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.