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June 30, 2007

Watch That First Step, It's a Doozy...

My weekend plans had involved the Indian Ocean and swimming with dolphins, so obviously I found myself in the back of a 4 x 4 minibus full of Japanese students just about to slip over the edge of an extremely steep, extremely white sand dune while an Aussie driver reminded us to "Buckle up - this one's a doozy!"

I'm amazed at how often I suddenly look up and wonder what I was thinking to get myself into these situations.

trust me i'm a professionalI've already written about seeing the Pinnacles - a vast expanse of shifting sand with large rock formations scattered throughout. The sand there was shades of orange, unmoving, making it hard to believe that the large rocks were because the sand had all been blown away hundreds or thousands of years ago. But this area was different. The sand was pure white, the sky a brilliant blue, and the ocean was peaking out from behind the dunes. The wind was so hot and blew the fine sand into everything, including my camera. (The photos here are the last ones I was able to take with it before it broke. Even now, I can't get the other photos off it.) Including my hair.

Oh, my poor hair.

But first, the 4 x 4ing. It's the only time during the trip the driver insisted we had to buckle up, and waivers had to be signed. Then, he drove the bus into this vast expanse of white, and up, up, up the dunes before pausing at the very top of one of them.

"Ooo... we're beginning to slide!" he cried out as teenaged girls squealed and even the boys gripped hard onto their seat belts. I just felt my eyes getting wider and reminded myself that if it wasn't safe they probably wouldn't be doing it.

And then... boom! Down we went, at top speed! Slipping down the hill, watching everything tilt to 45 degrees out the window, and thinking "but if it wasn't dangerous, would they insist upon a waiver?"

I scream loud.

through the windowUp and down the hills, bumping and jumping while the driver laughed and the rest of screamed or whimpered or giggled, and I felt queasy, worried I would throw up from the bumps and leaps into the air the bus was somehow managing to make, until finally we came to a halt at the top of the same tall dune and everyone piled out.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. Sand also turns very very cold when it's in shadows for short periods of time. I'm sure there's a physics lesson in there someplace.

Sandboarding, depending on how you do it, is either like tobogganing or like snowboarding - you either go down sitting on the board or standing on it. Either way, you need to wax the board in order for it to go far, it needs a certain amount of weight or it won't go very fast (and thus won't go very far), and if you scream loud enough, you'll go the farthest.

Near the bottomThe last one might not be as true as the first two, but I certainly found I went very very far as I screamed the whole way down the hill. I know, I like to sound so brave on my trips, but you don't understand - I was going down a hill! In the sand! In the heat! I could have been killed by... um... roving bands of... sand demons... or something....

Don't judge me!

I wasn't the first one down, but I was the first girl who went down, and I totally went the farthest of anyone who did. Which just meant I had the farthest to climb back up the damned hill afterwards.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. And sand is also very hard to climb up.

my poor hairAll in all it was a great time, even if I did ruin my camera and have sand caked so hard onto my skin that it took me almost thirty minutes of scrubbing in the shower to get most of it out - and I still had sand in my hair two days and three showers later. It was a great adventure, one I would happily do again should the opportunity present itself.

But really, if you get the chance - screaming makes you go further. Totally the truth.

{all the photos}

June 27, 2007

MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo

delicate

Sail Away

Blue

{to save on dialup, the rest are behind the cut, or view the entire set.}

Continue reading "MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo" »

June 17, 2007

Not All Those Who Wander....

I am drowning in nervousness about travelling.

I enjoy travelling, enjoy the rush of seeing someplace new, or going someplace old and seeing it again. I'm excited about going back to London, even if all I'm going to do is see a musical and buy my favourite chai in bulk, and spend a delightful afternoon in Sarah's company. I'm counting down the hours till I get to Halifax and finally see it when the city isn't encased in ice, planning walks along the harbour and trips out to lighthouses. I'm even planning, planning, planning every meal I'll have in Edmonton, every favourite street I'll walk down. Through it all, Poland whispers and Spain hisses promises and I'm numbering all the things I want to do and trying to make it all realistic with what I can do. Every day is about where I'll be and what I'll do and when it all will happen, and it's beautiful.

I'm afraid of things, though - of flying, as always; of seeing people and things being awkward and nervous; of luggage going missing and pockets being picked. I have recurrent nightmares that I miss flights, miss connections, miss people, and everything goes all wrong in those moments that we let them.

People assume that my wanting to travel means I want to run away from something, that I'm hiding in new cities with new histories. Don tells me I'm searching for something, and when I find it I'll settle down, grow a garden, get a cat.

I'll tell you that I travel because not travelling feels like giving in to fear.

Every day I'm afraid that if I move away from my comfort zone, if I assume that I deserve something other than being bored, I will spend my life alone and miserable. My father tells me so often not to settle for unhappiness - to leave men who make me sad all the time, to leave jobs that make me bored or angry, to leave friendships that break my heart. He tells me to stop selling myself so short, to look for things that challenge or excite me, things that just make me happy. I spent most of my 20s ignoring that advice, and spent most of my 20s being unhappy because of it. I stayed in once place even though I longed to leave, stuck it out at jobs that made me dread waking up Monday mornings, and stayed in relationships that left me grieving before they were finished. I was afraid, you see, that there would be nothing better, that the next step would be worse. The next job would be even more terrible, and pay less; the next city would leave me friendless and alone.

I travel because I can't live like that anymore.

In less than a week I'll fly out to London for a couple of days, to Halifax for a week, to Edmonton for a few days after that, and then off to Poland to see a church made of bones. I'll soak up the heat in Spain, drinking sangria and teasing Don about Australia. And after that, I'll come back here, to Perth, to my tiny flat and my sweet and wonderful friends, and make my plans for my last six months in Australia.

I've planned it all out. I'm going to have a marvellous time.

Not all those who wander are lost.

May 13, 2007

Heading West

It's easy to forget how big Australia actually is. I know, that sounds a bit odd - I'm Canadian, Canada's even bigger (and we have a song about that), but travelling in your home country is different than travelling someplace else. In Canada, I expect everything 'interesting' to be a long ways away, but here? Everything should be like the UK - a daytrip is always possible.

What really brought home for me how big Western Australia (just one state!) actually is wasn't that it took two days of driving to get out to Monkey Mia, but how different everything was by sunset of that second day.

On the first evening, everything was dark as pitch by the time we got to the hostel. We'd made a brief stop to look at some cliffs, but the sun was rapidly setting and there wasn't a lot of time to spend enjoying them. We hurried off to the hostel, leaving behind the crashing waves and looking forward to good food and a long sleep far away from the bus.

Sinking Like A SunsetBut the second evening, though, we'd travelled far enough west to make a different in how late the sun was out. We drove much later, and caught a spectacular sunset over the ocean.

I sat down and looked out over the water, watching the breeze blow through the trees, fluttering the sails on the boats, and thought about how easy it would be to get used to this.

Later, when we got to Monkey Mia, I lay down on the beach and looked up at the stars, and wondered at how easy it is to be overwhelmed by natural beauty. There were dolphins in the water, but I couldn't see them, only hear them, and I couldn't imagine a more peaceful moment in my life.

In many ways, being in Australia has made me very eager to go back and look at Canada and see how differently I view it now. I loved Scotland for castles and crags and men in kilts, but mostly for the ruins and the history behind them. As I've said before, I love Australia because it's beautiful here - from the ocean and the sand to the desert and the wind, so much of Australia is beautiful and overwhelming because of where it is. I keep being caught off-guard for it.

People say to me all the time "Oh, Canada! It's very beautiful there!", and I've always just smiled and nodded. I've loved the Rocky Mountains, but I don't really think about the majority of my country and if it's actually a beautiful place to be. I lament that Canada has so little history, so few ruins that talk about what happened "before", without thinking about how lovely it is to walk through old growth forests or stand on the edge of a crystal clear river. These are, quite frankly, things I grew up with. Things I don't notice.

I've been gone a long time. I'll be in Canada for two weeks this summer, and I wonder how different Alberta will look, now that I've been here.

May 6, 2007

Till Human Voices Wake Us

Shell Beach - From The WaterWhen I was a little girl, my mother always used to tease me all summer long that she couldn't tell what was dirt and what was tan. I spent entire days, from dawn till dusk, outside, running around and playing in the dirt and being rowdy, before puberty and a sudden interest in books turned me into a pasty white girl with a fear of the bright ball of light in the sky.

I was thinking about this as I floated in the Indian Ocean, looking at my feet. They were tanned and dirty and covered in sand, even though I'd been splashing in the water for a while. The dirt from Australia had ground in, and I could barely see the pale lines of where my sandals blocked the sun.

The place I was swimming is called "Shell Beach" for obvious reasons - the entire beach is made of shells, the bottom of the ocean is made of shells, white, brown, purple, all sorts of colours. The water isn't very deep there - I walked far out and it never got above my hips - and it was easy to pick up shell after shell as I floated. I lay back and let my hair drift, and wondered how far the waves and the wind and the sea would pull me away from land, if only I'd let it.

It was so warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The rest of the tour group had walked back to land, complaining about cold and salty water, while I felt more relaxed than I had the entire trip. I closed my eyes and pretended I couldn't hear them.

I listened for mermaids instead.

I thought about Australia, about the deserts and the oceans and the short trees and red dust everywhere. I thought about how nice it would be to just lie in the water and see how far I could float away. I wondered how long it would take me to get lonely.

Shell Beach - Mermaid HuntingEventually I lifted my head and looked back at the beach. I'd floated quite a ways, I guess. I saw everyone on land beginning to pack up, waving to me to return so we could get back on the hot and cramped bus, get closer to the furthest point west in all of Western Australia.

I put my ears back under the water for just another moment, but I couldn't hear the mermaids singing.

Instead, I slowly started back towards the beach.

Maybe next time.

{photos of shell beach}

March 31, 2007

Blown Away

A couple of weeks ago I was staring at an empty weekend in despair. The dolphin tour was filled up, and I wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to *do* something with this limited time I have in Australia, but I didn't know what.

Australia is a great place to live, it is, but it just seems my life here would be easier to experience if I had a car. Or a driver's license.

I poked around online until I found a tour group that would be doing something on Sunday, and signed up as quickly as I could. I didn't care what it was, I was just going to go out and do stuff and have fun, and damn the consequences.

