Showing posts with label homesick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homesick. Show all posts

To All The Dogs I've Loved Before

I grew up in a home where we always had dogs. I never entirely related to those kids who were always begging for a puppy, because the existence of dogs as part of our every day lives was just natural to me. What do you mean you don't have a dog? How can you not have a dog?

When I was born, there were two dogs in the family. A ridiculously clownish and overweight black short-haired Dachshund named Elsa and her best friend, a small (but not teacup) buttery yellow short-haired Chihuahua named Gaby. Gaby was also overweight, due in part to her favorite food - smarties. 

Those were different times. There were none of the dire warnings about feeding your dog chocolate and there was no such thing as the Dog Whisperer, dog spas or luxury doggie clothing. Despite this lack of pampering, our dogs were very much considered part of the family - fat, drooling siblings who loved unconditionally and who would never really grow up. 

Although I was too young to remember, my grandmother loves to tell me the story of how Elsa adopted me on the day I came home from the hospital. On that cold February day over thirty years ago, I was sleeping in my car seat and my mom put me on the floor near the radiator - I'm from Saskatchewan, which is mind numbingly cold in the winter. When she came back a few minutes later, the fat Dachshund was laying next to me, her big head resting on my lap. Pretty much from that day forward, Elsa never left my side and would growl and bar her teeth at anyone who tried to get near me, immediate family included. 

Every birthday was celebrated with a Safeway chocolate cake and the dogs were no exception. I can still picture Elsa sitting on a chair next to the kitchen table propped up on her hind legs like a gopher, a party hat on her head, waiting for her bit of cake. My childhood stories are all woven up with memories of the dogs. Gaby and the bright red cloth she loved to chase around and around, Elsa trying to dig up badger holes on our walks - her snout tar black from the dirt, Elsa hiding in the basement whenever there was a thunder storm or fireworks - me opening the door to see only the whites of her eyes as she sat in the darkness, her black coat making her almost invisible. Sometimes I would sit with her while we waited for the storm to pass. 

The really horrible truth about integrating pets into your life like this is that they live such short lives. They feel as close as human beings, but their expiration date is a decade, maybe 15 years if you are really lucky. And as your years inch by slowly, theirs fast forwards until they are no longer the siblings and children you once thought of them as, but rather these little old creatures with legs that barely work, missing teeth and glossy white eyes that barely see anymore. 

Elsa died when I was five and I can remember the terrible shock of it. Some people don't remember their childhood, but mine comes to me in still images that are incredibly clear. She had been chronically ill and my grandmother decided we needed to put her to sleep. I was sent off to my mother's house for the weekend, having said goodbye to Elsa one last time. It was summer and I wandered around Gladmar, a low income housing tenement that had a bit of the community feeling of Sesame Street, sobbing. I remember passing a man who was working on his motorcycle who said, "Those are some pretty big tears for such a little girl." 

"Mmmm-my dddd-dog dddddied," I barely managed to snort, gasping. My heart felt truly broken and at the time, I don't think I could really imagine what it would take for the world to ever be okay again. 

Gaby died a few years later, her time with us crossing with that of another dog we had named Lady - a miniature poodle we'd rescued from some people down the block who were neglecting her. All of these animals are gone now, all buried in a pet cemetery located beneath a katakana tree in the yard at our summer cottage at Regina Beach. To this day, if I see a nice stone laying on the ground, I sometimes pick it up and send it to my grandmother so she can add it to the collection of rocks that mark the graves of the pets we loved so much. 

I am writing this because yesterday I found out that my grandparent's 14 year old tiny poodle Janie died. She had been sick for a long time and it was no surprise to hear the news but still incredibly sad. We got Janie the summer after I graduated from high school and I think for my grandparents, who were now living with only each other, she came to represent the children and grandchildren that had moved out into the world. My grandfather in particular adored her. This rather gruff man could now be seen walking his obscenely tiny dog around the neighborhood in her pink jumper, at meals he would talk to her and feed her scraps off his own plate. 

