Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back in Three Weeks

I'm sitting at my friend Tai's computer in Vancouver. She had to get up early and go off to work, poor thing, leaving her vacationing friends to have a lazy morning lounging about and drinking tea before we have to get to the airport.

Jeff's brother drove us down island to Nanaimo last night and we took the first ferry after work we could. Tai picked us up (thanks sweetie pie) and we all headed over to Deb and Wayne and baby Angelina's place where they cooked fantastically tasty food for us.

Wayne, who is a talented pastry chef, and has apparently (unbeknownst to us)appeared several times on the Food Channel (at least in re-runs), has been offered an opportunity to travel to Switzerland to participate in a dessert-making competition. But he is reluctant to go because he is enormously busy at the hotel where he works and feels responsible for keeping it all together now that another chef has left.

This is a talented guy. He's already won international competitions before. He won a trip to Paris as a prize once, but never went. It's driving me crazy. Go to Switzerland, Wayne! Please go! You won't regret it. Your hotel kitchen will just have to manage without you. The centre will hold.

Anyway, that's my opinion and his wife's opinion and indeed, everyone around the table last night told him so, so we shall see.

Jeff and I are heading out for breakfast now, and Deb will be arriving to pick us up for the airport soon after.

So ciao everyone, see you all when we get back!

I shall now be reduced to writing with pen and paper while on the Serengeti, but I have a feeling I'll have lots to write here when I get back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Last Evening at Home for a While

Oh, I'm feeling MUCH more aligned with the universe tonight than I was yesterday evening. Maybe it WAS the Larium after all. I felt downright twitchy and I had those wild dreams again mixed with early morning insomnia. But other than feeling sleepy tonight I feel much better.

I've spent the evening alternately tidying the house and chatting with friends on the telephone.

Pol, I didn't get hold of you in person, but just know I'm taking you with me in spirit to the beaches of Zanzibar because I KNOW you need a vacation.

I also didn't talk to my brother, but you know, it always seems as if one or the other of us is in the midst of planning to leave the country whenever we see one another. I'll just get back from Africa and then he leaves for Laos and Cambodia. He's a lot smarter at planning his trips to be elsewhere at Christmas-time. Sigh, one of these years I'd like to be in Cambodia for the holiday rush. Also, he's very lucky that his job lets him take off for a few months at a time instead of a few weeks.

My German friend, Claudia, informed me that our government's practice of giving Canadians only two or three weeks holiday a year is downright barbaric. Apparently in other places in the world like Europe and Australia, six to eight weeks paid holidays is the norm.

However, I think Americans also have only two weeks, and I've heard that in Japan a single week of holidays (or less) is the encouraged norm. No wonder you see North American/Japanese tourists rushing around in photo-taking, sight-seeing, mad-dash see-it-all frenzies. They have a lot of living to do in only a very little time.

Me,I feel a deep need to see new places and stand on far-away soil. It's frustrating that I have so little time to do it in.

Even if I live to be very old and travel somewhere for a few weeks every year, that's still a lot of travelling left undone. And criminy, if I go somewhere every year I'm going to have to win the lottery or pen something that's best-selling or I'm going to have very empty coffers indeed.

Ah woe! I know, I know...cry me a river. I actually feel very lucky that I've travelled so much already when lots of people I know haven't been able to find a way to do it.

Funeral Flowers

My friend Sherry came over for coffee last night. She needed time away from her house which is full of people from all over the country who have come to attend the funeral. Her mother Katherine passed away a few days ago.

It's funny how you only see relatives for weddings or for deaths. My poor friend is feeling so frustrated. She's trying to manage all the things that go along with noisy houseguests and preparing for a memorial and simply has no time to simply sit down and grieve.

Tempers are flaring.

Her father is dealing with things in his own way. If the obituary is not written,if the funeral doesn't happen, if nobody is allowed to get up and speak at the memorial then maybe this is not really real. The struggle to find a balance between respecting her father's pain and fulfilling the last wishes of her mother are very stressful.

While I am away, she will be watering my garden. I asked her if she'd like me to get my mother to do that job instead. "No!" she insisted. "I need a place to come to where it's quiet and I can be by myself!"

She is going to use some flowers from my garden to decorate at the memorial reception. She is welcome to as many as she likes. I used to bring Katherine bouquets of roses and I know she loved them. Also, lavender was one of her favourite scents and I have armfuls of it.

We sat and talked about Katherine's last days and how they were so cheerful and busy and full of friends, despite the hospital atmosphere. Towards the very end she became very weak and did not talk much, but she had a conversation with a friend one night as she drifted out of sleep and realized her friend was watching at her bedside.

She said to her friend, "I was just dreaming you were here. We two are angels, you and I. But me, I have a tiger inside". Sherry thinks she was referring to the cancer.

Her mother referred to friends of hers who had gone on before her, years before, and believed they were near her.

I think that is likely. If I died and years later I knew a friend was dying I'd try to be there for here too.

Sherry and I both strongly believe that the dead are there for you if you need them to be there.

Sherry also believes that her mother is nearby somewhere, shaking her head at all the hurt and frustration over her funeral. "I can hear her saying, 'Jesus Christ! what the hell's wrong with you people?'", laughed Sherry.

Yes, knowing Katherine, feisty lady that she was, that's probably exactly what she's saying.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I've been going along very calmly this past week, feeling quite organized about my upcoming trip. And now, all of a sudden, about two hours ago, I came down with a case of pre-trip jitters. I'm leaving right after work the day after tomorrow: on the ferry to Vancouver first for a barbecue with friends and then catching a flight to London the next day. Then on to Nairobi.

It's not that I've left everything to the last minute. More or less everything is packed (or in one spot waiting to be packed). The laundry is done. The passports are photocopied. The flight is confirmed (dum-de-dum....half an hour on the phone with Air Canada's light mood music).

