Category Archives: Travel

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

Treasure Troves of Chinatown

Chinatown shops are treasure troves of the weird, wonderful and kawaii (‘cute’). Amongst the jade dragons and lucky cats you’ll find Hello Kitty, paper lanterns and garlands, resting or jolly laughing buddhas and miniature Chinese lion puppets. There’s no real logic to what goes where on the shelves,  it’s a colorful assembly with a splash of red and gold and a hint of disorder and chaos. Which all adds to the charm. Surrounded by Chinese script on the packages it almost feels like leaving behind the English-dominated outside for a moment or two, being immersed in something quirky in a language you don’t fully understand, besides the dollar signs on the goodies that is.

The little girl in me couldn’t resist ‘Milk’, clearly David couldn’t either.

The Chinese Cultural Centre in the area actually has a Lion Dance society, it’s not only the lion’s vivid colours which cause the audience to marvel but the group of skilled people inside the lion’s body – they are able to move in such a coordinated, harmonious manner that the lion’s movement is nothing short of fluid, almost appearing to sweep effortlessly over the ground without a stumble. The head dancer controls the lion’s ears, mouth and eyes moving them rhythmically to the music and giving them dramatic expressions. Making the costume leap to life. Hopefully I will get to see this spectacle mark the Chinese New Year in China one day.

What do I think is really awesome right now? This video. What a tradition! Wait till the champion lion starts balancing on the poles and rearing up to really see the skill involved, this isn’t child’s play.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Calgary, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Travel

Scribbled Postcards (Part III)

A hoy! Globetrotting via Postcards time.

Given that it’s a Sunday, I figured I would catch up on my Postcrossing and save my reflective posts for the week. When I write, I start off with a thought, a statement or an idea and it just seems to flow even if I have to encourage myself to get it rolling, hopefully that is how I will conquer the Daily Post challenge.

The lights and glow of Shanghai give a sense of movement and really illuminate the pace and vibrancy of the city. This was sent to me from Lee, a New Zealander lucky enough to be taking some vacation time in China. The postcard shows the World Finance Centre next to the Jinmao Tower, the World Finance Centre stands 492m tall, 101 floors and boasts the world’s highest observatory – the views are immense. The centre is based on the sky garden concept; a vertical neighbourhood with the garden creating a sense of community, merging architecture and nature. I really can’t imagine a building four times the size of my apartment block reaching up into the sky.

Beautiful traditional Geisha girl Japanese art from Michiho. There was so much cute packed into this card it was unbelievable, and she even included a little photo of her family.

Warsaw, Poland from Ann. This is the Palace of Culture and Science, the tallest building in Poland, a gift from the Soviet Union and its association with Joseph Stalin is deemed controversial by some. In all honesty I don’t know much about Poland at all so it was great to get a little insight into this country.

Vladivostok, Russia – sent by Victoria. This shows a railway station in 1912, which is ancient in comparison to the majority of buildings in Calgary. The morph of ye olde station to the modern-day one is a pretty neat display of the changing times.

Modern art cards showing work from native artists. Top left – Dutch artist and writer Charlotte Mutsaers (‘La Belle et la Bête’), sent from Arheim, Holland. Top right – the bold brushstrokes of Pertti Pihlajaoja, sent from Finland. Bottom left – art by Peter Schulz. Sent with good wishes from Germany. I’m not a stamp aficionado but these multi-coloured cats with their comical expression are awesome.

A typical autumnal landscape in the Puglia region of Italy. The golden wheat gives a sense of movement, I can imagine it bobbing about in the wind and the whole field seeming to shift as the wind changes. Oh and the vivid blue of the stamp Campanula is gorgeous!

Bahrain, sent by Mogusa. This card looks brilliant when it catches the light and is of a wind tower – a natural cooling system in Arabian traditional architecture.

A postcard depicting the traditional and popular sport, sumo. Sent from Japan by Julie. Drawn in a conventional style by Kunisada Utagawa, one of the most decadent designers of woodblock prints.

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Scribbled Postcards (Part II)

A hoy! Globe trotting via postcards:

An update for Postcrossers and more things I’ve learnt about the world through postcards. Click photos to enlarge.

Julie treated me to a cove scene from La Jolla, San Diego, CA. Coves are a great display of Nature as an architect and the powerful erosive force that sculpts these sheltered bays. I love the vintage/artsy feel to the postcard and it reminds me how much I would love to live close to the ocean (and not in the middle of the Canadian landmass, surrendering to its, frankly bizarre, weather systems).

In a word. Stunning. Silje showed me a glimpse of her world, the largest city in the north of Norway, Tromsø. I’m always bowled over by how beautiful Norway is and Tromsø is no exception. This city centre apparently has the highest concentration of historical wooden houses which co-exist with modern architecture, illustrated in the design of the Arctic Cathedral. Tromsø is the perfect place to marvel at the glowing Aurora Borealis skies. Good luck on your travels to England, Silje!

Cute Lakeland Bears postcard courtesy of Mieke from the Netherlands. Lakeland Bears are very collectible and love donning hiking gear and going out on long walks, they’re fully jointed so pose for the camera on their ventures. Some even dress in corduroy and tweed – how very English! I wonder if they like a good cup of Earl Grey. Mieke wanted to send me a bit of the British Isles to Canada and this teddy bear certainly accomplished that and a smile. Textured cat stickers are full of win!

From Steffi of Germany. How can I not like a postcard sent from a lady with a love of chocolate, sushi, coffee and photography, she also encourages me to hit the ski slopes. This art work is titled ‘Verena Kobelkowsy with Amaryll. He begs day and night’. I haven’t been sent many art cards so it was neat to be introduced to a new artist of foreign lands. Which is another thing about Postcrossing, increasing your awareness of the unknown and widening your scope of the world and the things in it.

