Thursday, August 16, 2018


Our first introduction to India was an astounding success.  Book ended by time in Delhi which we also took to immensely, despite the 45 - 50 C temperatures.  However our goal was to get to Leh.

It was like another planet there.  High and very dry.  At one point we got permits to travel to one of the well known passes "Khardung La" and hung out there for a while at over 5000 m. 

Lugged home one of those gaudy bright thermoses that saved my life in Nepal and Mongolia.  It keeps water steaming hot for 24 hours.

Not a surprise that our locales made it impossible to reliably have power or hot water, much less send and receive email, during the initial sales listing of the cottage.

It's so peaceful there.  I miss it.

Monday, July 16, 2018


The amount of stress and emotional aggravation associated with what we consider to be an "easy and straightforward" sale has been surprising and irritating.  We were finally contacted by our lawyer's office to come in to sign the papers 2 business days(!) before closing.  Neither of us remember cutting things this close in either of our previous real estate transactions.  Good thing we were both around.

I've had to open another non registered investment account for the proceeds of the cottage sale.  After sheltering everything we can and planning for 2019, there is still a need of a place for the remaining.  I had one but closed it a few years back for one reason or another. 

Going with D's bank (TD) this time around, mandatory to be able to buy certain funds offered by his bank that he is a big fan of.  It took an hour to get it set up.  I had to go in in person!  Very repetitive with nothing that could have been done online ahead of time.  Was very old fashioned considering it is actually an account via their brokerage TD Waterhouse.

Am not supposed to get charged for having the account if you meet a minimal amount.  And there is supposed to be a 3 month window for new deposits so will keep an eye on that.  Having to chase after an incorrectly applied fee is something I really don't want to do.  I did specify I was opening this account in advance, in anticipation of proceeds from a real estate transaction.  But it likely won't matter to the computer program.

The sale closed successfully.

Friday, July 6, 2018


Members of my family have been dropping like flies over the past few years.  As there exists much familial fracture that I am unwilling to tackle, I end up finding out news about surgeries, cancer diagnosis, death much later.

Was particularly shocked I lost my aunt who would have been maybe 60 and cousin (her daughter) who was 35, in separate unrelated causes.  My mother's side of the family haven't fared very well in the longevity department.

Then there is the news that the husband of the couple who I rented their "nanny suite" from during my post grad years, who I've previously referred to as my surrogate parents, has progressed sufficiently in his neurological disease to not be who I would remember anymore.  I wept and continue to at the thought.  We knew the time would come, but symptoms the last 6 months have been much accelerated.

In light of the above events, loss of use of a really fun vehicle doesn't even cause a blip to our day.  It's only a thing.  The Outback is fine.  The only blip with it, is that D is bringing him back in for a "just in case" check already.  Something about feeling a vibration when it is at a certain speed range. 

Made me think of alignment, which the service adviser mentioned as a possibility along with wheel balance as well.  There's warranty and we'll get through it.  Update:  Was a wheel balance issue and is running well according to D.

A very pleasant surprise was the gift of a dozen yellow and deep red roses and giant gift basket full of gourmet treats.  Never received any gift with buying a vehicle before (house yes), especially considering it isn't new!  It brought a smile on an otherwise mostly sad day.

Friday, June 29, 2018


I say goodbye to my vehicle next week when she gets traded in for a 2012 Subaru Outback.  It cost an extra $3800 out of pocket to make it happen.  Other expenses will include floor mats, winter tires and rims.  Hoping to find the rims used.  Have my winter tires and rims to sell as well.

Will definitely miss driving my SUV.  It will be a difference of over 200 horsepower the level of finishes including quality of vehicle glass.  Incredible how well mine blocks out heat without being dark.  I very much appreciate great engineering and design.  So am reverting back to vehicle purpose to be getting one safely from A to B along with performance in the snow.   I did get to enjoy her for the last 7 years.

Car insurance will only drop a couple hundred or so a year as both vehicles are considered very safe despite the big difference in vehicle cost.  But we will be back to using regular gas and gas mileage will increase significantly.  Now that the cottage won't be part of our lives much longer, the longer drives won't be either.  We'll be turning in our 407 transponders (toll highway).

New news with respect to cottage sale.  Got a request from the buyers to move up the closing date by 1 1/2 weeks.  We don't have a problem with that and in fact prefer it.  D will only need to go back up once more to complete everything.  Our lawyer confirmed it is possible timing wise so we are awaiting paperwork to amend the agreement.

Currently considering making a change with D's car as well, to something more practical (higher clearance) to eventually leave out west.  Found another possible choice and will head out of town for a viewing, assuming it is still available.  Same brand of vehicle I was supposed to test drive last month when it sold.

Sold a couple more handbags.  Have a few fall items to bring in when the time comes.  They had been "pre-approved" with the summer lot so are good to go.  Constitutes the last of my luxury items.  Currently have a couple still listed that are at the higher end I'm hoping will sell before their time runs out (all items have a 3 month expiry).  Will consider marking them down.

D had been organizing household items for a garage sale.  It will be his solo endeavor because I'm not into it.  Because of all the stuff that has been going on, it hasn't happened yet.  He's still committed to it for July/Aug.  Any proceeds will go towards his next volunteer trip.  I'd really like him to experience a Habitat Global build. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018


I recently got over a monster of a cold that had me cycling from one fever to the next and sleeping 10 - 12 hrs daily for a solid 5 days.

It was something and luckily, due to the timing, I only had to miss a day of work.  Could have been a lot worse.  Pretty sure it was the 3rd work day I've ever missed due to illness.

The timing of it could be seen as a coincidence, however just as likely to be one of those things that have been known to happen after large worries and stressors fall away, exposing the effects of deep chronic strains on the immune system. 

  • D confirmed that the lack of water described by our Realtor was due to the breaker being turned off to the pump.  Once on, all was well.
  • The results of the water test we wanted done came back perfect. 
  • We didn't have to go through with the water testing as it was not a condition of the sale but wanted to for ethical reasons.  We braced for any potential bad news that would mean a new water filtration system, pump or worst case, a new well. 
  • It still bothers me that perspective real estate buyers in a competitive market have to compromise so much in order to "win".  The offer we didn't want to engage with, that had a lot of conditions was the type of offer I would go in with, and have gone in with.  
  • People are feeling like they have to carry all the risk to get what they want.  Leaves them potentially vulnerable to nasty surprises.  It's a risk I wouldn't want and because of that, wouldn't engage.  And the ones who are being careful, like I would be, are losing out.  I feel bad about that.  
  • Having a high enough volume of people go through the cottage meant floors were dirty and bedroom carpets (off white) left pretty soiled.  D will steam clean before closing. 
  • Our lawyer's office has received the agreement and have officially started working on our end.
  • I completed my course required by a volunteer agency.  Am not truly done as the material requires repetition.  Will give myself some time off before starting again.  
  • Have put my Spanish studies on the back burner so would like to catch up again this summer.  Fortunately our teachers and others we know in Guatemala made it through the eruption alright.
  • A few more consignment items sold -- Two purses, a pair of heels and a skirt.
  • I have the next 2 months off of travel.  Am excited to hang out at home this summer.
  • Not having a lot of success digging up older receipts related to cottage capital expenses -- Towards the calculation of the adjusted cost base.  
  • My fault for not separating them and the real early receipts have been shredded.  And calls to the plumber etc.  have not been fruitful as they only have the last 7 years of receipts.
  • So the number I have for capital gains tax is likely the one we live with.

