Wednesday, December 31, 2008

for the ladies

on this last day of the year 2008, i do not even feel badly that my professional productivity has gone to pot since my personal productivity has hit an all time high and i am busy planning a non stagette stagette. to make it more professionally ethical, i am getting help from my colleague so at least that is something to ease my conscious.

things are coming together (as they always do) and it is shaping up to be a stellar night. not for a few more weeks though. first i have to survive new year's eve, a wine drenched ladies' night christmas regift party, and another week of work.

perhaps my upbeat mood is the result of the most generous gift i received this morning. everybody loves a student loan repayment!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

listy listy

i am back at work after a nice and relaxing few days off full of reading, movie watching, and general laziness. it did not hurt that the weather was crummy and my head/chest cold has returned so i am trying not to feel guilty about not doing a whole lot of anything while i was away from my cubicle.

and since i am back at work and managed to be rather productive this morning, that means a blog post for the internet just so it knows that i am still promising that i have not disappeared.

as always, here is a list of things that have been on my mind:
  • how, in 2008, is is ok for israel to fire rockets into groups of civilians in the gaza strip? i admittedly do not know the intricities of the conflict between israel and hamas and i do recognise that hamas is a terrorist organisation that has been elected into some legitimate form of government, but it just seems like a pretty obscene use of force for the israelis to have killed 350 people and for hamas to have killed 4. what is more frightening is the response that the 'extremists' in the arab world will have.
  • i got a super fantastic new camera for christmas. it is so fantastic that as it is not sitting in front of me at the moment, i cannot tell you the details of its fantasticness, just that i am very excited to learn how to use it and take some snappity snaps.
  • i am a movie going machine lately and have seen Seven Pounds, which is a good piece of entertainment (although it disturbed my sister). will smith's constant scowl/grimace kind of got a bit distracting (i think it is the same one he wore through the Pursuit of Happyness). i have also seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was awesome. that Cate Blanchett is sure something.
  • i also had my annual viewing of Love Actually. then i immediately wanted to uproot and move to london.
  • i keep daydreaming about beach vacations, i think it might have something to do with this cold snap. not sure if you can call it a 'snap' if it lasts weeks though.
  • i went to the mall yesterday and managed to earn money, which was nice. it was more of returns and price adjustments, which is not exactly earning money, but it still felt good. economic downturn, be damned!
  • i have no plans for new year's eve. and the thought of moving around the city that night is enough to make me want to stay at home with the huge book i am in the middle of. then again, someone may convince me to go out and ring in the new year, if only to say good riddance to these last months of 2008.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

still here, i promise

really, i am.

i even had a few ideas for posts. and even starting drafting them. but until i get back to them, here are a few tidbits:
  • Australia is not such a long movie and it has great big screen movie star kisses, cheesey lines at just the right moments, and hugh jackman on horseback. it is worth the sitting time just for that last bit.
  • tis cold. so cold in fact that i bought a pair of uggs. i know that there are other brands that are cheaper, but i just felt like i should go hard or go home. however, they are so cozy, i would eat them if i could. and hugh jackman on horseback. yum.
  • yesterday my friend was telling me how her nose ring once fell out during a meeting and she had to casually cover it up and we chuckled. then this morning, i yawned during a training and drooled on my shirt! seriously, who does that? i didn't even know it was possible.
  • i wrote my spanish placement exam and they said i have a good handle on the language. i guess they were not considering my big capital letters saying, '¡NO ENTIENDO EL SUJUNCTIVO, AYUDAME!' but at least i remembered to put the ¡ in there so it makes it at least punctually correct
  • i don't know what all this talk about an economic downturn is about, i have spent more money in the last few months than i have in years. pish posh.
  • somalia's still crumbling, if anyone cares to notice.
  • i could really go for a beach holiday. is it appropriate to follow that last comment with this one?
  • it is if i also say that i am in the middle of Zanzibar Chest, which is fantastic and i wholeheartedly recommend it even though it is not my policy to recommend a book before i am done with it. but it covers the chaos that is somalia and other african historical bits and bobs while the author relays his experience as a white kid in africa and then a foreign correspondant in war zones.
  • i am not sure if i have ever recommended it here, but Emergency Sex is also a great read. similar idea. more un, less reuters than the other book, but same conflict zones. same appeal to me, the reader.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

greenest pastures

the past few months have been tumultuous, to put it lightly. and during the last week of tumult i have been thinking a lot about where i am and where i am going. both physically and in all other ways.

my feet have begun to itch and i have been thinking about all the places i could go and might see one day. it worries me that i will always have a dull ache of an urge to pick up and run off to areas of the world that are different, dangerous, or somehow interesting. and yet, it is the experiences that i have had over the past few years that i end up talking about most with people i meet.

thoughts of potential adventures are at the front of my mind today because a colleague of mine asked me this morning if i would be interested in working in the middle east because his old boss was harassing him to take a job and he was trying to pawn it off on someone. at the moment, my answer is a vehement no, but it is nice to know that opportunities will always come and it will be up to me to accept them or not.

and, for the moment, i am content right where i am. even if the details are yet to be ironed out and i have no idea what it is that i do at work or when it will ever begin to make sense (or if i even like it), i have no intentions of uprooting and sailing away on a ship like an 19th century woman out to explore the colonies and write books about exotic species of flowers while her governor husband civilizes the natives.

besides, i have spanish classes to take, weddings to attend, a car to drive, two jobs to wrestle, and a shopping habit to fund.

the world better be ready when i do decide to dart off somewhere, because crumbling democracies seem to follow me around the globe!

Monday, December 01, 2008

this might just get interesting, after all

canadian politics promise to become a little more interesting this week, with a potential coalition in the works between the liberals and ndp with a little help from our friends, the bloc quebecois.

i have been following this story and the facebook status updates of friends saying that this is undemocratic and i am not sure that i agree. if, together, more people voted for the liberals and the ndp than the conservative, then wouldn't a combination of them represent more of the electorate than a minority conservative government?

it sounds a bit simplistic and theoretical when i put it like that, but that is my initial thought.

perhaps i would be more miffed if i had voted conservative and supported them, but maybe this is a way to get around the ineffective minority situation that brought us to an election in the first place. at least, if two parties have a formal agreement to get along for a year then maybe parliament can actually get something done. and the netherlands has some sort of magic minority system where the leading party never has a house majority (it is explained in the book Infidel, actually) and they must always make coalitions to form government.

now, if dion has said he is stepping down and the other yahoos are all gearing up for a liberal party leader fight, then i am just not sure that this is going to work at all. but so far, i am liking it.

and thanks to k for the reminder that today is world aids day. last year on this day i was in a small coastal town in kenya, where they had banners up and a little street parade to commemorate the day. i also remember i was lathered in sunscreen and working on my equatorial tan, drinking diet cokes to stave off the 40 degree heat. i could go for a little of that right about now.

seasonal favourites

lite 96 was playing christmas carols this morning! this will surely improve my christmas spirit. i love a good christmas tune.

i'm throwing out the ipod and sticking with dieter's radio for now!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

we're doomed!

i've just started some reading about ecologically friendly beauty products and have already learned:
  • dying your hair darker is more dangerous than bleaching it, because the darker dyes have been linked to bladder cancer
  • the most commonly used anti-dandruff shampoos usually include irritants (SLS) that dry out your scalp
  • antibacterial products have triclosan and triclocarbon, which could create a carcinogen if in contact with sunlight but are not completely filtered out of our water systems so may end up back in farmer's fields, essentially fertilising our food with the nastiness
  • body sugaring or threading are the most environmentally friendly method of hair removal (i've been meaning to talk to you about my moustache...!)
  • all b.o. preventors seem to be bad for you, but what is the option? to stink? sweat stains?
  • 'hypoallergenic' is not a government regulated term so it means nothing. same with 'allergy tested' and 'dermatologist tested'

all these interesting bits come from a book entitle Ecoholic, a good source of information even if a little simplistic and narrowly focused. the cbc also covered this story years ago and still has hods of info on their website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

i'm trying

this came straight from oprah's mouth by way of a friend. not exactly a direct quote, but you get the idea.

