shevaughnofsaskatchewan

In Brugge

Am having a marvelous time in Brugge with my host Jasper, am about to go biking in old Brugge, more to come, here are some pics to tide you over.

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October is Almost Over

And everyone should know what that means.  I leave for Europe and Turkeytime2012 TM commences tomorrow!  When I first bought the flight, time seemed to drag by, but the last month or so has been a whirlwind.  I’ve been keeping busy going to Philharmonic concerts (Beethoven! Mahler! more Beethoven!), going on self-created “pork-crawls”, going to toddler-filled tinkerbell birthday parties, hosting couch surfers from around the world, jamming on my flute, winning at Settlers of Catan, attending World Cup short track speeding, and of course battling it out on the dodgeball court with the Kenny Dodgers. 

 My past few trips I’ve been fortunate enough to have company, and awesome company at that! This one will be a combination of solo and partner-travel as I’ll have some time on my own for the first and last week while meeting up with my elementary school friend, Brenton, in the middle.  There are quite a few things to be appreciated about solo-travel.  I find it to be a good opportunity to focus on yourself, not work, not family, not friends, even though these are very important things.  A chance to do what you want, when you want, wherever you want.  Solo-travel can be a challenge, mentally, emotionally, physically.  You have no-one to complain to, but with the mind-set that I strive to maintain, you should really have nothing to complain about.  You have yourself to depend on, no one else.  The power of self-talk in relation to whether you can or can’t handle things really comes into play. Yes, you are not around anyone you know, but you aren’t alone.  One rarely can go wrong if you give local culture and languages a try with a ready smile, sense of humour and wild arm movements.  

I can’t wait to see the land of east meets west, secular meets Islam, mosques, monasteries, mountains, cliff-side hot springs, fairy chimneys, Greek ruins, Ottoman palaces, not to mention BAKLAVA!  Belgium and Netherlands will spoil me as well with beer and cheese and cobble side walks. I just can’t go wrong!

Stay tuned for updates, I’ll attempt to give an update every few days or at least every location, if I don’t, my mind gets jumbled with memories.  In no time I will be back and itching to leave once more. 

How Could September Be Any Better

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Impromptu hike in the mountains.

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Lily sleepover.

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Grey Cup Whats up!?!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I’ve been planning to do this for years and finally the stars and my courage aligned to get my hair chopped off. I love it even more than I thought I would!

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Before…

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After. (with Amber)

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Hair donation

I Dream in Food

I Dream in Food

 

Move over beef, looks like October 15-21 will be an excellent week for pig-lovers in Calgary!  There isn’t much info on the event quite yet, but if its going to be anything like the Edmonton celebration a few weeks ago, I expect a porker of a time!  Even though I’m training for another run, I still thank the metabolism gods every day.  

 

http://www.passionforpork.com/

 

While I’m on the food stream, take a look-see at these beauties.

 

http://www.foodonyourshirt.com/

 

The Rest of the Guatemala Trip

Woke up with a bit of a headache (no wonder those “special shots” of fruit juice and rum were free). Said Adios to Señorita Jenn and got on the shuttle bus going south to the town of Lanquin near Semuc Champey.  8 bumpy, hot hours later we arrived and settled in for the night at a hostel along with two Israeli girls we met on the shuttle, much to Esteban’s enthusiasm.

Semuc Champey is a beautiful adventure wonderland tucked into Guatemala’s vast rain forest.  Though we went on a tour, we took local transit – in the box of a pickup truck.

Once at the destination we took a short hike to some water caves where our guide gave us a candle and we  crawled, swam, and climbed our way around.  All without signing an agreement form or being given safety instructions.  Oh but they did reinforce my flip flops with bale twine saying I couldn’t go bare foot, so I should give them more credit. Just too bad my leg strokes were so powerful and broke one of my darling foot companions (I did not bring out my runners once on this trip).

After the caves a few daring souls went on the tarzan swing into the river.  Now any regular company in Canada trying to do this would never find an insurance company willing to cover them as the river was going at a pretty good clip.  But we were in Guatemala and could live on the wild side so Esteban and our two new Israeli friends, Maya and Adi, took the plunge.  After my previous tarzan experience a few days earlier I refrained from giving everyone, including myself, a heart attack.  A bit of a snack and a fix of the flippy floppy and we hiked up a part of the valley to get a view of the pools that most visitors to Semuc Champey come to see.

