Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Read On: On spring


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We’re in that wonderful time when winter ends and spring arrives.

Soon, there will be no more looking out the window every morning to see what kind of day it will be. It could be cold and dark – as it has been for the past three months. Or it might turn sunny, tantalizing you with a hint that better, drier, warmer weather is coming. Mother nature has trouble making up her mind early in this month.

So you can be fooled. In early March, it could be just like February – cold and wet and dark when you wake up, and then later warmer and hinting at better weather to come. But on March 20, that will start to go away. Sure, old-man winter might still hang around desperately for a while hoping to beat nature and hang on.

But that’s not likely.

Every day for the next three months it will begin to get warmer and brighter in the Northern Hemisphere, in which Vancouver is situated.The sun will rise a few minutes earlier every day and and fall into night a little later. Plants will sprout, winds will soften.

That’s generally, of course. In Renfrew-Collingwood it might be a little different than in the rest of B.C. because we are in Vancouver, which is next to the Pacific Ocean. Our spring usually comes a bit earlier than the March 20 date because our coastal climate means the ocean has a strong influence over our weather.

On the coast, in early March we can be swathed in raincoat-and-boots-and-warm-hats for a few days and then suddenly it’s spring. The coats and umbrellas are thrown off, the joggers are out in only shorts and light shirts, the flowers start popping their heads out of the ground and the birds are singing.

We’re lucky that way. In much of Canada, winter still holds everyone in its grip for a few more weeks. East of Vancouver and in eastern B.C., Canadians still shudder through the worst of that season. The Prairie provinces often have to endure bitter cold, although it can be broken in Alberta by the odd warm current that wends like a train through the Rocky Mountains; the Great Lakes area is still shuddering in a deep freeze; In Quebec, the song “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” (My country is not a country, it is winter) is still true; and in Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, howling winds from the  Atlantic Ocean have most people still wearing winter gear.

Spring, by the way, isn’t only enjoyed by current residents of the West Coast. Its gradual delivery of delight from misery has been known for centuries by First Nations who lived here in closer harmony with nature. They learned long ago how to cope with the changing nature of early spring, venturing out of their dwellings when the light and warmth arrived and then retreating back to their warming fires when the cold and dark and rain made a return engagement.

But today, we live in cities, in artificial environments fueled by electricity, and so are often removed from the full effects of nature. As a result, we aren’t able to change our feeling so easily.

That’s why spring is so important. It is the time of renewal, of approaching freedom from darkness, from enclosure, from sameness and boredom. It’s also why, for centuries, people have celebrated spring with various festivals like the Lunar New Year, celebrated this year on February. The festival is always an anticipation of the joys of spring.



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Read On: How to keep your new year’s resolution


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Right now, most people in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood have probably started resolutions for how they hope to behave this year. This is so common, someone once named January the “be-a-better-person” month.

A resolution is an act or a series of acts that you will try to do or not do. Common resolutions are to get in better physical shape, stop a bad habit and be nicer to someone.

The problem with new-year resolutions is that they rarely last for long. Some 80%of resolution makers have failed by the second week of February. That means that most of you R-C resolution makers are already creeping up on the brink of failure.

Of course, that doesn’t have to mean the end of a resolution. In fact, it’s natural. To make a resolution continue, you must turn it into a habit. That way it will exist much longer than a resolution that only lasts until some temptation gets your attention and kills it.

Habits are behaviours that are repeated regularly so that they become automatic. Bad habits and good habits start the same way – through repetition. To start a good habit, you decide what action is required, set a time to do it, write it down, repeat it and monitor it. Eventually, this repetition places the action in your brain or replaces some (in)action you are trying to stop.

For example, let’s say you want to do one of the most common new year’s resolutions: getting your finances in order, which means paying off debts and saving money. I used to write a personal-finance newspaper column and it was a common resolution that I heard at this time of year.

Financial problems are almost always about (bad) spending habits. There are cases of poverty where there just isn’t enough money coming in for even the basics, but for many people that isn’t the problem.