'whatever someone did to you in the past has no power over the present. only you give it power.'

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

just filling the space

it is day 5 of my new job and man, is this different than anything else i have ever done. more on that to follow.

in the mean time, here are some bullet points:
  • i picked up my new car this past weekend and he is lovely and his name is dieter, which befits his german heritage. he even has bun warmers to keep your buns warm during cold weather drives.
  • so the calgary stampeders won the grey cup. i was at a grey cup party where i believe i watched 0.7 seconds of the game. i am not a fan of football and am not as thrilled with the win as the local newspapers are.
  • i got a delivery of cupcakes the other day from a friend in ontario who has never even had a crave cupcake. it was a pretty nice surprise.
  • i also got to visit with my favourite resident canadian in alaska and although it had been years, it felt like were still in that same psychology laboratory in 2003 with those dreaded rats.
  • i need a hair cut, but i am torn between getting a trim into a reasonable style (as opposed to this mop that i am sporting) and growing it out as much as possible so i can put it up for my sis's wedding in february. but it is really driving me nuts today - i think dorothy hamill called and she wants her hair cut back.
  • i almost wrote off the eggnog latte because the first one i had this season was poor to medium, but i gave it another shot and was pleasantly surprised.
  • even with the red cups, i am not feeling any discernible christmas cheer.

sorry about the combination of my previous behemoth posts and then such an unimaginative list-type post. but i AM at work (where i get blogger.com, but not my web-based email or facebook) so this will have to suffice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

judeo-christian reading

by design or by chance, i have recently read a few books that have the theme of religion threaded throughout. all of them are worth a read, but my recommendations for each are for very different reasons. interesting that they are all non fiction reads.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
it took me awhile before i decided if i liked greg or not, but his story is captivating regardless of how you feel about his values and focus. the short version of his rather long story is that he fails to climb k2, happens across a poor village in pakistan, makes a commitment to return one day to build a school, and that is the beginning of an ngo that builds schools in northern pakistan and afghanistan.

the book fascinated me as it challenged and confirmed some of the opinions i have about international development, but even more, it is a excellent and user-friendly historical account of pakistan and afghanistan in the 21st century.

i have never spent much time researching and studying that area of the world and have just assumed it is very complicated and an outsider would never be able to grasp the influence that ethnicity, religion, and clan-based governance systems. but this book puts a stop to that type of fatalist thinking and just gives you the story of a man who wanted to build schools for people who couldn't build them for themselves.

have you read it? i would love to know what other people think about how greg neglects his family and own health to achieve his goals. is it worth it? is he a martyr for an unwinnable cause? does his wife get enough credit in the book? i would love to have a book club-type conversation about this book!

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
the true story of a somali girl who lives in somalia, saudi arabia, ethiopia, kenya, and the netherlands is also fascinating. ayaan writes a book that challenges islam and those liberals and muslims who defend its values and practices (and has lived with death threats because of it). i have personally struggled with elements of islam and it was refreshing to read that someone else had done the dirty work of dissection and investigation and presented them for you to either accept or reject.

i also like her description of eastleigh in nairobi and of the smell of sukuma wiki. (fun fact - sukuma wiki is an inexpensive spinach dish in kenya and swahili literally translates to 'pushing the week' because it is what you eat when you are trying to stretch your shillings to the end of the week). ayaan's telling of her experience with unhcr and with the social welfare system of the netherlands also challenges what you thought you knew about refugees, social assistance, and the acceptance of foreign cultural values in western societies.

it's long, but it is worth it. and another book i would love to discuss with other people!

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
i just finished this one and it was much more lighthearted than the previous two, but still interesting in its obvious religious subject matter. aj attempts to live as close to biblical scripture as possible for one year. as a secular jew, he focuses first (and most) on the old testament then moves to the new testament, consulting numerous self-proclaimed experts along the way.

i don't think that he digs too deep to get to the bottom of the different interpretations of the bible, but he does give a bible virgin like me a watered down version of the seemingly incomprehensible chapters and verses that are somehow supposed to tell you how to live. he provides a lot of background and information on various groups who interpret the bible throughout the scale of literalism and like the other books, it did challenge me to think about the bible and the ways it can enhance your life if you let it.

if i had one criticism of this book it would be his lack of organisation and slight self indulgence. i would have liked to see his thoughts and revelations throughout his year of eating the bible a little more coherent. and in the same vein, i think that some things he throws in are simply a self-indulgent documentation of his own actions and even though it was a memoir of sorts, it was a bit distracting after his 12 months.

on the brink of collapse or already collapsed

i read a headline in today's calgary herald that said the president of somalia is concerned the country is on the brink of collapse. i thought, brink? it collapsed 17 years ago and has been chaotic ever since:
  • kidnappings and killings of foreigners have become increasingly common
  • there are regular pirate hijackings off the coast of somalia and kenya
  • there has not been an effective government since the overthrow of siad barre in 1991
  • somalia is oft cited by academics as a prime example of a failed state
  • the refugee camps in kenya are overflowing with the numbers of somalis fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country
  • recent suicide bombings in mogadishu and hargeisa have forced the un to shut down many of its operations and international staff have been pulled out (including friends of mine who were doing some pretty phenomenal stuff)

the snipit of the article i saw said that somalia was crumbling, but the reality is that the transitional federal government that has been more or less governing somalia and trying to sort out the many and varied problems in the country is now being taken over by islamists, leaving those who have tried to govern powerless.

i am not sure why i am writing about it now, but it is difficult to read those stories after working closely with refugees, the somali community in nairobi, and having just finished the book Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

i would imagine that the logical response to this post or to hearing the stories of humanitarian catastrophe in somalia would be 'what can i do?' or ' what can be done?' i do not claim to be an expert in international humanitarianism or international development (or of failed states or the horn of africa, for that matter), but i think these news stories are so devastating because i really do not think that anything can be done until the rest of the world starts caring and forces somalia to sort out its chaos. the idea of forcing another country to take a new direction against its leaders' will or ability is generally against all of my opinions on international development, but isn't 17 years enough? it needs to be sorted out and it seems that those with any power in somalia are unable to do it. chaos, indeed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

hello Privy Council Office!

someone googled (remember when google wasn't a verb?) 'jason kenney' from the Privy Council Office in ottawa and found my blog. eek. weird. i sometimes forget that the internet is for everyone and that this little piece of it that i have carved out is not just for me and the people i know.

i wonder if they hire people to monitor blogs because i could do that!

i also get a lot of searches for

  • starbucks london fog (hint, starbucks does not sell a London Fog but does sell an earl grey tea misto with a shot of vanilla which is exactly like the second cup London Fog)
  • marks and spencer snowy balls (which still makes me laugh)
  • right bank/left bank in paris
  • swahili or habari
  • sea urchins
  • shavasna (om)
  • things to know about [fill in blank with whatever random piece of information i have written about in the past]

i will be really impressed with myself when someone googles 'gonads' and gets here. or better yet, googles 'gonads and jason kenney' and gets here!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

arias and gonads

when a friend asked if i'd be interested in joining her for an evening of opera at the jubilee auditorium, it took me only a few seconds to respond with a resounding yes. i imagined fancy dresses, posh socialites, and a few pretty woman moments.

calgary opera did not disappoint in their rendition of Faust. i had shivers at the high notes, i was transfixed by the singers' voices, and i got to try out a new smokey eye that i learned from Too Much Daytime TV. 6th row tickets were not too shabby either. and the subtitles were surprisingly not distracting, nor terribly necessary.

