was originally colonized by the Netherlands.