It's just that I am in traveller's limbo right now. I feel discombobulated. My mind is already aboard an airplane but I actually have two more shifts of work to get through. It's always this way right before a trip so why does this feeling always take me unawares?

And why must I triple-check everything? It's annoying, even to myself, let alone poor Jeff who has to go over check-lists with me.

I'm trying not to let my little OCD-prone self get all worked up about it. I'm making myself a cup of tea, having a hot bath, and going to bed. I'm hoping that the Larium dreams won't keep me up tonight because I think I really need a good sleep.

Send calming thoughts my way, people! :)

The Evil Safety Lady is Coming

Oh, I am SO glad I'm going to miss the safety inspection this Thursday at the preschool where I work. I'll be safely out of the country, thank goodness. Because I might say rude things to the safety inspection lady in front of the children despite my usually mild-mannered self.

It's not just me and my co-workers. Everybody in the child-care business is starting to grumble around here. The new safety laws are getting a little freaky, and I'm getting very choked at each new thing that they say we're going to lose.

We haven't even had the evil inspection lady come yet (just some nasty form letters), but we've already had to close our swings, our slide, and any piece of equipment that is "elevated" off the ground. Our little darlins' aren't going to have any sort of climber for much longer I fear.

ANYTHING by Little Tykes or Fisher-Price, blanket-rule: gone. It doesn't matter if it's brand-new and safety-approved for the rest of Canada. It doesn't matter if it was perfectly safe when they inspected six months ago when we bought it for eight hundred dollars--now its not approved for "commercial" use and so, no more.

The new VIHA laws are going to make it very hard for any daycare or place with a playground to have nice equipment....The climber we are probably going to lose once cost our centre almost ten thousand dollars. I've been very priveleged to work in a place where the playground is the envy of toddlers everywhere.

It's VERY frustrating when the children ask us why we won't let them play on anything. We're blaming it on the Safety Lady. They probably think she's got horns by now. Maybe she does.

My boss is grinding her teeth. She believes in keeping children safe, of course,probably more than the next person, but even she is shaking her head. "Maybe we should just wrap the children in bubble-wrap before we send them out to play!"

Grrr! Whatever happened to the concept of "healthy risks" that they taught us in the early childhood education courses? What about the value of climbing and swinging for large motor development?

Makes us all wonder how we managed to survive our own childhoods, what with all the biking without helmets and climbing about in tree forts!

Bah! Bah, I say!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Blog Can be a Dream Diary, Sure, Why Not?

I wasn't really planning on including dreams in this blog, but now that I've done it a few times it seems like the thing to do.

I used to keep a written dream journal, but I haven't lately.

In the first dream last night, Jeff was riding a big black bull around the house my grandmother used to live in. He soon got bucked off and we watched the bull rampage around, goring furniture and tossing the Christmas tree into the air. Jeff was impressed and said, grinning, "And just IMAGINE what he'd do in a china shop!"

In the second dream somebody had a pet giraffe and asked me if I'd like to pet it. Oh, I was so happy petting this giraffe! It was so smooth and warm, and smelled nice in a horsy way. I rubbed my cheek against its side. (Hmmm, in retrospect, a giraffe is probably too tall to actually do this.)It was very friendly and kept bending its neck down to bump me gently with its head. It ended up bumping me right underneath its body, between its front legs. There I was, standing under a giraffe, feeling both happiness at the uniqueness of my position and a little nervous that I was so close to a creature so large.

I have to say that of all the animals I'd like to see in Africa, the giraffe is the one I look forward to most of all. I think in part it is because they seem such improbable creatures, like a made-up animal.They have something of the unicorn about them. They also have very expressive faces and gorgeous eyelashes. I remember seeing one a long time ago at the Calgary Zoo and just staring and staring.

How Much Can One Bag Hold?

It's only a few more days till we leave on our trip so we did a test-pack tonight. We laid everything out that we wanted to take and then did our best to subtract items. It's a science, really, seeing how much you can creatively stuff in a back-pack of medium size.

We actually seem to be quite well-organized. I found an old notebook with lists from a previous trip and it looks very similar. It seems we've found a formula. :)

The secret, my friends, (as some of you already know) is Ziploc bags, lots of them with the air squeezed out. It helps your clothes squish down into compact little blobs. Put a dryer sheet like Bounce in with them and they stay fresh as a daisy. I swear by them. seems I've just plugged two products. Any representatives from Bounce or Ziploc reading? I'd be happy to rave about your products on television for a nice round sum of money! Anybody?

I also must thank my friend Pol, Queen of Khaki and Countess of Camping Clothes for lending me practical and correctly coloured clothing for this trip. I am VERY glad for her help. :)

The tricky part of packing for this trip is that we have three separate parts to it.

Firstly, we will be mucking about in tents and on dusty roads in the Serengeti. We need to bring our own sleeping bags and mats. The overland company said it may be very hot during the day, but cold at night. It may rain with equatorial zeal, turning the landscape into sucking red mud. Bring water-bottles and hiking boots for a day on Kilimanjaro.

Secondly, we will be on the tropical island of Zanzibar where I need both bathing suit for snorkelling and modest garb for walking around a place which is mostly Muslim.

Thirdly, back to London where I need at least one outfit suitable for going out to a nice dinner or to a theatre.

Sigh, it tasks the most dedicated philosopher of packing light.

But Jeff's mom called tonight to tell us excitedly that she had finished packing and EVERYTHING she is taking ,including her sleeping bag ,fits in a single pack. She has obviously conquered a mighty demon for I have watched this lady pack before and most everything but the kitchen sink usually goes with her. I am very proud of her.