but the best part of the night was during one of the intermissions when i tried to convince my opera date to go up to the special guest of the evening, calgary mp jason kenney, and kick him in the gonads. she wouldn't even do it for the $50 on the table, but it was still funny to say the word 'gonads' while wearing a fancy new purple dress and a smokey eye!

if you have the chance, go to the opera! what a treat.

reversing

i think i have had reverse culture shock in previous eras (like when i moved home from an exchange in mexico when i was 19), but lately i have been feeling rather immune from the challenges of returning to your home country after spending extended periods of time in a foreign place. even if that foreign place is a developing country (i think the the guilt and anxiety felt from returning to mega-consumption, waste-production, and the paradox of choice after living with less is more difficult).

but i have determined my current challenge in this readjustment to north american life. i have become used to giving cheek kisses to greet people from living in the uk and then with people from all over the world, including oft kissed nations. the only challange was figuring out if the other person was a once, twice, or thrice kisser.

i have now been home for 2 months and have had the luxury of seeing friends a number of times, but i find the greeting bit of any activity mildly awkward as i have been so used to hugging everyone (it has usually been the only time i get to grace them with my company). now, it seems a week apart is not enough for a hug, yet cheek kisses are not in vogue in canada.

small issue, but something that crossed my mind as i met a friend for dinner last night.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

yes they can!

wow, i can finally go to bed after being glued to cnn all day (except for when i went out to get a massage and then went shopping). that was something. this will be something. and what a speech!

Monday, November 03, 2008

vegetarian 100

The Vegetarian Hundred
same deal, but now with veggies. the original list can be found here.

1. Real macaroni and cheese, made from scratch and baked
2. Tabouleh (yum, yum, yum)
3. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven (preferably with homemade strawberry jam)
4. Fresh figs
5. Fresh pomegranate (one of my favs)
6. Indian dal of any sort (my favourite was my malaysian friend's grandma's that she froze and sent to him at uni)
7. Imam bayildi
8. Pressed spiced Chinese tofu
9. Freshly made hummus
10. Tahini
11. Kimchi (i have always wanted to try this)
12. Miso
13. Falafel
14. Potato and pea filled samosas
15. Homemade yogurt (made some for grade 4 science fair)
16. Muhammara
17. Brie en croute
18. Spanikopita
19. Fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes
20. Insalata caprese
21. Stir-fried greens (gai lan, bok choi, pea shoots, kale, chard or collards) (used to live with 3 chinese girls and they loved to fry the greens)
22. Freshly made salsa (viva mexico!)
23. Freshly made guacamole (otra vez!)
24. Creme brulee (la joie de vivre)
25. Fava beans (or at least i think so)
26. Chinese cold sesame peanut noodles
27. Fattoush
28. New potatoes
29. Coleslaw
30. Ratatouille (made it for the first time last year)
31. Baba ganoush
32. Winter squash
33. Roasted beets (i love a boiled beet too)
34. Baked sweet potatoes (but blech)
35. Plantains (i think i mentioned this before, but thank you africa)
36. Chocolate truffles
37. Garlic mashed potatoes
38. Fresh water chestnuts (i think, maybe there were not fresh?)
39. Steel cut oats
40. Quinoa (i really, really want to try this complete protein, but have yet to do so)
41. Grilled portabello mushrooms
42. Chipotle en adobo
43. Stone ground whole grain cornmeal
44. Freshly made corn or wheat tortillas
45. Frittata
46. Basil pesto (homemade! but not sure if all that processing was worth the output)
47. Roasted garlic (is sort of like a 5th food group in my diet)
48. Raita of any type (indian flatmates, woo who!)
49. Mango lassi
50. Jasmine rice (white or brown)
51. Thai vegetarian coconut milk curry (but not my favourite, that coconut milk)
52. Pumpkin in any form other than pie (fritter style in rsa)
53. Fresh apple pear or plum gallette (no, but my little bro was just eating one tonight, perhaps by tomorrow i will be able to bold this one)
54. Quince in any form
55. Escarole, endive or arugula (or rocket, as i like to call it)
56. Sprouts other than mung bean
57. Naturally brewed soy sauce (maybe, is the stuff they give you at fancy sushi restaurants naturally brewed?)
58. Dried shiitake mushrooms (i have mixed opinions on dried mushrooms, but i wouldn't turn them down)
59. Unusually colored vegetables (purple cauliflower, blue potatoes, chocolate bell peppers…) (sometimes the vegetables in kenya don't come the way you are used to seeing them...)
60. Fresh peach ice cream
61. Chevre
62. Medjool dates
63. Kheer
64. Flourless chocolate cake
65. Grilled corn on the cob (sold on street corners throughout central america and africa)
66. Black bean (or any other bean) vegetarian chili (i actually made chili with meat for the first time this summer)
67. Tempeh
68. Seitan or wheat gluten (sick, and not the way the kids are using the word 'sick' these days - i lived with seventh day adventists for a few months and they ate this stuff like it was candy)
69. Gorgonzola or any other blue veined cheese (i have recently developed a love for the mouldy cheeses)
70. Sweet potato fries
71. Homemade au gratin potatoes
72. Cream of asparagus soup (and i made it myself)
73. Artichoke-Parmesan dip
74. Mushroom risotto
75. Fermented black beans
76. Garlic scapes
77. Fresh new baby peas (if you must eat a pea, it better be fresh)
78. Kalamata olives
79. Preserved lemons
80. Fried green tomatoes
81. Chinese scallion pancakes
82. Cheese souffle
83. Fried apples
84. Homemade frijoles refritos (they are a staple in mexico and something i learned to love) 85. Pasta fagiole
86. Macadamia nuts in any form (some from a macadamia nut farm in guatemala. don't try them raw, they are not nice)
87. Paw paw in any form (but i call it papaya)
88. Grilled cheese sandwich of any kind (cut into 4, of course)
89. Paneer cheese (as mentioned before)
90. Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian style–no pork!)
91. Fresh pasta in any form
92. Grilled leeks, scallions or ramps (i love leeks, plain and simple)
93. Green papaya salad (i have yet to try this but i once lived with someone who had lived in thailand and swore it was the best ever)
94. Baked grain and vegetable stuffed tomatoes (but yum)
95. Pickled ginger
96. Methi greens
97. Aloo paratha
98. Kedgeree (the original Indian version without the smoked fish, not the British version with fish) (nope, only the fish version, which was quite good)
99. Okra (=slime)
100. Roasted brussels sprouts (never roasted, but i would gladly try it because boiled or fried, i love them)

and i was hoping to try out my new trick of the strikethrough, but alas, things made out of vegetables are much easier for me to imagine putting in my mouth. i may see another meat vacation in my future...

i think the thing that i love about lists about food (thanks again k for this one!) is that i enjoy the memories that come with food. i can so easily remember what i ate, where i was, and who i was with when a food is mentioned.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

omnivore's 100

i stole this from k this late sunday evening when i am not in the mood for bed, or for writing much else (as witnessed by my inability to post for the past few weeks). it is the omnivore's 100 and was fun to do. i copied it from her and deleted all the hyperlinks, but check her blog out if you want to know what half this stuff is (i had to look up a bunch).

