Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Mission

"A friend in need is a friend indeed!" That's what I thought of on this particular morning. Jenn and I were on our way into town when we were asked if we could lend our help. Someone had dropped their keys in the water (a.k.a. the bottom of the ocean) and it was up to us to open up a steel hatch, enter the boat and get hold of the spare set. With three of us together giving our best efforts there was no way that hatch was moving. As Jenn went around to inspect this steel boat she found the bathroom window was open with a screen insert. As I got hold of the screen and removed it I was doubtful if my head would even fit through the port hole. "You can do this Sam, I have been trained to coach you through this moment." Holding up the screen to my hips and noting that there was a 1/4 inch of extra space Jenn was convinced that I would fit.

Jenn has been working as an outdoor educator in France before we made the trip over to Panama. After a long hike she would take her group of kids to a rock face with what is called a 'birthing hole'. The kids would look at this small hole and say "There is no way I can fit through there" but one by one Jenn coached them through, convinced that they could make it to the other side. Every kid had made it though. She really had been training for this moment. As I lifted myself up and put my legs in first it seemed almost likely but my butt needed some help to be squished in.

Once I had my hips in and my feet balancing on something I knew I could physically fit but felt more comfortable being able to see where I was going. Lifting myself back out I gave it another go but this time I dived in 'Super man style' going head first with arms out. Balancing myself in a kind of awkward handstand on a toilet... I was in!
OMG I made it!!

Back outside, using a door to exit, I had to take a moment... 
Did I really just jump through there?
This shall be forever in my memory bank as that time I jumped through a steel boat. Traveling gives you a lot of great experiences but nothing quite as valuable as problem solving skills. There's a lot that happens on any given journey where you learn to just figure things out and do what has to be done. When 'problems' happen if you're with the right people it can be a fun adventure... and hopefully someone brought a camera!
I noticed that when I travel my problems are a lot different, there's no time to hum and haw and discuss with people and make it into a big deal. You're too busy working out a solution so you can move on. Sure you talk about it after but there's not the drama of 'oh no, woe is me, what will I do' if that happens its for a second and then it's launching into trial and error. There's usually not even a moment for negative self speak, you're forced to move along usually right away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I love the jungle but does the jungle love me?

I love the jungle but the jungle's still not sure about me. It keeps throwing all these tests at me like a child testing their boundaries.
How well do I take to slipping and falling covering my legs, back and arms in mud?
Jungle-1 Pride-0

I woke up this morning feeling good about being on Island time. That means when 5am comes so does my wake up call. Yesterday it was trees full of howler monkeys, this morning it was a house shaking thunder storm. I felt like I was at an alternative disco party where the music was rain splashing against the tin roof, leaves and the bay below. Accompanying the music was lighting as quick as a strobe light hell bend on causing a seizure. Flash flash flash! Breath. Flash FLASH flash! Then a boom that makes me wonder if it was just thunder or a mini earthquake. The black dog Magellan, with the sweetest face, was worried about me so she's stayed close to comfort me durning the storm. Its the first time I've woken up with her right beside the bed. She might just want an early breakfast but she keeps rubbing up against me after every big roll of thunder. Which surprising for me does not follow ever flash of lighting.
Jungle-2 Sleeping in-0

Current test: 
How many bug bites can I handle before looking like a monkey jumping around?

If you saw the table you might consider me at prayer to the 'please don't bite me anymore bug gods' I have a candle, a lantern, a tiger ring citronella incense spiral, a lighter in case anything just goes out and needs to be relit and bug spray. I finally caved and doused myself in some off! bug spray. Right now I might look like a dog that needs a cone because I keep itching and scratching a spot on the back of my neck compulsively.

I'm not winching by any means (an Australian term; complaining) but I am flinching. A week ago if I saw something out of the corner of my eye I would flinch drastically wondering who or what was there. I believe in ghosts so I'm sure any movement could be some ghostly shadow. Now I've come to realize its just one of the many geckos, lizards or bugs. Could even be the blue tinged cockroach I found while cleaning up the books. The bigger bugs I see the less dramatic I get about the smaller ones. So now it has to be the size of my small moleskins notebook and alive for me to flinch and want to run into the false security of the mosquito net. I now wish I had captured the ginormousode that I was freaked out about so my being a scaredy cat would be warranted.

I've taken to saying things like to Jenn like:
'Did you hear me NOT scream?'
'Did you notice me NOT flinch?'