Friday, June 15, 2018


The cottage was listed the day after we left Canada.  We went with the pricing recommended by our realtor as neither of us had any idea what this year's market was like.  With no real current comparables at the starter end of the spectrum, told her that our goal was to be fair, not greedy.  Plus we believed too, that the market will correct errant pricing either way.

By the time we got settled a couple of days later, we found out about the 10 booked showings.  By the end of the week, there were 20, with 5 registered offers plus 2 others that withdrew for various reasons.   As we were in an a region with rolling blackouts and unreliable internet, we had to make the decision to postpone review of offers until our return 12 days later.

I particularly felt horrified that it would appear as if we were trying to take advantage of the interest to delay, in order to encourage a bidding war, so had to hope that our realtor would be able to relay our situation clearly to the parties involved and trust they would believe us.

D wasn't as concerned as I.  He felt that in this day and age, a simple google of both our names would easily land on my office website with a vacation notice and his LinkedIn and Facebook page.  Just like we would be doing the same with their names later to try and see who we were dealing with.

The world of real estate has changed a lot since our last engagement years ago.  We were impressed with the new software allowing date stamped binding signatures to be made on agreements with simple clicks and a choice of writing styles.  That part was actually fun!  And how the agreement gets emailed to subsequent owners to sign once one person has completed their signing.  Very sleek.

Neither D or I have ever been in a multiple offer situation.  You read about it and see it on the numerous real estate shows but I have to admit, it isn't as glamorous as it appears.  It's pretty nerve wreaking.  There were a couple that gave 1 hour non revocables.   Four out of five changed their conditions and or pricing on the last day.  One sent a personal note.  And we felt very rushed.  It wasn't all that exciting.

D decided to call the bluff on the highest offer (34K over asking) and it worked.  They were not serious, wanted an extension that we were not willing to grant and created a lot of noise and drama for about 40 min.   I didn't have a good feeling about the offer and could have done without that whole interaction.

The second highest offer (10K over asking) didn't get a chance due to lack of time and having the most conditions.  Their realtor called inquiring about status as they were anxious about the outcome.  I felt bad that we didn't engage with them but offering more money did not balance out the sheer amount of steps they needed for a really short closing request (2 1/2 weeks).

We really liked the idea of a quick closing, but to make it work would have involved signing back and trying to change too many things and I didn't want this process to continue all night or into the next days.

We passed on the lowest offer.  There wasn't enough interest to negotiate.  Which left two offers priced the same, one that came a note explaining why the financing clause was present.  We deferred to our realtor's experience with such clauses.

It is getting harder to qualify for 2nd mortgages for recreational properties and it usually involves a bank assessment and she had not been contacted by anyone about that.  In her experience, the whole process has taken up to 10 business days.  She cautioned on any offer that contained it.

When I made my purchase, I used the equity of my then house to self finance it, so avoided that whole application process.  Recreational properties are considered to be higher risk to the bank as they are the first to be defaulted on when things go bad financially.

In the end, the "cleanest", strongest offer (firm, 10K deposit, 6 week closing) was chosen, as is, with no sign back from us requesting more money.  It was for a touch over asking, with no conditions other than to leave it in clean condition with personal effects removed.

They (and everyone else who offered) wanted all the furniture, appliances, everything in the shed and garage, which is what we had hoped, as it meant less work.  Most every major item are in newer condition, within 5 years, so it is move in ready.  D will continue to head up biweekly to enjoy the remaining time as well as maintain the lawn etc.  until closing.

The whole process took about 3 hours the evening after our return.  And I couldn't sleep after, probably from all the adrenaline.  We are super glad that our realtor is experienced and her years of wisdom made all the difference in our interpretation and response to the various parties.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

Almost June

  • Got my hair cut for donation.  Ten inches this time around, leaving me with chin length hair.
  • The car I was considering sold 2 hours before I had a chance to test drive it.  Will put this project on the back burner for a month or two as there is just too much going on right now.
  • My blood test came back and cholesterol levels took a decent dive, so hopefully in my new MD's eyes, will prove that it is not all genetic.  Expecting another re-test in 3 - 4 months.  
  • My plan is to increase cardio training this summer.  And to start cooking more again as we have gone overboard on buying take out food and I'm already seeing an affect on my body.  A sign that life has gotten ahead of us.
  • We went up to the cottage for the long weekend and within a few hours, that same gut feeling of wanting to sell it came around, despite the capital gains thing and what looks best on paper.  
  • So it is finally going to happen.  We met with the same realtor from last year, gave her a set of keys, got the paperwork signed and it will be listed this week.  
  • D spent this past weekend up there getting it all ready.  However, he left his wallet there. We are a 3.5 hr drive away and supposed to be heading to the airport tomorrow.  
  • The new plan is for D to not work the morning so we can go pick it up before heading back down to the airport.  Will be making the best out of it by having lunch out at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant that's on the way instead of the airport.  
  • Had a casual Skype chat/interview with a volunteer agency in Palestine.  I'm feeling drawn back there to help despite feeling un-grounded right now.  I tend to take steps in many directions as feelers to discover the next path.  So no solid commitment yet.  Just possibilities.
  • That new course I've been slogging through is opening my eyes as to my emotional suitability for longer term disaster relief work.   I'm concerned that I won't be able to handle it in a healthy way and would potentially be strongly at risk for post traumatic stress disorders.  I'd still like to give it go once if I'm accepted. 
  • Needless to say, we both feel like we need a vacation.  I can't say where we are planning to be shortly will be all calm and relaxing but we are committed to not push things and do too much.