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (except here they are red because i cannot figure out how to strike anything through)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/ linking to your results

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros
4. Steak tartare (just the other day and i loved it)
5. Crocodile (it tastes like salty chicken and is gross)
6. Black pudding (surprising considering my proximity at times to the places that eat this 'delicacy.' but no, i wouldn't try it.)
7. Cheese fondue (but i don't know what the big deal with the fondue is)
8. Carp
9. Borscht (i don't think i've ever had beet soup, but i surely would try it)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (raspberry j is best)
14. Aloo gobi (i am not sure i have had exactly this, but things very similar to it)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (my most recent one was a sausage in a bun in prague and it came with a pickle!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (i think so, but cannot remember an instance and i'm sure i would not like it)
19. Steamed pork buns (nothing about pork excites me and if i were to eat it, it would have to be some sort of pork roast)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (a life without tomatoes would not be worth living)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras (i don't know a whole lot about foie gras, but have heard of some unethical farming practices to get those livers to grow so much. and liver, ew)
24. Rice and beans (it is a staple is so many countries i have been in and has its own name in cuba, but i cannot recall it at the moment)
25. Brawn or head cheese (had i wanted to try it, germany would have been the best place, it is everywhere)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (one of my favs in mexico)
28. Oysters (raw or smoked, delicious)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (but yum!)
31. Wasabi peas (i once ate a few bowls of these in the coolest restaurant in hamburg, germany - then proceeded to steal a beer glass)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (i have this issue with soggy bread)
33. Salted lassi (i have never liked the idea of the lassi and have yet to try one)
34. Sauerkraut (again, the germans)
35. Root beer float (the best kind of float!)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (but not together, so i don't think that counts)
37. Clotted cream tea (in the lake district in england... so rich and so good)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail (twice in the last year - south africa and paris and i enjoyed it much more than i thought i would)
41. Curried goat (i have eaten goat in many forms - thank you africa - but never curried)
42. Whole insects (chapulines in oaxaca, mexico. blech, but i did it)
43. Phaal (maybe i would try a bite)
44. Goat’s milk (not just plain milk, but cheese made with it)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (i had a scottish flatmate, he introduced me to nice scotch and hot toddies)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (just not with the chicken)
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (heavenly, and i don't typically like doughnuts)
50. Sea urchin (no, but i did have one stuck in my foot for weeks)
51. Prickly pear (mexican street food includes cactus)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone (there is some nasty poaching going on with this stuff in south africa, and i am pretty sure my former next-door neighbour was in on it when i lived there and when he pulled hods of it out of his freezer, i politely declined)
54. Paneer (my favourite is the paneer tikka from hashmi in nairobi - if you go there, order it!)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle (something i should have tried while i was in deutschland, apparently)
57. Dirty gin martini (i had my first last year and it is surprisingly delicious and dangerous...)
58. Beer above 8% ABV (i think)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores (back in the brownie camp days)
62. Sweetbreads (like maybe if i was on amazing race and this was the only thing keeping me from being a millionaire, then maybe)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst (funny, i read a lot about this this past summer and there is even a museum devoted to the stuff in berlin, but it did not appeal to me so alas, i have not eaten it)
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (mmmmm..... churros)
68. Haggis (in Edinburgh and it was pretty tasty)
69. Fried plantain (hello africa, and not too bad, but i am off bananas because of the many and varied uses of all things banana-like in east africa)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (no, no way)
71. Gazpacho (i made it once and described it as tasting like blended salad, but it was good blended salad)
72. Caviar and blini (wait, not together, but this one confuses me)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (and mostly because i am afraid of exported food products from china at the moment)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail (and one time in paris, which was so parisian and delicious)
79. Lapsang souchong (sure, i like tea, just doubt that i would like a smoky tea)
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (sounds nice)
82. Eggs Benedict (hollandaise is not my favourite, but the avenue diner in calgary does a fantastic version of these eggs)
83. Pocky (no, but i have had a very similar italian treat)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (oh, yes please!)
85. Kobe beef (what do you think the chances of the kobe beef fast food at u of c is actually kobe beef?)
86. Hare
87. Goulash (my mom made this a lot when i was growing up and i never cared for it, but had it again in hungary this summer, not bad, not bad)
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (unless i ate it when i was little, i don't think i have ever eaten spam)
92. Soft shell crab (never the soft shell variety)
93. Rose harissa (not yet, but i will)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano (i did not like this one bit and have no idea how the mexicans go so crazy for this national dish)
96. Bagel and lox (i think i have lived off of this for days on end at times)
97. Lobster Thermidor (never the thermidor variety)
98. Polenta (the first time at an italian dinner party and i only give it a medium)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (is that like code word for marijuana?)
100. Snake

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a whole lot of nothing

that is what this election was, a whole lot of nothing. pretty much the same result (including rob anders and jason kenney, way to go calgary!) and it cost multiple millions of canadians' dollars. yippee.

though, working the election was quite interesting; i met a nice lady that i like to call mimi who was my poll clerk and we chatted about politics (even though i am sure you are not really supposed to) and religion and although we disagreed or saw things differently, i hope i opened her eyes a little so she can stop feeling sorry for muslim women.

it hurt my heart a little each time i had to read aloud 'harper' while we were counting the votes, but at least it is not a majority. and hello, ndp riding in alberta! go edmonton.

i must admit that the riding of calgary southwest is a lot more diverse than i ever gave it credit for and that made me happier. i was also proud when new canadians whipped out their crisp canadian citizenship cards (which the government should really make look prettier, like the maple cards) or when i had to explain the riding and party system to new voters. although the lowest voter turn out in canada's history is pretty much the most embarassing thing ever.

and, the whole system of going through people's identification reminded me handling the ugliest, dirtiest identity documents and financial statements when i worked at the salvation army one year. but it also reminded me of how fascinating i find it when you get a glimpse into people's lives through those same documents. call me nosy, i suppose.

now, back to focusing on the us presidential election, which promises to be a hell of a lot more interesting than ours.

Monday, October 13, 2008

voting day at google

if you are one of those people whose day doesn't include accessing www.google.ca, do it today! those clever geeks over there have given those of us participating in democracy a treat.

the eff word

i was out shopping with one of my oldest friends this past week and she was in the market for new tableware. i just went along for the ride and to help with decisions, as friends do. but a set of dishes caught my eye and it just so happened that they were gordon ramsay's line from royal doulton.

i left it for a few days and spoke to the soldier about it, who just wanted to clarify that it was gordon fucking ramsay's fucking dishes before agreeing that i should go and buy them. so today i meandered back to the bay and had a surprise that there was an additional sale on my dishes for my as-yet-non-existent home.

so, royal doulton is good, right? and spending money on decent dishes is a good idea, right? and they are quite fucking nice, right?!

it's good to have hobbies

last weekend it was canning, this weekend it was painting!

i started at 4pm on saturday and wasn't in bed until after 2am. i had to laugh that years ago it would have been me and some ladies stumbling home from a night out at that time on a saturday, but now i am standing with a paintbrush in my hand, talking about the stippling technique, the challenge of mixing a good purple, and creative license.

it was so much fun! my painting is three quarters done and i cannot wait to get back to it to finish it. it's also nice to know things i learned in high school art class are applicable 10 years later.

i am working at the federal election tomorrow (while i sit back and watch my potential employers fight over me, or something like that) and i am less excited about being a deputy returning officer than about the outcome of the election. who will it be and, perhaps more importantly, by how much?!

and now i am watching the tv show 17 kids and counting. if ever there is a time to use the phrase WTF, it is now. i mean, WTF are these people thinking?! nearly 18 children, the girls only wear skirts, they don't date, and home schooled? and then they let people film it to put it on television for people like me to watch like a bad car accident, i just cannot turn away...

i hope you got to eat some turkey or dressing today. happy thanksgiving! i have a lot to be thankful for this year, as always.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

a monday

it is monday and i am still not gainfully employed, but am employed for one day with elections canada so i can really revel in all that is a federal election. and make some monies.

to prepare, i voted in the early polls today and loved every second that it took me to make my X. i am shocked that so many canadians do not practice their civic duty and cast their ballot. and i have said it before, but people in other countries have risked their lives to be sure their voice is heard. so canadians, get it together, get your arse to your polling station, and participate in democracy already!

i am feeling more confident in who i want to win the election just because it is the lesser of the two doofuses so october 14th could get a bit tense.