Sidenote story that Esteban teased me about for quite some time.  This day we decided to just bring snacks for lunch instead of paying the hostel to pack us one.  Cookies, fruit juice, nuts, chips, we were covered.  If not for the darn cute kids trying to sell us “chocolatay” along the way.  Now I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate so declined their wares but when they looked at me with these big brown eyes as I was nibbling some cookies I shared a few.  And that is how I ended up giving our whole lunch away, bit by bit.  I probably wouldn’t have realized until ET asked if I was trying to put him on a diet.

We saved the best for last and relaxed in the gorgeous pools for the rest of the afternoon. As the sun set we took the bumpy road back to Lanquin.  Freshened up and went into town for supper with our new friends.  Schnitzel, rice, beets and some of the most delicious bean soup I’ve ever had.   On the walk back home we found the local school band practising, they were quite the hodgepodge, some half in uniform, all playing different tunes with the percussionists just hammering away.  Had a bit of a run in with some spiders and bugs at the hostel but nothing to make me sleep somewhere else.

The next morning was Saturday. We were scheduled to fly out of Tegucigalpa in Honduras on Monday morning so it was good to get a move on down south.  We got on another shuttle at 6 am and arrived back in the busy, bright Guatemala City around noon.  Exchanged hugs and love with the Miss’ Maya and Adi (they had a good jam session to “somebody that I used to know”, to save a few other embarrassing songs) and said farewell.

Made our way to the bus district of town to see what would be the fastest and most economical way to get to Tegus in 36 hours.  Sounds like alot of time, especially for tiny centrano americano and the fact that the two are 600 km apart, but is actually deceiving given there were only morning departures and most of the buses go through El Salvador first.  There were no night shuttles so we hunkered down for the afternoon at a hostel – Xamanek Inn, which was in a good location and very clean, but at $15/piece for a dorm,  overpriced.  For anyone reading this thinking of going or already in Guatemala, fyi the bus line we took, Tica Bus, was the best price-wise that we could find ($37 US).  As well, we didn’t realize at the time, but they have a hostel/hotel attached to the station which comes in handy given the 5:30 AM departure time.  It was advertised as $15 as well though I didn’t have a chance to see what it looked like.

Anyways, the place where we stayed was in a much better off neighborhood of the city compared to the last time, but the character was very bland.  Restaurants serving European/Americanized food, and bars pumping the latest top 40, ho hum.  Walked around the neighborhood, ET bought some hip-hop from a “local” artist, called it a night pretty early.

Sunday, last bus ride of the trip.  12 hours that surprisingly didn’t end up feeling like 12 hours.  A bright day, got to see more rainforest and bumpy roads.  Was pretty uneventful except for being brought into the El Salvador border patrol and questioned while surrounded by 8 guards.   ET and I had both been to Central America earlier in the year, but separately.  Seeing our stamps from Nicaragua and Costa Rica, they somehow assumed that we hadn’t left since arriving in February. Also, since we were obviously married, why did we have different last names?  After speaking with a gentleman who understood english we were able to explain what I thought was the obvious.  What at first was a panic attack for me turned into a good laugh and well wishes as we went back to our waiting bus.

Arrived in Tegus around 8 in the evening, again with no concrete plan of where to stay.  A transplanted American missionary who had been working in the country the past 15 years gave us a tip to a hotel 3 blocks away.  $20 altogether for two beds and a hot shower in our own room, done deal.  Not to add  a beautiful view of the city from the balcony outside our door.  I was ravenous at this point so I talked ET into giving some steak tortillas that some ladies were making on the street a try.   Ended up sitting outside the pub on the street with the ladies and owner, Daniel, eating delicious food and having some good laughs. I would take a lively, active neighbourhood like that any day over the commercialized, bland one we were in the night before.

