talk to strangers, the zero dollars way to see the world

We introduced ourselves to a lady combing the Hornby Island beach for seaweed. She would later use it for a handmade facial cleanser. She told us there were considerably valuable varieties, some found in ice cream. I didn’t know that seaweed … Continue reading

what I Can do in Canada, what I Ken do in Kenya

I can walk down the street entirely disinteresting and anonymous, in Canada. In Kenya, I ken be the highlight of some kid’s day. I was eager for a walk, so we travelled past the girls’ school, my girls begging me, please don’t go shake hands. Because I can see that our kids’ saturation point of being laughed at has been reached, I followed my children away from the crowd.

I can be satisfied with my three bedroom, two car garage home, two vehicles, full pantry and annual vacation, with enough left over for the occasional non-fat latte or night out. In Kenya, I ken give thanks for my daily bread (chai and a loaf of white), roaring fire with cache of hard-earned firewood, and my family’s health today.

I can be thankful for a tax funded safety net of social services, employment insurance and privately funded food banks. Or I ken see my little children beg, if you would be of assistance, to give me some money.

I ken drink sugary, whole milk chai every morning, sip soda every afternoon, and nibble on lollipops, but still be undernourished and underweight. Or, I can consume high fat fast food, nibble on cheese and crackers, potatoe chips, and frappucinnos, and have no reason for being undernourished yet overweight.

I ken get no reliable internet service. I can get reliable service, just not Telus-friendly service.

The sky’s the limit in what I can access at my local library. I ken get dusty, broken bound classics at the Kapsowar library.  (Why there are books about cross country skiing and low-fat cooking on these shelves, I will never understand).

I can get occasional quality products from a dollar store…you would think so too if you ken get less-than dollar store quality combs, plastic sieves, caps and machetes at the Kapsowar market as your only option.

I can’t forget what I look like in the mirror, how stylish I might be dressed, or whether I’m Shape’s ideal size. I ken be thankful that my six skirts still sit on my waist and that I’m not thinking about coordinating, just glad that my tummy’s full and there’s food in the refrigerator for tomorrow.

I can get a 9-5 job with a half hour lunch break. Or I ken show up at 10:30 and take a two hour lunch break…okay, I’m not actually complaining, because I’m paying so little for outstanding help that it seems unreasonably unfair. Still, just saying, I can’t keep no job in Canada with those hours.

I can expect that I’ll have a visit within fifteen minutes of an agreed appointment. Or I ken expect to wait for hours. Jim, in his conscientious approach, insisted on being at a three o’clock appointment one day–I told him we should not waste time. It’s what I do, he insisted. Okey dokey, I acquiesed. Sure enough, the old African adage came true: North Americans have the watch, but Africans have the time!

I can turn up the furnace. Or, I ken gather the firewood and light the fire.

I can throw the laundry in the front load washer. Or, I ken throw the mound in to the bathtub and rub a dub scrub.

I can watch netflix. Or, I ken catch up on the classics: Dicken’s David Copperfield, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Austen’s Emma.

I ken be simply content with less, thankful for my daily bread, and my little family. Or I can think I should be more, have more, live more, strive more.

I hope I ken bring home Kenya’s contentment, and can live it out in Canada.

shocking that I may be culture shocking so quickly

I am tired. Each evening the symphony of insects eases me into slumber, and each morning the tropical vegetation awakens my senses. As soon as I walk through the station compound, though, I feel I have entered an altered universe. I don’t know how … Continue reading

backcountry BC

We drove to the middle of nowhere. We’ve been to Africa. It’s not in the middle of nowhere; there are more people than square feet. Where we drove, one can get lost. And no one would be around to know where you might have gone. It feels like a million miles from everywhere–though a grocery store is only an hour away.

Though the teenager was thrilled by this expedition, the younger three wondered when the pain of the drive would end. A couple hours winding British Columbia mountain roads — for what?

We drove…

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And drove…

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And drove…

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When we’d finally get to the turnoff that would tell us that the road was not safe, no longer in use, we turned right and drove up it…

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And drove…

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Good thing we have 4 WD–this ain’t no Sunday drive. Oh wait, it’s Sunday.

The couple hundred feet drops as we switchback along — tumbling rocky mountains and an occasional deer nipping a bush greet us.

The only sign of civilization at the top: an outhouse telling us to “Beware of possible wasp nests! Please latch outhouse door, wind gusts will rip unlatched door off its hinges”.

More than two hours driving, we were ready to rock this mountain (well, two of us were).

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Until the first few steps revealed we’d either gained weight on our trip up or oxygen saturation was lower.

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She’d not be the only one saying “help me”.

It was clear quickly that we weren’t zipping up those footpath switchbacks in the tour books suggestion of an hour. Every half dozen steps up, we stopped for oxygen.

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And selfies that resemble satisfaction.

June 2015 052 But were really excuses to stop.

What motivated us to keep going? This…

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But there were more than a few expressions of this…

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…from everyone under forty one.

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This guy would be the primary role of picnic caregiver, two backpacks. He didn’t complain. Checking our pulses at 150 bpm, out of breath, he knew we couldn’t do it. A good mile of switchbacks UP the mountain–he was the only one trained for this. Imagine that the book says this is an “easy” hike.

June 2015 061 His were sympathy stops.

June 2015 063Luckily, my fascination with botany required me to ‘stop and smell the…’ What is this anyway? A fuzzy, furry head.

June 2015 064 Every direction we turned we’d see this, so surely the end would be worth the effort.

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The flat trails were met with cheers of relief.

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Opposite our trail was the notorious Jumbo Mountain. Locals are resisting the creation of a new ski resort in our quieter mountain community. Someone has cleared patches of mountain for some reason.

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Something I’ve not seen before: new coniferous trees muddied in parts. They might appeared burned on one side, or perhaps an animal has rubbed against it, but I see some type of sap or mud gumming up the needles. This area is so dry there could easily be forest fires — just fifteen minutes away from our home, fire has ripped down the mountain putting the residents on evacuation warning.

We entered a woodland thick with mosquitos.

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Good thing we brought the Africa Deet. So clear was the water, I’m sure it would be drinkable.

June 2015 079 Hand on my chest to shoo away flies attacking my face.

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What are these flowers? We’re only weeks away from the abundant blooming of mountain meadows, but so many hikes, so little time, we’ll likely not find our way back here this summer.

Our most optimistic and hearty child has had quite enough of the bugs and the ‘walk’.

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June 2015 098 Yet, just over trail, someone yells, “I want to sing the Sound of Music…but I don’t have enough breath”. The hills are alive with the sounds of … breathing, panting, huffing.

June 2015 099Which way is north? The Inukshuk will tell you.

June 2015 106We’ve arrived at the highest point. Mountainous views from all directions. Mount McDuff, Mount … .

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June 2015 116Our swimsuits are on, we’re burning hot, ready to jump into the meadow pond, but…we don’t want to wash off the DEET.

June 2015 120Six years old, like daddy like son, he’s accomplished quite a feat. Driving home, my husband naps before his night shift and I take that 4WD off because I’m swinging along these mountain roads like a kid on a playground. We stop to take a dip at the Kaslo beach and collapse in front of the lakeside café for a well-earned burger and fries.

Van Gogh said, “If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere”. But I’d rather find it on a mountain.