Life and its many victories: the story of Artist J.A. Tan

The Artist.

The Artist.

J.A. held his brush as if it were a talisman and an extension of himself.

He then let the colours cascade on canvass, while the camera panned alternately to his hand, his brush, his face. He was immersed in the moment, caught in the words he was trying to speak.

It was at once stark and beautiful.

The video, shown to me after the interview, was made by J.A.’s brother, Thomas, a screenwriter by profession, and it spoke of J.A.’s journey, of his autism, of his art. Of how everything was difficult but perfect for J.A., because he found a way to speak his truth.


Granville Island boasts of “fine waterfront restaurants, theatres, galleries, studios, unique shops, cafes and the most spectacular fresh food market you’ve ever seen.” It is infused with colour and energy and showcased Vancouver’s sea to sky magnificence.

It is also a hotbed for art.

For Jose Antonio “J.A.” Tan, however, it is a sanctuary. It is there—at the Saltwater Studios off of Duranleau Street in Granville—that he spends his days speaking his mind through expressions/explosions of wonder and beauty.

To him, it was the flowing water that surrounds Granville, which one could barely hear in the distance, that soothed him best (the False Creek Inlet was few steps, in fact, from his studio) and allows him to bring to life his inner world.

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How to be a lawyer in Canada



When one arrives in a new country, he has grandiose dreams.

Much like the dreams that he left back home. But only more vivid, more reachable.

Maybe it is earning more than he has ever dreamed of, or living a life of utter happiness or peace, contributing to his greater good, fulfilling his potentials.

Be what he was – doctor, teacher, lawyer, engineer, architect, scientist – learned, professional, respected.

He finds that in his new country, in Canada, it is not so easy.

It is not easy but it is possible.

If you are a foreign professional and you want to practice your profession in Canada, take heart from the fact that the path has been laid out for you. Some more clear than others, yes, but many have laboured long and hard so that the future will see that road.

The future is now. You are it.

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A month into the year


Harvest Time

And a confession. I’ve always thought about a comeback.

I thought I had given up blogging, but it is a gift that keeps on giving. And one fine day, I thought, what would it take for me to go back?

Maybe it is the shedding away of a lot of responsibilities, a shedding away of writing as a career.

I was editor of a newspaper. Words were my life. Others’ words, some mine, but I was inundated with it that I wanted nothing to do with it.

The creativity was stifled somehow. Because of a perceived audience, because of being careful, because of what cannot be said, because of what should be said.

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George Verdolaga: Think like an entrepreneur

George with wife Maita at a brasserie in Paris.

George with wife Maita at a brasserie in Paris.

As editor-in-chief, I have had the privilege of getting to know and learn from some truly amazing Canadians. It’s my honour that I could now consider some of them as close friends and mentors.

George and his wife Maita have been very instrumental in helping us navigate and appreciate Canada. Here’s his story.  

After growing a six-figure business into a seven-figure business in just three years, George Verdolaga found himself at the crossroads.

He was an Economics graduate who had just generated some impressive growth figures with the business that he was running. However, he found himself yearning for something else.

After some soul searching and exploring many options, he let his inner-creativity transform his life.

“It was a very long road that started with a simple dream. I had just discovered interior design eight years into running my business which had become a big success. I decided to explore it and take part-time classes, and after a year, I thought ‘I really like this’, then I thought ‘I think I’d love to do this for the rest of my life’, which turned to ‘I think I’d like to learn from the best around the world’.”

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Use these tips to curb utility spending

Help save the planet

And help save the planet too.

Guest post.

Household budgeting requires a close look at where your money goes.

By breaking your total monthly spending obligation into recognizable categories, like food and housing, it becomes easier to track the flow of cash through your home. For most families, utility bills account for a substantial share of each month’s expenses, especially in cold-weather climates, where home heating costs push energy spending higher.

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A trailing spouse story: Getting to easier

Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC

Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC

“Happy New year! Welcome to the January #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl.

This January we talk about beginnings. We all were there at some point in time. We all started out in strange lands. How was it like starting over in a new country – if you have done it multiple times, does it get easier or harder? And what are you building in this new year?

Three years, give or take.

That is how long we have been in Beautiful British Columbia. Notice the first letters are capitalized? That’s how the early settlers-migrants-long-time residents see-know British Columbia. And they are right. Mountains meet seas in the in-between, and it is a majestic sight to behold. There’s just the cold to overcome, and the sometime-loneliness that could eat you up, and the opportunities that do not seem to be enough. But this country is waking up, and maybe we are in the midst of a revolution-emergence-stirring of some sorts.

Which gives me hope (and excitement).

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A year for turning finances into a family affair

All in it together

All in it together

It was a new year and with it comes a breath of fresh air, a new lease (leash) on life.

The sun is shining fiercely but it cannot dispel the cold. Still, it was beautiful, it was glorious, a time to start again, a time to start anew, aspire for better things, dream with eyes and hearts open.

Hope, exhausted with the passing of 365 days, is replenished. Indeed, the beginning of the year is the best time for man to gather up his strength, pick up his cross/the flowers/the pieces of his life, and start yet another amazing journey.

My husband and I – we are embarking on a journey of our own. This time, it will be to financial freedom. Transplanted to Canada by choice, we are ready to do this again, and this time, we will be taking our kids for the ride.

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Canada: a compassionate country

Prod and Eleanor Laquian

Prod and Eleanor Laquian

As editor-in-chief of a Canadian newspaper, I had the privilege of meeting some awe-inspiring people. I will be featuring them here and I hope you will let them touch you and enrich your lives as they have mine.

29. That is how many times the Laquians have moved their household.

Nairobi, Kenya, Santiago, Chile, Suva, Fiji in the South Pacific, Beijing, China and many cities in between—they have been there and have called it home. They made lovely memories in all of them, but had little or no roots. The restless (by choice and by circumstance) can grow weary of impermanence too.

Until Canada.

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