Tuesday, October 16, 2012

World Vision, One Life Experience: Boots and Hearts Music Festival

On the Gringa Trail I can honestly say I have only volunteered once and it was just for a few hours picking up garbage on little Corn island in the Caribbean. It’s not that I shun volunteering, I know there are a lot of good organizations but there are a lot of bad organizations that rip you off and profit from their volunteers. I just don’t like to work for free and I most definitely will not pay to volunteer! That is just nonsense!

So you can imagine how enthused I was to volunteer my time during the Boots and Hearts music festival and for World Vision nonetheless  Those awful commercials during Christmas with that horrid John Lennon song showing images of malnourished African kids with bugs in their eyes came to my mind. Way to ruin my jolly Christmas spirit! The one time of year when people are merry and the jerks have to go and play that commercial and make me feel like an asshole.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun…”

Yeah thanks World Vision I am really having fun now! By the way turkey and stuffing don’t mix too well with visions of Africans with puss coming out of their eyes and bugs living under their finger nails. Jerks!

It is easy to change the channel on the TV and ignore the fact that there are issues out there that are bigger than our problems in our daily lives. Most people do turn a blind eye and I was one who changed the channel in disgust when those commercials came on. However World vision has created a new approach to bringing awareness to the situations in Africa. I volunteered for The One Life Experience at the Boots and Hearts Music Festival. Essentially it is a 2000 square foot African village. The objective is to provide awareness on issues children face in various African countries and on the deadly HIV and AIDS pandemic and to inspire people to move beyond the statistics by hearing the voice of a child in the midst of this struggle.

There are four life stories you can experience Stephen, Beatrice, Olivia and Samuel. My job was to try and encourage people to go through the tour. I was labelled the town crier and I wore a colourful African shirt. Once I had them convinced to try it they met my friend and she gave them the low down on the tour. You become a child; you see and hear their life, you have an Ipod which begins with children playing, it then becomes very real.

I went through both Beatrice and Stephen. Stephen’s story is a hard one, the sights and sounds can be a bit graphic. He was a normal little seven year old boy but one night he was kidnaped and forced into a rebel army. He was made to kill, beat and perform very gruesome tasks. It is heart wrenching and was hard to continue through the sounds and sights. You are asked to pick up a gun, the gun that Stephen used, I could barely lift it. The good thing is there are positive outcomes with all the stories, so I wasn’t that traumatized.  Stephen in particular was found and placed into a World Vision rehabilitation centre that helps children rid themselves of the brainwashing of the rebel armies. I felt better and could hold back my tears when I realized Stephen was able to reunite with his family.

However the audio informed me there was a darker danger lingering still; I was told to go through the door into the medical clinic and wait for my results. A cold emotionless hand came out of a window and gave me a piece of paper with a red symbol on it, negative or positive. I was a seven year old boy who overcame the rebel army; would I overcome the threat of HIV?
Completely gut wrenching! I couldn't take this! To overcome the odds and now I might have AIDS! World Vision what are you doing to me! Thankfully Stephen did not contract AIDS and I did not completely break down but there are two stories in the One Life Experience that do.

The tour really did change my perspective on World Vision, that and talking to my friend’s mother who has volunteered for the organization for many years and has gone on trips to Africa with World Vision.  So apparently they aren't a bunch of uber-religious jerks out to ruin my Christmas. By the end of the festival I was an expert volunteer and I might even do it again next year!

The perks of enjoying the festival for free, free food and free camping weren't so bad either! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

She’s Gone Country: Boots and Hearts Music Festival, Ontario, Canada

I have traveled the world endlessly like a free spirit for years and even though I am in Canada right now I know I will be back on the road less traveled again, hopefully sooner rather than later. The life of a vagabond isn't for everyone and on the Gringa Trail you will meet skeptics all the time. The ones who are on vacation or just a gap year, a break before returning to the real world, the ones who cannot believe this is my real world and I am not running away from anything.

I tell myself this and I believe it. The truth is I may not be running away from anything but I am leaving something behind; a childhood, adolescence and the life I knew from my family and the society that I was brought up with. Many travelers will not want to return after realizing how different the world is and their perception of “the real world” quickly changes. Mine definitely did.

