Illustrations by Brandon Schwartz and Adele St-Pierre
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I was in my first year of journalism school when Ryerson Folio took me in as an Arts and Ideas contributor in 2015. I remember looking up to the masthead at the time, awestruck at how they were able to simultaneously keep an online publication running and bring a physical magazine to life – all while keeping up with school. I can tell you now that it isn’t easy, but it sure is worthwhile, which is why Folio still thrives to this day. This issue’s theme came from the fact that this is Folio’s seventh print issue, and seven is known to be a lucky number. Ultimately, the origin of the lucky number seven is unclear. But in a mathematical sense, seven is considered a happy number: if you keep finding the square root of seven and adding the digits, you will eventually get the number one. Our contributors looked at luck through different angles and in many interpretive ways. Zahraa Hmood, our podcast co-editor, explored the usage of the evil eye symbol through her beautiful photography. Juliana Kedzior Kaminski wrote a short memoir based on her undying love for her mother. And Leslie Sinclair tells us exactly how algorithms are engineering our luck. This issue, however, was not built on luck. The magazine that you are holding in your hands is the result of tireless work, attention to detail, and an unending passion for accessible quality journalism. And snacks. Lots of snacks. It’s the result of countless late nights, drowning in a whirlwind of email and Slack notifications, and an unending drive to create something worthwhile. I am forever grateful for this year’s masthead, who gave it their all despite all the hardships that come with university life, and to our art team for bringing the entire publication to life. I am also grateful for all the contributors who took time out of their busy schedules to find and tell stories that have gone untold until now. And of course, I would not be where I am today without the constant love and support from our executive team, Victoria Shariati and Jordan Currie. Add all of these factors together and you will get one happy editor. Thank you, dear reader, for supporting campus journalists and creatives. Because of folks like you, we can continue doing what we love. Best of luck,
Celina Gallardo, editor-in-chief
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Celina Gallardo, Journalism ‘19
MANAGING & PRINT EDITOR Victoria Shariati, Journalism ‘19
PRODUCTION MANAGER Jordan Currie, Journalism ‘19
Tianna Gomes, Criminology ‘19 Kris Hykel, English ‘19 Juliana Kedzior Kaminski, Journalism ‘19 Ruty Korotaev, Journalism ‘19 Violet Rusu, Journalism ‘18 Leslie Sinclair, Professional Communication ‘20 Katie Swyers, Journalism ‘19
DESIGNERS ART DIRECTORS
Jake Benaim, Media Production ‘20 MaryAnn Icaro, Media Production ‘20
Dylan Freeman-Grist, Journalism ‘18
BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR
Sara Esnan, Creative Industries ‘21 Carol Liu, Media Production ’20 D'Arcy Quan-McGimpsey, Media Production ‘21 Brandon Schwartz, Creative Industries ’20 Adele St-Pierre, Graphic Communications Management ‘20 Andrea Vahrusev, Media Production ’20
Nicole Brumley, Journalism ‘19
RESEARCH & COPY
Sarah Desabrais, Journalism ‘18 Virginie Tanguay, Journalism ‘19
Scott McLean, Journalism ‘20
FASHION & LIFESTYLE EDITOR Kamille Coppin, Journalism ‘19
Ben Cohen, Journalism ‘20
Ethan Jakob Craft, Journalism ‘20 Danielle Howson, Creative Industries ‘19
PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Sherry Li, Journalism ‘18
Zahraa Hmood, Journalism ‘19 Naiyelli Romero Aguero, Film Studies ‘18
HEAD OF COPY
Samantha Cumerlato, Journalism ‘18
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Bianca Bharti, Journalism ‘19
HEAD OF PUBLISHING
Kaitlin Wilson, Graphic Communications Management ‘19
HEAD OF FINANCE
Cassandra Liang, Accounting ‘20
HEAD OF EVENTS & MARKETING Marion Grant, English ‘18
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Connect with Us!
Website: http://ryersonfolio.com Twitter: @ryersonfolio Instagram: @ryersonfolio Facebook: @ryersonfolio Ryerson Folio is brought to you by the RCDS.
Ryerson Folio would not be complete without the hard work of our art contributors, illustrators and designers. These are some highlights of the work they have created this year.
â€œFORCEâ€? BY CAROL LIU
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H i g h l i g h t s f ro m t h i s p a s t y ea r.
“ G O R D D O W N I E ” B Y D ’A R CY Q UA N - M C G I M P S E Y
Master of None
“SURREALISM” BY PERNIA JAMSHED
“BODY POSITIVITY” BY ANDREA VAHRUSEV
“ H O W TO S TAY O R G A N I Z E D ” B Y S A R A E S N A N
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“ C R E AT I V I T Y & A C A D E M I C S ” B Y C A R O L L I U
“ P E R F E C T ” A D E L E S T- P I E R R E
“KEEP ON WALKING” REBECCA LACROIX
“ U P R O OT E D ” B Y D ’A R CY Q UA N - M C G I M P S E Y
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In the summer of 2000, part-time freelance journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee was laid off from his job at an ad agency. Within three months, he ran out of the money he had saved from freelancing and decided to pursue journalism full-time. After unexpectedly running into Kevin Connolly, Al-Solaylee’s editor at a Toronto publication called Eye Weekly, Connolly informed him of a job opportunity. He mentioned that Jill Borra, the travel editor at the Globe and Mail at the time, was looking for a production editor and that Al-Solaylee should “call her, see what happens.” The next thing he knew, he was calling Borra and arranging an interview for the following day. “The guy who was interviewing me was an English guy,” he says. “I said I’d done a PhD in England, so we started talking about England.” By the end of the interview, the interviewer asked if Al-Solaylee could start the next day.
“People always try to pretend that [journalism] is about their hard work, but it is really about being at the right place at the right time,” Al-Solaylee says. “Some of it is pure luck, and I believe some kind of cosmic force was aligning things for me because that was my first big break.” Journalism came later in Al-Solaylee’s life. He has a PhD in Victorian literature and never attended school for journalism. Al-Solaylee says this is a career that is much more difficult to pursue now without formal education due to its fast-paced nature and the dramatic changes the industry has gone through since 2000. Nowadays, news organizations cannot afford to invest time into teaching people how to be journalists. In 2018, experiences of luck are different, and are less likely to happen at larger organizations for young journalists.
“This was all a series of luck … luck that I ran into Kevin Connolly, luck that he’d just spoken to Jill … luck that the guy was English,” he says. Putting up with doing unpaid, poorly paying or minimal work for a short amount of time to be discovered by a renowned news organization is a fantasy with undoubted appeal to many young journalists. Luck plays a role in every aspect of our lives, but in journalism and other creative jobs it has the ability to completely reroute career paths. For Al-Solaylee, now an award-winning author and associate professor of journalism at Ryerson, luck appeared at a time when he needed it most.
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“If you were an intern, there were people who were willing to show you the ropes. We all got jobs at a time when people were willing to show you how things are done,” Al-Solaylee says. “So my first job at the Globe, I had never been a production editor before. Now, if you were to apply for that job, they will expect you to have done production editing somewhere.” Because of how far journalism education has come,
lucky opportunities no longer exclusively happen in the workforce. Now they can happen in school while students are still learning their craft.
was lucky,” Bocknek says. “It was the first year that the instructor Robert Cribb and Patti were working together.” “I think it’s luck to a certain extent that the story even worked,” McIntosh says. Bocknek and McIntosh’s group were not paid due to the story being part of a class assignment, though it achieved success and elevated their careers as journalists.
says fourth-year journalism student Morgan Bocknek. “I thought: ‘I will never get lucky, nothing will ever happen to me.’ But I did. And I never thought I would get the opportunities I’ve had.” Bocknek, as well as her friend and fellow fourth-year journalism student, Emma McIntosh, received an opportunity that changed their lives after they took an investigative reporting class in third year. Bocknek and McIntosh worked in a group with two other Ryerson students, as well as five Concordia University students, on part of a series called “The Price of Oil.” The series is a collaboration of stories from the Toronto Star, National Observer and Global News regarding the oil and gas industry in Canada. Bocknek and McIntosh’s story focused on industrial leaks in the Chemical Valley of Sarnia, Ont., where benzene, a chemical that has been known to cause cancer, was exposed to residents. Most were unaware of what had leaked or how dangerous it was. “I think we were doing 30 hours a week or more on it,” McIntosh says. “And we had jobs. Morgan had to quit hers.”
The idea of the exposure fantasy, however, should not be one to rely on. Al-Solaylee addressed the issue of unpaid work in journalism, especially for students and journalists at the beginning of their careers. Journalism, like other creative and artistic jobs, requires hard work. The research and reporting invested into a story of any calibre, he says, should not be done without pay. “I think the exposure fantasy is bullshit,” says Al-Solaylee. “If a small startup wants you to write for their website for exposure, the chances of anyone who is a decision maker reading that are non-existent … you should not be working for free. All these organizations, if they have a business model, they should be paying their writers.” Ultimately, luck plays a part in every artistic career, whether it means landing a job, meeting a person with connections to the industry or simply being in the right place at the right time. It’s the nature of the industry, though the success of a journalist’s career is always dependent on how hard they work. “Luck is part of the picture, but it’s not the whole picture,” says Al-Solaylee. “Luck will open the doors, but once those doors are open, it’s up to you.”