"Stuff" turned out to be going to see the Pinnacles, checking out some beaches, going 4X4ing in the desert, seeing koalas and kangaroos in something approaching their natural habitat, and finishing off with sandboarding. Sandboarding! Like snowboarding, but entirely different! The whole thing sounded like exactly the sort of adventure I'd moved to Aus to experience. I gave them my credit card number and remembered to pack lots of water. And sun screen. And my camera.

Oh, my poor camera.

My camera started out the day in a bad mood and ended the day in an even worse mood, so if my photos seem odd, that's why. Cameras, as you may not know, do not like sandboarding.

Go Away, It's time for sleepingBut first, the tour. I once again got that marvellous disconnect of being the only white person (other than the tour guide) on the trip, everyone else being from various places in Japan. (This happens a lot on trips in Australia, apparently.) I feel kinda bad for being amused by hearing kangaroos described as "kawaii!" by the two school girls behind me, having previously only heard the word used to describe characters on Sailor Moon.

But kangaroos really are cute! And tasty! Mmm... kangaroo.

Kangaroos, I have learned, come in two sizes: Wee (as they are in Western Aus) and Really Really Big. They are also considered pests here by farmers, and are regularly shot and then eaten. I have no idea if there's a kangaroo hunting season. I do know I have to remember to buy some kangaroo meat next time I'm in the store, because them's good eatin'. Even if they are terribly cute.

Anyway, at way too early in the morning we headed out to a place where you can walk amongst the trees and check out koalas. It was great - you could just barely see koalas curled up in their trees, deeply wanting everyone to go away so they could continue to sleep. I was told that koalas spend most of their days drowsing, and tend to be stoned. The infamous "drop bears" are just koalas that got stoned and forgot to hold on.

Hey, I don't make up the stories, I just repeat them.

After checking out the koalas and the wee kangaroos, we got back on the bus and proceeded to drive through the Aussie countryside. And drive. And drive. And then drive some more. Something I wasn't really prepared for when moving here, even after growing up in Canada, was how long it takes to get anywhere outside of the cities. I got kinda used to Scotland, where "getting there" is usually a short trip and you can be home by lunch time. It took quite a while to get out to the Pinnacles, and along the way we saw Emus, and Windmills (that came with Emus), and a Wind farm, and lots and lots and lots of countryside.

I may have fallen asleep.

But! We were on our way to an adventure! To the Pinnacles! That sounded exciting!

These are the things I know about the Pinnacles: They're a natural rock formation that's caused by... limestone being blown away? Sand? Something? I don't know. We have something a bit similar in Canada called Hoo Doos. I have to admit, although I love looking at natural rock phenomena, I just don't know a lot about them. They look cool.

Basically, they didn't used to be a tourist attraction at all, since they're just a bunch of nifty looking pillars of rock in the middle of a desert. The area is considered cursed by the Aboriginal people. This is it, this is all I know. I wish they'd told us why it's considered cursed, what the story behind it is. None of my digging around on the internet has told me anything about it. I can only imagine.

The PinnaclesThey are, however, very nifty looking pillars of rock. (I really like this photo, mostly because of the background. Gives you a bit of an idea of what you're looking at.) We got to walk amongst them, and I took off my sandals and let the sand rush over my feet. It was windy, and I had trouble keeping my hat on. I chased it through the sand three or four times, I think, dodging limestone pillars and attempting to keep my balance. Even though there were other people with me, the whole experience was a bit eerie. I described it in a postcard as "feeling surrounded by an army that had turned into stone, worn away by centuries of wind and no rain." For all that I don't know the story, I can suspect why the area is considered cursed.

The sand there is a very odd colour, and I knew when I looked back that my footprints wouldn't last long. There would be nothing left to say I'd ever been there at all.

I think that's the thing about Australia, that makes it so different than anywhere else I've travelled to. Rome and Paris and Scotland and China have all been about looking at the marks that people leave behind - castles and temples and statues. But Australia, as I keep saying, seems to be about nature, and the way we as people don't seem to matter much to it. The Pinnacles are there. They don't care about my footprints or my hat or my words. They just exist, and to them, I'm nothing but something to blow away with with the wind.

With the Warm Wind In My Hair

We ended up next at a beach where the water was many shades of blue and just watched the tide come in. The tour guide looked at me and smiled.

"This is my typical day at the office."

When I tell you my heart is lost to this country, remember that. To some, a typical day at the office is staring at every shade of blue.

I have lots more to write, as the trip was outstanding. I have 92 more photos to shuffle through and attempt to find the best of. I have a camera to be sad about.

For now, check out the current batch of photos, and I'll tell you about the beach, and the sandboarding, and the way my camera was destroyed soon.

January 7, 2007

Kissing, or How I Learned To Stop Angsting Unless It Was Going To Look Pretty When I Did It...

Kissing, or the lack thereof, defines entire countries for me.

I remember being 17 and walking through the street of Paris. I was at my angsty best, pining after a boy, and felt that everything I was doing there (walking across bridges, looking at beautiful buildings, seeing churches or statues or paintings) was coloured by the fact that That Boy, That Boy That Was Always On My Mind, wasn't there. I remember sitting on a bridge at night, holding a rose I'd gotten from some place, and slowly taking off every petal and dropping it into the river.

Light in the DarknessThe next time I went to Paris, I had freshly turned 29 and the memory of being that overly-lonely 17 year old brought me some form of bemusement. Ah, young angst, I thought, while pretending not to notice the young couple doing everything except actually getting naked whilst the lights were coming on at the Eiffel Tower. There's an age I think we all go through where that lack of someone to kiss is so... disheartening. The feeling that we're the only one that isn't being kissed *right now*, except maybe our parents, and parents don't do that *anyway*, right? 17 and in Paris probably should have been just as much fun as 29 and in Paris was, but I was so distracted.

Maybe if I'd had someone to kiss at 17, I would have been just as distracted. It's hard to notice the beautiful lights across the city when you're... well, otherwise distracted.

At 27, I went to China, and dealt with students that were the same age I was then. I didn't so much notice the lack of kissing in the school - it had been so long since I'd been in a high school, and most of my classes were of kids around 12, so it just didn't occur to me. Sometimes I'd tease my older students about having boyfriends, or get the younger boys to behave by telling them that they should stop showing off to impress their girlfriends, and quickly everyone would fall in line. It wasn't until my first trip to Shanghai that I finally noticed that those public displays of affection that were so common in my high school were totally absent.

I was sitting on the bus from Rudong, travelling with a friend of mine, when I saw a couple of teenagers on the street kissing. "Pssst..." I hissed at Paul. "Look over there." When he saw them, his eyes went as wide as mine, and we spent most of that weekend pointing out Public Displays of Affection in awe. How brave they were! How... affectionate! How... normal, at least to us. Then we went back to our respective very small towns and noticed how little affection we saw displayed in classes.

Soon after that I found out that students could be expelled and sent home in disgrace if they had boyfriends or girlfriends. I don't doubt there were relationships going on, but there was so much pressure to never be caught.

Two RosesI'm almost done my packing for Australia and I'm very aware of the fact that there won't be anyone to notice these things with. There will be no one just as lost as I am to whisper "Do you see them?" to, and smile and share secret memories of being that lost in each other that the lights seem unimportant, no one to discuss whether the socialably acceptable forms of affection in public are the same as they are back in Canada. {In thinking about this now, public displays of affection are much less in the UK than they are in Canada... maybe it's because we cuddle more to deal with the cold?}

There won't be anyone to kiss.

I suspect that this time that won't be quite such an end-of-the-world type of feeling. But I won't promise not to sigh occasionally in wistfulness....

{Sunday Scribblings}
{More pictures from Paris}
{More pictures from Rome}

December 31, 2006

Destinations, or my 2007 is better than yours...

There are a lot of adventures ahead of me right now, and I have to admit - I'm a little scared.

It's not *just* that I'm going to move to Australia (Perth, did I tell you? Picked entirely by asking a bunch of people and then completely ignoring their advice), but there are so many other things happening in 2007 that I'm looking at the year as a whole and wondering if I'm going to pull it off. There's a lot going on.

Let's see... I'm hitting Singapore for four days in January {During which I'm going to start at one end of Chinatown, then eat my way to the other end of Chinatown. God, I miss *real* Chinese food), then hopping and skipping to Perth. I haven't quite sorted out what I'll do when I'm there, but I'm pretty sure there'll be lots of exploring of Western Australia to do. It's a big place - there'll be lots. I have to find kangaroos.

In late June I have a ticket to London, where I'll change planes and head off to exciting Halifax - the one in Canada, not the one in the UK. From there, I'm going back to Edmonton again, because Mark is having his 30th birthday party on 07/07/07, and I'm not missing it for the world. I'm going to be in various parts of Canada for something approaching two weeks, then I'm heading back to London to change planes for a week in Spain. My plans involve Sangria and beaches, and probably a bunch of exciting things in ruins. I can't wait - sincerely, I've been planning this trip off and on for the better part of a year now, since I got Don the "100 Places To See Before You Die" book and there was a castle.

There's always a castle, isn't there?

After a week in Spain, it's off to much-less-sunny (I hope! I burn!) Poland for a week of exploring. I have no idea what I'm going to do in Poland, not even as firm an idea as I have for Spain, but I have a guidebook, and friends who have been there. And blogs I can read about it. I'll muddle through and find out what I want to do.

And then I go back to Aus, but this time it's the other side of the country - I'm heading to Brisbane for the second half of my year, and I have GREAT BARRIER REEF highlighted and circled and starred in my guidebook. I get giddy just thinking about it, about seeing the surf and the sand and the bright colours. I have this image of Aus in my head that is probably nothing like reality (since I moved to Scotland for the boys in kilts, and they are sadly few and far between - lots of sheep, though), but I'm picturing part of it as a rugged country where men are men and women sigh a lot, and dust gets into everything, and other parts of it in bright colours and splashes of animals and bird songs I don't recognize and sheep! sheep! (or is that new zealand?) and looking up at the stars and wondering why they're so strange.

Yeah... Aus is going to be the big adventure, isn't it? I really hope there are sheep.

But in September I'm hooking up with Tom in new zealand for a bit, and that will be strange - the first person from my "old" life that I'll see in someplace different. There, I know there will be sheep. And mountains. And kiwi birds. It'll be great!

