Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Progress

  • All my registered holdings have finally been transferred over to the new account.  Was granted an extension on the "free trades" I was supposed to receive, as well as a reversal of yearly account fees (on top of transfer fee) due to the delay of the whole process.  Finally reaching a customer service agent who was actually capable of doing something and sticking with her has made all the difference.  The first group of settlements are expected to come through next week.
  • Reached 7 km on the treadmill rehab.  Goal is 10 km, 3 - 4 times a week.  Slowing adding back rowing and biking on top of body weight exercises (not a joyful experience, have lost so much conditioning).  However, amazing what can happen when I actually follow instructions of icing and stretching...No one to blame but myself.  Am such a poor patient!  Incidentally, seeing "Wonder Woman" has super boosted my motivation -- I expected a great performance from Gal Gadot but wowza..Robin Wright!
  • Meeting with a realtor to get an appraisal on our cottage.  Have been getting increasingly disenchanted with sitting in the car for even a few hours.  With the amount of flying I do and being around high densities of people for extended periods of time (why airline lounges are such a wonderful reprieve), I've developed less patience with being on the road.  
  • Plus I've turned into a real homebody during my non travel times.  So the idea of driving across the country a couple times a year as a retirement option isn't appealing anymore.  Probably makes no sense, but if I'm going to sit that long, I want to be flying somewhere.  Of course the potential sale opens the whole capital gains can of worms.
  • I wish I could say D's work life has settled but it hasn't.  It has escalated once again, not just for him but his whole department.  They cannot seem to find any peace there and everyone is working insane hours.   
  • Our summer plans have had to change.  We were supposed to spend the end of it out west.  Got notice that the construction of our building parking lot will not be completed until October.  I refuse to stay in a noisy construction zone.  New plans (tentative still) will involve trekking, so I need to be able to do it.  Not a whole lot of reasonably priced options last minute so if we go, I will be using a bunch of points to get us there.  Already got dinged with cancellation fees on the airfares out west.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Tokyo # 2

Tokyo the second time was fantastic.  Didn't think I could like this city more but it happened.

A tip:  Isetan food hall, Shinjuku... Go right when it opens for an unforgettable welcome. NB:  They do not allow photographs.

I stayed in Ginza this time around.  Even if you are not into high end shopping, it is fun to walk around and admire the design and architecture of the many global flagship brands.

Not ashamed to admit I have 2 more flights, over the next 10 months, booked..and I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Impressions of Seoul

I had difficulty with Seoul right off the bat.  Couldn't put my finger on it for a few days.  Felt a strong sense of unhappiness, lack of inner peace, mixed with suffering.  Made me feel un-grounded and uneasy.

It was a startling juxtaposition when you put it up against the backdrop of a modern city, full of high end shops and shoppers.  It was way more than the realization that large wealth gaps exist in many major cities.

The intensity of it felt similar to what I remember from Yangon.  Where I could sense peoples' hunger.  The area I stayed in Seoul, near the Namdaemun Market, felt poor to me and the older people who had businesses and stalls there worked tirelessly, some from 6 am all the way to 9 pm. There were also a number of 24 hour shops and restaurants.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the flight attendant was surprised I was actually going to Seoul when she assumed I wouldn't need the landing card (never had that happen before).  Even more ironic I think, considering I was on a direct flight to Seoul from JFK, on Korean Air!

A second hint that this wasn't going to be an easy going trip, should have been the samples of make up foundation you receive when you buy a train ticket from the airport into the city.  I had 6 minutes to find my train (almost missed it too!), so never thought beyond it and wasn't able to refuse it either.

As someone who doesn't own a bottle of foundation, it was a bit unnerving to be surrounded by make up shops and people buying bags and bags of it in Myeong-dong.  And the number of young women with 5 - 7 small band aids on their face from having had cosmetic work done working at the metro stations, coffee shops... It had me questioning what world I had landed in.  And not to forget the intensity of analyzing looks from people young and old...

My days started with a morning walk up Namsan park.  Some road paths were rubberized and at 8 am, people were already coming down.  Don't underestimate the older hikers -- They are fast!  The pride is evident there.  Designated days were for sweeping and maintenance.  Many different groups (running, badminton, archery, visually impaired) use various parts and paths.  The archery, was particularly amazing to watch as they shot at targets over groups of trees.