Now in their late seventies, I doubt my grandparents will ever get another dog. They would be too afraid that it wouldn't be properly cared for if anything ever happened to them. 

When I think back on my life, the animals that have been a part of our family feel as central to my memories as the people. They were my best friends, they protected me and showed concern whenever I cried, they were always waiting excitedly for me when I came home and they taught me an incredible lesson about loss and risk. When you decide to get a dog you know, almost certainly, that it will die long before you will and that you will have to watch it age and care for it when it is ill. But most of us decide to go ahead anyway because it's worth it. It's cheesy, but I think love always is. 

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Photos from Regina

Dan and I spent a few weeks visiting family in Regina at the beginning of September. It was nice to be home, but it's always a little strange. I still think of Saskatchewan as home and in my head it exists in a static state, just waiting for me to return and pick up where I left off. But everything there keeps moving and I come home to find I'm not the centre of the universe. Most of my good friends have left town, the old haunts aren't as much fun as I remember them being and even the landscape of the city is different. We drove from Vancouver to Regina and back again and upon entering the south end for the first time, I realized that I didn't even know where to turn into the city anymore; there's been so much construction in the South West corner that it felt like a new and not altogether friendly place.

While home, we spent an afternoon looking at antiques. It all started because I'd forgotten my toy Diana film camera in Vancouver and I had a hankering for film. Value Village used to always have cool old cameras hanging around so we went there; but now that cool old film cameras are in vogue, all they had were crappy old point and clicks from the 90s. So we went across the road to the old Antique Mall on Rose Street. I hadn't been there in years but can remember spending lots of time wandering around while my grandparents shopped. Happily, it was still there and still filled with lots of neat stuff and much of it quite reasonably priced.

The selection of vintage cameras was really impressive from old Super 8 film cameras and polaroids to ancient film, they had quite a range. After digging around a bit I found a Kodak Pony II, a camera that was made in the late 50s. It's light weight compared to a lot of the cameras from that time period, takes 35mm film (convenient!) and best of all it has a lot of setting to play with. In addition to being able to manually control the aperture and focal range, it's also got a nifty little 'Rewind' button that allows you to double or triple expose frames. I bought it for an impressively low $12, mostly because we all thought the shutter was jammed and weren't sure if the thing would work.

After loading the film, the shutter magically loosened up and I spent the next week using up a roll to see if it would work. It did! And I think it might now be my favorite toy ever. You can see a bunch of the photos I took in Regina here, but these are some of my favorites:

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Farewell Canadia

We flew into Canada on July 25th and as I write this I am sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for a flight to Sydney, Australia. The time went by quickly, too quickly in fact and I was reminded that being 'home' - whatever that means given our current wayfaring lifestyle - is a bittersweet, lovely and sometimes heart wrenching thing.

I spent time with old friends and made new ones, we babysat a dog named Paco who stole our hearts, we got to attend two beautiful weddings, I danced my ass off at O'Hanlon's and reconnected with my family. I played with my sister's little boy Seth who is talking like crazy since last I saw him a year ago, watched way too much Sesame Street with the baby, ate foods I missed (like poutine and Saskatchewan pizza, which is amazing), went to my grandparent's cabin at Buena Vista Beach and drove half way across Canada and then back again. It all went by so fast but when I take stock of the time, it is so full that I don't know how we managed to do so many things.

Last night we had dinner in Vancouver with friends as a way of celebrating our last night in Canada. We ate at Les Faux Bourgeois and it was so nice to see everyone again on such a wet rainy night. Sadly, we had bad news yesterday afternoon. Paco, the little chihuahua we'd looked after during the month of August suddenly passed away. He was only eight years old and so full of life and if I spend too much time dwelling on it here I'll start crying again. I just feel so lucky that I was able to spend so much time with him.

