Tomahawks and Giddy Up

‘If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come’ ~ Arapaho

Hay bales line the streets. Restaurants and bars take on a saloon-like appearance. The crowds, a sea of cowboy hats. Dusty boots, clicking spurs and faded-worn jeans walk the streets. I never realised what a big deal Stampede would be to Calgary, not only is the city transformed into a metropolitan version of the Wild West for the tourist invasion but I got a real sense of genuine local pride for the cow-herding, gun-slinging heritage of the province.

On Friday I went to the Stampede Parade, spectators lined the streets awaiting parade floats in the 31ºC heat. I love parades and festivals, on the condition I get a decent standing place in the crowd (I’m a little 5’3”) to watch the colourful celebrations. I love how the music fills the air and everyone is in high spirits and there to enjoy themselves. I love the dancers, the marching bands, flag wavers, balloons, bejeweled costumes, the horses. Maybe I’m just a really excitable person? Here’s a few of my favorite images from the day:

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to tell you that back in the deep dark dawn of time I bought Horse & Pony magazine and replaced my Transformers wallpaper with my Little Pony. Even now I have to say, horses are quite beautiful animals especially when they’re in motion cantering and galloping.

The parade lasted for about 2 hours, so I was shifting between standing and sitting, doing a little jig on the spot to keep my legs awake. I finally got to see the Chinese Cultural Society do their lion and dragon dances which was worth waiting for. Now cowboys are rootin’ tootin’ and all, but Native Americans are pretty awesome. Totem poles, tomahawks, dreamcatchers, battle cries, potlatches and pow-wows. Brave warriors and hunters of the old West.

So what else has been going on?

  • I have caught up with snail mail, so instead of online activity I’ve put pen to very pretty paper, mailing postcards and dusting off those air mail envelopes. I love the thought of my friends’ faces lighting up when something drops into their mailbox and they know I’ve thought of them. Now to tackle that scary looking pile of emails.

  • Uploaded nearly 1000 Banff photos, intrepid traveler tales will follow.
  • World Cup withdrawal. I get sucked in by world sporting events – the passion, the frantic flag waving, crowd eruptions and goal celebrations. I had backed Spain since England came crashing out, the final was very physical and tense. But I did cheer when Spain won especially after the Dutch ninja-kick foul that never got red carded. Must add to Bucketlist – Will attend one World Cup in my lifetime.

  • Becoming more and more demoralised by the job (or lack of) situation. I’m trying not to question my achievement and self-worth, but I see so many things I lack the requirements and experience for. Applications I’ve made (via job sites and speculatively) are hardly setting the place alight.  Should I reassess my career dreams? Should I go to graduate school? I’m really asking myself these things. If I don’t find employers willing to sponsor me to stay in Canada I will need to return to the UK by March. I graduated almost 1 year ago and it’s really denting my confidence that nothing has worked out. I don’t know how to sum up this year with a positive tone that recruiters will drool over. I have really been trying but it feels like I’m running out of steam. Limiting my job search to Calgary is really frustrating, maybe going back to England wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The term double-dip recession scares me, but maybe we’ll be out of it by then. It’s so tough. Especially when David has got a nicely paying jobs here.
  • Volunteering – been enquiring about tutoring in homework clubs for Grades 1-12, an internship at Shaw TV (something a bit different!), becoming a member of Big Sisters and having conversation meet-ups with Korean students wanting to get to grips with English. Not exactly career-related but I’m not one to sit around and do absolutely nothing.
  • Getting excited about Shark Week on Discovery next month. My first ever science career dream was shark and marine mammal research.

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Nature and Planet Earth

Thudding, Plip Plop

‘There’s a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down’ ~ Don Delillo

Sounding like an army, distant footsteps and drumming peals thunder closer. The darkness rolls forward eating away at the light, leaving a hazy moisture-soaked daze in its wake.

