You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘friends’ tag.
“To Reach a port, we must sail; Sail, not tie at anchor; Sail, not drift.” ~Franklin Roosevelt
So I sat in my car today and I watched as a huge SUV tried to back into the tiniest of parking spaces. I contemplated reversing and trying my luck in another row of vehicles further down, but decided there was no where I really had to be. I was in no rush at all. So I just watched and waited and gave myself kudos on my *choice* to drive a small *economy* car (It’s an ’87 Jetta).
I patted my own back while wearing a smug look on my face, all the while subtly cringing at the nine-point turn the gas-guzzler was struggling through. Who doesn’t know that it’s easier back into a lane or road than it is to back into a tiny stall? Really.
As I had so much time on my hands to judge others and self-affirm my positive life choices, I also had a moment to realize an overwhelming sense of Déjà vu. I swear I’ve done this before. Actually, I know I’ve waited for this exact vehicle in this same parking lot…..I did this here…. I did this last year! It was pre-Christmas. I wrote about it! Ah ha! HA.
And so it is that I re-visit my little blog.
I had to have a look at what I wrote last year at this same time. Where was I in my own head? What was my mood? I had just settled back down on Vancouver Island and I was surrounded by family and new friends and the excitement of living and breathing the snowboarding lifestyle and getting paid for it with a job at the mountain! It was time for me to put down roots and explore a new community – how exciting!
The handful of entries I’ve managed to post since that time a year ago, don’t really give light to all that’s been going on in my life. It’s hard to write about your thoughts and feelings and outlooks when you’re in one place and the people you see every day are directly contributing to your thoughts and feelings and outlooks.
It really ups the level of accountability when you don’t get to just pick up and leave every few days!
Although, in saying that, I did manage to move to Nanaimo briefly. I got the opportunity to move in with fabulous friends and go back to school. Well, actually, school fell through…. and after a few weeks (it was days) slugging through a less-than-stellar job, and the realization that we were all so busy I wasn’t even really spending time with my room mates, I decided to pack a backpack (it’s my default I guess) and go up north. I had been asked by my uncle to help out as shore crew for the Van Isle 360 – a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island that happens every two years. It’s an elite sailing race and I was happy to have the chance to be a part of it.
I arrived in Port Hardy ready to do the team’s laundry and cook them warm, hearty meals upon request. Luck was with me – the boat was short-crewed and I must have struck them as the perfect Weight-Distribution-Specialist, as I was invited aboard. This was amazing for so many reasons. One being that I had entered (and lost) a contest just a few weeks before (see previous posting) where I was trying to win a trip aboard a sail boat. Kismit or what? This was waaaaaay better than any two-bit prize…. I got to do real sailing, in a real race, with my (yes, real) uncle.
Among an amazing array of other scenery, I saw the beautiful northern tip of the Island and spent a fun-filled night in Winter Harbour. I’d like to say I picked up a lot in the way of sailing knowledge, but everything moved so fast, it was hard to keep up…on the water, and off. Sailors really know how to party. We had a night to recover in Ucluelet after being battered for hours and hours (one of the other boats broke their mast in the storm) on the longest leg of the race – 140 nautical miles – over the rugged west coast waters. The wind was so bad and the rocking so incessant that two of the life-long sailors aboard our boat couldn’t move – couldn’t even sit up for over 12 hours.
We had the wind at our back as the danced into Victoria’s inner harbour. And we got caught in the narrows for hours on our arrival into Nanaimo, but this was a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to deliver Tim Bits (donuts – to all you non-Canadians) out of pity, as we anchored and tried not to move backwards. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was so perfectly timed (the whole trip – not just the donuts). I got a much-needed reminder that I love the adventure – I’m always up for the adventure – and although I’m trying this settling down in one place thing, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.
