Category Archives: Canada

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

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

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

Barely News

‘In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team‘ ~ Jean Paul Sartre.

Canada might not be a dominating world super power of football and making waves in the World Cup (I don’t even remember them qualifying in my lifetime). But doesn’t mean all Canucks are completely hopeless at football, look at this grizzly bear masterfully dribbling that ball! Potential for the next line up maybe?

Just some light-hearted Calgary news, if you can call it news – it’s still pretty awesome though! Something different from moaning about vuvuzelas, hearing about that messy USA goal against England and other general newsworthy World Cup articles.

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Mind Chatter

‘Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are’ ~ Kurt Cobain.

Wednesday thoughts

  • How to crank up my productivity? I feel like I can start the morning with a list of things to do and before I know it the day slips by, plans untouched on and getting behind on my correspondences. I want to know the feeling of ticking each item off before I sleep, some kind of satisfaction and accomplishment. To feel on top of everything.
  • The past fortnight I’ve had big trouble sleeping. My energy seems to crash early evening and then I become full of beans by about 11 pm. Am I still functioning on England time? Even if I wear myself out by walking about the city or going on little adventures during the day this doesn’t seem to help. Maybe I’m just not on a schedule yet, my wake-up time seems to fluctuate over the week so my body hasn’t found a rhythm yet.
  • Less people smile when it rains. The clouds don’t just blanket the sky but everyone’s mood. I think I got two smiles directed at me in the whole day and they weren’t fueled by the need to give exceptional customer service, genuine smiles in an otherwise dismal day.

  • Today was my Mum’s 47th birthday. So what better gift than a video call? She was so surprised to see my face on the screen and I was lifting up lots of things like Canadian coins, teddy bears and showing her what lay outside my window, plus a helping of silly animated expressions for good measure. What was stranger still was seeing the familiar but oh so distant now kitchen cabinet units in the background and Sasha cat sleeping on the mat I would wipe my feet on when I came in from outside. So familiar, but distant. Almost like seeing it through someone else’s eyes.
  • No matter how much bad is in the world, there is still an amazing amount of good going on and I applaud those saints and Samaritans in disguise.
  • There’s still a good few hours before bed, maybe brave the downpour and get some evening dessert (vanilla cheesecake), post some postcards on the way. It’s never to late to attempt to make the most of the day.
  • ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. I only catch little snippets but it makes me wish I could dance that fluidly and pull those lines with my body. Unbelievable movements!
  • I have recently been reading about men/women separation policies in Saudi Arabia, also called gender apartheid.  This is a notion that is firmly implanted in society, with anything from dining areas and banks to hospitals segregating the sexes. It shocks me to hear of the treatment of these women and how they are subservient to men and oppressed so harshly. Recently David told me about one of the projects at his engineering firm based in Saudi Arabia. If a female engineer wants to make a suggestion or contribute an idea she has to relay them through a male engineer to pass on because they don’t take the female’s expertise seriously.
  • It’s relaxing to write down the thoughts that have buzzed round my mind or share the tiny little things I’ve noticed or have happened during my day. Not really think too much about the writing style or trying to get everything inside my head on one single topic out onto the screen.

Have a wonderful rest of the week.


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Filed under Calgary, Canada, Family and Friends, Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development, Special Occassions

Crisis Averted

‘Close scrutiny will show that most “crisis situations” are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are’ ~ Maxwell Maltz.

Today I went to an information meeting about being a crisis line volunteer at the Distress Centre. The place is very discreet, tucked away in the third floor of an office looking building, if you didn’t search for it you would have no idea it is even there. Despite being hidden away, the support being given to the Calgary community there is nothing short of obvious and remarkable. They never close their doors or lines.

The Distress Centre is somewhere for anyone to turn in a crisis and as a volunteer you listen, handle situations, explore options/feelings/concerns and work towards problem resolution. Given the responsibilities the training sounds pretty extensive. And with (potentially) someone’s life in your hands at the other end of a phone line I can understand.

Something else that struck me was that the social workers who gave the presentation were most definitely in love with their jobs. Making a difference really seemed to make them glow. They weren’t swimming in money but you could tell their line of work gave them reason to get up in the morning. I guess working from their hearts and brimming with compassion does that.

During the meeting I sat next to a girl, Amy, we shook hands and did introduction formalities and started chatting – she studies Biology, lived in Indonesia when she was younger, wants to go into genetic counseling and seemed like a bright button. I was even more delighted when she sat next to me on the tram to the mall (as I needed to grab something for one of my penpals), both being more ourselves than when we were in the meeting room. I liked being in this new city with a new friend, even a fleeting one.

Today was another reminder that putting yourself out there is the right thing to do in a foreign place, overseas or not. Throwing yourself into any surrounding opportunities. With volunteer work can come skills, friendships, life experience and that ‘I contributed‘ feeling.

Although the next volunteer intake wasn’t till September I was pretty excited to flex some empathy. The only problem I could see was fitting the 36 hours training (over 3 weeks) around any existing job and getting over the initial fear of a high risk person calling.. The thing Amy and I confided in each other was how scary it sounded and what a humongous responsibility lay on your shoulders when you put the headset on. Trying to guide someone in the right direction in the best way you know how. Does anyone ever feel ready for that?

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Filed under Calgary, Canada, NABLOPOMO