And after that it's exploring Brisbane and the eastern parts of Australia and counting down until another country (one I'll probably love just as much as I love the UK) disappears behind another plane.

I have so many destinations. I'm afraid of what I'll find. I break my heart over every country I leave.

Stupid countries, being so exciting.

{Sunday Scribblings}

December 8, 2006

The Streets Where Cleopatra Walked

I wonder if Italians ever come to the UK and think "Oh, they're so cute with thier 'history'. They think they have old buildings. Heh. Well, let's indulge them and look at their little divit in the ground out in Wales that they call a coliseum, shall we?" I know that how far back we can trace things really has little to do with physical remains of buildings, but it's something tangible, easier to point to, and it has that immediate effect. Within Rome, there's a vast difference between looking at a divit in the ground and saying "Yes, that was the Circus Maximus" and walking into the Pantheon and staring up at the dome.

Pantheon at night We came upon the Pantheon almost entirely by accident. We were looking for it - but it wasn't where we thought it would be, and I had forgotten what to expect. It's been so long since I studied the architecture of the period that the dome had slipped my mind. It won't ever again. We came upon it in the evening, when the place was cooler (it was so hot when we were there), and sat at the fountian and just... stared. As one does, I suppose.

It's like walking in a dream, a lot of Rome, and nothing really seems like you expect it to. The heat, the sky, the press of people, the way the Met.Ro gets so crowded in the mornings always seems so mundane. I know, it's a city where people live, but it just added to the feeling of disconnection - how could any of this be real?

In front of the Pantheon is a court yard, or piazza, with a fountain in it. Everywhere in Rome has a foutain in it. At night, at least, the little restaurants that line the piazza are filled with patrons. I didn't eat there - I had found the best restaurant in all of Rome when trying to find my way. There's a McDonald's directly across the piazza from the font entry which added to the strangeness of the scene.

I don't know what to say here. I've been reading the wrong type of books to write about Rome, I think - novels that try to be pretentious, and it's affected how I'm writing right now. I don't want to make Rome sound pretentious or holy, even though that's so much a part of it. Romans, Italians, seem to just shrug their shoulders about the history, much like I can't find anyone to get excited about Edinburgh Castle unless they're an ex-pat. It's just a place, just a church, just 2000 years old with a dome that dwarfs so many things. How to you explain that, the casual disregard combined with a feeling of "This is our legacy, this is ours, no one can take it away"?

I need to arrange to not ever again read Kay's "Sarantine Mosaic" right before travelling to Rome.

December 3, 2006

Words

A Day At The Forum So, when you write about going to Rome, where do you start?

I've been asked this dozens of times so far: "How was Rome?" And I still haven't come up with an acceptable reply. It's so hard to talk about, because the experience was so... much. So many things, good and bad. I remember telling Don that at one point I felt that I *had* to have an amazing time, because I had to come back and write about it to all my jealous friends.

But I did have an amazing time. Rome is so... different than anything I've experienced, even than Paris. It was being in this city so huge you know they don't care about you, with such ancient history that your country isn't even a blip in comparison to, and just wanting to wander around and gape at everything. It is finding these beautiful fountains and small little restaurants that are so... common to the people there that they don't get a mention on the map. It's a city where even the "bad" food is good, and where they complain that winter is here because it's only +8.

I loved it. I loved every second. I loved staring up at the sky through the window of my hostel and trying to decide what shade of blue it was. I loved seeing people on the street in the evening wearing scarves and hats and shivering while I was wearing my tank top and bemoaing forgetting to leave my coat behind. It didn't rain once.

I don't know where to start, sincerely. I don't know how to write about it.

I want to go back. I want to spend a month walking through the small little courtyards that make up Trastevere, I want to find more restaurants that make food that actually has bursts of good flavour that overwhelm your mouth, served in back court yards lit only with candles, I want to get lost and orientate myself by the dome at St Peter's.

For now, I have only pictures and words and memories, because I bought so little while I was there. There didn't seem to be anything I could take away that would be as meaningful as gazing at Christan frescoes from a 6th Century church, build on the ruins of a Mithral temple, that has in turn be built over by another Christian church.

I bought a little St Christopher's medallion, though. That might be enough, all things considered.

November 23, 2006

Rome! Rome! Rome! Rome! Rome! (also, Singapore)

RomeSo, I'm leaving for Rome in just a few hours!

As you can see, I've been busy planning this with post-its, as one does. The problem I'm having with Rome is that it's a whole lotta choices, and I can't believe that I have to narrow it down to just a few days worth of travelling. How can I do this city any form of justice at all?

But I will see the Vatican (I packed a special shirt for that, because all of my "nice" shirts are a bit to risque for the Vatican, and I couldn't handle the idea of wearing a t-shirt, but I found something that worked), and I will see the Collisium, and I will see so many things that I practically gave up trying to plan the trip at all and just started writing down all the things I wanted to do and sticking them on to my planning sheet.

My head is still spinning - Rome? Who goes to Rome? I don't go to Rome... that's for cool people.

Rome. Yay!

I can't even remember every place on my not-itinery.

* * *

Unrelated in some ways, but my laptop is broken. You can't tell because I'm cunning that way, but I have no n key. This is incredibly frustrating.

Also, I booked my appointment to prove I don't have tuberculosis. Yay me!

And it looks like I must (*sigh* oh the humanity) go through Singapore for my trip to Aus, which looks like I'll be starting in Perth. So, now I'm kinda planning my trip to Singapore. (So far I've planned to buy a guidebook.)

It's been so busy, again...

* * *

Rome! Yay! I will roam in Rome with the Romans!

November 14, 2006

Snakes... why is it always snakes?

I'm back from Canada and despite many murderous attempts by the weather, I'm in one piece. My computer, however, is not - it's missing the n key. *sigh* (It's also missing the right-hand shift key, but that doesn't count because I don't use it.)

It's nice being greated with squeals of joy and words like "Don't leave again! Don't go to Australia!" whenever I go away, but I wish that they wouldn't follow up with "Australia has snakes!" Everyone tells me Aus has snakes. I feel like responding with "Hey, I didn't play D&D all those years without learning a little something about managing fear", but the reference would be lost on too many people.

But c'mon! no one mentions the scary spiders, or the roving bands of sting rays, or anything about the socio-political structure there and how it may drive me nuts. It's always the snakes.

Makes me want to watch Snakes on a Plane again except with my eyes open this time.

Speaking of which, Snakes on a Plane references seem to either make flight attendants giggle or go right over their heads.

It was a very long flight home. Hell, it was a very long trip, mostly because I seemed to spend every waking moment doing something, which is fairly par for the course when one goes home for a visit, especially if one manages to not do this very often. I still didn't manage to fit in seeing everyone I was supposed to, let alone the people I wanted to see but never got a chance to.

I took not nearly enough photos, and didn't get a single one of Edmonton at night. *sigh*

I'm glad to be home.

But I think actual snakes on the plane may have made the trip across the water a bit more interesting....

November 3, 2006

A Land of Myth and Legend

STA60070Last week I went to the Scottish International Storytelling Festival's opening night at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. {That's right, my life rocks so much I have a storytelling centre in the town I live in. *grin*}

I've never really been to a 'formal' storytelling experience, and it wasn't exactly what I was thinking. I guess I had in my head the same thing they'd do at libraries, where someone would sit with a book and read aloud, and everyone would be very quiet, and it would be... odd. But I wanted to hear the stories (Tristan & Isolde, and Diarmuid Ua Duibhne & Gráinne) and was curious at the storytelling centre, so I went.

It was... nothing like what I thought it would be.

The stories were told in pairs, a man and a woman, and each were accompanied by live music. The first story was of Diarmuid and Gráinne, and of how Diarmuid had been cursed as a child from the actions of his foster father, and the ultimate story of how that fate had played out. Hearing this story told by such haunting voices, so dramatically, was beautiful and moving, and the music added so much to it. It was an hour, but it felt like only minutes.

There's this haunting quality to the voices, and a real sense that if I closed my eyes I would be able to see the whole story - Diarmuid being cursed, being granted the love spot that ended up causing all the problems with him and Finn McCool and Gráinne.

STA60047The story of Tristan and Isolde was different than the one I'm used to - I'm familair with the Authurian take on it. Throughout this whole story I was completely transfixed. It takes place at Tintagel, you see, and I couldn't stop imagining the beautiful blue waters, seeing Tristan out in the waves, picturing the cave of the druids and the way the ocean is both a lover and death to those who cast their fate upon it. When Mark casts Tristan out of Cornwall, I wondered how much of his grief was at the lost love of Isolde and how much was because of the beauty he was leaving behind.

If I'm not careful this will turn very maudlin. You may have heard - I loved Cornwall and thought it the most beautiful place I'd ever travelled, so I may be biased. *smile*

I think the British Isles have their legends because they need to capture that beauty and longing somehow, and words that describe places don't do it. Pictures that show you how beautiful Cornwall is don't give you the moving sound of the sea as it crashing through Merlin's Cave, or the way the air smells like salt and whispers. It's not enough, and so words that describe great romances, great men, strong women and deeds that defy the imagination do it for us instead.

I loved Cornwall, I'm sure that's obvious, but I never wrote about it. It was too hard in a lot of ways, because that beauty was caught up in how incredibly blue the ocean was, how the breeze that went through my hair seemed filled up with possibilities. I remember sitting on the beach and building sand castles with a cheap bucket while children shreiked and ran into the cold cold water, and then destroying the castle myself, leaving to trace of it before I left.

It was so tempting when I was there to believe in mermaids, to slip beneath the water and away from all my troubles and my cares. It was the first trip after everything had fallen apart with Kristi, my attempted flat mate, and I was still mourning for how that had fallen out. In many ways the trip was supposed to be a touch stone, to remind myself of why I travel, of why I love seeing the world, of why it was worth being sad and lonely some days because of the beauty I got to experience in it all.

In less than 12 hours I get on a plane and head back to Canada for a week. It's possible, but not probable, that I'll run into her, and have to ask myself again if this vagabond lifestyle is worth it. Some days it really feels like it isn't - I'm leaving behind more friends, good ones, in just a few months, and while other friends are settling into careers and making long-term plans, I don't even know where I'll be living in three months. It feels like it's not actually worth it at all.

And other times I look at my photos from Cornwall, and listen to the legends of this more wild land that I get to experience straight on, and I remember why it is.