Now that’s a more poetic way of saying yesterday I experienced an almighty hail storm and a less dramatic way of marking a return to blogging. With a sudden and sinister change in light, I saw the hail approaching before it even revealed itself. Which is the neat thing about living on the side facing into the open West and not into the downtown area, cramped with skyscrapers and apartments – seeing the oncoming weather sweeping towards the city centre. It came from the way of the mountains and the dark cloud swallowed up everything in the sky, buildings and trees in the distance became hazy and you could hear the hail beating down over yonder. Strange to be in sight and audible but not having any impact directly around me.

Rain drops plip-plopped heavily. Then the hail hit.

Some perfectly spherical, others irregularly shaped crashed onto the balcony edge with such force that they fragment. Ricocheting in unpredictable directions.

Finally the rain ceased up and all that could be heard was the whirling drainage flow and the rain lightly tippy-tappying. Less cruel now, not whipping the pavement.

Something wicked this way comes.

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Filed under Calgary

So it was over

Well June has certainly been no extraordinary month, but I will remember it fondly as a time of daily blogging. Goodbye June NaBloPoMo! Something I’ve learned is that when push comes to shove, regardless of how motivated I am to write, my mind can stretch and find the words.
It is no easy feat, I think writing everyday takes discipline regardless of how much creativity, inspiration and literary genius is locked inside.

Tomorrow is Canada day (please let there be inflatable beavers!) and although I have yet to find out how Canada celebrates this day I have an inkling there will be a whole lot of red and white involved. Tonight we’re going on the Greyhound bus to Banff, the wonder of majestic mountains, roaming bears and lakes, the bluest of blues awaits. A little slice of heaven right here on earth with raw and untouched nature. I love the thought that the landscape has been unchanged for thousands of years, outside the realm of human control. I will be gone till July 3rd evening and then I’ll take a few days blogging hiatus to reply to every kind, thoughtful and insightful word written to me and come right back at you telling of my mountaineering adventures and how I wrestled a grizzly bear with my bare hands and stripped off unashamed in a hot springs*.

*Dramatisation may not happen.

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Filed under Calgary, Canada

Dream Recurrence

‘A dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight’ ~ Oscar Wilde.

Sometimes the setting changes or the people around me but the theme is recurrent. Exams. Even though I have left my academics behind for now I still find them creeping into my dreams. The general premise is an imminent exam, whether that day or standing and shaking outside the exam hall. What is so unnerving about these exams is that I’m totally unprepared, I haven’t studied for them and I know that I won’t be able to do my best in them when they’ve just been thrust upon me. I’ll feel terrified, a sinking feeling in my stomach and sick because in my dream these exams are really important and failing is an unthinkable.

I dream most vividly when I have woken up and then fall back into a deep sleep, like this morning. I was having a French A-Level exam (I never even took French A-Level!) and I was scrambling through the notes in my rucksack to get some last minute study time in. All I could find was notes on bioluminescence. I can feel an internal panic coming on as I acknowledge that I don’t even take French but I’m still going to have to sit this exam. My high school friend Kat appears out of nowhere to tell me, ‘You’ll be fine’, in the real world I was writing her a letter to congratulate her on her wedding yesterday which I think explains seeing her face. What happens next – well when I sit down in the exam room my mind will go blank, I won’t be able to answer a single question and time will speed up, the minute hand on the clock will race along and before I can do anything it’s over. Then I wake up, and take a minute to realise it’s not real and sigh in relief.

I wish my dreams were more like this...

Meaning? Well I’m not sure if this is delving into my fear of failure, maybe something else deep in my unconscious. Maybe feeling unprepared or not having things mapped out is something that scares me more than I think. I have always found exams stressful and dreaded those times of year. The expectation to do well. The feeling that study time is running out and I’ve nowhere near learned everything as there is simply too much to go over. Feeling a bit out of control of the situation no matter how well I planned out my time. This scenario crops up in my dreams every so often and I’m hoping as I let go of one stage of my life, so the dreams will fade away too.

