Monday, May 28, 2007

Switchback roads, glass balls, and a crab dinner

I remember thinking that we were coming up to that really sharp turn a little too quickly...

The car lurched around the corner, narrowly missed an oncoming car, and whizzed past several houses perched beside the road.


We all shouting shouting at once.

"Raj - bloody hell mate! That's it - you need to let me drive!" (Neil)

"Pay attention! You're seriously gonna kill us!" (L)

"Dammit man - I think you just gave me a heart attack!" (me)

To his credit, Raj didn't seem at all effected by our near brush with death, and continued weaving through the narrow roads towards Newport. His only response to our chorus of "You're not in India anymore" was met with a cheeky grin and an "it's okay, just enjoy the ride".

Yeah, right.

By the time the ocean came into view, Raj had slowed down to a less breakneck pace and we were all ooohing and aahhing over the incredible scenery ahead. Our first look at Newport, Oregon was breathtaking. Little shops and restaurants sat on cliffs overlooking a bay with a beautiful bridge that soared above barking sea lions and noisy birds. The sea air was fresh and warm, and waves lapped at the pebbled beaches past the pier. I'd never seen wild sea lions before, and rushed with my camera to get pictures of them lolling in on the pier and fighting over a floating log in the water, as baby sea lions yelped for fish at their mothers.

We watched them for a long time, then made our way up the coastal road, looking in shops, and wishing the weather had been nice enough to go to the beach. I really wanted to go to the beach because one of the HP guys, Dave, had told me that every year local artisans plant hundreds of japanese glass floats up and down the beaches for people to find. It didn't take long to realize that the weather was too cold for beachcombing, and the odds were against us finding any of the glass floats. So instead of making the wonderful discover I'd envisioned while daydreaming about the trip, I stood in front of store windows, loudly complaining that "$24.99 is way too much money to pay for something that I'm SURE I could have found on the beach!"

(I left Newport empty-handed, and am now considering buying a glass float on ebay, since they have ones from Oregon that are a great price and quite pretty.)

After several hours of exploring Newport, we assembled in a large group at a nice-looking restaurant overlooking the docks. We received a lot of attention as we arranged tables and grabbed menus, joking around about how many glasses of wine we would need to have if Raj was going to be driving back to the hotel (the consensus was that we'd need 1 glass for every 5 miles, which we thankfully didn't follow). To his credit, Raj didn't seem bothered by our teasing, and kept repeating that if we visited him in India we'd understand just how fabulous his driving skills actually were.

This isn't one of my pictures, but it looks just like the restaurant and view of the bay.

When it was time to order, there was no question at all in my mind that I was going to have a crab dinner. I didn't care how much it would cost, and ordered a glass of wine and a cup of chowder to go along with it. I'm a great seafood lover, and would happily eat lobster, crab, and shrimp every other day for the rest of my life. Luckily the dinner was only $18 before tax, so I could enjoy my food without worrying about the price. (one of the best things about coastal towns is the very cheap seafood - I'd consider living on the coast just based on that)

We were served by a young waiter (looked about 18), who in the course of the evening told us it was his first week at work. Being a newbie, he forgot to tell us that a mandatory 20% service fee would be included for groups larger than 8 people. This caused quite a shock when the bill was given to us, and resulted in a half-hour long argument between Neil and our waiter's trainer. His point was that we would have sat at two different tables had somebody told us about this in advance, and that we had people from all over the world who were here on a budget and didn't need to fork over more money for service that wasn't bad, but wasn't worth a 20% tip.

Not to encourage stereotyping, but every Australian I've met (and here in London, I've met many) has the gift of gab and would be nearly impossible to beat in an argument. Add Neil's charming smile and calm demeanor and the waitress was lost. She broke up the bill into two and handed them back to us. By this time, we'd made friends with the entire waitstaff and were back to reprising the roles we'd played in the bar with the Americans (i.e. over-exaggerated cultural stereotypes) . Neil insisted on getting a picture taken with the newbie waiter, with Raj and myself on either side holding up the menus (me pointing at the teeny small print on the back page that read: "A 20% service fee will be automatically added to groups of more than 8 people. You are welcome to add your own gratuity.")

Sadly, those pictures weren't taken with a digital camera, and the prints are in Canada, so I can't show them to you now (they and several others are waiting to be scanned so I can actually post pictures that more than 2 years old).

