Saturday, October 19, 2013

Road Trip - arriving (Buffalo to Denver, August 4th)

So there I was, on a plane to Dever. John Denver's "leaving on a jet plane" stuck in my head. I was sitting beside a proud mom who wanted to set me up with her son (this actually happens more often than you'd think).
I was giddy with excitement on the plane anticipating meeting up with my friend Jenn. It will be the first time we both have functional cell phones while finding each other, and the first time we will be in an airport together. This will be the third continent we'll be traveling in together.
I get off the plane a little overwhelmed by the size of Denver airport and start looking for an exit. Jenn waiting with paper flowers and we hug and dance and jump around and hug again.
"We're in an airport!" and we start shouting random things to each other.

Jenn and I had very few conversations to plan this trip. We weren't really communicate much, sending a few letters but not talking on the phone for long periods. So the phone conversation leading up to this moment basically went like this...

"blah, blah, blah, I'm a white water rafting guide now, if you come by I can probably take you down the river." said Jenn
"When are you there till? I finish Tree planting in July."
"August, then I'm driving to Oregon for my next job."
"I can do August... roadtrip?"
"Thelma and Louise!!"

A week later
"So... actually?"
"Yeah how about second week of August? Or send me a couple dates then I'll look at flights."

The week after that
"Alright I have my ticket!"
"Sweet, we're going to stop at a music festival too, I sent you a link to get a ticket."
"Awesome, I'll send you my flight details."

And that was that. We don't really make complicated traveling plans. So when we were jumping and hugging and dancing in the airport, we were also relieved that in just a few conversations we made all this happen without a hitch. Then it was a three hour night drive to Buena Vista where Jenn had spent most of her summer learning how to be an awesome white water guide. "Ok, so here's the plan, tomorrow: awesome adventure."
"Great, I'm in."

One of the things we got teased for in Panama was looking at each other once and one of us saying, "We're agreeable, right?" We seem to always be on the same page when traveling, when we need space, what needs to get done, when it's time to relax and have fun. We're pretty great at communicating and trusting each other. If the other person's got it, they've got the other persons full trust and participation. It makes for a really supportive friendship, not to be second guessed.

We had a lot of catching up to do, on the drive from the airport we only scratched the surface and then we were there, in Buena Vista. Pronounced Beux-na vista by the locals, it was not much to see by night and I got a wonderful breathtaking surprise when I woke up. "You have 45minutes to still sleep" chimed in Jenn as she left to get the whatever we needed to make the day an adventure. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The car broke down, so I got a job and an apartment

Photo credit Courtney
I've been asked a lot how I came to move to Thunder Bay, so here's the story: 

Back in July, I got invited to a tree planters wedding in Toronto and since I was still in the extended summer plant, I didn't think I would be able to make it. Then I found out the plant was shortened and we were going to finish the contract early, but not close enough to make the wedding. Then, the week leading up to the wedding, on the Tuesday night, the supervisor mentioned he was headed to the nearest town (2hrs away) at 3pm the next day, to drop someone off who was leaving two days early...

Something stirred inside me and I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned till 1am and finally went to try and use the internet. Teddy, my tree runner for the first weeks was heading on a road trip from Thunder Bay to Toronto to go to the wedding, and had offered to give me a ride. (He had left the plant early to take care of some things before going to Toronto)

So, I sent Teddy a message:  
Hey Teddy!!! Since the moment you left I wish I'd gone with you. If you're still in TBay tomorrow, I'm coming!!
He messaged me back seconds later:
haha aww, treeplanting is hard :(
I was going to leave tomorrow morning sometime but I'm in no rush, I can definitely wait up for you if you want :) let me know
It was set:
Yes!! I'll hop on a bus to T'Bay and call you in the afternoon.
What's your number?
I finally went to bed, super excited that I was going to be DONE tree planting, AND that I was going to make it to the wedding AND that I got to have an Ontario road trip with one of my favorite people from tree planting. 

Photo credit Courtney, Treeplanting supervisor
I ambushed the supervisor at 5am and told him I'd be leaving with him too, at 3pm. I spent the day packing up my things and figuring out the Greyhound bus. Calling a number of times through MagicJack, riding off the internet I finally got a phone call through. No, I could not buy a ticket the operator told me, but I could wait on the corner of Manitouwadge and hwy 614, and the bus would see me and stop... A little apprehensively I waited with my bags and realized I was fully prepared to set up camp if a bus never came. 

It was the sweetest bus ride ever, no more bumpy bush roads, no more bugs, a comfy seat and AC! I was amazed at how beautiful the scenery was. There were people taking this bus across Canada and checking off marvelous lakes on maps as we passed by. I couldn't help but think again, I could live up here.

Photo credit Courtney
I stepped off the Greyhound in Thunder Bay and looked around for Teddy. He picked me up in his sisters car and broke the news; Teddy's car had just broken down and was towed to the nearest mechanic. We'd be stuck in Thunder Bay awaiting his car's diagnosis. Everything had been smoothly operating but while waiting for me, he went on an errand and the car broke down completely.

Photo credit Courtney, Teddy and Luna
I stayed at his sisters house and enjoyed a free day, so happy to be in a house instead of a camp, and free from planting. The freedom embraced me and I took so much pleasure in branching off on my own and walking around town. I was jonesing for a bookstore and after asking around and was directed to a small bookshop.

