A Day in the Life of SJC Students

Experience the life of students living in St. John's College at UBC

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More than food: SJC restaurant trips

Mango and sticky rice

Yummy mango with sticky rice (Thai dessert)

In 9 months’ time, we have travelled to 15 countries/cultures… with our palate, all in Vancouver! Here is the list: Malaysian, Italian, Cantonese, Dutch, Canadian, Vietnamese, French, Greek, Indian, First Nations, Ethiopian, Burmese, Mexican, Thai and Afghan. And it doesn’t stop there. The list will get longer and longer, so stay tuned!

I feel lucky to be accompanied by residents from the relevant culture when we dine out. Every time I learn something about geography, food culture, cooking methods, table etiquettes, and stories behind the dishes. It feels as if I have travelled to that country and I’m hosted by SJC friends.

Cute pavilion inside the Afghan restaurant

Cute pavilion inside the Afghan restaurant

As we share food, we talk about random things, such as types of price discrimination in the context of Dine Out Vancouver discounts, why Aung San Suu Kyi is a great leader, language differences between northern and southern Thailand, and the political situation in Afghanistan. Since we are away from campus, we never end the conversation with “I’m going back to my room now to study.” It feels a lot more relaxing when no one is in a rush to leave.

If you haven’t joined any of the restaurant trips before, I highly encourage you to do so soon. I assure you that it’s gonna be a rewarding experience.

Afghan restaurant trip

Afghan restaurant trip – we got a semi-private party room!

Burmese food

Burmese food – we were too hungry so we only remembered to take a group picture after we finished eating!


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Adventures in Canadian orchestral music!

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful local classical musicians–composers and performers alike–in reading sessions hosted by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony, our province’s two largest professional orchestras. For up-and-coming Canadian composers, these sessions present a rare chance to hear their work realized by professional orchestras. For audiences, they present an equally-rare opportunity to experience orchestral music that’s a little closer to home than the usual 19th-century German music (e.g. Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelssohn) typical of the medium.

Victoria Symphony composers with maestra Tania Miller. That guy 2nd to the right looks awfully smug.

All of the composers selected for these events were both living and local–a rare combination for classical concerts. And all of their music had strong ties to the present time and place. For example, the Victoria Symphony readings featured a piece called “Northwest Passage,” composed by New Westminster native Brian Garbet, that evoked a haunting British Columbia landscape with low, plaintive strings mimicking the sound of fog horns and soft, metallic percussion conjuring up images of the icy coastal waters. On the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s program, Riley Koenig’s piece “Imagine” evoked the spirit of film score composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman — a sound that any of us who were children in the 1990s will find very relatable and be hard-pressed not to associate with magic and adventure (and possibly dinosaurs). My own compositions on these programs were inspired by various pop-fiction genres: steampunk, 1930s pulp sci-fi, and contemporary Neil Gaimanesque fantasy. I’ll leave it to you to imagine how these things translate into instrumental music.

Vancouver Symphony program. I might get the award for “2nd-best title”?

The idea that orchestras should specialize in old music is a relatively recent one, originating in the mid-20th century when contemporary composers tended to gravitate towards an avant-garde aesthetic. While this aesthetic produced some intriguing music, it also alienated many listeners and performers, who sought solace in the works of the 18th- and 19th-century masters. Now that living composers once again seem to be writing music with the potential for wide appeal, only time will tell if more professional orchestras will follow the lead of groups like the VSO and promote “locally-sourced” classical music. If the quality of the other pieces on these programs was any indication, they would be wise to do so.

-Nicholas Kelly

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It’s the time of the year again to admire those beautiful orchid displays, take photos, attend free orchid classes and purchase plants for your collection from the various orchid vendors. VanDusen Botanical Garden (http://vandusengarden.org/) held the annual orchid sale and show event in March. The show featured beautiful displays of orchids, artistic entries.

If you love orchids, don’t miss out on the next show and all the orchid societies in Canada! As follows shows the links of some orchid associations.

~Giselle Tian

Orchid3 Orchid1 Orchid2 Orchid4 Orchid5 Orchid6 Orchid7 Orchid8 Orchid9

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Iron Chef SJC: PhD Team

Teams and helpers

Teams and helpers

Two teams.

Ten competitors and three helpers.

Twenty six hands working for five unbiased judging mouths.

A fierce competition in a friendly atmosphere, where creativity and flavour combination are required: this is THE IRON CHEF.

This year, the Masters students (Minoru, Devra, John and Emily led by Chantal, in red) faced the PhD students (Bei, Astrid, Dawood and Mike, led by Guillaume, in orange) to impress the unsparing judges: Chef Clarence Tay, Assistant Principal Sandra Shepard, Dr. Anna Kindler, Dr. Pawel Kindler and Principal Henry Yu.

