Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 44 - No Ceiling

If we could take the previous day's weather patterns as balances, then the rain this morning extended a promise of sunshine for the afternoon. We decided to hike Iguaque. By the time we got organized and made our way up to the park entrance, however, it was already 11am. The park warden warned us that it was too late to trek beyond the first lake and we agreed to do only that and then return before nightfall. Moments into the rock trail leading up to the lodge we were joined silently by a furry critter of unique character. Seemingly domesticated, but obviously wild, this animal had a raccoon tail and an ant eater's nose and was as portly as he was unabashedly relaxed with us immediately. At the lodge we learned that he was, indeed, a 'pet' and he would probably follow us all the way up to the Lago Iguaque if we made it there. His name was Osi and he was a South American Coati (Nasua nasua). 

I made it to the lake in exactly 3 hours, with Osi on my coattails almost the whole way up and Ulrich made it up ahead of us in 2.5 hours. From there we ventured a little bit further, Ulrich on high speed and me at a more cautious medium. We crossed the ridge above the lake, which I had never done and managed a vista of the other lakes and the valley on the opposite side looking out towards the Periquera. It was beautiful and worth the extra muscle work. Osi, of course, knew better and didn't follow us above the lake. About halfway back down, around the time you exit the Páramo and enter the forest, Osi reunited with us and lead the way down to the park entrance as our chaperone. It was getting dark and I figure he must have been a bit worried about us. We left the park by 6pm to the park warden's relief and Bonnie and William came up to get us in the Polar Bear.

We dined in town at Casa Quintero and then went home and directly to bed, satisfied and tired from a really good hike.

Today's song is No Celling, by Eddie Vedder and from the Into The Wild Soundtrack. It's a song about places you love and today was a fitting day to think about and appreciate a place I love so dearly.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 43 - Home

In the morning I decided to accompany Bonnie on some errands in town and I drove the Polar Bear for the first time. Adventures of mother and daughter, laughing contagiously while roaming over bumpy roads (in a vehilcle with no shocks) and crowded campesino streets with horses, motos, trucks and buses. We picked up groceries and flowers at the vivero before heading back to the farm.

In the early afternoon's softest moment of sunshine William, Ulrich and I set out on mission towards the Well of the Old Woman along a route I'd never traveled before. We were searching, eyes to the ground, for Villa de Levyian treasure! Ulrich and I said goodbye to William at the river and continued on 4 levels up to the ruinas. It was only my second time there and unfortunately we were not graced with visits from either the Macaw nor the Lammas. As dusk settled across the sky from the Periquera towards Iguaque, rain clouds gathered and warned of a cold walk home. We decided to whimp out of the cloud's dare and call Bonnie to come pick us up. It was, indeed, a very rainy and muddy drive home with Polar Bear putting on quite a show for a thoroughly entertained audience. William welcomed us home with candles and a roaring fire. We made dinner, sipped wine and Bonnie and William put on a dancing show for us in the living room. It was a perfect night at the Finca, with all 4 of us very present and attentive, happy and content.

Today I thought of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes' song, Home. I love this song. What a bunch of outrageous hipsters!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 42 - Little Trees

Another lazy morning of my farting around while Ulrich, Bonnie and William worked on something or other. It was a bit rainy and cool so we were in no rush to get up and go anywhere.

In the early afternoon the sun had come out to begin a drying cycle and Ulrich and I set out to hike to the Periquera. We got a little lost here and there, sometimes a bit sidetracked by a farmers field full of cows, or  a party on the side of the road or the promise of a shortcut. After traversing the waterfalls of the Periquera, we ended up at the main road near the Tahoe tienda just as darkness fell and we called for Bonnie and william to pick us up.

Today's song is dedicated to Brian Davidson. The last time I had been at the Periquera was with Brian and Cara and Sergio on our alternative practicum trip during teacher's college in March of 2008. Brian introduced me to Miracle Fortress almost within the same first few days that we were introduced to each other at the start of that school year. The song Little Trees always makes me think of him, driving in the Subaru back from winter camp or the movie theater, and all the other adventures that we had together in many climates (physical and intellectual) in 2007-2008.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner in town at a restaurant called Antique in front of a blazing fire and with live music. The stars were out and it was magical... as Villa always seems to be.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 41 - #41

Today we hung around the finca for most of the morning, me being lazy, Bonnie and William doing house/yard work and Ulrich doing his work. Oh, to be on holidays.... isn't quite as exciting when you're the only one! In the early afternoon we set out to Santa Sophia to hike to Angel's Pass.

Today's song is inspired by the number 41, the number of the day of my holiday and a great song, #41, by The Dave Mathews Band.