I have mentioned this before in past posting but I grew up in a medium sized city in the country. The number one radio station is Country 105. On country night at the bars beers are flowing and all you see is a sea of plaid and jean. With this type of culture also comes closed minds, little ambition, and in some cases racism. People have simple minds and live simple lives. I was completely happy leaving all that behind. I actually had to ambition returning and absolutely no ambition donning a plaid shirt, jeans and cowboy boots to attend a country music festival.

That was until I was asked to volunteer for World vision at the Boots and Hearts Music Festival in Bowmanville, Ontario. A new country music festival set to bring Nashville to Canada. The organizer of the festival was a guy I grew up with and his best friend also an alumni from my high school is none other than the husband of country singer Carrie Underwood. Although we still are not certain if it was her connections or the gleam from his perfect smile, insanely handsome good looks and down to earth charm that brought the amazing line up together, I am sticking with the latter.

Yes, even still I was reluctant to attend. Did I really want to go back to my roots from whence I left? Did I really want to be surrounded by drunks singing about their tractors? My friend who asked me to volunteer is also an anomaly in her down home country village. Growing up her hippy parents lived off the grid in a solar powered dome house that had no indoor plumbing while the rest of the community was drinking in the legion and driving their pickup trucks; so the good thing was I wasn’t going into this strange world alone.

In the end I agreed to go. Maybe it was the sparkle shining upon me from the organizers pearly whites or perhaps it was because I am used to being a tourist in other countries and figured I should try it out and be a tourist in my country and what do you do when you are in Rome?

Just as you do at Boots and Hearts, I bought a blue plaid shirt, jean shorts and wore my rubber boots. 

   She's gone country, look at them boots
She's gone country, back to her roots
She's gone country, a new kind of suit
                   She's gone country, here she comes (Alan Jackson)

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lord Jimi Hendrix helped me see the light in Vancouver

As I had unexpectedly fallen in love with New York City by each passing moment I was going off of Vancouver. I had lusted for this ocean side city believing it would be my ideal large city in Canada to reside but there I was huddled in my blankets in the middle of the afternoon on the bottom bunk of my dorm bed averting eye contact with the rainy city through the window. Everyone lied to me about this place, it not only gets cold it is a horrible damp cold. I am pretty sure the Brits and Aussies found me crazy; me the Canadian complaining about the cold. They are the ones off their rockers backpacking here! Apparently they never heard of South America, must I school them in travel?

I decided I had to change my attitude, so I crawled out of my nice warm bed, put every article of clothing that I brought on and slipped on my Toms my most inappropriate foot ware to venture out in the city with.

Do not Tsk Tsk at me people! It was sunny and 35C in Ontario!  I know, I know! I have broken many Gringa Trail travel rules; always research the weather and do not blame the location. You cannot get mad at India for having a Monsoon; you were the one who booked your trip during Monsoon season. I set off on my mission to get completely lost in the city and find adventures.

My hostel was located in Davie Village which is actually the Gayborhood. Davie however was in an ideal location close to the beautiful sandy beaches, downtown nightlife that is hopping every night of the week and Granville island with its market and theatres, all of which I took in and enjoyed. I walked my Toms off and found myself ducking into shops from the rain in Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood with cobble streets and Victorian buildings. In the middle of Gastown you will find a statue of the namesake “Gassy” Jack Deighton, A Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area's first saloon.

I left Gastown and ventured somewhere near Chinatown and then accomplished my goal of getting completely lost. I had no idea where I was but it was O.K. because I didn’t really know where I was going then I came upon a bright red building.

This red building was actually on my hostel supplied tourist map, it was the Jimi Hendrix shrine. As a lover of random I walked on into the psycadelic time warp. The walls had photo copied pictures of Jimi and his family as well as other famous black musicians who frequented the former chicken and steak house owned by Jimi’s Grandma. Jimi’s father actually grew up in Vancouver and later moved to Seattle where he met Jimi’s Mami. The current location of the shrine is actually the old storage room for the restaurant the rest of it was destroyed over the years. I may sound like I am a Jimi Hendrix buff or a rock historian but the shrine is actually run by very informative volunteers who are passionate to the point of obsession for the guitar legend.

I found it quite peculiar that they had mannequins with a picture of Jimi’s and his Grandmother’s faces tapped to the heads. A TV in the corner played his Woodstock performance in constant intervals. I was also shown the patio where I could smoke a joint in honour of our saviour Lord Jimi Hendrix.