I realized I didn’t want to live in Nanaimo. I moved away when I was eighteen for a reason. And although I’ve changed, and the city has changed, I wanted something different. I missed the little life I had started to set up in the Comox Valley. And so I returned to Courtenay, once again with a backpack on. My family put me up, yet again, while I started looking for employment. And employment I got. All of a sudden I was ironing trousers and blow drying my hair. Within a few weeks I had my own place… and my cat and I found ourselves living together for the first time in 3 years. Sometimes these things happen that fast. Well fast may be a relative term….
Anyway, we all move at our own pace and there’s no point in pushing it. Things are feeling like they’re falling into place for the most part, and that’s pretty awesome. This life has proved to be quite the incredible journey so far, and my guess is: it will only get more incredible as we continue sailing forward.
I have been writing more and more frequently in the last few days and so I know it’s time to share a bit. This is my usual pattern. Write, fumble..write, wonder how one can have writers’ block when one isn’t really a writer?? scratch, write more, stumble, feel a bit of flow, laugh at the crummy stuff I’ve come up with… and then in one fell swoop write something I feel I can share. It’s like a quick exhalation of real coherent thought… although this is subjective!!
The rest of it, all those little pieces of writing-excess, they are good and important and all that, but for me, the thought that hits home has a specific feel. I might compare it to the feeling you get when you swing the club and know, right away, that it’s a good one… maybe it doesn’t quite get you that hole-in-one, but it’s fairly straight and it’s not going to hurt anyone. It’ll go as far as your experience, strength, and equipment will allow.
And so I plan to make this a short post….
My last few months living down in a valley and working up on a mountain have been everything I had hoped for and so much more! It’s been refreshing, fun, social, and rewarding to work outside again. My snowboard and I have made good friends. I might not know thirty words for snow, but I know that “variable conditions” mean many different things to many different people and that the whole feel of the mountain can change in a matter of twenty minutes or twenty centimeters..
The season is coming to a very quick close. As I find myself in another period of transition.
I’ve also come to realize that as I settle down into routine and into living in one place for more than a few months, that the vastness of “new and different” aren’t lost – instead they change. I might see the same scenery day-in and day-out; speak the same language; align myself with those old familiar social norms; it’s all so the same. But really everyday is unique. There’s a richness in routine. The layers of the people we meet, the decisions we make – it’s fascinating and it keeps the spark alive. I’m especially impressed by my friends.
I don’t want to sound like an over-indulgent parent, but my friends are amazing! They make hard decisions, follow-through even when the going gets tough, and have the gumption to admit when they’re wrong.
They are funny when it’s appropriate and hilarious when it’s not.
They stand strong, ask for help, melt a bit, reorganize, restructure, change their friends’ kid’s diapers and down an 8-pack of Lucky in the sun when they have to. I have friends that run marathons, start new lives in foreign countries, and deliver new lives without even melting a bit!
I could go on and on, but I think I mentioned this being a short entry?
It’s been quite a ride. The forecast continues to call for variable conditions, with a 50% chance of melting.
We all know that Christmas is a special time of year. Family, friends, wining, dining, and gifts. Yeah, it’s special, no doubt. There’s the flip side to consider, as well. Stress and all that mumbo jumbo….so-busy-bad-weather-unexpected-expenses-hard-to-buy-for-too-much-to-drink-to-eat-to-wrap….yadda. Yadda. Blah blah.
My advice? Start watching the chaos and find humour. Just give yourself a little extra time and sit back and watch the insanity ensue. You can’t change the crazies that come out of the wood work and emerge in droves at your local shopping venues. Instead of getting annoyed at the person who takes eight minutes and a nine-point turn in order to back into a parking spot, give these people a break. Everyone shops this time of year (with exception of those overly down-to-earth types who have found the true meaning and all that..or the really crafty types that are so prevalent here on the west coast). So it falls to reason that unskilled shoppers come out at this time of year. This makes it that much more adventurous for the rest of us!
Actually, I think I’ve over simplified these characters. They aren’t unskilled at shopping – they are more-or-less unskilled at basic social interactions and sometimes even logic in general.
