“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


 Last month, Michael and I travelled to Peru. It was our first experience in South America, and it definitely left an impression. When we returned and friends asked us "how was it!?" my reply has constantly been "It was great! Memorable! But....it was most certainly and adventure and not a vacation." Peru kicked my ass!

Of course, I have still come home with a great sense of accomplishment. For all of my challenges, I still survived and have plenty of great photographs! Let me tell you the story:

Our flight to Lima (where we would meet up with our G Adventures tour) was long, but in those 7 hours we never changed a time zone (except for that pesky dalight savings thing). I always love the first drive to our accomodation after we arrive somepleace new, and I find myself pressing my face to the window to see everything. New billboards! New shops! New people! New homes and buildings!

The first day in Lima was self-directed and we wandered around the bohemian districts of Barranca and Miraflores, in awe of all the murals and artwork and colour. Lima also presses right up against the ocean, with great, long ocean cliffs. It's really quite impressive!

After having met our group - which included 7 Swedish girls, a couple from Germany, a pair of friends from Britain, two girls from Australia, and two from Scotland - we started our journey to Nazca via overnight bus. Overnight buses are not for the faint of heart. While the seats reclined quite well, the seats are on the upper deck which amplify the wobbles and turns as we travelled up winding roads. I slept poorly, and felt like barfing after 8 hours. We learned much later that the first class seats on the lower deck were only $10 more.

Michael and I opted out of flying over the Nazca Lines, mostly because the private flights cost a lot and you'd probably get better pictures from the internet. Instead, we went on a dune buggy trip to go sandboarding! I found it terrbly difficult, mostly because I was exhausted by the time I hiked back up to the top of the dune, and  battered from having fallen on the run before. Sandboarding isn't nearly as nice as snowboarding. The landings are harder, and getting a facefull of sand (vs snow) is decidedly unpleasant. Michael picked up the sport like a champ!

 Food was a real adventure in Peru. I think they have something like 400 types of corn and 1000 types of potato. Their diet is pretty starchy - if you life in a rural area, you might even buy "dehydrated potato" so it lasts longer. But there are plenty of interesting things to eat! Ceviche is extremely popular - raw fish cooked with the acidity of a lemon-lime juice sauce - and delicious. We also made sure to bring home a bottle of Pisco so we could recreate the lemon-merange-like flavour of their national drink, the Pisco Sour. They also have a special drink called Chicha Morada, made from purple corn! While in Nazca, our group feasted on a meal cooked underground (similar to a Luau)....
Our underground feast!
...and we tried (a couple of times) a Peruvian delicacy called cuy. Cuy in English is.....Guinea Pig. Yes, we ate that cute little thing us North Americans keep as cuddly pets. Peruvians think it's strange that we don't eat them. The traditional way to eat it is BBQ'd on a stick, head, legs and all. Our guide, Jeiko, told us that he loves it, but can't eat it very often because there really isn't a lot of meat on one animal and it's expensive (so he has to order two)....it sounds like how we feel about lobster.
Deep freid guinea pig. Tastes like chicken....sort of.
After we left Nazca, we boarded our second overnight bus (I got wise and knocked myself out with Gravol), which would take us up to Arequipa, at 2335m. The morning we arrived, I was tired. I'd brought a pulse oximeter with me to keep track of any signs of altitude sickness, but so far it showed that I was ok. It's above 1500m that you're likely to start feeling the effects of being at high altitude, and we would be going much, much higher.