and. and! and i am beginning the last countdown towards the day when my (soon to be former) soldier arrives in calgary to move into the new love nest (aka, my parents' basement). 14 days to go! flights are booked, visas have been granted, and finishing touches are being put on an 8 year military career. and not a moment too soon...

and yeah, this job search is getting old. i know that the job search is a full time job, that it is who you know, and that it takes time, blah, blah, blah, but i am already getting frustrated and deflated. i need to dig up some tenacity and perseverance to stretch my motivation.

canning pride


can-tastic!

i have spent a few days canning things lately, beets and salsa with my mom and peaches, tomatoes, and more beets with my best kitchen friend. i felt as though i was channeling the knowledge of my foremothers who have been doing this for centuries and it just seems like such an appropriate autumn activity.


but, as with every new skill, you live and you learn. so waiver forms stating that i am not responsible for any botulism that you contract and soggy peaches aside, i think it was a complete success!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

darn tooting!

neither palin nor biden are inspiring me at all during their debate. not one bit at all. biden thinks you can intervene in other countries uninvited and palin, well, she just smiles that silly smile all the time. she hasn't said anything disastrous yet, but still.

and what do i think about that other debate? i think that dion rocked it in both french and english. and who knew that duceppe spoke such eloquent english? who knew a separatist had such a command of the language of the oppressor? i do like the cut of his jib.

and global warming be damned, today i liked sitting in the sun and reading a book in october. i even got a few new freckles and a little rosy. in october! this just goes to show that i am totally justified in kicking the next person in the shins who says, 'oh, you are from canada, you must love the cold weather.' i say shut up and come enjoy summer in october at the foot of the rocky mountains to see for yourself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

organisational tool

i am trying not to just post lists of things i have been thinking, but cannot seem to thread together thoughts to make a coherent post about a single topic. instead, i have made nice headings and grouped my thoughts. at least it is a start.

politics/elections
  • i kind of miss having a french canadian prime minister. i wouldn't vote for the liberals just to get dion in office, but i do love the accent.
  • was canadian politics always this nasty? i don't remember it being such a name-calling, finger-pointing, adolescent schoolyard fight, but it does seem to have those qualities this time round
  • i volunteered in the democratic process again and although i just fill out forms, i enjoy being involved and learning about how a campaign is run (or not run). no more steve sightings to report. i think he is done with campaigning in calgary and for good reason.
  • i find elections kinda exciting. if you hadn't guessed.

getting my life together

  • i had a job interview for a job that i am not sure is right for me right now, but that i know i would be great at and let me sleep easy at night
  • a certain soldier has been granted his work visa, yippee! i love canadian efficiency. or, even more, i love the trust inherent in a british passport within the canadian immigration system
  • i am calming down, but have a few panic attacks daily about careers, cars, houses, money, social engagements, etc.
  • i keep thinking, i should be running, i should be working out, i should be starting on operation get fit (phase 2), but i don't. i am not sure what that is about.

the plummeting economy

  • is it really plummeting? i am not an economist nor do i claim to know a lot about ecomonics (despite those undergrad courses in micro and macro and international political economy), but it seems that people are just automatically freaking out in canada because of the american mortgage crisis and corresponding bailout. i am very sure that the american and canadian economies are closely linked, but it seems a bit alarmist and panicky to me.
  • now, who wants to give me a mortgage??

calgarians

  • i have been pretty impressed since returning home with the friendliness of my townsfolk, whether it is help in the job search, compliments on my outfit by perfect strangers (pencil skirts, i tell ya), or general courtesy from other drivers (ok, the bad drivers talking on the phones are exempt from this kudos), i have been pleasantly surprised. but i guess that old stereotype about canadians being friendly rings true.

Friday, September 26, 2008

election fun

just hanging out on a friday evening, watching the american presidential debate. obama is looking a titch more grey than he did at the beginning of the campaign. i cannot imagine being on the spot like that and not saying something stupid. mccain just seems a little too smug.

here is something (sort of) exciting - during my volunteer commitment this morning, i saw stephen harper. well, i think it was him because i did not have my spectacles on, but we were in the same mini mall while he popped in to say hello to his riding office. i knew something was up when i saw the csis (or who i thought was csis, does csis protect our pm??) guys walking around with their earpieces and curly cords stuffed into their jackets. then i saw the fancy black cars so i popped my head out to find a bunch of guys in suits. if the guy who i thought was harper is harper, he is taller than i imagined. no sign if there were any ill-fitting vests worn.

during some downtime today i read the liberal platform and although i have not read the others, i like the idea of a longer grace period on student loans and increased financial support to the global fund. but deciding the very date that canada will be out of afghanistan? i have mixed opinions.

more exciting news - i got a blackberry today. and it is pink! and i have no idea how to use it, but i am up for a new learning curve. and i have a special place in my heart for organisational tools.

welcome back

i keep thinking i should post something, but the truth is that i have always felt that i don't have much interesting to say (for the 5 of you who regularly read this!) when i am at home. i am going to have to get over that...

i have had the typical welcome-home head cold (which is far better than the welcome-home strep throat that i had a few years ago on a visit - the pain!) and i am bored of not doing anything while also trying to sort out my life. and it has only been 2 weeks.

but i did buy myself a pencil skirt and i am pretty sure that it will be the key to finding my perfect job. i will keep you posted on that one, but sheesh, job searches are soul destroying.

and i watched the last episode of last season's grey's anatomy then last night's first episode of this season. both pretty medium, if you ask me. an icicle? i think the writers of that show need a bit of a kick in the pants to get things back to their former tear-inducing glory.

Monday, September 22, 2008

chicken or the egg

i have been at home for nearly a week and people keep asking me how it feels to be back. for which, really, there is only one right answer if you are talking to people at home...

yes, i am happy i made this decision and yes, i am looking forward to building a new life in my hometown and yes, i think that it is a good personal and professional move. but there is so much to do and i have no freaking idea how to go about this getting settled thing.

or, i should say, i don't know which order to go about this getting settled thing. i know what i have to do, but i can't very well go out and buy a car without having a job and i can't very well go out and find a job without spending a lot of time applying for them. deep breaths and priority lists are keeping me sane.

and i am the most impatient person in the world so as far as i am concerned, it should all work out and work out NOW.

but i have made a dent in the to do list and that will have to be sufficient for my 6 days of home.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the democratic process

a week or so ago, my step-dad emailed me a straight-from-the-conservative-party's mouth sneak preview to their campaign video, knowing i would probably roll my eyes and have a chuckle. which is exactly what i did.

then today, after a pedicure that was three times as much as martha's in kenya and was about one third as good, i walked by the liberal campaign office for our riding (which is just a few yards away from harper's campaign hq) and thought i would stop by and see if i could get a lawn sign to bring home, to see if i could get the same reaction from him. which is exactly what he did.

while i was there, i had a little chat with the aspirant and sort of offered to help her out if she needed it, which she clearly does if she is going against harper in an election. i have no idea what she stands for other than she thinks that this riding needs better daycare and improved services for seniors, but i don't have a problem supporting the democratic process and anyone who believes enough in that process to go against the incumbant prime minister in one of the most conservative ridings in the country has earned my respect, if not my vote.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

a good time to be going home

(september 15, 2008)

sitting at the hannover airport, sipping a warm cappuccino, wrapped in a handwoven scarf from kenya, i am ready for this. ready for the shock of cold weather during a canadian winter and ready for rebuilding and rediscovering. as the day that I Move Home approached, i have been thinking, ‘am i ready for this?’ and really, is there ever an answer to that question? are you ever ready for anything? what the hell does being ready even look like?

all you can ever do is prepare as best you can and gather your hopes together in case you are in need of defence then go for it. readiness is not something that can be measured, collected, and packaged for each event or activity. it is fleeting and misleading and, at its worst, overrated.

i have done what i can, but i realise that most of what will need to be done cannot be done yet. and i will have to be patient with myself and the universe. because sometimes when you give something to the universe, it can’t respond right away. i guess you must just trust that it will.

am i ready to stop being the person who lives in africa, who is a regular at heathrow, who works in development and parties like a rockstar? not entirely. but i am ready to expand who i am to include something more. and maybe that is as ready as i can ever can be.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

the fun bits

entertaining visitors, watching army parades, shoe shopping, and helicopter rides keep a girl busy. so while i am enjoying my last weeks in germany, i leave you with some photos of what fun it is if your boyfriend is a soldier.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

accents, aid, arrogance & arrivals

i am never going to be comfortable with the way the bbc reporters pronounce new or-lee-ins. same with hirosh-ima. being native to neither of these countries, i am not sure that my way of pronounciation is correct either.