Watch the person in front of you try to explain a specific book to the lady at the cash register – while not knowing the title, the author, or even the genre of book they’re in such dire need of. Take note as she get more animated and frustrated, starting to lash out …. “nobody in this bloody store knows anything about literature!” She storms off feeling vindicated knowing she is better-read than anyone else in the shop and also that it’s run by illiterate morons. Now instead of letting their negativity rub off on you and your retail experience, just take a moment – realize you’re just very lucky not to be that person. Smile at the cashier. A knowing glance can do wonders. Now you can feel vindicated in your own right – and the camaraderie of like-minded, socially-adjusted people is exactly what this season is about.
Love thy neighbour… and your local customer service associate.
In all seriousness, I’ve really had to embrace being back in the real world for this time of year. My battle is not with the general public, but with my memories. I thought I had it all figured out – I got a job at the ski resort in order to fully wrap myself up in winter. Being up on the heavily snow-covered hill, surrounded by people who love being outside – it’s the perfect way to get through the long dark winter. Yes…all figured out – I knew this sort of job would ensure I worked through Christmas and I could slog through this very emotional holiday by working hard and feeling exhausted enough to sleep through the night. I could avoid Christmas… again! What luck.
Luck comes in oh, so many forms. I truly believe that each one of us is lucky, it’s just a matter of perspective.
So I guess I was one of the lucky ones – my schedule gave me both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. As I was about to volunteer to take my coworkers’ shifts, I held my tongue and thought about the opportunity at hand. This could be exactly what I need. I’ve stated before: some of the best outcomes have been from situations that are difficult and way, way, way easier to avoid. It dawned on me that I need to face the holidays; the traditions, the ups and downs that come hand in hand with this time of year.
It’s been pretty sweet so far, and even with a few tears there is some sense of accomplishment.
I can’t even begin to count the ways in which I’ve been lucky. Life happens, sh*t happens, some of it’s heavy and bad and life-altering, but we do our best to pick ourselves up, and when we do – whether it’s luck, or determination or sheer grit, we, hopefully, can look around and begin to see the love surrounding us.
My love and thanks to everyone who has been part of my life these last few years. I have met so many special people. I have travelled with each and everyone of you whether it’s through airports and foreign countries, written word, or shared memories.
We’ve arrived here …right now. It’s pretty good, isn’t it?
Keep each other laughing. Share music. Hug to stay warm.
It’s hard to believe that the Tour du Mont Blanc is supposed to be one of the most popular multi-day treks in Europe. No one I talk to has ever heard of it! Maybe I’m not running in the proper circles. I don’t know many people that own trekking poles.
Anyway, this ten day hike was a chance to catch up with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her lovely husband and to see some awe-inspiring scenery to boot. We met in Switzerland and set out for ~144kms through three countries. We stayed in mountain refuges – fully functional dorm accommodation with night-time meal included. Hiking on the West coast of Canada (where I grew up) is a different breed altogether. Up in the alps one feels quite civilized. You can shower almost every night! We also stopped though a few towns along the way so we were able to pick up supplies as needed, and to celebrate milestones and new countries with a pint, or a wee bit of fois gras.
This is quite a tramp and it doesn’t take all that long to get into the swing of things even if you’re not that much of a long distance hiker. One of my favourite moments occurred on the second day in. I think we were en route to the Grand Col Ferret (2537m) which marks the border between Switzerland and Italy. We were slugging up yet another summit, sweat and sunscreen pouring into our eyes, sun blaring down on us, packs digging into our backs. My good friend Diana casually looks at me, and with a resigned but somewhat enthusiastic smile says, “mhh, and to think…we could have been sailing in the Mediterranean right now!”
I’m fairly certain I stopped dead. “Pardon me??” …confused laughter escaping my parched and sun-burnt lips.
Answering with a casual chuckle and a shrug of the shoulders, “oh yeah, didn’t we tell you? If we hadn’t done this hike we were going to charter a boat and sail around the Med for two weeks.”
As my jaw dropped, she added proudly: “Jeff and I are both Skippers.” Broad smile. My uncontrollable laughter was a reaction to the altitude, I’m sure.