Friday, May 18, 2018


  • D is off to a good start with his new company.  He is cautious this time around, after so many instances of jumping the gun in his assessments.  The culture is much more laid back, with many people at the managerial levels and up who are super fit.  
  • Very different from his previous experiences.  Maybe the concept of balance is real there?  He's already joined the lunch time running group, the company gym and is getting talked into riding his bike to and from work as there is a safe underground area for storing them.  
  • I vetoed the bike riding idea citing issues with route, timing and just plain old over doing it. After the first couple of runs and workouts, he agreed with me.  Men!
  • I made my first couple of consignment sales!  Someone purchased my Gucci sunglasses and one of my Arcteryx tops.  I hope she is enjoying them very much!  
  • The meditation retreat exceeded my expectations.  It wasn't about relaxation and feeling good.  In fact, I was exhausted and could barely get up and straighten after the first day.  It was about learning the path that can, with enough work and discipline, help you attain the type of amazing control over the mind and body that you read about with yogis.  Something I've been fascinated with for a while.  
  • With some new found clarity, I did end up cancelling my stay and schooling in Guatemala.  Felt relieved afterward so know it was a good decision for right now.  I would have just returned otherwise.
  • For the first time ever, I volunteered my seat on a flight home.  Ended up meeting and hanging out with a couple of people who also did the same as we got vouchers for the same hotel in Tokyo.  Funny how things happen.  Talking with the one fellow, who is also an avid traveler, triggered a major layer from my past that needed clearing.  He was a real mirror for me.  Very thankful for that.
  • D and I are working through some of our tougher emotional scars from the past number of years.  Some quite painful but absolutely necessary in order to move forward.  Nothing will be a quick fix but the intent and honesty components are there.
  • Still working on selling or trading in our vehicles.   Now that D is working, we are much tighter on coordination time.  Found a potential vehicle which I still have to test drive first and currently waiting for a quote.
  • I have started an online course that is a prerequisite for a volunteer organization I'm hoping to be involved with.  It has turned into a bit of a slog.  Understandably so as the materials are serious and requires some deeper thinking about humanitarian responsibility, ethics etc.  The program has really impressed me so far and I'm only 30% through with many dozens of hours ahead.  
  • Not looking like I'll be done work by Dec '18.  Already know that.  Was told if I change my fee structures to monthly instead of yearly, the exit will be much easier.  So I will do just that when all the renewals come around.  It will also give me additional flexibility to be done at any time of the year. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018


The names of certain places have always drawn me in.  Ulaanbaatar, Jakarta, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Ushuaia, Tel Aviv, Svalbard...

I've been reminded often that that phenomenon may not be so common for others by the numerous inquiries as to why it would even cross my mind to go to Mongolia.  Whereas I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to go there.

I wanted to see what life was like for nomadic herders, especially at the end of a long winter when conditions were the toughest on both humans and animals.  So I found a home stay opportunity, packed my warmest gear and hoped that I could hack it.

Mongolia is a harsh country.  Ulaanbaatar is a faster paced city than I expected.  People are assertive and in lot of cases, aggressive.  More than a few times, did I have professionally dressed men and women shove into and past me, trying to get through a doorway.

Minimal personal space observed.  Obvious Russian influence but a lot less resentful or spiteful in tone.  No easy smiles, at least at the beginning.  Dry cold, so didn't hit me as hard as I was expecting.  Was still in the -30s C though.

Young kids and middle age adults wrestle with each other in public.  People are built genetically very sturdy and are quite physical there.  Got hit in the shoulder by a man play fighting with another.  He was very apologetic and I could only look at him in disbelief.  Some much there was foreign to me.

A lot of the apartment buildings in the city felt crumbly, sad and run down.  No real beauty in their design.  And inside, lighting is minimal and to be honest, scary feeling and the often sole light bulb would be on a timer and would turn off before the elevator arrived.

On weekends, happy kids play in the public playgrounds like kids do, with much laughter and joy.

It would have been very helpful had I learned some Cyrillic in advance.  Just didn't get around to it.  The language barrier was immense and awkward.  When my driver dropped me off, the weight of what I had signed up for really hit me.

Fortunately for me, once my hosts realized that I had a language sheet with basic phrases and was interested in trying to communicate, they gave me a phrase book which I used, providing much comic relief, to ask questions and tell them a little about myself.

It made meal times more comfortable as sitting completely silent with them for 3 meals a day would have been quite awkward, had it continued for the duration.  I had the choice to eat in my ger but that felt too much like being served and didn't want that.  Incidentally, I loved Mongolian cuisine, way more than Nepali.

Life as a nomadic herder is repetitive with consistent long days.  I kept their hours which was from 5:40 am - 7 pm.  And despite them both being in their 60s, neither of them have taken more than 2 days off in a row ever.  They care for their animals too much to leave any longer.  Work is ongoing, with little physical comfort.

We sat on small stools without backs.  Meals were made from scratch.  Water had to be gathered.  No running water.  My ger was dimly lit by one light bulb, powered by a car battery.

My tiny battery powered lantern was the source of great curiosity as the amount of light that came from it surprised everyone.  There would have been no way I could read or write otherwise.

They practiced a seemingly never ending rotation system as the ground barely had any growth or animals to eat.  Cows and horses were led hundreds of meters up hills where the sun exposed some low growing vegetation.

I came expecting to see weakened and thin animals and thought it would be a sad sight.  But the opposite was true.  I have never seen such strong and muscular animals.   Had to walk through about 30 of them to get to the outhouse as they were all intermixed.  Very intimidating at the start.

If this was the toughest time of year for them, I can't imagine how they would be in the height of the summer.  The horses and cows were all so beautiful and calm.  Even the sheep and goats were muscular and sturdy.

Work outside is tough.  First the temperatures.  They will hit -50s C in the height of the winter.  And heating is with wood during the day from the kitchen.  You cook with the same stove.  Slept on a minimally padded wooden bed -- Back felt like it was going to break in half part way through the first night.  At night, one pail of coal will keep burning for 12 hours.

It didn't even take one night in a ger to understand the importance of that.  I still had to sleep with a -18 C rated sleeping bag, hat, gloves, ski pants, down jacket and sleeping pad.  Without the added heat and my gear, it would have been miserable.

I'm still amazed (smell aside) how well the coal worked and the important a role it plays, and will continue to play, despite my original environmental ideals.  Now I understand why it is used to fuel steam engines, giant power plants.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Inching Forward

D has been offered a 6 month contract position, to start shortly.  He's relieved to finally be given the opportunity to be able to try this out, with enough time to get a feel for things before my planned decision time.  Update:  Just got asked if he would be available to extend to 9 months...he said yes.  So that pushes things out until early Feb '19.