In the last two years my mother-in-law has spent months in Nepal, India, and Tibet, back-packed in Australia, toured around the British Isles, and driven all the way across Canada to the Maritimes. She is a travelling wonder! I could not ask for a better mother-in-law. Some of you out there might think it odd that I'd like to bring my mother-in-law (and sister-in-law)on a trip, but I really think this is going to work. It's going to be fun. Our little family group will make up a fifth of the whole group on safari.

We have the names of all the other people in our Exodus group: fifteen out of twenty of us are women! Two of them are doctors.

Ever looked at a list of names and tried to imagine their personalities? For instance, one lady is named Davina. I've never met a Davina before.

Birthday Bashes

It's a pic of ME at age 33!

I had my second birthday dinner tonight with Jeff at Toscano's, a little Italian restaurant down by the harbour. It was delightful. Excellent food. I went with the curried fettucini on a friend's recommendation. Thanks Justiney! Also, another fine glass of Montepulciano D'Abruzzo and tiramisu for dessert. (Now usually I consider sugar to be the devil's hand-maiden, but I go over to the dark side on my birthday).

I also finally got my dinner with just the two of us.

On my birthday proper last night, I secretly groaned when I found out Jeff's mom had planned a secret birthday-dinner for me and so I had to postpone the dinner I had envisioned. It was actually a very sweet idea,(and Jeff's mom is known for her sweet ideas) but I had just been looking forward to a quiet romantic evening with just Jeff.

Jeff asked me if he was in the doghouse for keeping it hush-hush and I told him only a little. It turned out to be nice actually. It was family mostly, and also Joan, and all the dogs of course.

I always feel like I'm in the middle of a wolf pack with Joel's three dogs loping around. One is a St. Bernard and another is a Great Dane so they don't fade into the background very easily. Luckily I am a vicarious dog person.

Among my presents was a gift from my mother that I just love. It is a tear-drop shaped Swarovski crystal, tinted blue and on a delicate silver chain. There are several tiny crystal beads clustered above it. There was a time when I didn't much care for jewellery but I have come into an appreciation of ethereal bracelets and vintage brooches in the last few years. My inner magpie, lover of sparkly things, is evolving.

With my new camera I took a little video of mom and Joan. Joan is leaving for Australia tomorrow and I'll mail it to her. My mother has kept this friendship for forty years and watching them chat with their heads close together, laughing and leaning on one another, just makes my heart feel warm.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Shiny Happy Dream

Last night I dreamed that my friend Pol was the architect of an amazing shimmering building the likes of which had never been seen before. It was elegant and tall and was crowned by a magnificent statue of a golden bird. From this statue, waterfalls streamed all the way down the building to land in a shimmering pool with underwater lights that glimmered and danced.

My friends Tai and Nish and myself were SO proud of our friend! Through her the glory of this creation was ours too. We climbed up to the top of the building and dove all the way down to the pool below, shrieking with adrenalin and happiness. We swam and laughed and complimented our friend's talent.

In waking life, Pol is a talented graphic artist and designer. For as long as I've known her, she has sketched houses and rooms. But only now is my subconscious realizing her full potential apparently.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

An Early Birthday Present

I have a new toy! And I'm so pleased with it!

Yesterday Jeff bought me a new digital camera to take on our trip, but decided I should get it before my actual birthday so that I'd have time to practice with it. It's a Fujifilm FinePix A345, with 4.1 megapixels.

There are three reasons I like it better: it's about half the bulk of my other camera and now slips easily into my little purse, it has more megapixels (which is nice when you want to enlarge photos), and it has a "sports" option so that you can take pictures of objects in motion without the blur factor. (This last feature actually is what endeared me to it. I've taken way too many shots in the past of children running or belly-dancers shimmying that have turned out hopelessly blurred.)

Actually, I like it for another reason too. It's very similar indeed in all other ways to my other camera. The buttons and settings are so similar that within five minutes I felt quite comfortable with it. If it wasn't so familiar I don't think I'd be comfortable taking it travelling so soon.

Lovely present, my love! :)

Well, tomorrow is my birthday.....eeeeeeeek! I shall be thirty-three upon tomorrow's morn. Heh, I USED to think that was old.

Queen of the Spice Island

Here's one for you, Tai (a trivia nugget for you to ponder as you slave away reading my blog at work...)

Freddy Mercury of "Queen" fame was born on the spice island of Zanzibar and his childhood home is now a little bar there among the palm trees.

I can't exactly call it a pilgrimage, but I'll have to pay my respects. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Larium Dreams

I took my first dose of Larium (Mefloquine) at breakfast yesterday. It's an anti-malarial drug that you take just once a week. Good news was I had none of the side effects like nausea or headache. I felt completely fine all day long.

But last night, my oh my, how I dreamed! I would dream. And then wake up. Then I'd dream. Wake up. Dream. Lestat, my cat, yowling and another wake-up. More dreams.

I honestly couldn't tell you what I dreamed about except to say that they had a vivid, larger-than-life, ROILING quality to them. They seemed to bubble out of sleep with me and into waking-life for just a moment or two. They weren't nightmares, not especially. But those dreams felt very trippy, and I mean that in the colloquial "oh-man-I-think-I'm trippin'" sort of way. "Vivid dreams" is supposedly a common side effect.

To be honest, I WAS kind of hoping I would find out what a "larium dream" was like. You see, I've never even TRIED pot (and I live in British Columbia where's it's practically our economy), not to mention anything stronger. So all my drug-induced states up to this time have largely been the result of too much flu medication.

Jeff, however, slept like a baby last night, and couldn't recall dreaming at all.

African Garage Sale Consultant

I spent this evening at Christina's house in my new role as garage sale pricing consultant. Apparently I am getting a reputation for having some knowledge of fund-raising and so spent three hours sipping chai tea and trying to put a sticker price on some wonderful African art and knickknacks.

