Saturday, December 24, 2005

God Rest Ye Merry Heathens

I'm sitting here at my brother's house in Edmonton, pecking away at his beautiful iBook...Mac makes amazing things. We drove up to Edmonton yesterday on a sunny, warm winter day. The prairies were never prettier and it was great to hang out with Brian (and my new Eminem CD).

The flooring is down in our living room and dining room! Brian worked all day Thursday and when I came home, he had installed all the flooring. It looks so great and the house is really starting to come together. I stood there on Wednesday evening with the Christmas tree lights on and I almost started to cry. Our house looks like a home.

I went to the library last week and it was like I had died and gone to Chapters. Twelve bucks a year and I can take out 99 items at a time! I'm a quick and voracious reader but I don't think I could read 99 books in a three week loan period. At any rate, it's nice to know the possibility exists. There were about a dozen Mormon missionaries at the library, all checking their email and writing home. A whole flock of them were standing right next the evolutionary biology section and I couldn't help but giggle at the irony. Elder's Smith and Tanner leaning on the likes of Darwin and E.O. was too much to handle.

It's my Mum's birthday today! When she was a child she used to think she was a day older than Jesus.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and spending time with friends and family. Have a wonderful Christmas and remember, keep the "mas" in Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Election

As a "stay at home worker" I am able to listen to the radio all day long while I sand and paint. There have been times in my life where I have wished that I could be put into traction, just so I could lie there all day and listen to the CBC. This is better than traction. And what better timing? The lead up to a national election...

Now as a Calgarian, I am expected to vote Christian Heritage and if I insist on being a left leaning patsy, to at least vote Conservative. There is basically no hope in hell of anyone but the Conservatives winning any of the ridings in this city. Albertans talk a lot about being excluded and voiceless in the political system...they should try being a non-conservative in this province. When people ask me how I am voting and I tell them they always look a little shocked. I know they just wanted to hear their own rhetoric come back at them so as to confirm their views but that's not going to happen. "But what about Gomery?!" they usually sputter. To which I reply, "What about Gomery?"

It's not that I'm not aware of AdScam or that I don't care. It's just that to me, the ad scandal doesn't even come close to outweighing all the good the Liberals have done. I am proud of Canada and of the Liberal legacy. Twelve years of surplus, 40,000 new jobs, and $60 billion paid to the deficit. We stood up to the Americans and kept our troops (limited as they may be) home. We've given homosexuals rights that they deserve to have. We've worked hard on Kyoto, on crime and on international relief. It hasn't been perfect but it's pretty good. It all comes down to priorities. Social policy vs. fiscal policy. To me, social policy and practice take precedence.

I don't need the Liberal party to make me scared of the Conservatives. they can do that on their own. One look at their platform and I'm convinced. But that is exactly the problem...people in Alberta do agree with them. There is a chasm of values across this country and I don't know how any party will fix it. In the meantime, I'll just stand on my side of the great divide and hope "the others" don't throw me over.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Back Like Bacon...

I never thought a couple of weeks could feel like an eternity. I also never realized how pathetically reliant I am on the internet to keep me connected I've had this little ball of anxiety flip-flopping in my stomach since I "left" and it's only now starting to dull in intensity. I couldn't email my friends, I couldn't read my blogs and I couldn't access all the newsy bits of information I like to digest with my coffee. (Keeps me regular.) But last night, Brian set up our new modem and I am good to go...

I have been working full time on our new place and loving every minute of it. I never knew how much I enjoyed "house stuff". I've always enjoyed houses, as in staying in them and hiding from the outside world, but this is new. I've painted ceilings, ripped up flooring, sanded, stripped, primed and painted walls. I'm on a first name basis with the guys at Rona and I have a man hand. My right hand is bigger than my left and all swollen from the work it's been doing. It's got cuts, calluses, blisters and scrapes. Every morning I wake up, fashion it into what has become a very strong claw and threaten Brian with the man claw. I look at my new hand and I feel alive...visual evidence of hard work and projects completed.

It's good that my hands have been kept busy because my head's been busier than it needs to be. When I was younger I used to try and describe my "busy head" as a train going through at high speed and never stopping. Loud. Unsettling. It's gotten much better in the past few years and the trains have been few and far between. It's not back yet but I can hear it coming down the track. The busier I am, the softer the train. I am stuck in one of those places that probably seem necessary and even humorous when you look back on them at 60 but are devastating at 27. I have no idea what I want or who I want to be. I am so stuck that I have considered being a manicurist, a writer, a birth coach, a nurse and a contractor...all in the last few weeks. And the only way to sort through everything is to just keep thinking...oh goody. All aboard!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Spaced Out

We moved into our new place this weekend and so far, so good. I have been working non-stop on painting, scrubbing and general fix-ups. The person who lived in the house before us must have been color blind and cross-eyed because everything clashes and is crooked. The electrical outlets are installed upside down, the bathtub had never been cleaned and the shelves aren't actually attached to the wall...just sort of wedged in there.

The only bad thing is that we haven't go our internet hooked up at the new house yet and so I'm at my Mum's writing this. I apologize in advance for all the unchecked blogs and unanswered email, both past and future. Blame Telus. When I get my internet up and running and I can converse again in the cyber realm, you will hear from me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Oompas Loompas Dissapoint

When my "real life" starts next week and I've moved in to my own place things will be better. Right now I can't write. I can't think properly and my writing has taken a serious nose dive. I have all these blog blog...fiction contests and actually sending things away to be read, rejected, rejected, rejected and eventually published. As I sit writing this I am in our office/bedroom/closet/living room that has served as our "area" for the past few months. It's been so generous of my parents to let us stay here but our lives are so unsettled and I can't get the words on the page any more organized than the room I'm sitting in.

I have been wanting to see the new "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (with Johnny Depp) for ages now and last night we finally sat down and watched it. I was bitterly disappointed. I read and loved the books as a child (Roald Dahl is wonderful...I swear, if you haven't yet read "Fantastic Mr. Fox" you should do so quickly) and of course, loved the original film with Gene Wilder. Although Depp did a good job I can't help but feel he was mis-directed by Burton. The original Willy Wonka was kooky but warm and he loved children and the magical world only they could live in. He was a candy-making romantic. Depp was just dark, crazy and a little mean. They cut some important parts out of the film and it all sort of lost its charm. And the oompa loompas sucked. There was no bouncy little diddy following each child's disappearance...nope, they modernized that part. At one point all the oompa loompas (who, incidentally were carbon copies of a little Indian man) broke out into a disco/rap thing. Highly unimpressive.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The TV Lies

Despite what you may have seen on television and on the commercials, couples cannot walk hand in hand in their matching fleece jackets, down the aisles of Home Depot and not get into a fist fight by the time they hit plumbing supplies. In fact, what will happen is this:

W: Look at this nice carpet...I wonder how much it is? Maybe I should go and ask.
M: Well, are you going to buy it today?
W: No...I just thought it might be a good idea to ask so we have an idea of what kind of price we're looking at.
M: Humph.
W: Fine. Forget it.
M: Well, no, seriously...what are we even doing here? We've been here an hour.
W: An hour? That's nothing. I still haven't seen half the store. We have a lot of things to buy you know and so far (voice rises a pitch) I've been doing it all alone. I thought you might want to help.
M: What have you done all by yourself?
W: Everything! I've picked out the sheets, the paint colours, the duvets, the appliances...
M: That's because I don't care about that stuff.
W: (Jaw drops...followed closely by tears of injustice. She grabs the cart, swivels and stomps away to the lighting department where she proceeds to wipe her eyes under the glow of a thousand lightbulbs.)
M: (Gets angry that W just walked away...he heads to the screwdriver department. Not to think...just to look at screwdrivers.)

A reunion is conducted by cell phone and text messages. The reunion doesn't go so well because W is still upset and M is still thinking about screwdrivers.

M: I have told you a hundred times...I don't like shopping.
W: But this is Home-freakin-Depot. I thought it would be different!
M: It's not. I hate shopping.
W: How can you hate shopping...isn't this "manly stuff" (obviously still struggling with the concept)
M: I hate shopping for everything.
W: Oh. (Thinking..."Did you hate shopping for my wedding ring? jerk)

The couple leaves Home Depot never to return least not together. The music and white Home Depot sign appears. The end.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Brilliant Little Man

I know I'm a left leaning liberal bordering on communist (according to some) but I have something to say about this whole AdScam thing and about the Gomery report in general. I'm glad the report was done and of course it spared Paul Martin but what nobody is saying is this...I didn't think AdScam was that big a deal. I thought it was sneaky and financially misleading but I also thought it was quite smart. I feel like nobody is taking into account the context of the times. The country was being pulled apart at the seams. Quebec was teetering on the edge of Canada and Jean Chretien was responsible for hauling them back over to solid ground. Not an easy job. So the ingenious little guy from Shawinigan finds a way to funnel money to Quebec (thus helping his party maintain it's position in the province), appear to help Quebec-Federal relations and get the money back at the end of the day. Jeez.

I think Chretien is a good man and I think he made an important comment during his "screw you all" speech following the release of the report. Because of his government we aren't counting body bags or struggling to find enough soldiers to send to Iraq. We are talking about the Ad scandal. I'm not saying that AdScam was okay, it wasn't. It was Canada's money and we should have known about it....BUT...most people don't ever know what their money is being spent on and for the most part they don't care. It's only when Joe Blow tells him to care that he's up in arms about his tax dollars. The Chretien Liberal government made a mistake. Show me a leadership that hasn't.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bring on the Boxes

Giving my notice at the Bay was harder than it should have been. Man do I hate confrontation...that's why I make such a crappy journalist. I would rather avoid putting someone in an awkward position than ask them a though question. I never feel like it's my business even though I understand the idea of public life, the role of the media in democracy etc. Quitting was similar in that I felt guilty for leaving and afraid of what they would say. So I lied and told them I had a sick relative who needed me to take care of them. It's true in a sense, we are all related in an ethereal way to freedom and I need to take care of mine.