One day, I'll find the mermaids, but until then, I have adventures to chase after.

STA60083

* * *

October 19, 2006

Excuses Excuses Excuses

17 I should totally title this photo "This is my squinty face".

One of the things that keeps me from updating about my travels is this sense of perfection - I can't possibly write about something until I've uploaded the photos to my flickr page, can I? That would be foolish! And that means I have to go through all of my pictures from a trip, bick the best bunch of them, and do things with them, and be all perfect, and label them and all that stuff. And then there's the writing of witty descriptions on each photo. Thus, I perfection-obsess myself into not blogging about something.

Really quite foolish, since I doubt anyone reads this for my stunning photographs.

That being said, I've decided to bite the bullet and just *write* about things again, without fretting about photos. (That I just uploaded 50 photos about my trip to Inverness is not relevant - it's just a coincidence. Really. Besides, they're untitled and have no description and most of them don't even have tags.)

It helps a bit, I think, that my time in Scotland is coming to a close, and I really do want to get all these things sorted out and written about and recorded before Australia just jerks it all out of my head and I'm left trying to remember what I did when I was up North in Scotland... did I see a lake monster or not so much?

Right now I'm thinking a bit too much about my upcoming trip to Canada (for another wedding - it's not that I begrudge going to weddings by any stretch, and certainly not this one, but damn it - can people please space out their lives so they're more convenient to me? *laugh*) where I'll be there for another whirl-wind visit where I'll see some people I want to see and miss out on all sorts of other people that I also want to see, and trying not to turn into a big pile of goo over the trip to Rome. (Did I mention I'm going to Rome? Because I'm *totally* going to Rome.)

Basically, I'm getting rid of my procrastination techniques one by one, because I do want to get back into writing about my adventures and joys and sorrows of being an expat. Lately, though, it's not been just "not doing interesting things", it's been a sense of waiting. I want to be here, but I also want to be in Aus. I want to be on to the next adventure, and I'm not living life here to its fullest.

On Halloween I'm going to the Fire Festival (Samhain?) that the people who did Beltane are doing. I can't wait!

September 5, 2006

Roaming (cuz I'm witty that way)

I put off purchasing thet tickets to Rome for one day.

Ask me how much they were when I bought them.

They were one (1) pence each way. My return ticket cost two pence, plus taxes. (Of course, it was about 13 pounds in taxes, but *still*.)

And this weekend, I'm staying at a casle overnight!

My week is, in the general sense, looking up.

(Too bad I have to go to work *anyway*. Again, why can't I get a job that travels?)

September 3, 2006

YAY!

I'm totally going to Rome in November! I'm so excited! I found a great and affordable B&B, found really cheap flights (7ish pounds one way, 5ish pounds the way back), and I am totally going to Rome and I am so excited I could scream! In fact, I think I did.

I can't believe I'm going to Rome!

I still can't believe that I get to *do* these things... some days I get so down about everything I forget that I'm really having a basically good time. I get to travel almost as much as I want, and I get to go to these places that seemed so far away when I was in Canada and are now just a short plane ride away!

I'm already making a list of everything I want to do in Rome. Hey, does anyone know of any good walking tours in Rome? I love walking tours. And I'm going to see the Vatican! And... and I'm going to do other things, too!

I have all these things marked in my guide book, and I can't wait! I wish it was November *now*.

{Updated more of my China stuff, if you're looking for more of that.}

August 31, 2006

Death of a Red Heroine

I'm reading a murder myster set in China in 1990, by a Chinese writer who now lives in the US. I'm finding it a really hard read, although I'm not sure why. The writing style just strikes me as so... Chinese. (Look at me, like I'm an expert.) Just little things about it really twig at me, like always identifying everyone by their full title or nickname that probably sounds fine in Chinese but sounds weird in English. "Overseas Chinese Liu" for example. It sounds odd.

I've updated a few more posts from China. It's slower going than I thought it would be, mostly because it's tedious.

I'm taking a trip up to Inverness for the weekend next weekend, so if anyone wants postcards, let me know.

August 27, 2006

There's Angst All Over Me (and that stuff stains)

I actually said to someone today "Remember when I used to have a life?"

I'm in the slow process of moving my posts from China over to this blog, 25 or so at a time. It's interesting to peek through them - I think I can detect the exact moment that it stopped being "ack ack I'm in a big scary foriegn country and I'm going nuts!" to "I'm thinking about this way too much..."

Random Side Note: When I was in China, I'd get emails and postcards from random strangers saying "You sound so lonely all the time". I always thought this was weird, because I was always *trying* so hard to sound upbeat and happy because this was a "great opportunity" and 'exactly what I wanted' and "an adventure, damn it!". Re-reading a few of the old posts... I see where they got it from.

I've been looking back at my time in China rather fondly lately, and I admit to missing it, but I'm looking back at it with that rosy-afterglow that sometimes comes. I was *so very lonely* while I was there. I loved it, it was all those things, too, but... yeah, lonely. I spent time while I was there sorting out who I was when I wasn't surrounded by people (ironic, all things considered, but I did have a flat on my own and felt very isolated), and thought I had figured it out. Returning to Canada afterwards was just.. well, it was hard, because I was back being surrounded by the expectations I had set for myself, the role that I had made for myself, and I was prepared for it anymore.

Part of the reason I'm chomping at the bit to get to Aus right now seems to be that I'm wanting to get away from it all again. I've got itchy feet, and I'm tired of expectations I've set for myself here. I want to be alone in that strange way you can only be when you're the only person you know. Because at that point, you need to get to know yourself pretty damned well....

Anyway, there's a new category, "China", and I'll be porting entries over about 25 at a time, dating back from late 2003. I'll have to get the earlier ones later, as I didn't use blogging software then, just html, and will take more time to sort.

August 14, 2006

Everything Comes To This

Grave

I'm disgustingly proud of this photo and felt the need to share it. I finally got to take my brand-new tripod (Thanks, Don) someplace and use it, and I got some lovely photos of St Cuthbert's Churchyard at night. Since it's usually locked up, I was very satisfied over all.

Steeple

I was in the churchyard at that time of night because of the Fringe show I caught there. It was Vespers, sung in Russian, and it was beautiful. It's amazing how religious music can be so moving, no matter if you know what they're saying. It really felt like... well, like a choir of angels. I was reminded of a quote I read once in my history of Wales... "When we meet God, I'm certain he'll be speaking Welsh." I think, in the end, how faith and spirits move us is so entirely based on feelings and impressions rather than words.

Which may be why the Islamic festival left me with a bad taste in my mouth. There was a presentation yesterday on women in Islam, and it was very poorly done. I don't want to go into it too much here, but I was hoping for some real discussion and insight into the faith, the religion, the culture, and everything caught up in those things. I wanted it to talk about things that were important to women in that culture and faith. Instead, they chose two "poster-child" type women to speak about their experiences. Neither had ever lived in a different culture. At least one didn't read Arabic. Neither could answer any of the questions we had about Islam and women. Neither was a scholar. In comparison to the way the man's talk earlier in the week had been, it was frustrating. And whereas I can see why people may not want to stand up and talk about their faith in terms of questions that seem like instrusions... well, that's what it was billed as. That's what I expected from what the Mosque itself had advertised. I wanted more.

I spent a lot of time questioning things this weekend. I went to a talk about history in India and Persia, where the idea that the problems in the Middle East right now go back as far as things in Ancient Greece. That sense of divide between us and them goes back to Sparta. Points were brought up about resentment on the side of people who are "Eastern". I tried to ask if the speakers, both authors of recently-published books about the history of the region, thought this might be because the "authoratative" books on the history and culture of the area were both written by White, Middle-Class, Western, Scottish Men. I didn't get a satisfying answer.

I wasn't really surprised at that.

I was strangely surprised by something else: Who'd have thunk it: People read at Book Festivals.

I was also surprised at one other thing: My passport returned from the Home Office. If I recall correctly from the last time this happened... things will start to move rather quickly from this point on.

I am so scared.... and so excited.

August 11, 2006

Shadows

I got an email from a friend of mine a few days ago that I haven't been able to answer yet. She talks about stuff going on, as life does, and then mentions in passing that her step-father passed away.

Two months ago.

To really understand, you need to know that I spent a lot of time in high school at her place, and although I'd never go so far as to say they were my second parents, her family made her place my second home. I remember so many times in that apartment, I remember dancing at their wedding, and I have so many recollections of her parents together like that. The idea that one of them is dead has struck me like a kick in the stomach.

Especially since it was two months ago... and no one thought to tell me.

I don't blame her or her mom - my first priority if my dad died wouldn't be emailing people who haven't seen him in two years. And frankly, he was ill, and I've been waiting off and on over that two year period to hear that something had happened. But I'm sitting here, staring at this comment in her email, and I'm shocked. For two months I thought he was alive, and he wasn't. He's been gone, and I didn't know.

It's touched into my biggest fear about living so far away - that not only can something bad happen without me there, but that no one would think to contact me. I wouldn't be a priority to know. And whereas I'd probably find out eventually, I don't know how long that time would take. I have friends that I know either entirely through the internet, and I don't think anyone would ever let me know, they'd just drop off the net. Other friends... no one else I'm close to is close to them, and I'd never be told. When weeks or months can go between contacts, it's easy not to notice you haven't heard from someone in a while.

I'm so afraid.

I can't even seem to grieve properly. I haven't seen him in so long that his absence isn't really something that affects me. I can believe that nothing's happened, that life in Abbotsford is continuing exactly the way it was when last I was there, but it's not happening. I forget, for a while, and then feel awful that I have.

I don't want to keep worrying. I don't want to wonder if a blog hasn't been updated or an email not returned, if I don't get a phone call that wakes me because of the time different, that something awful has happened. But I don't know what else to do. I don't want to go back, because I have friends here I would miss and worry about as much. I don't want to stop caring, because these are wonderful people who deserve to be cared about. I don't want to stop making friends, because I'd be lonely without people around.

But I keep thinking that I wouldn't know. No one would think to tell me, because I'm so far away.

And I wonder how long I could go if something happened to me before someone would know....

Forgive me for angsting. The Military Tattoo is tonight, and there will be fireworks and explosions above the castle.

Little by little a piece of your soul shatters.
Soon all will fade.
All will fade
Away.

