Why I moved here

Friends at startupvernon.com have been canvassing for stories about what made people move to the Okanagan. I would like to add mine using their questions (slightly adjusted).

NOTE: On November 30 our friends in Vernon will be hosting this years #megageekbeers which brings together community members from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops and surrounding areas. I hope to see you there! RSVP here →

Where are you originally from?

We came to Kelowna from Vancouver, where was had lived for just a year after moving back to Canada from Japan.

After having our second baby, we spent a few months in Armstrong where my parents retired. The original intention was to go back to Vancouver, but that changed after just a couple of months.

What were your biggest concerns about moving to Kelowna? What helped you overcome those worries?

When it was first suggested to me to move to Kelowna (by my parents), my first reaction was “I dunno how to drive a tractor!”

But after couple of months attending Digital Okanagan meetups, and learning about the types of technology opportunities here, I decided to quit my job at Apple and start a new path here.

And to echo some of the other responses, Kelowna’s reputation as a retirement community was not exactly attractive. But things are getting more diverse (not just age-wise but also a bit ethnically) and we have a somewhat progressive and young municipal administration which is making things better (eg. increasing density, active transportation, etc) for retirees and non-retirees alike. At the time I moved here I could already see that my impressions of Kelowna was well out of date.

What kind of research did you do before you moved to Kelowna?

It was really being here and meeting people. Having the opportunity to hang around for a couple of months is a real luxury that most people do not have.

What other cities did you consider moving to?

Hmmm… we weren’t really planning on leaving the Lower Mainland. It just kind of happened. Really happy it did though!

What’s kept you in Kelowna?

Family for sure. It is a great place to raise small children, and with extended family here we get lots of support.

The community is great too. As I have written elsewhere:

We have lived for 3 years in Kelowna. Since leaving my hometown at 18, this is the longest I have ever lived in one location. I am involved in a few different community groups including the startup community, Japanese immigrant community, the wider immigrant community, and others. … at this point in my late thirties, with all the connections to the local community that I have been building over the past few years, I am finally achieving a sense of long-term belonging.

Career wise it has been great. I have been exposed to many opportunities that I would not have in a larger centre.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving to Kelowna?

I always advise people that we are in the West, and it is kind of frontier land, so we need people that are resilient and willing to help build. For people looking to make a real impact, the Okanagan is a great place.

About running your company

[I am going to skip these questions since I do not run my own company here. But I will say that we are an international company that is based in Kelowna, and we a growing like crazy. Probably the biggest challenge — something I think most other companies here face — is finding talent. Our talent pool is too shallow, so we need more great people to move here!]

What would make Kelowna even better?

Housing affordability, less inequality, immigrant services, protected bike lanes… I have a long list of pet issues 😜 but this might be more of an objective place to start.

Kelowna has been great to us, but there is certainly much room for improvement. The cool thing is that I see many people fighting to make it a better place, which makes it just that much cooler to be here.

Ethnocultural Diversity in Kelowna

It has been 10 years since Canada has had a comprehensive census. This year the results have been trickling out from StatsCan, and today the stats that I have been waiting for all year were finally released: immigration. Some high level findings:

  • 250 ethnic groups
  • 1 in 5 Canadians are foreign-born
  • 2 in 5 kids have an immigrant background

The Globe and Mail also did a breakdown on Aboriginal and Immigrant demography across the country.

My community: Kelowna

I dug into the Kelowna data to find out how my city has changed over the last decade. Kelowna has a reputation for being “old and white,” but the consensus over the past few years has been that this is changing. Now we have the numbers, let’s see if this bears out.

StatCan says that the immigrant population of Kelowna is 13.9%.

Compared to 2006, this is has actually dropped. Back then it was 14.8%.

Let’s take a look at how this compares with other communities (the Kelowna CMA is pretty broad, and includes West Kelowna and Peachland, so I broke it out in the following table):

Community Immigrant pop. Total pop. Percentage
Kelowna CMA 26455 194882 13.6%
Kelowna 17835 127380 14%
West Kelowna 4360 32655 13.3%
Vernon 6785 59720 11.4%
Penticton 5715 43432 13.2%

Interesting to compare the ratio between Kelowna and its neighbours to the North and to the South. Vernon has its Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society, and Penticton has its South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services.