* * *

i wish i was in accra, ghana this week for the 3rd high level forum on aid effectiveness. i wrote my master dissertation on the ineffectiveness of foreign aid and it was a bit of a downer to research how foreign aid hasn't worked without coming up with a whole lot of new ideas of how aid could be effective. then i moved to kenya and my job was funded by that same foreign aid and i am no more convinced that any development actually results from all the money spent, especially in kenya.

i still believe in foreign aid, development, and humanitarian relief, if that is something to believe in, but it is rather difficult to reconcile my belief that foreign aid should continue and increase with the knowledge that it hasn't been effective in pulling most of africa out of poverty. i am not ready to give up on my belief just yet and am interested to see what comes out of this 'high level forum.'

* * *

i found this quote and it finally sums up what i have felt about the travellers' arrogance that drives me batty. especially when it comes from canadians, which it does more often than others, in my opinion.
We wish to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the different countries, so that we can 'show off' and astonish people when we get home. We wish to excite the envy of our untraveled friends with our strange foreign fashions which we can't shake off. All our passengers are paying strict attention to this thing, with the end in view which I have mentioned. The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad.
Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
* * *
my mom arrives tomorrow for a visit!

Monday, September 01, 2008

this and that on a monday morning

him: i remember listening to the bbc worldservice my dad's old radio, although i can't remember if it was on the medium wave or fm by that point.

me: you know, i have never understood how radios work.

him: well, there are radio waves...

me: i'm ok with not understanding. i'm more interested in the story about listening to the bbc worldservice in africa.

* * *

i watched The Kite Runner last night and i am proud to say that i managed not to cry. but i think i got all those tears out when i read the book. the movie is great, the book is fantastic. it was great to have visual images of afghanistan, i especially like the market scenes as the market-lover that i am.

* * *

i am surprised how excited i am to have a table and chairs in my breakfast nook. it is a sunny place to sit and enjoy coffee and omelets on a sunday morning. we got them from a second hand shop and apparently the saleslady was quite annoyed that we only wanted 3 chairs of the matching set. who needs 4 chairs when you are only going to be in a place for a few more weeks? which reminds me, i need to buy a third mug for when our visitor arrives this week!

* * *

since the army doesn't seem to be letting up in our last battle, even though i gave it everything i have i am apparently no match for the military with my pouting, scowling, and shaking of my fist, i am pretty sure i will head back to canada earlier (by a few weeks) than i anticipated. after considering all the options, i am totally ok with that.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

hell in a handbag?

these were all the latest news stories on the calgary herald website this morning:

Ninth death linked to listeriosis outbreak

Dangerous ex-convict to be released in Calgary, police warn

Skies still unsafe 10 years after Swissair crash: Experts

Company recalls children's cosmetic bags after Health Canada advisory

pretty much, if you eat processed meat, live in calgary, fly in airplanes, or bought some kid a cosmetic bag as a gift, you are screwed.

here comes the writ!

i love an election and luckily for me, i should be around for the next federal election. i technically 'live' in steve's riding so it is always a forgone conclusion who will win, but i still love the whole process of democracy. functional democracy, not that kind of democracy where the opposition demands the election was stolen and then they settle in to a nice 'power sharing' deal.

ahem, kenya, i am looking at you.

not that a canadian federal election would be remotely as exciting as the american one next door, but i still love election season. and i love autumn, which feels like the beginning of things, so maybe it will be a nice time to be home.

but back to the canadian election being boring, here is how margaret wente, a globe and mail reporter, described it:

The election next door is a battle of the titans. Ours is a battle of the midgets. Instead of a warrior and a charismatic transformer, we've got a mean-eyed guy with the charm of a ball-peen hammer, pitted against a man so clueless that half his own party hopes he'll lose. The best reason to vote for Guy No. 2 is that he's not Guy No. 1. And that's a powerful reason.
i have been following the story of the listeriosis outbreak in canada and i am pretty shocked and can completely understand how that would create widespread paranoia about food. it was timely for me, as i recently watched a 4 part documentary (nerd!) on grocery stores' incredible influence on food options in the uk that had segments about processed food. so i was already feeeling all self-righteous and activist-y about food and then to hear that a huge food processing plant is making people sick makes me want to step a little higher on my soapbox...

if a listeriosis outbreak happens in a western, developed country that is chock full of processed foods then i do not want to hear any more naysaying about getting sick from eating food in africa. food will not kill you in africa. water might, mosquitos might (spread the net!), armed rebels might, but food most likely will not.

public health scare or not, i am missing canada.

oh, and i have contracted a cold. i think it originated in the army and was brought home to me like a sick kid from day care. the similarities in that analogy don't end with the cold.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

who doesn't like sad songs?

with my newfound regular access to unfiltered internet (it had been a few years) and my afternoons to myself i have discovered the beauty of youtube and searching for some of my favourite singers doing live versions of their songs. after doing this i finally purchased rachael yamagata's cd from itunes (see, pirating music isn't all bad!) and have been listening to it on repeat ever since.

then one day the soldier subtly put his earphones in and started listening to death metal (or whatever he listens to) and said, 'your music is killing me slowly. from the inside.'

Monday, August 25, 2008

right bank/left bank

oh, paris...

confession: i think it had taken me so long to get myself to the city of love, the city renown for joie de vivre because i was partly afraid that it would overwhelm me or that the parisians would eat me during a 7 course gourmet meal because i can barely stumble through pleasantries en francaise (bad canadian, i know).

but i am not afraid to admit when i am wrong. and apart from the occassional surly server and the woman who snubbed her nose at me for whipping out my guidebook on the metro, parisians did not even want to take a nibble. they were lovely.

actually, i wanted to package up the loveliest amelie-esque woman who worked at our local bakery and bring her home with me, she was just that sweet. and yes, because i was in paris for 5 days i get to say that i had a 'local' bakery.

i am going to miss that city. all of the regular culprits included - that food, that wine, that architecture. but for all that we saw and did, i am mostly going to miss wandering the streets of paris, looking in the shop windows, finding my way around the streets, and stopping whenever i damn well felt like it to have a croissant, a meal, a glass of wine, or a rest in a park.

highlights include, in no particular order:

- the best creme brulee i have ever had. and i didn't even think i liked creme brule. i was wrong. very, very wrong.

- croissants and espresso in plastic cups from the local bakery in the mornings
- staying at the ideal hotel design. if you are going to paris, stay there. (and book it on ebooking.com so that it is only 60 euro a night). it is artsy and funktastic and just my style. the night guy was surly and did nothing to dispell the parisian myth (ok, that makes 3 sour parisians), but the other staff were very nice and they actually had a pink reception area, purple hallways, and olympics in french on fancy tvs!

- the centre pomidou. i loved this place. it was like a croissant, a cafe creme, and creme brule all rolled into one museum of deliciousness.
- going up the eiffel tower. now i thought, yeah, sure we are in paris and we MUST go up the tower but i cannot be arsed to stand in a line to go up an elevator and i am too cheap to pay more when i can just walk up, but my legs are protesting when i even lift one to put it in front of the other because touring around europe for 3 weeks is tiring, whine, whine, whine... so we went back first thing the next morning and walked up. mild panic attack and begging the soldier to let us turn around and walk back to the 1st level aside, it was pretty damn cool. sort of like a delicious bottle of bordeax sipped on the bank of the seine.