As we made our way back to Corvallis for the final night in Oregon, I hoped I'd one day get to return to that pretty coastal town (hopefully in summertime), and realized that I had managed to travel all the way across the continent by myself; participated in several successful business meetings and training sessions, and some pretty fantastic adventures along the way. The girl from the tiny Northern Ontario town (that sounded so exotic and beautiful to all of my fellow trainees) had successfully completed her First Business Trip.

The journey home to Ontario was pretty uneventful, and I felt like an expert traveler (or somebody from the Amazing Race as I ran through more airports to make my connections) and made it home without getting lost or crashing into any mountains. On the flight from Portland to Vancouver, I smiled at Mt. Hood from the window of the little puddle-jumper plane, forgetting my fear of flying as the beauty of Oregon disappeared beneath the clouds.

I returned to Canada feeling strong, independent, and more confident than ever before: I'd survived getting lost in Portland and driving through monsoon-like rain in the dark (okay, I exaggerate, but that's what it felt like), boardroom meetings in one of HP's major sites, won 8-ball games in a country bar against beer-soaked, cowboy-hat-wearing Americans, eaten a ridiculously huge crab dinner for only $18, made friends with people from all over the planet, and learned a couple of important lessons:

I could depend on myself to accomplish things I never thought possible.

Never try to ask a cow for directions - they don't know where the interstate is either.

Australian 8-ball and a couple of hosers

As soon as I turned around, I saw a sign saying "Portland 3 1/4 miles". Somehow, I driven right out of the city. Cursing my day-dreaming self, I hit the gas and drove towards the city, feeling like I was in a dream.

"How is it possible to get lost within 25 minutes of driving somewhere?!" I shouted in my head.

The radio stopped crackling, and more cars appeared on the road, thankfully all heading in the same direction that I was. Driving back towards the airport, I kept an eye out for the turnoff to the I-5, finally stopping at a gas station to ask directions.

"Ya just head up the road a little, then you'll sign the sign". The man looked at me curiously, and I realized how nervous and suspicious I probably looked. Instead of explaining that I'd almost wound up lost in the Oregon foothills, I opted for mystery and dashed back to the car, feeling very relieved. The relief disappeared 20 minutes later when I saw the sign for the Portland Airport ahead and realized that I may never find the interstate in the dark. Stopping at yet another gas station, I gave the story to another attendant, who laughed and told me that the turnoff isn't well marked and that it's only a "coupla miles" up the road. Thanking him, I hopped back into my Toyota and said a little prayer that the highway would stop playing hide-and-seek with me.

5 minutes later I was on the interstate, singing at the top of my lungs along with Destiny's Child, and feeling elated that things were finally looking up. I was 90 minutes later than expected, and knew that it was only going to get darker and probably wetter. Transport trucks whizzed past me, and I found myself driving much more conservatively than I do when traveling through Ontario. The rain was a constant nuisance, pouring in sheets over the roads, causing poor visibility and large puddles. Gripping the steering wheel, I kept reminding myself to stay calm, drive sensibly, and that things would be just fine now that I was actually going in the right direction. The world felt like it had become a dark, wet bubble - everything was black, grey, and dark green, with the only lights coming from the cars around me and the service stations on the side of the highway.

By the time I saw the turnoff for Salem, I was a bundle of nerves and spent the last half hour of the drive counting the minutes until it was over. Corvallis didn't look like much in the dark and rain that night - very few lights, and a pretty little bridge to travel over the river. Luckily I remembered an overhead photograph of the area and knew where to turn to find the hotel. After a quick check-in and lugging heavy bags into my little room, I collapsed on the bed and burst into tears.

I had made it safely...

The next day was overcast but warm, and I enjoyed the beauty of the river on my way to the HP site, knowing there would be a friendly welcome waiting for me.

Walking into the conference room, I was greeted by the sight of people from all over the world, and quickly learned that I was the only Canadian attending. Together we represented 14 different countries, and spent most of the breaks and non-working hours talking about where we'd come from.

I loved every minute of that week, and the memory of my scary drive through rainy Oregon became a funny story (that I was hoping would have a happy sequel).

Everybody was friendly, but I spent most of my time with an Australian named Neil, an Indian named Raj, and a Korean girl who's named I won't even try to spell, so I'll just call her L. We decided to try out small-town Oregon hospitality at a pub nearby the hotel, spending several hours drinking beer, over-exaggerating our cultural stereotypes, and whipping a group of cocky American college kids at "Australian rules" 8-ball. Neil pulled on his best Crocodile Dundee smile and accent, and proceeded to describe an outrageous set of rules that seemed to predict a 2-hour game of pool. The Americans were fascinated and decided that they could beat us no matter what rules we used, even offering to "make it interesting" halfway through the first game.