Christina is an amazing and mystical person. I really feel drawn to her--she is an artist, a photographer, a geologist, an "energy worker", a whirlwind of energy herself...and yet she always radiates a lovely calmness. Also, I enjoy listening to her South African accent. There is a strong possibility that we could become good friends.

Anyway, she is fund-raising for another trip to Africa (we have that in common). I quote from her brochure advertising both her garage sale and her slide show lectures: "...She will be joining a group of Energy Workers from Canada and the United States touring South Africa to explore the wisdom of the Sangomas (traditional healers),exchange information and healing skills with other healers, and do energy work in Kliptown Township, Soweto."

My main challenge tonight was deciding on prices for objects I had no real idea what their true value was.

What price do you put on a fifty-year-old Zulu smoking pipe that also has a barbed spear-tip on the end? (It's handy and multi-functional for the Zulu warrior in your life.)

What about a beaded palm frond whisk for stirring up home-made beer? Or a stone coffee-pot from Oman? An antique wooden potion bottle? Um, or a round sort of bowl made of camel skin with a pointy metal implement attached that not even Christina knows the function of?

There were wooden scultures, seed necklaces,Omani fish-gutting knives, batik shirts, beautiful books, a cast-iron cauldron, and even some modern packaged witch-doctor fortune-telling bones. Some of these things would be murder to get through customs nowadays, not to mention the trouble of shipping or carrying them all the way to Canada.

Was Christina SURE she wanted to sell all these things, even for a fund-raiser?

Yes. She is paring down. Simplifying. She has had the pleasure and energy of owning these things (and living in places like Jordan, Oman, and Africa) and now it is time to move on. She wants freedom from things. She has even recently done some journal-burning(!)...that is something that would be very hard for me to do.

I like the philosophy of paring down. It clashes wildly with my collecting-junk-to-sell soul, but I do admire it. I was happy to help her get things ready for the big sale which I will miss because I'll be in Africa myself that weekend.

I did get a preview though and I did buy a small rosewood carving of a bird. I also took away as a gift for my time and er, um "expertise", a wooden comb from Oman, an impossibly lovely- to-touch wooden spoon made by an African artist that she knows, and a small chunk of amethyst from her amazing mineral collection.

Right now her husband works as a geologist in Africa: six weeks there and then back to Canada for three weeks, and then he flies back again. That is one brutal commute. All you city-dwellers take note---your commute is not as bad as it seems.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gardening Like a Demon

Last night I came in from the garden and said to Jeff, "I'm done weeding. It's starting to get dark."

He glanced at the window. "STARTING to get dark?", he said skeptically.

I looked and it was true. I had been gardening by streetlamp; it was close to ten o'clock. I guess the weeds were big enough that I could still see them.

I am working to get my garden in order before I leave it behind to fend for itself for almost a month. My friend Sherry will water it but I don't expect her to weed. Somebody once said: "Last year my garden was lush. This year I need a flame-thrower."
I feel a little bit like that right now.

Although the grass is starting to go crispy and a few of the more delicate things look heat-stressed, a lot of my plants are taking this hot weather as a cue to explode with jungle-like ferocity, leaping out into the pathways and strangling their neighbours with winding vines. Gone are the days when I beg friends and relatives for any plant they can spare. Now I must pick and choose carefully.

Nay, now must I hack away and pull up with both hands several types of overenthusiastic perennials which have been loosed in my garden! Wild geranium, pink mallow, lady's mantle, and foxglove must now be tamed somehow. I need to go medieval on them or they'll take over completely.

I think next spring I am going to have a big plant sale and with the proceeds I'm going to buy some colourful annuals or some late-summer perennials so that the garden has a little more zing to it. I have too many shades of green right now and not enough colour. And the colours there now are white and pale blues and pinks.(Not to mention all the brown gone-to-seed stalks of the foxgloves). I need some more yellows and oranges and reds.

I'm not planning any big trips next year(at least that's what I'm telling myself) so I'll have more time and money to devote to my garden.

Oh, and I've decided to give a name to the shady path down the side of the house where my honeysuckle and windflowers grow: it will be the Haunted Garden. It may not be strictly accurate anymore, but it earned the name June before last well enough and I think it might be nice to name parts of my yard and think of them as "garden rooms" as some say you should.

Any ideas for naming my property as a whole? I'd love to have a name for my house. Heh, you know, like "Tara" in 'Gone With the Wind' or the "Villa Villekulla" in the Pippi Longstocking books.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Back from the Lake

Kim and Shawn are visiting the Valley this weekend from Vancouver and Jeff and I are so glad we get a chance to see them before we leave on our trip.

Kim has a meeting with a local reporter on Sunday morning who is interviewing her about her first novel "The Tattooed Wolf". She's originally a local girl, you see. If you like great werewolf stories( and I know there are plenty of werewolf fans out there), go check out her book at

Also on her website (on the links page) you will see the great soulful eyes of her faithful hound Loki, who accompanied us to the lake this afternoon, and who is as much enamoured of swimming as I, which is to say we both do it with reluctance. :)

On the other hand, the day is hot and how can I say that I have spent my entire summer without swimming when I live in a place like this? It really is beautiful out here on the coast of British Columbia.

So we drove down the dusty back roads of Cumberland, past the scrubby half-logged forestland filled with purple fireweed until we got to the quiet side of Comox Lake out by the dam. Almost nobody comes to this side because the beaches are rocky and too narrow to lay a towel on(and the path down steep and difficult if you are wearing open-back sandals) but the quiet and the shady forest are all around and the water is cool and inviting.

(Okay, actually the lake is glacier-fed and bloody freezing, but once you are in it feels lovely.)