Come and see, I swear by now
I'm playing time against my troubles, oh...
Oh, I'm coming slow but speeding,
Do you wish a dance? And while I'm in the front,
The play on time is won,
Oh, but the difficulty's coming here.

I will go in the way, and find my own way out...
I won't tell you to be here, but it's coming to much more...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 40 - Volverte a Ver

We woke up to glaring bright sun shinning directly into the cabin at 6:30am, grabbing us sharply from our slumber and then politely hiding amongst some clouds to soften the visual alarm clock effect.

We spent the morning and early afternoon in town and ate pizza under the Golden Arches. It was a beautiful summery day and the square was quiet and peaceful. For some reason Villa De Leyva always makes me thing of Juanes. I think the first time I heard Camisa Negra was in the square and I have a vivid memory of listening to Fotographia on the bus between Tunja and Bogota, after leaving Villa. My favorite song my Juanes has always been Volverte a Ver. There is a beautiful live version of this song, sung at the March For Freedom Mass Throughout Colombia, dedicated to all the hostages of war.

Later that evening we made pasta for dinner at the Finca, followed by great discussions over wine around the fire place. We talked about things like energy-efficient light bulbs, models of government, trust, stratifying of utilities, economics and what really motivates choices we make. Good talk.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 39 - Jet Airliner

Having to wake up to an alarm clock, the first one in a long time, was not enjoyable! Compounding this unhappiness was a feeling of not being quite ready to leave my new found paradise yet. 10 days went so fast. The fantasy of living here was sweet on the lips, but all I'd had was a small taste.

We flew on a 9am flight from Bocas to Panama City, Ulrich running errands and tying up lose ends here and there and everywhere as we departed. We almost had our baggage removed from the small plane when they attempted to leave 20 minutes early. Hey? Isn't this the tropics? The land of 'No Problem' and 'Soon Come'? Obviously Bocas airport staff have adopted a more western approach to deadlines, schedules and boarding times. Anyways, we made it onto the plane which was full of people waiting for us and nicely nobody seemed more annoyed than the stewardess (who was also the check-in lady).

We spent the day in Panama City. Me working on the video project in a small casino lounge sipping mojitos while Ulrich did more wrapping up, mostly involving hours at the HSBC. Then we were off to the airport to catch our Jet Airliner to Bogota. I was eager for the second stage of my tropical holiday, eager to show Ulrich Colombia, eager to see Bonnie and hoping that finally, maybe, the was a smidgen of a chance that Ulrich could relax and be "on holiday" for a little while too...

We arrived in Bogota, made our way to the bus terminal and caught a bus to Tunja. William and Bonnie were there to pick us up around 1 in the morning with the Polar Bear. It was cold, foggy, rainy and the ride back to the finca was a slow one. By 3:30am were were happily tucked into the sleeper cabin under warm wool blankets and clearing skies, cozy and happy, even knowing that tomorrow was only a few short hours of sleep away.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 38 - Smell of Paradise

Our last full day in paradise. It had been a rainy night and the morning continued with clouds, sporadic showers and constant thunder off in the distance. Admittedly, it was a nice change from the excessively hot sun of the previous 2 days. We took a few more pictures for the video project and worked on getting little things cleaned up and ready for our departure. In the evening, we had Ricardo and his girlfriend up to the Hill House for dinner.

Here's the video we made! The song used in the second half is called Smell of Paradise by Sa Trincha.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 37 - The Warmth

We woke up and made breakfast before heading off on a small excursion to a village along the coast. Ulrich needed to get residency paperwork and Ricardo needed paperwork for his livestock. It was a glaring hot day and being on the water really seemed to pull all the life out of me. I was feeling exhausted and slightly lethargic but couldn't exactly pinpoint why and was confused by this state so early on in the day.

On the way home, Ulrich wake-boarded and water-skied a little bit and then we stopped in at an old friend of Ulrich's place to check on things. It was a gorgeous house in a prime location. Some people around here really do pull out all the stops when it comes to making their paradise fantasy homes come to life. In the face of all this luxury, high end precision and attention to details, I'd still chose Ulrich's place above and beyond any of these elaborate displays. The spaces that Ulrich has created at the Hill House and the Water House are so organic, functional, appropriate, harmonious, authentic and in so many ways they accentuate the natural beauty of the region.

I still wasn't feeling well when we headed home in the early afternoon. After a quick swim to cool off and a rest up at the Hill House, I realized that I was a little sun burned and quite possibly suffering from a  touch of heat stroke. I rehydrated and took it easy for the rest of the day. Today's song is The Warmth by Incubus. I love Incubus.