I'm excited to go to Australia and Japan and all the other wonderful places on our to-do list, but leaving home is always bittersweet. I wish there was a way to make time move more slowly. This year is moving too fast; Life is moving too fast. I am struggling to hold onto the moments but it feels almost impossible. And so I'm working on letting it all flow past me, on letting go, on not trying to squeeze it all too hard. Which is almost impossible for someone like me.

Love to all the Canadians and to little Paco. x

Garden State Image from We Heart It 

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Things That Can't Be Kept

Travel demonstrates as much as any personal intimacy that we cannot elicit perfect, unmoving loyalty. Writing anything down is basically sentimental, an act of preservation, an attempt to hold a moment or image still. Travel writing wants to defeat the impermanence of being in any one place. In keeping records of the intangible—people or places or experiences –we attempt to forget that the things we love are not, in fact, things, and therefore can’t be kept, preserved, or possessed.
-- From the brilliant The New Inquiry - one of my favourite blog finds of late. 
 I've felt a bit untethered the last few days and this essay on The New Inquiry perfectly captures the sad, futile act of trying to cling to moments. I am desperately ready to leave Mexico but strangely sad about it at the same time. I feel like I am trying to capture sand in a bucket filled with holes. 

The rainy cooler days are gone and the humidity and heat is back up. The storms blow in and the thunder rolls for hours but there's not a lot of relief from the heavy, thickness of the air. And the mosquitoes are trying to drink us dry so we are mostly hiding in our flat, working and reading, which I love but I don't really even feel like doing that. I feel a little bit like a character from a Tennessee William play - Maggie the Cat.

The other night I had a bad dream about my sister followed by a wonderful dream about Paris. I woke up longing for a place I've only visited twice and missing people I haven't seen in nearly a year.
What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Two nights ago we were walking home in the dark and saw a giant coral snake just outside the gate to our complex. I can't stop thinking about the surprise we felt as we came upon it moving around in the dark; and I am obsessed with all the loveless animals I want to rescue from this heat and loneliness.
He began to feed her pomegranate beads, two or three at a time, and she stopped weeping long before her lips were stained red.

- Last Night in Montreal, Emily St. John Mandel
I'm trying to embrace this feeling as part of the experience of traveling that people don't really talk about. It's not all rainbows and sunsets. And I know I will feel better soon.


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Smells from Home

I recently came across these photos on my Auntie Dianne's Facebook page. I'm guessing I was about seven or eight years old. Both were taken at my grandparent's cabin where we spent the majority of our summers when I was growing up. The lovely little boy in the photo above is my cousin Justin. He was one of my best friends when I was a kid. I was a horrible brat to him most of the time, but he always remained sweet and loyal. Empathetic to a fault; whenever I would cry, Justin would cry, while telling me not to be sad. Even when I didn't deserve it.

The picture above is me with my Uncle Glen. I'm not sure if he still does, but he used to have the craziest mustache. It was long on both sides and he curled it around so that he had these two loopy twirls on either side of his mouth.

It was about 110 degrees in Scottsdale today so Dan and I saved our walk for dusk - right around 7:30 pm. We walked along the radiantly hot asphalt (you can't walk in the gravel because of the rattlesnakes) under the early darkness and as we neared the community center out of nowhere, we could both smell lovely damp grass that seemed to cool the surrounding air. In the desert there is almost no humidity and your senses become attuned to smelling dampness in a hungry, all-encompassing way; just the slightest smell of water outside sends tingles of pleasure up and down my spine. I think the little bit of greenery here must explode with happiness at a drink and somehow we can smell that too because the smell is stronger and fresher than I've ever noticed it being anywhere else.

About ten minutes further into our walk, we passed a yard where they must have had a small fire going, an insane thought given the temperature probably won't dip below 90 tonight and it hasn't rained in well over a month. But that wonderful burning wood smell, that sticks to the inside of your nose and always seems nicer in the dark had me breathing in deeply and thinking of camp fires at Regina Beach.