One step into the water the beach drops away precipitously so there is really no way to wade in slowly. It takes a few minutes for me to feel comfortable in deep water like this because I am not a strong swimmer, but there was a little shallow spot (like an underwater island) that you could stand up on less than a minute from shore so I felt okay as long as I could head back to this safe spot when I got tired. I really should make an effort to learn to swim properly.

While we were there we saw a little brown frog, a garter snake, little fish that nibbled our toes, and blue dragonflies and damselflies that continuously alighted on our shoulders.

This part of the lake used to be land before the dam was built so the eerie dark remains of trees and stumps poked out of the water in little groves. I was glad the water was so clear because as it was I still kept almost bumping into the wood underwater.

Loki kept swimming in circles around us, looking vaguely worried that he might have to rescue us. He dotes on Kim and Shawn. Actually, they dote on him too.

After about 45 minutes or so, we were all feeling waterlogged so we headed back to shore. So reluctant to get in the water at first, I actually quite enjoyed paddling around in my careful way and was sad to come out. You feel so heavy and clumsy after the weightlessness of being in the water.

We had perfect timing though.The whole time we were swimming there was only two other people several hundred feet down the shore from us. Just as we'd made our way back up the steep path to the road above, the idyllic noises of nature were overwhelmed by the sounds of country rock as two motor-boats of beer-swilling shirtless cowboys barrelled into our little cove, stirring up the water and making waves crash onto the little log where our towels and clothes had been perched not five minutes before.

So much for paradise. Ah well.

We headed back into Cumberland to the Bannerman's house to pick up the painting Kim is loaning us (of the Tarot card, the Tower)and had a little chat in the garden with Kim's father.

He's the local historian around Cumberland (which is a historic little mining village)and he's busily getting ready to do a lecture for three groups of Japanese students at a local school. You should see the little wooden model he made of the No. 6 Mine--complete with coal-cart tracks and tiny little mules. I was impressed.

Friday, August 12, 2005

There's Been a Hatching

As I write this, there is a tiny wee baby spider dangling in front of the computer monitor.

There are lots of baby spiders in my house all of a sudden. Four of them were scurrying up the door jamb of my bathroom this morning. They are too small to chase and throw outdoors so they have the run of the house I guess.

My cat Colby is intrigued.

Bleah, don't eat them Colby! :p

My Hands are Sore from Clapping

Oh, back to the Showcase Festival tonight to see "The Dream on Royal Street", opening night and I believe it's the first time performed in North America. WHY?!

Why oh why? This musical is SO funny! I was laughing so hard I was crying.

Basically this is the modern madcap version of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. It's set in the Royal Street Hotel in New Orleans in 1969 during Mardi Gras. Titania and Oberon are a visiting Las Vegas night club act, Bottom is the doorman, and Hermia is a switchboard operator. Classic Shakespearean verse mixed with modern one-liners.

Puck? Well, he is Puck, only this time he's in a dapper pin-striped suit and you can't quite see his horns but you are SURE they are there.

Oh, the musical score was brilliant! This was funny stuff. The composer was Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors fame) and these people could really belt out a tune with style.

It had the same cast as last night but everybody was in a different role. Last night Peter Hall played the regal and majestic Oberon. Hey, he did just as well as in the silly role of Bottom. Great versatility!

Actors in Mardi Gras costumes greeted theater-goers at the door this evening by decking us out in bead necklaces and with every ticket bought at the theatre this month you get a chance in their draw for a trip to New Orleans. (So far I've got six chances because Mom says she'd never go and Joan is from Australia so I got their draw tickets too.)

Oh, I'm so glad Jeff Hyslop (director of this Festival)had this idea for putting together these productions. And I'm not just saying that because he's related to you Kim. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I'm just back from the theatre. My mom treated Joan and I to tickets to the Showcase Festival's production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. It was opening night and it was delightful.

I think this might be my favourite of Shakespeare's plays, a comedy-drama of course. (I just can't get into his more chaotic works like Hamlet).

The set was a magical pillared forest hung with fairy lanterns and I think director Jeff Hyslop could not have found better people to play Titania, Oberon, and Puck.

Especially Puck. The actor fairly radiated impish energy. And some people are obviously just born to have pointy ears and little horns.

And Bottom the ass-headed weaver and his hapless theatrical troupe were a riot. Their play within a play made me laugh so hard.

The acting was great, the Shakespearean words understandable after only twenty seconds or so (must be my recent exposure to Bard on the Beach), the costumes lovely, and the little dog who unexpectedly appeared in the play several times was brilliant.

We had excellent seats too, four rows back from the front and not a single soul in front of us. That probably means ticket sales weren't the greatest which is unfortunate, but it was a boon to us.

Ahh, I just love it when you go out and are marvellously entertained!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Revenge of the No-Brainers

I was fooled by the trip to Spain prize on the contest box and so found myself at a sales pitch for vacation time shares a few months back. Although the Pacific Shores resort itself is actually quite beautiful( peaceful gardens and right on the water), the whole Aviawest sales pitch was high pressure and annoying. I don't recommend it to anyone.

Our salesman( I'll call him "Skip" because I forget his real name, but he seemed like a Skip, or maybe a Brad)was all tan and white teeth and obviously thought he was a very smooth fellow with the clients. But he lost his nice smile, stopped complimenting our obvious intelligence, and got all pissy at the end when we tried to leave without signing away thousands of dollars on the spot.

"Look, it's a no-brainer, people!", he insisted. "If you don't take this deal now, it's gone in four hours, and then you'll be kicking yourselves!"

Yes, Skip, it's a "no-brainer", which is why we left as quickly as we could. Beware the Aviawest prize trap, people, beware! Don't be fooled by the pretty box on the counter-top at your local grocery store!