 In my opinion, although Arequipa is one of the largest cities in Peru (over 850K people!), there wasn't much for us to do except acclimatize. Michael and I went for a walk around the older areas of the city, and spent some time visiting the Santa Catalina Monastary. It is an active monastary, with at least a dozen nuns still living cloistered. We obviusly weren't able to visit those areas, but the church is very old and still had plenty to show us! As a cloister, it was designed to resemble a small village behind tall walls, where the nuns had little gardens and common squares to hold weekly "markets."
Our official photographer, doing Official Photographer things.
Jeiko made sure to help us try out plenty of new and interesting foods while we travelled, and brought us to a large produce market in the city. We tried passion fruits, "tuna fruit," prickly pears and Jugo de Rana. Let me tell you a secret: Rana juice is not nearly as fruity as you migth guess. What is that special ingredient that locals say gives you strengths? FROG. Yes, it's frog juice. Well, as the vendor showed us, it's one frog which gets blended up with a bunch of other things. I didn't have a "Oh, yea, that frogginess really comes through in the flavour," moment, but that she showed us the live frog beforehand really put a damper on my willingness to chug it. Fifteen of us shared one glass and we had plenty leftover...

 With barely enough time to get used to 2330m, our group set out again to travel to Colca. It was a full day trip to get there, and included winding roads (barf), mountain passes, llama, alpana and vicunia sightings and a stop at 4900m. When the bus pulled up to the highest point in the road, we were told that we could get out and look arouind, but that we would only be staying for 5 minutes. The altitude would make us sick and tired otherwise. Even still, several of our tour group remained in the bus, too tired or carsick to even bother. My pulse oximeter told me that my resting heart rate was 130, and my SpO2 (blood-oxygen carrying capacity) was 72%. For refernce, an average person should be >95%. at <65%, you might have impaired function, and you'd pass out at <55%. Despite the fact that we didn't stay at high altitude for very long, and the town of Colca lies at nearly the same altitude as Arequipa, my SpO2 wouldn't recover for several days after this. The next morning, I woke up with a heart rate of 120 beats per minute (should be 60) and I was at 82% O2. So walking any distance made me feel exhausted and gross. I was not excited to do anything except rest.
4900m and reaching higher!
En route to high altitude, we met an alpaca!
Our stay in Colca was brief. We stopped at a hot springs that freshened me up quite a bit in body and spirit. Half of our group went to supper together where locals were performing traditional dance and dragged us up to dance with them. The remaining half stayed behind, trying to sleep off altitide sickness. Most of the Swedish girls were quite ill. The next day, we got up extra early to travel to the nearby canyon, where giant condors could be seen ascending from the depths and the shadows. The canyon is nearly 3300m deep, twice that of the Grand Canyon!

Next up, Cusco. Cusco is the last stop before most people head out to trek or to visit Machu Picchu. It's bustling and full of tourists! It's also the last place to really acclimatize, being 3380m elevation. This is generally classified at "Very High Altitude" where you can be hypoxemic just while sleeping. So yay! Another couple of days feeling tired and useless. My feet swelled up, too.

One of the major activities in Cusco for our group was the pre-trek meeting where all the particulars of our 3 day hike were explained. I was tired, and I remember feeling extremely intimidated as we were told what to expect. I thought: I can barely manage walking up a flight of stairs without feeling winded. How the F^@% am I going to hike up 1600m!!? At least I knew that the only thing I'd have to worry about was myself. I wouldn't have to carry my own gear, set up or take down my own tent, or cook my own food. I could just focus on keeping myself alive.

 Next, we repacked our necessary belongings into a duffle bag that could be transported by llamas later. We were getting on another bus! And to make things more exciting, I woke up on the morning we left Cusco with a terrible stomach illness. It was like waves of being punched in the gut. Good thing we were en route to our homestay, high up in the mountains in a village where they just barely had plumbing and spoke no English! Yes!