I started talking to the lovely lady at the counter and asked if they were hiring. They only accept volunteer's, so I offered to volunteer and left my email address. We continued to talk, I told her about my blog, she told me about possible writing groups, I asked about job leads in the area. Then I asked about apartments in the area. I really liked this part of town as it's already where I know some good people live. "Actually... we have an apartment upstairs, but you'll have to talk to Margaret about it."

I met back up with Teddy and did some online work for my aunt. The car's diagnosis was not good, and we started checking flights to get us to the wedding. Air fare was more than double the price for a last minute ticket so we bought the Monday flight and hung our heads that the wedding was out of reach.  

The t-shirt says Front: A breed apart
Back: There are everyday men and women...and there are treeplanters.

That night, since we weren't leaving till Monday, drinks were in order. A group of us cleaned up tree planters went to the Sovereign room and Foundry, the popular pubs of T Bay. Before we left each I asked about a good time to stop by to drop off a resume, and was told to come back in the afternoon. I came back to an email from the book store, to come by anytime between 2:30 and 6 the next day. 

I printed out my resume at the library and headed The Sovereign Room. A most popular spot, with cool decor, eclectic beer list, and amazing food. That's where I really wanted to go, I had thought about working there the first time I came in, and had my first tasty bite of jalepeno empanadas. As luck would have it, the manager checked out my resume and had also been to Bocas del Toro, had also spent time in Toronto and just found out he needs someone in the middle of August. I could be here mid August... so we shook on it.

Pretty thrilled about that, I headed to the book store. The rent was more than I was looking to spend for a room so I went upstairs to see the place. It wasn't just a room as I had expected, but a full apartment with art and writing studio space.
Freshly painted with lots of nice natural light and the only furniture: a big writing desk with chair. "It's like we were just waiting for you and it was meant to be." said Margaret. So I put down a deposit right then and agreed to moving in mid August.
the desk

The whole place reminds me of when I lived in High Park and Bloor West Village. I would have never been able to get an apartment close to this size for the price in Toronto. The best part is in 30minutes I can be in the wilderness, in 5minutes I can be by the water front, in 3minutes I can be at work, in 30seconds I can be in a bookstore. 

Then it was time for some crazy bush party, the supervisor was having a Fun in the Sun party that would last the whole weekend for all the tree planters still in the area. Teddy and I had to participate. So I should let you know, it was a surprise for me to leave to road trip to the wedding, so you can imagine the surprise for my boyfriend. Then the car breaking down was also a surprise to me, and so continuing with the surprises we just showed up at Fun in the Sun. I was oblivious, but the relationship was already toast and he evacuated the courtship faster than it took to say bookstore. All the other people made it an awesome party and I laughed till my sides ached. 

Photo credit Courtney
A lot of tree planting relationships start and end with the season. It was so hard to accept that it was over when it was. I didn't pause about Thunder Bay though. There were other great people who would make my transition here seamless, thanks Shannon and Steph!
Actually I had wanted to move to Thunder Bay when I was seventeen. I held the acceptance letter to the pilot program at Confederation College in my right hand and the course catalog for Holistic Studies to stay in Toronto in my left. I figured I wanted a foundation for life before anything else and the Holistic Health program could give me that, and figured I could get my private pilot license when I was 50, or whenever I happened to get to Thunder Bay...  

You may remember this facebook update and maybe now it makes more sense:
What a weekend!! Tried to make a wedding and ended up staying in Thunder Bay, where I got a job and an apartment: You're looking at the new resident writer of a Bookstore! And got dumped, surprise! My stomach hurts from laughing so much at Nolalu fun in the Sun and have a plane ticket to Toronto in the morning. To all you Torontonians, LETS PARTY!!

So there it is, the story of how I came to live in Thunder Bay, and also this song (thanks Larsen!):


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What a doozy

Wow, today, September 24th marks the two year anniversary of jumping on that first one way plane ticket. I'm closing that chapter, the two year long journey, and I feel like I'm losing a part of myself. I accomplished things I desperately wanted, I found things I didn't know I needed, and made connections that will last a lifetime. To anyone who's considering dropping everything to chase a dream, I support that decision and wish you the time of your life. 

Sunset in Panama, Bocas del Toro
For a sense completion to this period I bought a round trip ticket for a visit to Toronto. I may take other short trips but I will stay living in Thunder Bay for a time, to live a quiet life and write. Write about my travels, some short stories, and other such things. I still have some blog posts to catch up on, like moving to Thunder Bay, the epic road trip with Jenn, and what it's like to move to Northern Ontario.

stand up paddle boarding with Angus
I can't help but feel a little startled by this pause. Just five months ago I was living in Panama with 'snorkeling' and 'jungle walk' on my to-do list. Now it's 'laundry' and 'clean the kitchen'. Three months ago I was living in a tent with my nightly check for ticks and night by a fire. Now it's checking that the door is locked and blowing out a few candles. A month ago I was on a road trip and didn't know where I was going to sleep or what State I was going to be in next. Now it's a trusty bed and a scheduled work week.