But for our pain, we DID receive one hundred dollars worth of coupons good for the restaurant and spa there. They were only good for a couple of months, so Jeff and I came to the realization that we better use them up quick so that we get something for our two hours of resisting the charms of Aviawest's sales goons. (Note: I'd be nicer to them if they HAD given me a trip to Spain in all fairness.)

We called our friend Pol up and invited her to lunch at the restaurant there, the West Coast Landing Grill. It was good food I have to say, and we had some nice wine, a red from Italy called Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. Montepulciano is a little town in Italy where I was ever so briefly under the Tuscan sun and so it seemed like a nice wine to discuss our trip to Italy which Pol and I are planning for 2007.

There are two floor-to ceiling fish tanks in the restaurant that are filled with salmon and rockfish and gigantic sunflower-starfish. It must be a huge job maintaining them because they were gorgeous tanks. At one point a resort employee leaned a ladder against the fish tank and began to feed the fish great clouds of squid parts and chopped herring and krill. The fish went nuts gobbling up their lunch. It gathered quite a crowd.

Then the three of us headed down to the spa to blow the other fifty dollars. It doesn't take long in a shop like that. (HOW much for nail polish?! I don't think so!) I think the best item of all were our new faux-diamond toe-rings. Well, Pol and I got one. Poor Jeff didn't get much of anything there. Although the little octopus in the fish tank there was fascinating to watch. I got the impression its buggy eyes were watching us too as it squished around inflating and deflating its head at us.

You can't get money for change from the coupons so we made sure we squeezed all but thirty-six cents out of them. :)

So take that Aviawest! We have toe rings and a good lunch on you, and we KEPT our thousands of dollars! MOOOOWAAAHAHA!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Clad in the Sky

I received an invitation from Mary the other day, inviting me to one of her pagan spirituality circles. It is a group which consists of about twenty or so women (and one or two men who occasionally show up and look vaguely uncomfortable)who are mostly Wiccan of some variety or other, some with shades of Native American spirit-leanings.

I don't know most of the group very well, but I've enjoyed a few intense drumming circles and some excellent "toning" sessions. "Toning" is a form of sound meditation where you just open up your throat and let all sorts of wild music come out with a group. I felt self-conscious the first few times I did it, but it really is quite beautiful and very grounding.

Also, Mary usually does a guided Goddess meditation and they are fabulous and magical. She writes them herself and is busy compiling them for a book of pagan meditations. The one exploring Baba Yaga still gives me shivers when I think about it.

Anyway, I am on this group's mailing list and the invitation I got was for a goddess celebration that would be celebrated "sky clad".

"For those who don't know", added Mary's message unhelpfully, "that means 'clad in the sky'." In the nude, in other words.

She went on to say that some may not feel comfortable with this, and for those people it would be a perfect opportunity to come and try it anyway. It would be females only invited.

Well, life's an adventure and I guess one should cavort nude with witches at least once in a while, but alas I got the email message two days too late. So the matter of naked cavorting was decided for me.

On the other hand, I already have fairly firm opinions about outdoor nudity. Now skinny dipping's okay in a shady cool lake, but this event was planned for an open field (private property belonging to a nice pagan lady named Chris) late in the afternoon on a summer's day which turned out to be a blistering thirty celsius or so.

Two words: Sun. Bugs.

There ain't enough sunscreen in the world to cover me under those conditions. I don't tan. I burn to a crisp, then revert back to white. There is no tropical glow in between. I am of Irish ancestry and my skin suffers from the Celtic Curse. I don't actually burst into flame when exposed to sunshine but I've considered it.

Next, bugs. Chris's field is lovely for Maypole dances at Beltane, and has a labyrinth made from oyster shells that glow in the moonlight when you walk it on a crisp winter's night....but it is right near a river where bazillions of bugs hover in clouds waiting for just such a tasty sky-clad bunch.

Sorry, Mary. Maybe I'll see you next full moon. It'll be dark out and I'll have my clothes on. :)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rescuing Spiders

Last night I rescued a spider from my bathtub. The water was already filling the bottom of the tub and I spotted the little darlin' just in the nick of time. He was like a little beachcomber trying to outrace the tide. I turned off the water.

He tried to elude my rescuing hand, scurrying around and trying to run vainly up the slippery sides of the tub. Giant hands swooping down from above don't exactly spell comfort to creatures only half an inch wide. I managed to get it crawling on my fingers and then went to my balcony door in my birthday suit and released him into the wilds.

I'm going through a "spider time" right now, as I have off and on over the years. Spiders appear in my hair, tickling my legs, suspended from my eyelashes (enough to make you go cross-eyed trying to look at them), and are regularly appearing in my house. I even had a lttle spider living right by my front door which my mother dubbed "The Guardian at the Gate" until one of Jeff's well-meaning friends poked its web down. (Sadly, it hasn't returned yet.)

My favourite spider time memory is from years ago. I was working at a cashier at a gas station and the boss's shrewish wife was talking to me when all of a sudden her eyes got big and round and she stopped talking and just pointed at me with a dreadful look on her face. I looked down and saw that a little brown house spider had found its way into my shirt pocket and was now poking its two front legs and face over the pockets edge like a puppy begging on its hind legs. I just laughed and said that spiders like me.

Yes, spiders like me and I like them. It wasn't always so though.

I used to HATE them. I was terrified. It really wasn't the creature themselves, it was their UNEXPECTEDNESS. The way they would suddenly scuttle out of a dark corner or drop down from the top of their web. And besides, they were ugly. Or so I thought at the time.

But Grandma Marty thought I was being a foolish little girl. Spiders were lucky, she asserted, and good for the garden too. They ate the bad bugs. Surely I wasn't afraid of something so small.