In the beginning the idea was considered, as McIntosh described, the “runt” of the story ideas, due to how difficult the research would be. It was the first time the investigative reporting class had taken on a story that tackled a national issue. McIntosh and Bocknek’s group worked closely with a project producer and a managing editor in the News Services division of The New York Times, Patti Sonntag. They believed that had Sonntag not been the one to propose the story or work with their group, they wouldn’t have had as smooth or successful an experience as they did. “Just being in that class in that year, at that time,
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YO U ARE MY SUNSHINE A SHORT STORY ABOUT A MOTHER I’M LUCKY TO HAVE
WRITTEN BY JULIANA KEDZIOR KAMINSKI
The radio was playing in the kitchen one afternoon. It was a couple of years ago — I was about 15 — and I still remember that we were grating onions when “Hotel California” started to play. Welcome to the Hotel California/ Such a lovely place/ (Such a lovely place) “This is my favourite song,” I remember her saying. And soon we were swaying to the music while she sang the lyrics softly under her breath. I wonder if she’s ever dreamt of that place. Somewhere to get away, somewhere that isn’t here. I love watching my mom laugh. It’s so contagious that you can’t stop yourself from following suit. Her belly shakes up and down while she smiles ear to ear. You can see the wave of laughter roll over her while her eyes crinkle at the sides. As soon as it leaves her mouth, we’re wheezing together like two walruses. I want to freeze this moment forever. Because just for a little while, she isn’t in pain anymore. The day my mother told us she had cancer, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t accept that cancer would slowly eat away at the woman who raised me. Four years later and she’s still as strong as ever. Yet, one of my biggest regrets is dismissing the pain she was enduring. I tried to forget that she even had cancer at all. When I was little, my mom used to sing me a song. The memories of it are fading but I still clearly remember her voice. She never really liked her voice, but I loved it. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey.” She used to call me her sunshine. I wonder if she ever will again.
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L AY O U T B Y M A R YA N N I C A R O LINE ART BY CAROL LUI
I’m not a religious person, but I pray to God thanking Him for blessing me with a mother who loves me so much. She deserves the world and I question why He would give her the life she has. She deserves a better life, but I only have pocket lint to give her. She deserves to be loved by someone who doesn’t knock her down. She deserves a throne of gold but instead has a broken couch in a broken home. Today is my mother’s birthday, and we’re sitting around the table singing “Sto Lat.” My sister made chocolate cake, a family favourite. My mother was born at the start of winter, and I can only imagine the snow-covered homes that were brought to life with Christmas lights and decorations. I can only imagine the tiny bundle of cloth in my grandmother’s arms as they made their way up the front steps. Today is my mother’s birthday and I’m watching her smile spread to her eyes as she happily eats the chocolate frosting. She is my sunshine.
last sunday drinking coffee at noon and pretending to do a crossword, I realized Iâ€™d finally forgotten your phone number in and out of my contact list since the day weâ€™d met I tried to remember the sound of your voice(laughing that first time we got ice cream and I spilled it down my shirt, hushed the day you got on that train and left the city for good) -and I couldnâ€™t finally feeling in quiet content that I had moved on but then in some sinking horror was compelled to tell you that I had
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Growing up in a Russian household meant that I was no stranger to superstition. Knocking on wood, making sure my clothes were not inside out, never getting a bouquet with an even number of flowers — these were just some of the weird superstitions I grew up hearing from my parents. Interestingly, my family is neither religious nor particularly believes in all of these superstitions. It is simply something that you do “just in case,” as my mother would say. As the world is is becoming more secular, it seems superstitions still affect people’s decisions and mindsets, despite the fact that many modern-day superstitions come from pagan religions that predate Christianity. People find themselves avoiding black cats and sidewalk cracks, never
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opening umbrellas indoors and fearing the number 13. Most superstitions are in some way religious, however some are more based on unfortunate associations and coincidences. For instance, in Italian culture the number 17 is considered to be unlucky because the roman numerals, XVII, can be rearranged to spell “VIXI,” which translates to “I have lived,” and implies that a person’s life is over. As a result, many Italian hotels do not have a 17th room, and some buildings avoid having a 17th floor. John Turtle is a psychology professor at Ryerson University who specializes in the psychology of belief and skepticism. He says most people tend to be superstitious because it is a habit more than anything else.
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“This is human nature that most people seem to recognize. I think a lot of us are intuitive psychologists and we realize that a person may have this good luck charm, and without it they would panic,” says Turtle. “The person probably knows that it doesn’t do anything, but it also doesn’t hurt to have it — it’s a no harm, no foul kind of thing. Most people seem to have a sense that this is a crutch.” For many people, superstitions are based on more of a cultural habit rather than a conscious belief. We often learn this from our families, since we aren’t born knowing that we have to avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks. Even when we are older, there is a good chance that we will still feel uncomfortable doing certain things despite knowing that there is no logic behind them. It seems that certainty in one’s life is really the driving force behind most superstitions, since it is human nature to desire more control over one’s life. According to Turtle, people learn a lot by observation and reinforcement. “People are reinforced for expressing these beliefs, and this becomes your belief system.”
Turtle says there is a lot of confirmation bias at work when it comes to superstitious behaviour. When people see that something has seemingly made them “lucky,” they choose to continue this behaviour because they are now afraid that without it, they will be less successful. “It’s kind of how habits develop,” he says. “The person thinks, ‘this is a lucky jersey. I wore it and won the game, therefore it’s a lucky jersey.’ So you never give yourself the opportunity to find out what would happen if you didn’t wear it.” Since following the superstition doesn’t require much effort, simply doing it feels safer than consciously resisting it. However, Turtle believes there are some potential negative sides to being superstitious and overly attached to one’s good luck charms and rituals. This often takes the form of “self-fulfilling prophecies,” where the lack of one’s ritual or good luck charm would render a person too nervous to function normally, which causes them to not perform as well as they usually would. This often cements the connection that the person has to the good luck charm, which creates a cycle that is difficult to break. Kevin MacDonald, 21, is a fourth-year sport media student. He has been involved in sports his entire life and is currently known as one of the most superstitious players on the Ryerson baseball team. Like many other athletes, he has a lot of superstitions and rituals that he does before, during and after each of his games. “When I’m on the mounds, I walk the same way
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to the mound after each pitch, I walk the same way around the mound and I cross myself as I step over the baseline before every inning,” he says. “When I warm up, I don’t have my jersey on and I always put it on just before the game. I always have a baseball card in my back pocket of my favourite player, and I go to the same spot after each inning.” MacDonald, who grew up going to Catholic school, is not from a particularly superstitious household. He picked up most of these ritualistic tendencies from playing baseball, because it is “part of the culture.” In other aspects of his life, he says that he is not particularly superstitious. “Subconsciously, I think that this helps me, but I know that it doesn’t. It’s just something that I happen to do. When I first started pitching and figuring out who I was on the mound, I was watching different pitchers and seeing their own styles and trying to develop my own thing.” MacDonald says that while he doesn’t think his superstitions actually influence the outcome, they still bring him comfort before a game. “It just calms me down and makes me feel ready to go.” It’s hard to say whether superstitions are ever going to disappear. As they are passed on from generation to generation, it seems that the foreseeable future is still quite bleak for black cats and mothers whose kids step on sidewalk cracks.
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Much of what we consider good or bad luck is actually the result of what we do. Seeking a favourable outcome, we traditionally ask for recommendations and advice from the people who know us best. Now, by tracking what you like on Facebook, a machine learning algorithm developed at Stanford University and the University of Cambridge can determine your personality more accurately than your family, friends and even your spouse.
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"It's surprising that computers can do better using just one piece of information: likes," Youyou Wu, one of the studyâ€™s authors, told New Scientist.
Chris Anderson's theory of the â€œlong tailâ€? posits that our culture and economy are moving away from their focus on a small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a massive amount of niches in the tail. Because shelf space is expensive, traditional retail economics dictate that stores only stock the likely hits. Online, however, there are virtually no restrictions on what retailers can stock, and there is less need to lump products and consumers into one homogenous mass. Most importantly, the number of available niche products outnumber the hits. Those millions of niches are the long tail.
Algorithms help us to retrieve meaning from the unprecedented amount of information we have instant access to today. Without them, we would be overwhelmed by noise in our search results and social media feeds.