- sipping a delicious bottle of bordeaux on the banks of the seine. as per a great suggestion, we bought some wine, a baguette, some cheese that made me want to cry it was so good, and some vine ripened tomatoes and had a little riverside spread. at first we felt a little sheepish drinking straight from the bottles (one of which was purchased at printemps and was actually not the least expensive one there, proving that i am not cheap and have lots of class, and the other for 2.50 at a grocery store - i think they were equally delicious), but soon got over that and just enjoyed the sunset with other picnickers/drinkers and watched the world go by.

- checking out armour at the musee de l'armee and then nosing through the pinkness of fauchon and smelling the teas, drooling over their pastries, and picking up a few little treats (because that is what you call COMPROMISE)

- eating crepes on the street in all their goozy cheesey, eggy (who knew?) goodness

- meandering through the pere lachaise cemetary and finding the gravestones of jim morrison, oscar wilde, heloise & abelard and some french dude whose package is apparently full of such vigor, if you rub it, you will become pregnant (i just pretended)

- eclaires! in the morning!

- the gargoyles at notre dame, but not the line to stand in and the entry fee to pay to get up there to see them. but it was much more enjoyable for me than the soldier when i was all hyped up on caffeine and sugar from coffee and eclaires in the morning and bounced up and down the entire way.

- having a nap in jardin de tullieres

- all the people who take photos of art in galleries like the musee d'orsay. there were some people that i am pretty sure were not even looking at the paintings themselves (matisse, picasso, van gogh, seurat...) and just fitting them irregularly in their digital frame and snapping away to bore their neighbours back home during the slide show

- speaking of cameras, fearing that someone was going to run away with our camera at the louvre. i think i'd been in nairobi too long. but it gave us a laugh.

i miss paris already. and i must find a way to get back there. and ideally, find a way to get paid while i go back there because that city makes quite the dent in the pocketbook. i also made a little commitment to my life's To Do List to go back to paris when i speak french. i better get on that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

highlights of the eastern european adventure (part ii)

the highlights continue...

budapest
- the sunny disposition of the hungarians (can you sense the sarcasm in that one through your computer screen? because it is dripping)
- buda and pest, together at last
- the danube and walking across it over some neato bridges
- watching olympics in hungarian
- the gellert baths and having a bath with hundreds of other people and trying not to think about the bacteria, hair, and flecks of other people's bodies floating around and touching my skin so that i could enjoy the experience
- the xo bistro and delicious hungarian wine
- the war history museum, which although i originally did as a 'relationship compromise' was surprisingly interesting and was another description of the world wars from the other side, which was new to me (and sort of blamed the germans, if i am being honest)
- pest has some interesting smells. and by interesting i mean that they reminded me of urine. because they probably were.
- a new orange dress! and an accompanying shiny black belt! and a new silver bangle!
- discovering my favourite hungarian bookshop that sells english books (it has been awhile since perusing the shelves, checking out the titles - you really miss english bookshops when they are not around)

i enjoyed budapest, hungary is very different than any other country i have visited. i think the city could use a good scrub, but i liked how things are more affordable there (apart from the public baths, that was a lot of money to pay to baste in others' filth) than prague and the skyline was stunning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

highlights of the eastern european adventure (part i)

i am back at my nest and wow, was that a jam-packed, intense, fantastic, amazing, and exhausting trip! i seem to forget that i have trouble sitting still when in new places and even when we decided to have 'quiet' days, it was nearly impossible for us to just sit back, relax, and watch the world go by. no, there was too much to see, too much to do, and in some cases, too much to eat and drink. my legs are exhausted, my calves are more toned than ever, my lower back aches from the many mattresses, my cholesterol levels are probably skyrocketing, and my liver probably needs its own vacation, but man alive, was that all worth it.

highlights include (and i hope to be able to collate these into some not-so-steady streams of consciousness in the near future, but i seem to suck at writing about things in the past):

berlin
- the marathon walking tour with terry brewer that ended 12 hours after it started when we bid adieu to our favourite tour guide at an east berlin pub where the beer doesn't get any cheaper, the decor hasn't changed since communism was all the rage, and the sausages are served with toasted white bread and pickles
- the german history museum. i now understand a hell of a lot more about the reformation and how that carved out our modern world. seeing the documents that led to the greatest chasm in the christian religion was pretty damn cool.
- a new pair of birkenstocks
- the best chocolate shop with the cutest little chocolate hearts, thank you soldier
- seeing history that i actually lived through (even if i was 7)
- staying at a hotel with the best buffet breakfast ever (caprese salad at 8am is always welcome)
- walking, a lot of walking. like more than a lot.
- more pretzels. pretzels are great.

czech republic
- tourists, lots of tourists. mostly those who just stepped off their ryanair flight from northern england and sport their bikini tops in the centre of prague...
- the views of the castle (which were probably better than the actual castle, including the entry fee)
- the fancy blue outfits at the changing of the guard at the prague castle (even if the soldier was totally unimpressed with the wrinkled uniforms, the lack of unison, and the non chalant attitude of some of the czech soldiers - geez, critical)
- ice cream for dinner
- beer, delicious, delicious beer
- garlic soup that makes you breath garlic fire for 12 hours afterwards. delicious!
- reminding the soldier that there is no 'oslovakia' on the end of czech anymore
- pilgrimages to plzen and ceske budejovice to visit the homes of pilsen and budvar (pilsen being the home of pilsener beer and budvar being the original budweiser that can no longer call itself budweiser thanks to american anhauser busch...)
- you heard it here first, budvar is the best beer in the world. hands down.
- watching the opening ceremonies and turning to the soldier and saying, 'holy shiza'
- meeting the ever-friendly canadians decked out in roots gear at an irish pub to collectively cheer for the canadian, kenyan, british, and south african olympic teams coming into the olympic stadium
- street meat
- a little underground pub devoted to the rolling stones and too much beer (which led to nasty hangovers and day-long train journeys whilst hung over, blech)
- the museum of communism and its groovy t shirts. they really have a fantastic graphic designer who has done their posters and paraphernelia. which is the epitome of irony, really. clever and ironic.
- experiencing post-soviet influenced communist rule for the fist time. fascinating. absolutely fascinating. i must learn more about what it was like.
- a language where every language seems to end in -ska or -ky
- another country that loves hockey as much as canada. eh!?

ok that is all i can muster in one post, stay tuned for more highlights.

Friday, August 01, 2008

in awhile, crocodile

it hit me today that i am going on the great eastern european adventure (+ paris), that i leave tomorrow, and that i will be gone from my nest for nearly 3 weeks. i have been a bit stressed today because of it. we haven't packed (what if i forget something that i really, really need - like my new hat or a nail file or my water bottle??), but my lonely planets are chock full of sticky notes and i have great suggestions and recommendations from fellow travellers in hand.

i am pretty well prepared for berlin (bring on the 8 hour walking tour!) and am medium on the czech adventures. budapest will be a crap shoot and i figure i have another few weeks before sorting out paris. of course, i have the hotels and transport booked (with the help of a number of excel spreadsheets, like the hyper organisational nerd i am), just a matter of how we will we fill our days.

until then, sayonara, or however they say it german/czech/hungarian/french!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

the real east enders

if you liked White Teeth by Zadie Smith or The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri, have i got a book for you!