My last day of work is November 17th (next Thursday) and then it's all about the big move. I have been packing boxes and buying supplies like a crazy woman. I am trying not to get too excited because I still have a while to go and when I reach a certain level of anticipation I cease being reasonable and I start to get agitated. I want my new house and all the things that will come with it. Lots of space...time alone with Brian...baking in my own parties...all my books on a shelf.

My plan is to work full time on the house for the first few weeks after I quit. We are re-flooring and painting the entire house and of course it will need to be cleaned from top to bottom. That sounds like a full-time work to me. In a fun kind of way.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gimme Some Credit...

Today I was told that I belonged to The Bay. They are annoyed that I need an hour on Sunday's to go to hip hop (don't they understand, that's my church?) and an hour on Wednesday nights to skate. Apparently having a life, even a life that is only two hours long, outside of work is unacceptable. Oh, and they want me to work Christmas and New Years. Something tells me that I won't be there very long.

Which leads me to divulge the following insider information, free to anyone who chooses to use it:

1. They don't want your money, they just want you to sign up for the credit card. That's how they make their money. You can use this to your advantage; sign up for the card, get the discount and then pay it off immediately at the till. Yes, you can do that. Then you get the money off and they never get a red cent in interest. (Which sits at a criminal 23% I might add)

2. The Bay will adjust your price for two weeks. If you buy something and it goes on sale within two weeks, you can take your receipt in and get the difference back. And guess what? That applies to Boxing Day too...go in, get your pick of styles, colours and sizes and then spend your boxing day having your sales associate work for you.

3. It's illegal to adjust prices up but the Bay does it. They cut the old price ticket out and print up a new one. If you see a gaping hole where a price should be, pretend to call your MLA or lawyer and see what happens.

So there you go...use it as you will. And tell them associate # 14351464 sent you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hostile Takeover Sours Lunch Break

What can I say about life in the retail industry? It's a little mind numbing (not in a smoke a joint and play some video games kind of a way) but it passes the time. The people I work with are very nice and have actually told me I should leave and get a better job. The woman who told me that has been working at The Bay for nine years...maybe she should follow her own advice.

I'm feeling a little demoralized lately, despite all the "When I graduated I had to make falafel pitas for 12 hours a day to make money" pep talks. They aren't really working. I think it's because I know that deep down, I'm too lazy to do what it takes to get a better job. I could go knocking door to door, volunteer for shifts at CBC radio and pitch freelance stories to the newspapers. But I don't. I just put on my black Bay vest and name tag and head off for work. Where I smile all day and have a laugh with the girls and don't have to think about anything. It's Valium for the working girl.

The Gomery report came out today and didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. It was Halloween yesterday and I don't think I saw a single home made sad. What else? I started my ice skating class last week and I'm a SUPERSTAR. At least mediocrity hasn't followed me on to the ice.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Buzzin behind bars...

For the first time in history, Ralph Klein has done something I actually agree with. I was reading the newspaper the other day and on the front page was a story about how the Alberta prison director had decided to cut all caffeine from the prisons...the following week. No real rhyme or reason except for vaguely mentioned "health reasons" and with insignificant time to wean yourself off of your 15 coffees a day. This story bothered me on several levels...first, it was going to result in a seriously pissed off prison population within the week. Already in jail and recently banned from smoking, these poor people are going to be edgy. Secondly, it triggered an area of underlying frustration I have in the North American prison system. A frustration I plan on elaborating on, right now:

Historically, prisons were designed for two reasons. To hold criminals until they could go to court and to protect the rest of society from the really bad people. In my opinion, our perspectives on incarceration have gotten so twisted that everyone who ever makes a mistake of an illegal nature is sent behind bars. How cruel and utterly unimaginative.

People who go to prison should be people who are guilty of serious crimes and who are more than likely going to re-offend. They need to be put behind bars to protect those in front of bars, not to punish said offenders. There are so many other, more beneficial and less punitive ways of dealing with people. This was my objection to Martha Stewart being jailed...that is not who jail is for. It is also not for the 15 year old girl who, in a fit of rage, runs over her abusive boyfriend with a car. Chances are, she won't ever do that again and in different circumstances, she wouldn't have done it in the first place. Jail is not for the guy who is so hooked on meth that he breaks into some house and is so high that he can't find his way out again and is caught having a nap in the bath tub.

Now, this is not to say that these people shouldn't be punished or helped. Have them do community service, have the young, abused murderer go to schools and talk about domestic violence and young people. Have the drunk driver give talks on how it feels to know you killed someone. The courts seem to neglect the power of human emotion...guilt goes a long way and shouldn't be ignored. Most people suffer enough from the nights spent wondering how they could do what they did, and the "What ifs?"...they don't need to lose their freedom any further.

Which brings me to my next point. Human freedom is the most sought after, fought for, desired, treasured and basic of human rights. To remove freedom for tax evasion is cruel and unnecessary. It's expensive for tax payers, there is no evidence whatsoever that it acts as a deterrent and it usually introduces troubled people to even more troubling ideas. A tax evader would be better served by having to give free financial counseling to poor, single mothers, or by having to work for the community to pay off what he owes, then by being incarcerated. And so would the rest of society.

Leave jails for the sociopaths who cannot show compassion and for repeat offenders who are a danger to the rest of us. back to the caffeine thing. So, it isn't bad enough that these people are in jail, now they also can't have a cup of coffee. Nice. Ralph Klein read the same news story I did and was "dismayed" by what he read...and he put a stop to it real quick. And that is what he did to make me think, that maybe (just maybe) he's not such a jerk after all.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Down by the Bay, where the disenchantment grows...

I'm trying really hard to like living here and more specifically, to like my life. I don't hate Calgary or my existence but I do sometimes feel a lack of excitement about them. The sunrises in the morning are probably some of the most fantastical on earth...I usually produce a muffled "Humph" to compete with the louder "Ooohs" and "Ahhhs". I catch myself being impressed with the mountains caught in my rear view mirror but it never lasts as long as I feel it should.

I miss Korea more than I thought I would. I don't miss all of it...just the excitement of living overseas. I miss the food and of course, the prices. I miss always having loads of money. I miss my little Susie. I miss knowing that within the next few months I'll be visiting China, or Japan or both. I miss hearing another language. I miss having Brian to myself every day and I miss him and I having our own little life, all to ourselves.

I have the travel bug again and I'm not going anywhere any time soon. I'm starting to wonder if it isn't some pathology, this desire to always be going somewhere else. Why do so many people seem so content to stay put while I am not?

In other news (and probably not unrelated news) I got a job at the Bay. I lied by omission and neglected to tell them about my Master's degree. I told them I was in Korea for the past two years to explain that missing year of employment. Then, when they asked me what my plans were I told them I was going to work for the next few years to support my husband and then go back to school to be a kindergarten teacher. Or go on a shooting rampage during your next big White Sale...whatever happens first.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hey Ralph...Buck Off!

Now, anyone who routinely reads my blog will know that I am not a big fan of Ralph Klein. I don't hate him as much as I used to but he still bugs me. The way he maniacally cut social programs and then degraded the people who couldn't get jobs bugged me. The way he takes credit for all of Alberta's money and ignores the fact that our primary resource is at $65 a barrel bugs me. The fact that he ignores Alberta voters, snubs his nose at referendums and shouts "Not withstanding clause" at every opportunity bugs me but this? This really bugs me.

I think the idea of giving each Albertan $400 is a poor one. His Ralph bucks have worked in the past though so I guess I can't blame him for trying. But to sell the idea by spending an additional $65,000?! The province should be outraged, but apparently, they're not. According to the most recent polls only about 14% of Albertans want the $400 cheque. Now Ralph is taking out newspaper ads to convince people that they should want the money. When do we get to take out ads to convince Ralph to spend the money on the social programs he so easily cut? Or better yet, when do I get the chance to have a 30 second TV spot to "encourage" Klein to remove the crown from his head and the stick from his ass and retire?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

With a vengeance...

I never thought I would be so happy to hear the voice. It has always amused me and I've always enjoyed his deep throated wittisisms but today it was like I heard Jesus himself on the radio. Actually, it was more like a herald angel I suppose since it was what followed that left me truly excited. That's right, the angel of news radio herself, Anna Maria Tremonti. Welcome back Anna Maria and Bernard and Shelagh. I've missed you Peter and Ian and Mr. Bryson.

And to make things even better, Anna Maria is discussing labour relations on today's show. I love it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Zero Percent Down

Some good news...Brian and I bought a house!! Our very first real-life-married-people house. It's a three bedroom townhouse near the University and we are really excited about it. It needs some work, which only makes it better because now I get to throw on a kerchief and some overalls and live out my mortgage commercial dream. You know, the one with the young couple painting their first house together, all youthful and glowing with anticipation. Or post coital's hard to tell in only 30 seconds. Bad part is we don't get to move in until the 20th of November. Good part is that gives me plenty of time to shop.

I go in for surgery tomorrow. After some run ins with the doctors (who apparently think people know nothing about basic medicine) and a twelve hour stint at the Emergency room on Saturday it will all be over. Hopefully. I'm feeling nervous but I'll be glad when this is finished. I've been feeling like shit for the past few weeks and it feels like this whole episode has lasted years instead of a month. I just hope they give me some sweet drugs when I wake up. The last time I had surgery I woke up so loopy that I actually believed I had the power to make people disappear and reappear from the room just by blinking my eyes. Imagine that.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Amoto quaeramus seria ludo...