August 3, 2006

A Link

146 Miles Without A Map is a blog about a guy who decided to make the walk from Winchester to Cantebury (you know, the one in Cantebury Tales). It's interesting, and I wanted to recommend it.

*sigh* One day I'll either decide to go on a long Walk like that... or I'll stop wanting to.

July 3, 2006

And the Thunder Rolls...

It's the middle of the night and I can't sleep. For the second time today, storms are rolling through the city, thunder and lightning chasing after the rain. I can't remember ever hearing thunder here before, and right now it seems ominious. Earlier it just seemed exciting.

I've been here for a year, and in a week I go back to Canada for Tom's wedding. My parents will pick me up at the airport. In that year, so many things have changed, and I'm not sure I want to see that right now. My dad tells me my mom has lost a lot of weight, my best friend from high school send me baby pictures of her son born just last month, and Tom is getting married. It's not that I think life in Canada should stop when I'm not there, but it feels a bit like the time is passing through my fingers too quickly to get a sense of it, like water rushing down a mountainside.

I really hate to fly.

Right now I'm trying to focus on the things worth looking forward to. I love the ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo, and I haven't seen Gastown in long enough that I might be able to appreciate it for something other than it's tacky-tourist-ness. I can't wait to see my mom, and Tom, and Jenn, and Crash, and Linette. My parents live on a quiet street, and right now part of what's got me awake is the loud noises that come up from Commercial Street, drunks wandering home and loudly announcing how they aren't drunk, and the click-clack of shoes that makes people sound like horses, and the buses that go by every 10 minutes, even at 2:30 in the morning. Seagulls are arguing outside my window, reminding me once again how close I am to the ocean.

I really hate to fly, and I don't like the idea of going to a wedding where there will be so few friendly faces.

My parents have arranged for me to fly from Naniamo out to Kelowna. That's two planes, one a pontoon plane back to the mainland, and then another short jaunt to Kelowna. It's faster, less time on the road to brood about how different my life is now from people I used to be completely in sych with. I'm so happy Tom and Carla are getting married, settling down, but I feel so very confused. Jenn's having a baby, and it's widening the gulf that started with "So I'm going to college in Alberta", got larger with "I hear Scotland is nice this time of year", and now seems insurmountable with "Baby Ewan was born on June 21st".

I'm happy for everyone involved with this - God, Tom's so happy he's putting the sun to shame, and Jenn's wanted a child for a very long time. But it just feels like it's going to get even harder now to find people with whom I can explain why some days I want to go back to Edmonton and kick people in the head, and other days I want to go back to calling Edmonton home, and a lot of days I don't even think of it at all, and how that makes me feel. And I may know that the only people who really get that are other expats, but more often now I'm finding them hard to meet. Which is ridiculous - there are so many people here from elsewhere that I know more of then than I do people from Edinburgh. I have hundreds of places I could go online to talk to expats about these things. But so many of them are either where they want to live and settling down, or planning on going back to their home country, and I feel odd in that I don't know where home will end up being, and the next jaunt could be next week, or could be next year. Or could be never. And I don't know.

I really hate to fly, and I don't like the idea of going to a wedding where there will be so few friendly faces, and I hate waking up in the middle of the night crying and not knowing why.

June 28, 2006

One Year Later

I've been here for a year.

I don't know how the time crept up on me so quickly. I was aware of it, of course, but in a distant sort of way. End of June = One Year in Scotland. Sorta like how Christmas is really far away, and then boom it's December 21st and I've forgotten to buy presents.

And here I am.

It feels good.

I love Scotland. I love the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed here - I travel so much, I know these great people, I'm content with life in general. It seems so good right now, and I realised the other day that I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think I've come home after searching for it in other people so much. Here it is.

So, a Year in Review....

My first post on this side of the ocean was on June 21. That month I spent a lot of time doing touristy things, which makes sense since I was living on the Mile, in a hostel. I actually look back very fondly on that now, but at the time, I really thought I would go insane. Especially after I got the night job. I had such a hard time dealing with sleeping in a hostel during the day. But the people were so friendly. I occasionally run into people I met there, and although we can't always remember each other's names, we do remember each other, and where we're from. Aussie girl is working in a book store, and the other two Canadians went back to Spain after the summer. I was back there and used them to take my tour of Skye, and the person behind the counter recognized me, and that was cool.

I got a mobile phone right away, and I have to admit it was the smartest thing I did that week. I also got a mail box, which has been nice and useful but occasionally annoying. The guy behind the counter is an angel, but I wish I got more mail to justify the expense. (Yes, that was a whine, just ignore it.)

July was all about hating the heat and protests and the like. That was G8 and Make Poverty History. I managed to avoid them (still working the job that I began to loath pretty darn fast), except for the bit that I was still living on the Mile. Other than that, it was okay. That was the month I got introduced to the orangest drink in the whole world, Irn-Bru, and warned by the people I'm renting my flat through that it stains everything and never comes out. I found my flat that month, and eventually got a paycheque sorted out so I had a lot of money finally. And I had my first birthday overseas. There were deep fat fried mars bars - they really exist!

Women Talking
August was the month I started travelling, and fell in love. Lindsifarne I can never stop talking about, of course, as it really did feel like finding home to get there. I also ducked off to Paris for a long weekend that month, renewing my love affair with that city. That's where I cam up with the cunning plan of being an international pastry thief.... I really want to go back again, unsurprisingly. I was talking to a friend about it, and he pointed out that I want to go back everywhere. I'm so fickle, I think everywhere I visit is where I should have moved. Well, except Cardiff, which is nice enough, but really is Little Canada. I'm sure the rest of the country isn't so... Canadian.

Daisy, Daisy, Give me your Answer Moo!August was also the Fringe, and Apocalypse the Music with the cow that looked like Levi. Wow, am I ever looking forward to the Fringe this year... I think I may try to book some time off and just revel in it. I suspect it's even better if you're not exhausted when wandering around.

Oh, I think July and August were both bad months for feeling homesick. It was also the month I realised I wanted juice mix *really really lots*. (Margery & Raven have both sent me some, because they rock, and Joe brought some when he came across. I have a bag I'm bringing to Canada that will come back to Scotland full of juice mix. Because I love the idea of that bag being search in customs.)

September was when I quit my job. I have never made a better choice in my life - I got paid at the latest job today and this having money thing kicks ass and takes names. That whole panic pretty much dominated the month, though. I tend to be like that. *grin* It also started my obsession with the fact that no one cooks in Scotland. Or, at least, no one bakes. *sigh* I *still* can't get a good sized bag of flour here, and when I'm really going nuts about baking I can go through three or four of the little bags in a week. (This is less annoying now that I'm all bourgeois and have my groceries delivered.) It's also when I started angsting about the weather over here. The seasons here are so weird in that they occur with enough variety to notice.

Archway to HeavenOctober seems to have been all about proving I am weird and random. It's when I started picking places to go out of hats, basically. And Linlithgow is still fun to say. I pondered differences between Edmonton and Edinburgh, did more touristy things, like free musuems and Holyrood Palace, sans Queen. I went to Kelso and started my goal of collection all of the Scottish Border Abbeys (just one more left!).

October was the month it dawned on me I was happy. I still occasionally feel guilty about this. Because I am weird that way.

November started with a bang: Guy Fawkes day! I still remember the cotton candy very fondly. I went down south to Glastonbury (and the World Famous Somerset Fair that no one's heard of) and saw Stonehenge and felt strangely unmoved. For Christmas I saw the Nutcracker for the first time in my life, and started going to the German Christmas market. And then people tried to teach me English. Or British. Or something.

Trafalgar
Then December happened. There was Sinterklaas and cookies made out of bad little children (that taste yummy in chai, if you were wondering). I got all giggly about Hogmany, and popped down to London for a day just because flights were cheap and I could. Christmas Eve service was beauiful, and I remember listening to the bells at midnight and being enchanted.

The only thing that could have made it better was snow.

Hogmany brought 2005 to a close with many explosions and the kissing of many strange boys.

Good year, that one was. I give it four out of five stars.

{I'll do the last six months of this year in Scotland in another post.}

June 11, 2006

The Targ

For those of you who read here because you like random stories of living in foreign countries, you may like this week's episode of The Targ, my friend Scarecrow's Podcast. It's his Adventures in Japan Anniversary Episode.

Go to the Targ's homepage and dl episode 7. {link now fixed}

Trips Planned

Friday 16 June 2006 - Cornwall (Exeter - Penzance - Plymouth with stops in Tintagel, Land's End, and Saint Ives if I can pull it off)

Friday 14 July 2006 - London weekend (in summer? I'm daft.) with the expectation of hoping a flight from Gatwick to Vancouver.

Monday 17 July 2006 - Vancouver (Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna)

And, of course, the Festival all August.

This is shaping us as a busy summer.

May 4, 2006

Durham

So, after looking at my finances it seems I can either go to Amsterdam or eat next week, not both, and although I could probably stand to lose a few pounds, I might not survive the beating I'd receive if I made that tradeoff. Ah well. It's not that I'm hurting financially, it's just that I like having over a certain amount in my bank account, and this whole Unemployed Mess thing has really dug into my savings. (Not the least of which because, when I'm unemployed, I want to drink a lot more coffee in coffee shops. To get out of the flat, you see. I even went to a movie, which I never do.)

Right now I'm toying with the idea of going to Durham for a day or two. It's cheaper, and I'd get to take the train, and I'm fairly certain there's more than enough to do in Durham to entertain myself for a good two days. There is, of course, a Cathedral. And a Castle. And other things, too, but really, it's the UK, of course there's a church and a castle. That's just what they do here. It's like Western Canada and curling rinks.

The Cathedral has Evensong, and I'm rather determined to hit as many Cathedrals in the UK as I can and compare Evensong. Right now, the best is still at Westminster, but my appraisal of Saint Paul's might have been ruined by my horrible coughing fit in the middle of the service.

(I understand they filmed parts of Elizabeth in Durham Cathedral and called it a castle. Thus, I *really* want to see it. Because I am snarky about historically inaccurate movies. Did I mention I went to see Tristan and Isolde? Did I mention I was almost kicked out of the theatre? Okay, maybe that last part didn't happen, but it should have.)

But seriously, I would really like to go to Durham, it's not too far from here and it's probably not horribly expensive, but I'm still pretty leary about spending the money. Obviously what I need is a rich and indulgent boyfriend/sugar daddy who will take me such places just to watch my face light up, or for my parents to die and leave me absolutely everything except the cats, which they can leave to my brother.