Sunset in Panama
It's true about the human condition, we can become accustomed to anything. I normalized the traveling lifestyle such that getting back to the norm is foreign. It's nice though, and Albert Einstein said "a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." which is just the environment I was seeking to focus on my writing.

Paris, photo credit Jenn
So far it's been a battle to write and set up a new apartment. My mind already wandering to living in Italy, backpacking in Thailand, and exploring New York. Spain calls, France tugs at my heart, Panamanian sunsets sit behind my eyelids...

So my friends, this two year stint of only buying one way tickets is officially at a close. It's a time to replenish funds, relive through writing, enjoy having my own apartment again and who's kidding who - planning the next adventure.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

This story has a very interesting way of unraveling itself and each chapter gives a little more insight and shock than the last. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book about a small town in Montana. It reads so real as if it is a true story. The narrative of the main character is so honest and draws you in quickly. This seems like a book that anyone interested in guns would appreciate as the first chapter really goes into different rifles a young boy can get his hands on.

Here is my favorite quote from Montana 1948, that I think will give you a sense of the plot and the voice:

"What finally lifted me from the floor and moved me back down the stairs? It was trivial, yet it bore out what a boy I was when all this was going on. In the kitchen was chocolate cake. My father had stopped at Cox's Bakery the day before and bought a cake, and it was sitting on the counter. A murderer may have been locked up a floor below and the molecules of his victim's dying breath still floating in the air, yet these were not strong enough finally to stand up to my boy's hunger for chocolate cake."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tree planting (part 2)

On my best numbers day of hitting 3000 trees, I got a rush of adrenalin from pushing myself so hard; mind, body, spirit. I had conquered much inner resistance, my sankara's. I had pushed through everything and felt like I was ready for anything.

bunch of butterflies
I spent the first weeks of planting with lots of breaks. For me it was hard to remember it was still a job and to manage my time wisely. I was basking in the non-responsibility of it all. I didn't have to worry about sinking boats, or other people's land and property, no one was asking anything of me, and I was pretty content.

frog bum
One of my tree runner's, Teddy (the person who makes sure you have enough trees to plant in your land), stopped asking me about how many trees I'd planted and instead asked "Okay Sam, what did you see today?" The list has gotten pretty long, "A big blue jay today". I've seen bunnies, frogs, toads, birds of all colours, butterflies galore. My best find, that I am most proud of was 3 lunar moths after a light rain. As soon as I saw it I dropped everything, ran to get my phone with a camera and ran back to take a photo. I continually gave thanks for seeing beautiful land that maybe only 100 people would ever get to see. Growing up in a big city I'm used to land that gets trod on by thousands of people every day. My favourite thing was finding little pockets, like a perfect sitting rock in the middle of ten foot poplar with wild flowers attracting butterflies.

two lunar moths
Pre tree planting I thought seeing chopped forests with scattered piles of macerated wood, called slash piles would be what moved me to tears. "So you go in and plant after they've raped the land?" one friend asked over the phone (who uses toilet paper, paper towels, and stationary like the rest of us). I was angry about the concept of clear cutting but seeing (Northern Ontario) up close, mother nature is resilient and makes lush green spaces no matter how harshly you cut away. There would be other things to make me cry. One of my planting partners Steph, and I, made lots of jokes about the land, we keep fucking mother nature all day long, pounding our shovels into the earth, sliding our fingers in to put that tree in deep, she keeps batting us away with swarms of bugs, slaps in the face with poplar branches, biting us with rocks, always putting up the better fight, leaving us a little more wounded for the next day. Her cruelest trick is wasps allowed to live in the ground.

Frog on slash
The last week of planting snuck up on me and my procrastination determination sunk in. I was ready to have my best week and give my all. I hated seeing my name near the bottom of the list when the totals were printed, I was working, but not like a hardcore tree planter (I could get 1000-1500 trees in and be satisfied. Where other rookies around me were hitting 3000-4000) My Tuesday started like no other. I didn't have my shovel or my planting bags, I was passed a message in the morning that my gear was in the truck that had left earlier. When I got there though, no bags, not even extra bags, and no shovel. I sat for two hours under a tarp and had a nap. Most people can hit at least 300-600 trees in that time, and I was napping. I was passive aggressive and doing my best to not care, "That's a total days break for me anyway, who cares? I don't like planting anyway…" Then some bags and a shovel came. Bags are not instantly one size fits all. They need to be adjusted at the hips and shoulders. Thankfully it was a nice shovel, short and angled. I bagged up (counted out bundles of trees and put them into two side bags. I keep my right side bundles wrapped in their cellophane because my shovel stays in my right hand. I unbundle the trees in my left side bag, so my planting hand can easily grab the loose trees. The bundles are usually 20-25 one year saplings of black spruce or jack pine.) and I went to make my line in.
photo credit - Taylyn
I hate this part, starting at the front, looking for some kind of random direction marker in the distance and just hoping it's kind of straight (but it ALWAYS veers) this was a super shallow piece and I hit the back line (where the natural forest starts) really quickly. You don't plant in the forest but there can be some pockets to fit a couple trees. I peered in, I thought just three trees would fit (6ft apart) when my flight reaction kicked in. Pain seared in my hand and I instantly dropped my shovel, wasps were at me. More blasts to my legs and I was running, tearing off my bags so I could get back to the road. Screaming and swearing and crying. They got my shovel hand right between the thumb and pointer finger. My leg had three stings too and were already starting to swell. I hobbled back to my cache (where I had napped earlier) sobbing with "Fuck!" flying furiously. I put on some Icy Hot muscle relief (best bug after-bite) swore some more and went back to find my shovel. I already had a two hour break, I had no excuse to not plant, wasps unfortunately are part of the job. I spent the next few hours raging with anger. "How come I was here? I'm obviously the stupidest person in the world thinking I can do this, this is not a job for me." I got so fed up I dropped my bags and just walked on the bush road, "I'm quitting, I don't care if there's only a week left. Fuck it all." I said to no one as I picked my bags back up and hauled ass. I planted 2225 that day, a personal best and started two hours late and still had breaks. Yes I would be back tomorrow.