Also saying things to the bugs in close proximity like:
'Will you just please leave me alone?'
'Was slamming into me really necessary?'
'Oh yeah, just land on me and see what happens!'
Smack, squash... 'May that be a lesson to your brothers and sisters'

Here's a moth that decided to take a ferocious nose dive into my head...
Pretty right?!
Jungle-3 Bug free zone-0

Monday, July 23, 2012

If you're going to Paris

I really love the Sacre Coeur, I took each of my visitors to this great spot. Most of Paris's sight seeing aim is to get you to the top of things. You can go to the top of the Arc de Triomph, Pompideau, Notre Dame and of course, Eiffel Tower.

All of them are great views but the Sacre Coeur is where my heart likes to go. It is a beautiful white cathedral perched at the end of Montemartre. I've done this trip from different angles seeing Montemartre first and then sitting on the hill, one of the few places you can step on the grass. You can enjoy the view and depending on the season and day watch all the tourists stagger up the stairs. There's three places around here that I would recommend depending on the time of day.

View Paris-visiting Sacre Coeur in a larger map
If you're hungry I recommend the most awesome Salad place. Marmite is easier to recognize but if it looks busy Le Relais Gascon menu is fantastic. They have salads like no other, giant size bowls that are a feat to finish usually all come with roasted garlic potatoes on top.

If you're hankering for a drink I recommend Marlusse et Lapin. A cute and funky independent bar where pints are only 3€. I would only venture here with someone else. It's the red light district of Paris and its up a little dark alleyway. You're sure to see some characters around. It's a very small place so the biggest group I've taken there is four people but if it's not busy you can fit six comfortably in the back all at the same table.

If a nice cafe during the day is what you want I recommend Fuxia. You can have three deserts and an espresso for 6€ here. You'll also pass by a nice little place with a beautiful piece of stained glass. If you're looking for any instruments this is also the district to be.

Also in the area is a concert hall, the Amelie cafe and a walk to moulin rouge.

If you click on the map all the places I've mentioned have been taged

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield

One of my best friends, Micheline gave me this awesome book complete with an inscription that made me want to start it straight away. "I think that just changed my life" said Jenn as we closed the back cover. It took us two days to read through this inspiring and true telling of the inner war that goes on to make your life's work. If you've ever felt fear or resistance or think you may hold Olympic records for procrastination picking up this book may be the most valuable thing you do for yourself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Eventful Journey, Continued

So there we were, Jenn and I waiting in front of the supermarket. Tired and sweaty with all of our bags as we tried to remember the names of the couple coming to pick us up and realized we had no idea what they looked like. We deciding then that if no one came by sunset we would check ourselves into one of the many hotels in Bocas del Toro and figure things out from there. Sure enough we were the only backpackers sitting out front and the lovely Diana walked up and said 'You must be Jenn and Sam'

You can see Lester and Diana's blog here: http://dianamilesinc.blogspot.com/

After loading up the boat with bags and instruments we took turns staying with the boat and getting a tour of half the town. It was very helpful and appreciated to be taken by the hand to all of the important stores. I got to drive the boat to our new home with Lester's direction and got a wealth of knowledge regarding boating and the house.

Jenn took the wheel for dinner and drove the boat to the local restaurant that is only open on Fridays and Sundays, where most all of the houses and nearby cruisers stop in for pizza, mojitos and other great eats. It is only accessible by boat, like most all of the houses here, and is "a great place to make fifty new friends" said Jess, a cruiser doing a circumnavigation with her partner James. I'm excited to mention all the great travellers we've met who have welcomed us very warmly into the neighbourhood. Writers, chocolate farmers, chili growers, world travellers, celestial navigators, artists, architects, who were all very friendly and inviting.

When we reached the dock just as the sun was setting I was surprised at how loud the jungle area had become. All sorts of bugs and animals became very vocal and made a chorus of noise. Then later on in the night it was pouring buckets of rain and it made the night nice and cool. It was an eventful journey with a destination more beautiful then I could have imagined.

I am so grateful have Panama as my home for the next few months.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

An eventful journey, the 36hr trip from home to destination

So here I am in Panama!
This is my view, just taken from my computer:

I jumped on a plane with a small rolly suit case, a small backpack and two guitars. The flight from Toronto to Panama was $400 USD. I learned that MIA stands for Miami International Airport and got a  laugh when two american girls nearby sang "we're in Miami Bitch'. After the stopover I was very fortunate to sit beside a Panama Citizen who had married a Canadian and had traveled around and was happy to help a newbie jet setter. I got a great mini history of Panama with an interactive geography lesson as we flew over the country. We ended up sharing a cab and exchanging info as well.

When I landed I found Jenn and promptly bought a genuine panama hat (so add $18) and a bus ticket to Bocas del Toro of $28 with an important fee of 10 CENTS to enter the turnstile in order to get on to the bus. That was an annoying moment! Having to figure out where to get on the bus and the only reason they weren't letting us through was because they weren't telling us of a 10 CENT fee we needed to pay even though we already had the ticket.