First of all I have to say that I feel pretty damn lucky. I have some great friends from all around the world and although I have always known that I was reminded of it this week. Thank you to all the wonderful people who emailed me with their words of encouragement. For some reason I have always had a really hard time hearing kind words directed my way. They make me feel embarrassed and a little queasy. But this time it just felt good.

Things are going well. I am scheduled for surgery next Wednesday and although I hate going under (not intended as a slight towards any Aussies) it will be good to have it all over and done with. Hopefully nothing progresses naturally in the meantime because I have been warned by nurses and doctors alike "If you start to bleed go directly to the hospital." Got it. I haven't really asked what would happen if instead I decided to make a seven course meal and play some football but I can imagine.

In other news, this experience has caused me to have a religious transformation. I have come to realize that building my life around a lack of belief is not constructive. I am now a believer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lost and Found...and Lost again.

I haven't written for awhile...not because I haven't had anything to write about but because it's been too hard to write about. I'm not going to get into the details but basically this is what happened:

1. Found out I was pregnant. Cried because my life was over. "What about all our plans to be a yuppie city couple who go for downtown drinks on Friday nights?"
2. Wrapped our heads around the idea that we were going to be parents.
3. Started to get really excited. Saw ourselves differently and started to plan. I adapted to the idea of being a yuppie mother who does downtown prenatal yoga on Friday afternoons.
4. Had a miscarriage.
5. Went for an ultrasound and was told "No! Everything is still didn't miscarry." They showed me the image of a perfect little all felt real for the first time.
6. My newly adapted mommy heart lept for joy.
7. "There is no heartbeat." My leaping heart stopped leaping and just started to flutter out of confusion. It finally settled on numb.

So that's that. An emotional rollercoaster of a week if I've ever had one. And I thought the time time the nurse said "metastastic cells" when she meant "metaplastic cells" was bad.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Living my life vacariously...for the time being

My friend, Chris O'Leary, has a great story in the newest "edition" of should check it out and nominate him for some kind of sports writing award.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Hate Alberta's Beefs

On Monday I got all dressed up like I actually had a job and headed off to do my radio interviews. The first one was with a political science professor who, in my opinion, typified whiny Albertans. He wants to separate because we aren't appreciated enough and "every once in a while I would like to get a Thank you card from the rest of Canada..." Jesus Christ. My tongue was practically bitten off by the time I left...I think I disagreed with pretty much everything he said. The bad part is that he's not really considered a nutjob in these parts...more of a vocal majority. I have a question for the rest of the province...


Alberta currently has a $7 billion + surplus and the lowest unemployment rate around. The countryside is beautiful and the businesses are innovative and booming. The housing market is good and people are flocking here from the rest of Canada to get jobs. We pay NO provincial sales tax and our premier regularly sends us GST rebates. So what is everyone so pissed off about? I've heard the same old answers to my question...

"We need to be treated as an equal."
Guess what, we're not equals. We have 3 million people in this province...not even close to what Ontario and Quebec deal with.

"We're ignored by the rest of Canada."
Boo mother f'n hoo. Alberta ignores the rest of Canada too.

"Ottawa is full of suits who don't know what they're doing...just look at the gun registry."
Okay, gun registry was practice if not in principal. All the parties are made up of "suits" and what the hell does that mean anyway?

I always get the impression that there is nothing that Ottawa could do that would make Alberta stop whining. We are the spoiled rich kid in the parking lot and we need a good kick in the ass.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Misunderstood Youth

I have some bad childhood memories of the Terry Fox run. I remember reading a ValueTale book about him when I was about eight or nine and it really inspired me. I decided that in order to really do the Terry Fox run right, you should try and do it like Terry Fox. Only then could you really understand how difficult it must have been to get up and run every day like he did. So I started practicing the "hop-hop-step". I practiced in the backyard and in my room until I had it perfected. Then I went to the school wide Terry Fox run. I had gone door to door and raised my money and I was so excited to show everyone how good I was. The day of the run was cold and wet and grey. I wore my little pink sweatpants and matching sweatshirt as we lined up on the soccer field. The whistle blew and I started (probably beaming)...hop hop step, hop hop step.

After my first lap I was pulled to the side by a teacher and warned to stop "mocking" Terry Fox. I didn't even know what mocking meant. I kept going, sure that Terry would have been proud. By the end of the second lap, the school principal was waiting for me at the last bend. She grabbed my arm and pulled me off the course. I remember how big she was and how angry she looked and I was thoroughly confused. "Terry Fox was a Canadian hero...not a joke. You are to go sit down on those bleachers and think about what you have done."

I sat on those bleachers in the rain and cried. I watched all the kids doing their normal kid runs around the field and felt completely alone. How could anyone be mad at me? I had tried to show my solidarity with Terry and worked so hard to raise money. I remember thinking that if only Terry were here, he would save me. He would have said all the things I couldn't to the principal and he would have seen what I was trying to do.

This year I am running in the Terry Fox run again. And I hope by some chance I see my old school I can kick her in the teeth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The last few days have brought about some life changing events. First of all, I have signed up for a hip hop dance class. That's right folks. My friend, Gina, and I will be hipping and hopping ourselves all over Calgary. Here's how Gina's pitch went:

-"So, I've been wanting to take this class and I thought you might want to do it with me...?"
-"What is it?" (I ask, just hoping it doesn't involve too much exercise. Gina is very fit.)
-"Hip Hop dancing. They have this class on Sunday afternoons and it's cheap...I'll even drive you there if you want!"
-"Can I think about it? I mean, what would it be exactly?"
-"The brochure says they teach you to do specific moves and then you learn a whole choreographed routine."
-"And what would I wear to this class?"
-"I dunno...bling probably."
-"I don't know if I have any bling..."
-"And the best part is, after we learn the routine, we can go to the BAR!"

So, long story short, I'm taking a Hip Hop class with Gina and I'm super excited about it. I also signed up for ice-skating lessons. (Coming Soon: "P. Diddy Backup Dancers on Ice") And convinced Brian to sign up for "Couples Massage". Watch out world, I am going to be one limber, ice dancer.

In more exciting news, I'm getting paid to do radio. I answered an ad on Craiglist for some contract radio work and low and behold if it isn't a great opportunity. The guy called me and it turns out he and his wife have been working for CBC for years and that most recently they were in Jerusalem. Before that, Moscow. As the producer for "The National" in Moscow. Not a bad guy to know. On Monday I have some interviews set up and then I'm to send the tapes etc. to Toronto. Freelance work. Radio freelance work. For a very nice man with connections at CBC. I don't feel so hopeless any more.

Dance your cares away, troubles for another day, let the music play...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Wind Becomes Windsurfers Windfall

Koizumi! Bless you...

I really like this guy and although I don't always agree with his views (particularly on war-time aggression) I do like his policies...besides, forcing an election the way he did took major kahunas.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Wrestling with the MediOgre

Let's hope my recent melancholic musings are fueled by estrogen, because if they're not, I'm screwed. I feel like a failure...a loser even. I'm back in Canada with no journalistic proof of my journey abroad and no great job perspectives. I am looking for a job in communications because it pays better and more importantly because I'm too lazy and unmotivated to be a decent freelancer. I don't even have a job title. I'm not a neuroscientist, I'm not a journalist. If I get work, what will I be? A "communicator"? Big deal, even my cat can communicate.

I always had big dreams and for the past few weeks I have been telling myself that I need to face reality and that my dreams of being a novelist/doctor/feminist politician/rock climber/orphanage opener/ were just that...dreams. Silly dreams. Until I realized in an early morning clear headed moment that really, I had just failed to apply myself. Ever. To anything.

It seems that the only commitment I have ever made and kept was to mediocrity.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bright Ideas

Check out OurMedia for some amazing videos of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. They have lots of cool media stuff including a recent interview with Heather B. Armstrong of dooce. com (rated the number 10 best blog in the world) while she was attending BlogHer, a recent conference hosted by women bloggers. While you're at it, check out Post Secret if you haven't already - it's incredible.

Some Home Grown Pics...

I had forgotten how beautiful Alberta is...

There are constant rumours that postcard companies digitally add Alberta skies to their pictures...sounds like an urban legend to me, but looking at these skies it's not entirely impossible.

Brian and his brother, Dave, hiking in the mountains.

Monday, September 05, 2005

First Days

Today is Brian's first day of school. We got up really early and I ironed his clothes (how post-modern of me) while he shaved. I was as nervous and excited as he was. I drove him to the train station so he could start his first commute into the city. I know Brian is my husband and a grown and fully capable adult, but a part of me wanted to take a picture of him standing in front of the house, backpack in hand. I got an inkling of how mothers of first-graders must feel...very proud and a little left behind.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Love Hurts

I want to rip my own face off. This is not some acid-trip-induced psychotic thing, it's a cat thing. I am very allergic to my cat, Shabba. And Shabba (because life is like that) loves to cuddle. He wants to wrap his furry body around my neck and rub his whiskers on my face. He's cute...very cute. So sometimes I give in because he's just so warm and purring like a little engine. Then the itching starts. First the eyes and then the nose. After that comes the sneezing spasms. Normally I love to sneeze but 15 times in a row is a lot for anybody...I feel like I need a post-coital cigarette after sneezing that many times. Now I'm locked away in the bedroom and he's meowing at the door. I love him so much, and I tell him so between wheezes and sniffles. I just don't know how much longer I can take this...anyone want a cat?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Want My Mother...Corp

For the past year I have been dying to get back to CBC Radio. I listened to it in Korea via the internet (the time change meant I could listen to CBC Overnight regularly - a life's dream fulfilled) but it was never quite the same. Now, here I am back in Canada and the CBC is locked out. Nooooooo!