"Look", she said, taking me into the guest bathroom in her house, "See that spider in the bathtub? I'm giving it to you. It can be your pet". (I was always asking to have a pet because we didn't have any in my household.)

"But Grandma!" I wailed, "I can't have a spider for a pet!"
"Why not?", she said. "Give it a name!"

And so I contemplated that spider in Grandma's tub, and acknowledging my petless state, I gave it a name. Charlotte, of course.

And it's funny, because although I can't remember much else about that particular spider, I went on to have a series of spider pets.

I fondly remember Dorothy, a golden and white-speckled orb weaver who wove her web nightly on the outside of my bedroom window. I would thoughtfully provide a steady stream of crane flies for her, and I got quite a bloodthirsty rush watching her jump down on them and spin them into a little struggling coccoon to eat later. (There was Dorothy II and III too.)

And Albert, the little black wolf spider who got so tame that he'd rush out of my bedroom corner and take wriggling treats from my fingertips.

And the hairy, possibly poisonous spider that met its end on the bottom of my mother's bedroom slipper as I screamed aghast, "Angela!"

I even kept a little spider in a jar on my desk at school for a while, ostensibly for a science project, but really it was a pet. Note to others: this really doesn't score you "cool" points with the popular kids. But I didn't really mind. Spiders are lucky, you see.

And now that I am a grownup, I continue to like them.

When I see one in the bathtub, I rescue it. Next time you see one in yours, please try to liberate it. Give it a name first if it helps.

Just think of me, and DON'T SQUISH 'EM! :)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Gifts of the Nile

Tonight my friend Sherry( and her husband Ray) and I went to the museum for an Egyptology lecture titled "Private Tombs of the New Kingdom".

I've been meaning to go to the museum since the beginning of June because there's a special travelling exhibition of Egyptian artifacts from the Royal Ontario Museum called "The Gifts of the Nile". But with one thing and another I waited until Sherry told me there was an Egyptologist named Dr. Thomas Hikade who was coming to speak on tomb development and wall decoration.

So we went and listened to tales of the necropolis at Thebes, tomb robbers,and the seven hundred gods of the Egyptian underworld.We admired slides ofbeautiful ancient art from the period of 1550-1070 B.C. and learned of some of the restoration work going on. Dr. Hikade was quite knowledeable and entertaining. He was keen on promoting the newly-formed Canadian Society for the Study of Egypt also, which discusses modern Egyptian issues as well as ancient ones. Yes, it was an informative lecture but the slide projector unfortunately suffered from The Curse of the Mummy and had to be manually manipulated.

We roamed around the display upstairs where there were some nice beaded necklaces, amulets, and pottery from ancient Egypt. There were some larger exhibits of coffins and such but these were reproductions and so not as intriguing. I'm spoiled from the British Museum's Egyptian rooms I suspect.

Too bad it was so hot there and no air-conditioning! Thank goodness the kind museum folk handed out free bottled ice water. I guess they didn't want anyone passing out.

Hey, did you know that hieroglyphics have no vowels, only consonants? As nobody speaks ancient Egytian nowadays, Egyptologists basically make some very educated guesses about how to pronounce some names and words. Dr. Hikade pointed out it is difficult to work with a word spelled, for instance, R-M-T. Do they stick an "E" in there, or perhaps an "I"? Fortunately, they've had some help from the Coptic Church in Egypt which has been around a VERY long time and translated the Bible in old Egyptian and so has preserved the sound of what is probably very simialr to what was spoken in the days of the pharaohs.

I also learned that if you are a tourist visiting the Valley of Kings, be sure to know beforehand what tombs you want to see. It costs around twenty dollars to visit three or four, they vary wildly in quality, and there are usually 15 to 20 tombs open to the public at any one time. Also, the ticket desk is about ten kilometres away through burning desert, so do be thorough in your research before getting on the bus.

I learned many things tonight although to be honest I was sometimes distracted by the hair of the girl sitting in front of me which was the most delicate pretty shade of pale green.

Thanks Kim!

We've reserved a spot at the LunaSimone Hotel in London for the four nights we're in London after flying back from Nairobi.

We were having trouble deciding on a place. Everything is freakin' expensive in London, apparently even if it's cramped and bedbug-ridden. We'd settle for a reasonable rate in a reasonable location as long as its fairly decent and clean.

The last two times I was in London I stayed at the very non-picturesque hostel called Ashlee House which is conveniently located within spitting distance of King's Cross but they don't have any available private rooms for that week and we're simply not too keen on the sixteen-bunk dorms that are still open. I think I want to try out a new neighbourhood anyway.

My friend Kim (who was obviously a Londoner in a past life) gave me a few names of places she's looked at or stayed at or been recommended in London and I went down the list and checked them out as well as I could over the internet. (Oh God bless the Internet! What would we do without ye?)

The LunaSimone is not dirt cheap by any means but it looks nice enough and is also recommended in a few guide books I have which mention the words "friendly" and "immaculate". It's also on Belgrave Road near Victoria Station which is an area Jeff's mom is familiar and happy with too. Sold!

So thank you Kim for narrowing the frightening amount of accomodation choices in London down to a bitty list.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vicarious Pregnancy

(Click on the cartoon to see it better). :)

My friend Kim is having a baby! I'm very excited for her!

I want to hear all about what it feels like to be pregnant and how she feels about it. As her belly grows, I want to feel the baby kick and make a plaster cast of her growing tummy. I will mull over baby names. I will probably plan a baby shower, but a cool one where you gives gifts to the new mother like spa treatments and massage oil and the like. (Because she deserves it, as she's willing to go through all the chaos of giving birth and raising a child!) She has said to me she's worried I will grow tired of her tales of morning sickness but I won't. Because I'm happy for her.