It's pretty but imagine planting trees in that...
At the beginning, the hardest thing about tree planting for me was making quick decisions and then committing to that decision. You plant a tree, take a step and make a new hole 6ft away, but land is not anything close to a perfect field and you have to choose where your tree is going to go, is there nutrient rich soil, is it going to be to close to the last trees you planted? I would hesitate where to throw my shovel and that is the worst time waster. Or I would throw in my shovel and renege. The days that I was angry I stopped being a perfectionist and pushed myself through the hesitation. The first day I hit 3000 trees I knew I conquered that hesitation and knew I could hold onto that for other projects to come. And boy do I have a list of projects.

swamp flower
So tree planting was hard because of the bugs and the wasps and the ever changing temperature. It was also hard to push myself everyday, to not take a break, to think quickly, to commit to my decision, to not compare myself to other planters. It was also extremely rewarding. You don't have a boss telling you what to do. You get to be outside in nature all day long. You are exposed to fun and ridiculous moments every day you go to work. Every tree planter thinks of quitting and how much they hate it, but more often then not the tree planters come back to push themselves through another year. To enjoy in the lifestyle that you get accustomed to out in the bush with all the familiar friendly faces. You get the satisfaction of knowing you're doing something great, planting trees, and making money that you don't have a chance to spend until after you're done. You can treat it like a sport, as a job, as a way to put your whole life on hold for a few months. It truly was an unforgettable experience.

I've been describing these as 'what faeries would ride'

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Longest Memory by Fred D'Aguiar

I don't know if I would have ever known about this book had it not been highly recommended by Justine as I was rifling through the books about to be abandoned due to a move. I found it very engaging. I enjoyed the style of each chapter carrying a different characters voice, and allowing the story to slowly unravel with new insights. I'm not sure how common this book is but if you can get your hands on a copy it's a short (less than 200pages) and beautiful read. You'll be better off having read it and it's sure to stir up some emotions. As I finished the last chapter I was already eager to hand it over to a friend who would appreciate it and hope it gets continually passed around. One of the things I do love about paper books (versus ebooks) is the physical gift and passing on the love of the story is more concrete.
Thanks for sharing Jus, you were right, I really did enjoy it!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This book was recommended to me a couple years ago, but I only got my hands on a paper copy recently (thanks Justine!). I have to say I enjoyed it. I can understand why it would be required reading in school but I may not have liked it as much had I not read it of my own volition.
It's a great story, and deserves to be a classic.This quote rang true for me.
"A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say."  
— Italo Calvino
This book may be small and just over 100 pages, but the feeling is mighty, the characters are real, and the story is a memorable and heartfelt one.
I'm sure I'll come back to this one, and hope to come across more of Steinbeck's works.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The tree planting lifestyle (part 1)

Those are my boots, the day before tree planting began!
I stumbled upon a labyrinth in Thunder Bay with
encouraging messages engraved in the brick road.

"It's 6am and time to rise,
wipe the sleep from your eyes,
grab some clothes and hope they're dry,
jump into the lunch line,
hop on the bus, don't be late,
that would be a rookie mistake!"

That's the beginning to one of the many songs I made up while planting. My all time favourite which I do hope to record: "I hate tree planting today" it has a really upbeat catchy tune.

 So here's what tree planting was about...
Waking up in a smelly, slightly damp tent, the colder the morning, the warmer the day will be. Throw on your favourite tree planting outfit, the same sweet sweat smelling shirt you wore yesterday. Trudge over to the food tent to make a lunch with snacks that will last you a full day of planting, which is double the food you would normally consider eating. Grab breakfast and eat it in the mess tent or on the bus. Look at the white board to see which bus you need to get on and carry your 4lt of water, gear and food. Don't worry, this is always an awkward process, there is no smooth way of fitting yourself and your gear on the bus with 20 other planters.

The Silver Bullet stuck again - photo credit: Taylyn
Then it's the 30 min to an hour drive in a school bus down a bumpy dirt road to head to a block of land that will be divided up so each person gets a piece. The long ride allows you to take a nap and then duct tape yourself. Tape your fingers, boots, holes in your pants, etc. Get dropped of at your piece for a day of solo or partner planting.

Box Fire & Tents - photo credit: Taylyn
Tent Alley - photo credit:Taylyn
Plant all day. Eat when you want to eat, hydrate when you want to hydrate, dig a hole when you need to do some business (that's my nice way of saying shit in the woods), have dance parties when you need to dance. Get back on the bus with all your smelly comrades and cheers that the day is done and it's time for grub and drinks and campfires. Go to bed. Repeat.