Instead, they have a habit of spending more money than they have. This is most often because they are in the habit of satisfying “wants” instead of taking care of “needs,” which aren’t nearly as interesting because they’re so familiar. Because it’s new, treating oneself to a want is more powerful than the boring practice of paying for needs like shelter, food, transportation and other basics.

We can blame these bad habits on advertising and easily available credit, but we are the people who practice them, so we are the people who have to change them.

Typically, good financial habits work like any other habit – though repetition of an act. Your bad habit is a result of repetition – to urges or advertising or whatever. In this case, you replace the foolish spending habit with a healthier saving habit.

Like any other habit formation, this is accomplished by planning and working the plan – repeating desired behaviours like first paying bills and then creating a saving system until they become automatic.

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Read On! Vibrant Collingwood mural depicts the neighbourhood’s past, present and future

Collingwood Wall mural

There is a colourful new mural on McHardy St. and Vanness Avenue in the neighbourhood of Renfrew-Collingwood. Photo by Bert Monterona


Anyone who walks, bikes or drives regularly near the transit line on Vanness Avenue in Collingwood East of Rupert Street and toward the Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain station is familiar with the dreary and uninspiring cement wall that extends along the south side of the street beside the transit tracks.

For a long time the dispiriting, 26-metre-long wall had been a neglected, colourless strip of banality. Over time, the wall became covered with graffiti.

Today, there is a wildly colourful mural extending along the whole length of the wall. A brightly painted kaleidoscope of swirls and drawings and affirmative words, the Collingwood Wall embraces the neighbourhood with its multicoloured hues and swirls and whirls and drawings.

In the process, it also provides passersby with a tableau of the area’s history, from its beginnings as a wilderness with rivers teeming with salmon and other fish, of Indigenous people’s lives and of the migrations of people from around the world who now make Collingwood the varied, multicultural neighbourhood it is.

In a sense, it is a 26-metre story about how we came to be. These depictions of history and historical life enliven the entire street and SkyTrain track – passengers commuting to or from the suburbs are inevitably drawn to train windows as the riot of colours flash by – and refreshes the views so much that walkers often stop in their tracks so they can study the mural more closely.

Designed by noted Filipino, and, of late, Vancouver, muralist Norberto “Bert” Monterona, the mural was painted over the summer by members of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) youth group.

It wasn’t an easy task.

At first, the wall had to be repainted a basic white to cover over the grafitti that marred its entire length. Then outlines of the myriad forms and scenes in the mural – Monterona’s designs are known for their intricate, almost abstract, forms that often tell stories about the people who live there – had to be carefully outlined.

This outlining took some time, and for several weeks, passersby would stop and study it all, twisting their necks as they clearly tried to make out what was going on with “that wall.”

Now they know. It’s a storyboard about where they live, a pictoral history of what the area once was, now is and what it is rapidly becoming – a rapid-growing, vibrant neighbourhood that often has the feeling of a small town but is, in fact, becoming a modern-city multicultural centre.

Read On Dec2017 Word Search

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Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Read On: Renfrew Ravine

Quirky Bench Renfrew Ravine

Just before you reach 22nd Avenue in the Renfrew Ravine, stop to admire the quirky two-person stone bench. Photo by Julie Cheng


Residents of Renfrew-Collingwood can consider themselves lucky because in their neighbourhood is an oasis of nature and calm that acts as a relief from the usual city noise and energy.

The Renfrew Ravine is an urban jewel – a little bit of wilderness that is a reminder of what all of Vancouver once looked like.

This section of forest and stream sits surrounded by busy streets with car, truck and transit noise and all the other sounds that are a feature of daily life in a city.

It reminds us that, not long ago, Vancouver was a lush wilderness teeming with birds, animals and fish, and which was home to many Native peoples.

A walk in the ravine begins across the street from the busy 29th Avenue Skytrain transit station and makes its way through forest, brambles and berry bushes that border a small gurgling, stream that makes its way along the floor of the valley on the left side of the trail.

As you walk, be sure to stop and visit the Renfrew Ravine Labyrinth, a large circle of stones that imitate ancient stone circles created by peoples around the world thousands of years ago. Built in 2002, it has become a favourite meditation spot, so follow the circles and have a little meditation of your own.

