Saturday, March 31, 2007


Tableau de bord | Aide | Déconnexion
Envoi Parametres Modele

I am in Ottawa, for a working weekend of meetings. The lap top I am using belongs to a colleague from Montreal, and it only speaks French. Yes, I mean the computer. All of the Blogger dashboard is in French. At the moment I am récupérer le message. Which sounds way sexier than the English version.

The above was written on Saturday, and I gave up on the French version of Blogger when I tried to upload photos. I can manage a little light conversation in French, but geek French is beyond me.

At my meetings there were six of us, from across the country. One is Francophone, three are bilingual in both official languages, also one speaks Hindi, one German, and another Mandarin. You gotta love this big multi-cultural country.

Our Francophone colleague delights us with his translations of French expressions. Once he thanked me for some work I had done "from the bottom of my hearth." And he had us in stitches when he declared he was "as happy as a veal running across the prairie." Apparently there is a French expression "happy as a calf running across the meadow." We should adopt that don't you think? It makes more sense than "happy as a clam." And conveys a more pleasant image than "happier than a pig in shit."

I've made bigger language gaffes. Once I was having dinner in a restaurant in Quebec with my parents, who are bilingual. At the end of the meal I announced loudly "Je suis plein" (I am full). My mother informed me I had just proclaimed in local slang "I am pregnant".

Today's dream travel destination: Paris. Where I would receive haughty stares for mangling the language. But who cares. It would be Paris. In April.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining"

"How are you Voyager?", you ask.

"Oh, can't complain."

I mean literally. I cannot complain. I took up the challenge by Shelagh Rogers on the CBC radio program Sounds Like Canada, to give up complaining for a week. Starting yesterday. I figured it would be easy, I'm not much of a complainer anyway. Huh. Turns out I'm full of crap.

I can't whine about the fact that the first two sunny days we have had in months have fallen on a Monday and Tuesday. And I cleaned up the cat puke this morning with a smile. Waited forty-five minutes in the doctor's office for a two minute prescription renewal appointment, never once sighing and looking pointedly at my watch. I never said a word when I snagged a half-hour old pair of panty hose. And happily paid my car insurance of $1758.

$1758!!? WTF? It's not a Ferrari, it's an Acura for God's sake. Just a tarted up Honda!....Ooops, I mean, I'm sure the Insurance Company of BC will put my reasonable premiums to very good use.

Oh, man, it is going to be a very long week. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Today's dream travel destination: Cathedral grove forest, Vancouver Island. Because if a woman complains in the middle of a forest and no-one hears her, she has not actually complained, right?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Chillin' and cookin' on a Zanzibar beach: That's a wrap.

January 2007, Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Do you want to go for a walk down the beach?”

“No, it’s too hot.”


“No, you?”

“Nope. Pass the sunscreen please sweetie.”

“How’s your book?”

“O.K. I guess. It’s too hot to concentrate.”

“In a few minutes when I get the energy, I’m going to go get a cold Tusker from the bar, want one?”

“Now you’re talking.”

Our final five days in Tanzania were passed in this desultory fashion, on Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar. We swam in the impossibly turquoise Indian Ocean, walked the kilometre down the snow-white beach to the next village (once), had henna designs painted on us by Muslim women walking up and down the beach (yes, even the guys got tattoo-like motifs), read books, and marked our days by moving our chairs to follow the shade under the thatched palapas.

The biggest excitements were rushing after breakfast to bag our favourite palapa near the bar, and betting at dinner whether the meal would arrive in under two hours. It never did. Nor did it matter.

After our safari we had taken a kamikaze bus ride from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam. There we celebrated New Years Eve in the midst of the bigger Muslim holiday Eid-Al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice at the end of Hajj). I discovered the house I had lived in as a teenager is now the parking lot for the new British High Commission. A fine fenced parking lot, with peacocks in it. But still.

We spent a couple of days exploring the spicy historic lane maze which is Zanzibar's Stone Town. It felt more like an Arab Souk than sub-Sahara Africa.

Finally we washed up on Kendwa Beach, and barely moved. After all our adventures, we were just too tired. And it was. just. too. hot.