Lake view

Your new home is always by a lake for a water supply. You will be drinking filtered lake water. There's a tent area, sometimes called tent alley, where everyone's tents create a cozy camping community. There are outhouses, which the cleaning of are part of the nightly chores that get rotated among the planters. There are trailers for staff and a kitchen trailer. There are two large tents, one for eating, one for the buffet of food, which will later serve as a good area for beer pong, and The Table Game, (work hard, party hard) and huddling together on weekends when it rains. If you're lucky someone will have set up clothes lines to hang wet clothes so they can become damp instead of sopping wet.

Eating Tents - photo credit: Shirley
Staff Trailers - photo credit: Shirley

There are no mirrors so you wont have to ever wonder how you look. By the faces around you though, you can only imagine you also have black fly bites all around your eyes, and on your cheeks and everywhere. Showering is at your discretion and if your not too exhausted to wait in line. Some people shower once a day, some people save showers as a weekend activity. Before bed it's a good idea to check for ticks. You've probably already taken a bunch off yourself and fellow planters. You can use ticks to make art projects and messages on duct tape. Most of the seats on the bus have a big piece of duct tape ready to peal back at any moment to trap your new found tick.

Ticks on Duct Tape - photo credit: Megan
If it's the weekend you've probably gone in to town to at least do some laundry. (maybe go to church if that's your thing) Some planters consider it unlucky or pointless to wash their shirts. Although my shirt never looked cleaner when I pulled it out of the wash at least it got rid of the 5 days of marinating in sweat. My favourite tree planting outfit is a light blue tank top (thank you Jenn) with a linen blouse overtop. Leggings under jean shorts with two pairs of wool socks, one fitted one not. If it's raining my rain pants that feel three sizes too big, a bug hat if it's super buggy, a blue and white wool sweater when it's chilly (thank you goodwill). My steel-toe workbooks from Marks were guaranteed for 100 days and after only 30 had the markings of extreme wear and tear and smelled fantastically of bog water.
A Pretty Swamp
So the actual tree planting, how do you plant a tree in Northern Ontario?
Loosely holding the handle of an approximately 3ft shovel in the fingers of your dominant hand, throw the shovel head into the ground. You want to hold the shovel loosely because the Canadian Shield is unforgiving. If you hold the shovel tightly and hit rock beneath a thin layer of soil you will feel a shocking jolt run through your wrist and arm. This sucks. When you've hit creamy soil and your shovel slides in nicely, this is the opposite of sucky and will make you happy. You will probably smile. Then using your body weight, push the shovel (that is in the ground) forward so it is about 45degrees and loosing the dirt on the spade. Making a wide circle motion and stoping when you make a C, towards your hip. You now have a pie shape, or pizza slice hole in the ground. 
Loose Trees in Planting Bag - photo credit: Taylyn
If you're pro you already have a tree loose and ready in your hand. There are many variations on how to put the tree in the ground, I myself prefer holding my pointer and middle finger together, with the roots of the sapling flush with my middle finger. Now placing it in the large part of the pie and squeezing it into the tiny corner of the pie to make it nice and tight. Bonus points for having the tree perfectly straight.

Sam Planting Trees - photo credit: Shirley
You can take the shovel out or keep it in for the placing of the tree, every planter gets their own style. Now don't bother standing up to admire your work. In a still crouched down position, as soon as your hand comes up free of trees it's back in the bag to grab another while you simultaneously move forward to plant the next tree, you don't want to waste a step so as you go forward one foot is kicking the dirt hard to close the hole with the planted tree. Should take about 6-15 seconds per tree.
So in the time it took you to read that you could have probably planted 50 trees!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Wave by Susan Casey

I never thought a book would have me on the edge of my seat. This book was recommend to me when I was in Panama, living by the water. I was very unsuccessfully trying the art of surfing. My biggest problem was my fear of being churned out by waves. When I was about nine years old in Spain with my dad, I was walking along the shoreline collecting rocks and shells with my back to the sea. My dad who was waiting by the umbrella starts calling to me and throwing his arms around. I just stood there staring at his silliness when all of a sudden a huge wave was upon me, tumbling me, throwing rocks at my stomach and then thankfully spitting me out.  Every time I got overtaken by a wave when surfing I was pumped with adrenaline to get out of it and then drained of all energy and motivation to get back at it.

"This book describes the mechanics of waves", maybe if I understood waves better I would be less terrified. I had already judged the book though, I wrongly anticipated it was filled with technical aspects that would be a dry read with science terms I knew nothing about. I reluctantly pulled it off the shelf and it immediately pulled me in. I was kicking myself for not reading this book as soon as it was recommended to me. Susan Casey isn't writing from the safety of a desk, she gets in the thick of it, learning about waves from the true masters; surfers searching for a hundred foot wave, scientists caught in epic storms, predictors of world disasters. She takes you to the moment and on the white knuckle rides. Laird Hamilton, a pro surfer, is her main connection to the world of waves. The information she gives is truly awesome.

There are pictures, incredible accounts of natures power, and an excitement I haven't encountered in other reads. This book would make a great gift for anyone who likes to get caught up in action and adventure. This book, hands down, goes on my top reads list!

