Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Toronto, Home Base

In a prior post, I mentioned that I was visiting Toronto for few weeks. It’s a rather odd stopover since I came from the West Coast, which is closer to my final destination, yet I traveled East. But I’m having a great time. Although it’s been raining, I’ve still been able to explore the nearby neighborhoods. (I’ll go farther out when I’m guaranteed more sunlight.)

First impressions from someone spoiled by coming from the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Toronto’s spring feels like San Francisco’s winter.
  • Public transportation is still reliable even as you venture away from downtown. (I’m guessing this is an East Coast/non-Californian thing altogether. California is definitely a driving state.)
  • Independent bookstores are harder to find here, but there are a lot of vinyl record stores around.
  • The roads are flat (and I’m very thankful for this). I have yet to find a place that makes climbing San Francisco’s steep hills feel easy peasy.

So what have I been doing these past weeks?

I’ve been visiting coffee and tea shops. I actually have a pretty long list of coffee and tea shops to visit—I have gone to 13 of my (still growing) list of 28 coffee and tea shops. Because of this list, I’ve been able to visit different neighborhoods, my current favorites being King West and Kensington Market. I’ve also gone to museums: I viewed the Impression in the Age of Industry exhibit at AGO before it ended; and I visited Casa Loma out of curiosity. I’m waiting for the sun to shine more, and then I’ll explore the beaches and visit some wineries.

Oh, and I’ve been reading, too. My sister suggested I read up on Canadian literature, and I’m honestly surprised I hadn’t thought about it sooner. I binge-watched Kim’s Convenience on (thank you, Netflix) some incredibly cold and rainy days, and I’m about halfway through a nonfiction book I committed myself to reading. OK, next week it’s back to the bookstores!

Short Bites: The Breakfast

A short story in Amparo Davila’s The Houseguest, “The Breakfast” is about a family having, as the title suggests, breakfast. It is a family of four: father, mother, brother, and sister. Only the sister, Carmen, is referred to by name, so you get the feeling that she’s going to be an important character. And right you are: Carmen arrives at the breakfast table dazed from an awful dream, which she recounts to the family.

Much of the story is dialogue between the family members. From their conversions, we find out that the family is middle to upper class—the father and the mother are attending a fancy dinner that weekend, and the brother studies at a (most likely) university. We also find out that there is a lot of political unrest and that the brother has been actively participating in student protests against the government.

In times of political unrest, reactions are often mixed: the father and the mother prefer to keep their heads down while the brother chooses to attend protests. However, in this type of setting, things are not black and white. While the brother believes in taking a stand against the government, the father and the mother know the dangers of doing so. Unsurprisingly, parents would sleep better at night knowing that their family is relatively safe. You can’t blame them for that.

I really enjoyed reading “The Breakfast.” Having breakfast with family is such a common thing to do that you feel almost at home as you read the story. You are in a safe space.

Curious Travels! (An Introduction)

As part of a housekeeping initiative, I’ve decided to file my entries under certain names. I started with Short Bites, with each entry featuring short stories the captured my interest. After that, I came up with Novel Reactions, with each entry featuring a full book I recently read. I’d been sitting on a name for my travel features, but, I’ve finally found the one: Curious Travels.

Curious… Doesn’t that sound a lot like Mr. Ollivander when Harry got his wand? Exactly. Well, not really—not in the dramatic kind of way that was portrayed in the movie, but I like the word. “Curious” typically refers to those who like knowing or learning new things. It can also describe something unusual or unexpected. (For example, Mr. Ollivander said “curious” because found he it odd that the same phoenix connected Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands.)

In sort of the same way (if you really try to think about it), this isn’t a regular travel blog. My travel entries go more along the lines of “hey, look at this! I went here and really liked it,” rather than “ok, so if you want to go to XYZ, let me lay down the logistics of it all.” Yeah… my entries are not going to be very instructive (as compared to those on most travel blogs). You know what, I’m just trying to say that I’m different even if others might not think I’m so unique.

Does this change the type of content on The Hungriest Reader? Nope, I just thought it would be fun to make a big deal out of housekeeping. (It was.)

Novel Reactions: White Teeth

White Teeth delves into family history and dynamics: an unlikely friendship between two men, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, and how this brought their families together. It explores what it’s like to be a person of color in London from the 70s to the 90s (though I am guessing even until today). It is the kind of book I’d recommend to readers who are more invested in characters than the plot, those who want to understand why people-are-that-way and who do not mind the lack of action in a book.

It took me a bit longer than usual to sort out my feelings about White Teeth.

I read this book based on a recommendation by someone in my professional network. This was one of three fiction books in a list of ten books, so I felt that the book would at least expand my reading horizons. It did; I have no regrets.

Continue reading “Novel Reactions: White Teeth”

Short Bites: Three Wishes

I read a few stories Faerie Knitting: 14 Tales of Love and Magic, which is a compilation of fairy tales and knitting patterns, a collaboration by from cousins Alice Hoffman and Lisa Hoffman. The stories were heartwarming, which is fitting because when you think about knits, you think about warmth.

The tale I liked the most was “Three Wishes,” a story about a woman grieving her mother’s death. Her husband seeks out a wise old woman in the hope of curing the woman’s grief. That’s nice of him. So the story has a wise old lady, three wishes, and magic crystals, yet it’s not as over-the-top as one would think, maybe except for the tiny detail that it’s wintertime and the woman would definitely have died in the cold even if she was wearing her mother’s mittens.

Her mother’s mittens: they were a great source of warmth (and love and support). But the story is about moving on—she’s had her time to grieve, and now it’s time to appreciate her present and to hope for her future. Yes, she will move on, but she will live life stronger in memory of her mom and with the support of her husband.

Very heartwarming.