Tag Archives: postcards

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.


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

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.


Filed under NABLOPOMO, Travel

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.


Filed under Arts & Culture, Life, Nature and Planet Earth, Travel

Scribbled Postcards

‘What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call’ ~ Liz Carpenter.

I received my first Smile across the Miles on Tuesday.

An absolutely gorgeous statue bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt which demonstrates the ornateness of Egyptian statues and how precisely the Ancient Egyptians had grasped facial proportions. What a great way to start of my Postcrossing collection.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this postcard had started its journey to Canada from the Valley of Kings. But this little gem was sent by a lady with lovely handwriting from Western Germany who was lucky enough to visit the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Now my first ever postcard reminded me of my first ever penpal, a girl called Fredi Betsch (if I remember right) from Germany also, who I initially got to help me improve my German for school and over the space of a year we slowly lost contact. The gaps between our letters got wider and somehow become infinite. Maybe if social networking had been as prolific then as it is now we’d have kept in touch.

The postcard also reminded me of primary school when we learned about Ancient Egypt the fun way. Through hieroglyphics with an artsy twist. We would take a piece of card, create multiple thick crayon bands of sunset shades and then paint over the whole thing with black paint. After drying, we would take the sharp edge of a pair of scissors (would children be able to do this these days?) and then chip away at the black paint making hieroglyphic symbols. So you ending up seeing the sunset bands of colour poking through, revealing your phrases and words.

Shame there wasn’t such creative and fun ways to learn about the tourist industry of Cairo in Year 7 Geography.

Stamps...that you can scratch and sniff

I’ve been trying to get some of my friends involved who miss the thrill of having something handwritten slip out among the bills and generic junk. It’s definitely got me checking my mailbox on a daily basis after conquering the scourge of junk mail, which will literally take over your mailbox if you don’t empty it every few days. I guess the huge amount of eateries competing for your attention might have a little something to do with sheer volume of it all. I don’t think you can walk a few blocks without seeing a café, bar or restaurant trying to tempt you in.  A very happy smiley stickie note declaring ‘NO JUNK MAIL’ seems to have done the trick, meaning I don’t need to fight my way through the unwelcome to get to the good stuff.

(Edited: 18/04/10)


Received: Germany, UK.        Direct swaps in transit: Lithuania, Norway, Austria.

I will post any extraordinary or interesting postcards I receive and any that trigger a thought. I recommend Postcrossing to anyone, and I guess 4 million postcards sent across the world can’t be far wrong.


Filed under Life

Tedium vitae?

‘You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony, and inner peace’ ~ Brian Tracy.

Tedium vitae’ is a Latin expression meaning a weariness for life, weariness being a mix of feeling burned out, helplessness, incapacitated, emptiness and the failure of surrounding stimuli to hold our attention. The word ‘boredom’ emerged in the English language in 1852 in the 9th Charles Dickens novel Bleak House, in which Dickens described it as a ‘chronic malady’ – a pathological state. Which is spot-on when boredom of life can be a pointer towards depression, when life hits a plateau and there is no longer any driving force in our lives that makes us feel alive. Being wrapped up in boredom can stop us reaching out and enjoying life to the full, blinding us to opportunity and fulfillment if we accept this state of mind – which is relayed perfectly in the Buddhist saying, ‘When you are bored, you have drawn a curtain between yourself and the potential of the moment’. I also think this is true of procrastination, when living in the moment is delayed.

Boredom has also been deemed a ‘typical phenomenon of modernity’ by Lars Svendsen, which I can understand. I think in modern times we expect to be on-the-go and have devices at hand to constantly work-out our minds, we are bombarded by information . When we’re withdrawn from this we seek stimulation to alleviate boredom.

What prompted this thought was a book I was reading:

I never quite understood people who are bored. There is too much to do on this planet, too many places to visit, passions to quench, people to enjoy conversations with, things to learn and master, experiences to have, challenges to embrace and books/movies to see/read. This book highlights this, there is far too many natural wonders in the world I will never have enough time to stand awe-struck by them all. I love dipping into this book and playing ‘if I had all the time/money in the world’. Despite all my big ideas I have let the words ‘I’m bored’ slip out my mouth at some time or another.

Boredom and being busy are two ends of the same continuum. They are both energy-sapping states – boredom due to not being challenged or intellectually/physically stimulated and busyness can leave us feeling fatigued when our brain has adapted to repeated patterns of activity. Sometimes I forget that being busy can be just as harmful to an individual as being bored. When I have walked around the city looking at workers making a dash home or enjoying their lunch breaks I do wonder if they’re bored of their jobs, do they crave something else and how satisfied they feel with their lives.