What they didn't realize is that Neil had made up several of the rules off the top of his head, many of which he forgot as each beer was emptied. We still managed to win every game, and draw quite a crowd of locals to watch the "foreigners" kick butt at pool. I said "eh" as often as possible, and made a point of talking about hockey, great coffee and donuts, and even managing to call Raj a "hoser" when he didn't make a shot. Neil was really in his element though, shouting "CRIKEY" and threatening that people who "potted the cue ball had to run around the table three times in their underwear". We must have been quite the show.

It wasn't until the end of the week that I realized how much of a show we could actually put on. We'd been given early release from work on Friday, and a large group of trainees decided to take a 90 minute drive from Corvallis to Newport, a coastal town known for it's gorgeous scenery and delicious clam chowder.

"More winding roads through hills", I thought as we made our way out of town. "Well, at least I'm not driving this time".

Neil's panicked voice interrupted my thoughts "RAJ! Look out mate!! THAT'S A BLOODY RED LIGHT! LISTEN MATE - YOU'RE NOT IN INDIA RIGHT NOW!"

As it turns out, India does not have a traffic system like those in North America, and our fiesty Indian friend was the one behind the wheel, having just blown through a red light, and speeding quickly towards the switchback roads.

"It's okay, Neil - calm down! I haven't had the chance to drive in 4 years. Just chill out!"

Neil turned around to check on me and L. We were both thinking the same thing - "how do we get Raj into the passenger seat?"

"Oh well, it'll be an adventure", I grinned as we came up to the first turn. "Let's just hope we survive to tell the story later"

It was the most nerve-wracking car ride ever...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You can't ask a cow for directions

A typical day at work: people answering phones, rolling their eyes as they assured anxious customer that their problems "will be resolved to the best of our ability", while the constant clicking on fingers on keyboards continued in the background. I was sitting at my computer wearing sunglass because the flourescent lighting drove me crazy, when my supervisor asked me to put my phone in idle (so calls wouldn't be routed to it), and come to his desk.

My supervisor at the time, Mike, was known for pulling pranks (I'd helped him on a few occasions - which would make a good story for another post) so when he asked me if I wanted to
travel to Corvallis, Oregon to represent our company at a training session for HP's new digital projector, I didn't really believe him.

"Seriously Melinda - they want you to come down for a week and train with them. They insisted that it be you..."

At risk of sounding full of myself, this wasn't a surprise at all. I'd developed a very close working relationship with the DPI team (as we called them), and over the months of working with that contract had made myself as indispensible as possible to them. I worked extra hours, pointed out ways to help things run more efficiently, became a liason between the call center, our client, and the repair center, and spent hours on calls
with the DPI guys while others were stuck talking to customers. It was stressful and I was doing way more than I was getting paid to do, but I really loved it. For about 18 months, we had a great team of people. Everybody got along really well, and work was made even better by the close friendships that had grown over stories of annoying customers and a common goal to make a new product line succeed. Our team was lucky - we were a small group who were hand-picked by management to support the DPI products, and spent our days supporting business customers, while the rest of the building was forced to deal with home users - many of whom truly believed that a computer was an alien invention that would never be completely understood.

Weeks later, I found myself taking a late-night Robert Q bus from London to Toronto's Pearson airport, nervously thinking about the long journey ahead. It was the first time that I would travel alone without parents or friends, and being a person who isn't a big fan of planes, I wasn't looking forward to the 5 hour flight ahead to Vancouver, where I would then hop on a smaller plane to Portland. Thankfully, the flight to Vancouver went really nicely, and I found my way through the busy airport to the next terminal in record time. I was so b
usy being proud of myself for making it that far that I didn't notice the heavy clouds moving in....

The flight from Vancouver to Portland was on a little puddle-jumper plane (a DC-10 or something) which stayed enveloped in heavy clouds, rain, and fog for the duration. It was a "commuter flight", filled with business people reading newspapers and catching naps. Hardly anybody had any real luggage, and nobody was as nervous as I was. The stewardess noticed my anxiety and offered me a complimentary drink, which I was expecting to be water, but in fact turned out to be the liquor of my choice. So I got to have a free rum & coke as I p
rayed that the plane wouldn't crash into Mount Hood or some other mountain.