You know where this is heading.  I was quite ignorant of the history of Korea outside of a couple of documentaries of North Korea.  Things would have made more sense had I been better prepared.  I had earmarked the trip as a fun, relaxing week in a modern city, full of conveniences and great food...with little to no work needed.

Instead I felt quite disturbed for the duration due to my ignorance of just how much the people had suffered.  How recent that was.  How disorienting it must be for them to be living at a time of such tremendous growth and pressure to succeed.  The strong focus on cosmetic surgery is an offshoot of that striving.  As are the poverty issues facing the older generation.

Now that I know a little bit more, I want to return and see the city through better eyes, to have another opportunity to process those feelings I remember in a way that makes sense.

(Should you find yourself in Seoul, and in particular Namsan park, consider eating at Mok Myeok San Bang, a well known restaurant located at the start of the Northern Circuit.  I ate their bulgogi bibimbap twice.  It was delicious!  Although they are written up in the 2017 Michelin guide, prices are down to earth.)

(Also, I was supposed to have flown on an A380, same route as the infamous "nut rage" incident. Unfortunately, there was an equipment change so ended up flying on a 747 instead.  Have another opportunity to try for the A380 next year.  For the aviation geeks out there, I'm also scheduled on an A350 later this fall.)

Saturday, June 10, 2017


  • D's car ended up needing an additional 3 weeks to get fixed.  The wrong part was ordered and the correct one was on back order... It took a bit of juggling with the loaner car and our other car to make things work.  
  • The correct car part cost $400 more than the mere $80 that was quoted...
  • To top it all off, the car made dragging noises during right turns on the way home...D was ready to throw it out. 
  • But he ended up fixing it (some thin metal shield near the tire was bent).  Funny enough (not really), the dealership, when told about the sound, admitted to noticing it during their (paid) inspection but somehow couldn't figure out what it was...Last time we will be returning there.
  • So, I'm 3 months into waiting for the last item to be transferred to my new investment account.  I haven't been used to having to follow up.  Guess I had been spoiled working with only full service brokerages (at a cost, I know) but I never had to worry that something was going to get done quickly, once decisions were made.
  • I did vent my frustrations at a customer service agent (via email), knowing full well that he had no authority to make any real decisions.  But I was tired of the standard "Thank you for your patience" replies I had been getting.
  • A dead tree needs to be cut down at the cottage this season.  Forgot to get the ball rolling in the spring.  But hopefully it won't take much longer now that it's on my radar.  Would like to get another quote before deciding who to go with.
  • I've managed to dodge a number of major travel related delays that you may have read about on the news this year.  It has me re-thinking how closely I calculate my flights home.  Going to build in a bigger buffer as it is all a big numbers game and one day, it will be my time again.     
  • My foot/ankle injury from Nepal is still plaguing me.  Quite frustrated with it.  Add to it a wrist and shoulder strain from bad positioning at work, and my workouts have suffered as a consequence.  There has been some improvement, just not fast enough for me.
  • Thank goodness I put a lot of fun plans in place this year.  On balance, am definitely coming out way ahead despite what has been written above.  But human nature being what it is, easy to focus solely on the thorns.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Art Continued

I've been to Rome a few times, the last being about 6 years ago.  A lot has changed since.

The city has been cleaned up (much cleaner than Paris!), made more pedestrian friendly (walk between the Pantheon and Trevi), the monuments restored (didn't remember so much blue in the stonework in the Pantheon -- Gorgeous!), new trendy restaurants and bars have replaced most of the tacky souvenir shops in the core, the city just shone.

My last memory of Rome wasn't overly warm but I wanted to return for the art and the food  It was a long way to go for 4 nights but so happy I made the effort.  Ended up being my best visit ever.  Had a lot of fun and the stay was surprisingly nurturing for my soul.

I didn't want to give too much away so only 1 photos from the Borghese Gallery.  You really need to be in that space in person -- Beyond Outstanding.  Take time to wander around Villa Borghese park while you are there.  Another highly recommended gallery is the Gallerie Nazionali Barberini -- Went twice -- Completely different feel (2nd photo).

Happened to be there during the Maratona di Roma and decided last minute to sign up for their 4 km charity fun run.  It was one of those mega events with upwards of 80000 participants.

