Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tokyo




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.













Friday, January 13, 2017

HNY


Hope 2017 has already been great for all of you.

Thought it would be nice for the first post of the year to involve a story.  








Friday, December 16, 2016

Oh Boy, It Was Hard

But what a way to end the year. 







Estimated depth of debris field is 30 m of rock and ice.

A memorial remembering those who lost their lives in the earthquake
and subsequent avalanche and landslide -- Langtang, Nepal.















Here are links to some short videos worth watching. 






Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Bug Has Bitten

D had a phenomenal time at his first volunteer placement.  So much so, he has already committed to going back next year.  The dates have been set and unfortunately will not work for me.  So he will again be representing us.  I'm super proud of him.

D didn't grow up in a family that is very giving.  So they don't really know what to make of it nor why he would even choose something like this.  Come to think of it, neither would mine.

This build was not a typical one, meaning there was a definite completion point for the volunteers.  In a Habitat build for example, you do what you can, and the monies contributed by team members ensure that local tradespeople will continue and finish the project when your time there was over.

There was difficulty getting tradespeople to work as most younger villagers (especially ones who can speak English) have moved to the city to find work and are away most of the year.

And the ones who may have been previously interested had been used to being paid incredible amounts of money by one of the "big name" charities that walzed into the area, had one structure built to specs that wasn't right for the region and subsequently, it has sat empty and rotting since.

That one action has had a long and negative influence on so many levels.  Whereas for a very small fraction of the money spent above, some real long term good has come out of the small locally run NGOs.

In addition to basic living (tent, no hot water), the work was physically hard with long and early days in order to escape the heat.  It cooled down to single digits (Celsius) at night so the team had to be equipped with enough layers for warmth.

I got to meet most of D's team during our overlap days.  The roster consisted of mostly outdoor adventurer types with impressive personal achievements.  Pretty inspiring company.  I can see why he enjoyed being around them so much.

A big question mark was whether D's back would hold up with all the hard labour.  It did and we are both very thankful for that.  He hasn't worked physically hard like that for years and it felt good.  Understandably, everyone pretty much just crawled into their tents at night and fell right asleep.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Random 2

  • I never thought there was much difference in automobile glass until we got our Subaru.  On a sunny summer day, you could fry an egg on of your head if you were inside the car, under the sunroof.  It was so hot, that we had to keep it closed.  Plus you could feel the amount of heat that was coming through the inside of the rest of the roof. 
  • Still no estimate on my car repair yet.  They aren't the quickest but are willing to do a repair when the dealership would have just replaced.  So I will wait for it.  What I have going on isn't a safety issue.  It will just get noisier over time and I caught it early, so I doubt anyone outside would really notice yet.  Since D has been away, I've been driving his car as it is conveniently in the driveway.
  • Had a great chat with my travel Dr before I left about how I have been feeling this year.  She is so fantastic and eased my worries about having contracted yellow fever or malaria or Japanese encephalitis or schistosomiasis or dengue... 
  • She agreed that my system deserves a break and we went over my list of potential travel places to rule out any that would need special meds as I will be avoiding those next year and maybe even the year after.  I could sit and talk to her all day.  
  • What is still confusing to me is that I am physically stronger than I was even at the beginning of this year.  Which makes the mental emotional lag even more frustrating.  However I am noticing some gradual improvement.  I just need more time.  Even my nurse who administered the shots I needed mentioned that it is time to take care of myself so I can re-enter stronger.
  • My preparation for this final big journey of the year has never been more organized and calm.  I've learned a thing or 2 since Uganda -- Thank goodness.      
  • Had an arborist come out to the house to discuss what to do about a few of our large trees.  Ended up that the largest one is fine and the other 2 needed to be thinned out properly -- Something that ought to be done every 5 years or so.  He even removed a couple of dying cedars and trimmed a couple of things for us free of charge.  It's a great thing to be connected with someone good.  Total price was $450.  
  • We have a dead maple at the cottage that will need to taken down.  Got a quote for $550 and the work will be done in the spring.  He will cut the pieces down to manageable sizes so that our neighbours can take it for burning.  Otherwise for him to take the wood away, it would cost $200 more. We border forest at the back and side, so paying him to take it away wasn't even an option. 
  • We are now both home.  Here are a couple of photos D first took on his arrival to the city and to his work site. 