In the early evening we went to Ron and Cindy's house to borrow their windsurfer. Ulrich tested it out back at the Water House, but unfortunately we'd missed the wind by a short period and he was stuck out there in the dusk stillness. I stayed by the Water House and just played around, soaking up the warm salt water and gorgeous sunset.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 36 - My Skies

We started the day off immediately after breakfast with a trip to Ulrich's other property where Ricardo keeps his cows and a few other horses. We saddled up 2 horses and trekked through the jungle to the property line where the fence needed to be worked on. After leaving a worker there with instructions for a day's work, Ulrich and I walked while Ricardo and Gary rode to a piece of land that Gary's brother wants to buy. It was such a hot day!

The four of us walked around through the jungle to see another piece of farm land that Ricardo wants to buy. We hiked almost the entire perimeter, which was at times slightly swampy. It was a much longer hike than we had planned for, but beautiful and exciting and definitely worth the time and energy.

Ulrich and I ended up walking all the way back to the Hill House, making the morning excursion even longer. By the time we got back we were in desperate need of water and a cool-down in the ocean. We hadn't quite realized how hot it was. This pretty much zonked us out for the rest of the day.

Today I thought of the song My Skies by James Kellaghan. His music has serenaded my entire life, from  childhood to folk festivals to road trips and summer parties. He is a historical songwriter who taught me many things about unique stories which are rarely told, always with an effectively poetic sense of story telling. Another favorite is Hillcrest Mine. Here are some words form James Kellaghan's biography:

"His masterful story telling has, over the course of nine recordings, been part of the bedrock of his success, earning Keelaghan nominations and awards - including a Juno (Canada's Grammy) - and acclaim from Australia to Scandinavia.

Possessed of an insatiable appetite for finding the next unique story line, Keelaghan forges his pieces with brilliant craftsmanship and monogrammed artistic vision, making him one of the most distinctive and readily identifiable voices on both the Canadian and international singer-songwriter scenes.

His journey has attracted fans of literate and layered songwriting to join him on his artistic expeditions, some of which weave their way through marvelously etched historical stories with underlying universal themes, others of which mine the depths of the soul and the emotional trails of human relations.

His songbook has enlightened, enthralled, and been embraced, by audiences around the world."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 35 - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

After breakfast, we headed out to visit a couple, Linda and David, who are close friend's of Ulrich's and have lived in Bocas for a very long time. We managed to join the second half of a tour of their cocoa farm and were able to see how David harvests and processes cocoa. While we were at Green Acres, we also met an interesting dude from New Orleans who is doing his PhD research on natural selection on brightly coloured frogs in the region. We also met another American, Michelle, who is working in a local village as a teacher for the American Peace Corps. Here are a couple shots I managed to get of cool frogs out in the jungle as well as some other awesome flora and fauna shots I've been taking.

Around 5:30pm we went to Pizza for a Party in honour of Tony's birthday with all the Gringos. Tony merrily sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life to his wife's utter embarrassment and it made us all laugh.

Ulrich bravely went wake-boarding amongst the jellies in the almost-full moonlight on the way home with Gary driving the speed boat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 34 - Paradise

Another great lazy morning in paradise. We had a swim and then I went paddling in the kayak just up the coast. It was blazing hot and I enjoyed being out on the water.

Ulrich suited up the underwater cameras on a small plank of wood, eye- distance apart for a 3D experiment. We set out to go wake-boarding in the afternoon but Ulrich, who went first, ended up getting stung by many jellies, so we retired from that effort. Instead we went for a long snorkel and took 3D videos and pictures of the coral and in the mangroves. We saw an octopus, a puffer fish and a few barracudas. Check out these amazing videos!

In the evening, we cooked chorizos and pasta for dinner and went to bed early, as is the norm on the farm. It was a great day in the sun and in the water. Ahhh, life in Paradise! Sade is a singer who doesn't make it into my playlists very often, but when I do hear her I am instantly reminded of childhood days in Montego Bay with Martin Orr.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 33 - Pasos de Gigante

Ulrich and I spent more of a lazy day, online, eating, hammocking, reading and chilling out around the farm. We found two very large stick bugs making out on the front porch which was pretty cool. Unfortunately one of them had lost a limb and in our investigations of them it somehow lost a second, leaving it with an awkward stance on 4 legs. We read that possibly they can regenerate limbs, but we also realized that this particular one was quite old (because it was huge) and maybe was not even going to live that long.

In the afternoon I went for a long snorkel and took some amazing underwater pictures. Later in the afternoon, Ricardo took us on the horses up toward the top of the hill overlooking the property. It was a beautiful view from the Heliconia forest. Amazingly, I still had no reaction whatsoever to being on horseack. Ulrich and I dismounted at the highest point and bushwhacked back across the property line to the Hill House, while Ricardito took the horses back.

