Sunday, May 29, 2011

beginnings of community garden

A member of one of our gardener families and recent friend emailed me a picture of myself standing at the new northdale site of Patchwork Community Gardens on one of our rainy workdays a couple of weekends back.

I am watching Izaka on the deck playing with his water table, I spent this morning at home, this is a different way for us to spend a Sunday morning. The ground outside is really wet and muddy from a series of rainy May days. The heat and humidity is a welcome break from the rain. I enjoyed my time with Izaka this morning, I got out his summer outside toys from the basement and especially enjoyed how he didn't remember them from when he was one last year, and was so excited.

I also enjoyed rubbing sunscreen on his cheeks and nose and the back of his neck. I'm thinking of getting my paint stuff out from last summer, in the next couple of weeks.

Sitting here I also found my mind running over the events of the last several weeks including that rainy day at the Northdale site of Patchwork Community Gardens, a new community garden project that I have had the pleasure of having a role in creating.

My mind also stopped at a couple of nights ago at the closing ceremony of our Homework Support Program at Laurentian Public School. Maybe sixty children or so attended, as well as parents, and volunteers. We ate samosas and mandazis and enjoyed a dramatic presentation from the African-Caribbean Drama Troupe, who presented a family message on the importance of HIV testing. Walking into Laurentian Public School a bit late for the ceremony, I remember feeling a bit aware of how my volunteer hours at the HSP program has slowed down for the winter semester, with more focus on grant writing and planning for the gardens.

I almost was hesitent to reunite with one of the moms who I had developed a friendship with over the course of the school year. A Somali woman, whose name I won't disclose but she had lived in Kenya before coming to Canada with her five children. She has a very warm smile and I am drawn to her because she not only speaks Swahili which is not so surprising for any East African in a country that shares in Arabic heritage, but that she is also fluent in my mother's tibal tongue, Luo, a language that I cannot speak myself but love to hear. She picked it up living in Nairobi in part of the city that housed a large Luo community. She must have identified tribal physical features in me when she first saw me on my first night volounteering, because she approached me with a warm smile and greeted "Ithinadi?".

Anyway, on the night of the celebration I don't bump into her right away, I take an empty sit beside some little giggling and whispering girls who are making a strong effort to sit throught the speeches on the program. They are beautiful in their colourful hijab covered heads bumping together in mischief and I have to repeatedly hush and seperate the girls. We are listening to a young lady lawyer making a speach about how anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Our Association president inivted her in to motivate the children. I am happy to see many of the board members present, and some senior members of our community. It never takes long to be assigned a task and at the time to share meals I am in charge of making sure the children single file out into the cafeteria.

In the bustle I ran into my friend, and she takes me into an embrace "where have you been?" she asks. [I have to stop here and say that I love being embraced by a woman wearing a hijab, leso or kanga or really most african female clothing that involve excessive fabric, I feel wrapped and held, and for those few moments very much at rest].

Any stress that might have accompanied the anticipation of our reunification is eased by her warm smile. I tell her that I have been working on gardens, community gardens. "Where?" She asks, "I want to come, we need something to do in the summer with the kids...". Our conversation continues on in Swahili.

Laurentian public school is on the far end of Kitchener and it is going to be a one and half our bus ride commute home to my end of Waterloo, I am hoping I get to the University terminal on time to catch the last #13.

Walking from Laurentian Public School to the bus stop there is a group of young boys and girls walking with me. They are heading to their high rise apartment building. It's night time and they are very loud and cheerful likely still experiencing a rush from the celebration snacks.

I also find therapeutic the sound of animated voices of families walking home in a city night, mixed with street lights and occassional trafic. It's warm, it reminds me of road-side markets and mabati canteens in Nairobi after sundown, it makes me feel like things will be okay. I look accros the road at Laurentian Park before getting to my bus stop and can't help thinking of a possible community garden filling some of that space next summer. I say bye to a group of elementary-schoolers that have been walking with me when I reach my bus stop, and they shout there goodbyes. The mothers wave.

Izaka has now had his fill of the deck and water table. He came inside, breastfed, had a snack and is down for his nap. Now I'm looking out on the deck at the sight of his toy boats and cars resting next to the play water table. His spring boots are placed carefully beside each other on a wooden bench that Justin build two springs ago for the deck. It's been a good morning.

Earlier while pulling out my little boy's summer toys from the basement and allowing my mind to go over the events of the last few weeks some of which I have shared here, I stopped on my way up the stairs suddenly. I had what I suppose was an epiphany, that interrupted me kind of effortlessly. Standing on the steps halfway up from the basement, with my arms filled with Izaka's toys I realized that my community is the place where I find it is possible to give, and equally possible to receive.


  1. Fanis :)

    thanks for sharing. I love your desciptive writting. It makes it easy to sense what you are experiencing: the tastes, colours, smells :)
    It also makes it that much easier to miss you and your boys!

    see you soon love

  2. thanks faith, we miss you too!