By the time we landed in Portland, the warmth in my belly from the rum had been replaced by a large knot - it was pouring rain, and I was now on the last leg of my journey - one that required
me to drive for two and a half hours down the I-5 to Corvallis. In a car I'd never driven and a state I'd never been. Up to that point, I'd been depending on other people to get me to where I needed to go, and now it was my turn to drive. My car rental got a free business upgrade to a brand-new, silver Toyota Rav4, which helped things immensely. I drove a Corolla for years (will be getting another one when I get back to Canada), and felt very comfortable driving around in another Toyota.

The radio was blasting, I was warm and enjoying the beauty of the northwestern ra
inforest (really that's the most fitting description for the vivid green woods that cover Oregon all year long), sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee, and glancing at the map to make sure I was going in the right direction.

Just as I was thinking "this isn't so bad", I realized that the road that was supposed to take me to the I-5 was now winding through increasingly larger hills, and that trees and fields were replacing the gas stations and restaurants. Traffic had diminished to a few cars and trucks making their way through the rain, and I followed one up to a field full of cows.

"This doesn't make any sense", I thought, "I should definitely have gotten on to the I-5 by now." At that point, just like in the movies, the rain poured down even harder and my radio started to crackle with static.

"Where the hell is the interstate?!" I shouted at the cows, making a U-turn to head back in the other direction again...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Northern Pride

You Know You're From Northern Ontario when:

..... you or somebody you know has been in an accident with a moose (in this case me).

... trips "south" hardly ever happened in the winter because there was always the possibility of a blizzard stranding you in Parry Sound.

...most of the streets you learned to drive in had gigantic pot holes in them that seemed to come out of nowhere and could swallow an entire wheel (or the front of your car) if you weren't careful

... growing up your Halloween costumes were made to fit over a snowsuit. went on a school trip to Science North during every year of elementary school and can totally remember Ralph, the flying squirrels, the Bed of Nails, and that (lying) computer that told you how tall you were going to be when you stopped growing. traveled 15 minutes by skidoo to go ice fishing earned money by picking blueberries then selling them to roadside stands along highway 69.

... you laugh your ass off when people say -10 is "freezing cold weather" for January

... you think nothing of flopping into your back in the snow and making snow angels - even at 27 years old

...the radio stations you listened to growing up were either "classic rock" or "adult contemporary" can properly pronounce the name "Kapuskasing", but only ever call it "Kap" know where Hearst, Cochrane, and Espanola are

...the French River Trading Post seemed like an exotic vacation spot when you were a kid (admit it - the Hungry Bear & Blueberry Hound were terribly exciting characters to meet!), even though you had to pay $10 for an ice cream cone grew up hating the month of June because the blackflies were so bad you couldn't play outside without a solid layer of bug dope. least 3 of your friends can perfectly imitate a loon call

... people from other places ask you if you know (insert name here) just because they happen to also be from your hometown

...the only sport anybody in your town cares about is hockey (and every town has somebody connected to the NHL because "Northern boys are the best players around") can properly pronounce the word "poutine" (and believe it tastes best when eaten with a plastic fork out of a styrofoam container and ordered from a roadside chip stand)'ve gone on a class trip to a maple sugar bush and eaten fresh maple syrup after it was hardened on some snow.

...that place you live in during summer vacation is called a CAMP, not a COTTAGE

...Stompin' Tom's songs "Sudbury Saturday Night" and "The Good ol' Hockey Game" can be found on at least one of your mixed tapes / CDs've referred to Barrie, Ont as "south" a teenager, you partook in the age-old tradition of Pit Parties in the bush with your friends

... during those aforementioned Pit Parties, you spent hours trying to find dead trees and branches to keep the fire going

... you learned to measure the distance between places not by kilometers or miles but by how long it takes to drive there. For example "Toronto is about 4 hours down highway 400".

... a campfire and case of beer just as much fun (if not more) than a night out in a club

... you know what happens to pinecones and birch bark when they're tossed in a fire (also pop cans, potato chips, marshmallows, and pretty much anything you could get away with throwing into the pit when your parents weren't looking)

And finally,

You know you're from Northern Ontario when you can look at pictures like this and be damn proud to tell people this was where you grew up.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Grew up in a Small Town

I grew up in one of those places where there are no real traffic lights, everybody knows everybody else, and the nearest mall is a 25 minute drive away. I walked to school every day and played in the park with my friends, safe under the watchful eyes of adults who knew I was "Mary and Bill's kid", even though I didn't always know who they were.