In the past, customers walked into a Blockbuster and felt lucky when they happened upon something that was of interest; a hit that the company had banked would move enough copies to keep the lights on. The experience wasn't tailored to the individual,
but to the lowest common denominator. Now, algorithms help the public follow their interests past the head of hits down the long tail, toward the less popular but more specific stuff they actually want — an out-of-print book related to their most recent deep-dive, or an obscure album that influenced a favourite musician. When exploring the very specific content that resides in the long tail, consumers find that their taste is not nearly as mainstream as first believed. Fewer gatekeepers dictating available options means that algorithms now give better access to serendipitous discovery than ever before. What's more, Netflix proves that it is possible to design recommendation systems that add in considerations of serendipity. Netflix suffers from the same rabbit-hole problem as social media; that is, providing so much content that users can't possibly assimilate it all. Its algorithm therefore makes recommendations based on what’s been previously watched and what's trending. But it doesn't want to trap the user in a filter bubble, and occasionally lobs a random curve ball to gauge their interest. In its ongoing quest to help engineer luck in love, the dating site Match.com introduced “missed connections” this past year. The feature layers algorithm upon algorithm to show app users who they have crossed paths with in real life, and how many times. The feed is curated based on both current matching criteria and location-based services. If the user likes a missed connection they see circling within their orbit, they can click to message them. Algorithms are trying to solve bad luck as well. Take Uhura, an onboard personal assistant algorithm that assesses risk. The premise underlying Uhura is that accidents and other events that are considered bad
luck are actually the result of stress, rushing, poor planning and failure to set realistic goals. Uhura listens to what the user wants to do and creates a travel plan. If the goals are deemed infeasible, Uhura negotiates with the driver to relax some constraints such as arrival time or their choice of restaurant. At its most basic, an algorithm is a set of instructions. When these instructions are empowered by traces of personal information left across the internet from which they can create ultra-personal interactions — say when a hot stranger from the coffee shop appears on a dating app, or when a long lost song appears on Spotify — it feels creepy. But in a world that is ever more internet-based, perhaps the notion that luck operates purely by chance is outdated. Our lucky breaks are now guided by technology that knows us nearly as well as we know ourselves. ryerson folio // 21
Evil Eye By Zahraa Hmood Layout by Dâ€™Arcy Quan McGimpsey
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It was always a deep blue. Usually glassy, shiny and shaped like a circle. Either small — no bigger than a fingernail bed — or about the size of an outstretched hand. At the centre, a light blue iris ringed by a thin white circle, and a deep black pupil. The blue is key: that’s what wards off the evil.
I often encountered talismans of the evil eye growing up. Hung around my mother’s neck, or hung on our walls in larger sizes, this symbol was a fixture in my life, as it was for many people like myself, who grew up in Middle Eastern households. Except, I didn’t exactly know what it meant. It was beautiful, but ominous.
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Eventually, I was taught what these charms represented. They were used to protect the wearer or bearer from the evil of others: evil delivered in a malevolent gaze. Maybe your family had just been blessed with the fortune of a new child, or a marriage. People in your life, people who didnâ€™t have these things, might grow jealous. They may cast a gaze at your child, or the happy couple, making a comment about lovely it all is, but would secretly be carrying bitterness. A month later, that child may fall ill, or that couple may suffer financial losses or canâ€™t seem to stop fighting with each other. The idea of the evil eye is fascinating to me because of how many cultures in which it seems to have significance. Thereâ€™s different manifestations of it and associated symbols and items, but the concept of an evil gaze bringing misfortune onto others is consistent. Historians pinpoint its origins to the Classical antiquity age (think back to the Greek Dark Ages, around the seventh or eighth century BC). The evil eye as a concept pops up in a lot of countries that dominated in this era, like Greece and Italy, but its prevalence is on almost every continent: from Egypt to Mexico, Israel to Pakistan and beyond.
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As an adult, I’m not sure how relevant this concept is to my life. However, I empathize with it, and there’s something in the sentiment I think many of us might understand. Not everyone who enters your life wants the best for you. Lots of people aim to protect themselves from people’s toxicity. When someone buys a talisman for their child or partner to wear or to hang in their family’s home, I get a deep sense of trying to protect those nearest and dearest to you. For many it may be a thoughtless practice or even just a trend, as evidenced by the popularity of evil eye jewelry in retailers like Pandora and Swarovski. However, the practice of warding off the evil eye, whether it be with talismans, cultural and religious practices or how we conduct ourselves in social spaces, can speak to a deep desire to ensure the best for ourselves and our loved ones in life.
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Usually glassy, shiny and shaped like a circle. Either small — no bigger than a fingernail bed — or about the size of an outstretched hand. At the centre, a light blue iris ringed by a thin white circle, and a deep black pupil. The blue is key: that’s what wards off the evil.
I often encountered talismans of the evil eye growing up. Hung aro mother’s neck, or hung on our walls in larger sizes, this symbol was a fixtu life. As it was for many people like myself, who grew up in Middle households. Except, I didn’t exactly know what it meant. It was beau ominous.
“In Balochi culture, the evil eye is avoided by protection, especially during important times in a person's life. The yellow veil is worn by a bride-to-be in the days before her wedding. It used to be worn for a few weeks. It's now been shortened to a week or even less as things are becoming more modern. Marriage for a girl is important because it's the ceremony that does not only link her to another person, but defines her as a woman. As such, it is important to cover her face and protect her from people who have bad wishes on her, who may even curse her due to jealousy and anger over someone else's happiness. To add to this, she takes the yellow veil off on the final day of the wedding, as weddings usually last a week or so.
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I think that in order to take of ourselves, we are to keep our business to ourselves and to not share too much about our lives to other people in case those people have bad intentions, something of which they can hide if they do. So again, very similar to the idea of protection. I also think it's very important to acknowledge God and thank Him whenever something good has happened or is happening. Anything can be taken away at any given time, very often because of the evil eye and the bad wishes people have on us, and so it's very important to be grateful.
The evil eye to me is something that can take away from the things in our lives that make us happy. In my culture, many of our ideas surrounding the evil eye revolves around what Islam says about it. Other than what I said about protection, Islam emphasizes our belief to thank God for all that He gives us because we believe that it decreases the power of evil eye. The yellow veil is mainly for marriage but there are other symbols like a long knife which is used in other circumstances. I mainly believe in what Islam says about this concept which is referred to as Nzr. I definitely believe in that very much and strive to be as grateful as I can for my blessings as a way to avoid Nzr. Another example of how we ward it off is how we talk about things. Say someone asks us about something we did a year ago, we would confirm that we did that action but would not specify exactly when because even though something has already happened, we don't talk too much about it in case it makes the person jealous or upset enough to cast the evil eye on us.â€?
ound my ure in my e Eastern utiful, but
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Korotaev The hand symbol is the symbol of protection against the evil eye… It’s kind of something we’ve always had around. I just grew up with the idea of the evil eye, “We don’t wanna jinx it.” It’s just something that everyone kind of wears. I never really gave much thought to it.
“I was raised by a neurotic, crazy Jewish mom. I was kind of raised like, ‘Everyone’s out to get you.’ I was scared to walk by myself on the street until I was 12. I think it’s kind of like this fear of people giving you the dirty look… putting negative energy on you, even though I don’t know if I believe in that energy thing. I wore it like every single day, almost like a good luck charm. If I didn’t have it, I’d feel like, ‘OK, I’m going to have a bad day.’ That’s also an aspect of it, is that superstitious good luck charm thing. Every basic Jewish girl has one of those blue things. It’s really kind of a cultural thing. I don’t know if I really believe in it, it just looks nice.” “I don’t think I really believe in that. It’s just kind of a thing I do. It’s the same way you wouldn’t step on a crack. I just in general grew up with a lot of superstitions, especially coming from a Russian family, we have a lot of dumb superstitions, like ‘Don’t wear your clothes inside out, someone will beat you up.; I don’t really give much thought to it, but I do all these weird superstitious things because I was brought up with it. It’s like second nature. I don’t think I blame anything when bad things happen. I guess I’m the kind of person that when bad things happen, I go, ‘OK.’ It’s not anyone’s fault.”
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“As a Greek woman the evil eye has huge symbolism in my culture. It’s seen as a symbol that wards off evil and keeps you safe. I really believe in the evil eye, I always try to wear either a necklace or bracelet with the eye on it day-to-day or when I travel because I feel like it keeps me safe, as cheesy as that may sound. The only other way to ward off the evil eye that I know of, is to do a small prayer.”
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It was the dead of summer in Iran, 1988. The prison was bustling with movement, which was anything but ordinary in Gohardasht. A foul stench filled the airless prison as dozens of men overcrowded the corridors. A thick, woven blindfold was wrapped tightly around Amir Borjkhani’s head. He was among a group of 20 prisoners scheduled for “retrial” that day. With his head tilted backwards, he had just enough room under his blindfold to make out three people seated before him. He didn’t know who they were, but there had been rumours going around the prison about a so-called redemption commission. “Do you want to redeem yourself?” they asked. “For your son?” Borjkhani’s wife, Samira, was two months pregnant when he was first arrested. His son was now three years old and had yet to meet his father.
“At that point, I knew my execution was coming,” says Borjkhani over the phone from his home in California. He called for a guard to escort him to the washroom. Halfway there, he noticed his group being shuffled towards the end of the hall. When he returned, the hall was full of new prisoners waiting for retrial. Borjkhani wedged himself between two others in hopes of not being recognized. He sat, waiting, with no plan of what he would say when he faced the commission again. Hours later, a guard emerged to inform the remaining prisoners that the retrials were cancelled for the rest of the day. The revolution was nearly a decade old at this time. The war with Iraq was in its final days, as was then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It would be years before people would find out that Khomeini had issued a fatwa (a legal ruling from a religious figure) ordering the execution of all political prisoners across Iran.