To be honest, the homestay was a really awesome part of this trip. Michael and I were paired with the Brits (Tom and Jade, or "Hadé" as the locals called her. She did not like that we assumed this as her official Peruvian name), and placed with a local family in a village called Ccaccaccollo. Patricia would be our new mother, Elias our new Father, and Michael, Stephanie and Brain our siblings. They were fantastic hosts despite their limited means. Patricia cooked out meals in a tiny kitchen with a dirt floor and a wood "stove" build from mud bricks. Elias was on the local council and a former trekking porter. He graciously brought me fresh mountain herb tea as I lay in bed like a wet noodle. I asked them to name my new gnome - he's been officially called Elias! And big thanks to Tom, who was the most fluent in Spanish (the rest of us couldn't speak a word) and helped us make sure we didn't all just sit around awkwardly pointing at things in silence.
Tom, Hadé and I helping shell the peas for supper
After we'd rested with our new families, Patricia dressed us all up in local traditional clothes (the boys lucked out - they just wore ponchos and toques!) and paraded us around the village, where we would later meet up with the others in our group.
Swagger on fleek
The bonus part of wearing fancy clothes and feeling sick meant that the ladies got to just watch as the buys got muddy! Elias brought us around to where villagers were busy making bricks for a new house. Everyone seemed to be helping, even these little kids. While the men used shovels and hauled mud in wheel ballows, these kids slopped mud with their hands into little buckets. Everyone wants to be helpful! (or, play in the mud...)

This young girl was very curious of us. After I showed her this picture, she was so excited and had Hadé take many more.
 We met up with the rest of the group at the soccer field, which had a fantastic view of the valley. Michael was eally stoked to play in his poncho. I think he may have used it to cheat a bit...
The next day, we were given a tour of the village's weaving project. Most women (and some of the men) create textiles and knit garments to sell at their market, Planterra Weaving Project, which is heavily sponsored by G Adventures. I was able to purchase a beautiful scarf which had been hand woven by my "sister" Stephanie, and from wool harvested from an alpaca we'd met the night before! It really was sad to leave this community. They had been wholeheartedly welcoming.
But we had to keep going. We would sleep in Ollaytaytambo that night. Or, rather, I would hole up in our hotel room for the rest of the day, still sick. I tried to rest for as much as I could, knowing I'd be working hard the next day. The bright spot was that by supper I'd recovered enough to go out, and I'd remembered that it was Thanksgiving! A small group of us ended up at an Italian restaurant. I decided that I needed to carbo-load (since I'd hardly eaten anything in 2 days), and so that night, I was thankful for spaghetti carbonada.
Incan ruins overlooking Ollaytaytambo
One of many winding roads on the way through Peru
We started our trek on October 13. When trekking to Machu Picchu, most people try to do the Inca trail. It's a 4 day trek that finishes at the Sun Gate, overlooking Machu Picchu and it's extremely popular. It's so ppoular that the trek is limited to 500 hikers (including the porters) per day. You'd have to book 6 months in advance (at least) to get a spot. G Adventures offers a trek nearby, the Lares Trek. It doesn't finish at Machu Picchu, but it is still a fantastic hike and it goes much higher. The trek begins at Lares, at a hot spring. We were fed well by our new favourite people: our porters. There were several of them, taking care of feeding us, setting up our camp, and transporting our bags. They're amazing! Llamas and mules helped, too.

So on the first day, we hiked 9km, mostly uphill. It was tough, but manageable. Quickly, our group of 15 turned into 2 groups, those who hiked fast, and those who did not. As a person who hikes very slow and who hates when I just get left behind, there was no way I was going to leave anyone else behind, so our little slow group consisted of myself, Michael (who has earned his "Best Hike Buddy Ever" badge), Hadé, and two of the Swedes (Emma and Lin) who'd continued to feel sick. Props to them for even doing the hike!
Elias the gnome also made the trip to the mountains!
The scenery was fantastic!
Even the view from the potty-tent was rad
Day 2 was easily the toughest hiking I'd ever done. The trail was fairly simple, and well managed, but it was gurellingly uphill. We would climb up over 1km, with the peak at 4800m (if you remember, the higest poing on the road the week before was only 100m higher) and a total distance of 17km. As we walked up and my heart rate raced and my breathing was laboured, I kept thinking "WTF. With each step, it will only get harder." But, my goal was to stay upbeat. I tried to take time to look at the mountains around us and the gacliers in the distance. I learned that those Swedes had grit - while I was feeling well and barely pushing on, Emma and Lin continued hiking and Emma was green in the face. I wouldda stopped much earlier, crying for sure.