Friday, August 2, 2013

From the South to the North

So I left Panama at the tail end of April thinking (as I seem to always do) that I would be staying in Toronto for a whole lot of time. I wanted to rent a studio space, work on some art projects, get a bar job working on a patio in the summer. That intention was all well and good until I got invited to a going away party of a friend's girlfriend. Where a conversation went something like this:
"Where are you off to Katia?"
"Tree planting in BC."
"What?!?! I've always wanted to do that! I've been missing the application deadline since I first heard about it when I was 18, or I've been out of the country."
"Well, now's the time to apply because this is when people drop out, here's my foreman's email."
So that night, as most nights when I get a crazy idea in my head that I want to do something (for no other explainable reason then I want to do it), I couldn't sleep. I had only been back in Toronto for one week and here I was producing a full explanation for a foreman of why I wanted to go tree planting and why I'd make a good addition to the team. I put a fair amount of time and energy in that email, and figuring most of the work was done, I might as well do a search online and apply to EVERY tree planting company possibly hiring rookies (first time planters). This was a Thursday and exactly one week since I landed in Toronto.

I closed my computer resolving I had to continue with my job search in Toronto like nothing happened or was happening. I went to interviews and found even at the post I was most excited for I was still pushing a fake happy and while I waited for the second round of interviews I stared at my silent phone whispering in my head and to all the tree planting companies, 'please call, so I don't have to go in there' but nothing happened, no one called, I continued with my interviews.

It was Thursday again, and the opening night of The Great Gatsby, so of course I was dressing up. With my hair in curlers, and a 1920's dress waiting for me, I had dinner with my parents before going out. I was just explaining to my dad why I'm certain that I can now only live in spaces with an abundance of nature. How living with the outdoors in Panama fed my soul and I want to be somewhere where I can be outside all day. He was coming around to my way of thinking, certainly not for himself, but at least understanding where I was coming from when my step-mom called from in the house that my cellphone was ringing. "Yes! Please answer it." and I bolted upstairs.
It took a while for my brain to wrap around what was said,
"Sorry, where are you calling from?"
something something "Tree planting"
That was the magic word I needed to get super excited and have a truly happy interview. The talk with my dad made all my answers easily roll of the tongue. I knew I was in for a tough time of hard work, I knew I'd be living in a tent, and I knew I would be out in nature all day, every day.
"Can you start on Monday?"
That's when my I faltered. Monday, that was three days and a few hours away, and I would have to get myself to Thunder Bay.
"When's the latest I can let you know? Alright, I'll email or call tomorrow morning."
I went back to my parents beaming and fooling myself, but not them, that I hadn't made a decision yet. I had to sleep on it, buy steel toed construction boots and see how much airfare was before I could officially commit. As I finished dolling up in the mirror, I was so happy it wasn't a skype interview, there is no way someone would hire me for back breaking work looking like this.

Friday I woke up early, and looked at the list that was sent to me. I now had three days to get everything, where normally people had three months to prepare. I took a deep breath and went to Mark's Work Warehouse for some CSA approved boots and a hardhat. Of course I was saying yes!
Camping Gear
− quality waterproof tent
− tarpaulin/ground sheet
− warm sleeping bag (rated -15 desgrees Celsius)
− extra blanket, therma-rest, pillow
− flashlight, lantern
− eating utensils (plate, bowl, cup, cutlery, etc.)
− tupperware containers (for field lunch)

Working Gear
− rain suit (coat and pants) - nylon or rubber (quality!)
− Duct tape
− sunglasses, hat, sun screen, lip balm
− insect repellent (Watkins if you can find it, if not, something with “deet”)
− Insulated water jug (4L or more)
− Small day pack (to carry lunch, gear, etc)
− Comfortable, CSA approved work boots (Break them in before coming.  You'll thank us)
− Work socks (Many pairs.  Polypropylene undersocks paired with wool are best)
− T-shirts (many)
− Sweaters (expect snow at least once)
− Long underwear, toque
− The ability to use all of the above

Personal Gear
− Alarm clock and Watch
− Matches/lighter
− Swim suit
− Toiletries
− Towel
− Clothing for days off
− Spending money
− Mosquito coils
− MP3 Player, camera, deck of cards, etc.
− Ibuprofen
− Personal first aid kit (band-aids, etc.)
− Journaling tools.  Pens, paper, notebook, etc.
− We recommend bringing about $200 cash to cover any unexpected incidentals

Planting Tools
− Planting shovel
− Planting bags
− CSA approved hard-hat
− High visibility vest

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I had read this book in high school and only remembered there was a character named Daisy. Forced to read it in a small window of time I didn't squeeze much out of it. I skimmed it to pass a test and didn't have the patience to give it a try.

After hearing it was the favorite book of a friend and since I love the Hemingway, Fitzgerald era, I thought I'd give it a second chance. I was happy I did.