We went for an early evening swim and then made a nice dinner of bacon/tomato/cream cheese grilled sandwiches on fresh bread with homemade chunky guacamole.

Today's song is Pasos de Gigante by one of my favorite bands, Bacilos. I first heard Bacilos after Bonnie and Christine had become enamored with them in Medellin, Colombia sometime in 2001. We listened to Tabaco y Chanel and the entire self-titled first album for a few years without tiring of it. Since then their next 3 albums have frequented my playlists and they remain an all time favorite of the Cahusacs. The band consisted of Jorge Villamizar (Colombia), Jose Javier Freire (Puerto Rico) and Andre Lopes (Brazil). They broke up in 2007 with a couple Grammys and many fans around the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 32 - Rise Up

After the morning farm work was completed - finishing touches on securing the solar system to give us power at all times - Ulrich, Ricardo and I went on a trip to see a neighbor about some wood, stolen items and property lines, etc. Seemingly regular Bocas disputes. On the way back I decided to test my reaction to the horses by riding Ricardo's horse just a quick 15 minutes through the jungle back to the shoreline. I figured this was a good time to see how my body would respond and, quite surprisingly, I had no allergy symptoms at all.

Rise Up is today's song, by Eddie Vedder. It was written for the Into The Wild Soundtrack. This movie is one of my all time favorites and its soundtrack has frequented my playlists for the past 3 years.

Later Ulrich and I made a big fish stew with lemongrass from the yard. Once it was dark we went for a night swim and snorkel to see the phosphorescence and check out the underwater nightlife. We played for a long time, diving down deep and marveling at the sparkles and twinkles of light, like a million underwater stars. We also used a headlamp in a ziplock bag to explore around and underneath the Water House. Super fun!  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 31 - Sunrise

Oh, another full day in paradise. One which started by watching the sunrise creep across the sky as the daylight began, with me periodically snoozing off and on in a happily lazy state from the bed on the top floor of the Hill House. From here there are panoramic views of palm fronds and tree tops splashed upon the constantly changing hue of a tropical sky backdrop. The area is so spectacular and breathtaking. I can't describe the feeling of waking up in the Hill House and seeing the view down to the water with nothing but soft early morning light and sweet bird chatter echoing in from all directions. It smells fresh and lively even though the air is as humid and thick as mud.

The boys worked all morning on the solar system and I began a sewing project with the mosquito netting down at he Water House. We took a break for lunch at the "Pizza" across the straight with all the Bocas Locas. It was a pretty big Sunday afternoon crowd of Gringos eating pizza and drinking beer. Imagine. Afterwards we made a visit to an indigenous family's house deep in the mangroves and traded some zapote for a breadfruit and some oranges. We also visited and a couple other foreigner's houses, in particular a French couple who are building a small village of cabanas and houses on a beautiful expanse of land with amazing views. They are even installing a guest pool and 2 jacuzzis! I imagine those will be nice on cool nights when the temperature dips down below 30 degrees!

More snorkeling with Ulrich in the afternoon, both up the coast and around the farm. We started taking photos and videos for the video we are going to produce to help rent this spectacular place out (coming soon). For dinner we made fresh fish that Ricardo had cleaned for us with fried breadfruit and pumpkin.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 30 - Great Big Boat

My first full day in paradise.

Ulrich woke me up early to show me the view from the top floor of the Hill House in the dawn's light. After a short while we went for a swim down a the Water House. The water was perfectly clear and we snorkeled around a little. Garry, who is living in the Water House temporarily, told me that there had been dolphins outside his window earlier that morning.

We ventured down the coast to have lunch with Ulrich's friends, Marilyn and Tony, at their lovely house. After lunch there was more snorkeling with Ulrich, and he took me into the nearby mangroves along the coast. What an amazing experience! Later on we made pork chops with zapote chutney, fried green bananas, roasted pumpkin for dinner. Yummm, fresh local food in paradise.

Today I thought of a song that Rohanna introduced me to, form the Putamayo kids album called Great Big Boat, by Taj Mahal (sorry this YouTube version is not exactly high quality).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 29 - Panama

I woke up around 4:30 to get myself organized for my 7:30 flight to Panama City. I arrived to more rain and cloudy skies, but at least warmer temperatures. I took a taxi to meet Ulrich at a hostel near Casco Veijo and we had a very sweet reunion.

After a bit of running around and sushi for lunch, we boarded a 3:00 flight from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro and within 50 minutes I entered into absolute paradise. What a completely magical place. Ricardo and Gary met us with the boat and we picked up some food and supplies and headed for the farm. The weather was not ideal, and yet it was still completely breathtaking. Even through some cool rain and grey misty skies, the scenery was captivating and being on the ocean seemed to set my entire being back into a wonderful sense of harmony. I never quite remember just how much I adore and ocean until I'm on it. It always feels like my home place.