While on the 9 hour bus ride there was a stop in which officers came abroad and checked for passports. Thankfully Jenn and I had them easily accessible but one traveler was not so lucky. As soon as he stepped off the bus for failing to produce his passport the bus was instantly on its way. The girl he was traveling with ran up to the front of the fast moving bus and asked the bus driver to turn around. The front of the bus got very excited as they yelled in Spanish 'help him'. Apparently the traveler didn't speak any Spanish and his passport could be in his bag that was still locked away under the bus. Besides that bit of excitement of having the bus turn around and still leave the guy by the side of the road the bus ride was dismal and cold. Lots of drooling, changing positions and having to move the guitars around which Jenn and I fondly referred to as checking on the kids.

Then after hours of restless sleeping we were rudely awakened at Almirante where we were told loudly over and over that we needed to get off the bus and onto a boat taxi by regular taxis drivers who were vying for our attention. After telling a number of them to 'Please back off, I just woke up' Jenn mustered up the voice to haggle and make sure we didn't get ripped off. I double checked with the bus baggage handler that we were going away with the right people. The Taxi was $1 total then the boat taxi ended up $4 each. Then we enjoyed a full breakfast, omelet, fresh tasty ripe fruit, coffee, toast for $7 while we waited to be picked up outside a supermarket.

The sun just set and bugs are trying to cover my computer screen so I'll finish the rest of the story tomorrow!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Surprise Toronto! The Visit

Sorry for not announcing it big and loud and clear that I was heading to Toronto, it's because I'm already gone! I only stopped in for a short visit and was very excited to make it a surprise for some family members.

I snuck myself into Toronto with the intention of giving my mom and Grandparents a great surprise. We've had the ritual of going to Sunday morning breakfast (never to be confused with brunch!) for the past few years. It's always been an interesting time especially since Sunday morning follows Saturday night. I missed these breakfasts and have thought for a few months about how fun it would be to just surprise them by showing up one day. It's been hard to keep in touch without an 8 am phone call promptly followed by a knock at the front door to be driven away for breakfast. Being away for nine and a half months I thought it was important to check in, even if it was only for nine and a half days.

I had a great time picking up things for Panama, spending time soaking up high park, along with sipping drinks with my best friends. I was fortunate enough to head to the cottage with Kate and Justine. It wasn't until I traveled that I realized going up to the cottage is a very Canadian thing to do.


Right now I've made it to my dream home in Panama!! I'll tell you all about the journey tomorrow!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Regeneration the Movie

If you like Truth, Ryan Gosling and Good Video, get a load of this...
The Trailer for Regeneration the Movie

Go watch the full film now... PLEASE

Friday, July 6, 2012


If you like bacon, satire, and laughing while reading then you'll enjoy having this ridiculous book in your hands. I took a long time to read this because I wanted to savour the smile it gave me while following Jesus as he grows up with his childhood friend. It may not be a completely accurate telling, it's just written by some guy called Christopher Moore, but its a version I don't mind believing in.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal

I was so elated to close the back cover of this book. I finished a book in Spanish!!!! If you look at my copy, page one is almost completely covered in yellow highlighter. The gruelling process of understanding the first page probably took the same amount of time as reading the whole last chapter. Which was very exciting. To be able to flip though a book and really see your progress is very satisfying.

This is now my favourite way of language learning and probably the cheapest and most effective I've encountered. (I've tried many methods) The most time consuming and annoying part was translating each word on three or four translation engines and how a meaning could change drastically depending on the word before or after. Though I'm sure the frustration helped me remember vocabulary.

Cost breakdown:
Book 7€
Yellow marker for 1€
Basic Notebook 2€
Total cost 10€ + the occasional coffee

As I read through I would make highlights of all the words I didn't know. I mentioned that while I was resting my feet in Almuñecar. The next step after writing the new word in my notebook and finding the translation, I wrote out new sentences for the new word. The fun part was meeting a cousin, who wanted to improve his English, on the beach or for a coffee and correcting each others new sentences. Then sentences became paragraphs and very odd short stories. Using words incorrectly and saying something vulgar or nonsensical by accident became the easiest vocabulary to remember after the laughter subsided.

I was sad to stop the writing and correcting process when I left Spain but I still continued the highlights until the last chapters where I was able to read through with fluidity.

I've bought the second Harry Potter in French. Since I have read these books in English and there are movies to quickly refresh my memory it was a lot easier to follow the story than something that would have been completely new.

Who knows what language Harry Potter three will be in...