Scents from home are so dear on a dark, hot night in such a strange place.

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This is Vanessa

Don't let the sweet look she wears in the photo fool you. She is tough and ridiculously, inappropriately funny and probably the most bad ass person I know. She is also the luckiest unlucky person you will ever meet and, if I was ever stuck anywhere sketchy and needed someone to fight my way out with, she would be one of the top people on my list.

I met Vanessa when she was a few days old. I was about three and shortly before her birth, my family moved in next door. I'm not sure if I actually remember her parents holding her up to the window when they brought her home from the hospital, or whether I've imagined I remember it because it is one of my grandmother's favourite stories about Vanessa (our parents are still neighbours).

There are certain things I know are my own memories:
  • Trying to swing like mini-tarzans off her parent's deck, using the branches of a poor weeping willow tree (much to her parent's displeasure) when, inevitably, Vanessa would fall flat on her back and knock the wind out of herself ... 
  • One morning, waiting for the school bus, when Vanessa decided to use a plank of wood perched across a small icy puddle as a tight rope, only to fall in right as the bus arrived ... 
  • Smuggling water balloons on the school bus (we were about twelve years old) and throwing them at high school students (we were caught and hell reigned down) ... 
  • Making 'soup' out of left overs from her mother's garden ... 
Mostly I can remember long, lazy days of being young and naive, of riding our bikes up and down the alley way, protecting the lilacs from being picked and making stink weed perfume (we actually tried to sell it). I remember going out early in the morning and playing until my grandmother's voice would call me home across the dimming, lilac-scented evening. It wasn't all perfect - we also fought like crazy people but we were always, always friends.

Over the last half a year, Vanessa has been living and traveling through various parts of South America. She's worked in Costa Rica and wandered through everywhere from Nicaragua to Peru. Early on in her journey, a scorpion crawled up the leg of her trousers and stung her ass (unfortunately her Spanish wasn't great at the time so she had trouble communicating her uncomfortable predicament, or the reason she was hopping around without pants on) and a bit later, a spider decided to make it's home in her ear and had to be extracted by a doctor. Sometimes her unlucky trials actually turn out to be lucky - a few days ago she was driving through the deserts of Peru and her van broke down. As a result, she was diverted from being smack in the middle of the earthquake that recently rocked Chile.

I've learned a lot from keeping track of Vanessa's Facebook page and from the infrequent emails and messages we've exchanged. She is so good natured, so willing to accept that she can't control everything around her and as a result, she lives with an inspiring amount of joy. I hope she won't mind me sharing a recent email she sent me. The next time I travel, I'm going to print this off and carry it around in my pocket. Every time things don't work out exactly as I want and I feel a tantrum coming on, I'm going to read it and try to be a little bit more like the lovely Vanessa:

Subject: Dear Shipping God


Well I am now in Ecuador after a nice little plane tour of Colombia. Shane [her brother] and I booked the cheapest tickets we could find to get us to Cali Colombia - which is just a short 10 hour bus ride from the Ecuadorian border.

We flew into Cartagena at about 11:30 at night - went to a great hostel for the night. We wandered around the city in the morning before our 12 noon flight to Bogota. If I ever get a chance I would love to spend more time in Cartagena it was great. In Bogota we only had a three hour lay over so we didnt want to leave the airport. But, we found a great place for a drink - Bogota Beer Company - it´s a micro brew place in Colombia and two of the beers reminded me and my bro of Bushwakker beer - a red and black and Cheryl´s Blond ale. What a nice surprise.

We flew into Cali around 5pm and went to a great party hostel. Cali has a super intense nightlife - especially if you like to salsa.

The next day we began to make our way to Ecuador. We travelled about 26 hours in a bus but it wasnt that bad. If the bus stopped everyone had to be super careful because if they decide the coffee/bathroom break is over... the bus leaves with or without you! The bus rides were routinely stopped by police and the military where we would have to get off the bus men on one side women on the other and they would ID us and search our bags. It was slightly strange at first but we got used to it.

