Sunday, January 30, 2011

Things I Learned This Week

I wish I could get paid for the work I do for Matoto. It's not that I feel I deserve compensation for it, but because I love it and if I got paid, I could quit 'the rat race' and actually love, not tolerate-and-sometimes-even-enjoy, my job.

Even if I'm not working Monday to Friday, my body finds Fridays exhausting.

I miss being on the phones at work. Due to a shortage of staff on Friday, I had to handle the phones. It's something I hadn't done in 17 months. I never realised how much I missed the direct contact with the clients, and how I get my satisfaction in life from knowing that I've helped someone.

I need to help people. It's who I am.

My body loves to dance.

A conversation with an old friend can turn a stressful Thursday into one that ends in laughter.

Coffee with a new friend can make a great Wednesday an awesome Wednesday.

No matter how many times I watch it, I always giggle when the captain yells "shei├če" in Das Boot and the subtitle says "oh no!".

I wish I knew enough about computers to take the scene I mentioned above from my DVD of the movie and upload it to YouTube so I could link to it and make all of you laugh too.

Sitting in a coffee shop for an hour with a large coffee and a good book is the most satisfying way I know to waste my time.

Fake dating website questionnaires and planning retreats go together better than I could have anticipated.

The Victoria Symphony has Bach's Brandenburg Concerto 4 and Beethoven's Symphony 6 coming up on February 27th and March 7th respectively. Is it every socially acceptable to roll the blue rinse set for their symphony tickets?

If you decide to go for an epic walk because it's bright and clear and you want to play with your camera, make sure your batteries aren't on the brink of dying.

Sometimes Saturday nights are best spent with a bottle of wine, a chick-flick and two cuddly cats.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

Tomorrow I am facilitating part of a retreat for the Matoto Board. I thought I was prepared and ready last weekend but then I didn't sleep well on Sunday night. My mind drifted until I suddenly realised we had completely forgotten one of our objectives for the retreat when we reorganized our schedule for the day. Panic.

I was fairly confident I could work the forgotten segment into my section, and so after a quick exchange of emails to make sure we were all on the same page, I did just that. I was left with a problem. My original plan of how to present the information still kind of worked, but I need people's thought patterns to be more directed as they approached it. I wanted them to free flow ideas but within the boundaries I set for them. How could I do that without sounding like an elementary school teacher?

On Wednesday, I met up with Tigh* for coffee. The conversation, briefly, lit upon Plenty of Fish. Oh dating sites, with your never ending guided questions to help us all find possible soul mates using an algorithm which is as successful as going to a bar. Wait a minute, back up. Guided questions. On a dating site. Plenty of Fish...

And so my handout of "Portfolio of Fish" was born where we're going to 'speed date' with the portfolios. Trust me, it all makes sense in my head. Hopefully, it will all make sense tomorrow.

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent and because I already have someone on here I refer to as 'E' and this was the first name that came to me. It can be changed again for a one-time $20 fee.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthday Safari

Today is Susan's birthday. One of her favourite animals is the elephant, so this is for her. Happy Birthday.

In 2007, I had the great pleasure of living in Tanzania, Africa for four months volunteering with Cradle of Love and networking with Jifundishe (an organisation I still strongly support). Towards the end of my time there, my stepmom and Baby Bro came to visit for two and three weeks respectively. I couldn't wait to show them around my Tanzania and I worked out three or four possible itineraries before deciding on the one which would maximize their time there.

After meeting up in Dar es Salaam (armpit of Tanzania) and spending a few relaxing days on the beaches of Zanzibar, we headed to Arusha to begin our safari. We were joined by Ana and Ansel, two friends I had made who were also volunteering at CoL and Jifundishe. Our guide, Akyoo, is a local volunteer with Jifundishe who we all got along with really well so I knew that even if we never saw an animal (highly unlikely) we'd all have a great time laughing in the jeep (which we did).

The second day of our trip was Ngorongoro Conservation Area with its famous crater which is a must see on every one's safari list (which is also why it is by far the most expensive of all the parks but it is worth it).

The crater was incredible. I had been impressed by Lake Manyara the day before but this was a whole different experience. Our time in the crater seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were headed towards the exit road which takes you through the small woods. As we rounded a corner we came upon an older bull elephant giving himself a dust bath.

Akyoo stopped and turned off the jeep immediately in front of him and we watched in silence. He'd suck in some dirt and then throw his trunk this way and that. Left, right, between the legs, around his ear, it was mesmerizing to watch him and we all snapped pictures like crazy. We were about 15 feet away from him and he just continued on as if we weren't there.

In a matter of minutes, he had sucked up and displaced so much dirt that his trunk, which would normally sit a few inches above the ground, kept hitting the ground with a thud in between showers. We watched for almost 10 minutes, when he started to snort, trying to clear his trunk. He stepped out of the little sand pit he had dug for himself, he looked at us, backed up to a distance of roughly 30 feet, dropped his head and started walking towards us very fast. He was picking up speed. He started to run.

