When I went to Costa Rica, I brought three books. I was gone for a week, so the original plan was to bring 4. However, apart from reading on the plane and while waiting around in airports, I didn’t read that much when I was there. It was hot, there was lots of sand, and there was too much to do!

Before I left, I took a trip with a friend to the bookstore to stock up. I ended up going on a teen-lit kick, buying  Anna dressed in Blood, Alice in Zombieland and Vampire Academy. While other people at the yoga retreat were reading books about finding inner peace, I had books about a ghost, zombies and vampires.

I did buy another book as well. When I picked it up and decided to buy it, my friend said “Really? Lepers?” What can I say, I was intrigued.

The book was Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert. I didn’t end up reading it while I was in Costa Rica. I started it yesterday and finished it this morning. Yes, it’s one of those books. You, know, the kind that draws you in, shutting out the rest of the world. It broke my heart, it made me smile and I now need to go to Hawaii.

It tells the story of Rachel, a young girl living in Honolulu in 1891. She’s 5 years old and she loves to ask questions, which drives most of the adults in her life quite crazy! One day, her uncle Pono is arrested on suspicion of being a leper. He is sent to Kalihi, a hospital, where he is kept in quarantine. Just as the family is starting to get over the shock and shame of having a relative with leprosy, Rachel’s mother finds a pink blemish on the little girl’s thigh.

Her mother tries everything she can to cure her daughter, while keeping it a secret. Hawaiians, at that time in history, were quickly dying of diseases brought over by haoles, white people. Having never been in contact with these germs, they had no immunity against them. Not much was know about leprosy, except that it was contagious.

Rachel is eventually found out, and sent to Kalihi, where she reunites with her uncle Pono. Small, afraid, and separated from her family, Rachel is poked and prodded by doctors for a year before they decide they cannot help her and she must be sent away to a leper colony on Moloka’i. She is ripped from the only life she has ever know and sent to an island where she expects to die.

When she arrives, however, she discovers a world apart from anything she has ever known. Her life is not always easy, but it is a life worth living. She watches friends die and her body being taken over by the bug. She loves, she grieves, but most importantly, she lives.

This book was so well written. It informative without being boring. I have long been fascinated by leprosy, and learning about it through the story of people’s lives was much more interesting than reading a textbook. The beginning of the story was intriguing, the middle captivating and the ending satisfying. If you’re looking for your next book to read, here it is.


I’m 31 years old, that ain’t the end, but it sure ain’t where I began

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 31. Sometimes, I forget how old I am.

21 year old me imagined a much simpler life for herself. She dreamed of traveling, but couldn’t really picture herself getting off a plane in a foreign country. Her thoughts were about what to wear on a night out with her friends and working hard to become a teacher. She knew nothing except for the life of a student. It never occured to her that she would become passionnate about yoga, kiss many frogs and discover that she truly and deeply loves her life. She hoped for it, but she didn’t have a clue about how wonderful it would be.

She naively didn’t imagine the rainy days either. Those days where she felt, as I do sometimes, like everything is easier for everyone else. The moments of self-doubt and sadness. She would learn to deal.

She thought she knew everything there was to know. She had no idea she would learn that not only does she not know everything, but that it’s better that way. Imagine knowing all there is to know and going through life not learning anything, not being amazed every day by new and exciting things the world has to offer.

21 year old me was really skinny. She struggled with a 30 pound weight gain the year she finally grew a butt and got some curves. She had to get used to weighing over 100 pounds. She would learn, over time, that it’s not important how much she weighs, and she would stop weighing herself. She would not have a scale at home and she would resist the temptation to get on the scale at the gym. She will thank her mom for never having a scale in the house while she was growing up, saving her from become obssessed with her weight.

That girl I used to be had so many friends, she thought she was on top of the world. She didn’t know then what it took to be a lifelong friend. She was young and so were her friends. They grew up, but not at the same time. They grew apart, or they grew closer. Some friendships slowly trickled to happy memories while others intertwined like the branches of two trees growing so close together, you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.

She was a happy, positive person and I’m glad that part of her is still around. The shy, sometimes awkward girl, I don’t miss as much. I appreciate what she taught me, but there is no need for her anymore. She used to admire outgoing people who took advantage of life’s amazing opportunities, but she held back from going after what she wanted. I am still in awe of the fact that I became that person I admired. Most days anyways. I am still a work in progress.