Normally my dreams border on the silly to the weird. The strangest dream I had, which I’ve kept with me today is one I had when I was still in primary school. I dreamt I was trapped inside the Captain Planet computer game.

The only things I actually remember – having to overcome platform game-style obstacles, seeing the girl with the heart ring and worried about getting a Game Over. Oh and it was all in 2D to add to the weirdness factor. Maybe my imagination was in overdrive or I had a crazy gaming session that night.

The only pleasant dream in remembrance is awakening in a colonial style home, with amazing stonework and columns. Walking out onto the balcony and gazing upon an Italian mediterranean landscape and seeing the striated green and yellow landscape, a swaying wheat field beyond a grand fountain. The sea winking at me in the distance with one of those diamond cut gleams. Cue running through fields and walking through the fountain with the white airy goddess dress dragging across the surface. Becoming heavy with water. It was a feeling of being free and anything being possible. It was so real at that moment and probably why it has stayed with me to this day. And by writing it here I have immortalised it in print, never forgotten.

A hilly and striped landscape in the foreground would complete the scene.

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Filed under Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO

Coffee Haven

A hub for blogging, letter writing, musical genius and a place to quell your caffeine addiction. Most people have their favourite coffee haunt, a place they feel comfortable to hunker down and get something done, people watch, a place to engage in conversation with complete strangers and maybe idly watch the world go by.

I thought I’d share my coffee hidey-hole. Going by the name Kawa, meaning ‘coffee’ in Polish, this cafe brings an authentic European coffee experience to Calgary and not only that but latte art competitions, musical events and I even recall a chess championships. I think it’s brilliant that the owners try and invoke some community spirit and make the coffee shop a centre for activity and socialising. The inside is sleek and sophisticated, but not intimidatingly so, giving it a modern comfort. The smell of 49th Parallel coffee beans permeates the air. Modern art pieces hang on the walls and a wooden piano sit humbly in the corner. Familiar faces of strangers always present, funny how you often get the same people sitting in exactly the same spots like they have monopoly of them.

I normally visit once or twice a week when I have a list of things to do and need somewhere to knuckle down to it. For me it’s a good environment for concentration. My orders are becoming quite predictable, when the weather is scorching – a caramel or extreme toffee frappe, and when it’s chilly – a white chocolate mocha. Even the baristas seem to be picking up on my trends. Maybe I need to learn from the saying, ‘variety is the spice of life’.

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Filed under Calgary, Canada, NABLOPOMO

Inglewood

When it comes to weekends I like to keep them a blend of busy and relaxed. Sometimes planning activities or outings, other times they spontaneously happen and I go with the flow. Just enjoying the time and not wasting it.

This weekend, we went to the Inglewood bird sanctuary. Located beside Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, it was a pleasure strolling round the 80 acres of land lying by the Bow River. Besides being a centre of monitoring bird migration, we came across Bambi and some very enthusiastic gophers who would fill the air with shrill squeaks. Here’s my day in snippets of pictures, just a few from the many, many taken.

The ever-vigilant ground squirrels (gophers) keep on high alert, running all over the place and bringing our presence to the attention of surrounding burrows.

We took a wrong turn and ended up at another wildlife reservation. Plenty of greenery but not much of anything else. Yep, that’s me on the right pondering, and for the record this is the first time I’ve worn shorts for the year. The average temperature for the week is 28°C, sizzling.

This structure had a Japanese feel to it, minus the lacquer it looked a whole lot more natural and was a great focal point for the photographs.

This might look some kind of idyllic, but trust me, mosquitos eating you alive isn’t fun. Time to move away from the still waters to something with a bit of movement.

The current was moving so fast and the babbling flow sounded musical above the silence of the sanctuary. On fine days Calgarians like to take rafts, kayaks and inflatable donuts to the Bow River and enjoy the ride down.

Then we sat still in the long grass, slowing moving forward toward Bambi. Thumper was nowhere to be seen, nor was Bambi’s mum – but we shouldn’t talk about that. We saw several deer on our expedition. I decided to edge closer but David said, ‘Don’t come running to me when it charges you and you get horrifically injured’. Hence writing this in one piece and not several.