"Akyoo! Akyoo!" I banged on the top of the jeep. Ana, who was also on the ramming side with me, started to yell in Spanish. This was it. I had survived a mugging, I had survived opening a coconut with a machete, I had survived an obviously drunk bus driver, I had survived a dhow trip in a storm, I had survived multiple daladala rides, and this was how it was going to end: with the brunt force of a charging elephant.

Akyoo's little Land Rover roared to life and our tires spun a little in the dirt road as we lurched forward. As soon as we were out of his way, the elephant slowed down. He walked slowly across the road, stopping once to look in our direction before disappearing into the brush on the other side. It was only once he was gone from sight that I realised I could hear my heart beat in my ears.

My hero and his vehicle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's Coming From Inside My Apartment!

Wait, no it's not.

For the past week, at roughly the same time every night, I hear the same chord being played over and over again on a ukulele. At least, that's what it sounds like. It also sounds a little like an old school mac giving you a "can't do that, Dave" warning (which sounds nothing like HAL3000 but that's a better link than this (4 sec mark)). I like the first option better because it makes me giggle. As I put on my facebook last night:

I didn't cover my picture because it's Inigo Montoya and that's just cool.

Upon later reflection, I kind of like the idea of being chased by a man in a muumuu so I decided to embrace my ghost-who-exists-solely-in-my-over-active-imagination. His name is Carl.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best. Film. Ever.

Valentine's Day. Even when I'm apart of a couple, it's not really a day I look forward to because it always has such a big build up for a day which rarely has any personal connection. Hey honey, let's celebrate our love with every other couple in the the world while restaurants jack up their prices! But this year, I'm actually looking forward to Valentine's Day. Why? Because Cinecenta is showing Casablanca!!!!! (Yes, Casablanca deserves all those exclamation marks.)

Casablanca is my favourite movie. It's funny, it's romantic, it has Nazis, what's not to love? When I meet someone and find out they haven't seen Casablanca, I judge them a little bit. When I meet someone who has seen it and doesn't like it, well, I judge them a lot. How can you not like Casablanca? How? I automatically assume that there must be something wrong with them because there is. How can you not enjoy a movie with Humphrey Bogart (there was a man who could rock a fedora!) and Ingrid Bergman? It has what is apparently the most misquoted line ever in cinematic history ("Play it again, Sam") along with "round up the usual suspects", "here's looking at you, kid", and "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship". Plus, it has Nazis.

It's been ten years since I saw this film on the big screen. It was playing at Cinecenta the weekend before I moved to Germany so I gathered up a group of friends and made them watch it as my going-away party. The idea of watching it again on the big screen has gotten me really excited. (I may have squealed to myself... alone... in my apartment... and then clapped my hands like I'm five.) So, bring it Valentine's Day. I don't care if I have to go to the movie alone, it's going to be awesome. Take that, Elton John.

Also, if you haven't seen Casablanca and you plan on ever talking to me again... you might want to watch it... or make sure you're a very good liar... but I think you should just watch it. It has Nazis!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Social Weekend

For some reason, I thought I might get some writing done this weekend. I have a few topics rattling around the old noggin which I've been meaning to put down on paper. On Tuesday of last week, I laid some ground work on them with the hope that I'd be able to finish them up by today.

Instead, I supported a friend as he performed an acoustic set at the Bard and Banker. I cheered a hockey team on as they won after a wonderful Thai dinner with a friend. I devoured black pudding over brunch with a friend who I met on exchange to Germany 10 years ago. I celebrated a friend's birthday with sushi and a discussion about the awesomeness which is Back To the Future III. I drank too much coffee with a friend while wasting away two hours. I enjoyed my last day with my mom before she leaves for Peru by attending a matinee of The King's Speech and then letting her make dinner for me.

You'll excuse me then, if I barely found time to write my grocery list for tomorrow. But I will leave you with two things: 1) Go see The King's Speech because it is fantastic; you will laugh, you will cry, you will probably sit beside someone twice as old as you and 2) Justin Hewitt is playing again at the Bard and Banker on February 3rd; it will be a mix of cover songs and originals but it will all be awesome.

(I don't know why blogger always makes my videos so much darker than they actually are. Also, please excuse my singing in the background and then the idle chatter about Ireland.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lesson Learned

While grocery shopping yesterday, I happened to spy a little treat I just had to have. It was a passion fruit. I can honestly say I haven't actually seen a passion fruit since I came home from Tanzania and I was overjoyed at the idea of actually having a passion fruit and not just 'passion fruit flavoured'.

I balked at the price of $1.99 per passion fruit. The last time I bought one is was 3 for 200TSH (roughly $0.25) but I so desperately wanted to taste actual passion fruit again.