Why does Kelowna have no immigrant services center?

Immigrants can be hard to see

Maybe the reason that people feel like there are more immigrants here is being there are more visible minorities? That certainly is true: in 2006 visible minorities were a mere 5.2%. In 2016 visible minorities have increased by half to 7.8%. Kelowna proper (ie. not the West side or outlying regions) has a 9.5% ratio of visible minorities. Here is a chart showing the ethnic origin of the Kelowna population in 2016:

Pie chart showing ethnic origins of Kelownaites: European = 83%, Aboriginal = 7%, Caribbean = 1%, Latinx = 1%, African = 1%, Asian = 7%, Oceania = 1%

So things are getting a little less white. However, this cannot all be attributed to new immigrants. When looking at a where immigrants are coming from, you can see some interesting trends:

table of kelowna immigrant origin countries. See link for full table.

Normally we get a lot of immigrants from the UK and US, which likely affects the visibility of our immigrant communities. Philippines-based immigration has shot up recently, as has Jamaica(?). South Korea has a really strong showing, as has Mexico. Germany is way down. And for all the furor, Syrian refugees are a tiny minority.

Addendum on Japanese immigrants

I would like to focus on the Japanese immigrants for a moment (for obvious personal reasons). If you break them down by gender you will see something interesting about this community:

Period Male Female
1981 to 1990 0 0
1991 to 2000 15 35
2001 to 2005 10 35
2006 to 2010 10 20
2011 to 2016 0 30

The Japanese immigrant community differs from other Asian communities on a few different variables, but one major one is international marriage. Japanese immigrants here are overwhelmingly female (70%), and from my experience are married to white dudes. Someday I will write more about how this impacts the community and the services it requires.

Remembering through facsimile

This weekend I finally sat down to watch Shinkai Makoto’s breakout anime hit of 2016 「君の名は。」Your name.. It was an entertaining story with some nice twists, great voice acting, and some cute scenes.

In preparation for this film I watched two other Shinkai films in order to get more familiar with his work. First was his homemade work Voices of a Distant Star which was pretty trippy. Then I watched 5 Centimeters per Second, which, even though it is ten years old, feels like a predecessor to Your name. All three of these films deal with unrequited teenage love, mobile phones, and lense flares.

Setting that aside, what I really want to comment on is Shinkai’s depictions of Japan in his films, especially 5cm and Your name. (Voices was handmade by Shinkai on his Power Mac G4 in 2002, so the quality of visual is not as tight as the other two films). These two films are visually amazing… art imitates life with extremely detailed illustrations of the objects daily life. His camera work makes normal things seem foreign, since he can place the point-of-view in spots that only the sharpest animator’s pen can fit. It is beautiful.

Yet, it is cold. The lines are surgical. I get a very different feeling about Japan when I watch these films compared to when I watch Ghibli films. Pretty much every film Miyazaki and his crew produce makes my eyes fill up with the tears of nostalgia. I can’t put my finger on it… they are so gentle. Even Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle — which aren’t even set in Japan!

Does the lack of fidelity in Miyazaki’s work leave room for my own idealized notions of Japan to creep in? Whereas Shinkai’s photo-realistic facsimile keep any and all emotion at bay?

Or maybe it has to do with relationships. It could be because I didn’t grow up in Japan as a lovesick 15 year old. Pubescent relationships are central to the three Shinkai films. Ghibli films on the other hand tend to focus more on inter-generational stories — on families. Maybe that is why I identify more with them?

Either way, I find it interesting that I don’t have the same natsukashii (懐かしい) feeling watching Shinkai’s hyper-realistic Japan, even though it is much closer to my own experience of that place. I sure hope I am not falling for some sort of idyllic Ghibli Japan. It has already changed so much in the seven years since I left and if ever I move back to Japan, I would hate to be disappointed by my own remembrances.

Infliction of Self — a review of The Burnout Society

Byung-Chul Han’s The Burnout Society is a collection of essays reviewing famous thinkers’ (Deleuze, Freud, Arendt, Ehrenberg, et alia) thinking about the ailments of society in an attempt to diagnose what ails now. Each essay builds towards an argument with a number of subtle nuances. At only 72 pages, this is the perfect book-club book as I am sure it would provoke much discussion despite the linguistic armour that so much German philosophy enshrouds its critical ideas in (an armour that I cannot claim to have pierced, but I still found this book to be very thought-provoking).