In the meantime, we've been working hard at getting quotes for the sale of antiques as well as other more luxury items on consignment.  All towards the goal of selling our house, should the time come.  After much discussion, we have agreed that the main house will be sold before the cottage once neither of us are working.  We both feel that we'll eventually be drawn to the mountains out west.

Trying to sell things drums up so many emotions.  I find myself re-living the joy of the purchases, the whys, the cost, as well as the small tugs to keep instead of let go, especially when told of how much it will sell for now versus the original purchase price.

Quite a bit of embarrassment as well, when I realize just how many pairs of high heels I still own despite a previous purge, some only worn once or twice and how many more formal / cocktail dresses, purses, coats etc. are in the same boat...

I don't have any experience selling clothing on consignment, only from selling period jewelry.  It's quite sophisticated now, with online accounts and semi professional assessors who validate items.  Where they send it to, I don't know.  But it can take up to a week.  This particular spot keeps 60% -- ouch!  Although the amount of work they do to market things is impressive.  So I concentrated on the higher end stuff with them -- Gucci, Hermes, Lancel etc.

Because I've been so busy and away so much, D went on my behalf.  To my surprise, he actually volunteered.  I was actually embarrassed for him, as it is such a girl thing.  But he stepped up and brought 24 items (purses, travel bags, shoes, dresses, sunglasses, coat etc) housed in garment bags, shoe bags and duffel bags on my behalf.  Whatever doesn't sell in 90 days, I get back.  So we'll see.

Have been working on pricing / trading in / selling our cars as well.  Stemming from a loosely thought out idea of leaving simpler, less expensive ones out west and up north, as they would not be driven much should we be splitting our time between the two.  Frustrating to say the least.  All good lessons on the non glamorous consequences of consumerism.  Sure has made me think longer and harder on what I allow to come into the house now.

Plus the act of pulling out stuff, dealing with it mentally and emotionally has been tiring.  And to think that I've often thought that I do not own a lot of stuff... A (wo)man made problem.  We have also been eyeing what pieces of furniture to transfer up to the cottage, to increase comfort there.  Having piles out all over the place is not conducive to zen.  Good thing my meditation retreat is upon me.

I've modified a few of my travel plans this year as well.  Partly due to work as well as being needed at home.  Unfortunately due to timing, my trip to Norway was one of the ones that had to be sacrificed for now.  There was only one small portion of it that has been prepaid and non refundable.  Have been especially impressed with how well things work online with SAS airlines.

Having had opportunities to fly on both A350 and A380 this year, I have to say that I was not impressed with the A350.  Whereas the A380 was so great.  And I'm referencing economy class.  Been lucky this year with respect to surprise upgrades.  Got to fly in a premium cabin as well as in first when my flights to and from Seoul were oversold during the Olympics and Paralympics.  A very nice surprise and gift.

I've been tempted to forgoing my next round of Spanish lessons in Guatemala in lieu of more free flow time and self study.  It goes against my left brain to "quit" like that but my right brain is currently leading the charge.  A rather large pile of "verbos que cambio" flash cards is staring at me as I type this.  D feels I ought to give myself a break from controllable pressures.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Taipei was a treat to visit.  I was drawn there as I often am, due to it simply being new to me.  But in my mind, I had anticipated the result to be towards the "one and done" end of the spectrum because of previous experiences around large groups of mandarin speaking people.

Am referring to the often loud and seemingly uncaring demeanor displayed by large tour groups (bus) from mainland China taking over wherever they seem to be -- South of France, Paris, Rome, Bangkok, ski resorts, Hong Kong etc.  I seem to run into this growing industry everywhere I go now.

But Taipei was different.  The city, while not glitzy, was quiet.  People spoke Mandarin softly, often with gentle personalities.  What a surprise that was to me!  You can actually relax there.  Certainly didn't expect that in a large Asian capital city.  And the city is low key (in my opinion) in the best sort of way.

This country may very well be as close as I'll ever get to visiting China (as an adult, been there as a child but don't remember a whole lot) just because of how I've come to dislike that type of behaviour and disruption.  Despite knowing I'll be missing out on world treasures, beautiful landscapes and great food.

Before arriving here, I had thought places like Bangkok cornered the market with food availability and density but Taipei blew it right out of the park.  Barely had time to eat at all the places within a 2 block radius in the 5 days I was there.

It was pretty unbelievable that so many small restaurants / food stalls can be supported.  Found it unnecessary to have to seek out certain places I read about, as the standard was high almost everywhere I went.  Also noticed a strong Japanese presence and influence.  Another aspect I hadn't expected.

Taipei is known for their night markets and I only went to a small neighbouring one.  Pretty exotic food options.  Found some of the smells a bit too much for me but that's my issue.  Everyone there were enjoying themselves.  Loved all the carnival like games that attracted the young and older.

This is the type of short taster trip I tend to take nowadays.  If the place catches me, I'll go back and delve deeper.  And I'll definitely go back.  The rest of the country is quite rural with some high mountains, known by climbers and bike packers.  So that has peaked D's interest too.  

He will likely never want to travel as much I do in a year, but there are certain places (the likes of Istanbul -- done, Hong Kong -- this year, Bangkok -- done, Palestine, rural Jordan, Rio, rural Norway, Greenland, Mongolia etc.) I really would like for us to experience together, and this is yet another great city to add to the list.

Don't have any new photos to add -- They are located 2 posts back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Had a great time being part of the admissions committee of my Alma mater.  Got to assess a group of applicants both verbal and written.  After the first two, I was unsure as I didn't find them particularly strong and worried I was being too hard on them.

But once you get that first exceptional candidate, I knew I was fine to trust in my ratings.  It's a very hopeful feeling, being in that energy.   Actually made me tell D that if I were to retire, I won't get to do this next year!

Life has been pretty hectic as I had to start my assessments (late) right after returning from my first truly challenging locale of 2018.  Still feeling a bit shattered.  Have a backlog of things to say but will eventually get to it...

Leaving the city, feeling very nervous

My home for the week...

When the roads end and you start following tracks

View of Ulaanbaatar from the 7th floor
of the State Department Store

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

At Present

D still went through a Sunday night dread of the Monday morning work day, even though he knew he wasn't going back. I think it will take a few more weeks before his negative emotional imprint loosens up.
Unplanned, I had what was likely my last major work related assessment (likely no longer working by the time the next cycle comes around) on the same day as D's last day of full time work.  So there was much to celebrate.  However, we were kind of snowed in, so we had a peaceful and laid back weekend instead.

I've quite enjoyed the winter we've been having.  A real traditional Canadian winter.  The snow quality has been excellent, mostly dry powder, unlike the usual damp-ish "heart attack" snow.  We've walked a lot and that has helped both our frames of mind.  