And happy it's NOT me having the baby. I belong to the ranks of the cheerfully child-free.

I'm living vicariously through my friends who are reproducing and raising families. As I move further into my thirties, they are starting to outnumber my friends who do NOT have children. I am not tempted to join them though. I have seen a lot of joy and happiness but also a lot of hard work and frustration and even depression. It's a full-time job raising children and it's for life.

For ten years I've worked with children in day-cares and preschools and I've met a lot of wonderful little people. (Also a lot of children who are a lot LESS than wonderful). But no matter how delightful they are, I am always glad they go home to their own families at the end of a busy afternoon. It's so nice and QUIET at home. Sigh. Bliss.

In my household we can make dinner without worrying about the square-mealedness of it or whether we're spending too much money on deli food. We can watch movies and turn on the evening news without having to prescreen it for things that may warp young minds.We can go on long trips across the world and only need to find a baby-sitter for the cats.

I'm glad you are pregnant, Kim. I know you have wanted this for a long time. But whew, those Baby-Away pills I take are worth their weight in gold to me. :)

List of Things To Do

I've suddenly realized that I'm leaving on my trip to Africa in about three weeks and I've not even made any lists of things to do and take yet. Well, not in any official capacity anyway.

You should have seen me about six years ago, when I first started travelling. I knew what I'd be wearing on that trip six months before I left. I researched travel web sites obsessively and hung out in travel chat rooms trying to glean information. I had notebooks of jotted notes about this or that historical site and probably drove all those around me barmy talking about where I was going.

But just the other day someone asked me at work, "So where are you going this year?" AND I haven't yet gotten around to renting "Out of Africa". So I must be improving. Or regressing. Depending on how list-makey and relaxed about it I truly want to be.

Let's see....batteries for my camera, more sunscreen, fill the prescription for Larium, get a duffle bag to hold our sleeping bags, pick up foreign currency at the bank...hmmm it seems there should be more. Ah! Bug Spray! Don't forget the bug spray, whatever you do! :)

I was gardening over at Sharon's (an odd job to earn money for this trip) and as I was crawling around under the shrubbery tearing viciously at the evil choking morning-glory vines there, I felt something nip me. I slapped the small of my back and killed the little blighter. First mosquito bite of the season: I have been blessed so far otherwise.

And my thoughts went like this: this little Canadian bug bites me and gives me say, West Nile virus, but, as I'm off to Africa and will probably be bitten by all manner of plague-bugs it will be ironic if I come back with some virus and blame it on some poor blameless African bug.

You know, that makes me sound a little bit paranoid, but I'm not actually worried much about bugs and marauding hippos and such on this trip. It's more things like flight schedule screw-ups and lost luggage that get me antsy.

When I got my prescription for Larium (which is supposed to lessen your chances of getting malaria) I asked my doctor about the possible scary side effects that I'd heard about. Delirium, nightmares, rash, and er.... suicidal depression.

Well, he hemmed, it was true that this drug has been associated with such things, but the serious side effects were not that common. And much better than actually getting malaria. " Besides", he added thoughtfully, " I already know you are a risk-taker. Otherwise you wouldn't be going on a camping trip in the Serengeti".

Me? A risk taker? I actually felt quite pleased with myself for a moment.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Crick in My Neck

Ever wake up and you've just slept in a position that's just plain WRONG, and you wake up and your back or elbow or miscellaneous other body part just curses you for sleeping on it in that PARTICULAR way?

That's my neck today. Bitter and resentful at me for doing this to it.

Luckily I have a co-worker with magic fingers who practiced some of her lovely accupressure on me. She pressed my wrist gently, my forhead, and my neck too of course, and mmmmm, I could feel it feeling much...better...(picture me melting like butter).

But alas it was only a temporary reprieve. Durn it all! Well, maybe a hot bath will do the trick. I'm off to try.

In fact,when you're in a crisis a hot bath can do wonders for many kinds of situations, not just physical ones. Other emergency procedures in my repertoire include drinking multiple cups of hot tea and petting cats.

I do my best and calmest thinking if I have access to these three essentials.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Goodbye to the Headhunter's Woolies of Spirit

WARNING: This blog entry is really only for those who have found themselves caught up in the enjoyment of a good online computer game. I know there are friends of mine who will never understand how fun these things can be. But that's okay because I know my dear Mokomarana and Bhuthina will understand. :)

I play World of Warcraft and although I'm quite a casual gamer I have recently attained the sought-after goal of attaining level 40. Now why is level 40 so nice you may ask? Well, that's the level you can buy a mount. A horse. Or in the case of my troll character, Zalli, a blue raptor. What troll girl woudn't love to have a little dinosaur pony to jaunt around on, eh?

They're very, very expensive though, are ponies. As any wishful twelve-year-old girl can tell you. And so Zalli worked very hard killing monsters and looting treasure and generally avoiding getting herself killed by those nefarious night elves who like to lurk behind trees and rocks and jump out at you most inconveniently.

So Zalli and I are just so happy to be able to zoom around now and leave those noob peons behind in the dust.

But now that I'm level forty I have to make some new and serious armour choices. Now I can wear mail instead of just leather, but where does that leave my lucky purple pants, my glorious Headhunter's Woolies of Spirit (isn't that a great name for a pair of trollish pants?). Well, sadly, I has to leave them behind and buy something newer and better in the Auction House of Orgrimmar. New mace. New belt. New cloak.

It's a new look for my troll chickie. Even her pink mohawk is efficiently tucked away under a better helmet. Let's just see those Alliance weenies mess with this Horde shammy now!

So...was that all incomprehensible to most of you? Sorry, but I'm having a lot of fun. And it's better than whatever's on television I'm sure. :)