The argument centers around Han’s concept of the individual as a “late-modern achievement-subject” that is:

  1. self-deluded into thinking just because they are not dominated by a person or by duty, they are free;
  2. the highest expression of freedom is to produce which is exactly what the capitalist system wants,
  3. therefore people are self-exploiting themselves and thus burning out.

It is a damnation of the hyper-individualization/atomization of society. Some key quotes:

Auto-exploitation is more efficient than allo-exploitation because a deceptive feeling of freedom accompanies it.

The capitalist system is switching from allo-exploitation to auto-exploitation in order to accelerate.

and some zingers:

The attitude toward time and environment known as “multitasking” does not represent civilizational progress.

In social networks, the function of “friends” is primarily to heighten narcissism by granting attention, as consumers, to the ego exhibited as a commodity.

(ahem, follow me on Twitter…)

Most of the book serves to contextualize the factors that lead to such an ill society.

Why I liked this book

Even though this book can be glibly summed up as “late-stage capitalism is bad,” I found the discussion valuable, especially Han’s arguments for boredom and the vita contempliva. His whole discussion about humans being reduced to animal laborans and feeling that they need to “Just do something… anything!” hits me as I come out of a meditation retreat where we were encouraged to “do nothing … really good.” In fact, my years of “mastering” information overload, of being an “efficient” consumer (eg. listening to audiobooks/podcasts while doing other tasks), is a good example of the symptoms that ail burnout society. It is “deadly hyperactivity” as Han puts it. He reminds us that:

We owe the cultural achievements of humanity—which include philosophy—to deep, contemplative attention.

and:

… deep boredom is the peak of mental relaxation. A purely hectic rush produces nothing new. It reproduces and accelerates what is already available.

Furthermore, it does not lead to a good life. He uses an Aristotle quote to remind us that the capitalist society is not concerned with the Good Life, that it “absolutes survival” turning you into an animalistic machine, scratching out a mere existence of socially prescriptive productivity. Putting it bluntly he states:

In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside.

Well, I am off to meditate and try and turn that “work camp” into a garden of happiness.

There is no “I”

At 6:15 the bell tolls. You have already been awake for a half hour. Anticipation? Slowly, you pad out of your cell at the Birken Forest Monastery, walking over the matted straw floor and into the carpeted hallway. You peek down into the meditation hall from this second-floor hallway to see if anyone is already in there. A few are. Anticipation.

The meditation hall from the second floor hallway

Down the wooden staircase to the first floor, you alight onto the tiled entrance way. Many wear socks, but the monastics don’t, so you don’t. You open one of the double doors to the sala and give a short, Japanese-style bow to the five-foot-tall statue of the Buddha. You are still unsure of the etiquette in a Thai Forest monastery, so you stick with what you know.

Along the back wall of the sala are the large, square mats, and the round, stuffed meditation cushions. Taking a set, you settle down on the black, marble(?) floor. Quarter-lotus is all your poor inflexible legs are capable of, but yesterday you could only do Burmese style, so you feel a little sense of accomplishment. Resting your hands near your belly, thumbs lightly touching, you gently close your eyes and (try to) calm your mind.
Continue reading “There is no “I””

Event: Community planning workshop

The City of Kelowna is holding public consultations in an effort to re-imagine what the Capri-Landmark area will look like in the next few decades. This week I was invited to speak at one of the workshops about my perspective on active transportation. Essentially, I gave the same talk that I did at OnPoint last year when I argued that car ownership is merely cultural and that it can and should change (and of course I plugged OGO carshare, as always). But I did give it a little twist, focusing on the relationship between culture and infrastructure, and also tried to inject some urgency into the issue.
Continue reading “Event: Community planning workshop”

Intraculturalism: A multicultural third way

“Canada is a multicultural patchwork quilt, a country of immigrants.” These are common refrains about our country. Canada is home to over 200 ethnic groups, and has an official multicultural policy since 1971 (instituted by Trudeau the elder). Yet xenophobia and racism still remain, and multiculturalism is still a hot debate. The debate is not just between the natural-born and the immigrant, but also among the immigrants themselves. That is the topic I would like to explore below.
Continue reading “Intraculturalism: A multicultural third way”

The National Mall, Washington DC

I am travelling in the capital region of the United States right now on business. I took a day to walk the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was a gorgeous day, sunny but not hot. The wind made it deceptively cool, and I got a terrible sunburn.