After a brief tour of the property, mainly the Boat House, The Hill House and Ricardito's House, Ulrich and I made dinner and hung out with the geckos at the Hill House for the evening.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 28 - Messages

I woke up and began packing all my things up. Organizing myself for 3 weeks in the tropics - Panama and  all around Colombia. At noon, Bonnie and Nana drove me to the airport for my 3:15 flight from Toronto to Bogota.

I arrived in Bogota to buckets of rain and a chill I hadn't been expecting. I stayed at a small hotel a ways away form the airport with very friendly staff and a decent room with wifi. It was cold.

Xavier Rudd is an Australian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  His music is great for traveling and because he has many songs about discovering the world, I often think of him while in transit or en route to somewhere. His songs often make me think about being a better person and and realizing what's important in life. Messages is one of his most famous songs and one of the first I ever heard. My introduction to Xavier Rudd was watching him play live to a very excited dancing crowd, vibrating in the rain and mud, center stage at Hillside Music Festival in Guelph in an afternoon performance. Another great song by Xavier is Let Me Be. To hear some of his newer music, check out his website

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 27 - Englishman In New York

Bonnie and I strolled around Toronto in the morning and eventually made our way to the Colombian Consulate by around 9am. Then we walked around downtown Toronto heading up towards Asha's office. We had a lovely lunch with Asha and Melissa and then Bonnie and I took the GO train back to Burlington.

No song really comes to mind for this day... apart from songs about being in the "Big City", so I'll just share a song that I love lately with this theme. Sting's Englishman in New York.

Rita, Nana, Bonnie and I had dinner with Granny at the lake and afterwards I got ready to embark on the next portion of my summer adventure. The tropics, here I come!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 26 - Taylor

It was lovely to catch up with Ellie and see the new house. It was also very wonderful to meet baby Kenzie for the first time. Lily was as sweet as ever and is growing up into such a gorgeous child. All of us headed off early in the morning to play a bit at Wasaga Beach. Jeff came by later on, after getting off work, and we had a nice lunch on a patio by the beach. It was a visit that ended up feeling much too short, but of course it was nice to at least touch base and see the entire Clendenning-Wice family together.

For the last 7 years I only get to see Ellie in the summertime. We've had great visits in Muskoka (sometimes surprise visits), driving from Ontario to the East coast, and in the Stayner area where she lives with Jeff and their girls. Often these visits remind me of Jack Johnson songs which usually make the perfect summer soundtracks for swimming at the lake, sitting on the deck, barbecuing and drinking beer. Today's song is Taylor, a fun video that was one of my first introductions to Jack Johnson. In the following years we listened to a lot of Jack in LaBuitrera on lazy Sunday mornings and after fun hikes in the mountains or while entertaining guests and cooking.

I drove back to Burlington in time to return the rental at 5pm, meet Bonnie and Maxine and head to Toronto with them, after a quick swim with Dustin, Aaron, Shelley and Terri who were in Burlington visiting. They boys had some fun with the underwater camera.

Bonnie and I stayed the night at Maxine & Sandra's house for a visit and so that Bonnie could go to the Colombian consulate in the morning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 25 - Freedom of the Road

I spent the morning running a few errands around Burlington with Bonnie and catching up. Later in the day I decided to rent a car and I hit the back roads north to Stayner to spend a night with Ellie, Lilly and Kenzie. Whenever I get behind the wheel for a solo road trip (last summer was pretty epcc solo road-tripping for me), I am reminded of Martin Sexton's song Freedom of the Road. I have already recounted my history and love for Martin in an earlier post so I'll simply leave this one short and sweet. It seems fitting that Martin makes an appearance twice in this blog, as it is symbolic of how frequently his music actually is a part of my life and playlists.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 24 - Mother & Child Reunion

This morning I woke up and Granny Shirley picked me up after breakfast. We prepared a little bit for an afternoon family party at her place, did some shopping and then we took a walk at the RBG to see the gardens and some new installations. Around 3:30, we were back at Shirley's house and people started arriving for the party. I enjoyed visiting with Sarah, Ray, and their new baby boy, Bryan. Later on Courtney, Paul, Luke, Dean, Jean arrived, followed by Rita and Nana.

Around 7:30pm Rita and Nana and I headed off to the airport to pick up Bonnie who was arriving from Seoul.