Brick Lane by Monica Ali was another one of those books i had picked up on numerous occassions but finally purchased on one of my recent visits to heathrow airport.

the story of a bengladeshi woman, nazneen, who moves to a country where she can't speak the language (england) and then sets about making her own nest resonated with me with each turn of the page. i could completely relate with how she gets to know herself, her husband, and her new home throughout the course of the story.

sometimes books just come into your life at the right time.

i love stories where the setting is a character of itself and this is one of them. it depicts a london that i have never known and that i couldn't know as an outsider. but this book, by refusing to apologise for its characters or their beliefs, lets you into the brick lane bangladeshi community.

and finally, i read a book where i liked the main character! my opinions of many of the other characters in the book, including nazneen's husband and children, changed as the story progressed, a testament to the depth of the characters and writing.

i just hope the movie does the book justice.

snippity snip

my hair is short! like tickle my neck, too short to put up in a pony tail (and apparently the word for bangs translates to 'pony' in english which caused great confusion during the hair cut). hold on, i have a photo.

the stylist was very sweet and tried her very best to speak english, which i really appreciated. the hair washing (which left a little to be desired and is on my favourite part of the hair cut) happened in the basement of this very old building with vaulted brick ceilings and that made me feel all european.

the rest of my day yesterday was spent sorting the last bits of the great eastern european (+ paris) adventure and i will be flying on an airline called wizzair. which sort of makes me giggle everytime i hear it.

travel planning is hard, also harder than i expected. but the sin is getting easier, so that is a plus.

the itinerary is the following - train to berlin, spend 3 days in berlin, train to prague, spend 3 days in prague, train to ceske budejovice (which i had to get the friendly czech rail guy to pronounce for me and i still don't know how to say it), spend 2 days in ceske, train to budapest, spend 3 days in budapest, fly to paris, spend 5 days in paris, fly to hannover, train home. or something like that. but that is a lot of trains, planes, and hotels to coordinate!

but also a lot to get excited for and we leave on saturday!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

today:

- it was 38 degrees when i woke up and cooled down to 36 by noon

- i handwashed a lot of clothes and realised i get a little obsessed with clothes drying when they are on the line (or in my sunroom and throughout my kitchen when there is no line) and check them regularly to see if they are dry yet. that's what you call a touch of the ocd.

- i used the automatic stamp producing machine to post some things today. i have never seen this system before but it is brilliant. trust the germans to come up with such efficiency. the true test was if i used it probably and that mail arrives at its intended destination...

- i made a hair appointment for tomorrow with the stylist who speaks the best english in the shop. wish me luck!

- i bought a hat (not necessarily in anticipation of the hair cut, but it doesn't hurt) and a blue handbag, which i needed just slightly more than a hole in the head. but i figure that if the soldier always asks me to carry his wallet around, i should have a tool that is fit for the job.

- while caught in an afternoon shower as i walked home, i pondered how i have a teensy fear of umbrellas. and not in the way that i think they will attack me when i am sleeping but in that i fear a finger getting caught when you take it down. i realise this is totally irrational and i am blaming some adult in my childhood who probably warned me against getting my finger stuck and i have it ingrained in my head that you should be careful around umbrellas. the same way i also feel you should take care around escalators. i don't think the kids in this town get that lesson as they regularly play on the escalators and cause me great grief as they ride them up and down and up and down in BAREFEET. that is like asking to loose a toe.

- the friendly postie delivered my first piece of mail addressed to me as frau. (it was our train tickets to prague for next week, yippee!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

living in sin

is tough, tougher than i thought.

i don't tend to do things half-way and this was no different. i gave up my job, gave up my lovely little nest in nairobi, and moved to a country i had never been, where i did not speak the language, to be with someone i had not lived in the same country with since november 2007.

sounds a bit romatic when i say it like that.

the whole cross continental move was made tougher by the fact that when arrived our flat was not ready (or the outgoing tenant's new flat was not ready so somehow that meant we had to stay at a hotel and wait an extra 5 days and pay for a hotel in EUROPE for 5 nights, grrr....) and then once we moved into our new (love) nest, the soldier left for 11 days to play bang, bang, you're dead somewhere in a field in germany. to practice for a war that he will not fight in because he has already given the queen the finger-under-chin-flick and left the army (and for which i am eternally grateful).

so i wandered around the streets, price compared, purchased the necessities for a 3 month stint, read a lot of books, listened to a lot of music, saved birds, and wondered if this was perhaps the worst decision i had ever made.

then he got home, was filthy, showered, and the fighting, arguing, and bickering began. it sucked. who cooks (me), who cleans (me), who makes coffee better (me), who makes the bed (neither of us), who picks up their clothes (pfft, where would they go, back in the suitcases/boxes?), and who works (him) and is generally exhausted monday - friday (him).

but i think the worst of the adjustment is over. it ended when we decided to sit outside in the 36 degree heat on saturday afternoon and have a beer and a bite to eat. those beers are just so delicious on such a hot day that we had 3. did i also mention they are big?

the shops here close on sundays and as i had neglected my housegirlfriend tasks late last week, we were thin on the ground in the food department - we had to go for a shop.

and there is nothing like healing a relationship like going grocery shopping together. drunk. if we were not living in germany, i would have been mortified by my breath reeking of beer instead of just mildly uncomfortable as it were.

now i feel things are on the mend. due, in large part, to having the www at home (also my job and more tear enducing as the rest once german call centres were factored in). and this monday morning i was up at 6:30am seeing the soldier off to work (paintballing is considered work, thank you british tax payers) and feel pretty good about the future.

i am melting again and feel that perhaps a very large, very cold german beer is in order. it's sort of become a hobby.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

isolation, no more!

i just want to say to the internet, i am back and that i am SO happy that i am no longer feeling isolated from the world without internet at home.

i am not sure if that is a sad example of our inability to be 'alone in the world' or a demonstration of the connective powers of the www, but i am back and couldn't be happier to have lucille up and running on the internet (and for free for the time being courtesy of a little deutsche telekom mix up).

podcasts, email, job applications, travel planning, blogs, amazon, facebook - here i come.

Friday, July 25, 2008

reading machine

(july 18, 2008)

with extra time on my hands, i have been doing a lot of reading and am happy to report i have two big thumbs-up recommendations.

the first is a book that i had heard a lot about, but was always turned off because of its title, is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. it is a book that answers a lot of questions i have always had about why countries like canada were colonised but countries in europe were the colonisers and why certain technological advancements have never taken hold in sub-saharan africa. it is a non-academic academic book that tells the scientific story of how guns, germs, and steel (and other fascinating things like plant and animal domestication)dictated who colonised who and explains the current power distribution in the world.

if i had a critique, it would be that the book is too much about papau new guinea and the author’s own experiences and that it drags in places, especially where he goes over concepts he has already covered. but his day job is a uni professor, so i guess that is to be expected. i loved the first half of the book about plant and animal domestication (and now i know why no one bothered to domesticate zebras, which are EVERYWHERE in africa doing little else than eating and herding together) and how our fruit and vegetables became edible. a good read.

the second book on recommendation, although a quarter of the size of the first, is as difficult to read due to the setting and topic of the book. i had had this book on my To Read list for ages and finally found it on amazon.ca (thanks to my ma!) and brought it with me to germany. titled A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali and written by canadian author Gil Courtemarche and translated into english from its original french, it is a fictional account based on a journalist’s experience of the situation at the famed Hotel Milles Collines (Hotel Rwanda) during the genocide in 1994.

if i had to find a word to describe the feel of the writing it would be raw. but i think that it is warranted and as hard as parts are to read and as the author says in the preamble, the story is not wholly fabricated.

interestingly, the book also chronicles canadian involvement in rwanda before and during the genocide, Romeo Dallaire’s role in the conflict, and the lifestyle of the humanitarian aid workers in kigali. i always enjoy these accounts as they are close to home for me and my recent experience. this book deserves to be read.

my book pile is running low and soon i will have to dig into the soldier’s conspiracy theory books (...), does anyone have any reading recommendations? not having english book stores to peruse makes it tough to remember books i wanted to read to look up on amazon.