I can't believe Mary Lou Findlay, no Shelagh Rogers or Anna Maria Tremonti (and no Samira Hussain). Just as the hockey dispute gets settled we are facing a season without Don and Ron. Peter Mansbridge is no where to be found. Where am I going to get my news?! If you think I'm going to turn to CTV and watch that plastic mannequin man, you've got another thing coming.

I understand the position that the union is taking. Regularly having CBC employees on contracts is wrong. Some contracts are good, but when nationally recognized and awarded journalists are living contract to contract, something has to change. The CBC needs some help...mostly financially but also from Canadians. Canadians have a tendency to take things for granted. The CBC is our national treasure. It unites us and entertains us. It keeps us informed without all the animations, scare tactics and explosive diatribes of the news shows beamed from down south. And Peter Mansbridge is hot.

Even Margaret Wente agrees with me.

Write to Paul and get him to give the CBC more money...maybe that way I can get a job there...or at the very least, a contract.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mi Casa

Home. A four letter word, but not in the usual sense. It's hard to describe how it feels to be back. I was far more excited to return than I ever thought I would be. All of my life I have been waiting for my next big trip...planning another adventure. This time I was anxious to come home and ready to stay there. But, when the plane finally landed (24 hours after it left...ugh) I felt a mix of emotions...relief, excitement, and a bit of sadness that my life in Asia was now in the past. There were times where I hated living in Asia, I cursed their "backwards" ways and longed for a taste of home more than once. Now, I want to go back and I may just find myself heading to Chinatown as a refuge from the outside world.

Some things I've noticed since coming home:

1. People are loud. Everybody sounds like they are yelling all the time. There is no quiet calm anywhere it seems.

2. Serving sizes and the people who eat said serving sizes, are much bigger. I'm sure this isn't correct but I get the impression that everyone is a little overweight. Comparatively that is.

3. People here are very anal about personal space. This one is funny because when I first moved to Korea I would have said the same thing about them. There is no personal space in Korea. Here, there is so much that it seems everyone is forever calculating the greatest space to distance ratio in order to stand/shop/sit accordingly. Yesterday I stood behind some guy in line at the grocery store and had obviously miscalculated. I was too close and he let me know it with a look. I could have had my hand in his back pocket in Korea and he wouldn't have cared...or noticed.

4. There is a lot of stuff here and everybody wants it. Buy stuff, wear stuff, carry stuff, eat stuff, sell stuff, collect stuff, clean stuff and drive stuff.

5. On the upside, it's beautiful. I mean "take your breath away, shed a tear" stunning. We drove in from the airport and all we could see was a giant blue a blanket over the whole earth. The fields were turning from green to gold and the mountains were etched in the horizon in the distance. It really is the most beautiful country I have ever seen.

6. Everything is clean and well-organized. It lacks some character this way because every intersection has the same shops and stores as all the other streets but it's "nice".

7. The toilets flush. And you can sit on them.

8. People, for the most part, have no idea what Asia is like and cannot begin to understand what the last year of my life has been like. They also don't really care all that much. I'm home and that's what matters.

9. The public transportation here sucks compared to Asia. Taxis are expensive and everyone just drives.

10. And finally, but most importantly, it's home.

I have mixed feelings about being back but I'm here and I don't really have a choice. It's very nice to see my family again and it's really relaxing to be able to speak English and function so easily. I am going to give myself the time it will take to get "re-acquainted" and then see how I feel. But right now, I would kill for a bowl of tchenjon chegay and an hour at a bath house.

Monday, August 22, 2005

First Amherst...Next, the World

Way to go CFI. It's about time.

This is the funniest story I have heard in a while.

We got an email the other day from Brian's Mum, detailing the first few weeks of law school for Brian. Now, Brian keeps warning me that he'll be so busy at school and not to expect to see him much. (I know what professional school is like...I went to journalism school, remember? Sorry, just had to pick myself up from the floor...that was a good one.) In the first week Brian has a Welcome Lunch, a buffet breakfast, a bowling night, a softball tounament, a golf tournament and later in the month a dinner and dance. I want to go to law school...I love bowling.

Last night we flew home from Koh Samui. That's right - we more fourteen hour bus/boat rides for this girl. It took an hour to get here. The Koh Samui airport looks like a cross between "Gilligans Island" and a night safari. I hate flying, and let me tell you, seeing an airport made of cocunut trees without a roof made me a little nervous...but it was cool.

In a few days we wil fly home. I can't believe's been so long and this year has been very eventful. Brian and I are starting to try and figure out where we are going to live and what we are going to do. Buy? Rent? Car? Bus pass? The difficult thing is that most of the answers depend on me and what kind of job I get. Gulp...a job. I have no idea what I want to do and for the next few years at least I am going to be the "bread winner". That's a lot of pressure. My two little brothers are both still in univesity and they have jobs lined up for when they finish...good ones. Brian will be a lawyer. What the hell am I? Part scientist, part journalist? Sheesh. My Mom keeps reminding me that I will need to get a job right away (like I didn't know) and the pressure is mounting. All I want is to go back to school (that's all I ever want) and Brian just wants to work. If only we could switch places...or win the lottery.

Brian is out filming his movie today and I am hanging out in Bangkok solo. No worries...I know this place like the back of my hand now.

In more random news:
1. What the hell is with this blogger/comment spam going around? It's seriously pissing me off.
2. Way to go out Mr. HS Thompson. I like it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Down With Conformity...Do What I'm Doing!

At breakfast Brian and I decided to blow this popsicle stand and head to Koh Samui. We kept trying to deny it but we both really hated Koh Phagnan. We were starting to think we really sucked and had horrible attitudes until we started talking to some other people. The Dutch couple who we met yesterday were also leaving and had come to the conclusion that the island was crap. They had been to Koh Toa and Samui and much preferred both. Now, remember that today is the day of the full moon event that draws thousands of people to the island, and that we were going the opposite direction. We felt like traitors and then we felt like rebels and then, as the day went on, we just felt smart.

On the pier we were surprised to see a lot of people leaving (even more arriving mind you) and met a guy called "Irish" who was a character and a half. Sporting an upside down American flag on his back pack he was making a point of insuting everyone on the pier...loudly. He had been beaten up the night before (can't imagine why) but had managed to convince the Thai police that he was an Irish policeman so they, as their brotherly duty, went and pummeled the two guys who had beaten him. The poor Thai guy selling drinks for 10 baht was offered 20 baht to "let me shove the drink up your arsehole" and as we were walking past the crowds arriving on the island, he jumped up and decreed on high that this place "is a shithole" and to "Get back on the boat if you've an ounce of brains in your thick skulls". Compared to him, Brian and I are a puddle of sunshine.

Koh Samui is fantastic. I will never go to Koh Phagnan again but I will gladly return here. The people are nicer and the island is's got more to do and of course, it doesn't hurt that we went all out (after weeks of paying 200 baht a night for hotel rooms) and booked a room at the Peace Resort for 2,500 baht a night. The last place we were staying at was called Cookies and although the gardens were nice, the bungalows were crap. Dark, damp and with walls weaved from palm leaves it was a dingy place all in all. The bathroom was entirely concrete and host to several families of flush toilet and no hot water. The Peace Resort is's easily the nicest place I have ever stayed. A private bungalow near the beach, with fluffy towels and a bathtub! The toilet flushes and there is even a TV and a mini bar. It didn't take five minutes for Brian to declare his new life philosophy: "Screw Cookies. I'm done with Cookies."

We had been really torn about leaving before the full moon party and felt like we should go because everyone goes. As I sat in the beach front restaurant tonight, drinking my red wine and eating my roasted duck, I could hear the party from across the water. I felt like I had escaped by the skin of my teeth. It's pretty ironic that a party that started as a counter culture movement has become so packaged...I felt like a social freak for leaving.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The proud owner of a jeep and TWO hotel rooms

The last few days have been good...yesterday we had a beach day and chilled on our our little private beach. The water was blue-green and a warm as a bath. The sand was nice and I walked around topless...that's the good life. It's also a good thing about Thailand...most of the tourists here are European, where topless is just normal. (The French even have a word for it...a "monokini". Ha! I thought that was so funny!) We had lunch, played cards, swam, read and dozed under a plam tree. In the evening we watched the sunset over the was beautiful.

I was so tired this morning...Brent's girlfriend (the one with the limited vocabulary) showed up and they retreated from the restaurant about the same time we headed for bed. Then the music started. Brent's bungalow (shack is more ike it...but what do you want for $4?) is right next door to ours and the music was loud. We tolerated it for awhile but when the same Jack Johnson CD went on for the fourth time we had to put our foot down. We didn't want to be the heavy-handed-pro-capitilist-anti-freedom-corportate borgs but we were tired.

We rented a jeep today and took it out around the island...that was very cool. We picked up a couple of Dutch hitch hikers and toured all the beaches. We drove through the mountainous jungle roads and saw some really cool things...giant coconut trees, waterless waterfalls, mountain villages and about 1,000 stray dogs. After having our brains rattled for a few hours on the bumpy roads, we headed home.

