Monday, 9 September 2013

September 9th: Holiday's almost over - just the technical matter of getting home from Auckland Airport. Ottawa and Vancouver airports have unlimited free wi-fi; Auckland has allowed me to sign up for a free half-hour. Somehow I'm leaving here with lighter bags than when I arrived. I didn't eat much of the gift foodstuffs, honestly. I'm pretty sure I'm over the worst of the jet lag, and I'll be able to answer emails properly soon. By tomorrow it'll be almost as though I was never away, except that I have an awesome collection of good times with Ursula and Penelope to hold on to. And quite a lot of maple syrup. Post script: Oh, PC with big flat screen that I can read, and a keyboard that actually fits my fingers - I love you. I won't go away again (soon). Except for the weekend of the 21st when Sylvia and I go to Auckland to see 'Wicked'.
September 5th: Day 5, Vancouver Airport: battery about to run down, only enough money for 1 more donut, and I'm going off air for 3 days. I'll be at the Mensa NZ Annual Gathering in Auckland, talking, eating, talking, playing games, talking - until I drop from jet lag. See y'all back in Welly next week.
September 4th: Vancouver, Day 4: shopping. I know, I've already bought all the gifts, the shoes, the hat, and a forest of maple syrup products. But we went to the sewing shop. THE SEWING SHOP, people. The 5 heavy glass jars of Vegemite that are staying in Vancouver have been replaced by some essential quilting equipment that is WAY cheaper here. And another hat (with attached paws). And possibly an egg-shaped kitchen timer that hatches a chicken when the time is up. And some more maple syrup stuff because you can never have too much maple syrup, right? What we couldn't find today (and we tried really hard) was Beavers' Tails. Just not a Vancouver thing :( I have officially spent all my cash and quite a lot of my savings, as represented by next month's visa bill. I have just enough coins left to buy either a cup of tea or a maple-dipped donut at Tim Horton's when I go to the airport tomorrow. Since Air NZ will supply me with tea... Had dinner with all the home stay students tonight - French, Japanese and Brazilian - after their first day back at English Language School, so that was interesting. They're downstairs in my bedroom, otherwise known as the rumpus room, playing pool tonight. I might join them. Or I might read some more quilting books. I love being on holiday.
September 3rd: Vancouver, Day 3: a rest day. We had a quiet day at home, having a guided tour of Helen's quilts and looking at quilting books. If it seems like that wouldn't take all day, it didn't. I slept really late. Rodney's gone to Las Vegas for a conference, so it's just me and Helen at home, along with the tenant in the basement apartment and the three home stay students, all of whom I have now met. School starts again tomorrow, so they've all returned from their assorted holidays. Dinner at Elliot's (offspring number 2) tonight, and it was a lot of fun getting together with the boys again. Elliot is a musician/composer and a member of several bands and one of his musical associates was at dinner too. They're all incredibly smart and talented, with just the right kind of crazy sense of humour I enjoy. So now the only one I haven't caught up with is Meta, the oldest, because she has been at Burning Man and probably won't get back before I leave. Still no kittens, though I had the pleasure of watching them leaping around inside their mum today.
September 2nd: Day 2, Vancouver: went to the USA. Despite the fact that this is my Canadian holiday, Helen and I braved Homeland Security and crossed over to Washington. The wait in the room at Customs for a visa waiver (USD6) felt a bit like Kafka when everyone behind the counter pretty much got up and walked out at once, but it must have been a shift change, because they were replaced by another bunch of people who took over the job of doing nothing while we waited in line. It took about half an hour to get our passports back, and the Officer did make a wee joke, which was novel. We got lost after taking the wrong off-ramp and Helen finally agreed to let me use the GPS to navigate, having passed me a map book I'd never seen before and needed time to study, which was when we missed the correct off-ramp. Fortunately I enjoy taking the scenic route - my family's euphemism for not having a clue where we are. The nice lady's voice eventually directed us to a rural district outside Bellingham, and to the home of very talented haiku writer Seren Fargo, with whom I have been corresponding for several years, thanks to my fabulous job as Competition Secretary for the NZ Poetry Society. We all went out for sushi and talked heaps and got on really well and Seren and I are going to do some collaborative haiku next year while I am having a writing year, and she will hopefully have some housing issues sorted out. When we got back to Seren's house there were deer in her yard - awesome! It's a bit hard to see the last one leaving in the photo, but it's there. I didn't get much time to get the camera out and lined up before they took off. There were 3 out on the road already, and the last 2 passing through their regular trail in the yard. Back in Vancouver I had my first experience of smelling skunk. Not in the yard, but somewhere in the neighbourhood, and I was quite glad it wasn't any closer. It smelled like a bad musk aftershave that's been used to try and disguise the odour of an unwashed body after a week in the bush.