Surprisingly, neither of us are hugely concerned about the money situation, with just one of us working.  Guess it has to do with our long standing set up of being each other's back up.  On paper it made sense but feeling it in action is different.  Plus I really like having him at home.  Not having a mortgage nor any large monthly payments obviously makes a huge difference.  

Will assess how things feel with respect to my work in June (or each June), for a Dec end.  Have had a number of visual and mental scenes pop up over the last months.  Still not wanting to dwell on them as I'll instinctively jump into plan and direct mode, rather just allow myself to listen and feel.  

My gut and intuition played a huge role in was what lead to me being where I am today.  Having spent so many years using my left brain calculating and planning, I feel it is time to again allow intuition be at the forefront again to guide me through this next transition.

Not intended to help with this, I've signed up for a meditation weekend.  A first.  Not sure what to expect.  

Had my meeting with my new Dr re:  My elevated blood lipid results and she wanted have me start meds right away.  After some directed questioning and discussion, I will be getting sent for a couple of additional tests.

Plus some additional time to allow potential working of a few natural approaches before I would be willing to accept that I may be dealing with a genetic component to this issue.  Disappointed if that turns out to be the case but I know my dad has been on a statin for decades.

She is justifiably worried about damage and I'm concerned about not having the chance to try everything I can. 

Scenes from Taipei, Taiwan 
A real surprise for me
Laid back city, quiet, full of gentle people

Taken a week before the earthquakes

Monday, January 22, 2018


  • It's done -- D gave his notice and will be ending the full time chapter of his working life in another 3 weeks. 
  • For the first time since I've known him, he doesn't have anything else lined up.  He's going to coast for while, take time to recover from those many long working months and see if a shortish contract position comes up as he'd like to try it out for size.  
  • Our original "date" for him to end full time work was supposed to have been Aug '18.  We continue to discuss the ramifications of this change along with many alternate visions for the future.
  • I had saved up for my 2018 year's registered account but won't deposit it yet, so we will have at least 6 months of monthly expenses without having do anything out of the ordinary with my income or other savings accounts.
  • In the meantime, I will be experimenting with up to another 3 weeks off, to see if it can satisfy my desire for more time, without outright being done with work just yet.  
  • I'm frustrated with the amount of time I waste and want an opportunity to do better within the already rather liberal "confines" of my current schedule.  Know a number of much busier people who manage to juggle way more things than I.
  • Although I have to admit, with D being done soon, I am feeling the pull to also be done.
  • My hair is at the perfect length for another cut and donate in the spring.  Wish to continue to do this until I no longer meet the requirements of this program ( > 5% grey or coloured).  
  • Even though I track the 3 strands of grey that has popped up in the same area the last 5 - 6 years, I'm still taken back those instances when I happen to notice them all at the same time.  A visual reminder of my mortality.
  • My eyes have held well.  Still considered 20 - 20 vision with my right eye better at close and left better at far.  Apparently you have to pay extra to make them that way when going for laser eye surgery.  Doesn't make sense to me.  Would rather they be identical as I notice the difference and it doesn't feel like a benefit.
  • My new MD seems quite competent.  Will know more when we get together to discuss my health status at our next meeting.  My blood lipid levels are up so her reactions to the numbers will tell me about her leanings re:  traditional medical management.
  • My lipid levels have in the past spiked during times of stress.  Whether long term damage has been done is more the direction of inquiry I would like to take.
  • It was a challenging week of Spanish in Guatemala.  I was assigned a different teacher who is more old school and a real stickler for grammar thus learned a lot of nuances and details that filled in some gaps.  Easily 8+ hours a day worth of work. 
  • I have one more session in Guatemala booked in a few months and it will likely be my last as I now have some tools to continue on independently for the next little while.  
  • Should I decide to go back, I will be looking for a difference place to stay.  The apartment I have been renting has jumped up in price, double plus, and I won't pay it. 
  • The owner has been influenced and perhaps changed by her new boyfriend who happens to be Norwegian.  I don't think she could have found a more contrasting nation financially to be exposed to.  
  • After spending time in his home city, I sense the perception of her time and worth has shifted.  Whether the demand will be there for her rentals at the new asking price, the market will determine.  I can understand how hard it would be to not feel dissatisfied when faced with the generalize wealth and apparent ease of life that emanates there.
  • Lucky me will finally get to return to Norway this fall.  To a region I've longed to see.  

Adjacent to Parque Central, Antigua Guatemala 
with Volcan de Agua in the background, dusk

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nov / Dec '17

  • Ending 2017 much more tired than expected.  Slept a lot the first 2 days upon arriving out west.  Had I stayed home, there would have been less pressure but when the view is of the mountains, I expected to be able to get outside and moving pronto.  Not curled up inside.
  • Am less fit as revealed by my recent winter hikes.  Thought I had caught up some when my heel improved but not enough.  Caught me off guard too.  Conditioning is an easy thing to lose and punishing to feel.  Temporarily made better by a couple of fresh chewy chocolate ginger cookies with a mug of coffee with Amarula...
  • The travel claim from D's injury finally did get approved.  Cheque has been received and cashed.  Grateful for insurance.  Despite an injury, D's conditioning remains high.  How unfair is that??!!
  • All the follow up appointments for my gum surgery has been completed.  The procedure went really well and I would not be concerned if I were to need anything else in the future.  As strange as this may sound, I really like my periodontist.  He is super calm and zen.  Want to be more like him.
  • Been cheating quite a bit this holiday with treats (sugar, dairy, wheat etc) and over all caloric intake.  Have enjoyed every bite!  Once we return home in a few days, the clamp down will automatically begin as it is so much easier to be good there.
  • Had a weird thing happen with my cell phone once I got up to the ski condo.  Within 3 minutes I got a text warning that I was at 90% of my data usage, then another showing I was over 5 minutes later.  All the while my phone was just on while it was trying to connect to the wifi.  
  • Thought it had to be an error with my phone (getting old?) as my average monthly usage is around 300 megs / 1 gig.  So didn't think anything of it but logged into my account the next day to check just in case.  Found an overuse charge due to those incidents, so called in to report it.  After the agent looked at my history, the charge was taken off but she wasn't sure exactly what had happened. 
  • My cell phone no longer supports an important travel app I use.  Am going to see if I can work around it.  If not, I will have to consider a newer phone.  The way plans are now in Canada, I would have to sign up for a new one, which will be at least $100 a month.  And depending on the phone I want, would be free or $200 and up.  Will see how my next trip goes and decide after.
  • Our internet at the condo isn't working.  One of the providers pulled out this season, so those users would have signed up with ours and somehow our connection get disconnected.  We've been given a number of general accounts to use in the meantime until they sort this out.  
  • Not crucial for me but D needs a strong connection for his work.  And the ones given are OK for general usage but not for what he needs so he has been tethering off his phone.  Supposed to get a credit for the time up until they get it fixed.  Apparently this is happening all over the mountain.  
  • Am in the midst of cram time for my Spanish.  Will be heading down to Guatemala soon for another week of studies and have been a bit too lax with my homework.  Should have spent energy criticizing myself instead of D...
  • I am happy 2017 is coming to an end.  2018 is another opportunity to test out new ideas and placements.  Let's see if the latest rejig is really the best version ever.  All the best to you and yours!  