We got into Guayaquil at around midnight on Sunday. We had to rush to get here because our van that we shipped from Panama was scheduled to be here Monday. That´s when things got messy....

Ben and Jess the other two that are travelling in the van took a different route through Colombia. Right as they were boarding their bus in Bogota their bag with their passports got stolen. They are now stuck in Bogota waiting to get temporary passports. Shane and I are here trying to figure out what we can do for the van. The van´s title is with Ben - and his name is on it - so he needs to be the one to pick it up from the port. The van can only be on the port up to 6 days after it gets there .. or else we arent really sure I'm assuming large storage fees... all I know is that when we shipped the van the company said - whatever you do dont let your van sit more than 6 days on the port in Guayaquil....we all laughed at the time because we all knew that we would be here right on time....ha ha ha - what a mess.

But on the bright side my Spanish is improving like crazy - I have had to talk our way out of a lot of problems at the borders and now this - the more Spanish you know the less bribes you have to pay.
Shane and I are working on the 'Case of the Astro Van' here but we are still having a great time. This place has super cheap food and in the centre of the city they have an iguana park. It´s free and you walk in and there are huge iguanas just walking around climbing trees... there arent any cages they are free to walk all over the place. There was also a tortoise and a lot of turtles. One guy tried to eat a banana in the park and these large iguanas ran over and started crawling on him - I would have freaked out - he had scratches but that was it.

Hope all is well and I will keep you updated on when we ´free the astro¨¨

Lots of Love,
I can't wait to see her again. Stay safe lady!

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This image reminds me of Saskatchewan.

Fall is my favourite season. I love the cooling sweater (jumper) weather, the colours, the crunching leaves. I even like the excuse rainy days (like today in London) give us for staying in.

Image by AP/Charlie Riedel, from the Big Picture.

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Next Time You Say Forever

If I could pick one super power it would be to sing like Neko Case. Recently I've been obsessed with her newest album Middle Cyclone and just over a month ago when she was in concert at the Barbican in London, I was pleased to find her voice just a hair-raisingly beautiful in person.

From the song Next Time You See Forever,

I hear the tiniest sparks in the tenderest sound.
Diving music, drowning the sound,
Waltzing with the hairs upon my arms.
And your fire flood alarm, and you tremble, and you stumble, and you scrape up your palms.

I can't stay here to hold your hand.
I've been away for so long
I've lost my taste for home, and that's a dirty, fallow feeling ...

The next time you say forever, I'll punch you in the face.

Image from Awkward World .

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Oh, Canada.

I've been in Toronto, Canada since Sunday night sorting out my UK Ancestry Visa, which thankfully was approved and was mailed back to me yesterday. I am staying with the lovely Crystal and Luke and my time here has been a good opportunity to reflect on things. For the last four months or so, I've been watching the allowable working time on my UK Holiday Maker's Visa tick down to almost nothing and though I've always known the Ancestry option was there, it was still a big, scary mystery. You actually have to apply from the Visa from within Canada, and they take your passport away, which is scary. My life is in London now - a boyfriend I adore, my flat, my things - and the feeling of being unable to go 'home' was terrifying (especially given that they tell you the Visa will take between five and 50 working days to process). The experience has given me a new appreciation of the UK. For all my griping about their funny ways (and my goodness, there are some strange habits and customs), it has slipped from becoming a place I am staying to a place I am living. Now when I tag a post to 'homesick', I am no longer referencing Saskatchewan.

So now I have my visa and I am good to work and live in the country for five years and for some reason I still feel incredibly panicky. I've been worried about this Visa for so long and I am still worried, but now it's about something less tangible. I'm sure the fact that I've spent the last day or so reading The Wit of the Staircase by the brilliant but crazy Theresa Duncan isn't adding to my sense of security.

Someone say something reassuring.