As it started to rain we saw a hotel by the pier. We had the jeep for 24 hours and I couldn't face another night (especially a wet one) in our bug-infested "bungalow". We managed to get the last room and paid for two rooms tonight. I didn't care...this room has pillows (white ones as opposed to the usual grey) and sheets! Better yet, it has real walls. I am living in the lap of luxury.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Crawlies in the Weave

Maybe it was the hair...maybe it reminded it of its long lost mother...either way, there was a giant spider on my head today. As big as my hand. It ran across my face and at first I thought it was one of my braids so I brushed it off. Then it ran right across my face again, over my eye and its body blotted out the sun for a fraction of a second. Long enough for me to realize what it was. I screamed and swatted at my head. Eventually it jumped off (leaped maybe) and ran under the back tire of a jeep. I'm not really scared of spiders in general but I was a little jumpy for the rest of the day!

Ko Phagnan isn't exactly what I expected (are you surprised? I wasn't.) It could just be the full moon party at the end of the week, but there is an entirely different cast of characters on this island. Brent is a good example...we met Brent this morning on our way up the hill from our guesthouse (which is a shithole, but that's another story). Brent is from Washington D.C and has been travelling for 3 months..."It's been a total mind trip ya know? I forget English all the time now and like, talking to fellow Americans (Canadians, but why be petty?) it's like totally blowin' my mind..." Ditto.

Brent has a shoulder that he can't move because he drove his rented motorbike into a ditch while trying to ride down a mountain drunk. Brent has lost 15 pounds because he stopped eating a few weeks ago and now only drinks beer. He has two Thai "girlfriends" (and an extra at home but "she's Indonesian so she understands what it's like"...hmmm) one of whom can only say two words in English - "Yes" and "fucking". How appropriate. Brent is a 4.0 student in an honours business program at the American University...or at least he was, until he started doing drugs all day long and now says he needs to go home and get tested for every STD known to man. Nice. Brent also says we "should totally come out and party at the Amsterdam bar tonight...I guarantee you (this is said with a very earnest expression) it will blow your mind."

I am reading Are You Experienced? (by William Sutcliffe) right now, it's about a young guy traveling India and the things he sees and the people he meets. Brian read it too, passed it to me when he was done and said "That's how I feel" I thought the least I could do was read it. It's quite good and pretty funny...and the character, Dave, is acidic if a bit sad. He's lost and isn't buying all the hippie BS he encounters from fellow travelers, who are all carrying around the book (Lonely Planet). At one point his friend throws the book out the train window and Dave nearly has a heart attack..."But, how will we find all the other travelers?" My favourite part is when Dave goes running up to the only other white face on a train's a journalist from Reuters. The journalist berates him: "Your kind of travel is all about low horizons dressed up as open-mindedness. You have no interest in India, and no sensitivity for the problems this country is trying to face up to," and ends up shouting: "DON'T FORGET TO PUT YOUR BIG TRIP DOWN ON THE CV!" I thought that was pretty funny.

Monday, August 15, 2005

MADS (Me Against Drunk Shopping)

After getting so annoyed with Bangkok that I could do nothing but sulk in a hot and smelly road-side bar I decided to put said establishment to good use. I started drinking. I kept drinking all for lunch and then for pre dinner drinks. Cheap cold Singha beer to dull me to expensive, hot Khoa San Road. It actually did the endeared me to it! That's when I realized that this whole time I was complaining it was my fault. I was just too sober to appreciate the finer subqualities of the road's culture.

I did all the things a drunk person should do on KS. I shopped and bartered like a crazy person (probably more like a drunk person), I bought a fake international press card, complete with my picture (valid for ten years...that should give me enough time to actually do some journalism) and got my hair braided down my back...bubble gum pink. Now that was an experience in bladder control...three hours spent sitting with people yanking on your hair and a husband feeding you beers and no bathroom in site. When I did finally go I was a good looking blur of pink tendrils, let me tell you.

Brian is going to be an extra in a movie next week! We walked past this big sign calling for actors and stopped to check it out. Next thing we know, he's being measured for a costume...he's a natural.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

How Bazaar

All I've ever heard about is how great the shopping is in Bangkok. I call bullshit. From what I can tell, it's lousy. Yesterday we went to the weekend market (the famous "if it isn't here, it doesn't exist" market) and it sucked. The stuff was the same I've seen everywhere but the quality was worse. The prices were ridiculous and the stuff was just crap. The shopping in Kuala Lumpur was ten time better than Bangkok, and that's what is so frustrating. We were in KL and bought nothing. We had heard nothing but how Bangkok was the place to shop so we left empty-handed. Even Chiang Mai was better than Bangkok and guess what? We didn't buy much there either.

From what I've seen, China has the best shopping. The markets had everything under the sun, the vendors were fun and were good at bargaining and the products were fairly good quality. Here, the vendors don't really bargain (today we had a lady take shirts out of our hands and put them back on the table because she didn't like our counter offer!) and when they do it's half-hearted. I feel disgruntled and dissapointed.

I can't wait to get out of Bangkok. It's pretty bad when the best deal going are the spring rolls on Khoa San Road.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Appreciation in hindsight...

When I lived in Korea I used to get really frustrated at the lack of attention paid to tourists. There were no English signs or pamphlets, no posted bus or train schedules and nothing in the country was organized. It was really frustrating. Here in Bangkok, the opposite is true. Everything is geared for tourists and I hate it. It's so cliched to not appreciate what you have when you have it but I'm afraid that's what I have done. Korea is one of the least toured countries in the world and is only just opening up to the tourism industry. Every festival and market we went to was for Koreans...we just happened to tag along. In hindsight, it is a refreshing and novel way to travel.

I constantly feel like I am being processed here. It wasn't as bad down south (funny enough, as that's where the beaches are) but Bangkok is really bad. Everyone is dressed the same and they're carrying around the same Lonely Planet as though it's their cult Bible...and in a way it is. The clothes at the market are all the same. The food at the restaurants is all the same. Everything is over priced, poorly made and nothing is unique or personal. Dreadlocks, which have usually been as a rejection of society's norms of beauty and style, can be bought on the street for $25. They're weaving them in for God's sakes and people are eating it up.

I never thought I would say this but right now, I would love to get that "You're white! What the hell are you doing in my country?" stare I used to hate so much.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thai'd in Knots

Thai massage isn't quite what I had imagined. It was more like, I don't know, pleasant torture. I had a killer foot massage the other day so I decided to go back to the same place for an hour long massage. It started out pretty normal. I put on some comfy pyjama looking clothes (only later would I realize this was for easy transport from massage mat to operating table) and lay down on the massage mat. A large Thai woman came in and did a little bow and started rubbing my feet. Ahhh...

The next thing I know, she was using her elbows to pummel my calf muscles. I was being kneaded (after all, isn't that what everyone wants?) like pizza dough. I thought about saying something but kept quiet. I knew Brian was in the waiting room (hates being massaged...says that strangers touching him is creepy) so if I needed interference, it was available. I decided to just relax and try to enjoy the experience. I got pulled, twisted, stretched and cracked. The woman climbed on my back and walked all over me...and it didn't even hurt! It was like passive yoga meets chiropractics meets massage. I really started to enjoy it at some point and by the end I was feeling very relaxed and my muscles were like jelly, which after all, is the point.

A full hour of this and an awesome experience all for five bucks. What a deal.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hey! Nice Thai!

Thai food has always been my favourite "ethnic cuisine" (if that term still applies these days) and today I learned how to cook heaps of it. We took a cooking class at Pad Thai Cookery school and learned how to make curry pastes, carve vegetables (for some reason, my carrot "Man looks over bridge contemplating his existential self" didn't fare as well as some chicks tomato rose...what can you do?), make soups, stir fry's and some very yummy deserts. I am excited to go home and cook up a big Thai meal for my friends and family. Maybe I'll open up a restaurant and call it Thai, and Thai Again. Groan.

We also went to see The Island. It's funny being all the way over here because we end up missing all the hoopla and buildup to a typical Hollywood movie. We end up watching it through naive eyes and I can tell you, it makes a difference. I have never been a huge Hollywood fan but lately the movies are worse. Fight scenes that go on for hours, car chases that break the rules of physics not to mention the laws of good film making. The dialogue is horrendous and the plots, predictable. The Island wasn't so bad (it had the sci-fi element of science and ethics which engaged my brain a little bit) but there were definitely some laughable scenes. Like when the two main characters fall 70 stories off the side of a building (hanging onto a billboard for safety) and manage to escape unharmed.

As contrast, I offer my most recent read The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester (also the author of another favourite, Krakatoa). What an interesting book. It tells the story of Dr. Minor and James Murray, two men responsible for the Oxford English Dictionary. Sounds a bit boring, but it's not. A true story, full of madness and murder, about something we all take for granted. I had never really thought much about dictionaries until I read this. Can you imagine not having one? Shakespeare apparently did not have access to a dictionary...he couldn't check to see if he had used a word correctly or check its spelling. He couldn't even "look up" a word or a thing (like "elephant" the hell would he know what an elephant was!?) because the concept didn't even exist. There was no where to look. In a word like ours where we can find out anything about anything in a few minutes, that blew my mind.

A big Happy Birthday to my not so little, little brother...wish I was there kiddo!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

From Grey to Black and Blue

Yesterday we went on a one day trek through the jungle. We visited the Hmong hill tribe at their mountain village and spent time walking around and seeing how they live. Like many of the hill tribes in Thailand, the Hmong are allowed to gro opium for personal use. The people there were really friendly and I felt lucky to have the opportunity to see such a different way of life. We also visited the a Karen hill tribe and watched them weaving their traditional cloth. It's so beautiful...silks and fine threads all woven together in the most stunning patterns. The Karen are Thailand's largest hill tribe and are still engaged in constant conflict with the Burmese government. They are technically from Burma (Myanmar if you insist) but are being pushed out of the country and are being forced to live in refugee camps along the border. The Thai government has clued in to the fact that the Karen are a tourist attraction (a lot of them are known as "long neck" since they wear gold loops to elongate their necks) and are setting them up in "traditional villages" in Thailand. The ones we visited were far from the border and were living a closer approximation to authentic tribe life but you still have to wonder.