Sunday, October 30, 2016

Random

  • My favourite to eat item on the menu at Shake Shack is their Chick'n Shake.  Sadly, I won't be flying through JFK until next spring...
  • Trying to stop my brain hasn't been easy but necessary.  It doesn't like to sit idle for very long but I do recognize that it may have been revved too high for too long.  
  • D has left for his volunteer placement.  I too will get to leave in a short while.  We'll have one day overlap in the same city before I start my last big adventure for the year.  The prep for this hasn't helped with my quest to "stop thinking" so much! 
  • Watching D go about his packing stresses me out.  Our approaches differ greatly and his scurrying around last minute gets me going despite strong efforts to ignore.  I just cannot not see and find it even more difficult not to want to engage!
  • Came very close to cancelling this last big trip.  It is going to require all the skills I've learned this year and more.  But I question my mental emotional fitness going in.  
  • Am making the above sound like such a huge ordeal.  It isn't in the big scheme of things but things tend to loom larger than they really are when you are seeing and feeling with tired eyes and frayed nerves.  Once I get going, things tend to sort themselves out, especially when I will have hours and hours of transit time to settle into it.
  • At my yearly vehicle oil change, it was discovered that the noise I had started to notice was attributed to a bearing issue in the front differential.  They actually had 3 guys listening underneath with stethoscopes to figure it out, along with a couple of test drives.  I use an independent mechanic shop vs. the dealership.
  • It will be taken care of in the spring along with a few other types of fluid changes.  If I have to leave her there for the day, I might as well get everything I can done.  This is the first large size maintenance/repair job I've needed to do.  Am waiting for the estimate to arrive.  My guess is 3K for the lot.
  • I've closed 3 of my regular savings accounts in my efforts to simplify my banking.  No longer need to subdivide things so much.  They have served their purpose.
  • After 13 years with my current financial advisor, I will be moving my registered savings to a self directed account.  The direction that has been recommended to me doesn't feel right.  I don't want to have increased layers of management.  Goes against how I wish to structure things.  She understood that my decision was in no way a reflection of dissatisfaction with the results and management leading up to this.
  • Back to Quito -- The hike from the top of the Teleferico, depending on the route, can bring you to some rough parts where the there are deep ruts in the ground that resembled earthquake fractures.  When there are long grasses obscuring the ruts, it is easy to step off the at times, only 6 inch path and sink a good foot+ down.  Perfect set up for ankle sprains.  
  • Also, had I not been lucky and had a group whose leader led the way, I would have gotten lost.  The trail that I was on split enough times to make it difficult to remember.  Especially when you look back and all you see is long grass.  Don't expect any signage other than a few arrows sometimes showing km markings that didn't quite make sense.  Just wait until you see someone who looks like they know where they are going and follow them.  
  • I definitely would not attempt this hike solo again and can totally understand how it would take the police 3 days to find someone who got lost.  It happened to a couple of solo hikers a month or so before my arrival.  Definitely bring a safety whistle.  Cell phone service is hit or miss up there.
  • Had my first experience of attempted pick pocketing occur in Quito.  A young man tried to unzip my front right pocket zipper by reaching around me as I was holding an umbrella on that side.  I felt it and zipped it up promptly as he darted off my left and pretended to become intensely interested in a jewelry store window.  I gave him the stink eye, shook my head and kept going.  He knew that I knew.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Neurological Break

I experienced mild flu like symptoms on my last day in Quito and brought it home with me.  It turned into a week's worth of floating in and out of small fevers.  Nothing that totally stopped me, but enough to irritate and delay workouts.

So, I took advantage of the slower days at home by catching up on some continuing education webinars.  Learned some great stuff.

One point in particular really hit home -- While learning about sport psychology training with elite athletes, it was mentioned how important the aspect of taking a neurological break is.  You just cannot maintain a super high focus on "the macro of everything" over the course of an entire year without consequences...May be super obvious to all of you, but wow, did it ever hit home for me.

For the past few years, I've been piling on all sorts of different experiences, much outside of my comfort zone, that required a number of new skills with high (for me) levels of adaptation.  However, the diversity and sheer density of them did not allow me to get better or comfortable with any one thing long enough.  Which consequently has been highly stressful neurologically and physically.

The excitement of those projects overshadowed the after side effects.  Add to it my continued delusional belief/expectation that I would be totally prepared and strong when the time came around to go.  My not-yet-willing to concede to the concept of hard limits gets me into trouble time and time again.

Getting back to the above webinar, it takes a season or 2 of solid repetition (training/competition) to learn the psychological skills required to adapt to the level you are working on.

Applying that to regular life, I had not allowed myself that courtesy the past few years.  By continuing to amp things up, I have drained instead of built, undermining the growth I have been seeking.  And having just too many decisions to make and too many details to sort out all the time is exhausting mentally.  My brain has finally flown its white flag.

By allowing myself to get swept away in the excitement of being constantly challenged by new things, I find myself today, feeling quite burnt out, not yet done for this year and seriously considering pulling the plug on the remainder.  This isn't the first time I've been in this head space but am kinda shocked to find myself back here again...delusional, remember?

Finally coming to terms with it all has been immensely helpful, relieving and confirming.  The way next year has shaped up is already consistent with helping me heal and become better without the hyper stress that comes with too much new stuff.  Cool to know I had been moving in that direction naturally -- Albeit, out of desperation and forced honesty!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Catch up Thoughts

I'm definitely behind in my posting this year.  Perhaps I've just been needing all my energy to "hang on for dear life"!