Today's musical selection is a beautiful song called The Mother & Child Reunion by Paul Simon. Growing up in Jamaica we were fortunate enough to have the musical gifts of people who would come to visit and bring us cassette tapes of new or popular music from Canada. Christine and I could get Michael Jackson, Billy Ocean, Whitney Houston and Madona at the local mixed music cassette recording shops, but it was people like Maxine who brought us The Proclaimers, David Linley and Paul Simon. We listened to the album Graceland a lot! In the MGB, at the Pink Cottage, at the White House, on the Stephanie Jane, at Martin's house, etc.

It turns out Paul Simon's influence on Jamaicans and Jamaican music wasn't limited to the Cahusac's and their visitors or friends listening to Graceland in their free time. Not quite. Check out this version of Mother & Child Reunion sung by Ziggy Marley and interestingly introduced by Chevy Chase... What a weird connection that is! Reminds me of the You Can Call Me Al video.

In my last year of living in Colombia, in the apartment in El Ingenio, I started listening to Paul Simon again quite a bit. It summoned a strong sense of nostalgia for me and I also began to explore a better appreciation for the African beats and rhythms. In the last 3 years I've continued to listen to Paul regularly and even reminded a few people I've met along the way just how much his music means to them. The song Slip Sliding Away became one of my top favorites during my OEE year and I think may have rubbed off on a couple people.

While more recently in Hong Kong, I have been listening to tracks like The Obvious Child and Bernadette more often. There really are, just so many, great songs by Paul Simon. It seems as though he can almost always be included in any playlist for any occasion.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 23 - I've Got Time

Bridgette, Ethan & Liane left for Hanover after a morning swim and some fun with the underwater camera. Rita, Nana and I had a nice curry dinner and afterwards Rita and I went for a long walk down by the lake.

Lazy, wonderful summer days spent with my family make me think of folk festivals and great Canadian music. A group that comes to mind for this day in particular, is Po'Girl. I first saw this all-girl band at Guelph Lake's Hillside Festival in 2005. Since then, they have evolved into a co-ed ensemble of Canadian Urban Roots Music. With a collection of so many great songs, it is hard to choose favorites. You can listen to some here on the CBC3 webpage.  I've Got Time is a song that comes to my mind for wonderful summer holiday days like this one in Ontario. Unfortunately I can't find a link to play this song for you. If anyone else can find it online (linkable or embed-able) then please let me know.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 22 - No Ha Parado De Llover

This morning it was pouring rain in Burlington which allowed me to have a most glorious sleep in. After breakfast and a bit of play time with Bridgette and Ethan, we went to the Burlington public library. Later we made a huge lunch and followed it up with a swim in the late afternoon.

This was a very mellow and relaxing day! Welcome recuperation :)

Today I was reminded of one of my most favorite Spanish love songs, No Ha Parado De Llover by Maná, a band I love to, love to, love to love.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 21 - 1234

I woke up in Burlington after a solid night's sleep and absolutely no symptoms of jet-lag. I was slightly amazed, but not surprised, by my body's ability to switch seamlessly into vacation mode after leaving Hong Kong. Work there, relax here. My brain and my body seemed to be obeying these commands and had become nicely adaptable and flexible to changes in what are more often routines, like bedtimes, meal times and duration of sleeps.

Lianne, Bridgette, Ethan, Rita, Nana and I took a fun trip on the GO train into Toronto to have lunch at the CN Tower. Here, I first ran into Mike Luciani, a teacher from CDNIS, with his family. Then after a scrumptious and entertaining lunch (the view of planes landing on Toronto Island was pretty cool) we ran into John D-Arcy, another CDNIS teacher. This made three fairly significant coincidences of people, time and place (within 48 hours). I joked that one more and I might need to hire and existential detective.

After lunch at the 360 restaurant, checking out the observatory and jumping on the glass floor, we headed over to Ontario Place for some afternoon fun in the sun. I should mention that I arrived in Ontario into the tail end of a major heat wave. It was muggy, sticky, soggy and stifling and I was in pure heaven! We played on the water slides and in the water park with the kids and then saw an iMax movie called Wild Ocean. With everyone happily exhausted we took a late train back to Burlington.

Today's song, 1234, is by a talented and beautiful Canadian artist, Feist. There is also a fun Sesame Street version. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 20 - Take It Easy

Bruce picked me up early to take me to the airport with enough time for a visit and breakfast. It was another lovely day and the weather was really warming up in Vancouver. I figured this would be a good transition into the Onterrible July heat wave I'd been hearing about. Actually, I love the heat and the humidity and knowing that I’d have Aunty Rita’s pool to relax by reminded my that I’d be just fine in any temperature.

Onwards to Ontario: Part III of my summer holiday. A place to rest, recuperate and relax as much as possible. Taking It Easy.... We'll see how that goes!