When somebody gave their phone number, they only had to provide the last 4 digits because the other three were always the same. I was around 14 years old when I got used to having to give people my full phone number. Giving directions to our house was the same: "I live over on Maple, near the arena" was all that was required for somebody to nod knowingly and ask if I knew "the Kilgours" or some other family who lived nearby.

Years later, that little Northern Ontario town is still with me...

Every street is so familiar - I could draw a map of it right now, with street names and people's houses labeled (although many have moved now) and reproduce most of the town by memory. The names of the shops on the single "downtown" street (downtown consisting of a miniscule area with a doctor's office, police station, fire department, and a handful of restaurants and clothing stores) haven't changed, and I can still order the best Chinese food ever across from the CN rail station.

The parks and fields near where I grew up are still the same too...

This time of year, around 9 o'clock at night, when it's just starting to get dark outside and the warmth from the day is still in the air, I used to kneel in front of my open bedroom window, listening to the sounds of baseball games in the field nearby. I never really liked the sport, and didn't have anything to do with it really, but for some reason the sound of those games fascinated me. It was peaceful somehow. When I was really small, I used to sing to myself during those times; quietly out the window, looking at the stars and dreaming about my future. I could stare out the window for hours, daydreaming about things to come as the sounds of clapping and cheering and bats connecting with balls drifted through the night air.

On weekend nights in the spring, the neighbourhood kids would all get together for huge games of Hide and Seek, or Capture the Flag. One year, we played Flag every night for two months straight. There had to have been 30 or 40 kids out in the streets, plotting how to get past the rival teams to win the game. Even though we were out running around without any grown-ups, nobody ever worried about something happening to us. We were safe.

I spent a lot of time on my own as a kid, often sitting up in the weeping willow tree in our backyard. The branches were thick and strong, and one of them was low enough for me to climb onto with a book and a snack from the corner store. Hundreds of pages were turned there, some stained with a bit of grease from a bag of Doritos or Cheetos Corn Twists (too bad they don't make those anymore), or a spill from a bottle of Tahiti Treat pop. (It's amazing I only have 2 cavities)

It was my place. From that spot, I could see people walking their dogs, rollerblading, biking, and stopping their cars to chat with others. Even those in a rush took a moment to wave hello.

Even though I haven't lived there in years, I can still remember every street as though I walked down it yesterday. I remember the exact places I'd cross the road to get to the arena or to the corner store, or a friend's house. I remember which roads were good for roller-blading and the short cuts to other neighbourhoods. I remember which houses had the best Christmas lights, the really good ones that lit up the sky around them, and never stopped impressing me no matter how many times I saw them.

When I go back to Capreol, Ontario, people I haven't seen in ages will ask me how it was in England. That's just how small towns work. Proud parents tell other parents about their children's university programs, jobs, travels, and other adventures when they see each other in church or the store, or wherever, then if the story is interesting enough (and it usually is), it's passed around to everybody else. I'm still hearing stories about people I went to primary school with and haven't seen in 15 years. It's nice that we're all still connected that way, even with thousands of kilometers in between.

If there was anything I could tell the daydreaming little girl looking out her bedroom window, it would be that the world out here IS amazing and wonderful, filled with sights beyond belief, fascinating people, and incredible experiences. And that after seeing and doing all of these wonderful things, I will return to those familiar streets and wave to the people who've known my family for generations and be happy just to be home again.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Ever since my two best friends had babies, I've understood much more clearly what motherhood is about. (Enough sometimes to scare me away from ever having kids of my own - tales of sleepless nights and frighteningly nasty diaper stories, etc)

Moms are amazing.

They love us even when we scream and cry all night long as infants, give them major attitude as teenagers, date people who are clearly wrong for us, and make choices that they KNOW will lead us to trouble, yet they are always there when we need them.

Now as a grown-up (ha!) and professional teacher, I depend on my mother more than I have in years. We've spent hours on the phone, with my rambling on and on about my students and experiences as a teacher, with her just listening, knowing that I need to talk some of this stuff through. Sometimes she gives advice, and sometimes she just listens. Somehow she always knows what I need though... It's really great to be able to share this part of my life with someone who really understands this world - and has so much wisdom to share right back.