We also spent some time on a back of a big elephant and rode him through the jungle. I was bit reluctant to support the whole "ride an elephant" thing but at the same time, they are a huge (s'cuse the pun) part of Thai culture. It was cool but I was satisfied with the 45 minute ride. I wouldn't have enjoyed anything longer. I did love feeding the elephant some sugarcane when we were finished and I whispered an apology into its ear. Elephants eyes always look a little sad (even in the wild) so I'm not sure if he understood me.

After the elephants we went to look at a waterfall. We hadn't been there more than two minutes when I slipped on the rock and fell right on my hip. Boy did that hurt. It meant the bamboo rafting was out (Brian went and loved it) and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the van. Bummer. Oh well, at least it happened after the hill tribes and not first thing in the morning.

We've collected two really impressive bruises so far this trip, although Brian's story is far more heroic.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Let's Meat in the Middle

Before I left for Korea I was a vegetarian. Shortly after I arrived in Korea I realized that maintaining that lifestyle was going to be very difficult if not impossible. I started eating meat, telling myself it was the culturally sensitive thing to do, and promised myself that I would return to being veggie as soon as I could. Chiang Mai is a vegetarian's dream. Every restaurant offers vegan, vegetarian and macrobiotic options and I haven't had a single one (not entirely true...we had some great fallafels). I have found that I really love eating meat. I used to always tell people how easy it was to replace meat with non-meat alternatives and how usually you couldn't even tell the difference. That's true. But I have yet to see a decent soy replacement for a big juicy steak. What am I to do? Part of me thinks that I should go back to being veggie and do what I know is the right thing for the environment, the food market and the third world. The other part of me can't wait to get home and bite into my Mom's famous roast chicken and some Tim Horton's chili. So, I've decided to launch a campaign. Well, David Suzuki launched it...I'm just advertising it. Eat one meat-free meal a week and help Caroline live guilt free. I figure if I can convince six other people to eat veggie for one day a week then that should equate to one full-blown vegetarian and relieve me from duty.

That way I can have my steak and eat it too.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Full Moon

Last night we had some great Mexican food (I know...we're in Thailand and we're eating Mexican food. What can I say? It's been a long year) at a little place called El Toro. While we were sitting there we were approached by a little boy, about ten or twelve..."Hey brother! Hey sister! Buy some gum...20 baht! You kissy, kissy long time." (this was followed by pursed lips and a long smooching sound). We had to laugh. We bought his gum (because we've been buying everything we're offered) and noticed that he was also carrying around a game of Connect Four. We asked him what the deal was..."100 baht. You win, I pay you 100 baht. I win, you pay me. Come on brother!" We laughed and talked with him for awhile...he was very entertaining and obviously clever. I tried to scare him off by telling the boy that Brian was the Canadian Connect Four champion. "If he champion, why him so scared?" He was very quick. We finally gave in and signed up for what we were sure would be a quick match. It was...he whooped Brian's ass.

Eventually we ended up talking to a young British couple next to us and had a few drinks. We ended up at their table and closed down the restaurant. They (Felicity and Simon) were really neat and we were having a great time. The bar had closed, the lights were out and we were still sitting there, chatting away. As the night progressed we ended up returning to their hotel pool for a skinny dip. It was so much fun. We swam for what seemed like ages and by the time Brian and I hauled our soaked selves home it was nearly 6:00 am. We couldn't figure out why people were going to work until we realized what time it was.

By the end of the night we had made two new friends, helped out a sizeable group of Chiang Mai's street kids, Brian had been solicited by a topless hooker and we had swum butt naked under a Thai moon. Not a bad evening.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Everybody Grab Your Ankles!

Brian has gone to watch Muay Thai boxing for the night and I decided to stay home. So here I sit at our guest house in Chiang Mai. After one night in Bangkok (cue 80's music here...) we decided to head north. As luck would have it, Bangkok had one more in store for us...

You know that feeling when you know you're getting screwed but you don't really know what to do about it (anyone who has taught English in Korea will know what I mean)? Yah, that was us at the tourist agency in Bangkok. The pushy sales lady told us it would cost 890 baht to get from Bangkok to Chaing Mai. Too much. "For you, special price...790 baht." she says. Still too much. We knew it was too much. This greasy lady had an easy answer for every question we asked...

"Why are those French people paying 700?"
"Oh, they go tomorrow...tomorrow special price. You go tonight, more expensive."
"Hmmm...well, maybe we should go tomorrow too..."
"Bangkok very expensive. You stay here one more night it more expensive than to stay in Chiang Mai. They pay cheap price plus hotel tonight. You get better deal."
"Maybe we can go in the daytime tomorrow..."
"Sleeping all night is cheaper because you don't have to pay hotel."

"But I won't see anything if I go at night..."
"Nothing to see."
"Isn't Chiang Mai in the Northern mountains...lush cool green forests and all that?"
"You can see later. More leg room if you go on night bus."
"OK, that's just a bold faced lie."
"Thanks. You have bold face too."

Anyway, she won. Not because we are suckers and we didn't know what we were doing but because we wanted to get the heck out of Bangkok. So we paid 790 baht. Then we checked with the other ticket office once we got where we were going and they charge 400 baht. Just what we figured.

So last night we rode the bus all night to Chiang Mai and arrived at 6:00 in the morning. We paid 150 baht (the snake lady tried to get us to book with her "sister" for 450 baht. Ha!) and went straight to a guest house to sleep. In the afternoon we found our "permanent residence" (in Chiang Mai at least) and booked for a few days. We've been having a rough go of things and we are both feeling tired of travelling. We feel like this trip is the opportunity of a lifetime but piggy backing it on to the end of our time in Korea may have been a bad idea. We are tired and perpetually unenthusiastic it seems, which is a real shame. All I want is to go where a store is a store, a restaurant is a restaurant and a street is for cars. The melee of curry, tuk-tuks and hawkers is quickly losing its charm.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Roach Motel

After a 13 hour bus ride, made longer by a broken down bus and the subsequent vehicle switch, we arrived in Bangkok. We went to Wendy House which we had heard was a really clean and nice guest house in Siam Square. We wanted to stay away from Kao San Road, for tonight at least, and were willing to pay a little more for the nice part of town. Wendy House was really cute...and really full. We asked if she could suggest another guest house and she sent us down the road to Muehpol Mansion (Ha! I haven't come across a bolder misnomer...). By this time it was late and we were exhausted. We went to the front desk and asked if there were rooms available. There were...for 700 baht. Now, this is way more than what we have been paying, in fact it's nearly three times more than what we have been paying. At that point though we didn't care. I was sick (bad chicken) and we were too tired to go anywhere else. We paid and even broke our rule of "check the room first, pay second".

We walked in to find a giant cockroach, in its last spasms of death, in the middle of the floor. The place was a dive. Any other day I would have marched downstairs and demanded a refund. Last night I cried a little and pulled out my portable sheet bag (like a sleeping bag but made of cotton) which I reserve for the more questionable accommodations.

This trip has had some wonderful moments but there have also been some low points...but that's traveling. We are over budget and running out of time. After a lot of discussion we have decided to change the itinerary and skip Vietnam. This breaks my heart because it was one of the main places I wanted to see, but it can't be done. We booked our airplane tickets last week online, only to find out that they will only issue paper tickets. What is this, 1985? Anyway, that means that we have to stay in one place long enough for my Mum to courier us the damn tickets. We decided that instead of quantity we would go for quality and really get to know Thailand. Not perfect but at this point in the game I would be up for a week in a five-star hospital...give me all the antibiotics, blood work and de-worming that modern medicine can muster.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Back in the Vortex

We are back in our new "hometown" of Krabbi. We've used this quaint little place as a jumping off point for our beach trips and have fallen in love with the people, the town and the pace. We have met some really wonderful people and will be sad to leave tomorrow. We are leaving on the 7:00 am bus to Bangkok which will take 12 hours, then we hop on the overnight train to Chang Mai. So we should be there by...oh, I don't know. We'll be there.

We headed out to Ko Phi Phi a few days ago (don't expect specific days or dates, I stopped counting a while back) and the boat ride over was horrendous. I have never really had sea sickness before but I got introduced to it in a big way. The water was really rough so I ended up puking for the whole hour and forty minutes. I must say I was quite discreet though and nobody seemed to notice. Although at that point I wouldn't have cared anyway.

All the sick was worth the view. Ko Phi Phi is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I wanted to take a picture of everything I saw...bright blue-green waters, white sands, palm tress and bright blue skies. It looked like a postcard. I can easily see how you could come to Thailand and just never leave (and let me tell you, we met plenty of people who have done just that!)

On Sunday night Brian and I were lying in bed and I felt it shake (insert sex joke here). I said to him, "Did you feel that?" "Feel what?" he asked. I insisted several times that the bed was shaking, and Brian basically told me I was imagining things. Turned out I was feeling an earthquake. The quake, which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale, hit about 650m off the coast of Phuket in the Andaman/Nicobar Islands. It spurred the Thai government to declare an official Tsunami warning which sent people into a panic. The restaurant where we had eaten dinner that night was evacuated about half an hour after we left. Apparently people's cellphones just started ringing like crazy and the Thais took off for the hills...literally. So there was a mass evacuation and guess where we were? In bed. Oblivious. I heard someone going door to door knocking gently "Hello? Hello?" but assumed that it was someone looking for their friend. Trust the Thais to be their typical sweet, quiet, gentle selves during an evacuation. Evacuations don't work if people don't know about them! Anyway, nothing happened and no tsunami showed up. It's a good thing too because Ko Phi Phi still looks like the tsunami hit last week despite an ongoing cleanup effort. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked about where the aid money has all gone and why there is no permanent medical facility on the island...but I'm on holiday. I don't ask the tough questions when I'm on vacation.