“Do you condemn the Mojahedin?” they asked him. Borjkhani circled around the question. He knew that saying yes wasn’t an option. “I will not engage in any political activity when I am released,” he responded. “Monafegh!” They snarled at him, meaning hypocrite in Farsi. The Mojahedin, also known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), is an Iranian opposition group that was founded in 1965 by university students who advocated for the overthrow of the Iranian regime. Following the revolution, those who were thought to be associated with the PMOI were targeted by the regime and subjected to harassment, imprisonment and execution. The guards grabbed Borjkhani and ushered him towards a group of prisoners sitting in the corner. “What is going on?” he whispered. “There’s rumours of a mass execution,” a male voice answered. Borjkhani felt his stomach sink.
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Khomeini’s main targets were sympathizers of the PMOI, who had gained popularity before the revolution. As a result of the fatwa, prisons across Iran entered into a state of emergency. Ill prisoners were denied entry into the infirmary. Radios, books and newspapers were removed from all wards. Prisoners were prohibited from going outdoors. It is believed that up to 400 prisoners were executed in a single night, with the majority of executions taking place at Evin and Gohardasht prisons. Bodies were transported to mass unmarked graves by dump truck, leaving no evidence of
the massacre behind.
stained with old blood.
According to records accumulated by the PMOI, by the end of that summer an estimated 33,000 political prisoners had been secretly executed. Borjkhani’s life was spared that summer, but death was all around him. Today, like many others, Borjkhani is still living with the legacy left behind by the massacre and is determined to let the world know what happened during the summer of ’88.
“Why am I here?” Borjkhani asked the guards. “There must be some mistake.” He knew better than to ask any questions, but he was starving and his stomach ulcers were causing him pain. Two guards barged into Borjkhani’s cell and beat him for nearly three hours. Every blow to his back sent pain shooting up his spine. The guards would let the pain linger just long enough for Borjkhani to catch his breath before dealing him the next blow. The heavy soles of their boots left imprints on his frail body. Despite having his shoulder dislocated twice during interrogations, this particular beating was the worst he had ever experienced. “The pain from that day is still with me today,” says Borjkhani.
••• At the time, Borjkhani was thin in stature and had an unintimidating presence. His olive-toned face was bare of any facial hair, with the exception of a thick, black moustache that buried his upper lip — a distinguishing feature of a mojahed. Before his arrest he was a student at the University of Tehran and, like many other students, he was a product of the revolution. He was socially active against the regime, but it was his involvement in the PMOI that led to his arrest and 10-year sentence. Borjkhani, who was 29 on the day of his retrial, is one of few who survived the massacre. He spent three more years in prison before he was released in 1991. Today, Borjkhani lives in Orange County, Calif. with his wife, Samira, and one of their two sons. He spends his time rallying for human rights in Iran, and remains a man on a mission to spread awareness about the massacre.
Men weren’t the only victims of torture and execution at the hands of the regime: women, even pregnant women, weren’t spared. Zahra Bijanyar was 24 years old, and two months pregnant, when she was arrested and sentenced to 10 years for her support of the PMOI. Bijanyar lost her baby three months after her arrest due to the severity of her torture. She was kept in the residential section of the Ghezel Hesar prison where she was frequently raped and tortured, according to Bijanyar’s sister, Zohreh. “She was alive, but destroyed,” Zohreh Bijanyar says over the phone through translator Ali Zia. “She was beaten so badly that she lost her eyesight and was hard to recognize. Her feet had been lashed to the point where she could barely walk.” Zahra Bijanyar had spent seven years in prison before the massacre occurred.
Nearly three decades later, the Iranian massacre of 1988 remains relatively unknown in the West. “Innocent people died,” says Marina Nemat, the author of two memoirs, Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. “To be silent is to perpetuate the crime.”
Nobody could have imagined what was happening inside the walls of Iranian prisons that summer, until the first inclination of the massacre arrived. “July 18, 1988 was the last time I saw my sister. She told me something fishy was happening,” says Zohreh Bijanyar. “After that, visitation stopped. My family would go to the prison and sit outside the doors for hours everyday.” It wasn’t until November 1988 that her family would find out that Zahra Bijanyar had been executed. •••
According to Borjkhani, the day before his retrial is when it became evident that there was something happening in the prison. “The guards stormed the common area and started calling out names,” he recalls. “Those named were taken to solitary confinement.”
According to Nemat, Canada’s liberal government needs to implement targeted sanctions against Iranian officials who have had a hand in murder and torture, as well as confiscate properties of Iranian officials in Canada.
The two by one and a half metre cells had just enough room to lay down, and were accompanied by a toilet and a thin sheet
Borjkhani believes that, moving forward, the Iranian people are going to be victorious. “The people who died in the massacre were so dedicated to their cause,” says Borjkhani, “I am alive and it’s my responsibility to tell the world how brave they were.”
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With a passion for shoegaze and the easygoing, individualistic attitude of Toronto’s indie crowd, Greenhouse is sure to be on everyone’s radar sooner rather than later. The band is comprised of Quinn Fisher on lead guitar and vocals, Hugh Hart on bass guitar, Joe Flan on drums and Sacha Katz, second-year creative industries student, on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Their sound is dreamy without drifting away, with warm and wandering instrumentation and classic shoegaze storytelling. They debuted in 2016 with their self-titled EP, and released two tracks in 2017, “Vincent Van Slow” and “Acetate,” bringing further sonic experimentation and a more defined sound.
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Though he just put out his first (and so far, only) single a year ago, Ejji Smith has already set himself apart from most of his contemporaries. His sound calls back to something old, but his energy feels brand new and wholly refreshing. The guitarist, writer and producer, among many other things, has had a hand in creating tracks on records for Teddy Fantum, TOBi and Pro-V. Smith describes his debut single “Get It On” as “an ode to life.” It blends psychedelic/progressive rock influences with lush vocals and distinct, layered instrumentation. The anticipation is high for what this songwriting aficionado will bring to the table.
They’ve only been making music for a year, but folk duo Moscow Apartment is already showing a ton of promise. Childhood friends Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla first met in a children’s choir, and now as teens have released their self-titled debut project. Their blend of wistful, good-natured lyrics, with blissful harmonies set to the tune of melancholy folk and blues instrumentals, is beyond charming. They ended 2017 playing the historic Horseshoe Tavern, and kicked this year off playing Violet Fest and Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival. Give them a listen; they’ll take you to a place where everything’s all right.
Singer-songwriter and generally creative human being Gillian Mapp has operated with subtlety in the local scene, which, of course, is what makes her intriguing. She’s primarily known for her features on a handful of chill R&B tracks from 2017 with producer 2nd Son, including “Right Here,” “Where Do We Go” and “Wake Me Up.” She delivers her rich, humble vocals and tender lyricism with poise on each of these tracks. Here’s hoping she has something up her sleeve for 2018, be it another collaboration, a photo project (she’s a photographer as well) or a new music project of her own. With such mysticism and sincerity in her craft, who knows what will come next.
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The nurses worked over me, speaking in rapid-fire Spanish that I couldnâ€™t understand. I caught the word blood, though, as one of them picked up my tanned and cracked hand. The skin was so dry from the high altitude that it was covered in tiny fissures of cuts and congealed blood. The nurseâ€™s hand felt cool against it, as she asked my friend something in Spanish. I had a high fever, chills and was slipping in and out of consciousness. Breathing was hard. Someone said blood poisoning in English. For the first time, I felt truly scared. I wondered if I might end up dying here. It was Sept. 3, 2016 and I was one of the 12 million
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Canadians who Statistics Canada estimated travelled abroad that year. I was also part of a smaller percentage who got seriously ill while in a foreign country. I had arrived in Peru almost four weeks earlier to volunteer and travel. Three days in Lima by myself, then two weeks volunteering in Cusco and then ten more days of travelling before flying home and starting the fall semester at Ryerson two days later. That was the plan. The salmonellosis and parasite I contracted had other ideas. Throughout the trip I took measured risks which, looking back on it now, occasionally verged on incredibly stupid. The one thing I wouldn’t compromise on was food safety. If a restaurant wasn’t recommended or popular, I avoided it, and I refused to drink anything that had ice in it.