My mother has been a source of so many great things in my life. I grew up believing I could do anything as long as I tried, and having the confidence in myself to make some pretty tough choices. She's always been there for me, even when I've driven her crazy...

When my parents came to London for a month, I was a little worried about how well we'd get along (you've seen my old flat), but surprisingly we barely argued at all. They adjusted fairly well to the more bohemian, city lifestyle that I've been living here - even making do without properly made toast for TWO WHOLE WEEKS before purchasing a toaster from Tesco.

So once again in my life (hopefully not for the last time), I was on holiday with my parents. Being the incredibly generous people that they are, we went to Paris instead of somewhere else (I know it wasn't their first choice). They didn't complain once, and threw themselves into playing tourist in a country where they could only understand about half of what people were saying just because it's always been my dream.

I've played sports, gone on holidays, had fabulous birthday parties, tasted lobster and other delicious foods, and experienced hundreds of other wonderful things because of them.

I will take care of you
The very best that I can

with all of the love here in my heart
with all of the strength in my hand
Your every dream I'll share
for every tear I'll be there my whole life through
I will take care of you

- Amy Sky, I Will Take Care of You

Thanks to my mother for everything - I wouldn't be who I am today without you.

I don't want to end this on a sad note, but somebody I care about recently lost his mother, and I can't help but think of he and his family today. Please say a prayer today for those who are without their moms. I'm the kind of person who believes that they are always with us, even after they've passed away, but I do know that it doesn't lessen the pain of being without them.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

For fans of The Office

I am seriously crazy about this show! Despite the 3-year cliffhanger that is the relationship between Jim & Pam, that is the focus of many fans of the show, there are so many other reasons why it's worth watching.

(not just John Krasinski either - no matter what I might have written in previous posts)

In the case of this show, art definitely does imitate life. Sometimes I wonder if those NBC writers have hidden cameras in offices around the world to help them create this stuff.

The pranks are hilarious:

And if you do watch this show, here is some brilliantness (yep that's now a word) that I found on YouTube. It captures everybody's funny expressions so perfectly, as well as the absolute nerdiness of Michael and Dwight:

Do I ever wish I'd seen some of these pranks when i worked in the call center...

I am determined to publish this post

So it doesn't matter if I think it's crap - I'm hitting the Publish button anyway. (consider yourself warned!)

There are 6 unpublished / unpublishable posts in my list this morning - most of which are going to probably get deleted because they are terrible. It's been a crazy week - one of personal revelations, sleeplessness and lots of stress. My 30 little ones at school have been put through more stress than I would ever willingly inflict on any kid, yet I have to because the law says I have to test them at this age. I can't even explain how horrible it feels to watch a little boy crying as he writes a test, refusing to stop because he wants to do it so badly, but can't help crying since he simply can't do it.

These kids are TOO LITTLE to go through this.

To relieve the stress of the week, a group of us teachers went out last night to this great pub called The Royston. We were there for a birthday shindig last week and had a fabulous time playing pool and dancing to the Worst DJ Ever. He wasn't any better last night, but he did put on "Play That Funky Music" for me (love that song!). The funny part is that there were a bunch of young kids (18-20 years old) there, so hardly anybody danced to it. We did anyway. Being a little older than the crowd and not looking to impress anybody is very liberating - we danced to old, cheesy songs from Grease and Wham! without a thought about anybody else.

There has been some major office drama lately (yep, schools are rife with office drama, despite not really being an office. Maybe just having an office causes drama to happen).

We have a colleague who everybody has been really frustrated with lately - she's very overweight and has the personality of a person who is bitter with herself and the rest of the world. And this week, she's been bitter with certain members of the staff....

In the past, we've just posted invites for Friday Pub Nights on the board in the staff room, but she and a couple of others caused a lot of trouble for us on my friend K's birthday. We'd written that we were going to the Royston 3 weeks before her birthday, yet H and two other office staff decided they didn't want to go there, and went to another pub, expecting the 15 of us who were at the Royston to meet them where they were.

After an hour of waiting, H called K on her phone and bitched at her about "being left waiting", so K told her we were staying put and if they wanted to be with us that they would have to come to where we were. At that point, K's family had shown up with bottles of champagne - so we couldn't have left even if it had been a consideration. When H showed up, she let everybody know how pissed off she was, and sat giving people dirty looks for most of the night. When K apologized to her (still don't know why she thought she had to do that), H's response was "You should be sorry - we waited for an hour and a half for you!"

