Category Archives: Calgary

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

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

Stranger things have happened

‘Enthusiasm is the best protection in any situation’ ~ David Seabury.

One thing I’ve found Canadians assume about me is – I’m British and therefore I must love football. When someone picks up on my accent, there is a great chance if I’m in male company I will be asked which football team I support, shortly followed by whether I have seen an ice hockey game yet. Now I’m not the biggest footie fanatic, I don’t have a team I hold a season ticket for but I do love the World Cup. More the spirit of the World Cup, watching others parade their country’s colours, their national flags streaming in the breeze from car windows. Painted faces in pubs experiencing the suspense of the game, biting their lips with every near miss to a goal. My photo was taken outside an Irish pub, and these places are packed during games. To the rafters.

The game has just heated up and somehow, somehow, England made it out of the group alive. I didn’t even watch the game vs. Slovenia as I had an awful feeling we would be pummeled seeing as we had failed to win against the other (British media so-called) ‘easier’ teams in our group. One thing I noticed from our games was how slow the play was (in comparison to Brazil vs. Ivory Coast which was so nimble) and how disconnected the players seemed to be from each other. It doesn’t take a genius to realise teams of any sort are non-operational if that happens. Next up, we are facing Germany apparently. Given the traditional football rivalry between the countries I think it will be pretty tense and if it ends in penalties I can barely watch. I think we might be waving goodbye to our South African World Cup campaign by the end of that ninety minutes, but stranger things have happened right?

In other news:

  • I went for a short meeting at the Clinic to speak to one of the doctors. His quirky and bizarre humor aside (and his ability to make me feel very uncomfortable), I think the main problem they see is waiting for medical test results as it would mean I couldn’t begin training immediately. So looks like I will be kissing this job goodbye. I feel like I’m riding highs and lows being a foreigner here, moments of enjoying myself followed by grim disappointment and worry about the future. Seeing the doggies yesterday got me out of that cycle  –> feeling like a go-getter. Gotta keep those positive vibes floating about.
  • Tomorrow is finally a day without appointments or plans, and I intend to keep it that way. So maybe I’ll actually get around to doing something.
  • We have a new digital SLR. So David has been toying with that; photo editing (read: stealing computer, sulky panda face of sadness), doing nightshots and slow-shutter sky shots. Basically taking photos all around the apartment and being an annoying paparazzo. Still haven’t had my turn on it yet.
  • 6 days away from completing NABLOPOMO. It’s been great, letting the ideas out my mind and not sitting stewing in them. Blogging is cheap therapy. Forcing myself to come up with ideas or revisit old ones daily. I cannot believe I’ve managed to last this long and actually be enjoying it, have something to say. Julie encouraged me to do it, and I’m passing on the encouragement to anybody who is feeling daring. My aim is to do NABLOPOMO three times in 1001 days (maybe/undecided). I’m also finishing the challenge just in time to go to Banff next Thursday. With that 30 posts in 30 days achievement high.
  • Some pieces from the Terracotta army are coming to the Glenbow Museum at the end of July. Psyched!

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Filed under Calgary, Canada, Career, Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

A Dog Day

Tiresome and stuffy, the bus journey dragged on, I was wondering if I would even get off at the right stop for the animal shelter. After escaping the confines of the vehicle and letting 45 minutes of journey evaporate away I was standing in front of the building. I could sense the creature compassion and happy wagging tails before I even entered. My purpose for being here was actually volunteer-oriented and I had an interview with the volunteer manager – which went swimmingly well and she was super nice.

Not only are neglected, abandoned and surrendered doggies bought here but the biggest lop-eared rabbits you’ve ever laid eyes on, kitty cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and even a rogue snake has found its way into the shelter’s possession. 7000-8000 animals a year are bought through their doors – imagine that!  Using their super powers of love and care they arrange adoptions, offer top-notch care and educate the public, real life animal heroes.

One thing that struck me about the dogs here was how well-behaved they were, either greeting you with barks and bounding – wanting to lick your face off in the friendliest of ways, or calm and gentle – to put you at ease in their company. Each dog has such a distinct personality, like people there are those that immediately want you attention and crave it, and those that are happy to sit back and maybe be a bit cautious about revealing too much of their personality till you know them better.

I thought I would share some photos of my day, including my favourite dogs. Yes, if I had the room I would love and look after them all, then buy a sleigh so I can get around the city when the winter snow starts to layer the ground.

Human kindness

Ginger (German shepherd, rottweiler cross) and Yoyo (American Eskimo). Great dogs, great spirit.

Top: Benny. Love at first sight. Here’s 50% American Eskimo, 50% who knows (pure awesome). He looked so full of joy I thought he would burst. Below: Charlie, a giant Saint Bernard, though between you and me I think he’s crossed with a giant teddy bear.

I have such a promising feeling about getting involved here, I’m excited to be a dog walker and carer and looking forward to putting a positive stamp on animals’ lives. Who wouldn’t want to spread kindness in the face of unconditional puppy love?

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth