“Hiking” through Manhattan

The "urban hike"

Because we wanted to get out and do some walking – a great way to see NYC by the way – and to meet some new people, Muriel and I joined a walk, or as our guide Dorian told us, an “urban hike”. I’ve been on hikes through the countryside and around islands before, so what would be the big deal in “hiking” through New York’s urban environment, where the pavement is flat and where you can stop anytime for a smoothie. But I think all of us on the tour (only 4 of us made it up at 730am on a Saturday morning) underestimated the pain – we hiked from Times Square, up along the Upper West Side, crossing Harlem and Spanish Harlem in the north, down the Upper East Side, further down Lower Eastside and then to Battery Park, finally going back up to Tribeca… we almost made it back to Times Square, but by that time we were sitting down an enjoying a well-deserved meal when we decided it was better to call it a day. We started at 730am and we didn’t finish until around 3pm – other than a couple of brief breaks, we were walking for about 8 hours!

FREE isn't forever.

A lot of new Canadian coins were introduced to commemorate the 2010 Olympics

Today was the last official day of the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics (and the free stuff events around the city). Vancouver has graciously received visitors from all over the world and the city has a few new ‘green’ buildings, a important transportation line/link, and progressive ideas for the future. From the Richmond Olympic Oval, the Canada Line, to reviving downtown with pedestrian friendly boulevards and cityscapes and the innovative Olympic Village, hopefully the changes to the city from the Olympics has improved things in the city for visitors and locals alike.

But there are still short and long-term issues that Vancouver faces pre and post Olympics (i.e. Vancouver still has lots of issues re: social housing, poverty, and crime/drugs, as well as native/aboriginal rights). If you don’t believe me, you can find the “other side of to Olympic coin” by reading the news and reports on a number of website including “Resist 2010” and “2010 Vancouver Olympic Protest Reporting“.

Personally I had a great time and was glad to have made it back to Vancouver for a bit of Olympics… The city of Vancouver is a progressive place with lots of things happening in the mainstream and at the periphery. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the city is a dynamic place full of passion not only embracing and inviting visitors to come and enjoy Canada’s westcoast lifestyle, but also igniting and leading the way for social justice.

Some photos from today’s walk downtown to soak up the Olympic atmosphere before it all gets taken down…



Going for a stroll

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For some reason taking photos in Timor-Leste isn’t as relaxed as other places – well that’s what it seems for some of us amateur photographers. After spending over a year in Timor, I’ve chalked up approximately 5 rolls of film and probably a total of 500 photos from friends. To get out and take more photos, we decided to setup a small photo club so that we could get together to take some photos and get some criticism on what works and what doesn’t… it helps us take back memories of Timor and, hopefully, helps to improve our photographic skills. Last weekend was our first outing and here are a few photos I took with my camera, including this boy who was with a bunch of kids running around like crazy when they saw us taking photos… i think some of them didn’t realize I wasn’t shooting digital so when they came to ask to see their photos and realized I couldn’t show them, they said “no good”… hmmm… even kids from one of the poorest countries in  the world are hinting that maybe I should switch to digital!

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Just behind a market in Taibessi where the streets are lined with huge what looks like banyan streets.

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Inside the market, this is a typical scene of how people buy fruits and veggies in Dili. You have two choices, either off of a stick or on the ground… it’s interesting that most of the times, it’s guys who go around with the stick and women who sell veggies in one place.

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Public transit in Timor-Leste – called “microlets” these small little vans carry people across Dili and the districts. Usually the conductor is a teenage boy hanging off the side of the van looking for customers. All the vans have their own personal style (which would actually be a good photo project).

Day 2 (#GISDay) – Kids, military, uni students come for a visit

Kids at GIS event

With maps, we build the future of Timor-Leste keeps going strong at Casa Europa. Day 2 was as popular as the first day. This time around there was a class field trip from the Dili International School who came for a visit – as you can see they were very interested in the 1:50000 floor map. Also, the military came to look around since they contributed a couple of 2+ meter long maps to the event. It’s great to see that the event is drawing people from all over.

Casa Europa

One of the highlights was the presentations in the afternoon which was mainly attended by Timorese… the first was given by a staff member at the Ministry of Agriculture. The surprising thing was that it was a women who really knew what she was talking about – collecting climate data from weather stations setup around the country. Given that Timor-Leste has its issues with Education, and the challenges for women to have a higher education, the sight of a very pregnant staff member presenting was a pleasant surprise.

ALGIS presentation

The second half of the presentation was given by our good friend Osorio, who is probably one of the only experts in remote sensing in the country – he knew his stuff! One idea that came up was to have more presentations like these in the academic setting to encourage Timorese to learn more about how GIS and maps can help their country develop – maybe a special lecture once a month at the university could be a good start!

How important is Skytrain to you?

Urban transportation in Vancouver is a sensitive but important issue. There are still a lot of problems with the light-rail system in Vancouver, but overall it does a good job. To try to address deeper social and security issues with the system, Translink, Skytrain and other transport authorities in the city came together on Saturday for the Skytrian Unconference.

The idea of the “un”conference is to bring the authorities together with concern citizens in the community to address safety and security issues of Skytrain and its stations. It’s an innovative way to facilitate a conference since it is basically up to the people who came to decide on what the agenda should be and what topics they would like to talk about and develop solutions to the security issues of Skytrain. There were many interesting issues raised, from how communities can be involved to improve security in and around Skytrain stations, how the design of stations can minimize security issues, to using mobile technology to report on security problems on the train or in stations.

If you’re interested in the issue and are as big of a geek for urban transportation as I am, keep checking the Skytrian Unconference website for updates. They are going to have a report on the outcome of the conference as well as what will happen next. It was a very productive and inspiring community event, and I would suggest that if anyone comes across a community event they are interested, join in and see how you can be a part of positive movement for change in your own community. Things don’t happen on their own.