The Renaissance painters are outstanding and I admire anyone who is brimming with talent and artistic flair. From Texas, sent by Lynn and is of Michelangelo’s The Torment of St. Anthony. I’m in awe that someone could paint like this at 14, at that age my macaroni art was coming together and the objects of my still life sketches were just about recognisable.

From Belarus. Happy flowers, bumble bees and the Cyrillic alphabet. Attempts to transliterate to the Latin alphabet resulted in translation fail of epic proportions.

From South Germany, the town Heidenheimer hosts a flower show accompanied by a herd of 80 sheep. Glass fibre reinforced plastic, these statues are customised by a myriad of designers (companies, schools, artists) who let their imagination flow to make their sheep stand out from the rest of the flock. Kind of like the Cow Parade, for sheep. I think my postcard sheep was sitting in the half way house between bohemian and hobo. The stamp is a salute to Selma Lagerlöf, the first female to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

From Guangzhou, China. I’ve always found beauty in the elaborate temples and shrines of the world, decorated so ornately. This colourful detailed statue is from the ancient Shuanglin Monastery and contains over 2,000 intricate Buddhist terra cotta  and wooden statues. This specific statue of an armoured general is one of the eight protectors of Chinese Buddhism.

The captivating city of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and a previous capital city of the Roman Empire. The painting is called ‘Entry of the Golden Horn’, with the Golden Horn being an estuary. This mega city has many mosques incorporated into its skyline and appears just as beautiful in modern-day photographs as it does in this artwork.

Geishas are the perfect blend of butterfly-like grace, elegance and poise. As well as physical beauty and elaborate costumes they are highly trained performers, mastering Japanese music, dance, tea ceremonies and etiquette. I remember after seeing Memoirs of a Geisha and getting a sneak peek at this aspect of Japanese culture and traditions, I began seeking out geisha literature and autobiographical accounts so this postcard was very welcome in my mailbox. It’s great that a geisha could continue to entertain well into her 60’s and still be deemed as beautiful as those in their youth. Maybe something to think about in the Western World where getting old is often portrayed as something to fight and not embrace.


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Earthquake, convulsions and a realisation

“Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you’re off, that’s all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Red biro countdown. Over the past three months I have been eagerly crossing off every passing day. It is hard being in a place with so little to do when you feel ambition brimming inside you, when you long for so much more than a place can offer. 3 days til Calgary and I’m filled with a sense of nervous apprehension. I am the snail. Now it’s said there are two states of a person aboard a plane – boredom and terrified, but being up at Earth’s ceiling isn’t what’s bothering me. I have built up my hopes pretty high, expectations and plans have formulated in my mind, now to set them in motion. The best possible scenario is that the IVF lab will give me the unpaid work experience, even if it’s only for a fraction of the year. Worst case scenario – rejection – I will be crushed, pick myself up out of a puddle of disappointment and carry on. That’s the problem with being an optimist, you set your sights on something sky-high and if you miss it, it’s like being hit with a tonne of bricks. I’m not very good at settling for less than I feel I deserve or have worked for, not good at all. I’m also applying for work experience in other labs but it’s a bit like a consolation prize when you have a burning desire to be somewhere else. Something that makes me excited is seeing my boyfriend after 3.5 months apart, I get a smile just thinking about seeing him waiting for me at the airport.

Packing is a bit symbolic. It can represent many things besides travel and vacations – moving on, letting go, new beginnings, fresh starts, departure from your current way of life.

Packing also reminds me what a crazy amount of possessions I own. There is so many things I would love to take with me, but the size of my suitcase just won’t allow it. Belongings laying dormant til my return. I have packaged away the last two decades plus of my life, amounting to a pile of cardboard boxes and stripping what was my childhood room of any remaining identity. What also struck me was how monstrously large my clothes collection had become.

I aspire to be this neat and tidy.

As if I didn’t need convincing enough but two charity bags had been posted through my door days earlier calling for unwanted clothing, maybe nudging me to take action. I glanced at the mass of clothes taking over my floor and made a promise to myself. I will get rid of everything that doesn’t fit right, make me feel great or could be classified as a museum artifact. Now I do have plenty of stylish tops that I love to piece together with my favorite pairs of skinny jeans and it gives me this jolt of happiness and a feeling of fabulous. Maybe even lookbook worthy. If I’m feeling particularly adventurous I might even accessorise! But often I find myself in clothes that have literally been worn to death – faded, misshapen, ancient – I have no idea why I want to keep a t-shirt where the design is disappearing or the black corduroy trousers from 7 years ago that make my dainty legs look like a sack of potatoes. Sure I’m inside, no one can see me in this abomination, but if I catch sight of myself in the mirror, I start wonder why I’m saving the things that make me feel amazing for only when the rest of the world can see or for those special occasions that are few and far between. Life is too short to feel anything less than bright and brilliant.

In the grand scheme of things often looking good can be the furthest thing from your mind, I remember delivering my dissertation before the deadline make-up less, in sweats and a rugby shirt, as far from the spectrum of feminine as you can go. I just didn’t care, I had bigger things on my mind at that moment. I still have some cosy sweatpants that make me feel snug and are great for flopping around the house in but I have said farewell to the ones that I should have said goodbye to many years ago. Part of getting rid of these oldie clothes was symbolic for me, it was to remind me to feel fantastic about myself, not to save the better looking/feeling me for another day and to make the most of who I was right now instead of saving it for later.

Wearing something I enjoy is a surefire way to lift my mood.

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