I always thought being bored was the worst of the two. At least when my memo pad was full I felt a sense of purpose and that my mind was always occupied. But maybe being stuck in a loop of continuous tasks 5 days a week is equally as deadly for the soul. Going through life in a tedious daze is no way to live. I think that’s where constantly challenging and variety falls up high on my perfect job list. But recognising you are bored or leading an unfulfilled life is half the battle because then you can pass ‘through boredom into fascination’ (Diane Arbus). It is a sign that we’re ready for something new in our lives. So how can we get out of finding ourselves in this boredom state?

Action plan:

  • Keep curious and questioning, it makes us want to find out more about the world around us, actively researching a subject of interest feels productive and makes you smarter. Win-win.
  • Having a creative outlet to channel thoughts – blogging, poetry, musical, dance, write a novel – it makes us think in a different ways, come up with new ideas.
  • Stretch your mind through problem solving.
  • You get 132 days off every year including paid holidays, bank holidays and weekends. Plan them out in advance to get the most out of them. Sure you only receive so many consecutive weeks for long distance but weekends away to another city or state are do-able.  Planning for the future not only means the plans are in place so you can’t back out of them but anticipating a well-earned break is proven to be good for our wellbeing.

  • Donate time to charity and volunteer work.
  • Inspired by Lifehacker – prioritise tasks to carry out the most vital so less attention is paid to those of lowest priority as well as reorganising tasks and duties in a new way to add a bit of novelty to the routine.
  • Be inspired by other bloggers’ bucketlists, top book lists and 1001 things to do in 101 days lists.
  • Live in the moment – take a moment to contemplate what you’re actually doing right now even if you’re busy or bored. Is it mentally stimulating, make you happy, do you feel accomplished and happy? If not, change what you’re doing.
  • Check the nearest museums for their latest exhibitions.
  • Be social. Arrange a coffee date with someone you need to catch up with. Send a postcard to a family member you rarely see. Postcrossing. Send a letter to a college/childhood friend/penpal.

The second prompt for my post came from my current situation. A whole lot of waiting around. I’m in a place with a lot more possibilities than I have been in a long while, yet I’m not sure where the possibilities are. Yet more waiting. I’m trying not to be bored whilst I find them. Or waiting for a thumbs up or down from Foothills hospital for work experience. Or waiting for the working day to end so I’m not all alone in the city or apartment.

I read somewhere that being busy is when too much is happening and our attention is involuntarily snatched from us – the source of frustrations. But being bored is when we’re waiting for things to happen that we have an involuntary void in our lives. With that in mind, it seems the way to escape this is to make things happen. So makes things happen.


Filed under Canada, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Personal Development

Demise of Snailmail?

‘What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand clasp’ ~ Unknown.

This links in with my last post….

Snail mail being eclipsed by the dominance of e-communications and the art of letter writing dying a death. Maybe I’m hopelessly nostalgic but I do love leafing through old cards, notes and letters, each carrying its own character right through from the stories and sentiments they hold down to the cursive handwriting. It’s sad the exciting aspect of receiving mail is slowly fading in the modern world, I miss eagerly awaiting the international envelope proclaiming ‘Par Avion Air Mail’ from my childhood penpals.

The importance of letter correspondence has been lost in a maze of disposable emails, faceless phone calls and convenient social networking. These all have their place in our world now – we’re in real-time sync with our friends no matter where they are, they’ve revolutionised the way we stay in touch, we’re more connected than ever before – but they still lack the charm and power of the written word. I embrace new technology, but maybe you’re thinking with my mindset I was simply born in the wrong era. I do love emails but I take time to reply to them because I don’t want to fire off a few lines without a little thought going into it so they do breed and multiply out of my control. Jen of the Penpal Project wrote a post that echoes this feeling exactly, especially the feeling of being ‘connected but disconnected at once’.

Recently Julie (blog friends are great!) pointed me in the direction of:

Postcards Exchange

Awesome, something to revive people’s forgotten passion for pen meets paper. Sending and receiving a postcard to/from a mystery country or a far-flung corner of the planet, well the idea intrigued me to say the least and Julie recommended it to keep me busy/stop going insane so sign me up! As a member of the postcrossing community you can also do direct swaps if you’re after a particular country or area to add to your collection. China and Lithuania were the first two countries I was assigned. I found two VERY English postcards of Bourne – Tudor cottages, a Dickens-esque town centre and churches brimming with history, and proceeded to tell each stranger what I loved about the place I had grown up in before going to University and hoped they enjoyed this little taste of England.

Projects like this are needed in a land of status updates and 140 characters Tweets. Interpals has revived penpalling, encouraging a whole new generation to step away from the screen and send letters, doodles, bookmarks and stickers, Interpals found me my  first (German) penfriend when I was 14. When I get settled in Canada maybe I’ll get back on the penpal wagon and find a few long-term letter friends that don’t vanish into mist. My mailbox needs some sunshine and smiles.

Dear Postcrossing,

I’m looking forward to exercising my new Canadian apartment address and holding a little piece of somewhere else in the world that has traveled across the miles to find itself in my hands.

Kind regards,



Filed under Life, Musings and Aphorisms