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Back to Canadia Today

"He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it." Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Golly, the time does fly. Today, shortly after 4 pm, Dan and I are getting on a flight to Calgary, Alberta where we will begin our multi-city exploration of my lovely home country. It is difficult to process that it's been over eight months since I've been there and I can't explain how surreal it feels when, every now and again, I realise that I am living in England. Despite this eight month gap, there are parts of me that still feel like I am going home after an extended vacation.

I can't wait to see friends and family and I am looking forward to knowing exactly where I am going at all times, something which is pretty rare in London. Strangely enough, I am even looking forward to the food in Regina. I am in no way fooled into thinking it is actually better, but it is familiar and comforting and I hope it's as good as I remember. I am especially looking forward to Viet Thai, a cheapy cheap little Vietnamese/Thai restaurant that serves up noodles and spring rolls. I've had epic dreams about this place! Though I have managed to find two similar places in London, it's just not quite the same.

Other culinary experiences I am looking forward to:

  • The lunch buffet at India House
  • All you can eat sushi (yes, in North America we like our buffets)
  • Butler's Fish and Chips at Regina Beach
  • Steak cooked on an outdoor BBQ
When I was a child, whenever a major event or holiday came up I would almost always get really sick, usually landing in the hospital, an IV in my arm, the result of a dreadful asthma attack. Though I thought I grew out of that, I must be feeling a lot of stress because last night after work I began to feel a heaviness in my chest and my voice started going. This morning I woke up to solid congestion, wheezing and absolutely no voice (Dan will be happy - he won't have to listen to me prattle during the ten hour flight). I am up steaming and drinking tea and it seems to be helping a bit. Ugh! The last thing I want to do is spend ten hours trapped in an airplane feeling like this or waste any of my vacation feeling ill.

Oh well, back to steaming. I feel like a dumpling.


(Image via Robert ParkeHarrison)

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It feels like summer in London today. I am in one of the most amazing cities in the world but all I can think about is hiding away in a cute little corner somewhere, water to swim in within walking distance, some good music on hand and a few good books. Oh, to be twelve again and heading into two months solid of a hot, lazy beach summer.

(images via Dream Smile Design)

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Only In Wales

Mom is off to Italy after a whirlwind of time in London and Wales. She's back on Thursday for a few last days before heading back to Canada after the weekend. It's been fun having her here and great to see the UK again through the eyes of someone who is just discovering it. We've fit a lot into her time here:
  • A billion sheep (most viewed from the safety and comfort of Dan's mini)
  • 2 Welsh castles
  • 4 Welsh words I can now recognise and pronounce added to my vocabulary
  • One dinner at an Italian restaurant in Mumbles overlooking the sea (where my food was served on a plate shaped like a fish)
  • On afternoon in Tenby
  • 2 orders of fish and chips (one in Tenby and one in Holland Park)
  • 3 afternoons spent in London parks - Holland Park, Hyde Park and St James Park
  • 1 musical - Chicago (it was great!)
  • 1 trip on the London Eye
  • 1 boat ride down the Thames in London's south bank area
  • 2 markets - Borrough and Portobello
  • 1 amazing wild board sausage sandwich in Borough Market, 1 shot of wheatgrass and two cups of organic, freshly squeezed juice
  • Innumerable pints of beer and glasses of wine (including one bottle of Ice Wine, which I didn't really like)
  • 1 visit to a Chinese herbalist in London's Chinatown
  • At least 6 packed Tube journeys
  • 1 trip to Muswell Hill to visit Jackie and baby Hartley
  • 1 evening in Bath where Dan and I went to Bathcamp to participate in a pub quiz for geeks (our team won in spite of me) and mom spent a few hours in the Thermae Bath Spa
  • 4 train stations: Cardiff, Bath Spa, London Paddington and Victoria
  • Lots of walking around the packed areas of Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Westminster.
  • 1 visit to Buckingham Palace
  • 1 visit to a Primate Sanctuary in Wales
  • Lots of amazing food including Mestizo (our favourite Mexican with the best nachos in the word - located in Euston, London.
She only has a few days here after Italy and I think we are going to focus on having a tour of Westminster Abbey (which she seemed to really want to do after seeing it from the outside though we ran out of time to go in), shopping in Westfield Mall and maybe one more show.