But we did make it! And it was a fantastic feeling to conquor that mountain!
Hadé, Michael, Myself, Emma and Lin at the summit
This is how I felt, immediatly after reaching the top.
The rest of the day was entirely downhill. I was soexcited to be over the hump, and heading towards a good meal. Jeiko was a fabulous guide, having given us plenty of encouragement. He said something later about how despite the faster hikers in the group were very fast, our little turtle group still reached the summitt an hour and a half earlier than most. I don't know if it's true, but it made me feel pretty awesome. (Thanks, Jeiko!)

Day 3 of the hike was easy-peasy. Two hours of downhill! I love hiking downhill. Michal does not.

Moa and I trying to keep ahead of the stampeding llama train! (They weren't stampeding. They're just fast)
Day 2 campsite
Roger, our Chef. This guy made us a cake - on a stove. Spot on!
We all made it down safely, and proud. Next, it was time to shower and prep for the big show- Machu Picchu!
Elias found a buddy en route to Machu Piccu! Paddington! (He's Peruvian!)
 Machu Picchu is areally interesting place, though I would absolutely reccomend that you visit it early in the morning. Even at 6am, the transport buses are full up and we waited nearly an hour. Plus, you don't want a billion people in your otherwise fantastic pictures.

One of the things that stuck with me as we toured the ruins was that there are plans to install a gondola overtop in the next 10 years. Once the gondola is in place, tourists will no longer be allowed to enter the ruins. So I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to take pictures like this one...
 While the usual routine is to get to Machu Picchu early in the day to see the sun burn through the misty clouds, I never do things routine. We had an hour or so where the weather was misty but peaceful, and where we could take some nice, standard photos. But, then it started to rain! Hundreds of tourists pulled out their hundreds of brightly coloured ponchos. I actually really, really liked this visual - jellybeans dotting the grey and green of the ruins.
Pre-Rain. Pretty happy!
 But, visiting this "Wonder of the World" would be our last great act as a group (aside from a solid night at a club that I don't remember particularly well with 14 of my nearest and dearest ...) and Michael and I said our goodbyes as we flew back to Lima. We would have one day to see all of the things we'd missed on the first go around. Despite what we'd heard, we booked a hostel near downtown, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice. We took a walking tour, saw the changing of the guards at the home of the President (which included a marching band and orders from the Ministry of Silly Walks), went underground to see bony catacombs at a church, ate street food, and spent an evening at a park filled with lit up, musical water fountains!
Main shopping throughfare in downtown Lima
Empanadas. 1.50 soles (about 50 cents) and totally delicious
I'll keep this last bit short, but I find Lima to be a really interesting place. Not all that long ago, Lima was a very cosmopolitan city. It was quite affluent! But in the 1940's, mass migration of people from rural areas overwhelmed the city's resources, created slums, and pushed the wealthiest people to other regions. So the city has the bones of a city that could be very beautiful, but needs a bit of work.
Prime example of a street with rich history, but a shady present time
So, that's Peru! I fully appreciate that this post is extremely long, but there was just so much to tell. It was absolutely a memorable trip despite having been ill so often. I filled up my journal to the very last page!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

13 Reasons "Nurses Are" Lists are Total Bull$#!t

With the constant barrage of "shared" articles on social media, and my rather large circle of friends who happen to be using social media constantly sharing these articles, I've developed a pet peeve. Well-meaninged people who want to promote their craft keep passing around lists extolling just how Fantastically Angelic all nurses are. I hate these articles.

Here are a few examples:

10 Reasons Why Nurses Are Amazing
7 Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
10 Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
10 (more) Reasons Why Nurses Are Awesome
27 Reasons Why Nurses Are Secretly Angels Living Among Us

Now, don't get me wrong, some of that stuff is within the realm of truth. The stuff about your poop and vomit - yeah, sure. I could easily eat my tuna sandwish for lunch after even the messiest of your "evacuations," but that doesn't excuse these articles from making me feel like I should be something that I really, really am not.