Taken from The Peak, Hong Kong

Except this one, which was taken from Hong Kong harbour, Central

Thursday, December 21, 2017


The more I travel, the more I see the increasingly negative effects of tourism on places and people.  Especially when the discrepancy between the tourist and destination country is high.

I knew about the gaps in income, freedom, mobility etc.  and have tried my best to stay and eat at locally run places, despite it not always being comfortable or convenient.  My thought has been that I was there to gain some insight to the local culture, rather than insulate myself with relative luxury.

Despite efforts, in some destinations more than others, I've been automatically labeled as the "rich foreigner" and the "hard sell" or 2 tiered pricing immediately occurs, which I do not appreciate.  It doesn't feel good to be on guard each time you leave your hotel.  It can be a deterrent.  And the surprising discovery was that in some cases, the touts aren't poor, but are trying to act like it, praying on emotions and it works for them.

I've also noticed an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, anger and resentment.  Maybe stemming from consistently being around people who seem carefree, well fed, with no worries or troubles, loose with spending.

It would be difficult to be facing all of this day in and day out while putting in up to 17 hour days all the while trying to keep an enthusiastic front in hope of receiving a good tip.  You can feel and see that expectation, while the local community often do not tip.

In some places, the income potential of those in tourism has outstripped those working in education, health care.  So it has created a situation where villages are losing needed professionals to the tourist trade, leaving schools and hospitals short of key people, thus rendering parts of country under serviced.  An unexpected and unintended consequence of "development and success".

I didn't entirely love my recent time spent in Moshi, Tanzania although I met some really smart and kind people.  Ate some incredible food -- never had Swahili food before and everything I had was so flavourful and delicious!  The infrastructure is at a much higher level than Uganda.  Main roads excellent condition.  Government paid education.  HIV infection rate approx. 5.7% vs 94+%.  Still some burning of plastics but not to the same extent, thankfully!

Had the same driver to and from the airport and after we got through the why I didn't join any tours while there and the sell, we got talking about what I did do with my time.  It was only then that his tone changed and he softened, when I described where I walked, what I ate (knew the Swalihi names and prices by then) and how great and what high value I thought the food was compared to some of the "recommended" places I read about, all of them I ended up going in and immediately turning to leave.

It was then he told me that people will pay much higher rates because they felt that at those places they would be "safer".  To which I questioned, from what?  The hard sell, yes, but from what else, I'm not sure.  I felt that my driver felt somewhat insulted by that action, even though those clients are likely to be good tippers.  A conflict there.

The tourist industry is a huge well oiled machine in Tanzania.  With the cache of Kilimanjaro and access to the Serengeti, there is a consistent influx of people from all over the world who arrive single minded to fulfill their dreams and bucket lists.  Travelling around in rows of Land Rover Defenders.  I didn't like the feel of it and am in no hurry to buy into it.  Don't know why it stood out so much for me here as I've experienced pushy people elsewhere.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Brain Dump cont'd

  • I met a lovely retired couple from Utah on my way to Oban from Glasgow.  We ended up at the same seafood restaurant for lunch and decided to sit together.  They had flown in from Manchester to spend 4 days in Scotland.  A small break from their year of service at a local church.  
  • They silently went to pay for my lunch and when I found out, I had to insisted strongly to pay my own way.  I told them that their gesture alone was something I would cherish and not forget.  Such pure and kind people.  It was their 3rd time doing an oversea church mission.  Once in Brazil and twice in England.  
  • One of their daughters was on the national latin dance team so it was very interesting for me to hear about her training schedule.   Their love for each other and warmth when speaking about family and service literally wraps around you.  It was so nurturing being in their company.  The world needs more people like them.  
  • Sat beside another fun couple on my way back from LA.  They took to calling me "kiddo" and were quite distressed when my luggage was late arriving, even though it had been labelled priority.  They knew that I was dangerously close to missing my next connection.  You should have seen how concerned they were and how disappointed that I wasn't seeing my case.  The care shown by complete strangers has again and again astounded me and given me hope for this world.  
  • For someone who doesn't have to travel for business, I fly a lot -- Have 12 flights on my travel roster.  Two remaining for this year -- Should have been one but I managed to use that flight credit from D's injury.  So that leaves 10 for between Jan - Aug of next year and I'm excited for all of them.  
  • Maybe hard to believe but I will actually work a week more in 2017 than I did in 2016.  And on track to work 2 weeks more in 2018.  A lot depends on how the days fall each month.  As soon as I get my hands on the following year's daytimer, I track yearly minimum working days like a hawk on a spreadsheet as I go into planning mode.  
  • A few years ago, I was at the bottom end of the airline status ladder and when I started to fly to Asia, my airline mileage climbed naturally.  Had never expected to reach top tier this year.  It did make me stop and realized just how many hours of sitting I've done in airplane seats.  D just shakes his head when we sit down to go over my travel calendar.  He still gets to pick and choose the ones he'll join me for. 
  • I get to see and sit by a lot of business travelers.  Some who fly to Asia a few times a month.  And they seem to take everything in stride.  I cannot imagine how hard that would be.  And be functional at the other end immediately for a meeting or presentation.  They are true road warriors.
  • And for sure, sometimes my back and legs suffer for it.  But by in large I quite enjoy the process.  Yup, it's great to have access to the airline lounges and extra leg room seats for free and score the occasional upgrade to first.  However, most important of all, is knowing that my preferred airline will take care of me should things go south.  I rarely ever have to wait long when I have to call in for something.
  • I know where to buy great food to bring on board at certain airports -- Current favorites are from Minneapolis airport Terminal 1.  Smack Shack -- They sell lobster rolls and giant prawn cocktail.  Black Sheep -- Coal fire pizzas.  And Lake Wine Kitchen + Bar for a great blueberry, candied pecan and prosciutto salad that goes along perfect with the prawn cocktail.  For 14+ hr flights, it's nice to have some real food with you.
  • I am super excited for the finalization of the joint venture between Delta and Korean Air.  It will make flying to Asia more comfortable and seamless.  I really like the flight times and level of service that Korean Air offers.  And being optimistic here when I hope for more moderate flight pricing as well.  
  • I don't spend near as much as one might naturally think on my travel each year.  I know what "normal pricing" is and what would constitute a "good deal" for different parts of the world.  Especially nowadays, as I stay in more local establishments, run by individual families.  Makes a big difference, plus the bonus of directly supporting them.
  • When I go back even 4 years ago and compare what I spent then, what those spots are currently charging compared to places I would pick now -- Huge difference in cost.  It has been a mindset change on my end as well.  That is also why the push to learn languages better so I could function more effectively when I find myself in a home stay situation or in more out of the way places where you cannot assume anyone can speak English.
  • My year's worth of flights cost similar in range to a family of 4's 1 to 2 week Disney adventure, depending on whether they are staying on site or off, 5 star or 3.  
  • And I never ever forget, no matter where or what situation I may find myself in, that air travel is a huge privilege.  There are many in the world who will go their entire lives never stepping foot on a airplane because they are unable to afford it.
  • Thank you for indulging me in these last few spewing posts.  I know there is an unprecedented amount of digital noise and chatter that exists in our daily lives and you do not necessarily need more.  