My life is nothing like she imagined it to be. It’s better. Everyday is not rainbows and candy canes, but the difference between now and then is that I can appreciate the good so much more now that I can compare it to the greyer, rainier moments.

The title of this post is from a song by Jewel, my favourite singer. I remember first hearing it a few years ago and wondering if I would feel that way when I turned 31. Well, I do. It’s not the end, that’s for sure! But when I look back to who I used to be, it’s not the begining either.

Philosophy through children’s books

Today was a pd day at school (professional developement) which meant that I had to work, but there were no students. We had a presentation on how to have philosophical discussions with kids. I was kind of skeptical at first, because the children I work with are ages 6 to 9. How can you have a philosophical discussion when they’re always saying “That’s not fair”, no matter what the subject is?

However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were told to start with children’s books, and go from there. This was very interesting to me because I think most adults could benefit from reading more children’s books.

One was about a duck and a rabbit who are next door neighbors, yet never stop to say hello. They see each other in the morning and in the evening, but don’t talk to each other. It’s called Si près, which translates to So close. It’s about how they could be friends, but they’re not. It ends with pictures of what it would be like if only they stopped and talked.

This was interesting to me because since I have started blogging, I’ve been connecting with people all over the world, yet I have never met my neighbors. I live my life, they live theirs. We live side by side, but never connect. I think, unless you live in a small town, like where I grew up, this is true for many people. We are all so close, yet so far apart.

Another book that I liked was about life and death, which can be a heavy subject with kids. However, this story was about two little boys who find a bug. They’re very happy and look it up on the Internet to find out more about it. They are very sad to learn that it only lives for one day. They decide to give it the best day they can think of, so they play pirates, go to the circus, watch a movie, etc. At the end, the bug dies and they are sad, but happy it had a good life.

We had to come up with philosophical questions to ask the kids after reading this book. We decided on these:

– Why is there death?

– Why is there life?

– What is beauty? (The boys find their bug beautiful.)

– What makes a good life?

– What’s more important, a good life or a long life?

I am looking forward to discussing this with my students, because although they are small, they are capable of very interesting thoughts and reflexions (other than, “That’s not fair!”) They often will see things that adults miss. I find these questions very interesting for adults as well.

When I was in college, I had to take philosophy classes and I did not appreciate it at all. I couldn’t really understand what it was all about, and it never really interested me. I’m very happy I can now start looking for answers to life’s questions between the pages of children’s books. Stop and read one, you never know what you will discover!

The Bliss Project

Like most people, I have a list of things that make me happy: books, yoga, my job, anything pink, babies, sweets, traveling, family, friends, dancing. I have spent many happy hours browsing at Chapters with a Starbucks latte thinking to myself “This is the best!” Ok, who am I kidding, it’s not browsing, it’s shopping! I always buy something. I love my work as a teacher. I watch flashmob videos on youtube when I need to smile and I even participated in one last summer. I have a great family, wonderful friends. Life is good.

Then, one day, I started thinking about all the things I don’t do. What if I was missing out? What if, somewhere out in the world, was something that would bring me true bliss? I always thought I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. But what if I don’t?

I decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and like nothing I’d ever done before. I signed up for a triathlon. I barely knew how to swim, so I had a friend teach me. I borrowed my little sister’s bike and bought a bike helmet. I started running with a goal in mind, not just for fun. Then, the day of the event, I did it! Just like that. I did a triathlon. I never imagined I would do it, let alone love it! From that moment, I was hooked. Not on triathlons, but on trying new things.

Since then, I’ve tried hoop-dancing, aerial silks, hip-hop dancing and snowboarding. I’ve run a 5k.  I’ve been inside a free-falling simulator. I’ve written a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I’ve been doing lot of these things with my friend Julie and we have a facebook photo album called “Manon and Julie’s amazing athletic adventures”. I am discovering new things about myself every day. Sometimes I try something new and once is enough, and sometimes I feel like I’ve discovered something better than chocolate, like I did with snowboarding.

And so this is my bliss project: to try as many new things as I can, because life’s too short not too. I might discover a new passion, or I might not. The point is to try.