Peru, and especially Cusco, where I spent most of my trip, have a well-developed backpacking and tourist circuit. Hostels line almost every cobblestone street of the historic part of Cusco. You bond quickly with the people you meet in the dorms. Everyone wants a partner to explore the city with. It was the strangers I encountered who helped me through the trip. Two hours after landing in Lima, I was exploring with a solo backpacker I’d just met. The next day, it was two American Peace Corps volunteers who took me under their wing as we walked around the Miraflores district. They sent me into Central Lima with kisses on my cheeks and warnings to be careful. Safety varies by neighbourhood in Lima, and the historic Central Lima area is known to be a bit rough. The neighbouring district of Callao — which houses the international airport — had been under martial law
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for nine months when I went. Authorities wanted to curb organized crime and gangs fighting for control of the seaside ports. I was scared of going by myself and delayed the trip until early afternoon. By the time I left the catacombs of Monasterio de San Francisco — a 16th century baroque-style church built by the Spanish — it was getting dark. There was a heavy police presence and large crowds. I had accidentally ended up in the middle of a march, 50,000-strong, against gender violence in Peru. They carried signs that said “ni una menos,” (not one less). Human Rights Watch reported that between 2009 and August 2015, “More than 700 women have been killed in Peru in ‘femicides,’” according to official statistics. It was a historic moment; I was ignorant, confused and just wanted to get home. The problem was that I had no clue how to do that. Desperate, I searched for someone who looked like they might speak English. I lucked out and found someone who not only spoke English but was going my way and could take me home. When I asked her why she helped me, she told me about traveling alone to the United States for the first time. She had been stranded, unable to reach anyone and was scared. A family of strangers had brought her to their home, given her a place to stay and helped her contact her family. Ever since, she has always tried to help tourists. I took a blurry photo of her on the bus and flew to Cusco the next day. While Maximo Nivel was the organization I volunteered with directly in Cusco, I had bought the trip with International Volunteer HQ, a New Zealand-based voluntourism company. On their website, they sell themselves as being “focused on providing affordable volunteer travel experiences that are responsible, safe and high quality.” The children’s library that they placed me in was in
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the hills surrounding the city. It was there that I met Beata Roginskyte. Originally from Lithuania, she was studying in the Netherlands and was in Peru to complete the internship requirement of her degree. Roginskyte and I became close friends. Most of my crazy adventures from the trip were with her. On my last night in Peru, fresh off the train from Machu Picchu, I met Roginskyte to go out drinking. My stomach felt weird during the trip home, but it was one of my last chances to see her so I indulged in a night of hostel bar hopping and clubbing without complaint for the first time. I’ll never know what did it. It could have been the mango from an open-air market that I ate while sitting on the terraces of Machu Picchu, or any of the other foods I ate before returning to Cusco. But something was about to make me very sick. The next morning I figured it was only food poisoning and popped an extra probiotic. Roginskyte came over to help me pack since I needed to drop my bags off at her place before my evening flight. I had to check out of my host family’s home by noon. On the bus across town, I was shivering and sipping water to control the nausea. At her place, it was worse. I was too weak to crawl across her one-room apartment to the bathroom. While curled up in the fetal position, I said that I might need to go to the hospital. Roginskyte thought otherwise. “You’re not going to the hospital for a hangover!” she said, while urging me to get out of bed. We both knew I needed to be at the airport soon; my flight was leaving in a few hours. Then I started throwing up water. We took a cab to the volunteer organization’s office to print my flight information. Afterwards, we’d immediately go to the hospital, hoping that they could give me something to get me on a plane. Everything about my body felt wrong and I was having trouble walking. I felt so cold that my teeth were chattering despite wearing my warmest jacket. Weather records say it was almost 20 C that day. When I entered the Maximo Nivel office, I was crying. The receptionist there asked what was wrong and wiped my tears away.
What happened next is in dispute. I remember a quick conversation about whether a doctor had been contacted. Roginskyte said that she was taking me to the hospital and then the subject was dropped in favour of looking for my volunteer certificate. International Volunteer HQ said via email later that, “According to the staff at Maximo Nivel, they offered to arrange a visit with their staff doctor on the day [that I] came in ill, which [I] declined.” They asked if it was possible “that the situation was misunderstood,” given how unwell I was. It is possible, but neither Roginskyte nor I remember it like that. Aside from that email, International Volunteer HQ never did anything with my complaint and nobody was involved with what happened next. At the hospital, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be boarding a plane that day. I was severely dehydrated and had a high fever. My flight had to be cancelled, my travel insurance activated and my family contacted. The local SIM card I had gotten did not allow out-of-country calls. I was unconscious for most of this. I remember bits and pieces. The nurses working over me and the initial confusion about what had made me ill. The horror I felt when I saw that none of them wore gloves. Every joint in my body ached and even laying down was painful. Too weak to pull my blankets up, I just repeated “muy frío” (very cold) over and over again. It was Roginskyte who looked after me. She spent two full days in the hospital with me, sleeping on the extra bed and translating everything. She was the one who called my insurance, tried to rebook my flight and kept my family and friends updated. Emails from that time were written by both of us. I can tell at what point I
passed out while typing mid-sentence and where Roginskyte took over. I call her my guardian angel to this day. In total, I spent three days in the hospital, chained to an IV and unable to get out of bed most of the time. Roginskyte had to leave for work on the last day. It was then that I half-consciously watched as a nurse stuck me with a needle she pulled from the same pan as the dirty ones. I could see droplets of blood in the metal dish. Usually, people recover from salmonella without treatment; hospitalization only happens in severe cases. It can be dangerous even in developed nations. Last year, 22 Canadians became sick from a salmonella outbreak, and one person died. A joint investigation by Health Canada, however, could not determine “if salmonella contributed to the cause of death.” I was lucky that I had insurance, that I had been vaccinated against typhoid fever — the most dangerous complication of salmonella — and that my Canadian blood work came back clean after the hospital stay. It takes three months after the point of infection for HIV to show up in your blood. That wait was one of the longest of my life. Most of all, I’m lucky that throughout the trip I met perfect strangers who helped me and kept me safe. The backpackers who kept me company, the many Peruvians who watched me pantomime asking for directions before pointing me to my destination and the teachers who worked at the library and would accompany me down the mountain to my bus. Many of them aren’t strangers anymore, and Roginskyte is now one of my best friends. I can’t imagine my life without her, even if it took a few near death experiences for us to bond.
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S TA R T I N G F R O M
WRITTEN BY CELINA GALLARDO A R T A N D L AY O U T B Y M A RYA N N I C A R O
Being in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, how has Ryerson accommodated its newcomer students?
It was the week before I was supposed to start Grade 9. I had just visited the Catholic high school closest to the basement apartment my family and I lived in. My eyes were fixed on my dirty shoelaces as my brother told me off. He was mad at me for not speaking enough to our guidance counsellor and cited that as the reason I was put into an English as a second language program, more commonly known as ESL. It was the biggest indicator that we were immigrants. Nowadays, I have no shame in being an immigrant; having lived in three different countries makes for a colourful backstory. During my high school days, however, I would often fantasize about being born in Canada. I imagined living in a spacious suburban home, being able to travel almost anywhere with a blue passport and watching TV shows on Family Channel. Instead, I lived in an apartment complex that scared my friends’ parents when they dropped me off, I carried a maroon Filipino passport and I had no idea what a Degrassi was. Although I felt like I didn’t fit into Canadian culture right away, I was fully aware of the privileges I had experienced: the all-girls private Catholic school I attended in the Philippines only allowed us to speak Tagalog in one or two classes, I had access to Western media and I attended a Canadian international school in the United Arab Emirates. By the time I landed on Mississauga soil in 2011, English was practically my first language. It usually surprises people when I tell them that I’ve only been here since Grade 9. Some respond with: “Your English is so good!” but it’s a compliment that never sits well with me. It feels like a sticker that says “Congratulations on fitting in!” slapped on an imaginary immigrant behaviour card.
It feels like a sticker that says “Congratulations on ﬁtting in!” slapped on an imaginary immigrant behaviour card. 38 // ryerson folio
These initiatives, although innovative, still rule out immigrants within the Ryerson community. Thus, NSAR was formed and is Asalya’s way of kickstarting a better immigrant support system.
Language isn’t the only challenge that comes with immigrating to Canada. Newcomer students are different than international students in the sense that they plan on staying in Canada after graduation. ESL resources are quite easy to find, such as Ryerson’s ESL foundation program or the English language support sessions provided by Ryerson’s Student Learning Support. Newcomers, however, need different forms of support. They might speak English perfectly, but still feel isolated from everyone else. This is why Sara Asalya founded the Newcomer Students’ Association of Ryerson (NSAR). In the summer of 2017, Asalya graduated from the Chang School’s community engagement, leadership and development program, and is currently doing her second certificate in leadership in organizations. Asalya, who is NSAR’s president, founded the group to support people who are new to both Canada and Ryerson.
“Ryerson is a progressive campus that really puts students’ needs in the forefront, it’s just that we need to look at the gaps and reach out to people and try to make connections,” Asalya says. NSAR was also born from Asalya’s personal road to Ryerson. Conflict drove her and her family out of Palestine, where she was born and raised, so they traded the Mediterranean Sea for Lake Ontario. Back in Palestine, Asalya had everything a family could ever dream about: they had their own house, their own car and financial security. But none of those mattered in a place where tomorrows weren’t guaranteed. Asalya finished her English undergrad at the Islamic University of Gaza and worked as an English instructor there afterwards. But when it came to presentations at Ryerson, Asalya would need to prepare four weeks in advance just to feel completely comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, accent and all. She refuses, however, to change herself for anyone else. “I try to force my classmates to respect me,” Asalya says. “Even if you don’t understand me, I don’t care. Find a way to understand me.”
“Imagine on top of [being new to Ryerson], you are a newcomer at a new country trying to start from scratch — you don’t know anything. There are many barriers, including language barriers, cultural barriers, you don’t have friends, you don’t have family; you have no support,” Asalya says. NSAR participants range from undergrads who just finished high school in another country to mature professionals who come to Ryerson to get Canadian credentials. Although members are from different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they had to start from scratch doing something familiar in an unfamiliar place. Ryerson has a one-of-a-kind graduate program in immigration and settlement studies, and is supporting over 400 Syrian refugees thanks to the the 2016 Ryerson Lifeline Syria challenge.