The judges

Those judges…they’re so judgey.

Participants had two hours to prepare an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert from a selection of ingredients and were evaluated on the presentation, the taste and the compatibility and match between all three items.
My first thought when I saw all six dishes on the judges table was: “Lucky judges, they are about to taste really amazing looking and smelling food, but boy, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes: deciding which is best will surely be a difficult task.”

After providing us with very detailed, useful and professional advice on why dishes were indeed amazing, and what could be done to improve them, the SJC conclave deliberated for a long time and made their choice: the Winners are ….. the Masters students.

Master's team dessert

Masters team dessert

So congratulation to Chantal and her team, and also a BIG THANK YOU to Assistant principal Ian Okabe for the whole organization of this event, to the office for designing and providing us with these amazing aprons, to Paola, Kathrin and Warren for helping the two teams and being our liaison with the kitchen and Henry (from the kitchen staff), to Jake and Yaseen for the media coverage, to Liqing for the pictures and to everyone in the audience for coming and sharing the joy, stress and fun of this event.

One thing is certain: SJC is full of talented cooks!!!

Looking forward to the next cooking competition.

P.S.: Chantal: I WILL have my revenge!

PhD team entree

PhD team entree

PhD team appetizer

PhD team appetizer

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A challenge to SJC’s closeted theatre geeks

A couple of Fridays ago, I attended the Green College Players’ production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. I wasn’t familiar with the piece, but having played the small, but not at all pivotal role of the fairy Mustard Seed in the inaugural GCP production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream a couple of years ago, I have a soft spot for these little marvels of amateur theatrics.

Titania and her fairy minions

Titania and her fairy minions

Since I don’t have a photo from Arcadia, here’s an embarrassing picture from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s me on the right, the fairy with the spiky blonde hair. I was told that I looked more like Billy Idol than a fairy, and I was actually okay with that.

I really don’t know how they do it. This scrappy band of graduate students, most with no acting experience and even less free time, somehow manage to memorize pages and pages of dialogue and put together a really entertaining evening on top of all the other things going on in their lives, like, oh, law school. The director, who is indeed a law student, describes the action of the play as taking place “in a blue-blooded house in the English country-side called Sidley Park, set in two time periods: in the first decade of the 1800s, and in the present day.” The play is beautifully written–funny, sad, and thoughtful. It’s about genius and scholarship and science and poetry and love and madness. On the whole, the players acquitted themselves very well, and there were some especially fine performances from Lora Moon as Thomasina Coverly, David Gill as Septimus Hodge, Matthew Thompson as Ezra Charter, and Tim Hollering as Bernard Nightingale. This was a “strolling” production (I guess that’s a thing?), and the play ranged all over the common areas of Green College. It was a clever idea that, for the most part, worked quite well, though at the beginning, before you really had a chance to settle into the story, the frequent moves tended to break me out of the world of the play.

But don’t take my word for it! Rob McGee raves:

“A very cleverly written play that perfectly navigates between two different time periods. The old Victorian-esque setting of Green College was the perfect backdrop for the play further enhancing the sense of inversion.”

So, what do you think guys? Any aspiring directors out there willing to take on the challenge of establishing our own SJC Players? Anyone dying to tread the boards and take their place in the spotlight? Huh?

In any event, if you have the chance to see or read Arcadia some time, I recommend it. I’ll leave you with this speech from the play, which I think made everyone in the audience stop breathing for a few moments:

“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?”

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A Social Journey through Cultures: No-Rooz edition

SJC is an international college and at any time, we represent 45 different countries and as many cultures.

No-Rooz celebration

No-Rooz celebration

In the past five years I was living at SJC, it was brought to my attention multiple times that only a certain group of residents would come to some events organized in the college. More recently with the strategic planning similar issues were raised and the focus on being inclusive was mentioned.

As a consequence, a few residents decided to gather and to create a new entity in the college, a “committee” aiming at developing our knowledge and understanding of the multiples cultures present in SJC in order to include more residents to the different activities.

SJC is supposed to be your home away from home, so it is important you feel good here. Most of the time, it means celebrating a certain event, having a specific meal, doing something very special that is dear to you and your culture. And that’s what we are here for. We can help you organize such events and introduce it to the rest of the college.

No-Rooz celebration

No-Rooz celebration

We are currently building a yearly calendar of events that are important for all of you, for all of us. Learning, understanding and exchanging are part of the mission set by the college, and that’s what we want to do with our multiple cultures.

The first event organized was last week end, for No-Rooz. No-Rooz is the Persian new year, celebrated by many countries, from Iran to Russia including also Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other. Farhad, accompanied by Shirin, Mohammad, Zeinab, Sohrab and Siavash have helped to bring us this event. They gave us their views of No-Rooz; what is it all about, what is the cultural significance, and how it is traditionally celebrated. They also introduced us to the food traditionally served during No-Rooz, and told us why and how No-Rooz is important to them.