After I put the groceries away, I popped on the kettle for a cuppa and then set about enjoying the passion fruit. I cut it open, it was exactly how I remembered them looking. I dug my spoon in to one half, eagerly anticipating the moment.

I knew that it wouldn't taste as good as an actual fresh passion fruit, that the taste would be a little duller, but the instant I put that spoon in my mouth I regretted it. The last thing I had done before going for groceries was brush my teeth. 


I guess I'll have to wait a little longer for that passion fruit experience.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Introductions and Resolutions

First, a very important announcement: I have named my Venetian Cat Marionette. Ladies and, well, probably just ladies, let me introduce Sir Mountcatten von Pussenberg GBE.

Part of me wishes I had been this creative when naming my actual cats instead of just naming them after hockey players, but how often am I going to have to shout at Sir Mountcatten von Pussenberg to get off the counters? Point taken, self.

I actually took the time to set a few resolutions this year. More importantly, I actually sat down and thought about how to achieve them. That's usually been my problem in the past, I come up with these goals but I don't actually think about what is needed to reach them. I assume I'll figure it out as I go about living life. Well, my German is only a smidgen better than it was this time last year so obviously the idea of just bumbling along and letting it sort itself out isn't working. Shocking, I know!

There are a couple of fitness goals but they're going on the other blog because that's where they belong, but for the non-fitness ones:

1. Get German back to a fluent level - I said at one point that if I wasn't done this by the end of last year, I'd walk away from this goal but I let this goal get pushed to the side for French (long story). Once the urgent need for French passed, I dropped them both. I will spend at least four hours a week on German, whether that be going over my old textbooks, reading, conversations in German, or watching German movies/TV shows. Using the CEFR guide, I am aiming to successfully pass a B2 German practice test before the end of the year.

2. Read 20 books for fun - Thanks to the Great Book Challenge, my goal for this year should actually be 24 (2 a month) and although that would be doable if I stuck to a normal sized book, there's one book I want to read which is 1979 pages and another one that's almost as long. Although I'm still going to aim for 24 overall, I'm setting the goal at 20 so I don't feel too much pressure to skip the big books.

3. Cross 20 items off my 101 in 1001 list

Anyone else have some resolutions/goals they've set for 2011 they'd like to share? No? How about a pint of ice cream you'd like to share?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Merry, Holy Cr@p, It's 2011 Already!

Before I completely leave Christmas behind me and dive into the new year, I figure a few photos are in order.

Baking Grandma's Cookies means we drink tea from Grandma's Silver Tea Pot. It just makes good sense.

Lemon Meringue Pie. The official dessert of Christmas in our house.

There were never religious icons in my mom's house until they bought this carved nativity scene in Mexico a few years ago. It was more for the carving and less for the religious aspect that they bought it.  It will never be as awesome as my dad's nativity scene however. Scared he was going to lose the baby Jesus on one of his moves (as he has all the wise men and the angel), he decided to affix the figurine by nailing it to the manger! The mileage I have gotten out of that story, let me tell you!

My mom, Big Bro and I made these when I was about seven. Twenty-three years later, they're still looking pretty good
The thing I miss most about growing up now that I'm living in my apartment is having a fireplace. There's a warmth and comfort from a fire you just don't get from central heating. I also don't think you get it from a gas fireplace but that could just be a prejudice I have against anything that replaces memories from my childhood.
This is proof that my Baby Bro actually stopped playing FIFA 11 long enough to do dishes. Years from now, historians writing his biography will look at this picture and gasp. Debates will rage about whether or not it is photoshopped. I am here to settle the score: this picture is not photoshopped, he is actually doing the dishes!
During the summer we could never figure out the point of the man-made gully in my stepmom's backyard. Then the rains came. This mini-river leads to a pond which was empty this summer. The pond is currently overflowing and the backyard is still a little soft. I'd hate to think what the backyard must have been like before they dug the gully!
Before driving me and Baby Bro down to Victoria on the Tuesday, my stepmom treated us to lunch at the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island (off Nanaimo). I was glad our original plan of going on Monday was thwarted by it not being open. Monday was bucketing down with rain, Tuesday was gorgeous and sunny. The food was decent although the service was a little slow, but on a sunny summer's day I'd go back in a heartbeat. Having a beer while looking out over the harbour really can't be beat!
This is the best completely-useless-but-it-looks-pretty present ever! It's a marionette cat in fancy dress. My stepmom and Baby Bro met up in Italy last November (he had been backpacking for eight months). When they found this in Venice, they agreed it must be mine. Useless and feline. Yup, that sounds exactly like something I would covet! Now, to find a permanent place where the living, useless felines can't get to it.

The first day of 2011 was fabulous. It was gloriously sunny all day although still very cold, I had a fabulous brunch with a fabulous lady at a place I had never been to before but would definitely go to again, and I wrote up and planned out all my resolutions and will be discussing them on here very soon but for now, it's getting late and I want to read before bed.

I hope you are all having a fabulous start to 2011!