Canadian newcomers endure isolation and confusion, all in the pursuit of a better future. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few decades to finally feel settled in. It’s high time we do more to help them feel at home. In the meantime, I’ll continue redefining my identity here. I might even watch an episode or two of Degrassi.
Even if you don’t understand me, I don’t care. Find a way to understand me. ryerson folio // 39
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In our society the connotations surrounding what it is to be a woman and what a woman should look or act like are often contradicting and exaggerated. The essence of a woman within this context is equally as powerful as it is damning. Strength in femininity is best found when women come together to celebrate their diversities as one. Folio celebrates the raw divine feminine energy of the modern woman with LadyLuck.
Karice Mitchell Tiffany Mongu Lesheaya Debidayal Demiyah Perez Kieona Sashay Rosemary Akpan Bernice Doce Natalie Mizzen
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Arti Patel grew up hating everything about her South Asian heritage. As part of the only Indian family on her predominantly white street, she was embarrassed about the food her family cooked and the language they spoke. “These are all things I used to cry to my parents about. As I became a little bit older, I realized I was having a lot of internal conflict with my identity, and that’s because I didn’t want this identity, this part of me,” the 28-year-old journalist and Ryerson alumna says. “I wanted to be white.” Patel is a second-generation immigrant, or “second-gen,” whose parents hail from Gujarat, India. When she was growing up in Toronto, Patel often floundered to carve out a space for herself in Canadian society while simultaneously embracing her Indian heritage. This is what prompted her to launch her Huffington Post series “Born and Raised” in 2016. In 2014, a report from two Toronto universities found that when it came to social integration and general life satisfaction, second-gens continuously ranked lower than their first-generation counterparts. The reason? Second-generation immigrants feel more vulnerable and more victimized in Canadian society than their parents do. Those who face mental health issues as a result of being discriminated against generally don’t feel a strong connection to their heritage group, authors Rupa Banerjee and Jeffrey G. Reitz wrote in the report. They’re lumped in with their heritage group but they don’t feel any pride in that, in what can only be described as a “double whammy.” According to Statistics Canada, between 2011 and 2016 alone, Canada saw a population boom of 1.7 million people. Of that 1.7 million, two thirds were immigrants. With the refugee crisis, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Trump administration’s travel bans, immigration has remained a hot-button issue for many in North
America. According to Statistics Canada, by 2036 nearly half of all Canadians will be either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. In such a diverse city like Toronto, which is home to the largest population of second-generation immigrants in Canada, this double whammy effect may soon become part of a larger epidemic. ••• Body image was very important to Patel’s family, and as a result, something she seriously struggled with during her childhood. Having a thin and therefore desirable body was something that was hammered into her mind at a young age by her relatives, Patel wrote in her Huffington Post series. At the age of 13, she weighed over 100 pounds. She remembered listening to “toxic conversations” where her aunties warned that if Patel remained “fat,” she would end up settling for a husband she did not like. When an illness struck her while visiting India, Patel felt “grateful.” She wrote that as an adult, her friends didn’t understand why she didn’t speak up for herself when her mother “obsessed” over the idea of her daughter having a perfect body. However, this is not to say that Patel does not appreciate what her parents have done for her. They were not educated in Canada and faced a language barrier upon moving here, so they struggled to grasp how to raise an Indian-Canadian family. But without them, she said over the phone, she wouldn’t have learned important cultural skills like language, nor would she have been able to find other Indian friends. Banerjee, the secondary author of “Racial Inequality, Social Cohesion and Policy Issues in Canada,” is a “one and a half generation immigrant,” as her family moved to Canada from India while she was only seven. However, she identifies more with second-gens. Growing up in Windsor in the ‘80s and ‘90s, she was one of a mere handful of South Asian students at
her school. Despite trying to fit in, she couldn’t help but feel “othered” by her peers. “We didn’t speak with an accent, we dressed the same as everyone else,” she said over the phone. “But still we were embarrassed to invite people over to our house. We were embarrassed by the food that our parents wanted to give us for lunch.” While being a second-generation immigrant can also come with an awareness of discrimination, Banerjee says, this identity also acts as a buffer against any negative effects of perceived discrimination. Banerjee’s own identity is tightly intertwined with her South Asian heritage. Despite her heightened awareness of oppression, she finds something worth holding onto in her ethnic background.
says Banerjee. Based on her research, those who connect well with both their heritage culture and mainstream Canadian culture have demonstrated positive physical and mental states over those who do not. Moving to Toronto from Windsor helped Banerjee create that blended identity. Interestingly, she found her spot in the mixed fabric of Canadian society by befriending the children of other immigrants. They’re not necessarily Indian and they’re not necessarily South Asian, but Banerjee’s best friends share the same feeling of being excluded that no amount of time in a big city like Toronto could erase. “Sometimes you find that group who you can be yourself with,” she says. “Sometimes you stick together because that’s your only way to survive. I carried that with me for all these years.”
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I didn’t realize I was privileged until a couple of years ago. I never took notice of politics or social justice issues because they never affected me. However, in university I met people from many different backgrounds and studied, worked and socialized in an environment in which issues of race, gender and class were talked about almost every single day. This new experience broadened my tunneled worldview. I finally took a step outside of myself and recognized the privileges I was awarded just by being born. I am white. Honestly, it feels weird to me to make that statement. The colour of my skin was never something I had to think about growing up. I never identified as “white” because I didn’t have to, and I’m not even sure if I still have to. The colour of my skin doesn’t matter because it won’t be the first thing most people use to identify me. The most common privileged descriptors apply to me; I’m a white, cisgendered female. Except, the idea of privilege was never something that I had to consider growing up. In fact, it wasn’t until the past few years that I realized that word did not exist in my upbringing because I am so privileged. To someone who has a lot of privilege, the word almost feels dirty or insulting. It’s not. It is neither a good thing or a bad thing. It cannot be defined through polarity because the definition can change depending on who you ask. It can be associated with ignorance and laziness, while to others it is related to luck. However, we cannot deny that the systemic views and limitations our society sets up leaves certain people with more advantages than others, and that these advantages can be summed up with that one “dirty” word: privilege. I reached out to students across Ryerson to examine the idea of privilege and the ways in
which it impacts our individual lives. My hope was to explore different types of privilege experienced by various people. After putting out a general call for potential interviewees, the majority of responses came from other white females. I immediately thought of how this could be problematic as I wanted to have an open discussion about privilege, but speaking to those who were also extremely privileged wouldn’t contribute to the conversation. Only after sitting down and speaking with them did it dawn on me that a person can be privileged in many different aspects of their life, beyond the colour of their skin. My first interview was with first-year creative industries student Katya Katsnelson, who provided insight into financial privilege. “My parents are immigrants from Russia. When they first moved to Canada they faced huge disadvantages,” Katsnelson says. “They didn’t fit in, they didn’t know anyone and they had no source of income.” After finding success in Canada, Katsnelson knew it was through her parents’ hard work that she was able to grow up with a multitude of opportunities. She is aware that most people didn’t have the same childhood she grew up with. “I could have had a very different childhood if it weren’t for my parents’ hard work. I took their success as the norm when in reality, it wasn’t,” Katsnelson says. It was when she interacted with people from different walks of life that she recognized her own privilege. Through Katsnelson’s reflection, it is evident that it is not easy to recognize your own privilege when you don’t know about other people’s experiences. Having the opportunity to study at a post-secondary institution is a privilege in itself. And knowing there is nothing stopping you from achieving your goals, not even the stress of financial burden, is a privilege only some are lucky enough to have. First-year creative industries student Paulina
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Morelli identified our lack of control over the privileges we are born into. “Being privileged means that you are in favourable situations because you were born into that life, or because of certain events that you have little control over,” Morelli says. “But, like most humans, there’s always a part of me that longs for what I don’t have.” I think I can say this is true for most people. I know it is for me. My parents divorced when I was around 14, but they’d been separated for as long as I can remember. Their relationship had never looked like a typical marriage, but I’d always assumed that it was normal. It was my normal.
entire life and it was never a question if I would go to university, but a question of where and what would I study.” It is not right for anyone to feel lesser based on how they look or where they are from. Unfortunately, we are the products of a society that is rooted in systemic hierarchical beliefs. It is pure luck if you are born into a position in a world that is tailored for you. By some stroke of good luck we were born into the bodies we currently inhabit, and that coincidence has significantly impacted our lives.
In the small suburban town I grew up in, everyone was the same: white, with a nice house and a nuclear family. I was the only one out of my friends whose parents weren’t together, and I remember thinking how unfair it was that all my friends had perfect families when mine was broken. Despite this feeling, I didn’t think I missed out on any opportunities. I was still loved and cared for.
I’m sure that there are still many other forms of privilege I haven’t thought of or discussed within this article. That is due to the ways in which I am personally privileged, as my life is what I perceive as the norm. According to Huynh, “Recognizing your privilege allows you to address the ways your privilege oppresses others and takes up space.” It will only be through more conversations like the ones I had with my interview subjects that I will be able to identify them. The first step to truly recognizing your privilege is to listen.
Jessica Huynh, a fourth-year creative industries student, emphasized that being privileged is heavily influenced by what we, as a society, collectively uphold as the ideal. Whether or not you fall within that ideal will determine the ease or difficulty with which you navigate life.