September 1st: Well, Air Canada has ripped me away from my lovely girls, and now I'm with the hospitable Helen (cuzzie) and Rodney in Vancouver. Not quite as hot here, but that might just be because of the lack of humidity. They've already worked out where I might be able to get my Beaver Tail fix. Tomorrow we're hoping to cross the border and visit a haiku penfriend in Bellingham, WA. Thanks for the lovely card, TeamUP - I just cried a little bit then watched a movie: 'Still Mine', with James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. It seems amazing to me that you can fly over a body of water for over an hour and it's just a lake! Lake Superior in fact, though I had to look it up. I knew them all many years ago (about Standard 4), but the knowledge has previously been of little use, so unreinforced.
August 31st: OMG I've changed my mind and I'm not going home. I'm going to stay here and live on Beaver Tails with Maple Butter for the rest of my life. It will be remarkably short on that diet, but totally worth it. In other news, when I got back to the flat there was a black squirrel on the grass outside. I stood perfectly still so he wouldn't see me and watched him bury a nut right in front of me. I know they're vermin, but they're also cute and fuzzy. Didn't have my camera! Time to leave my lovely girls :(
August 30th: The Ottawa Museum of Nature is amazing - interactive (we played the Water Cycle game and Nellie won) and there are live critters: tarantula, scorpion, a zillion stick insects, though no NZ ones, frogs, toads, turtles, fish and more. Best museum ever. It closed at 8 and we were too far from the Tea Party to get there in time before it closed so we had dinner at the Elgin St Diner. Food was good, though not as good as at Zak's Diner. Took our time walking home as the girls had their gift-buying to do and it was too hot to move fast. I can live with warm summer evenings out on the town. Shame it was my last one here. Tomorrow: Vancouver.
August 29th: The girls are at volunteer training today, so I went to the Rideau Centre (think Westfield Mall) and did a shopping montage. I probably shouldn't be allowed out unaccompanied, though to be fair it was (mostly) for gifts. Settle down family, I'm on a budget. Finished with maple-flavoured iced donuts - 2 because they're so yummy - and a cup of tea at Timmy Horton's; it's against the law not to eat there at least once when you're in Canada. This evening we're going to the Museum of Nature (free after 5pm) and then a final night dinner at, probably, The Tea Party, the vegetarian restaurant along the street where I did my writerly drop-in on Sunday. Can't believe it's almost time to leave.
August 28th: Not complaining, mind, but when Urs and Nellie's flatmate, Matt, brought out his portable air conditioner at 7pm and set it up for us before he went out to dinner, I was tempted to change my will. The temperature is expected to increase overnight (what?) and officially reach 30 degrees at 5am before dropping again. (In Ottawa, even the weather is regulated, LOL.) It was already 30 in the flat when the AC came on. Walked to Quebec today, while the girls were at work. The Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River is about 10 minutes away, and I can never resist a bridge. It's not Golden Gate (only takes 25 minutes to cross and you could possibly dive off it if you had to), but it's a nice design all the same. Nothing much to do when you get there (other than the magnificent Museum of Civilization, which I've seen) but turn around and come back, but that's ok. I headed for the ice-cream stand in the Market. We watched 'Hoodwinked Too!' tonight. Dear Netflix, please come to New Zealand.
August 27th: A long and tiring day at the National Art Gallery, Ottawa. Interactive art, free art, entertaining art; a decent and healthy cafeteria (fresh raw vegetables!). We didn't even see half of it - ran out of time after 6 hours on the top floor and a small section of the next floor down. Then we were too tired to explore the outdoors after the Gallery closed. Get your act together, Te Papa. A dedicated Art Gallery is worth so much more than an afterthought.