Come on baby (baby)... Don't say maybe... I gotta know it your sweet love is gonna save me.
We may lose or we may win... but we will never here again...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 19 - Summer In The City

Bruce and I started the day off with a great hike though Lynn Valley. The weather was warming up fast and I enjoyed my first day of full summer heat. I finally took off Aaron’s huge sweater and managed to even sprawl out on the rocks in the river to soak up some rays in just shorts and a t-shirt. We also checked out the Lynn Cannon suspension bridge and then took a scenic route back into the city. People were OUT! The beaches were packed with sunbathers, kids, hacky-sackers and volleyball players. The streets were jammed with runners, bikers, bladders, boarders and strollers. What a great place in the summer time!

The song that most comes to mind for this day of increasing temperatures and people on the streets with summer enthusiasm is The Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City. A Summer Soundtrack just wouldn't be complete without it!

For dinner B & B decided on a great waterfront spot near False Creek. While waiting for a table I noticed  2 old friends, Lindsey and Andy, from Calvin Park (junior high!) in Kingston also waiting for a table. They live in Vancouver now and are engaged. Funny thing was that Lindsey had written on my FaceBook wall the day before, wishing me a happy birthday and mentioning that we should get together if I had extra time in Vancouver.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have any extra time, had thought about her a couple of times and planned to write her that evening. And there they were, in the same restaurant and the exact same time as us - crazy. We ended up being sat at tables beside each other on the patio and had a nice visit after all What a small world it is! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 18 - They Say It's Your Birthday!

Aaron went to work and I needed to return the rental car, so Bruce and Barb kindly offered to meet me at the closest Budget outlet. Turns out it was only for trucks and I needed to go even further out of our way into the heart of downtown to return the car. Frustrating! Then, after an hour of complications, a trip to the gas station, another misunderstanding and changes to my bill, we sorted out the final cost and left. It was $175 more than I expected. Not only was I disturbed by the sneakiness of the hidden charges, added fees and the lack of transparency at the time of rental, but I also wasted more than an hour of my time, plus B & B’s time, to sort it all out. Lesson learned = never rent from Budget!

The day got better with a great lunch on Granville Island, a bit of shopping for me at MEC, and a gorgeous dinner right on Kitsilano Beach at the Boat House. Finished with an ice-cream pie and lovely birthday wishes, I was happy to be in the company of great people on my birthday.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 15, 16 & 17 - Back To You

Today I'm dedicating a song to Aaron, for all the J. Mayer we used to love and listen to, once upon a time - Back To You

Aaron and I started the day off with a relaxing swim and a dip in the hot tub at the hotel. We followed that with eggs benny at a local bakery downtown and then we grabbed some groceries for the cooler. We explored a little bit of Victoria, unintentionally, and then headed off for a provincial park on the south-west coast called French Beach, just past the town of Sooke. The campsite that Aaron’s friends had already reserved and arrived at was beautiful. Canopied by massive evergreen trees and only a minutes walk to the windy beach. Even with the glorious sunshine, it was actually really cold!

Aaaron’s friend Lynn and her friends Andrea and Stewart were the most gracious hosts to us. For 2 straight days, from their fully equipped VW Westfalia, they offered us beer and snacks, cooked up full-course campfire menus of sausages, steaks, portabellas, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, homemade Greek salad, provided fresh coffee in the mornings and sweet rum and cokes at cocktail hour. What rottenly spoiled campers we were! 

We hiked a bit in the days, and managed to check out an awesome section of the Juan de Fucca Trail near Parkinson's Beach on Saturday. Unfortunately Lynn had a little spill on some slippery rocks by the beach. Her knee immediately became swollen and hard for her to bear any weight upon it. Aaron put on his hero cape and began piggy-backing her out the 4 km or so of trail that we had started in on towards Botanical Beach. I began feeling a little useless and eventually I took off ahead with Lynn’s iPhone to look for a patch of service hoping to call Andrea and Stewart, or to flag down a ride/help from the main road. The main road was 6 km from the where we started the trail. An hour and a bit after leaving them behind I made it to the highway for my first experience of sticking my thumb out to oncoming traffic - alone. What ensued surprised me quite a bit. More than 20 cars passed me by! Two cars did stop, both with just an older male driver, who listened to my story/plea for help, but then weren’t interested in driving the 6 km off the highway, down to the tail-head, where I hoped that Lynn and Aaron had successfully made it to. My story must have seemed too strange or unlikely. Did they think it was some kind of trap or elaborate scam? Or did they just not feel comfortable going out of their way? They were both a little creepy and awkward, to be honest, so I was actually relieved to just let them continue on and hope for someone with a better vibe to stop and help out.