Then continue down the path, past houses and along the laneway, until the path picks up again. Just before you reach 22nd Avenue, stop to admire the quirky two-person stone bench. Cross the street and go down the hill to the left of Renfrew Park Community Centre, along a path that borders a tumbling stream. Sometimes, in early spring, you can see little fish swimming in the waters just before the creek goes under Grandview Highway.

At this point you will probably notice something about yourself. Stress, sadness or weariness that might have bothered you before are now gone. That is the revitalizing power of a walk in the ravine.

Read On Word Search Renfrew Ravine October 2017


Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Read On: Many reasons to love Renfrew-Collingwood

Renfrew Ravine Labyrinth

In Renfrew-Collingwood, there are many quiet areas, like the Renfrew Ravine labyrinth, where you can just sit and think. Photo by Julie Cheng


I have been living in Renfrew-Collingwood for 13 years. Before that, I lived in more central locations such as the Cambie Street and downtown areas.

I have also lived in other cities in Canada, the United States and Europe.

R-C, as Renfrew-Collingwood is often called, seemed different at first. It was more Asian. Life seemed to move at a different rhythm than in other parts of Vancouver.

But now I would not live anywhere else.

Why? That is simple: It has everything I like.

This includes:

Many people. I like people – the way they look, the way they act, the way they talk, the way they eat. So I want to be around them most of the time. They make me feel like I belong to a group, or a big family.

Space. Although I like to be with people, there are times when I want to be alone with nature. I can do that in R-C. There are many quiet areas, like the Renfrew Ravine, where I can just sit and think.

Variety. Residents of Renfrew-Collingwood come from many different parts of the world and from many different cultures. This gives the neighbourhood an international feel that appeals to my wandering spirit and desire to learn. Every day, I can feel, for a few moments, like I am in China, Korea, Japan, Manila or Mexico.

Language. Renfrew-Collingwood is what is known as a “polyglot” neighbourhood. That means it is home for many different languages. I am originally Dutch, but my main language is English, and like many Canadians, I am also familiar with French, and less so, some knowledge of other European languages. Probably, because of that, I enjoy hearing and trying to learn other languages.

In Renfrew-Collingwood, I can pick up bits of Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean or Tagalog. Sometimes I hear other languages as well.

It is like travelling the world without leaving home.

Why do you love living in Renfrew-Collingwood? Please let us know. Email

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Read On! page returns for ESL learners – Introducing Tony Wanless


Have you been wondering why you have not seen the Read On! column in the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News recently?

That is because we have changed writers. The column has been written for some time by Cari Chan, but she had to stop last year because she was too busy with other work.

But now, a new writer – Tony Wanless – has agreed to replace her and write the column in future. This column is his introduction to regular readers.

Tony has been a journalist and writer for 30 years. He has worked for several Canadian newspapers across Canada, including the Province newspaper in Vancouver. At different times, he has been a crime reporter, an art writer, a photographer, an editor, and chief of a group of “re-writers” – journalists who refine other journalist’s articles.

He has also written many books for businesses. For several years, he was a “ghost-writer” – a secret writer-for-hire, for authors of articles and books. Most of those were about business. He has also worked as a consultant on marketing for many technology businesses.

Although Tony is now officially retired, he continues to write a column every month for the business section of the National Post.

Tony has lived in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood for almost 15 years. He has been involved in Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s senior’s Tai Chi program for several years.

He has some background with English as a second language and often replaces CNH’s usual teacher of English-as-a-second-language program when that person is away.

Last year, Tony offered a training session to help seniors who do not have English as their first language tell their stories about coming to Canada.

Although Tony is new to the RCC News column, there will be no changes for now. There could be in future, however, if readers suggest them.

In that sense, we are always willing to listen to suggestions about how we can make the column more helpful to newcomers to the area who are trying to better their English language skills.

If you have any ideas, then don’t be shy. We’d like to hear them so we can make the RCC News better serve the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. Please email

Without the fertilization of new ideas, nothing can grow.


October Read On

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