August 26th: Mensa day in Ottawa: went to lunch with some lovely people (and one with limited social skills, so situation normal) at The Table, a buffet vegetarian restaurant where you pay for what you dish up for yourself by weight. With about 20 dishes to choose from, all with every ingredient listed, it was vege paradise. Made up for missing this month's Mensa lunch in Wellington. Otherwise it was a rest day. Hot and stinky humid, so finishing my current (reading) book and writing a second draft of my short story were as much activity as I wanted. Urs and Nellie both started their new jobs today, so it was pretty quiet round here and lovely to have them home again at the end of it. Ended up watching lots of 'Jono and Ben at 10' on YouTube last night, so trying again for a movie tonight. Post script: 'Rise of the Guardians'. Enjoyed it.
August 25th: No Facebook posting to cut and paste, for some reason. I went down the road to the Tea Party, for what I thought was an oddly timed poetry event - 10am on a Sunday. Turned out it was an informal weekly writing group, and I was very welcome to join. I ordered some maple tea and joined the table. There were 3 other regulars there, and 2 more arrived a bit later than me. We started by having a prompt: a sentence and a genre. ("When I woke up things were different"; fiction.) Rick, the facilitator, introduced a brainstorm of ideas for how this could be interperted, and then we started writing. It was my first short story for about a decade (I'm sure I"ve already written about this somewhere!). After an hour we stopped and read to each other. It was fun - my main criterion for a successful event. Afterwards, I nipped over to the Market for something I can't now remember, and then headed back to the flat. I met Urs and Nellie on the way, and we headed for the route of the Pride Parade, to start at 1pm. It took an hour and a half to pass by (I've definitely written that before!), and by the time it was finished we were all really hungry,. There was a fair going on outside CitY Hall, at the end of the parade route, so we paid our $5 each (maybe $10) and found a food stall we could all enjoy. It was run by caterers, so really good food, and still quite cheap. Since we'd paid to get in, we wandered around collecting free stuff, and by then it was too late to join a protest outside the Russian Embassy against their anti-gay laws. We headed in that direction, but passed some of the people U&P knew coming back the other way, so we knew it was over. Watched YouTube all evening.
August 24th: Spent most of the day in Cornwall, Ontario, visiting an old uni friend of Wally's, Henry. He and his wife Bev made us very welcome, filled us with barbecue and home-made wine, and told the girls to make sure they go there again before they leave Canada. Henry is a Mohawk Elder and has lots of interesting stories, some of them involving 6-day-old meat pies in Huntly. Yes, that Huntly. It's Pride Week here, and we're marching tomorrow. Wish I'd brought something more colourful to wear. If only I'd known...
August 23rd: A lovely sunny day at the Agricultural Museum and Arboretum (sheep! goats! horses! pigs! cows in stalls!) including personal encounters with a miniature Sicilian donkey (cute!) and a turkey (not so cute!), and lots of squirrels imitating Scrat. Followed by the most entertaining open mic. ever. Highlights: a retired opera singer singing 'Summertime' while accompanying himself on guitar; several pretty good performance poets; lots of singers who can actually sing (not always a given); one who sang so quietly to himself that the MC turned up the mic and we were treated to bonus feedback; same singer followed up with 'Que Sera Sera', to which we joined i the chorus (as you do); at least 4 short stories; a young man channelling Nona Simone and Beyonce in a rather fine falsetto voice; bongos; a rhythm-challenged man with a tambourine. I wasn't quite sure what decade I was in. My poems were greeted with blank expressions and polite applause (just like when I read at Thirsty Dog, so at least I'm used to it), though they said they liked my accent. I was 17th of 25 performers , and only the second woman, of three.
August 22nd: So it's hot and humid in Ottawa. Met at the airport at 11.30pm by my girls in t-shirts, shorts and jandals, which is a LOT less than I was wearing. It rained today so not so bad for a while. Bought a mountain of groceries and then went to the local version of Savemart (thrift shop, for my international friends) and only bought 2 things, and I needed them, honestly. And since I just offloaded a year's supply of Marmite, scorched almonds, Whittakers chocolate, and mallowpuffs, plus a single loaf of Vogels, there's space in my return luggage. Post script: what I bought were a fancy jacket made of all different fabrics - my favourite style - and a ridiculously heavy (what was I thinking?) but really gorgeous raincoat that will keep out the worst Wellington can throw at me next winter. Bright yellow, with comfy royal blue fleecy lining.