Give me a break.

The rest of the night found most of us avoiding H, playing pool, and sharing a relieved look when she finally went home. For the entire week she's been acting funny with some of us, so when making plans for last night we kept things very quiet.

It was nice not having to worry about any of the people who were going out for once. We could drink and joke around without any concerns about facing problems on Monday.

One of the highlights of the night for me came very early in the evening when a colleague of ours told me H is jealous of me because I'm SKINNY. Ha!

I am not a skinny person. Never have been, never will be. But having a gay man say something like that (without any prompting or hints that I need somebody to tell me I'm not fat) sure does wonders for the ego! I have lost weight since moving here, but not having my own full-length mirror for 9 months leads to a surprise when you finally see yourself in one...

(I think I'll refrain from taking a picture of myself in the full length mirror - not quite ready for somebody to politely remind me that "skinny" is probably not the right word to describe my curves.)

(don't get me wrong - I like my curves. I wouldn't mind if they were a little smaller though)

(Here I go copying Sully again! Ah well - They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Plus this is really fun.)

(Speaking of Them, who are They anyway?!)

Time to go. My rum-soaked brain cells need some coffee.

(if you see Them - tell Them I said hi)

Monday, May 07, 2007

the date is set

I got an email from my mom today...

You are coming home!!!!!

Wednesday, July 25

To all of you Canadians out there - can't wait to see you again! My itinerary for the first couple of weeks back home is far from being finalized, but now I can start making plans - get ready for some drunken bowling nights and please try not to make fun of my "Briticized" English!

Land of hockey, Tim Horton's coffee, blue lakes and dill pickle chips - I'm coming home!!

(Guess I'll have to reverse my masthead now - notice the plane flying in the other direction... Rob, if you're reading this, I need some help!)

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I had a whole other post planned, but something has been really bothering me, and I need to write my way through it.

Recently an anonymous blogger I *know* went through a horrible tragedy. There was an accident - a widely publicized one - which made the news and basically unmasked the man behind the blog.

My first thought when I read the news was of shock and horror that a family I've come to care for and admire through his blog are dealing with such a terrible thing. Immediately after the shock subsided, it dawned on me that people were going to find out who he is.

I won't lie here - I've wondered myself who this person really is. I've always wondered. Not because I'm nosy (well maybe a little), but because I think so highly of him. There are few bloggers out there who have made such an impact on me - people that I would cry for when something bad happens. Interestingly, as soon as I found out his real name, it didn't matter.

In fact, it feels strange knowing.

Despite the connection I feel, I don't really know him. I know the blogger, the writer, and the little things about his family that he shares through his posts.

So how do you send condolences to a person you don't know?

Do you send flowers to the funeral home? Or a comment in the online obituary or his blog? Do you attend the funeral?

When he posted what was going on, he knew he was unmasking himself. But as a writer, he needed to get it out there.

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary screamin' out aloud
And I know that you'll use them however you want to.

- Breathe, Anna Nalick

He knew what he was doing when he chose to share this terrible thing with all of the strangers who faithfully read his blog. In spite of losing his anonymity, he wrote about what happened, and took the chance that we would respect his wishes to keep his life seperate from his blog. Comments poured in, most people expressing their sorrow at his terrible loss, and offering prayers and sympathy.

Soon after, another post came with a link to the funeral home, online obits, and the funeral details. Immediately, amidst the offering of prayers and support, people started debating whether or not these were places for us.

There are a lot of opinions about this - and the comments section on his latest post makes me really sad to read. There are a lot of emotions running high right now, and varying points of view that people feel very strongly about. What bothers me is that people are judging other people for their ways of mourning or trying to provide support. In the end, everybody is just trying to heal and to help a person they care about to get through the one of the most difficult things anybody would go through.

So the question is - are we right to send flowers and notices or even attend the funeral? Where is the boundary? Is it the one he set when he started the blog with an anonymous identity? What about the readers who love and respect him for the person he is - do they have a right to greet the man in person and give their condolences?

I make no judgements here, nor will I discuss in this blog what choices I made to help support a person I genuinely care about.

I do ask that anybody reading this post will take a moment, and (if they're the praying kind), say a prayer for a family who has lost two very special people. To those who do know the person I'm writing about, maybe this weekend would be a good time to light a candle for them all...

I'll be back tomorrow with the story about my East London adventures...