Yesterday we spent the day snorkeling (fortunately we met a lovely couple from New Zealand who supplied me with sea sickness pills...thanks guys!) all around Ko Phi Phi, Phi Phi Leh and Bamboo Island. It was awesome. I had never seen so many beautiful fish and coral. It was warm and the water was so clear...I felt like I was a mini- snorkeler in the world's largest aquarium. We spent the day diving off the boat, laying on the beach and swimming to our hearts content. It was awesome. We also rented sea kayaks one day and paddled all around. We had such a good time. It took a lot of will power to get aboard that outbound boat today. A lot of will power and some serious medication.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

2 Minutes and Counting...

Speed blogging...the extreme form of communication. There are eleven minutes left on the internet ticker and I have five days worth of catching up to

Spent the last few days in Railay beach (near Krabbi). We stayed in a cute little bungalow in the jungle...Brian, myself, a few geckos and an unidentified animal in the roof. We ate delicious food (often delivered to us on the beach) and I got a killer foot massage. We played with macaques (those are monkey-like animals for you urbanites). Brian went climbing and I did a lot of reading (Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - highly recommend it). I relaxed and I swam in the ocean everyday. We invented a new card game called "Piss Off" which is a lot like Go Fish except it's more complicated and far more therapeutic.

Brian's leg is bruised from the ankle to the knee and is all sorts of technicolours from his stint in the mosque fountain. But in better news he won a big scholarship for law school...well done babe.

Tomorrow we are heading to Ko Phi Phi (where they filmed The Beach) for a few days. The tsunami devastation was evident in Railay but we have heard it is far worse where we are going. Will let you know...

That's it. Two minutes left to publish. Just the bare links and all that fancy jazz. To my friends and family I miss you...write me some emails.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Brian Earns 72 Virgins...maybe

It's been raining in Kuala Lumpur for the last few days so we're off to Thailand tonight on the overnight train. We had a good time here, although KL is not exactly what I imagined.

Yesterday we went to Petronas Towers (which some people claim are the tallest buildings in the world...personally I don't care about tall buildings but for those of you who do...) and walked around the area. We ate good food, took pictures and tried our best to dodge the raindrops. Which was hard since they were falling in thick, heavy sheets. Then we went to the Central Market which was sort of a disappointment. After spending some time in the Night Market, haggling over a difference of 5 ringgits, the Central Market was tame and a little boring. The stuff was nice but it was all indoors and clean. There were no smells, nobody was yelling and the merchants didn't bargain. How in god's name does that fit the description of an Asian market I ask?

After the market we headed to Masjid Negara, Malaysia's national mosque. The dome of the mosque is adorned with 18 points - representing the 13 states of Malaysia and the five pillars of Islam. It was all really beautiful and peaceful. I, of course, had to be fully covered and I was feeling pretty cool in my full length robes and hijab (headscarf). I felt Muslim...well, sort of. Not long after we arrived at the mosque we had quite an incident. I heard a woman yelling and turned just in time to see her running up to one of the large pools that divided the main floor. As I watched the mother run towards her, a little girl tipped over head first into the pool. The mother started screaming and tried to reach her but the ledge was too far above the water. We ran up and the little girl (who was not even two) was struggling under the water. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Before I knew it, Brian had dropped his pack and had jumped into the pool. He scooped the girl out of the water and held her up to her mother. She didn't breathe at first but we were all very relieved when she started to cry. I will never forget the look on her face as she came out of the water...her eyes were huge and she looked absolutely terrified. The mother, who I think was in shock, took the baby away and Brian climbed out of the pool. He was drenched head to foot and had cut up the back of his leg on the pool edge. My adrenaline was racing and I just wanted to cry...I don't really know why. I was so proud of Brian and so relieved that the little girl was okay.

The mother and the girl came and found us later and thanked Brian. The mother had calmed down by then and the little girl had been dried off and changed. The mother thanked Brian profusely and the little girl, cueing from her Mum, shook Brian's hand. She was cute but looked thoroughly confused.

It was all just such a strange situation...there I was in Muslim robes, at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, watching Brian save a drowning baby. If I'm wrong and there really is a God, and if half the world is wrong and Allah is the one true God, then I hope he has a very good memory.

Just as we were leaving the mosque we met two women sitting on the steps. They called us over and we sat and chatted with them for about an hour. They were so kind and friendly, and obviously very passionate about their faith. They talked with us about Islam and we had a long chat about Sharia law...that's not entirely true. They had a long talk about Sharia law and I just listened. This is not because I agreed with them, it was because I wasn't about to get into a religious debate with two nice Muslim women on the front steps of Malaysia's national mosque.

Which brings me to this: Why is it okay to tell people that you believe in God but it's not considered okay to say you don't? On our way to the Malaka train station a few days ago the taxi driver asked us if we were Christian. We told him that we aren't. He asked us why. We gave him the PC answer...about everyone just getting along and how you don't need religion to be a moral person. He then proceeded to tell us that he knows Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and that God loves us, ya da ya da ya da. Now why is it generally unacceptable (and usually considered rude) for me to reply with "I know that Jesus Christ is not the saviour of the world and I believe that God is a convenient excuse for a lack of personal accountability"? And why is it okay to be referred to as a "non-believer". I don't call someone who prefers showers a "non-bather". I believe in things...just not the same things as others.

Part of me wants to start telling people what I really think (only after they ask of course, because I certainly don't run around asking strangers if they believe in Santa Claus and then grilling them as to why or why not) but I know how that would be perceived. Crazy athiests...always trying to justify their lack of faith. What I will probably keep doing is smiling and nodding and saying "thank you" when people tell me they are praying for me. Or maybe I'll just return the comment with "and I'm chewing ju-jubes for you" because to me it's all the same.
Sorry about the rant...

In a few hours we are heading up to Thailand on the overnight train and will be in Hat Yai by morning. I can't wait. Malaysia has been fun, but to me Thailand is where it's at.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Land of Spices

I didn't even know that Melaka existed before today, and now here I am, loving every inch of it. This small coastal town (I say small...the population is 650,000) used to be the port to South East Asia back in its heyday. It has been ruled by the British (who hasn't?), the Dutch, the Portugese and the Sultans of Indonesia. The result is a beautiful mix of cultures, tastes and architecture. The quaint and colourful streets are host to Mosques, Chinese temples, Christian churches and everything in between. It's awesome.

Today we took a trishaw ride (think rickshaw with more flowers and "hood" ornaments) with a Portuguese man named Sebastian. Sebastian (whose Chinese name is Lek) was raised by a Chinese family, speaks five languages and took us to all the historical hot spots of Melaka. He was informed, genuine, and so sweet - I wanted to hug him. He really made the day for us and we ended up spending a lot more time with him than we originally anticipated. That's the luxury of not having a schedule I guess - life just kind of grabs you and takes you where it wants.

Today was a real scorcher so we headed for somewhere cool in the late afternoon...and cool is exactly what we found. Geographer's Cafe is the oldest cafe in Melaka and is a multicoloured, open-aired corner cafe with all of the character I could have ever wanted. The beers were cold, the food was divine and the atmosphere was perfect. They played classical Malaysian music and I could have spent all afternoon watching the people go by. In fact, I nearly did.

We are staying at a really neat little backpackers not far from the centre of town. The owners (who, being Muslims, have some intense rules on pork products in the house) are so friendly and the guesthouse is really clean and full of character. Off to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow!

In other news, my new camera is freakin amazing...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Korea? What Korea?

From Singapore...the land of all things delicious. So far our trip is going well, if a little more expensive than we planned. The flight over was good but not mind blowing...which is what I expected from the "airline all the other airlines talk about." The food was good and the women were beautiful but South African Airways is still my gold standard.

I booked a hotel near the airport a few months ago, knowing how tired we would be when we arrived. The hotel ended up being really fancy and it started our trip off right. We slept in a big comfy bed (the online reservation even allowed me to specify "No feathers" much to my relief) and awoke this morning to a beautiful view of the ocean framed by palm trees and tropical flowers. Perfection. We had a big breakfast buffet and then went for a swim in the roof-top pool. We had set aside a few days of relaxing before our real backpacking trip began. It was nice to live in the lap of luxury for a day.

This afternoon we headed into the city and booked into our more reasonable hotel the "New 7th Story Budget" in the city centre. It's run by this really nice Indian family and the mother has a crazy lazy eye. The grandfather is the elevator man (never actually been in an elevator with an elevator man before...too bad he doesn't have one of those little organ grinder monkeys) and he's a little jerky on the stick. Every time he bounces us to our floor he says "Rough landing! Just be glad it wasn't a crash landing!" and then he laughs at his own joke. It's really cute and he's so sweet.

Tonight we are heading out for a crab dinner...a free one I might add! An inflight magazine ad promised free crabs to visitors, although I'm sure most people don't actually ask about it. We asked and after showing the proper ID and our boarding passes and a lengthy discussion we "passed" the test and became the proud owners of two chili crab vouchers. Looking forward to that.