In preparation for this trip, the biggest difference on my part was that I had a surprising lack of care towards detail. I booked the ticked a week before we left.  Now this isn’t the first time I’ve done something like that, but usually as soon as I book I will look into where I want to stay, eat, what I want to see and have a pretty concrete plan. This time I thought I’d try to change it up and go along with the moment.  Don’t worry and stress about what to do the next day because its tomorrow and you should just enjoy today while it’s here.  Not that I had low expectations for this trip, I believe that you can take as much as you want out of travel, but many people have heard me say that low expectations are the best expectations. So it shouldn’t be astonishing that I didn’t write any info down, or print anything. Nada. That is how it came about that ET and I didn’t even know when exactly our flight took off that day.  I seemed to recall sometime around noon, ET’s guess was 9 AM.  Obviously, we solved the problem, and next time I will be sure to write down when I’m supposed to get out of dodge before I miss my flight and the local police arrest me. Looking back I have to laugh at how lackadaisical we were with our thought process,  including not having an alarm clock!

Tegus airport is big and airy, clean and easy to follow.  While waiting for our first flight we had an interesting chat with a fellow Canadian, a female Vancouverite who was leaving Honduras after having spent 6 weeks there.  She told us about how she arrived with not a hint of Spanish but caught on after hitch-hiking, home-staying and couchsurfing her way around.  At one point she  spent a week helping a lady make pottery for her shop.  They would go out to the rain forest and dig for the clay, bring it back to the shop, form it by hand usually into kitchen wares, dye it with natural dyes, and then set it in their handmade kiln.  In the meantime she also lived with this lady and helped her take care of her children in exchange for room and board.  I found an experience like this to be fascinating.  This lady hadn’t set out to do this but had kept an open mind and look what an experience it led her too.  Definitely inspiring.

 

 

Guatemala Day 3 (I know it’s taking awhile…)

Woke up at 04:30 and hopped aboard the bumpy shuttle to Tikal, one of the largest sites of Mayan ruins. Tikal existed as a city, being a major trading and agriculture hub for the Mayan people from 200-800 AD.  It went through its ups and downs of being in conflict with neighbouring cities, but usually seemed to maintain its standing as a centre of power. Its downfall was brought by overpopulation and the failure to provide food  for its people. It was rediscovered beneath rain forest in the mid 1800s and since then many of its temples and monuments have been unearthed.

Tikal was definitely near the top of my list of places to see on this trip and it surpassed my expectations. The fact that these humongous temples were built by people over 1000 years ago is astonishing. It is interesting how visitors are allowed to climb many of these buildings while it is obvious that they are breaking down.  Our guide told us that one of the temples in the grand plaza had been permanently blocked six weeks before hand because of this.  They also said that they hope none of the temples or monuments will be free to roam in 5 years time.  But I wonder, if then, why not now? The majority of tourists we saw were there for the excitement of being able to climb these temples and have a “hands-on” experience. Tourism is the biggest draw for northern Guatemala, but to me it seems like the industry is geared to the short-term gain instead of the big picture of preserving the site.  Then again, I did my part by climbing some of the ruins.

Also of note on this trip was our guide, Donald Ronaldo.  Guatemala was in a lengthy civil war from the early  60’s to the mid 90’s, and being such a small country, it’s hard to find anyone whose family wasn’t affected by this.  That includes Donald, or Donaldo as he liked to be called.  He told us that when he was 10, government forces stormed his village in the middle of the night and raided some of the houses, taking people away who were presumably murdered.  His family was lucky as their house wasn’t included, but the next day they left for Belize and didn’t return until 15 years later.  Another reason it hits home as to how lucky I am to be a Canadian.

On the way back to Flores, Jenn arranged with our bus driver to drop us at the tourist village of El Remate where we had a delicious lunch of ceviche and beef fajitas as we looked onto the lake.  After lunch we put on our swimmers and jumped into the warm water with the pouring rain and loco little boys doing flips and dives.

Got back to Flores and had a siesta, woke up in time to head out for dinner.  Found a restaurant on one of the main streets, sat at their front table under the awning and ordered the pescado/fish to share between the three of us.  I’ll admit I was hesitant, especially when the power went out and stayed out (regular occurrence).  That fish was some of the best I had in my life. Bones, eye, fin (delicious and surprisingly good texture) all included.  Pouring rain, we stayed dry and ate by candlelight might I add, even took the candle to the loo!

We headed back to the hostel to play some foot jenga and then went dancing. Finished the night off by locating Jenn’s rasta friend Mitch and then another few jumps off the dock into the lake at 3 AM under a full moon. Hows that for a run-on sentence.ImageImage