13 Reasons "Nurses Are" Lists are Total Bullshit 

1. There are approximately 170 million different types of nurses, none of which are ever represented in these articles. Whoever writes these seems to think that if you're a nurse, you must either work in the ER or in an adult Medical ward. So right away we're excluding pretty much everyone else in the profession. These articles can't even speak to a large percentage (like, probably 90%) of nurses they're even written about.

2. I eat. I don't always eat well, but I eat. If I didn't, you probably wouldn't think I was so nice. 

3. I pee. Sometimes I go for long periods without peeing on shift because I'm distracted, but if nature calls, I answer. My patients are the only ones allowed to pee on the floor, but even then -

4. Most of the time, I'm judging you. I'm judging your life choices, your parenting skills, your hygiene routines, why you waited so long before you came to hospital. It won't affect how I take care of you, but I don't - I can't - believe that all of my patients are all that great.

5. Sometimes, even though I care for you, I don't necessarily care about you. I have been randomly assigned to you and several other people in a given shift. Tomorrow, I likely won't remember your name because I've again been randomly assigned to several other different people. Sometimes, my goal is just to make sure you're still alive in 12 hours. Statistically, we won't be buddies, I won't ever see you again, and I don't have any emotional attachment to you. I won't be putting my life on the line for you. I'm not selfish - I'm at work. And that's if you're just an average Joe. If you're rude, demanding and "holier-than-thou," that's another story.

6.  If anything, Nurses are good people because we resist the urge to return the favour when we've been treated like garbage all day.

7. I don't always love my job. In fact, I probably love my job less often than when I think that Nursing is for crazy, self-loathing people. Nursing Burnout is real, and it pushes you into leaving nursing entirely after you've been trying to work past the emotional toll of remaining in a career that it more physically and mentally exhausting than you can cope with. But you keep doing it because people pat you on the back with these bullshit articles and tell you to "hang in there, you're doing a great job! You're special!"   

8. Nursing actually ruins your life. For those of you who work regular weekday jobs who keep thinking "Gee, I'd love to work a few long days in a row to get 5 days off in a row," you've got a wake-up call coming. For one, working 4 12-hour shifts in a row means that literally nothing gets done at home. My commute is only 12 minutes (by bike), but I still wake up for work at 6am, and I don't get back home until after 8pm. So now 14 hours of your day has been completely devoted to work. Did you pack three meals and snacks into your lunch pail? If not, you're now trying to make something for supper for yourself in that precious little time you have while awake at home, because it's back to bed by 10pm. So just pray you made sure to remember to do laundry and grocery shop before your workweek begins. For the other, I hope you didn't have any illusions about staying on that recreational soccer team, or going to those regularly-scheduled social activities. You'll get to go to, maybe 20% of those because you're either already at work or can't go because it's a worknight and it runs past your bedtime. So yay!

9. I don't always get along with my colleagues, and they're not always the support I need on a bad day at work. Working entirely with women can cause the types of drama that only Elizabeth Taylor could match. Cliques exist among fully grown women, and the saying that "nurses eat their young" (when more senior, burnt-out nurses bully newer, younger ones) is absolutely true. You can't always trust the nurses you work with when you need to decompress - some might see it as weakness and pounce. (See #4)

10. Nursing isn't necessarily our "calling." Many nurses choose the profession because it was the most financially responsible decision. It pays well. I have worked in communities where there weren't a lot of job opportunities close to home, but the local nursing home was the best employer in town. So the choice to work in health care didn't come about because you wanted to champion the rights and wellbeing of grandmas everywhere - you just wanted to make sure the mortgage was paid.

11. I haven't cared for a dying patient! I've never seen someone die. It's not something that happens where I've worked (see #1), so I'm not sure I'd even be any good at it. I'm guessing it'd be really awkward and involve me patting you or your loved one on the back, chiming "There, there." I don't have some sort of innate skill with this, and this is likely true for many other nurses. So please don't view me as some Mother Theresa figure who'd know how to sit at a bedside and comfort you in a way that would be smooth. 