Will probably head to Malaysia in a few days...will try and keep you posted. I must warn you though, I can feel myself slipping into that heady traveling existence where time and borders cease to exist. On second thought, that might just be the Carlsberg.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Goodbye to the Land of the Morning Calm

We did it! We finished our life in Korea and we got paid for it! Yesterday was our last day at work and although it was sad at times (my preschool kids and I were all in tears) it felt good to walk out those doors for the last time.

This week has been a long one. It's hard to say good-bye to people, especially when you know you may never see them again, or if you do it won't be for a long time. I have met some incredible people here and made some life long sucked saying good-bye. The hardest had to be Susie. I spent a lot of time with Susie (doing private lessons which I can now discuss openly without fear of being found out and deported) and I grew to love her. It's strange that I would find my kindred spirit in Korea and that she would be nine years old. Susie is the sweetest, funniest and coolest kid I know. I will miss her like crazy. Her mother is great too. They were so kind to us and so generous.

I will also miss Jon, one of the other foreign teachers at our school. Sometimes you meet someone and you feel like you've known them much longer than you actually have. That's Jon. He feels like my brother and I've only known him 6 months. I can't wait to see him again, after he gets out of Korea of course, and hang out. Hang in there buddy.

So, cheers Korea. Cheers to cheap taxis, cheap food, getting bumped into everywhere you go, DVD bangs, bathouses, the orange restaurant, Mr. Lee and his convenience store, kimchi and the hundreds of kids I met here. I never thought I would say this, but I will miss you..."Have a good time."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Caroline's First and Last CBC Slag

I hate the CBC. Okay, so that's a bit much, but I'm ticked off at them. The executive producer (the one who bought my piece) went on vacation Wednesday and told me to send the story to another producer. He got it but emailed me today and admitted that he hadn't known it was coming (due to "crossed wires" on their end) and can't fit it into Friday's SLC. Oh. He said I did a great job and that he had sent it to a show in Vancouver and to some other local shows. Then he emailed again today and said that a ferry had crashed in Vancouver and the mayor had just quit. That doesn't bode well for my happy-clappy little Canada day story.

Bitter disappointment.

In other news, while I'm bashing media organizations, Time sucks too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Canada Day in Korea

An apology to the tons of people who have emailed me in the past two weeks and haven't gotten a reply. I've been swamped. We went to Seoul last weekend and shipped all of our stuff home. We bought some really cool Chinese furniture from this eclectic little antique store in Itaewon and threw in all of our belongings in the crate.

The Canada Day party was awesome and for 6 hours it felt like I was at home. They were selling Molson Canadians and Outback steakhouse was providing the meals....yumm. The place was full of young people wearing "Save a tree, eat a beaver" t-shirts and funny red and white hats. They played all the typical Canadian music (BNL, Kim Mitchell, Alanis Morisette, Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West...) and people danced and played Frisbee in the mud. It was perfect.

My story for CBC is on the party and I just finished it this morning. I sent it off and now all I can do is hope for the best. It's weird to be out here in the middle of nowhere and have no real guidance or help...but it feels good too. Keep your fingers crossed that it goes to air...

This is our last weekend in Korea and I can hardly wait to get out of here. Next Saturday I will be leaving the land of kimchi behind and flying to Singapore. Unless a monsoon keeps me on the ground...In which case, I might just swim to Singapore.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

To Shelagh With Love

Holy crap. I just got an email from Anne Pennman, Executive Producer at "Sounds like Canada" and they want to air my story! I pitched it to them a few days ago (thanks Justin!) and didn't really think they would go for it because, hey, it's Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers...and I'm just little old me. But they did and now I am so excited I could puke.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Glass Houses

In other screwed up news...

Have a Little Faith in Faith

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between passive and active religion. I feel like over the last year I have undergone so many transformations (most of them positive) and one of them is my approach to religion. After my long ascent from religion to atheism I was a little militaristic. If not vocally, at least inside my head. I didn't hate religion but I hated its symptoms...close mindedness, judgment, moral rigidity and a lack of faith in humankind and what we could create.

Living in Korea has allowed me a different perspective. Religion is passive here. Nobody talks about it and people don't ask and don't care. You could be Buddhist, Christian or Satanic and nobody would really say much. I love that. Passive religion is far less insulting and infuriating, and I'm sure passive atheism is preferable too.

Active religion involves telling everyone what you think of religion. And what they should think of religion. I've been told I'm going to hell (not a threat - I don't believe in it) and that God loves me (not a good tactic - Santa loves me too). People fight wars and blow themselves up to prove how faithful they are and to disprove the other God. The same is true for atheism. Militant atheism is no better than its anti-philosophy, crazy religiosity.

Having said that, I must say that when someone comes up to you and assumes you are Christian and think the same way they do, there is a natural desire that bubbles up. You want to tell them you are atheist and that you are happy that way. (People seem to have a hard time hearing those two words placed side by side). And, when the Christian right is attacking things I hold dear (especially in America), such as critical thought, science, evolution, gay rights and the right to have an abortion, I want to fight back.

Everyone should just chill out. If you don't believe in gay marriage, don't be gay and if you are, don't get married. If you think belief in the afterlife is absurd, make sure you don't believe in it! If you think Christianity is full of holes, contradictions and bold-faced happy and let everyone else be happy too. And if you think atheists are going to Hell, just be satisfied that you won't meet them there.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Grand Master at the Tea ceremony

Caroline and Brian at Golgulsa Temple

Me doing the "Tiger Crawl" in my monk clothes! Yup, I sure look like a tiger.

The meditation platform at our temple

Beaten by a Buddhist

I have a new found (and hard won) appreciation for Buddhist monks. It ain't all bowing and chanting, that's for sure.

We arrived at Golgulsa Temple just in time for the dinner ceremony (Balwoo gongyang). The ceremony was very detailed and involved so many steps, I was sure I was going to screw up and offend one of the monks I was eating with. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, each person is given a set of four bowls, all of which fit into one another like a set of Russian dolls. After unfolding a linen cloth and placing it front of you, you have to put the bowls in a square formation. The largest bowl is for seaweed soup and sits at the bottom right hand corner of the square. The next in size is for rice, then water, then kimchi. The monks came around and filled our water bowls with water (we indicated we had enough by twisting the bowl slightly in our hand) and then the next bowl with rice. We had to bring the bowl to our foreheads and bow and then we received two scoops of rice. After we served ourselves some kimchi and the monks said some prayers, we bowed and then began to eat in silence. We finished quickly and then continued with the ceremony of cleansing our bowls. We poured water from the water bowl into each bowl and then, with the one piece of kimchi we had kept (every other morsel of food had to be finished) we washed our bowls and rinsed them with the water. It was all very involved and needed to be done in specific steps. It was really interesting and at the end, all of the bowls were clean and I had eaten my first ceremonial meal.

After dinner we went up the hill to the temple platform for evening chants. We did 108 prostrations to the Buddha and tried to keep up with the monks. After chanting we started Sunmudo training. Sunmudo is a zen martial art which involves fighting, yoga-like postures and breathing meditation. It has been practiced at Golgulsa temple for at least 1,000 years and was used by monks fighting the Japanese invasion in the 16th century. I was put into positions I couldn't even have conceived of, let alone orchestrated, and stretched in every direction. The evening was beautiful and it was really amazing to be up on the side of the mountain practicing meditation with Buddhist Grand Masters. We were surprised that several of the monks in training were foreigners. One was from Norway and had been living at the Temple for just over a year and the other was from France. Because Brian and I can both understand French, some of the meditation and Sunmudo postures were taught to us by the French trainee. There we were, learning an ancient Korean art, in French. It was very cool.

Bedtime was at 9:30 and I had a really hard time getting to sleep...literally. Sleeping on the floor is not my thing. I've tried it and I recognize that it may be good for your back, but it hurts. I tossed and turned for most of the night but eventually fell asleep. Just in time to be woken up at 4:00 am for morning chants. We made our way up the steep mountain side for the 4:30 chants and were still half asleep when we started bowing. Bowing itself isn't hard, but doing it 50 times in a row at 4:30 in the morning with no food in your stomach is tiring. After chants we headed out to the platform, which overlooks the valley and temple grounds, for more meditation. It was really relaxing to be sitting there in the lotus position and to hear the birds singing in the trees. It was cool and the it smelled so fresh and clean. I was really enjoying it...until I got hit three times with a big bamboo stick.

The Sunmudo trainer came up behind me and hit me three times on the shoulder with a big piece of slitted bamboo. It scared me because I wasn't expecting it (why would I?) and it hurt. I can tell you, that for the rest of the meditation session I wasn't very relaxed...I just kept imagining hitting the monk with his damn bamboo. Maybe that was the learn to accept life's little injustices and not get too hung up on them. It didn't work. I was annoyed. After that, we did some walking meditation (if by meditation you mean imagining all sorts of creative punishments involving a piece of bamboo) and headed down the hill for some more Sunmudo training. This morning's training was ridiculously hard. We were supposed to "be like a tiger" and jump our way up the long and rocky temple stairs. Then were were supposed to walk, on all fours, back down the stairs...head first. It was nuts.

We had breakfast this morning after training (man, were we hungry) and then after a brief rest, we headed to a temple building to have tea (Dahdoh) with the Grand Master. The GM was really cute and actually reminded me of my friend John McCrank. It was funny to be sitting with my friend's Korean monk double! We sat with him for more than an hour and he served us green tea (prepared ceremoniously of course) and we had the opportunity to ask him questions. It was very interesting and a perfect ending to a great experience.

I am tired and incredibly sore but satisfied. I've been on this "pushing yourself to do difficult things" kick lately and I'm enjoying it. Doing a temple stay was a really amazing chance to step into another life, if only for a day.