It really is beautifully written with a great style. I think the movie The Great Gatsby brings the book to life and I especially enjoyed dressing up for opening night. The Baz Luhrmann style shouts itself from the screen reminding me of exact scenes from Moulin Rouge but the script comes through as exact verbatim from the book. Not my personal favorite but can appreciate the book, story and movie.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman

This book was recommended to me forever ago and I finally gave it the time it deserved. If you have appreciation for science and a great scientific mind, then you might enjoy the 'adventures of a curious character'. An autobiography of funny life moments, from building the atomic bomb, to learning how to pick locks as a hobby, to picking up girls, this is one interesting scientist. Feynman has a broad range of interests that always bring him to better ways of explaining physics in layman's terms. I was happy to read it and was thankful for the recommendation. There really is no better way to explain this work than 'adventures of a curious character'.

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

I thought I would never read this series, but got enough coercing and when it was finally placed in my hand I couldn't put it down. I read the whole series in a week and realized what all the hype was about. Even though it is a teen read, it blows Twilight out of the water. Love reading about a female lead character who kicks ass with a bow and arrow. It was fun to read and I even liked the last book in the series. I definitely will think of Katniss whenever I rock a braid. Looking forward to the next movies!

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Wow, what an awesome book! The best I can compare it to is the Coen Brother's movie: True Grit. It's a western adventure, with each page taking you along a well told story. You're going to want to buy a copy to pass along to all of your friends. The author does an amazing job of making every part of the journey interesting and unpredictable with well defined characters. If you haven't picked up a book in a while or know someone that needs something good to push them into reading, then this is the book. Canadian-born author Patrick DeWitt has won six awards for this novel and it absolutely goes on my top-reads list. I want to recommend this to everyone who loves an engaging story.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I caught a pike, but let it go...

The hiatus is over and so is the fishing trip. I caught a pike, but let it go... There's a lot more fish in the sea from what I hear.

So before I get into all the craziness of what I've been up to these last three months I'll divulge why I stopped in the first place. Things were as close as paradise gets when I was living in Panama and Bocas will always have a special place in my heart. Unfortunately though it was where the straw broke the camel's back on the relationship with my mom (who stayed there). I didn't know what was too much information, and really didn't know how to explain, and was super angry and didn't want her to know anything about my life so I just froze and stopped writing on the blog and poured more into my books. The short story is I've tried everything I can think of and I have no more left in me to make the relationship functional and not hurtful.

I miss blogging though and the feedback to start up again has been great! It's such a fun way to explain what I'm up to, so I'm going to play catch up for the next few days. Wow, that was way easier than I thought, maybe a bit clandestine but at least I'm back at it, right?

Posts to come:
- books books books
- Tree planting
- moving to Thunder Bay (yeah, that's not a typo)
- road trip in the states (starting in Aug)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy

Well it's over, I'm done, I have finally finished the depressing Anna Karenina. I know my vocabulary has grown. Try saying these ten times fast:
Insouciance - casual lack of concern; indifference
Denouement- the final part of a play, etc.
Erroneousness - wrong; incorrect 
Polemical - controversial, engaging in disputation, a person who argues
Beatifically- blissfully happy; 'smiling beatifically'

I absolutely loved reading in four different languages, with easy to access annotations for translations in English. There were sentences and phrases kept in German, French, and Russian throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing the parallels of Russian society in the 1800's, and how some things still haven't changed. The human condition of emotion is still rampant all over the world.

I could empathize with moments of desperation through the main character, Anna Karenina, but I can say with certainty that she's not someone I'd ever like to meet, unless I was a certified psychologist. (She's one mean, lonely, crazy woman). Levin and Kitty gave me warm fuzzy moments with their strained romance, every touch and thought was meaningful. 

But, not everything in life is warm and fuzzy, so of course, just as in life, there was suicide, infidelity, births, and deaths. A part of me wishes I had stopped at part four, for a Hollywood type ending, but I was committed to making it through all eight parts. I think it would have been more enjoyable to read it alongside someone else to discuss each part, as originally intended, but I'm glad I've finally seen what all the fuss was about.

There were too many quotes I enjoyed to share them all, which reminds me that it is a classic for a reason. I look forward to watching the movie now, and putting classic Russian literature behind me, at least for now. It was a beautifully told story, with the truth of the subtle and sensitive inner thoughts that everyone can empathize with, but I think I'll stick to my usual genres of business, biographies, modern fiction, and magic realism.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why I don't have a twitter

- When you're making your bed in the morning and have a tally of bugs you've killed in your sleep #junglegirlproblems

- Beatles are sticky, and fun to throw at your friends #junglegames

- That moment you're mid-pee and realize there's a gross bug staring at you an arms reach away #junglegirlproblems

- A hummingbird made a nosedive for my head #junglegirlproblems

- I just caught a gecko #junglegames

- That moment when the small town gossip about my life is more exciting than my life #smalltownproblems

I got botox in my sleep, from a bug...

- It's going to rain

- It's raining

- It rained

- It's raining again

- It's a perfect sunny beach day!!