Overall, what I learned from my interviews is although it is important to be an ally to those less privileged, I cannot speak on their behalf. It is imperative to use popular channels as platforms to amplify the voices of those who deserve to speak.
Although she spoke about her struggles and experiences as a woman of colour within the Canadian social sphere and workforce, Huynh also recognized there are many ways in which she is privileged.
“Too many times I’ve witnessed men and white women invading spaces and preaching valid points that on the surface appear to be done in solidarity when it actually overshadows the voices of marginalized individuals,” Hyunh says.
“I am privileged in the sense that I am able-bodied, cisgendered and heterosexual. I am also healthy and grew up in a two-parent working household,” Huynh said. “My parents stressed the importance of academics my
Be mindful of how your decisions might be preventing others from expressing themselves and whether your actions reflect your socio-political views.
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Huynh mentioned an example of this misguided approach that she saw on Instagram. A fairly popular and attractive white, cisgendered woman posted a photo of herself in a T-shirt that said something along the lines of “Put more female artists of colour in museums.” The message she is promoting is, at its most superficial level, a good one. However, when a friend of Huynh’s commented that if she wanted to create a space for female artists of colour, she should share their artwork or highlight the artists she liked, the comment was deleted.
The meaning changes depending on context and circumstance, as we all experience the world differently. There are many different forms of it in existence, whether it is a visible identifier such as the colour of someone’s skin, or something less visible like socioeconomic status or sexual orientation. It exists in forms I hadn’t thought about before these interviews, and I’m sure there are many other forms of privilege I still haven’t learned about. My learning has only just begun.
“This happens way too often. Now, I’m not saying I don’t want people in a position of privilege to not be talking about these issues, I do,” Huynh says. “I’m saying that it’s important to be mindful of whether your actions are contributing or inhibiting others, and whether your actions align with what you are preaching.” After talking to my peers, I’ve realized how important it is to be aware of your own privileges and how they may impact those around you. Privilege cannot be reduced to one singular definition.
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Art by Jake Benaim
To American party-goers and families, the shores of “Rocky Point” provide a beachside getaway from the deserts of the nearby southwestern United States. But for locals, it’s known as Puerto Peñasco, a hard-luck village in rural Mexico that impoverished fishermen and hopeful migrants pass through before they seek a better life elsewhere.
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Up until last year, this trailer near the highway was the residence of a firewood salesman, though shifting sands destabilized the foundation and forced him to move elsewhere. Many of the homes in Puerto PeĂąasco are dilapidated, with residents living in everything from abandoned hotels to decommissioned boxcars on disused sections of railroad track. Many homes lack indoor plumbing, 24-hour electricity and even lockable doors; all a family often has is a one-room plywood shack that contains little more than a mattress on the floor.
Having travelled for over two weeks from El Salvador with her father, Ana, 4, sits on the railroad tracks at the edge of town, waiting for the daily Ferromex freight train to pass by and ferry the pair directly to the American border. Migrants jumping on and off passing cargo trains is a common sight in Puerto PeĂąasco, as itâ€™s situated on the westernmost branch of the Mexican commercial railroad and is the last major town which most trains stop in before making the roughly 300-kilometre-long journey through the Sonoran Desert and into California.
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Rocky Point also draws a significant amount of tourists during the spring and autumn seasons, with Americans routinely flocking to “Sandy Beach,” a complex of high-rise resort hotels several kilometres west of the town. They’ll often visit the Old Port neighbourhood, stocking up souvenir sombreros, fresh fish and cheap brand-name pharmaceuticals. Farmacias, as they’re called in Spanish, often use colourful signs and weekly specials to entice customers into buying everything from Viagra to Xanax.
Between September and March every year, dozens of fishing vessels emerge from dry dock and depart from Puerto Peñasco to comb the waters of the northern Sea of Cortez for shrimp, one of the town’s most lucrative and iconic exports. While other fishing industries like crab and tuna exist in smaller numbers in Peñasco, it’s the bronze statue of a sword-wielding warrior riding a shrimp in the centre of town that clearly indicates the top local priority when it comes to seafood.
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In the summer, at the height of the off-season for shrimp, many vessels enter dry dock at one of the handful of unnamed shipyards that dot the town, being dragged onto land for routine maintenance or scrapping, depending on the boat’s condition. Luis, a fisherman who works as a forklift operator at a dry dock for six months a year, said through a translator that all boats in working order are painted with a white “X” on their hull so the incorrect vessel isn’t accidentally dismantled for scrap metal.
Due to relaxed dumping laws in the Mexican state of Sonora, private backyards and vacant lots alike can quickly become a haven for litter, with years of unsupervised disposal of waste having wreaked havoc on many of Puerto Peñasco’s public spaces. Street corners are sometimes used as dumping grounds for wrecked cars which are too damaged to be moved to a junkyard 20 minutes out of town. Behind this business near the commercial core, someone has abandoned a twin-engine plane to rust away.
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“You as well,” Desdemona says with a smile.
ground. More like it follow. She almost loses her breath as the ice shatters on the pavement, seemingly only a few inches from her.
“Don’t think I’ll get any sleep tonight,” Isaac tells her as he slings his satchel over his shoulder, before turning the corner of the street with her.
“Jesus, Mona!” Isaac says as he takes a few steps to catch up to her. “You're lucky to be alive!” he shouts. “One more step and ... wow, how lucky.”
“I don’t think I will either.”
She keeps on walking. “Yeah.”
“Well, we can try,” he says with a charming grin. Charm. That’s what Desdemona had always attributed Isaac’s achievements to. His charm is what made the supervisors and overseers laugh in the boardroom, and it was charm that had gotten him a chance in the election for president of the organization.
Mona turns back for a moment to see a man mourning the loss of his windshield, now cracked from the impact of the fallen ice.
“Good luck at the election tomorrow.”
In her case, it was hard work that had gotten her the opportunity. They walk through the downtown streets, the smell of hotdogs grilling and cigarette smoke billowing filling their nostrils. Desdemona holds her coat close to her as a wicked gust of wind sends a chill down her spine. Isaac chatters on. Something about which suit he’s going to wear when he speaks at the podium and how he might have to change into a different suit at the after party. She tries to listen, but she can’t. Something around her tells her to stop walking. She does. Suddenly, something falls from the top of the building beside them. What looks like a sheet of glass tumbles to the
“How lucky.” As they walk, they reach an intersection. “I’ll see you tomorrow Mona,” he says as he turns to cross the street. She gives him a sheepish grin as he makes his way across. Finally. Unlike their other co-workers, she never liked his jabber. She sighs. The streets are noisy, as always. The perpetual sounds of footsteps and impatient cab drivers drum on and on. The global urban voice. The monotony is abruptly broken up by several long honks in succession. Not the usual impatient, passive-aggressive beeps. The ones that indicate danger . Her brown eyes grow wide. The honk fades as a vicious pileup fills the intersection. She hears the sound of metal dragging across pavement. She turns around sharply to see a brutally disfigured car. The way it sits, like crumpled tin foil, makes it look almost like a part of the building it crashed into, a Dadaist installation of some kind. Shattered glass is splayed over the road, some tinged with a certain redness that sends a shot of worry through Desdemona’s heart. No. She runs toward the scene, her eyes peering through the wreckage. Her head swivels desperately around, gazing at the people who still walk, unbothered by the scene that has just occurred. Finally, her eyes fall on something not far from the place the car had been totaled. A brown satchel. Blood pools from underneath the car. It seeps into the crevices of the street, and oozes so much from its source it eventually touches the tip of Desdemona’s shoe as if pointing a finger. “Someone call the police!” She yells. “We need an ambulance!” Her heart pounds within her chest. This is all her fault. She knows it instinctively. She pulls out her phone and desperately tries to dial the three digits that no one else had overcome their shock in time to. She gazes at her phone intensely, but can’t see through the water welling in her eyes. The phone rings. She presses her hand to her forehead and
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begins to cry. She can’t bring herself to look at the wreckage again. To look at it was to gaze upon her own crime. To her, the limp body that lies without breath under all the sharp metal and glass is her doing. She dares not look at her fingers for fear they would be soaked in blood. “Hello? There’s been an accident!” ••• She holds her arms and keeps her eyes on the ground. The flashing red and blue lights came fast. So did the officer who spoke to her so gently and assured her that what happened wasn’t her fault. She wanted to scream, but knew she didn’t deserve to. Do they know? How could they? She had done it at a low point in her life. She was in a sea where she could never reach the shoreline. She had lost her father and her sister in the same year. A drunk driver. Her friends had comforted her at first. They embraced her. They promised to never leave her side. Over time, they found the company of others more fun, and her life was bereft of comfort. She began to drown in paperwork at her job. She began to think something from her childhood had caught up to her that had convinced the universe she deserved such an unlucky existence. She couldn’t just do nothing. She continued to struggle at work. Her mind was ever consumed by what she had lost, and she found herself staring into the blackness of her sleeping computer screen more than doing what she was supposed to. Her boss would pass by her office at least three times a day, as if checking on her, if not wondering why she was still even there. She grew tired of catching the whispers of her co-workers who stood by the water cooler in the staff room, thinking themselves to be speaking faintly when they exchanged rumours of her dismissal. She decided to change her luck. Summoning him was the easy part. It really was as easy as lighting a few candles and laying down a few grains of salt like the movies tell you. It was talking to him that was the hard part. After she uttered the last word, a feeling of darkness crept over her. The air suddenly became thin and her hands grew cold. Loneliness filled her to the brim and hope was but a distant feeling. She heard that that’s what his company does to you. He had arrived. She couldn’t look at him directly, both because she was too fearful of him and because she felt that if she did, she would never be able to close her eyes again without seeing him. Instead, she looked at his feet when she told him why she had called upon him. He wore black oxfords constructed from some unplaceable leather that clacked with each step he took as he circled her. When she caught glimpses of him she saw that he donned
an impeccable black suit like a Wall Street business magnate or an upper-echelon White House staffer. Gold rings with precious stones clothed his fingers. He had no horns, like all the books had said he would. His words were like knives jamming into her ears. Just being in his presence made Mona’s skin crawl. “I want to be lucky,” she told him. “Lucky?” he asked. His voice slithered through her brain, making her cringe. “I want good luck.” “Then good luck you shall have,” he whispered. “From now on, everything will always work in your favour.” “What will you take in return?” she asked him, still not daring to look directly at him. “You will pay for this for the rest of your life, but I will take nothing from you,” he said cryptically. Before she could even open her mouth to ask for an explanation, he was gone. The brightness in the room had returned and she could finally breathe again. While she was skeptical at first, what he had said was true. Shortly after their encounter life was looking up. In the mornings her toast never burned. Her streetcars were never late and she always found a seat. When she got to work, she found messages on the phone from her old friends wishing to reconnect. Her boss had suddenly taken a liking to her and invited her to lunch, where he promoted her. For once in a very long time, things were going well. How lucky, they would tell her, and she would agree. Then it all changed. She would learn later that her promotion cost an old coworker their job in order for the company to finance her new upgraded salary. After being able to park in the spot closest to the door of her building every morning, she learned its previous user had fallen sick with something he was not likely to recover from. Only after she spent all the money on a new wardrobe did Mona realize that the dozens of hundred dollar bills she had eagerly pulled out of an envelope left in her mailbox had been misdelivered. She found the torn envelope she had so thoughtlessly opened poking out of her recycling bin with the address of a local charity. In the course of a few weeks she had gotten everything she could have ever wanted without having to lift a finger, but she only got what she wanted when it happened in the worst way. As soon as she desired something, almost in an instant it would be dropped on her doorstep, but not without costing those around her tears, and in this case, death. In asking for luck, she herself had become a bad luck charm. Guilt became her. He had been right. While he had taken nothing from her, she would be paying for her luck for the rest of her life. Isaac was dead. She would win the election by default. She was now the president of the organization. How lucky.
