Friday, 30 August 2013

Constant Motion: Canada, Part II

I realized early on that seeing everyone I wanted to-planned to-wouldn't be possible. Unfortunately, my time at home was short and I felt exhausted during most of it...Even more exhausted than I'd felt when I'd stopped working for the university. I don't want to consider it, but I had to wonder if working in Kuwait is slowly sucking the energy out of me. I don't mean to sound negative, but between working from April until July, my trip back to Canada and returning to Kuwait, I'm so tired. I've tried eating more protein, getting more sleep, getting more sunlight, trying to stop giving 150% at work (I'm a big fan of strong work ethics, something I inherited from my parents), etc...I even got plants to add some greenery into my life and hopefully help with the overall environment of my home here. Sadly, these efforts have not been successful. Actually, I've gotten sick in Kuwait more in the past four months than I have in the past few years.

Back to Canada, after coming out of hiding (a mere two days of hiding), I started socializing: coffee dates, dinner dates, trying out the new frozen yogurt place, catching-up with all of my friends over alcohol and lounging around the pool. It was a fantastic start to my vacation! A visit from the Irish chef (who'd been off discovering Serbia and Vietnam), and then heading off to my aunt's family at her home in Ottawa and then to their cottage in Arden were just what the doctor ordered.

 At the pool: the lazy, hazy crazy days of summer
 Pool essentials! Although we could have done without the cheesy Janet Evanovich.
Canadian geese don't frequent this part of our apartment complex, so this was something new for me.

At the beginning of my trip in London, I was able to eat at all of my favourite spots and also check out a new frozen yogurt spot called Chil on Richmond Street (620 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 5J9, north of Symposium). Chil has a gorgeous AND comfortable outdoor seating area (BEWARE: in the evening the mosquitoes are ever-present!). Using 100% organic ingredients as well as all natural, dairy-free and vegan frozen yogurt, this place is fantastic for those who are conscious of what they consume. You'd think that the yogurt would taste...gross, but it's sooo good! I tried a flavour called 'birthday cake' and it was AMAZING! I will frequent Chil more in the future when I am back in Canada! For more information visit their website: http://www.chilfroyo.com/

Although we didn't get any frozen yogurt in Ottawa, we got beaver tails (like all enthusiastic tourists) and poutine that rivaled the best in London (Sammy Souvlaki's, in my opinion)! I had to visit the Kuwait embassy (to have my documents attested), and I also went up to the Peace Tower, which consists of a focal bell and clock tower which sits atop of the Centre Block of the Canadian parliament buildings. We also looked through the Memorial Chamber. The Gothic architecture is beautiful! Built in the late mid-1800s and then again in he 1920s. I saw Quebec across the water and I wanted desperately to visit. However, I've discovered that I truly have no desire to go anywhere I might bump into people who I don't want to see. It's enough to make me avoid certain places for the rest of my life. Even though it was slightly cooler, the weather in Ottawa was beautiful, the canal, sights and company were wonderful!

Mmmm, beaver tails! Although, as I had to clarify for my students, these are not ACTUAL beaver tails, but deep-fried, doughy treats that only look like beaver tails. Phew!
 Skor (chocolate bar) beaver tail.
 Apple cinnamon beaver tail.
Maple syrup beaver tail.
Ottawa: Canadian parliament building
 View from the top: looking towards Quebec.
 Good ol' fashioned poutine!
 Poutine with pulled pork and pickles (Montreal style).
Madras style poutine (my aunt's favourite).

Although my uncle had to work days while we visited, we still had sooo much fun! Much-needed family time can cure almost anything. I don't know if it was conversations with my aunt and uncle or the attempt to twerk with my 17-year old, female cousin (DON'T ask), or all of us, many of us slightly tipsy, playing the Game of Things while my uncle continuously fed me delicious red wine and the finest tequila, or maybe it was the fantastic company, but I felt so relaxed and...Happy. I felt really happy. I hadn't been really happy in Canada for a long time. I was surprised because the last time I'd been in Ottawa with my family I was devastated: I'd just left the love of my life (who wasn't making any attempt to reconcile), left my job in Canada for a job in Kuwait that I didn't want, but financially needed, and was trying to deal with knowing that I was going to lose some of my closest friendships. None of that was hanging over me this time.

Tequila has always been my drink of choice; the kind you sip, not shoot. BIG thanks to Uncle J!

The cottage, which is nicely situated on Little Crotch Lake (no joke, that's the actual name of the lake!), was just as fun as Ottawa! I canoed with my aunt (I hadn't been canoeing in ages), read voraciously on the dock while my aunt's dog went fishing (he wanders around the deck looking for fish and then jumps into the water in a sad attempt to catch the fish), and drank yet more alcohol and ate yet more food. Although there was a bit of rain, we still managed to get in some good diving off of the boat, swimming, and tubing! Poor Emi scraped up her knee on the first day we got to the cottage, so she didn't tube, but the Irish chef went at it like a pro! Early morning chats over coffee showed how much he was enjoying himself.

 My aunt's pooch down at the dock, nice and early, fishing.
 The partial view of the lake through the trees up on the hill from the cottage in the early a.m.
 Sittin' by the dock on the lake ;)
 Ahhh, LOVE that I could sit in the sun and not roast to death.
The beautiful view of the lake during a late-night boat ride. A little piece of heaven on earth!