The Mediterranean aside, this was a fantastic journey and although it was many weeks later that any of could fully enjoy cheese or sausage (after eating them every day on the trail), the scenery was enough to put one in one’s place.
We worked really hard through heat, rain, wind and even snow…. and we met some great people too. It was an amazing experience but I won’t hesitate to volunteer as a deck hand on our next vacation together.
Well, I’m happy to say that I didn’t get lost in the far northern reaches of British Columbia. And although I’m certain that my mind has wandered away from me more than once in the last couple of months, I’m positive that I am in good physical health and in a generally good state altogether…
In reality I spent most of June and July engrossed in the laid-back culture and the natural beauty that makes Vancouver Island the best place in the entire world. Home was nice. It’s just so damned beautiful. We really do have something special on The Island. Let’s not tell too many people ’cause I think it’s catching on.
Home was busy and wonderful and sunny and comfortable. I didn’t spend much time in one place – not more than a few nights – and so I guess I didn’t get much of a chance to settle down again. This is not, apparently, the way to set oneself up for success in matters related to resuming normal home-like activities. I didn’t even ever actually unpack!! In fact, I managed to find a smaller backpack to stuff my belongings into. Due to this amazing feat (among a few other things) I made the decision to keep going. Just a little longer. Just a few months. I’ve made my way over to the intriguing and diverse continent of Europe.
After landing in Frankfurt a few days ago, I caught up with a friend from high school. Isn’t facebook amazing? For all it’s faults, it’s certainly a good medium for staying in contact with those far-flung friends from around the world. Not only was Wesley residing in Germany, but he lives a mere half hour away from the airport! How wonderfully coincidental. Isn’t it also so wonderful to be met at the airport? This is quite a novelty and so very much appreciated. It’s nice to be led around by someone in the know? It can be quite an ordeal to navigate airports and cities after hours of breathing re-circulated air, eating plastic food, and that incessant worry about deep vein thrombosis (I jest). Truly, though, it’s nice to follow for a bit, and it was nice to see a familiar face, albeit one that is all grown up in comparison to that fresh-faced 18-year-old I once knew.
Wesley is a computer scientist and his girlfriend is a mathematician, so the conversations were interesting, to say the least. Some of their friends, all of whom are physicists or scientists of some such, came over for a party one night. It got crazy, I’m not going to lie.
It was really fun. And everyone spoke English…most of the time. And we cooked and ate and drank and I realized that home is where you make it.
We spent most of our few days together catching up on over a decade of living, all the while exploring the cities of Darmstadt and Frankfurt. A definite highlight for me was sitting on the edge of the Main River and eating leftover chili. The old churches are all right too. Germany is pretty cool.
I’ve eaten bratwurst on the streets. Well not OFF the street exactly, but more from street stalls. The mustard accompaniment covers the bits of dirt and debris …just kidding. I think the theoretical physicists’ sense of humour may have rubbed off on me.
Here are a few pictures from my new home!
So I’ve found myself in Wanaka – a very small town on a very beautiful lake. It sits, sleepily, amid mountains and rugged hills, on the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s beautiful; Charming even. It’s sucked me in and hasn’t let go!
After a few days in windy Wellington (first with a really nice Canucks fan who put me up for a few nights, and then at the worst hostel [backpackers’] I’ve ever stayed at. It was like a loud, messy frat house… one must learn quickly that there is a real divide in the world of hostels in this small country. Each type, each company, has a specific feel. Some are home-like, some are sterile, some are boring, some are frat houses filled with eighteen year olds that don’t do their dishes and have trouble cooking rice. I haven’t had the chance to do this interesting research in my previous travels because I haven’t been staying at hostels very often. After my few days in Wellington, I can see why I’ve avoided them…) I decided to head down to Christchurch where I had arranged to pick up a free rental car. I was given three days to make the ~500km trip from Christchurch to Queenstown. EASY! This was long enough, I reckoned, that I could forego the more direct route. Instead I would make my way along the wonderful, windy, wet west coast to explore some glaciers and some forests and get a little nostalgic at the similarity to our own west coast in British Columbia. It was a good decision.