12. I'm not even necessarily a good asset in an emergency. Yes, I have a lot of CPR training. But emergency first aid? Why? As a ward nurse, when I see my patients for the first time, they've already been through ER and have had all of the immediate problems dealt with. I don't splint broken bones. I don't stabilize and transport c-spine injuries. I don't deliver babies. I have all the diagnostic tools I need at my fingertips and there are rarely any real mysteries for me to deal with. Medical emergencies at the ball park or on an airplane would be a nightmare, and I have had other nurses tell me that if a general call-out was made for a Doctor or medical professional while in flight, they would duck their heads and hope nobody pointed them out. It's a huge liability and it could easily be something we're not equipped to take care of. I would help by calling 9-1-1 for you.

13. These articles generalize all nurses as having a set of traits that we simply cannot all have. We're not angels. We're people. We're people with our own issues, baggage and anxieties. We're not even all good people - just like the rest of you.  

 Author's Disclaimer: these are my own views and opinions, and may not represent the views of all nurses.

Monday, 8 June 2015

For Those Who Want to Know

In the last year, I’ve hardly written anything here. It’s not that there hasn’t been much to write about - in fact I’ve got pages and pages of things to write about - but I think I’ve just been content to do those things. That and I had a discussion with a tarot reader in New Orleans about finding the right audience for my travel stories. Basically I told her that I was conflicted about genuinely wanting to share my experiences with people but I was worried that my friends would start to feel like I just wouldn’t shut up about them. She told me to just not bring it up with people. I’ve now decided that if you’ve made the effort to come over and read my blog, you’re probably more interested than bored. Awesome!

 Here’s the recap from the last 12 months:

Summer 2014:
I went back to Camp Tanamakoon as Head Nurse. Though I came away exhausted, I love spending time with inspiring and adventurous young women (and a few young men). I’m going back this August!
Just a few of the Trippers and Camp Counsellors from Tan!
We travelled to Alberta for by bestie’s wedding. Finally! After the festivities were over, Mike and I met up with some friends in Banff for a couple of solid days of hiking and merriment. Fun Fact: It’s always a good idea to rent the “vintage swimsuit” for $2 when visiting the Banff hot springs. We finished that trip off by driving the Jasper parkway. This would not be the last encounter with glaciers this year!
I'm pretty sure these suits were unisex. And there was only one (older) other lady in the pool rocking this sassy number
To round out the summer, I took Mike on his first backcountry canoe trip in Killarney. We made great pace and paddled ahead of schedule (good thing, too, because the last 30 hours of the trip were in a downpour), and Mike turned into a real CanoeHead! Despite the work and the rain, I’ve got him on board for another trip this year…
Carefully maneuvering the canoe beyond the mud
 Autumn 2014:

For some reason, we keep travelling to cold places when it’s cold out already. The windy city did not disappoint. Chicago was both windy and cold. Good thing they have great pizza. We tried to visit most of the Ferris Bueller landmarks, took in some improv comedy, and followed quite a few architectural tours. The Second City  has some prime design! We were lucky enough to get to go skating under the glare of the giant bean, too.
Getting cultured at the Modern Art Gallery
 By November, we were tired enough of Sudbury’s chill and bee-lined it to Orlando. Mike has been wanting to show me the “Magic of Disney” since I first told him I’d never been to a Disney park, so I caved. And in the end I really did have a great time! Rides and movies aside, one of my favourite parts of  Disney World was dressing up every day. The official rulebook says that if you’re over age 6, you can’t dress in costume, but they don’t say anything about dressing up Disneybound. On more than one occasion, my character-suggestive outfit garnered a “right this way, Princess” from a staff member. I’d go again just to do that!
This is Mike's favourite photo. He wasn't as much a fan of the twirling teacups as I obviusly was.
 Winter 2015:

As always, we went home at Christmas. It’s nice to do the fam-jam thing, and we got a couple of days of snowboarding in at Sun Peaks. Our first adventure of 2015 was to visit Mont Tremblant! A friend of ours had warned us that it would be cold, but I had no idea! Thankfully, I’d brought along hand warmers. But still! The great terrain was worth it, though.
Stopping in Ottawa on the way home, we made sure to skate the canal and eat a beaver tail!
 February was busy with Tommy!, but it was enough to tide us over until early March when we met our friends again in Utah for a ski week at Park City. Lucky for us, it snowed almost 40cm on our first night. Best powder I’ve ever been on! We were able to check out the terrain at three different mountains, and on our two off days we poked around the Mormon Tabernacle, and took a road trip out to Arches National Park (which I would highly recommend!). It was along day, but the views were fantastic.
One of the smaller arches in the park, but damn we had great sunlight!
 Spring 2015

We found ourselves in New Orleans at Easter. As it turns out, Louisiana is quite pleasant in the spring. To boot, though we weren’t in the Big Easy for it’s most famous festival, there were three parades on Easter Sunday - my favourite being the “Gay Easter Parade.” Just think of all the fabulous Drag Queens in their Easter bonnets. Yassssss! Other highlights included the cemetery tour, an airboat ride to the swamps where we fed marshmallows to gators, and visits to voodoo landmarks (both fun and strange). Also the food. One day I’m sure that everything I ate was fried -breakfast to midnight snack.
Obviously we'd visit "Mardi Gras World" while in New Orleans.
 Next up, Mike ticked another goal off of his bucket list, and we travelled to Cozumel to learn how to scuba. It was a big change from our other trips because on some days, there really wasn’t much for us to do except drink a beer by the water. We earned out Open Water dive tickets in three days, and then went out on a charter boat trip to a large reef. I spotted a sea turtle and a ray, and some from our group saw a couple of nurse sharks! It took me a while to get the hang of it all, and the strong currents didn’t help much, but I hope we get to go diving again soon because it really was great to see sea life so close up. On a “day off” from diving, we travelled to the main land to visit some Mayan ruins, one of which we were able to climb to the top of. Lucky us - most of the other ruins won’t allow this anymore.
"Atop a Mayan ruin, Sarah gets sacrificed for the good of the group."
 Most recently, we adventured to Iceland. It’s truly the land of ice and fire (despite what George R. R. Martin thinks**) where volcanoes and glaciers meet and trolls and gnomes hideaway in. In another life, I might have preferred to go when the weather was a bit warmer and the grass was a little greener, but it still turned out to be a fantastic trip. Mike and I rented a small car and ventured to drive the ring road in a week. We could easily have taken two weeks to do it - there’s simply so much to see, and so many great walks and hikes. You hardly even have to leave the road to see things - grand waterfalls just spill over within sight.  One of my favouite activities was visiting a volcanic formation that is the backdrop to many stories about elves, but in particular about Iceland’s Christmas Elves - the Yule Lads. Rather than having one father Christmas, there are 13 lads and one comes by each night until Christmas. They have rather peculiar names too - like “Spoon Licker” and “Sausage Stealer.” Our last two nights were spent in the capital city - Reykjavik - where we joined the Saturday night life (which doesn’t even start until 1am…when the sun is still out) and I tried out one of Iceland’s most infamous foods - Hakarl!

**Several scenes in Game of Thrones have actually been filmed in Iceland.
1:30am, Reykjavik
 I'm not able to upload my favourite video from Iceland to this blog, so I'll make sure it hits facebook. Spoiler: Anthony Bourdain calls Hakarl "the worst food he's even eaten" for a very good reason.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Post-Show Posit

Elton playing Piano-Pinball next to Tommy in the movie version
So according to my last post, I've finally reached stage 6 of the creative process. At this point, though, I don't think it's as simple as "boom, I got shit done." because as the hours count down until the very last performance tonight I'm hit with the sad realization that I will no longer have the pleasure to work on this project anymore.