I left Canada on a high note and felt much better about leaving this time in the sense that I didn't want to leave as much as I had in the past. I keep hoping that the country will pull itself together by the time I eventually return. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy traveling and spending time with friends in Kuwait! Since Eid will be here in no time (mid October), I'm in the process of booking tickets to Sri Lanka!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Long Time No...Post: Canada, Part I

Dear readers, I sincerely apologize for the disappearing act I pulled. I left Kuwait for Canada a mere two days after Ramadan began in July and was so busy at home that even when I had some free time all I wanted to do was enjoy the moments of simply BEING in Canada! I'm back in Kuwait now: Eid Mubarak! To everyone I missed seeing in Canada, I cannot say sorry enough. I just didn't have as much time to meet and see your lovely faces as I thought I would.

I left Kuwait after work on a Thursday and got to the airport early in fear that it might be insane there. Thank God it wasn't half as bad as I'd anticipated! Before going through security check I wandered around, grabbed a coffee (what else?) and stopped dead in my tracks as I saw the newly renovated bookstore. I think my jaw actually dropped because the previously itsy bitsy shop wasn't great...Actually, as far as airport bookstores go it was pretty pathetic. However, imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw SHELVES of books in English! How was I supposed to suppress a smile? Grinning ear-to-ear I entered the shop. The selection of English books was impressive and I spent a good amount of time looking through the titles.

Kuwait Airport bookstore: this is only ONE of the shelves!

As I went to my gate I bumped into my co-worker (who teaches HES), who was on his way to the UK. We were both travelling to Schiphol (Amsterdam) before heading to our respective homes. We met again once as we waited for our flights out of Amsterdam. My co-worker, Mr. M, told me all about his wife, kids and grandchildren and it made me really excited to be going home! Since I'd missed seeing ALL of my extended family (on my mother's side) at Christmas because the university wouldn't allow me to go home at Christmas (in 2012), I was anticipating seeing my aunt, uncles and any cousins I could!!

Now extended family (on my mother's side) has always been a touchy subject for me since I am not close with half of my mother's siblings. It's a very long story, but let's just say I don't like how some of them treat people and this has stopped me from even communicating with them. I still speak with my one aunt and one of my uncles and we have good relationships! I saw my aunt and her family when my family travelled to Ottawa and then her family's cottage (in Arden near Nappanee, you know, where Avril Lavigne grew up?). When I returned I also spent time with my uncle D, a man who I spent a large portion of my early childhood around. Even though the main purpose of my return to Canada was to get a new police record check, I made sure that I made the most of every minute I had there!

WARNING to anyone who ever wants to travel from Kuwait to Canada/Canada to Kuwait, if you ever make this jaunt, it's a long one. With an almost 24-hour journey home and the time difference, I got home almost 24 hours after I'd left Kuwait. I left Kuwait on a Thursday night at around 1am and arrived in Canada on Friday evening around 5pm. My sister picked me up from little London airport (I LOVE our airport because it's quiet and easy to navigate!). She drove her little standard Hyundai Accent and I have to say I was very impressed that she was able to drive standard so well! Seeing her inspired me and I asked her to teach me how to drive stick-she did, by the way, and I'll say what I said to London drivers via Facebook: WATCH OUT! I still suck at driving manual and stall on hills...Even almost flat hills, hahaha! I spent the first weekend in Canada at a cottage in Port Stanley (almost) in hiding and first thing on Monday morning I was off to the police department to order a new police record check.

 Okay, so maybe I wasn't craving an iced cap from Timmies until I saw the hard-to-miss sign at Pearson (Toronto Airport).
Commonly seen at Tim Horton's: LOOOOONG lines.

Beginning my vacation in Canada hiding in Port Stanley-a sleepy beach town not too far from London-was the perfect idea! My sister was house-sitting there and so after being home for only a an hour and a bit and repacking my bags, my sister, father and I all jumped into her little Hyundai ready for a quiet weekend, and quiet it was! I don't know if it was the bloody Caesar she made me or jet-lag, but I passed out pretty early that night, hahaha! Not to worry! I was up bright and early to enjoy the beautiful sunny morning! I made my way to a coffee shop a few blocks away. The walk was too short, but the fresh air, light breeze and sunlight were enough to make me want to cry since the blistering sun, dust and dry heat of Kuwait had prevented me from doing any outdoor exercise in recent months. I returned with coffee and pastries in hand and shortly afterwards we all went to enjoy the day outside. We are all geeks and brought reading material (Emi brought her drawing materials as well-she's really good!), music and sunblock. We found a little spot with shade and sunlight and plopped ourselves down for a few hours until we needed to eat. We made a quick lunch, rested and then went out for dinner at a busy joint...I completely forget what it's called and didn't I just realize that I had a whole whackload of pictures on my sister's camera that I forgot to upload to my laptop??? Ugh, I'm definitely going to have to update this post once I get those pictures, hahaha! We spent the Sunday pretty much the same way and then made our way back to London. We made sure to stop at Shaw's for ice cream on the way home (http://shawsicecream.com/home.html). Although my sister and father hadn't had Shaw's in years, I remembered that a friend of mine, who I'll call čika D, and I spent a lot of time beach combing last summer and we went to Shaw's on our way out of Port Stanley.

Port Stanley: morning at the lake!
Port Stanley: getting coffee and looking towards the cottages

Staying in hiding can't last forever though, and by that Sunday evening, I was out and about socializing!