I've got my flights to Canada booked for the end of June/early July and, as wonderful as it is over here, I am really looking forward to spending some time at home. Today I had a major hankering for a sundae either from Dairy Queen or the Milky Way. The other day it was Cheese Whiz (which I actually think I can get at Selfridges for eleven million dollars). It's funny. Home, though a drag in some ways, will always have a handful of things that I love. Not because they are particularly good, but just because they are familiar and comforting and have been with me for as long as I can remember.

I'm not quite to the point of tapping my ruby slippers together, but it is true that there really is no place like home. For better or worse. I am excited about showing Dan the Canadian prairies in the same way he's opened up so many experiences for me over here (albeit we tend to have quieter things where I'm from). He was an integral part of showing my mother around for the last week and a half. Let me tell you internets, putting up with mom and I in a tiny car while driving through the meandering roads of Wales and towing us through the congested streets of London is a feat that takes a fair amount of patience. He's pretty great.


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Où et Quand?

Half up winter wonderland ferris wheel, originally uploaded by oladybug0.
'Winter Wonderland' -- Cardiff's attempt at mimicking the season that most Canadians dread. In the above photo you can see a partially erected Ferris wheel that marks the spot that will soon be host to this great seasonal celebration. In addition to the Ferris wheel (an object that they seem to use here to mark every occasion big or small, usually along side a merry-go-round) there will be an ice skating rink, free 'festive' entertainment and an ice bar. At some point they also officially turn on the Christmas lights, which can't be too soon as currently they cover most surfaces in the downtown like natty vines. I have to admit that the pictures here do make it look pretty. I am from the Canadian prairies however, and I can't help but feel a little cynical about a place called 'winter wonderland' that still has lush green leaves on its trees.

Today I enjoyed reading this article about artist Sophie Calle. She is famous for using intimate details of her personal life in her work and recently used an email sent to her by a boyfriend as his way of breaking up with her as fodder:

I received an e-mail telling me it was over. / I didn’t know how to respond. / It was almost as if it hadn’t been meant for me. / It ended with the words, ‘Take care of yourself.’ / And so I did. / I asked 107 women (as well as 2 hand puppets / and a parrot), chosen for their profession or skills, / to interpret this letter: / To analyze it, comment on it, dance it, sing it. / Dissect it. Exhaust it. Understand it for me. / Answer for me. / It was a way of taking the time to break up. / A way of taking care of myself.
It's a pretty fine revenge plot to use the bad behaviour of an ex as very public material for your art practice. Remind me not to mess with Sophie Calle.

In addition to catching up on my Google Reader today I've been watching Stephen Fry (a UK television personality) on his cross-country journey of America. I feel such mixed emotions watching it. On one hand it is beautifully shot and makes me feel a little homesick for North America. Like the landscape, the people and the politics are so polarized and there is so much tension between what is the most beautiful and what is the most dangerous about the climate. Occasionally Fry irritates me as he waxes poetic about North America in way that only someone who had never lived there can do. At one point he is interviewing some homeless people who were no doubt equal parts starving, freezing and mentally ill. Instead of really looking at the crises of the homeless in America or questioning the fact that somehow one of the wealthiest countries in the world has such a gap between the rich and poor, Fry goes on about the promise and romance of being a drifter on the open American road. Yes, the homeless man told him it was a choice but for how many is that really true? It made me roll my eyes a little.

Still, when he drove through the golden wheat fields of Kansas I couldn't help but say excitedly, "that's what Saskatchewan looks like, only flatter." There's really no place like home.

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