The end of that run was at Circo Massimo -- Pretty cool when you think about it!  The skies opened up about a minute after the start and poured rain  (9 C too!), resulting in much laughter as we all got completely drenched in disbelief -- The rest of the days were over 20 C.  Was worth it, as over 9 million Euro was raised for dozens of charities.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

It's Over

After much angst, it has been decided that D will not continue to pursue new job opportunities.  Rather than endless dwelling on how much his current position isn't ideal, instead focus on continuing to lay further foundations supporting our current and future life.  

The current reality isn't bad or tragic or truly difficult.  He isn't underpaid.  His ego may be taking a hit right now but there isn't any real harm.  And the cost of creating an upheaval in our life isn't worth the extra amount of income or perceived glory of yet another job conquest.

Income is a driving factor for many of us, me included, up to an extent.  But neither of us are in the early stages of our career or marriage, where you are building and would consider more drastic changes for the sake of more money or career growth.

There comes a time where we just need to put our heads down and finish what we started.  And this is one of those times.  It has taken many years of work to get to this place in our lives where we have a good amount of recreation and freedom.  Why mess with it?

I'm not about to watch it get torn, however temporarily for non necessary reasons.  And do not wish to entertain any more discussion of work changes unless something untoward were to happen.  This topic has been beaten to death over the past decade and it needed to be put to rest.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Life Lately

  • Happy that the quote and work for my car repair has finally been completed.  The cost came very close to what I had put aside, so that worked out just fine.  Turned out I had to replace the 2 front bearings as well (included in the quote), which I questioned as our previous symptom experience with similar repairs did not match at all.  
  • They were right that it needed it as when they corrected what I felt was the main issue first, there was still some sound.  The most surprising part was finding out that I could have a bearing problem and not feel anything shaking, compared to previous vehicles we have owned.
  • Am currently quite captivated by "Captain Fantastic".
  • I've been trying hard to squeeze in a return to Palestine this year but it is not looking possible.  Really want to stay at "The Walled Off Hotel".  D questions whether that would be in line with wanting an easier travel year...Hope the hotel continues to operate into 2018+.
  • Awaiting 3 more stocks to be transferred to my new investment account.  Sent an inquiry as to why it was taking so long.  I've put investment plans on hold until everything shows up.  Update:  One stock showed up this morning.
  • I'm quite enjoying my shorter trips.  Having fun places to look forward to more often.  Energetically feeling quite well and experiencing a high level of focus, despite dealing with a minor head cold right now.
  • Looking at a couple of tougher locale flights previously booked way in advance on points.  Not convinced I'll have enough energy to tackle them but have the option to cancel without penalty, so trying not to let its presence pressure me.  Update: Cancelled one of the bookings.  
  • I've signed up for a surf camp next winter.  Will give me the impetus to continue training as it kinda scares me quite a bit.  Fortunately there is time to get ready.
  • If I want to, there are opportunities to participate in a couple of homestay immersion experiences.  One lifestyle related and the other language related.  
  • Unexpected car event occurred recently on my way home (D's car) from a flight in the wee hours of the morning.  The steering wheel became super tough to turn.  Cannot believe I made it home.  Thank goodness I was driving at a quiet time as I could barely stay in my lane when making a turn.  Made it into my driveway just as the steering column completely seized.  
  • Vehicle has since been towed to the dealership as refilling the steering fluid (advice from dealership) did not work enough to safely drive it ourselves.  On the way there, one of the tow truck dollies dropped and consequently the one tire dragged and blew up.  You can imagine how the news would have affected us, when the call arrived while we were shopping at a sports store for a warmer sleeping bag for me.
  • We now have a loaner car for approximately 4 days while the part is on order.  D's not impressed with the Nissan Sentra.  He claims he can accelerate faster in his mountain bike than that car is capable of...
  • Learned something out of this -- Please check your roadside assistance plans carefully.  D switched us to one that came with his credit card a few years ago that looked like it was comparable to what were had at the time.
  • But when it came right down to it, we weren't able to request towing up to 250 km to the destination of our choice (dealership), but was only eligible to the nearest authorized mechanic, which could be up to 250 km away... big difference.  Needless to say, we will either be switching back to our old company or self insure.  
  • The extra distance to the dealership cost us $155 out of pocket.  Our old plan cost $199 a year.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

D & His Career

It's like a bad soap opera.  You can tune in years later and it's the same old theme but the characters are sporting updated clothes and hair.