My mind was clear after driving and music and I pulled into Wanaka on a sunny St. Paddy’s Day. I found myself a beer and a local paper and figured that I could see myself living in this little corner for a while. I just had to find a job and a place to stay. Where to sleep, where to sleep? A hostel would have to do.. at least for a night, then I’d find my own place. Right.
I picked a backpackers’ that looked nice, friendly… more-or-less at random, and I checked in. I haven’t checked out!
I couldn’t say no to an invitation to hear some Irish music, eat some Irish stew and drink some Irish beer (it was mostly Kiwi beer and Dutch beer, but who keeps track of these things?). It’s cool ’cause that invite paved the way for me; I found a place to stay, a bit of work, and even ended up with a few new friends as well. Good things always happen while celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland.
Remember how I mentioned that some hostels are home-like? Yeah, this one tops that. It’s home! The people here are fantastic, the card games never-ending. There’s a hot tub… enough said. I haven’t necessarily met a lot of locals, but there are a lot of people who stick around for a while and a few people who keep coming back. I’ve found my little corner of the world to settle in for a little while and it’s comfy and it’s fun and it’s oh, so nice to unpack.
Who hasn’t always wanted to stay at a “BAR/Hotel/Campsite” in the middle of small town in New Zealand? Well, we stumbled across exactly this. We had been sent on a bit of a wild goose chase by a local….promises of the best campsite in town had us driving around aimlessly for half an hour. Only after realizing there were multiple bridges over the river (we had assumed there would be only one) did we decide we needed to stop for sustenance. A beer would work. Well, look at that – Bar/Hotel/Campsite….perfect!
We made our temporary home amongst the more permanent residences: the converted buses, the odd trailer, derelict vehicles, the goat tied to a rope. We skipped setting up camp and went straight for the bar. Our evening was spent playing pool with the locals, meeting a few characters, and learning the finer points of sheep shearing. Did you know that it’s someones job just to shave around the nether-regions of the sheep? This person has to do the dirty work so that the other shearers can get some “clean sweeps”…not having to worry about the messy bits. Makes sense hey? We spent some time asking all the questions that you, yourself, would want to ask. What a fitting and fantastic ending to our road trip across the North Island.
When Missy and I had set out from Wellington a week earlier we had high hopes of hitting all the Conservation (free) campsites. Just us, our tent, abounding nature…living off the land (canned tuna notwithstanding). So good!
So our reluctance to buy a proper map may have led to our downfall. That’s where I pinpoint the beginning of the end…the constant roaming; the U-turns. Although I’m not sure that either of us even considered using anything but the crappy maps they give out free at information centers. And actually – getting lost proved to be half the fun!
What’s a good road trip without a lot of unnecessary driving?
Our first night was epic. We drove up the windy roads on the East Coast…dusk was setting in, we had planned to be somewhere camp-able hours earlier, but due to a little bit of misinformation, shotty navigation (re: the aforementioned maps) and badly predicted driving time, we were miles from anywhere. We did consider just setting up camp on the side of the road, but the rolling hills enveloped the small road in an oppressive manner and were less than ideal. We persisted. After some swearing and some uncontrollable laughter, we were finally rewarded with a stunning sight. We wound our way down the cliffs to see the rocky beach and the surf and a few fisherman who would be our neighbours for the night. Could it be more perfect? It was cool and windy, but we were able to build a fire…ahh. Never mind that our cushy air mattress had a massive hole in it, and we ended up sleeping in the back of the station-wagon. The achy backs were worth it.
Our trip had many highlights, a few low-lights and an overall feeling of relaxed chaos. We walked away from our adventure with a better understanding of the Kiwi culture, pictures and memories of the beautiful and natural scenery, a few hearty laughs, sore backs, and a personal injury (trampolines are surely a death-trap)! Oh yeah, we also saw a hedgehog – he approached us in our camp – and I think that might be the cutest animal I’ve ever seen. They make sniffy sounds!