Sadly, this isn't likely to happen this week.

Oh well. I think I may just pop down to the train station and take another look at ticket prices anyway. I want to travel, and staring on the 15th, I'll have a lot less time on my hands to do it with. (But then I'll have money. Isn't it always the way?)

April 27, 2006

Escape! ESCAPE!!

You know what the world needs?

This is what the world needs: It needs a website (which probably exists, but I can't find it) where I can just say 'I'm in Edinburgh, I'm bored, I have money. Where can I go? What will be cheap? I want to leave *today*.' Cuz, dude... I want to leave *today*. And I don't want it to cost me an arm and a leg. Surely every flight between here and the rest of the whole world isn't full, is it?

I just wanna be able to plug that into a search engine, and it'll come up with three or four places with cheap flights leaving in the next 12 hours, and I'll just go. I don't want to have to pick a destination and an airline or any of that crap. I'll find a hostel when I get there.

I'm so *bored* right now. Being under-employed *sucks*.

PS: I'd do it by train, but they don't let me just say "I want to be someplace other than here, where can I go?" either.

April 20, 2006

In the still of the night....

In a few short hours, we're heading off to Linlithgow to spend a delightful morning and early afternoon being silly in a ruined palace. I think nothing can go wrong when you're in a ruined palace, but that's just me. Since I've been there before, I've decided to dress up in my faux-medeival dress and take silly photos of myself being dramatic. There will be toy swords, and maybe even a plastic axe.

The trip will be myself and the rest of my merry little household of Canadians (where did all these people come from, and why are they eating my pie?) and a couple of my friends from "here". I put here in quotiations because it's Joe M., who is currently living in Stirling and is from someplace in Ireland, and Myles, who is one of those rare people: someone actually from Edinburgh who still lives here (he has assured me that will change as soon as possible). And here's the best part: Joe has lived in Stirling for 12 years, has gone through Linlithgow countless times on his way back and forth to Edinburgh, and has never once actually been there. Myles tells me he "may" have been there when he was a kid, but he can't recall.

*bang head against wall* It's a PALACE! Stuff happened there! It's all picturesque and there's a lake and Flodden and Mary and stuff, and how did you not go there? How?? It's so *close*!

And then I remind myself that I hadn't been to the mountains in ages before I left Edmonton, and I'd only been to Calgary briefly, and three hours isn't that far to drive, especially for a milkshake, so yeah.

So, yeah, Linlithgow later today, assuming I sleep between now and then, because now that I'm over the plague (for the most part), I have insomnia instead. And I'm unemployed. So I made Lemon Vanilla Jam and apple pie tonight and spent the afternoon sitting in Princes Street Gardens looking up at the castle and the clouds and just being content with the world. Which was nice, but I still can't sleep.

I've got things a bit more sorted out for my trip back to Canada for Tom's wedding, and found an affordable flight between London and Vancouver. Still up in the air about Amsterdam. But maybe, Australia is worked out. Again. For real this time.

No, I mean it!

April 2, 2006

Reading, not Doing

I've been reading an awful lot of travel logs lately, which I really enjoy doing. Not blogs and the like (although those are, as always, fun to read), but actual books about travelling. The latest is called "The Places In Between", and it tells about a man who decided to walk across Afganistan. In the mountains. In winter.

Then I read that and think, "Oh, I could do that."

Okay, not really. I'm lazy. But I think a lot when I read travel logs. I've read about people hitch-hiking across China, people taking their motorbikes across the world (that's the one written by Ewan MacGregor, and man, is he whiny in it), and watched movies about people trying to bike down the length of South America. I remember reading a magazine article about a woman who biked across Canada.

I think about doing these things, because although you're travelling the whole time, you get a completely different view of things. You get to see things up close, even if you don't get to emmerse yourself in everything. I mean, I *want* to do that. I want to get that sort of view of things, to be able to travel totally at my own pace, but be able to travel. To not have these pesky responsibilities like a job, and rent, and stuff... Which I suppose is just trading one problem for another (I'll have to have quite a bit of money, I'd think, to get myself across Canada), but...

But then I get afraid. I think I'd get eaten, as these things go. I'm a white girl, I'm lazy. (One does not follow the other, these are statements about me, not about all women who happen to be white.) I'd probably not make it, because something bad would happen to me, or because I would just give up.

Oh well, I love to live vicariously through books. Just... different books than other people.

* * *

The trip to London is still a go, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm still a bit sick (I can't stop coughing), but at least I can breath right now. I'm going to be taking all my pictures from the last week off my camera in preparation. God, I can't wait... Tower of London, here I come!

February 21, 2006

Questions

I am apparently handling being unemployed with my usual grace and maturity. That is, none.

So far today, I have:

- booked a spontaneous tour up north
- examined my webstats way too carefully
- put together a table
- done several loads of laundry
- done the dishes
- reorganised parts of my house
- had a lengthy discussion about my future
- finally remembered to email my parents (I suxx0rs)
- caught up on my RPOL participation
- written three hundred thousand million postcards, or at least 30

It's been a busy day.

I mention this here because I'm currently at a bit of a loss and needing advice. Is anyone out there who reads this able to talk serious with me about teaching, both high school and university, in various parts of the world? I'm not sure how getting either my Education Degree, or going on to get my PhD, affects my job prospects as a foreigner, and if anyone out there can offer some insight, I'd like that.

I'm also trying to figure out if I can get my Masters degree in China, and I'm really hitting a brick wall there.

February 17, 2006

Time after Time

On the one hand: oh my god, I only have seven months left in Scotland! That's not nearly enough time at all!

On the other hand: It's seven months till I get to Australia! It's an *eternity!*

(Thanks for the advice to get my Visa early rather than late... and I will totally be stopping in Singapore for a week at least. *smile*)

I'm currently trying to make a list of things that are really important for me to do while I'm here, and comparing/contrasting that with the list of things that my mom, my friends who are coming for visits, and the friend that's moving in all want to do, so I do things that are important to me alone on my own, and things they want to do with them... but it's hard to narrow down a lot of stuff.

So, I guess I'll ask: what do *you* think I should do in my last 7 months in the United Kingdom?

February 8, 2006

The Sweetest Thing

I had the oddest sensation of being caught up in China today.

pic 15I remember being told that scent is the strongest link to memory, and today I could have sworn I was in China. There was this scent on the air that I could smell so often when I was there. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but it smells like cooking food, and I really do associate food with China. Street food was everywhere (I managed to never get sick, but poor Paul!), and some of it was amazingly good. I was a regular with quite a few of the street vendors there (and man, did I ever get suckered into paying too much - I learned, eventually), and the smell of noodles cooking in the open air always brings me back.

I suspect when I leave Edinburgh, it'll be the smell of the brewery that makes it all come flooding back - fermenting, but not like yeast.

Sadly, I can't think of a single scent that brings Edmonton flooding back.

January 29, 2006

...be forgot?

Well, New Year's Eve did not go entirely according to plan.

Most of it did, though, and the majority of the food was yummy, and I'm good with that. It was the cake, though. You know, the thing I'm fairly certain I can do without thinking too hard: baking.

I love to bake. How I managed to make a cake-thingy that not only weight a ton (or is that tonne), it had a tasty crust and was rubbery on the inside.

I felt it still tasted good, but it was so heavy. And strange.

Ah well, life goes on, right?

I've also come to the conclusion that my day to day life has become rather dull. Now, don't get me wrong - Scotland still rocks, and when I'm doing stuff (York, museums, tours, ghost hunts, going out with friends, seeing movies and remember that Tilda Swinton is my master now), I'm really enjoying them. It's just that when I'm done doing something... I'm bored. Nothing's really engaging my mind.

I need a hobby.

Other than buying more books. (How did I go from coming across with three paperbacks to having an overflowing bookshelf? I have *no idea*.)

So, yeah, there's some clubs meeting up this week that I might go out to, or maybe I'll take up some sort of class, or hell, maybe I'll start *knitting*. Just something that engages me when I'm not going out of my way to be engaged, if that makes sense.

January 28, 2006

Gong xi fa cai!

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year, and thus, I'm throwing a bit of a party here today. (Sundays are notoriously bad for me.) I'm all excited! It's been a long time since I've bothered making the one chinese recipe I learned how to make (dumpling), and I've added a bunch of relatively easy things to throw together for tonight's party.

Let's see, I'm making Scallion pancakes, not-so-spicy bean sprouts, and picking up some tofu gan for starters, and making dumplings (lots!), egg drop soup, and steamed buns for main, and nian gao for a sweet treat.

I'm so excited... I do love to cook, and it's so rarely I get to do it for any number of people. And the advantage of doing Chinese is that most things cook notoriously fast, so I don't have time to get distracted!

January 18, 2006

Brussel Sprouts

So, I'm still attempting to make up my mind regarding where I want to travel in the next few weeks, which has led to me checking out various package deals and debating the merits of each based entirely on whether it is cheap, goes some place I've heard of, and I can get to the appropriate airport. Since I'm looking at getaways that cost less than £100 for a weekend, I'm narrowing my choices quite a lot, which is nice. Cornacopias of Choice confuddle me like no one's business.

This leads to the following debate:

Me: I could go to Brussels!

Him: Why would you want to go to Brussels?

Me: Nah, the proper question is, why would I *not* want to go to Brussels?

Him: What's in Brussels? It's just a big city in Europe, you need to want something more out of it.

So, I pondered this, and what I came up with:
Chocolate! Belgium chocolate!

Oh, and my theory (yet to be tested) that you can call children in Brussels Brussel Sprouts.

{The student I asked today said 'Nah, in Scotland, you'd come up with much ruder things to say than that.'}

Really, I just want to go to Brussels because it looks cheap.

But chances are, that would be in March. I'm thinking seriously about a weekend in London... although I'm kinda torn. I mean, I've been to London, right? It doesn't sound nearly as exciting now. "Oh, yes, London. Been there, done that. Ho hum. I have many postcards." (Because, yes, having seen a fraction of the area around Trafalgar Square, I've *done* London, right? *rolls eyes*)

I'm just bored right now. I know I did things these past months - I saw The Nutcracker, I saw Handel's Messiah, I did the trip out to London and a quickie poke around Melrose Abbey, but it doesn't feel like enough, somehow. Part of that is the whole aspect of "I'm here to see the United Kingdom, that's kinda the point of my visa", but it's also too that work is dull and life is kinda dull, and I feel like I have nothing exciting to say.