{This is the last installment of my posts about our 2006 / 2007 trip to Tanzania. Here you can see all of them together. And if you want more info and gorgeous photos, check out our friends and fellow adventurers'web sites about the trip:
G. Vandegriend's web site. The first three photos in this post are his, thanks Hound.
Indra's blog}

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When I grow up

A friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail quiz. One of the questions was: Name four jobs you've held.
My answer was:
1. grocery clerk
2. lawyer
3. waitress
4. archaeologist
You'll have to guess which of the four is my current job.

The question got me thinking about my son, who is in his "gap year" between high school and....whatever. Gap year is a British euphemism for "What the fuck do I do now?"

At age 20, my son has already tried more jobs than I have in my lifetime. They have included, grocery clerk, (do you see a pattern here?) bus boy, babysitter, ski lift operator, pita sandwich maker, surveyor's assistant, various construction jobs, farm labourer, and probably a few I've forgotten. Some of these were just part time jobs while in high school, but what a collection. Some lasted a few months, some only a few days. He left them all by his own choice, except for the surveying job, where he was laid off because winter slowed the work down. But he had already decided it was not for him. This year is meant to help him sort out what he wants to take in college, or even whether to go. To, you know, find a direction. Three words he must hate passionately by now.

Mind you he has narrowed it down some. Currently his career goals are: "No way can I work 9 to 5 for 8 hours a day." Well, it's a direction of sorts.

I am officially reinstating "Today's Dream Travel Destination". It's the Sahara Desert. Actually any desert, anywhere, no matter how miserable or war-torn. BECAUSE WE ARE DROWNING HERE, AND SUNSHINE IS JUST A FADING MEMORY.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reigning Cats and Dogs, Part 3: Squirt

I wrote recently about my encounter with a gang dude. But the truth is, we have a gang member living right here in our household. Well, sort of living here. He buggers off for days sometimes, and never calls us to say where he's gone. He is nicked and scarred from gangland brawls. We suspect he sells crack catnip out of the garage. His name is Squirt.

Squirt lived with my Beloved before we met. He was a free spirit, usually preferring the freedom of outdoors over the comfort of a warm couch. When B and Squirt moved in with me a few years ago, Squirt took off within a week. For two or three days we didn’t worry, but then we started searching the neighbourhood. After a week or so we put up “LOST CAT” posters. We got phone calls from many kind people, but none of the sightings turned out to be Squirt.

After two months we had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing Squirt again. I missed the little guy, but I was heart sick for B, who had loved Squirt since he was a kitten. I don’t know why, but I got the idea that if we took in a cat that really needed a home, some of the resulting good karma might help poor lost Squirt, and he would find a loving home too.

So I went to the SPCA and asked if they had any cats that were hard to adopt out. They had one all right. He was a pathetic, desperately unhappy tabby that had been abandoned by his owners. He was freaked out and had not touched food since arriving at the shelter several days earlier. He was covered in shit, having lost control from the trauma of being caged. He hissed, spat, and clawed at anyone who came close. I paid, thinking "hell, they should pay me," and took him home. After a little patience and TLC, he turned out to be a wonderful cat. And Henry's best friend.

Five days later the karma jackpot paid out. We got a phone call from a man called George whose neighbour had seen one of our posters. George lived in an apartment building on the edge of an oceanside park, a couple of kilometers and a busy four lane highway away from our former home. A cat lover, he put daily food out for a gang of feral cats living in the park. When his neighbour showed him our poster, George thought a cat that had joined his Vanier Park gang a few weeks earlier could be Squirt. It was.

We hauled his ass home, but he escaped twice more over the next few months, both times returning to his wild gang. Squirt quit that gang only when we moved to our current house 4 years ago. The Vanier Park gang is now 20 kilometres away. We had to get him deprogrammed, have his tatoos lasered off, and promise he could park his little Harley in the driveway, but he more or less stays around home now. And his rough gang days were not a total waste: He is now teaching little Snuffy how to guard our beer at parties.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is just wrong

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a smug, all gloaty post about spring in Vancouver. There were photos of flowers flowering, buds budding, and grass grassing. I took insufferable pokes at folks still in the icy grip of winter. It must have especially annoyed my mother who lives in Nova Scotia, and warns me every February: “Don’t tell me about your damned blooming flowers.”

Today, I eat my words. Take a look at this while I go cut a big piece of crow pie:

Mom, did you arrange this somehow?