Of course, I'm not leaving empty handed. For one, working so closely with so many people over several months, I've got at least a couple new contacts in my address book - people who like doing thing that I also like doing. For another, an unexpected side effect has been drawing off the energy of such a young, vibrant, and exciting group of people. TBH, I feel super young and hip. Like, so cool. But really, being around this cast I've felt as if those little dusty corners of myself have been brushed out and I remember what it's like to be excited about everything. It's so easy to get settled, and doing this play has helped me to shake things up a bit.

Now, I haven't done any grocery shopping in, like, three weeks but who's really keeping track.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Shameless Self Promotion

It's been a long time since I wrote anything, but now's as good a time as any, since I actually have something to advertise!

On January 1, 2014, I resolved to go back to the theatre. At the time, I told myself that the goal was to get back to "my people" and get involved in a community that I'd been missing a lot since I started nursing. My last show was 8 years ago**. So back in October I gathered my courage all up in a little pile and I auditioned for a local production. Truth be told, I was misty-eyed on the drive home from that audition because I was convinced I was terrible and as rusty as grandpappy's old tractor.
for reference
Turns out I was able to fool them into letting me come and play in their gang.

It's been quite a journey, re-teaching the pipes to sing in harmony and sweeping the cobwebs out of my dancing-feet for this production. It's felt a lot like when I undertake a craft project:

Stage 1: Excitement. You get all your little ducks in a row and fondle all of your new things
Stage 2: Realization. You start to see that this "little project" will require perhaps more time and committment that you originally thought. But it's still fun and I have this totally under wraps.
Stage 3: WTF, Please Stop. The stage where you're neck deep and you'd pull the ripcord if it weren't for the fact that you'd be a real d-bag if you stopped now. It feels overwhelming and you're convinced that it'll never, ever get finished. Why am I doing this again? Will this ever end? Did I think this would be fun somehow?
Stage 4: Girding Your Loins. Something in your frazzled head clicks and you're able to muster up a little more motivation to work a little harder to finish that one thing that has been bogging you down in the project. There is often drinks or coffee involved.
Stage 5: Satisfaction. You see that you're now on the downward slope and you're nearing completion. You're now just doing the finishing touches and you can see all of your hard work coming together.
Stage 6: Completion. You've done it! (And you forget somehow how much work it took so you'd defintely do it again, easy) Mic drop.

All that said, I think I'm somewhere betwen Stage 3 and 4 right now. But things are coming together and I am starting to believe again that this show is going to be plenty of fun! Now, onto that shameless self-promotion I mentioned before...

If you live in Sudbury, the show runs this month on:
12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28 at 8pm
15 & 22 at 2pm

For more information regarding tickets and bookings, head to the Theatre Cambrian webpage

What's this show about, you say? Well folks, the easiest explanation is that it's a Rock-Opera cronicling the life of a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who plays pinball really. really well. The Show was written primarily by Pete Townsend of The Who in 1969, and was released as a rock album. It wasn't performed as a broadway-style musical until 1992, however it was released as a film in 1975. The show isn't for the faint of heart, though. This disabled kid doesn't have a stellar childhood and includes being intensely bullied by his two-faced cousin and molested by his drunk uncle who later tries to exploit his pinball-wizardry. Nice, guys.

For a more in-depth explanation of the show, I highly reccomend this wikipedia article.

As an aside, I saw this show two years ago at the Stratford Festival and it was brillant. They still have a few videos from the show posted here, and I'm especially fond of the scene where Tommy plays pinball and the machine lifts and spins and shoots fireworks (see "I'm free-Pinball Wizard Reprise"). Additionally, it was directed by Des McAnuff, Stratford's Artistic Director and Pete Townsend's original homie when he wrote the show. Rad.

So, come see the show! Support theatre in your community! I dance and sing and play many characters, including (but not limited to): Hearing Specialist #6, War Bride #4, Paratrooper #8, Local Lass, Sex Fiend #2! Yes, you read that correctly. Extra! Extra! Fun times for all, Big and Small!

**For the record, the last time I did a show, Facebook didn't exist and I looked like this:
Josie Pye, Gilbert Blythe, Diana Barry and Myself- "Anne" in '06