So if you feel like sharing with us something important to you, please contact any of us. Even if you are the only representative of your country: it doesn’t matter. If it is important to you, it is important to us and we can help you organize it.

Guillaume, Farhad, Charlotte, Paola, Ronald, Shreyas, Leah and Ian

No-Rooz celebration

No-Rooz celebration

No-Rooz celebration

No-Rooz celebration

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The Inaugural Wreck-Tower Cup

Last Saturday night saw a troop of SJC residents head over to Green College for the inaugural Wreck-Tower Cup. This would be see the two residences face off in 7 different challenges. But firstly, we need to go back a few hours to the Salvation Army Thrift Store on 4th. Chantal and I had been asked to be the king and queen in a human-sized game of chess between the colleges. All the pieces were getting dressed up and we needed sceptres to complete our outfits. It’s amazing what you can do with some duct tape and some candle holders. Our friend Calvin was visiting from Seattle and did his best to securely attach them together without it looking rubbish. And on the way out we spied a perfect unicorn for one of the knights to ride.

ImageYaseen joyfully playing the role of the knight with his unicorn

So back to the evening, we had paraded across to Green College, chanting various songs on the way (including Spam from Monty Python) and were meet by jubilant Greenies ready for a battle. After a short speech by Green Principal Mark Vessey (where he outlined the use of Queensberry Rules for the evening) and a huge group photo with the trophy, the games began.


John as the other loyal knight in the epic chess battle

The epic chess battle was the first to take place outside with a huge human chess set. SJC’s Sheng commanded the SJC forces while Green’s Robin lead his troops. First blood took down one of the pawns (cardboard boxes) but it wasn’t long until human pieces started feeling Sheng and Robin’s wrath. As King I initially felt very protected in one corner with various pieces but they started disappearing, especially after we lost our Queen. But Chantal was resurrected and Sheng brought the game to an end with an SJC victory.


Chantal’s dramatic Queen costume

Soon after that victory, we heard news that SJC (led by Myron) had also won the soccer game with a narrow 1-0 score. Inside we all warmed up and began the foosball tournament with some food. Each college held a small tournament amongst their teams to find their best to send to the semi-finals. These ended up with an SJC team and a Green team in the final and after a stressful game for Markus and Vivian they came out victorious.


A stressful final of the foosball



Glorious celebrations from the foosball victory

SJC was 3-0 up but we knew that are strongest events were behind us. Our fantastic Chef Sean joined for the table tennis tournament and even with his incredible skills we couldn’t overcome Green and they took that competition.

Next up was the Trivia. We split up into small teams of either Green or SJC residents. Having watched Tom & co easily win the Trivia Night at the Academic I was feeling hopeful. The questions were an incredible mix of flags, Vancouver, UBC and particle physics. The team I was in managed okay and surprisingly guessed a few of the flag questions. Did you know that the Vatican City flag is square?


Intense discussions before the Trivia began

And then the best SJC teams and best Green teams had a final few questions. Our team didn’t make it that far but we still tried to do it. Naming four letter countries was perfectly aimed as Chantal and I lost a lot of the Christmas break playing Sporcle quizzes (prepared to delay your graduation by ~6 months if you start playing them). But we still couldn’t get them all. And unfortunately none of us have been to that many UBC libraries. The score was incredibly close in the end, but the best Green team won it by a single point. That brought the overall score to 3-2 points to SJC with two competitions remaining.

I should mention that Green had supplied a wonderful variety of nibbles initially and lots of pizza arrived later. This was complemented with soft drinks, wine, beer and cider. And most of the events were in their beautiful dining hall. It was very well hosted.

So it was down to the last two events: Beer Pong and Turbo Cup. These events would not be SJC’s strong point. I hadn’t played Beer Pong in many years and only realised I knew Turbo Cup after someone explained it was basically the same as Flip Cup.

So beer pong, in case you haven’t played it, basically involves throwing ping pong balls into cups at the opposite end of a table. Simple as that, but of course with some beer involved too. The dining hall was suddenly full of beer pong games going on and people running around trying to find errant ping pong balls. And eventually after many close-calls, Green College were declared the victors that brought the score to a draw. The decider would be Turbo-Cup.

Turbo-Cup involves a chain of drinking and flipping cups and then strangely a huge glass boot containing beer (I’m still not sure where that came from). With some team pep-talks, the challenge began and we kept up a reasonable pace but Green won. And that was the end. Green took the trophy and we must congratulate them.

It was a great evening with some excellent dancing. I think both sides are looking forward to the next SJC/Green event, and especially to the next competition for the Wreck-Tower cup.

 – Jake