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around $20,000 for a single coin. Before its soaring prices, however, the coin remained under the general public’s radar for a little less than a decade.
Bitcoin is the hottest commodity to never exist.
Michael Shimeles’ mom called him into the living room one night last summer, handing him the money for that month’s rent. Because Shimeles’ building only accepts e-payments, he pays the rent from his online banking account and his mom gives him cash. This is their monthly practice. “Don’t worry about it,” the fourth-year computer science student said to his mom when she was about to give him money that day. “I got it.” Her brows furrowed. “What do you mean?” “I paid it already. Look,” her son opened up the app on his phone, where she saw the transaction paid to their building. At the beginning of 2017, Shimeles took his first dive into the cryptocurrency world. His New Year’s resolution last year was to make more money, he says. “I was doing everything before then: flipping shoes, buying bulk cosmetics and vitamins to resell them at a profit; I tried everything,” he says. “Sure, I’d make a quick buck, but none of it stuck.” As he was riding the subway to work on a cold January day, he pulled out Coinbase — an app that allows you to buy and trade select cryptocurrencies — and purchased $20 or $30 worth of Bitcoin on a whim. “Three months later, when I saw my money triple, it was over.” Cryptocurrency became his life. Digital currency has been all the rage since it gained relative mainstream status in early 2017. By December, Bitcoin reached its highest peak at
The first of its kind, Bitcoin came on the scene in 2009 valued at less than a penny. It was the only decentralized digital currency then that granted individuals privacy and cut costs from the middleman, whether that be a bank or wire transfer. It also has a limited supply; there are only 21 million bitcoins and no more will be created. Expectedly, this led to its favoured use in illicit circles on the web. As Bitcoin established itself, other cryptocurrencies — known as altcoins — were developed. The well known ones are Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin — yes, created in honour of the meme — Ripple and a whole bunch more. There are thousands of altcoins and new ones go to Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) practically every week. ICOs are a form of crowdfunding, wherein the company sells tokens of its currency to investors to raise capital for its project. Unlike traditional currency exchanges, cryptocurrency markets are unregulated, falling under no federal or provincial jurisdiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world. Trading on a crypto-exchange is accessible by anyone. There are no brokerage fees, minimum investment amounts or any other barriers that one might incur when looking to enter the markets. However, there are many criticisms to cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin. For one, it’s volatile. Its inflation rates resemble that of Argentina and Chile when they were facing economic crises from the 1980s to the 1990s. When Bitcoin reached its peak in December 2017, the following month saw its value dip below $7,000 — nearly a 60 per cent decrease. “When Bitcoin bounces from $17,000 to $7,000 in a month, it’s no longer useful,” Ryerson strategy and entrepreneurship professor Brad Poulos says. “It’s like going to the casino. If I know a currency is very volatile, why would I want to put my money there and hold it for a few years? It makes no sense.” With cryptocurrencies, people speculate on its price, according to Dave Valliere, associate professor in entrepreneurship and strategy at Ryerson. “People believe someone else will buy [their Bitcoin] at a higher price than they paid for it. This is called the greater fool theory.” The greater fool theory suggests someone will buy an object that’s valued higher than what it is worth,
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on the belief someone else will come along and buy said object for an even greater price. “The problem with this is there will eventually be no greater fool,” says Valliere. “You become the greatest fool.” According to Valliere, “the extraordinary high value” of Bitcoin is being fueled by speculators counting on some greater fool, and one day it will eventually collapse. That’s not stopping people, however. Marshall Darbyshire, a third-year politics student, entered the crypto-world last November, when Bitcoin was on its upswing. He first heard about it when he was 12 years old. “My dad is really distrusting of technology. My mom less so, but they weren’t going to trust a 12-year-old with financial stuff.” Darbyshire soon forgot about it until he met a friend in high school who was investing. His friend showed him the ropes: the basics, how to invest, where to invest and what hardware he would need for security. Yet, he still didn’t purchase any. “I was distrustful of credit cards and didn’t get one until last November,” Darbyshire says. Then he purchased about $70 worth of Bitcoin and saw his money double in a month. January, however, was a tough month for cryptocurrency investors, as coin values were dropping lower and lower by the day. Ethereum, for example, was worth around $960 at the beginning of the month, then it reached $1800 by Jan. 13. Four days after, it dropped $300 and it’s slowly gaining back its momentum. “Luckily I didn’t put my life savings in there,” Darbyshire says. “That’s the thing with [cryptocurrencies], you shouldn’t because it’s so volatile.” Still, there are people who use their life savings and take out loans and mortgages just to invest the majority of their money in cryptocurrency. "No savvy investor does that," Poulos says. "You don't put maximum 10 per cent of your assets in any one thing. Arguably, not even more than five per cent. If you start getting above that, you're exposing yourself to risk that savvy investors don't take." Poulos believes those risking the volatility are greedy, looking to make a quick, big buck. People buy into the hype without understanding where they are putting their money and also falling prey to its false scarcity. Because there are thousands of cryptocurrencies, limited circulation isn't a real worry, he says. Both Poulos and Valliere think there is a place for cryptocurrency, just that major coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum are valued too high. Valliere
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believes the markets are due for a correction. "After the correction, cryptocurrencies will be around because they serve a purpose, but they won't be around at $10,000." Despite the growing bandwagon of cryptocurrency traders, Brandon Eng, fourth-year economics and management science student, says he likes to take risks in traditional markets, but not in cryptocurrency. “Why would I waste my time with crypto when I could make just as much money with more certainty of profit [elsewhere]?” he says. Even though cryptocurrency and stocks are like apples and oranges, Eng prefers stocks because there is more information available about traded companies that allows him to make educated projections on the stock’s value. With Bitcoin, its high volatility prevents it from functioning as a proper form of currency, according to Poulos. This holds true for altcoins as well.
Who will store their money in something where you have no clue what it will be worth tomorrow? Nonetheless, the crypto-craze is hot as ever. “It’s pretty much my life 24-7,” says Shimeles. “I do enough that I don’t need to work a job and my mom doesn’t need to work. It’s a blessing.” Trading on the exchanges is his main source of income, but as some padding, he advises people on the side for a fee. Shimeles says he understands the risk and advises that if people do not understand what they’re investing in, they should not invest. “I have a rule called TNL — take no [losses]. It’s mainly for ICOs, but as soon as I see my money double or triple, I take out my initial investment.” He always pulls out his principal. “The money I play with now, I have no attachment to it.” With all this success, he says he’ll never forget the moment he was able to pay rent for the first time. “After seeing the look on my mom’s face, I went to my room and cried. It was such a relief.”