I walked the 5km from Union Station to the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and finally to the Lincoln Memorial. The National Mall is massive. This is America doing BIG at its best. The architecture, design and sheer size of the monuments is awe-inspiring.

satellite photo with line representing walking path
My walking path at the Mall

The Capitol Building had some protestors on the lawn. I didn’t get close enough to find out what they were protesting — being a foreign citizen I didn’t want to get swept up in anything. I was shocked at the size of the Washington monument. I thought that it was just an obelisk. The thing is massive and has an elevator inside! The thought put into the design of the Reflecting Pool and the Korean War monument is amazing. Below is just a few of my pictures. You can see all 45 photos and videos on Flickr →

From the Lincoln Memorial, I took a quick taxi to the White House. There were lots of school groups around on the day. You cannot get tours of the White House as a Canadian anymore. I walked around the north side and the south side, and then to the White House Visitor center, which is open to the public. On my way I was stopped by some very aggressive yelling police (actually, pretty much all the police in DC were like that). Everyone on the sidewalk was told to freeze while they blocked off the roads for some sort of presidential motorcade. Of course, everyone including me took video. I am not sure if Trump was in that car or not, but it was quite an entourage.

DC is a really nice looking city, much cleaner than most of the US cities I have been to. Mind you, I was only in the hipster Adams Morgan neighbourhood, with its tree-lined streets and classic buildings, and downtown in the capitol area. Still, it was pleasant. Contrast it with Baltimore, which I visited the following day. I grabbed a taxi from the train station and we were heading downtown. I could see a massive building with late 19th century copper roofing, similar to the parliament buildings in Ottawa. I asked the driver what that building was — literally the first interesting building I saw — and he replied simply, “Jail.”

I am staying in the inner harbour in Baltimore and it is all under contruction/gentrification right now. Red brick of the old industrial town is giving way to glass facades. It isn’t very reminiscient of The Wire at all, and I am glad for it.

Baltimore downtown

Activist Buddhism — a review of A New Buddhist Path

Since the age of 3, I have been interested in other peoples. Apparently that was the age when I toddled up to the television, pointed to the evening news, and stated: “I am going to Tokyo.” All throughout my travels and my education I have pursued some understanding about “how the world works,” about human interactions, about how communities navigate a world filled with other communities.

With two people you have a conversation, with three you have a society.

I don’t know the origin of that saying, but it lies at the heart of how I try to understand our world: war, technology, economics… each boils down to politics — not the electoral kind, but the interpersonal kind.

So, in my study of Buddhism, it is natural that I should approach it from a political perspective, especially since so much of our common (Western) understanding of Buddhism seems apolitical: people shaving their heads, retiring to isolated mountain monasteries and renunciating the world. Surely Buddhist political thought cannot simply rely on “social transformation through personal transformation”? Surely they do not believe the way to bring about a more equitable world is for everyone to  become Buddhist?

Beliefs such as those have literally caused wars.

I became curious to find out the Buddha said on how society should be structured. The enlightened one had great advice for sickness, old age and death. What advice did he have for the social, economic, and political ills society suffers from?

Continue reading “Activist Buddhism — a review of A New Buddhist Path”

39

39_thank_you_by_lancelot_73-d4saebv.jpg
Miku image by lancelot-73

Today I am 39.

“3” in Japanese is san.

“9” in Japanese is kyuu.

San-kyuu is how Japanese pronounce “Thank you.”

Thus, I am making my 39th year my Thank You Year.

I intend to me more mindful of how I got to where I am, and thankful to the people, organizations, and organisms without whose support I might not have made it to 39, like so many others.

Thinking about how I got here despite how many animals I have eaten, how much carbon I have exhausted, how much ignorance I have propagated, should help me make the next years of my life more benefecial to others, and more fulfilling for me.

Thank you!