So despite work being far easier than before and feeling like he is way overpaid for what he has to do, there are a number of items that still bother him.

  • He doesn't feel like he is being challenged in the way that was specified at the interview.
  • His position has morphed into a role that he wasn't hired to do, due to sudden increases in work load.  Everyone is feeling it in their office right now.  New hires are supposed to start soon...
  • He is getting really tired of having to work nights and weekends.  Even a 3 hr stint, done often enough is going to interrupt flow of life.

D knows that I am seriously tired of his various work issues over the last decade.  And I honestly don't think I'll ever understand his field and the chaos that seems to always crop up no matter how calm it is at the start.

He has come to terms that no matter where he works, it will eventually suck.  So, his new thinking is to consider contract for the remaining years of his work with the idea that he might as well get paid more for it as it is going to be bad anyways.  He had already ruled out working contract after full time work ends.

Here's the thing.  The position he has come across will take him consistently out of town for 4 - 5 days a week.   It will always be to one location though, reachable by car but requiring overnights for the duration of the week.

Obviously, I'll have to take on more of the daily housework etc.  Am not keen on the amount of driving he would have to do, especially in the winter.  However he is quite adept at it.  It's more my mental issue.  I'm glad he doesn't have to fly for this job as I really don't believe he is cut out for that type of work travel.

The saga continues...

Thursday, March 23, 2017


In Tokyo, I learned pretty quick that I did not have what it took to slurp noodles up like everyone I ate with at a ramen bar.  The times I tried, soup flew all over my face.  Fortunately the Japanese people are too polite to notice and laugh at me.  Totally understandable had they, though.

After another attempt, I eventually found a noodle in the outer pocket of my purse, stuck to my phone... Honestly don't know how people did it and not get it all over their white business shirts! Impressive.  Predictably, I gave up after that.

The city appealed to me instantly and I right away regretted waiting so long to visit despite connecting through many times, due to being intimidated by their metro map.  And like in most instances, the reality wasn't near as dire as my mind made it out to be.  So please don't be like me and go!

I loved the formality, the politeness, the orderliness, quietness even at busy intersections.  Don't know who tunes their trucks and cars but they are not only pristine but are near silent, even the diesels.  We need that team here in many parts of Canada.

The food is expectantly great and filling, even in budget places.  Couldn't eat or try near as many things because of that.  And surprisingly not as expensive as I had anticipated.  No surprise that I'll be returning soon for another short stay.  Can't wait!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

For Real

You know how you can feel it when someone really means something?

Well, in the past few months, D has been genuinely grateful for the life we get to live.  In fact, it oozes from him.  He has said similar in the past, but I've never felt it resonate as true as it does now.  It's like he has suddenly seen our life in 3D, how everything plays together and stacks up.

I'm not entirely sure if his leaving the last workplace has been the cause of his realization, now that the fog has lifted?  It's easy to not be able to appreciate or see things clearly when mired in stress.  I certainly can relate to that.  Or have things finally come together enough to be truly recognizable?

I have to admit that most of the drive to create has stemmed from my vision and he has been happy to follow along.  D doesn't enjoy planning nor the extended discussions as much as I do.  He isn't the dream ahead, big picture kind of guy and has admitted that he has not allowed himself to wish so broadly.  His strength is with participating in the execution.

I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that I've wished I had more help in the dreaming, planning and fleshing out parts.  Often I've felt like I was the only one coming up with ideas and ways to get there. Fortunately I am not easily deterred and can drive on without encouragement or support if I believe in something strong enough.

His response has given me a lot of gratification as executing a great life has taken years in the making and at times, I've felt like I have been the only one truly believing in "the plan".  Although D has stated he was on board, the detached sense I sometimes got from him has made me question whether what I believed to be a solid and well thought out path was truly good for both of us.

Because I've been the one who has pushed the discipline with saving etc. there has been extended years of me feeling like the "bad guy".  Not a role I cherished especially when I felt like he didn't appreciate the sheer amount of time and work I was spending on creating.  It has been a struggle of wills at times.