Friday, November 10, 2017


I have been working with a young man at work over the past few months.  He was new to the area and had a real attitude when we first met.  I chalked it up to him being male, 21 years old and probably not wanting to be there.

Recently his mom told me when she dropped him off that he told her that he really liked working with me.  Nothing like a comment like that to make a young man blush.

Guess I had finally made it it through that tough exterior of his with our occasional side conversations about the state of the world.  Although his very primative opinions on the non existence of Palestine made me bite my tongue pretty hard.

So now whenever he comes in, he'll throw something at me, almost like a test, to see if he could teach me a thing or two.  The last subject was Iran, which he really didn't know a whole lot about...oh the chutzpah of a 20 something male...

Then his chronic disease took a turn for the worse and suddenly he was down to 130 lbs.  For a 6 ft 7" guy, that is dramatic.  And I was suddenly struck with the feeling that I was witnessing someone who was wasting away right in front of me.  That realization along with the frightful look in his eyes completely gutted me.

So I took control of the conversation one day when he was trying to explain to me the whole caloric system.  And I told him I didn't care about that.  All I cared about was that if he was capable of only eating 5 tablespoons of something in a day, it needs to be high density, ideally protein and every tablespoon needs to count.

I don't usually speak to someone in such a dictatorial way.  I could tell that my firmness caught him by surprise but I couldn't stand around listening to him tell me how he was trying to eat toast.  All I saw was someone who looked like they were dying.

My mind was working on a plan B, even when I was in Tokyo, should things not have improved by the time I returned.  Subsequently found out that one of his Drs changed up some meds that had known abdominal side effects and he had been eating again since and had regained a number of pounds. 

What a relief.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Brain Dump

  • Had been temporarily feeling highly irritable.  Think food additives may have something to do about it and sensitivity to caffeine.  Had completed a detox and forgot that afterwards can be extra affected by even small amounts of substances I do not normally take in.  Supposed to know better.  Hate feeling so volatile.
  • Because of the heightened emotional sensitivity, other things not related to me are bothering me.  Like D's many missed Spanish lessons making me feel like I've made a mistake recommending them to him.  The control freak in me is on overdrive with the lack of accountability I have been witnessing.  For the record, I know I sound completely insane...
  • My mind is also likely preoccupied with an upcoming periodontal procedure (logical or not, I am blaming my electric toothbrush).  We have no coverage for it and nothing specialty dental comes cheap.  But, I will get some days off afterwards, which I don't mind right now.  Good opportunity for an attitude adjustment.  Update:  procedure was short and sweet.  Currently recovering at home.  Thus the extra verbiage... too much time on my hands as I cannot do anything strenuous for 3 days.
  • The irritated state lasted the morning.  Once I got to work and started focusing on my day, things normalized.  Huge reason I continue to grapple with the complete retirement choice.  Am not convinced it would be the healthiest decision for someone like me, who can get carried away living in her mind, despite the vision I saw and felt. 
  • And really, how different would my life be with the extra time I'd gain?  I'd probably still be working out, travelling, studying Spanish.  Maybe more of each but I am not seeing what major new component would come into play that would make life even more full than it already is.  I like the amount of variety I have in my life right now.
  • That travel claim related to D's fracture is still not completed.  They needed more info and through the process, we found out that our medical Dr was retiring as of the end of Oct.  Feel really sad about it as I will miss him so much.  Been with him for the entire 20 years I've been here.  Even though my file is probably only single digit pages thick, I've always trusted him as a practitioner and he always took me seriously.  The community has lost a good one.
  • Same with my dental secretary who retired this summer.  Such a wonderful person.  Because I canceled my appointment, I never got to say goodbye and thank you in person.  And that bothers me.
  • We are currently registered at a local clinic for our "meet and greet" with our potential new MDs in the new year.  I guess there is still a chance they won't like us and we won't have new doctors.  The whole "interview" process feels so ridiculous to me.
  • Am slowly getting caught up with all those health maintenance appointments now.  Eye check is next.  Took the summer off from pretty much everything in that department.  Just didn't want to commit to anything on my off days as D's schedule and all the changes that caused tired both of us out.
  • It doesn't help that we just returned from Tokyo, a city where quiet, calm and politeness permeates.  And then jump right into the reel rock experience.  However, I do not believe that I could ignore the lack of manners displayed by some even at a time when I wasn't extra irritated.  
  • D has had a few interviews.  Nothing has come out of it yet.  And he was right, there has been some improvements at work.  But still not enough.  And for some reason, he isn't finding the numbers of quality of opportunities right now.  It feels like he is starting to lose his confidence.  
  • He has been grappling with the concept of loss.  Aren't we all in our own ways?  Loss of health, loss of opportunities, loss of confidence in our bodies, loss of etc. etc.  I wouldn't consider it a mid life crisis, rather a strong stop and gather status wise.  
  • I hate it when things mess up my work email or cellphone.  Whenever D has some idea of a cool app or update I should have, I am extremely hesitant about adopting it.  Because it has happened enough times that it ends up slowing down my phone or computer or something that should not have been erased ends up getting erased and he can't get it back... just sends me.  And yes, we are dealing with yet another situation right now.
  • There is some good stuff stuck in my brain.  I still remember fondly a conversation I had with a bright young man on a bus in Vietnam en route to Sapa.  Super well versed and wise for his age.  His mom works for an NGO in Denmark and she got an overseas position in Phnom Penh and they were in Vietnam to do a trek as a family.  
  • Ended up bumping into them after the trek (we did different routes) and had an ice coffee with his mom outside on the balcony.  Told her just how impressed I was with the demeanor of her children, how they carried themselves, how smart and mature they were.  She said that they teach them to be but really don't know if it will translate until they get to demonstrate it in the world.  It was also very gratifying for her to see.
  • On the same trip, on a crazy 10 hour or so nighttime sleeper train ride from Hanoi, I ended up in a room with 3 guys (4 bunk beds) and the guy above me watched something on his laptop that the rest of us (based on each of our shocked and disgusted expressions of him) strongly felt resembled porn, as he proceeded to jerk off.  His bed side light throwing the shadow of his actions onto our room door.  
  • The 2 other guys promptly turned and slept away from his direction whereas I wondered who would come to my aid if dude above tried anything.  I placed my confidence on the Aussie guy, whose family took up the room next to us.  When dude above would climb down, he consistently managed to step half way onto my bed, onto my leg, with no apology.  Seriously, I ended up kicking him.  Even then, he never said a word to any of us.  On the way down, I ended up in the same train compartment with the Aussie guy and we had a good laugh about it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How We Turn Out -- More Questions Than Answers