I couldn’t resist this tree with its gnarled and twisted bark. If I was feeling poetic I might say it was contorted in agony. Maybe I’ll use that sometime. But it was an awesome looking tree, reminded me of the ones in mangrove swamps with their roots exposed. One photo taken was focused on the incredible root detail (thank you ridiculous number of megapixels) but this shows the tree hanging on rather bravely to the bank.

This is me dramatically walking into the unknown. Le Fin.

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Filed under Calgary, NABLOPOMO, Travel

Not Great Expectations

‘I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.’ ~ Fritz Perls.

Panicked. Anxious. Questioning what I should doing and where I am now. There was I hoping my twenties would be a carefree existence with the distinct joy of finding myself and my place in the world. The moment the pressure lifts from academics, then the job search/be successful pressure hits full throttle. I feel guilty not knowing what I should do with my life with absolute 100% certainty, I’m chasing ideas and running with them (stong pull:fertility lab). But if something isn’t happening, when do I decide to give up and try another avenue.

The Daily Mail released an article today. It’s crazy how many of us fledgling adults are slumping into a ‘quarter-life crisis’, and sad that the pressure of life are getting to us at a time in our lives when we should be enjoying our newly found freedom and be full of hope for our futures. Instead many of us are directionless and uncertain. I remember a few months after I graduated feeling this way, I read the quarter-life crisis section of the Prospects.ac.uk forum and was shocked at how low some people felt. I remember one girl who had graduated in 2007, had been working temp jobs and just felt like a robot, sick of living with her parents still and wondered how long it would be til something came her way that was even loosely related to her degree. One guy shockingly felt so down that he had contemplated jumping in front of the train as his life felt so static, lacked meaning and had spent so much time unemployed and feeling useless that he thought he would never get employed. My heart broke for these people, would I feel the same if nothing had worked out for me years in the future? A shade of failure and inadequacy.

As the article suggested – take a break from the rat race and do something meaningful to lift your spirits. Which is precisely why I’m in Canada – avoiding stewing in my anxiousness and an unstable economy (plus the small matter of love). I have dipped my toe into the volunteer realm, the thoughts of making a difference at the dog shelter and getting started in a new project freed my mind from the worries of what I should be doing, but happy to do something I wanted to do. If it takes me longer to find my calling (scientific journalism? creative writing?) or be given a chance in the working world (Health Service hire me!) then so be it. It’s hard to say that and I do worry, especially when I see the busy streets and roads at 7am of people making their way to work and thinking ‘Shouldn’t this be me?’. What if my untapped potential fades away? What if no opportunity presents itself even though I keep my ears a-prick? What if I’m out of employment too long, does that make me a loser? Should I go to graduate school?

Something that always hurts when reading these articles is the insensitivity of some of the comments. Claiming Gen Y are a bunch of whiners and feel we are ‘entitled’. I certainly worked hard to get my degree but I never feel like I was owed anything. I think if it was known how many resumes some graduates have sent out to secure a single interview, the number of young people working for free just to get experience for the hope of an entry-level job in the future, the competition, the moments of feeling worthless. The vicious cycle of ‘needing experience, but needing some experience to compete for the experience opportunity’ plus the curse of student loans, maybe they could understand the upset.

The authors touch on pressures from the celebrity lifestyle. This certainly isn’t me, I love a new pair of shoes and something sparkly to add to my accessories carousel  as much as the next girl but if need be I can live minimally and on a budget. I think we’re bombarded with images of what ‘success’ is and by some mystical osmosis we start to absorb these projections. Which is the source of unhappiness. Success is purely subjective, it’s where you want to be. Expecting something unrealistic is only going to lead to heartbreak and stress. I’m still trying to figure out my definition of success (with happiness leading the list) but it certainly won’t be shaped by anything other than my wants and desires.

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Filed under Building my CV, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development