November 10, 2005

Candy Candy Candy

Meanwhile, over on the Canadian Expat Blog, I'm trying to encourage people to tell me what they call the pink stuff...

I have been informed that Sinter Klaas is coming. It's a Dutch thing, and I don't really understand it, and it has somethig to do with cookies being made out of bad children. Which makes me wonder what would induce children to eat them, but I've had this peeping newton stuff (not how it's really spelled, yes, I know), and it's far too yummy to be made out of icky icky bad children who don't wash.

The point is that some kind woman (Hi Margery!) is sending me chocolate letters for Sinter Klaas because... um... that's what you do for Sinter Klaas, I guess.

And eat cookies made out of bad children, I suppose.

November 9, 2005

Gaiman

... Neil... Gaiman... good.. funny.... books.

Presents for Everyone (kinda)

Work is very very dull today, and I've only been here for five minutes.

That aside. I am going to the Neil Gaiman book signing tonight. I have ticket number 98! I'm going to go meet Neil Gaiman, and stand there tongue tied like an idiot saying intelligent things like "gu...gu...gu...", just like last time I met a famous author.

By the end of the night, I will have in my hot little hands one *extra* copy of an autographed book of his. Anansi Boys, which I think I just spelled wrong.

If you would like that book, and are not Tom, who is getting something else, let me know. I would be very willing to ship it to you anywhere in the world.

Drop me an email: anna@annaoverseas.com. Include your name and address, please! And who you want the book signed to, in case it's not for you.

November 7, 2005

Poll!

That's right, following up on the idea of letting other people pick where my spontaneous travels will take me, I offer this poll:

Continue reading "Poll!" »

November 4, 2005

Wedding Bells are Ringing

My friend Mel is getting married tommorrow!

Ah, my darling one, be safe and be well, be happy in the arms of your lover, and may everything you vow to each other today be what you mean in all your tomorrows.

Also... send pictures.

I write about my thoughts on friends getting married and citizenship tests at the Canadian Expat Blog.

ETA: Link fixed.

November 2, 2005

I am Queen of Procrastination Techniques!

I have just joined up with the Canadian Expat Blog. It's a blog written by Canadians who live overseas, with various contributers.

My first post, where I talk about feeling out of place, is here.

October 23, 2005

Acceptance

I've been very conflicted the past few months.

Every year, Raven holds an Old Year's Wake. Basically, on January 1st, a large group of people get together, play many many games, eat lots of pizza, and at one point all sit together and discuss what the Year That Was meant to them and give it a good send off. Some say something cryptic, others say something signifigant, but everyone says something. But the point (for me at least) is the companionship, the laughter, the having a good time with people who I rarely (if ever!) get to see outside of that context.

I really really want to go again this year.

I had it all planned out for a while, too. I'd do New Years Eve here in Edinburgh, with plans on climbing to the top of Arthur's Seat to watch the fireworks and drink whisky and toast to a year spent closing some doors and opening others. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, I'd run off to the nearest airport, and get the fastest flight to Edmonton. With the time difference on my side, I might even be able to make it to Edmonton on time for a spirited game of Twister.

Alas, I think this is not to be.

It's not that I don't want to go to the Wake, because I do. But I don't think I can pull off both and continue to be employed. And if I have to chose between what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend New Years Eve in Edinburgh, or the chance to go to a Wake... well...

Edinburgh, I guess, has to win.

I'll be there in spirit. Or, you know, I'll be so hung over from the night before that I'll be there in spirits instead, and my was that an awful pun, I'm going to bed.

October 14, 2005

I want my mommy!

I will never ever forget what it was like the first time I was really sick in China.

There I am, stranger in a strange land. It's the first week I've gotten there, I'm still not even sure of the name of the school I'm at, and I have very limited contact with the outside world. And what happens? I get sick. I get deathly sick, with the worst cold ever in the history of ever.

I'm an adult, and have been living out of the house since I graduated from high school about a million years ago. I hate getting sick (because so many people like it), but for the most part I can cope.

I did not cope with being sick that first time in China. I wanted my mother so damned bad that I called my parents up (collect, internationally, because my parents love me and just take that sorta thing) and my mother thought I was my brother when I called. I was that sick.

So, here I am in Scotland, and for the first time since getting here, I'm sick. It's a cold, again, because it's always a cold. And I want my mother to make it all better. (This time, not so much with the long distance calling, because it is rather pointless. She's not going to make me chicken soup in Canada.)

I actually wrote a big thing about dealing with culture shock when you first get to China (it's at China Teachers, if you want to read it), and the big thing I discuss is letting yourself and your body adjust slowly. And that means letting yourself be sick, taking the time to get over it, and let yourself feel sorry for yourself that your mom (or dad, or signifigant person) isn't there to make it all better.

I think I'll take my advice.

Good night!

October 10, 2005

Cravings

One of the problems with living the way I do is that sometimes, it's just not worth the effort to cook something. This is especially true (for me at least) when it comes to meat. I crave meat. It's my favorite part of being human. I love all kinds of meat, and I'll try it all. Even chicken feet and pigs ears.

But, as I said, it's a lot of effort to cook that sort of stuff for one person, whereas your usual pasta dish or quick cheese sandwich will satisfy the need for food much easier and quicker. I'll go weeks without having any meat, which usually leads to some sort of problem.

In China, about once a month I'd go crazy with cravings for beef. I'd make trips into Nanjing or Shanghai just to get something with cow. It became a ritual of my visits to Shanghai. The bus dropped off three blocks from a McDonald's, and I'd make a beeline for it. I'd order whatever burger appealed that day (usually adding cheese, since I never did find any in Jiangyan), linger over it for as long as I could, then go find whatever hostel or hotel I'd decided to stay in that night. I usually would be fine without that sort of food for the rest of my stay, until the following month where I'd repeat some form of the ritual again.

Today being the last part of the Thanksgiving weekend back home, I've been reading various blog posts from friends about eating turkey dinners and having too much gravy and potatoes and the like, and the old cravings came back on me. But, since I didn't want to cook myself a whole turkey, I decided to make due with a quick run to the local KFC.

Quick random Anna Fact: I have worked for KFC. It is very very very rare that I get a craving for the actual chicken because of that. Now the gravy... mmm.... And yeah, I know how bad it is for you. I shall not go into the KFC Gravy Milkshake Story today.

So, today I went to the KFC and ordered a two piece meal, just enough to deal with the craving, not too much so as to make me ill.

You see, McDonald's is where the meals are almost entirely the same no matter where you are (although with local touches on the menu, like the Teriyaki Burger that Mark fell in love with in Japan). I've had McDonald's in Canada, the US, China, France and Scotland. It all tastes the same. KFC, however, doesn't do this. KFCs seem to be much more localized.

And thus, in Canada, KFC has gone away from the greasiness, as much as deep fat fried chicken can. But I'm in Scotland. Land of the Deep Fat Fried Mars Bar. Where a Scottish Breakfast isn't considered complete if it isn't dripping in fat. And KFC hasn't walked away from that into something one can pretend is healthy.

The chicken was so greasy it sparkled in the light. The gravy was so thick it could have pretended to be a gravy milkshake without any extra help. It was so unhealthy I could feel my arteries hardening just by looking at it.

Damn was it good.

I'm feeling a bit ill now, but I'm also feeling a lot better. Craving for meat satisfied for another month.

But I think next time, I'll just order a chicken sandwich from Tescos.

September 28, 2005

Nothing like a familiar face

I recently read Chocolat, a book where the main character has spent a lot of her childhook and part of her adulthood moving from place to palce in a very gypsy like lifestyle. She's talking to someone who has spent her whole life in one tiny town, someone who is jealous of her for having lived so much and seen so much.

And she thinks to herself, "But when you see so much, you realize that all the faces are the same."

It's not quite that cold hearted, but it's true in a sense. It's not that I see the same faces everywhere I go, but that I'm constantly looking in other faces for glimpses of those I've left behind.

I followed Kris down the street for four blocks, thinking of all the ways he could have possibly gotten into the country before he turned around and it wasn't him.

I caught a glimpse of Shani crossing the street when I was in the bus, and almost got off the bus to see if it could, maybe, be her.

I thought I saw Linette when I was in Paris, and actually had to bite my tongue to keep from calling out to her. But for a moment, that hope fluttered so deeply in my chest.

It's strange. I'm not lonely here, not anymore. I've gotten involved in quite a few things, met people I genuinely like, and have gotten back to work. But it's that shared history you have with people, the in-jokes that you remember, those are the things I miss right now. And when I catch a familiar face, or a profile I remember, or hear a voice that sounds oddly familiar, it squeezes at my heart.

September 23, 2005

Red and White and Sore All Over

Oh dear lord....

I thought I was doing really well. I mean, I do a lot of walking on my trips. I keep forgetting I have limitations, and just go all over the place, chasing after anything that captures my fancy. I forget, on a regular basis, that I will feel it in the morning.

But yesterday I was fine. No real sore spots, nothing really aching more than the typical "after a good workout" aching from Cardiff. I figured everything would be okay, that I was getting more endurance after all.

I am so cute when I'm wrong.

Today, I'm not sure if my legs are ever going to forgive me. I hurt. It was a struggle to get from the bed to the computer, and the computer is only in the next room.

I also managed to get my first sunburn when travelling. It's a funny story, that. Everyplace else I've travelled, I've brought my beloved floppity sun hat. And, everytime I've travelled, it's kept my glasses from getting covered in water. On the way out the door on Tuesday, I looked at my hat (still a bit damp from the last time I'd been out - oh, my optimism about the weather in this country!) and decided to leave it behind.

Which meant Wales was the first place I've travelled to where it didn't rain or get cloudy the whole time.

(It was, however, cloudy when I left Edinburgh. It was also cloudy and raining when I came back. I do adore this country, but it is a wee bit damp.)

I have a lovely sunburn (complete with racoon eyes of white) all over my face, and parts of my arms are not the lovely white they usually are. It's... surreal, to put it mildly. I've been avoiding the sun as much as possible for years, because I like being pale. (Helps with my goth cred, don'tcha know.)