You know those times in your life where you can tell you’re making memories as the event is actually taking place? I have a lot of these…maybe it comes with going through something traumatic? Realizing the preciousness of each moment? I think we all do it at times, but I also think that we have more of an opportunity to do it at certain times in our lives. When we travel, our time is perceived as finite; we are experiencing so much in such a concentrated timespan. Every so often it’s nice to step back and get some perspective.
I’ve found from personal experience, that this is harder to do this when trudging through the routines of daily life, but I guess that’s the trick… NOT waiting for your life to start…you know that whole thing we all do? The thought process that confirms we aren’t quite living our real lives until some arbitrary date in the future? That whole: “when I finally get my promotion,” or “when I meet the right person” or “when the kids are older, and we’ve sold the house.” Even worse is when these life-starting events are so small as to border on ridiculousness… “once I get that new car” … “when I have my vacation,”….“when I lose 10lbs.”
Let’s try to enjoy our health, wealth (don’t forget your friends and family as the bigger part of this category) and happiness as it stands now.
We’re always waiting for the future, but it’s a pattern of thought that holds us back from enjoying our lives in the present. The future it so unpredictable, let’s just ride the wave!
I had to wonder if the mild numbness in my face had anything to do with taking my first anti-malarial tablet….or maybe it was the snake wine I had with lunch? It’s so hard to know.
Even after reading through the former’s possible side-effects (numbness is, indeed, on the list) my vote stands strong with the latter.
You’ve got to imagine there is still venom in there somewhere….rumour states that the toxins are deactivated by the rice wine-pickling, but really – the entire snake is coiled up in the bottle, fangs and all. It smiles at you from the cloudy jar… a gaping “last laugh” smile…incisors prominently displayed. I’ve seen the same mocking grin on spiders and crocodiles (we’ve all been warned of crocodile tears, but crocodile smiles warrant even more caution; you never want to think a crocodile knows more than you).
As the numbness spread down through my neck and chest I cautiously asked how Kim was feeling… not wanting to raise alarm bells unnecessarily. She and I had shared a dollop of the light amber liquid and she said she was just fine, her tone questioning…? I laughed nervously and said I was just tired. When we spoke of it a few days later she admitted that she had also experienced some numbness but didn’t want to worry me. Aren’t we so good to each other?
.. side-effects of snake, to be sure. The numbness – not the kindness.
Snake wine is supposed to enhance vigor and cure whatever ails you (if the thing that ails you in sobriety then you are in luck!). It’s sold all over the place; packaged in small bottles with small snakes – perfect for tourists to take home as souvenirs. Many times a small scorpion accompanies the reptile for good measure. Pretty and potent.
The snake wine we had was of an entirely different variety. We had stopped in a small village a few hours out of Saigon. It was so hot and so muggy and we had ordered soup (traditional pho is quite addictive even when its 35C outside). We had a cold soda and couldn’t help but notice the dusty liquor cabinet, perched grandma-style, at the edge of the room. Amongst ambiguous Vietnamese liquor and ancient bottles of rum, there sat a large plastic bucket. In all its anonymous glory, it was anything but pretty. The snake was incredibly big. It beckoned. Anti-malarials have nothing on this stuff.
This particular concoction tasted of mild rice wine with hints of brandy, vodka, and venom. The scaly skin doesn’t offer much taste but surely enhances consistency. One would never know it was anything but fantastic. A bonus: no more lower back pain. And I’m sure my problem with ‘sweat of limbs’ has drastically subsided.… pretty, potent and practical!
This was definitely one of those moments that wouldn’t have been the same had I been travelling solo. I was so happy to share in both the horrors and the glory of snake wine with my incredible travel companion. Thank you Kim, for the great couple of weeks together – I haven’t laughed so much in a long time!
Theme Songs of the Day:
Dog Days are Over – Florence & the Machine
Home for a Rest – Spirit of the West
*(My first choice was: Kimberly Austin – Porno for Pyros… but, alas, no good version on the internet)