Rio was so inspiring to me on many levels.  I had expected to find a culture where "everyone" was super conscious about their looks.  Instead I found one that emphasized personal fitness. 

People were doing their own thing and not looking at you or looking around to see if anyone was looking at them.  What a surprise.

I really love the Brazilian's beauty style.  No heavy make up or make up at all (they don't need it!).  Gorgeous skin.  Long dark natural hair (highlights or colouring was not popular that I could see).  Fit and slim.  Relief to see a culture where women don't all strive to be blond.

It didn't take long before I started to consider upping my workout by running in that deep sand like everyone else.  Or want to join in on one of the numerous training classes on the beach.  Or use the Under Armour racks that lined the boardwalk to stretch or pump out some reps.  




And favela living didn't hold the negative stigma I thought I would find either.  I found people to be polite (Outside of the kid who grabbed my behind the first day -- Got reprimanded later.), hardworking and family network to be deep.  

Don't know what they do to their meat, but it tasted so good!  I got to know a beach vendor after spotting another vendor eat a meal one afternoon.  After much gesturing (at first, I think he thought I was asking him for a taste...), he pointed me to the direction of where he bought it.  And I bought from her everyday after.  

Her and her husband would push this small cart along the boardwalk and sell homemade meals to the beach vendors.  At first they were taken back when I approached them (never saw any other tourist go for it -- they are missing out...) but after 5 days, they came to expect that I would be at the same section of walk on the lookout for them.  They finally asked my name and not surprising, also asked which part of Brazil I was from despite my pathetic attempts at the language!  I found Brazilians to be so diverse in looks, that you could be any nationality and live there.

I added this trip to my year when I found out about the visa waiver in place for Canadians etc. being an Olympic year.  Previously I had found the travel visa application for Brazil to be too taxing to bother with.  However, the process has been streamlined for the better.  Enough that I will consider applying for a 5 year visa because I really want to return.  

                                                      -------------------------------------------












Some points about Quito:
  • Most vendors will find it difficult to break a 5 USD bill.  Forget anything larger.  1 USD bills are your friend and if you have exact change, you will receive a big smile and thank you.  And if you produce brand new bills, you'll be the talk of the whole row of vendors!
  • Food is quite simple but filling.  I did get a bit tired of the large servings of rice after a few days.  Their rice is starchier and less tasty than the type found in Asia.  
  • People love spending time outside in their parks.  We are spoilt for nature here in Canada and will drive hours to get to something more "significant" than a neighbourhood park.  It's just a different mindset.  We tend to congregate in our own backyards -- Something that isn't too common there.  
  • I loved how people would just hang out outside.  No need to have to go to a cafe and spend money.  No desire to be seen.  Just be.  Totally normal.  No complex.  Not glued to phones.  Just lying down on the grass quietly.  How simple and wonderful is that?  It got so that I was at a couple of different parks everyday.  It was great.
  • In the historic part of the city, you'll see young people standing in the doorway of shops holding a soft serve ice cream cone (always a mix of vanilla and raspberry sorbet -- yummy!), chocolate covered frozen banana etc.  straight out into the sidewalk to tempt passersby to buy it.  They always manage to get a sale before the cone started dripping!  Impressive!  
  • Being that Quito sits at around 9000 ft altitude, the climate was a welcome relief to the heat of Thailand.  Beware that there is no heat at night, and the build quality isn't so great (visible gaps underneath and around windows and doors...), so bring extra layers or sleeping bag.  Otherwise stay at less local places.
  • There is a cable car (Teleferico) you can take up to 14000 ft (2nd highest in the world) with hiking trails up to a volcano at mid 15K ft range.  I didn't quite believe how much dryer it would be the higher up you are and didn't bring enough water.  So, didn't make it all the way, just 3/4.  
  • Fortunately, I did not experience any real negative issues with the altitude (my heart and lungs did have to work extra hard).  But did hear and see people not looking too well along the way, even down in Quito.  One of the pictures above show an oxygen station up at the top of the cable car. 
  • As I had found in Bogota, vehicle pollution, especially from buses is ridiculous.  Black smoke bellowing out of the exhausts.  Horrible air quality if you have to walk alongside a traffic jam.  What a shame.  I am still negatively sensitized about this after Uganda.  
  • Got scammed by 2 taxi drivers.  One who turned off his meter (later reported to company) and one whose meter ran way too fast.  It took a while before I recognized where I was to ask him to stop (had just arrived the day before).  He did so without any drama.  I actually liked his gentle personality (the first driver came across as a bit psychotic).  We were having a good conversation too.  I am so grateful that I don't have to live a life where I have to resort to taking advantage of people in order to survive.