- It hasn't rained for a week, we need rain #rainforestproblems

- I just got grasshoppered!! (Cenia just put a big grasshopper up my shirt to get me topless) #junglegames

Thursday, March 28, 2013

the torture of being spoiled

It's been so hard to write this, because every time I do my tummy starts to rumble and I head to the kitchen, looking for goodies instead of continuing, but I'll try to explain my situation, the torture of being spoiled…

So there I was, sitting at the Calypso Cantina, flipping through a laminated menu. Passing through all the pages of what I could have, I couldn't pick what I wanted.
"I'll just have what you're having", I finally said with a sigh.
"What have you been eating out there?" Brandon asked.
'Out there' being Casa Cayuco on Bastimentos, it's rare to actually be in town going to restaurants.
"Well you know, whatever Sue makes. I don't have to really decide",  I say gesturing to the menu. I start to gaze off into the distance and get a glazed look in my eyes. "Yesterday, wow she made this really cool thing" my mouth starting to water, "it was so good, it was like mashed potatoes but with garlic and really creamy, but not too creamy, but smooth, and, Oh! The night before that though, there was fish that was fresh caught and she cooked it in these different spices, but it wasn't spicy, but then I added hot sauce. Oh and the appetizers, there were these fresh kind of spring rolls, with…" I feel the saliva building up as I can't quite fully describe one meal before jumping to another. "and the things she does with onions, I'm already a fan of onions, but she makes some that are sweet, oh and garlic aioli, she makes all her own stock and sauces. I like that nothing goes to waste, and..."
"Yes, we're ready" Brandon says to the server I don't realize is waiting behind me.
I close the menu, and remember what Jenn says about 'Cheating on your food' by talking about past meals in front of your present one. I enjoy my meal and can't help but recall a lot of other great things I've eaten.

"Is there anything you haven't liked?" Brandon asks.
"Well…" I have to think for a moment, then again just launch into other distracted monologue of dishes I've loved. "I guess I don't like that I don't really cook for myself anymore." I finally say, admitting that having Sue as a chef I will eat anything without hesitation (even crunch on shrimp with tail and shell on) and I've even enjoyed, and look forward to her pulled pork, alert the veggie police.

Then a break of no guests leaves me alone in the kitchen to fend for myself. I just end up making mostly salads and pasta and Spanish tortilla, with much appreciated emails from Sue about where all the good stuff is, chocolate pudding, babaganush, chips fried in coconut oil. I didn't finish the babaganush because I ate all the chips first, but I did polish off a whole container of the best chocolate pudding I've ever had (excuse me while I go raid the fridge).

I'm often compared to an 18 year old boy for how much I pack away. I just can't refuse great, lovingly prepared, fresh food, I need to eat it. My biggest weakness is cookies, and I try to hold back, but usually any visit to the kitchen has me sniffing on top of the fridge for any extra home made ones, ginger, peanut butter, lemon shortbread, I make it my mission to make sure no cookie goes to waste.

Now, being spoiled at the bar, I can have any cocktail I wish, whenever. I can grab a ginger ale and just walk away. I've gotten so used to just grabbing a drink and walking away, and that's exactly what I did by accident when I went to Bocas.
"I'll have a coke, thanks." I didn't pay, but just took my drink and walked away. Thankfully I hadn't gotten far before I remembered I wasn't at 'home' and promptly walked back to hand over some cash.

Brandon came over Saturday, and as he was eating dinner I realized, "Wow, that's the same thing you had last time, isn't it? That's really unlucky." I stated.
"Really? She doesn't just have a set menu that she repeats?" he asks, as he reaches onto my plate for more, unphased that he's having the same dish twice.
"Ha, no, a few things I've had twice for sure, but it's all based on what she actually has, she can't actually pre-make a weeks menu, she can't predict when someone will catch a Red Snapper or ..."
"I just realized... that's what you had last time, isn't it?" Sue comes over to us and asks.
Brandon makes to nod, "Yeah, but it's great" he says between bites.
"Hmm..." and then a moment later he has a small plate of tiny portions of leftovers, the onions I talked about, a bit of pulled pork, cabbage salad, some kind of garlic patty thing.

Well, lunch has just been served, and I've been tortured by the smell of it for a while, so I'll be heading back to the kitchen...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bloggers Block

So I've had a case of bloggers block over the past weeks. Not for lack of things to say, but really unsure of where to start...

I can tell you about the vine snake that wrapped itself around a nest so that the mama bird wrangled all of her birdy friends to try to annoy it out of the tree. How I ended up grabbing the snake and taking it away with a kayak paddle, to make an alliance of birdy friends...

I can tell you about celebrating the beaux's birthday in Bocas town, meeting two of his awesome friends that showed up as a surprise from Costa Rica, and trying wake boarding on a surf board for the first time...

I can tell you about the amazing weather we've had, absolutely perfect clear blue skies, glassy clear water, and how I enjoyed it all to myself for a few days, working hard... on my tan ;)

Angus trying to take over my hammock when I was in Bocas town

I can tell you about the giant shift in the staff, and the new found excitement to learn English, so that Sue and I are constantly pouring over books, verbs, and odd pronunciations...

I can tell you about how I snapped at someone I love very much, and who I hope is out of my life forever. How that has made me re-evaluate my plans here in Panama, and intrigued me to give another part of the globe a try. How is it I never know where I'll be next...

I can tell you about how very long Anna Karenina is, and how I read Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking in one sitting just to mix it up a little, and then really wanted a martini...

I can also tell you about how absolutely grateful I am to be a part of things here at Casa Cayuco. I am never left wanting, never asked too much, and always left feeling appreciated. My cup is never empty, my tummy always full, and the laughter keeps on coming...

Actually, that's what I want to tell you about most, so stay tuned for "The torture of being spoiled" and what living out here has really done to me!