Ah well. At least it made the views from the top of the castle spectacular. And although my face is feeling very warm, it doesn't hurt. It's just... red. All the time.

*sigh*

September 20, 2005

Cardiff

I'm at a very nice youth hostel in Cardiff right now. This keyboard sucks, though. Gah.

Anyway. I went to Cardiff Castle today and now I have to just die. You see, everything after this is going to be an amazing letdown.

September 18, 2005

The Ex-Pat Experience

This is very long, but I think it's a good read. Just in case, though, I'll sum it up for you:

You get out what you put in. So you probably want to go with a sense of humour.

Continue reading "The Ex-Pat Experience" »

August 18, 2005

It's Here!

Several things are here today!

1) My membership to English Heritage arrived. This allows me free into "over 400 Heritage sites across England". And gives me discounts into the Scottish Heritage sites. In retrospect, I probably should have bought the Scottish one and gotten the discounts into England, but eh. I'm happy, cuz it's here, it's got a purty card, and it has my name on it, all formal and proper like.

2) My days off! Which is great, cuz, yeah. Even my coworkers were beginning to worry about me. (Well, in that strange way that some of them do. "Oh, you're singificantly less cheerful this morning. It's a nice change." *grin* I am so looking forward to just not-working for a few days.

3) My trip to Paris! Now I am definately excited. Yay! I leave for Paris! Today! And I get there at 5:30 p.m. In Paris!

The Itinerary That Is Not Likely To Survive the First Engagement With Paris:

Today, which is Thursday:

Get on train to Glasgow.
Get to Airport, board plane, sleep on plane.
Arrive in Paris. (Actually, arrive at the airport outside of Paris, and take a bus.)
Check in to hotel, have a shower, blah blah blah.
Take walk down to the Eiffel Tower, cuz my hotel is just down the street from there. (The Eiffel Tower is not the first hit when you search for Eiffel. I'm rather surprised.)
Do super Eiffel Tower Things, and definately find out if that carosel that was there when I was last there is still there. Wow, that's an odd sentence.
Eat something French. Probably snails, cuz I like snails.
Force self to sleep.

Friday:
Sainte Chappel
Notre Dame
All the things around Notre Dame that I want to do
The Catacombs
The graveyard by the catacombs
The Latin Quarter <--- somewhere in here I have to go see the Tapestry La Dame et L'icorne, which I may be spelling wrong.
Somewhere in there, I need to remember to eat
Hit that club I was talking about, the boat, with the name pirate. Cuz, I'm all about the Pirate.
Then, sleep.

Saturday:
Chartres in the early hours. It's an hour outside of Paris by Train. I am going to have to consider this more carefully, but it's Chartres, how can I miss it?
Do the crazy shopping thingy down the Champes Elysees.
Mail many many things.
Eat something.
Sleep.

Sunday:
Leave Paris. Be sad.

I work Monday morning, because I'm being trained on something or other, yay, but at least I don't have to rush back to work. So I can come home, write obnoxiously gushy blog entries, and post up my pictures. I'm fairly determined to update the blog thingy while I'm in France, because I have this goal on 43 things to update my blog from 10 countries, and it seems relevant.

I'm getting way too punchy here. But oh, I'm so excited!!!

August 13, 2005

Failing to Plan

I'm having a big problem with my trip to Paris.

My problem is that I want to do way too many things in way too short a time period. I had to restrain myself from getting out the ruler and measuring the distance between places on the map, and thus estimating how long it would take to walk between them, so I could figure out how much I could do in a day.

Part of the problem is that I have been to Paris before, but I not only went for 13 days instead of three, it was also entirely planned by someone else. It was a school trip I did when I was 17. I think I did two things alone: I went on one of those boat tours, and I had to make my way to the Embassy to get my temporary passport by myself. (The big thing I remember about that is that the Canadian Embassy in France was near a peep show of some sort. That's how I knew where to turn.) This time, I get to do only the things I want to do... and again the cornacopia of choices is paralyzing me.

(Did you know the number one search term to find this blog is cornacopia? I really need a new word.)

I've kinda narrowed down a few things. As much as I hate to admit it, I do intend to spend the trip being a total tourist. I'm gonna hit the big touristy sites, and do some of the big touristy shopping (ooh, stationary stores!), and stuff like that. I actually went out and bought a guidebook, and I'm marking it up all to hell in an effort to make a plan. I figure if I neither sleep nor eat, I might get in about a quarter of the stuff I want to do.

I'm reminding myself that Paris is about as close to here as Vancouver is to Edmonton, and if I want to go again, I can. I remember reading a bunch of "what I want to do this summer" writing by students in the paper the first week I was here, and the universal complaint was "I don't want my parents to make me go to Europe again." So, yeah, it's easy, and not all that expensive. I missed the big seat sale, but I'm still sneaking into France for less that 100 pounds roundtrip. I bet I can get cheaper flights in winter. Maybe missing my actual birthday in France means I can spend Christmas there.

June 3, 2005

Telegrams from the Edge

Bought plane ticket today. (stop)

Still in shock. (stop)

Leaving June 13th. (stop)

Oh my, this means I only have 10 days to do everything I want to do, and see everyone I want to see.

Okay. So, who wants to go shopping with me? I need to buy pants. A laptop. But mostly pants.


May 21, 2005

Passport Application - Check

I'm having a bit of a panic attack right now, as I got all the forms together, put them in the mail, and sent them off yesterday.

Oh. my. god.


May 12, 2005

Scottish Movie Roundup

I've apparently decided I need to watch a bunch of Scottish-based films, in an effort to prepare myself for my time over there. I don't quite know when I decided this, but yesterday before work I watched the first hour or so of Braveheart, and thus got to not only listen to some very strange "Scottish" accents, but also mock the movie. Always a fun night!

Does anyone have any recommendations of "good" or actually good Scottish-based film? I'm going to have some spare time coming up, what with the whole not working for much longer thing. And heaven knows how well I handle inactivity.

(I recently had the thought that if I lived in the country, and thus had even less to do every day than I do now, I'd start howling at the moon, until the neighbours left politely worded notes that I was scaring the sheep.)

In unrelated news, I read a book yesterday that was the complete antithesis to Bridget Jones' Diary. It's called The Bride Stripped Bare, and it was the story of a 30-something woman who realizes she's restless and out of sorts about her life, and wants to do something to escape it. This is something I find a lot easier to understand than endless angsting. It's written in a very odd style: 2nd person, present tense, short entries like a diary. It's very engaging and thought provoking, and it's left me feeling a lot less alone in the world. The author said she chose to remain anonymous so she could write whatever she wanted, without fearing what would be said to her or her family. I want to recommend it, but I'm not sure how much anyone else would like it.

Anyway.

Countdown to last day at work: 13 days...


May 10, 2005

Confused...

And so time runs away from me so quickly some days, and it feels like it's a million years until I can go, and yet it's coming up so suddenly, this artificial deadline I put out there of June 6th. It feels like it will never come, and that I'll never be ready anyway, and what the heck am I doing all of this for?

It feels like making this choice, to live in Scotland, in Ireland, to go to live in as many places as I can, never staying too long, feels like some sort of rejection of so many things. Like a rejection of my mother, who at this age already had my brother, was trying so hard to have me. A rejection of the person I was a few short years ago, who could see nothing better in the world than having a home of my own, a white picket fence with a garden in the back, a couple of kids and a dog. It feels so much like deciding to do this is a rejecting of a lot of my friends here, friends I want to stay close with but at the same time I just don't understand how they don't feel this wanderlust, this need to see the world in a way that tourisim doesn't.

I still remember being so annoyed with the only tourist I really met in China, the one who stayed at only the highest class hotels, only hit the major tourist spots ("We were in Beijing yesterday, today we're going out to see the Terracotta Warriors, after that we're off to Hong Kong to do some shopping"), and insisted that my view of China was just wrong. That there must be other foriengers in Jiangyan. (There were, about a month later, but not at the time.) I don't want to see just what you can see in a quick jaunt through a country. I want to see what it is to live there, to get to the point where Canadian accents sound strange, and being on a bus full of people just like you seems far more overwhelming than the first busride in China ever could. I want to live like that, and somedays I don't understand why other people don't.

I talked to my mother about this a few days ago, and she told me that she couldn't help but be jealous. She wanted to do the same things I do, but it wasn't done when she was my age. She grew up in a small town in southern Manitoba, went to a one room school house for most of her public education, wore her jeans under her skirt to keep warm in the winter. Some days it feels like my mother and I have nothing in common, other days it feels like it's only a few years difference, that we could have been friends were we the same age.

I feel trapped by time right now. I'm giving in my notice at work, but I still don't have the 3000$. I should have it by Monday, but the idea of being trapped at that job an extra week makes me ill. As soon as I have the money, I get a letter from the bank, drop my application in the mail, and wait impatiently for 2 weeks for it to come back. In those two weeks, I finish off everything I need to do, visit my friends and family back in Vancouver, say good bye to everyone here, so I can purchase my plane ticket and be gone, and spend the rest of my life missing Edmonton in the spring, when the river valley is more beautiful than anything I've ever seen.

I was asked in an email from an old friend: "What is so wrong with Canada that you don't want to be here anymore?" I struggled with that, because some days I feel like this choice is a running away, a refusal to deal with life in the long term. And not too long after receiving that email, I went to see Pier 21, which is where so many people came to start their new lives in Canada, some dying with the need to get here, and I want to run away?

But it's not that.

Canada is beautiful, and I love it here. But it's easy to say your country is beautiful and wonderful if you've never experienced life anywhere else. I remember, still, thinking Manitoba was the most wonderful place in the world, until I fell in love with Alberta. It's easy to think some place or some person is perfect if you've never experience anywhere else. And I came back to Alberta after going to school in BC.

I want to see the world. I want to see it all. I want to touch the pyramids, walk along the Great Wall, go shopping in some out of the way place in Scotland, see the Parthenon with my own eyes. There are so many things in this world, and it's only miles and time that's keeping me from them. I can come back. Canada isn't going anywhere. And although I've been living with the knowledge that Edmonton isn't home anymore, that it hasn't been for some time, I know I can come back here, walk in the River Valley late at night and look up at the stars.

For me, at least, home only comes after a struggle, and I want to see where that struggle is going to take me.


About Travel

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Anna Overseas in the Travel category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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