My Favourite Cities

28 05 2012

Montreal, Canada

Population: 3.4 million
Language: French
Climate: 30°C in summer to -30°C in winter 
Why? A city I lived in for just over 4 years, Montreal holds all the promise of university students eager to share their ideas with the world, and all the charm and grace of a single 30-something lady. Quiet and demure, until you take her out dancing, or insult her people by beating them at a hockey game…

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Sydney, Australia

Population:4.6 million
Language: English
Climate: 30°C in summer to -30°C in winter
Why? Sydney is unbelievably clean for a city of it’s size. Add in the best weather in the world, plus world class attractions of almost every type, and you have a metropolis to rival the best of them.

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Budapest, Hungary

Population: 1.7 million
Language: Hungarian
Climate: 30°C in summer to -30°C in winter
Why? Technically two seperate cities – Buda and Pest lie on opposite sides of the river to one another, connected by a series of bridges and a deep history. Soak in the thermal spas, take in an opera, visit the underground tunnels of the castle, explore the local markets or experience the wild nightlife. Now if only I could pronounce the street signs…hmm…

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Population:485 000
Language: Scottish English
Climate: 30°C in summer to -30°C in winter
Why? A throwback to my Scottish roots – Edinburgh is one of the most fascinating cities to me. Over 14 centuries old, the downtown looks similar to how it probably looked centuries ago, and will probably look this way in centuries to come also. The annual Fringe Festival is reknowned across the arts world, and it boasts one of the best universities in the world.

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Lugano, Switzerland

Population: 145 000
Language: Italian, Swiss German, (Romansch), (French)
Climate: 30°C in summer to -30°C in winter
Why? For many, Venice is the city they picture when they thin of old Italian-style buildings reflecting on the water below, but for me, I far prefer the mountainous backdrop to Lugano, nestled in the southernmost tip of Switzerland, with Italy on three sides, and Lake Ticino at her feet.
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……………………..More Coming Soon!

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Population:
Language:
Climate: Why?

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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Climate:
Why?

Ljubjana, Slovenia

Population:
Language: Slovenian
Climate:
Why? Like stepping into a fairytale, Ljubjana boasts castles, moats, dragons, and other strange and wonderful sights. Bonus: Most people speak English because they study it in high school.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Population:
Language:
Climate:
Why?

Bruges, Belgium

Population:
Language:
Climate:
Why?

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Population:
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Vancouver, Canada

Population:2.9 million
Language: English (Mandarin)
Climate: Temperate Rainforest (25C in summer to 0C in winter)
Why?





Homeless but harmless, and probably smarter than you are.

12 02 2010

For today’s post, I’d like to take a brief trip down memory lane…

Tuesday, May 29th 2007

Today I met a bum. He was a nice guy… and he made me laugh. He was one of those Montreal classic twenty-something homeless punks, with the battered leather jacket and the dog.
As I walked past he called out “Have my dog read your tarot cards, miss?”
I laughed, but I had somewhere to be like everyone else, so I kept on walking.

Later, I was at home and I realized that I’d be heading back up that street later. So before I went out, I cut a piece of the banana bread I’d made, buttered it, wrapped in some plastic wrap and stuck it in my bag. When I saw him again, I handed it to him and said I was sorry that I didn’t have any money…. I’m a student, I said.

He understood. He said he’d also been a student… graduated with a bachelor degree, majored in ethnobotany (useless nowadays unfortunately) and a minor in English Literature. Said he’d just finished paying off his debts, short of a hundred bucks, which isn’t bad.

We talked some more, and I relaxed a little – we talked about the times each of us had spent in South America… how different it was from here, and the good and bad times. I learned that he had grown up with his mum in Vancouver – learned to read tarot cards from her crazy gypsy family…. I asked about his dog – Koko, eleven months old, who he had stolen from a crackhead down in San Diego. He said he had to get out of there… you spend time just wasting your life, doing drugs… etc. So he had left.

He used intruiging phrases like “pretty ladies” for the women think they’re so damn gorgeous as they’re walking down the street – deeming themselves too good to talk to strangers. He called himself belligerent, which most average citizens can’t even spell, let alone use properly in a sentence…

He asked about me, politely of course – just as you would exchange information with any other stranger you might meet. He introduced himself : Andrew, he said, as he held out his hand for me to shake, fingers blackened with life. I gripped his hand, and found him gentle and kinder than I’d imagined him to be – with his chains and studded jacket, his dog wearing a fake muzzle and a spiked collar. I’m glad I met you, Andrew, I said. I’ll see you around.

– Sarah Topps

*Note: Photograph is not of Andrew. It was obtained from homelessworldcup.org





Uniting the pro-development Canadians

5 04 2009

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to a conference which was c0-hosted by the new Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University and the Public Policy Forum.

The conference was entitled “The Challenges of Development Today: Practitioners’ Perspectives on Where to Move Forward” and was addressed by several impressive speakers, including David Morley (President and CEO of Save the Children Canada), Canadian International Development Agency President Margaret Briggs, and International Development Research Centre President David Malone, along with the Right Honourable Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada.

Rt. Hon. Joe Clark had something very interesting to say, which I had always thought was the case, but apparently it is not yet, and that is that ALL of the groups who are interested in promoting international development in some way, across Canada, ought to have some kind of forum, a means of communicating with one another, sharing ideas, technical advice, knowledge and expertise, contacts, and meeting shared common goals together.

He suggested that it would invite and involve the entire development community, from the NGOs to the not-for-profits to the youth groups to the government to the individuals to the religious groups to the university students and everyone in between. He said that ideally, it would not focus on specifics, except to learn from one another, but instead it would ask: how will we, as Canadians, build a road to a brighter global future, together? How can we collaborate and work side by side to obtain this new world?

Personally, I would love to see a forum such as the one suggested by Rt. Hon. Joe Clark being set up… but it does beg the question: who is in a position to set up such an arrangement? How would it be done?

I would like to propose some kind of online working group, internet forum or other idea-sharing tool, to facilitate this kind of broad cross-national participatory approach, which would be complemented by an annual (or bi-annual) conference to enable and empower those who strive to do global development work across Canada.

What are your thoughts?

– Sarah Topps








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