A lot of our friends / colleagues / family are heavily into the child / teen / young adult rearing phases of their lives.  Hearing and seeing how these young people are turning out have given us joy, worry and a lot of unanswered questions.

  • How is it that a child who participates for the first-time-ever at an intro novice cheer team / musical comedy group / dance class end up going to the "nationals" by the end of the year?  Do you not have to work years at a craft anymore to earn your way up to it?  Who is banking all the money at these events?  Parents are paying thousands to send their kids and cannot opt out as they wouldn't want their child to let down the rest of the team.  And all the brouhaha is supposed to elevate your child's self esteem?
  • It amazes me how many parents I come across who are literally "tip toeing" around their kids.  Like they are afraid they would hold them back / curtail their enthusiasm / harm them for life should they speak their mind about whatever.  As a parent, I am expecting them to teach.  They are supposed to have more life experience.  Not speaking up allows their kids to potentially follow an unrealistic route or develop a mindset that isn't congruent with what they will eventually face when they have to try to stand on their own two feet.
  • Why are some parents OK with the prospect of their young adults staying home indefinitely?  Yes, it may be lonely to think of life without some other bodies under the same roof, but isn't that the point of parenthood -- To bring up people who will go forth and be / do something in the world?  Rather than feed your own insecurities or to fill the voids caused by a lack luster marriage?
  • How does someone make it to the age of 18 and not know how to hand wash dishes, or use a washing machine or a vacuum??  When this question comes from another 18 year old who is finding herself having to teach her roommate, it is particularly hilarious.  What were their parents thinking?  Again, if they feel they are deserving of parent of the year awards, I believe they many be holding the wrong parenting measuring sticks.
  • Why are some parents allowing their toddlers and young children speak / yell / screech at such high volumes and even respond back similarly in encouragement?  Why would you want to encourage that when in regular life, you would not be communicating in that manner?
  • Why is it "enduring" when your late teen son managed to lose 3 iphones over the course of a year resulting in 3 out of contract purchases amounting to thousands?  How could that be "cute" and not worthy of a good scolding rather than continuing to be enabling?
  • I don't understand the need to continually complement young girls / women on their looks as if that is all they have to be proud of.  Especially when their look consists of daily applications of half a bottle of foundation and false eyelashes.  Do guys really go for that??!!  Even some of the most naturally beautiful girls have succumbed to that (horrid) look for prom and to me it totally wrecks it. 
  • It feels dangerous to me the habit of rewarding a child and lavishing him / her for no real reason other than they happen to exist.  Some parents are losing their identity and starting to fail in providing a model for what a healthy adult is.  And the child learns they can just sit there and there will be praise.  No effort required to earn it. Every kid just wins.  It feels very warped to me.  

All of the above -- Easy to say when you don't have kids, right?  I have no answers to offer, just select recent observations.  And having also recently sat in a theater full of millennials displaying many of the same characteristics as described above, I don't have a whole lot of confidence in a number of their futures as well functioning people.

The films we saw at the event, however, do inspire.  Check these out if you can.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Learned something interesting this summer while we were away -- My job is more taxing mentally than 4 consecutive hours of private Spanish lessons a day for 5 days.  Whereas an hour of private salsa lesson is harder than my treadmill workout.

When I signed up for all that, I felt apprehensive about my potential concentration level, the amount of energy I'd need, whether it was a mistake to spend summer holidays at school, and if I'd regret not having a more leisurely time.  But, I had also reached a point where not knowing the language beyond the super basics was hindering my future plans.  So it was time to go for it.

In the end the only thing that stood out was the structure that existed with having set class times.  Not used to that much scheduling during vacation so it was less relaxing because of it.  And obviously the daily homework.  Feet hurt from dance -- First real test since my injury.

Ended up with 2 top notch teachers.  Got way more out of both classes than I could have imagined.  My Spanish teacher just started talking to me and because I wasn't going to answer in just "yes / no" or with basic replies, it forced me to learn so I could answer with the depth and variety as if I was speaking to someone in English.  The hours just flew and I wasn't tired at the end.

D opted for 2 hours a day and I could hear that he had had enough by the end of it.  He was a trooper though as I tried to convince him to just lay low for the duration but he didn't want to miss out on the opportunity.  Whereas he was a definite no-go for salsa -- D is not a dancer...

I've had 3 ballroom instructors in Canada and none of them comes close to the one I had in Antigua, Guatemala.  Really pushed me.  And she happens to specialize in "lady styling".  So hard to make it look easy and natural but I so want to learn more from her.

Originally wanted to take 2 hours a day but thankfully I dialed it back because it would have flattened me.  It was private ballet lesson hard.  None of my previous ballroom teachers ever challenged me as much as she did.  Absolutely loved it.  Lit a fire.

Absolutely worth flying down to Guatemala just to learn.  Will be back 2 more times in '18.  And trying to carve time to continue my studies at home.  D started Skype lessons with my Spanish teacher.

We've paid for 20 hours but I haven't used any of it yet.  Not sure if I will or not.  Been too preoccupied with other things.  Good thing I'm good with self study.  Have Spanish movies on as background occasionally to keep the language up in my mind.

Incidentally I found the Spanish spoken in Mexico city quite difficult to understand.  So fast and not a lot of space that my ear could detect in between words.  Felt quite discouraged right away and ended up leading with "thank you for your patience, I just started learning Spanish recently...".