It was getting darker as the sun dipped below the tall tree-line and it was quite cold cold, I still couldn’t get reception on Lynn’s phone and I was beginning to worry about our situation. Luckily the next person to stop was a BC Parks employee, a portly and short grey-haired man with thick glasses and a gentle voice. He immediately wanted to help and started clearing out the junk and garbage that littered his front seat. The back of his little 4x4 was crammed to the inner roof with tools for doing yard work and repairs, back seats folded down with no room for passengers. He went on ahead to pick up Lynn and I waited by the highway thinking about maybe trying to hitch back to French Beach and get the rental car. Within a 15 minutes he returned with Lynn and Aaron, who had been making their way up the dirt road from the trail. We emptied out all of the Parks man's gear into the bushes on the side of the road and then Aaron and I piled to the back hatch on a spread of garbage bags. When we described our friends, Andrea and Stewart, who were waiting for us at Botanical Beach the parks worker responded with, “Oh the couple with the black dog and the VW camper?” Turns out he had just come form Botanical Beach where he had noticed them. On the way up the highway we stopped to see a black bear eating grass just 3 meters from the road. I was glad I hadn’t run into her on my solo hike!

That evening after a huge meal, Andrea and Stewart took Lynn into the hospital in Victoria and Aaron and I held down the fort at the French Beach campsite. Another cold night but this time with much better gear because Stewart and Andrea left us their mattresses and more blankets.

Sunday we packed up and caught an early ferry back to the mainland and took Lynn to the hospital in Vancouver. There, after an MRI at UBC (and the x-rays from Victoria), she was told that she had fractured her tibia and would need to be on crutches for 2 months! How awful and frustrating for her.

Later that night, Aaron and I had a great dinner on Commerical Drive, yummy Canadiana gastronomique (homemade pub burgers and pulled pork sandwiches with fresh cut french fries) and local BC micro brew beer, and then went out to briefly to socialize with some of his friends. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 14 - Oh Canada! We Are More

I had one of those sleeps where you wake up every 30 minutes and check the time, in this case pawing around for my cell phone/alarm clock which was tossed carelessly amongst the crap pile beside the bed 30 minutes earlier. Each time I woke up it took me moment to figure out where I was and what the rhythmic knocking of the fan/air conditioner combo was. I guess I was nervous that I might sleep in and miss my flight, after having stayed up past 1:00 am booking more summer adventure flights between Bogota, Cartagena, Panama City, and Bocas Del Torro. By 7:20 am we were checked out of the Insadong love motel and waiting for an airport limousine bus.  On time.

It was a grey and hazy day in Seoul. So much of this holiday to South Korea was drizzly and cloudy. This will most likely be my last trip to South Korea and while it has become like a second home to me because of the Cahurphy clan, I don’t feel any degree of sadness about maybe never going back. Of course, I will miss the food! I need to find a city fix for Korean food in Hong Kong, of which I know there are some great spots, I’ve just never checked them out.

I landed in Hong Kong to amazingly sunny blue skies, vibrant green hills and clear air (for Hong Kong, anyways). I had the same feeling that I always have when I return to HK after any duration of time away, a feeling of attachment and goodness about being in a place that feels comfortably like home. I love that feeling and, generally in my life, I so rarely get to experience it.

I scrambled to re-check my bags with Air Canada and then took the airport express into Central with one mission: find 6 different coloured Dragon Ball wigs in the costume alley to send to Aaron in Vancouver. This was a special request that I agreed to a few days ago, because luckily I knew exactly where to get these and I figured a trip to Central would be a better way to spend the lay over than cooped up in the airport, especially once I saw the glorious day I had arrived to. Little did I know that July 1st isn’t just Canada’s birthday, it’s also Hong Kong’s (handover) birthday. The streets were jam packed and the temperature + humidity was high and all the stores were closed! I had no idea. So instead I just enjoyed the view and the sunshine and the feeling of home.

After my 11 hour flight to Vancouver, Aaron met me at the airport where we picked up a rental car and headed immediately for the ferry. It was great to be in Canada, seeing Aaron for the first time in 2 years and off on an adventure right away. We stayed right on Vitoria’s waterfront and enjoyed a bottle of champagne right before the fireworks were set off from the front lawn of our hotel. Then we went out in the partying streets for dinner.

What a great way to celebrate both special holidays with a flight over the pacific, going against the time difference, allowing me to enjoy a super-extended 36 hour July 1st!

I landed in Vancouver on Canada's birthday listening to A Pretty Decent Cape In My Closet, by my very own super hero slam poet, Shane Koyczan, who millions watched in complete awe during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, when he performed We Are More.