You can imagine how good it feels to be recognized for my ongoing efforts, to see his enthusiasm and feel the joy in his voice.  He really gets it now and wants it too.

For me, I feel amazement at how our lives have unfolded despite the down portions.  It has superseded any expectations and ideas either of us have had along the way.  My gratitude and appreciation has rarely been higher.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Let's Begin

It has been a good start to the year.  I'm still nursing a few aches and pains leftover from Nepal but believe I'll eventually get there.  Have had a few shorter trips and have gone into them with minimal stress and have come back inspired.  What more could I ask for?

Work has deliberately become slightly more part time over the past year.  I decided to not work with some people and have thus eliminated a source of stress as well as some income (around 10K) -- Well worth it, in my book.  My taxes are done and my investments should be completely transferred to my new self directed account by next week.

D has bought another bike (mountain) and is still enjoying his work, which he still describes as significantly less intense compared to his last position.  That doesn't mean he doesn't have busy periods -- He's in an extended one right now.  However he has come to a conclusion that he doesn't want to do contract work after full time work ends in just under 5 years.  He wants a complete break from it all.

I'm finding myself needing to make a strong concerted effort to stem the flow of interruptions and demands that the digital age seem to throw at us.  I don't enjoy feeling like I ought to be checking things all the time.  Or not being able to fully relax because I need to be primed should I get pinged.

I know of people who thrive on those types of demands and in providing the required quick responses but I find it exceedingly stressful.  When I am not working, my cell phone is off.  I'll turn it back on if I need to send D a message, but that's it.  My biggest online usage continues to revolve around the guilty pleasure of travel learning and planning.  I have a super fun year in store.

When I'm away from wifi or cell phone service, I discover how nice it is for my mind.  And when I return home, I find myself more and more resistant to jumping back in.  I do get drawn back fairly quickly though but I have pulled away from sites like Facebook.  And accept that I will miss things and that's OK.  Especially in the midst of what is going on in the world.  I just don't need all that negative chatter.

Finally, a few photos of where I've been this year.

Head of a monster 200 kg tuna -- Tsukiji market, Tokyo

Akihabara, Tokyo

Athletes at the World Para Snowboard Championships -- Big White, BC

Glowing Athletes!

Inside the gorgeous Palais Garnier, Paris 

Saw the "Tree of Codes" here, Wayne McGregor ballet

Facade of Palais Garnier

Monday, January 23, 2017

The End of A Year

Our new year was rung in quietly and peacefully, even unintentionally staying up quite late.  If I were to mention where we happened to be at that moment, there would likely be a lot of people who would vehemently disagree on the possibility for peace part.

No matter; I'm used to such reactions and trust in what I see and feel.  We had a wondrous time (4th visit for me, 2nd for D) and wouldn't hesitate to go back tomorrow. There is a place much closer to home I'm more worried about right now...

It has been years since I actively wanted a year to be done and over with.  The last involved years of chronic difficulties with my office, which eventually led to my moving.   Whereas this time stemmed from just wanting to get through my last chosen challenge, with the promise that I will finally get to rest and gather up.

It's always a treat when I get desperate enough to have to resort to talking and negotiating with myself like you would with a 2 year old...Well, if the shoe fits... : )  For the record D did try his darnedest to persuade me to change my plans.  But I wasn't budging.  I didn't spend 3/4 of the year preparing in one way or another to ditch, despite the exhaustion that was going on inside.  To be honest, I still can't believe I made it.

I'm not rushing to commit to anything big this year.  And am not subjecting myself to crazy long journeys either, although my definition of long (40+ hours) might differ from others.  I'll be flying quite a bit, but shorter in both flight duration as well as stay.  In fact I'll be finishing up my first short stay by the time this posts.  It's shaping up to be lighthearted kind of year.  And I'm feeling my optimism start to swell up inside again.

My current aim for our house is to further declutter my part of it.  Nothing earth shattering; It has been a few years since my last purge.  As I'm continuing to see my life with different eyes, it has become a necessary thing.  If I can be disciplined enough to get rid of 1 or more pieces each day, however small, it will become a great habit.

Committing to taking those few seconds or minutes to really think about items that I may otherwise just walk by or continue to allow to sit.  Whether D decides to start on this or not is irrelevant.  I need to do this for myself.  It is going to help reset my mind.