 I passed up the joint but thoroughly enjoyed walking into such a crazy random site and thought I would give Vancouver another chance, rain or shine.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Next Stop, YVR

My Travel Guru once told me, medium - term travel is the key to my sanity and I am not one to doubt my Guru but he didn’t define how long in between my adventures it would be. It was almost three months since I spontaneously jumped on a private jet to New York City and really I was only there for five days. That is not an adventure but a weekend getaway. I had also just started a new position at the Radio station….


I know how could I subject myself to desk work?! Monday to Friday none the less!! The clock was ticking on the wall above my desk where I was shackled to as was my biological travel clock. Thankfully the son of my parent’s best friends and my surrogate Aunt and Uncle decided to get married in his current city of Vancouver, British Columbia, yours truly and her plus one received an invite.

 It wasn’t Britain and it wasn’t Colombia but I was getting on a plane and that was all that mattered.  Although with the $649 cost to my plane ticket you would have thought I was going to one of the above mentioned locales but no I was staying in the Great White North.

Many people have told me I would love Vancouver; it is full of transient people, lots of hippies, it's laid back; people hang out on the beach instead of going to work. It doesn’t get cold there and hardly ever snows. This was sounding like absolute paradise! I was really considering fecking it all and just staying out there. I would love to live in a big artsy city. Although for once I thought practically and figured it would be best to check out the city first before I pack up my balls and as the Pet Shop Boys/Village People say “Go West!!

(Yes slightly weird but adds a little flare to my blog and you get the message! Go West!! Together We will love the beach Together We will learn and teach Together Change our pace of life Together We will work and strive)

 I had absolutely nothing planned for this excursion to the Canadian province that seems to attract 99% of the backpackers that come to my country. I had my first night booked in a hostel and my hotel for the night of the wedding and the essential bright vintage summery dress for the occasion…

…..Someone forgot to mention to me that not only does Vancouver miss out on the cold of Ontario it also lacks in heat…   

Gringa and cold do not mix

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I love New York????

I really didn’t expect to like New York. I am not a fan of large North American cities to me they all seem the same with ugly sky scrapers. There is just nothing aesthetically pleasing about the average North American City to me; you do not have the old rich architecture of Europe from Gothic to Victorian to Baroque to Roman. Here in North America you have Cement and concrete, tall and square. You will not find the vibrant colours and colonial beauty as you would in South America instead tacky neon lights.

However New York surprised and pleased this savvy sometimes jaded traveller in more ways than just the look of the city.

First I just have to tell you that since this was a working trip I got put up in a poshy hotel. It had been a while since I enjoyed the luxury of a hotel room, so the first thing I did in New York City was jump on my King Size bed!

New York has a reputation of being an unfriendly city full of rude New Yorkers. This is completely not the case. I found people willing to help me out at every turn with direction or just a smile. As I got off my bus from Jersey at the Port Authority Bus terminal everyone thanked the bus driver as they got off.

I did what I normally do in any city; walk, walk, walk and walk some more. I pretty much walked all through Manhattan except the Upper West and East sides. I even ventured over to Brooklyn and took a ride on the Carousel.

The fantastic thing about New York is that when there is no use for a building anymore instead of tearing it down they turn it into something else. There is a boutique clothing shop in a church, apartments in old factories, an old building turned into an Italian Market place (http://eatalyny.com/). You have old churches and monuments beside new sky scrapers and 5 million dollar condos. The city is full of contrast, I enjoyed a Mexican meal on a patio in West village while people strolled by on the cobble stone street then I headed down to the Financial district to see the 5:00pm rush of suits on Wall Street.

I did not however fall in love with all of New York, Time Square scares me, to me it actually represents all that is wrong with North American society and Capitalism. To be that bombarded with flashing ads did my head in. I found everything there was over the top and supersized. It wasn’t just a toy store; it was a toy store with carnival rides! I felt like every ad was saying, “Why be you when you could be me.” The theatre district does have Broadway which was very tempting but instead I escaped to the tranquil beauty of Central Park, and breathed a sign of relief. How many cities the size of New York have a beautiful green space right smack in the centre?  

I have seen people wearing the typical I Love New York shirts and I thought that would never be me. New York is not my type of city, phew! I love Rio; I love Paris but New York? That would never happen!

However New York is everyone’s type of city and I can honestly say;

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Private Jetting: Dressing the Part

I left the Toronto airport after my training which wasn’t really training at all just making a to do list for the pilot. He seemed a bit spacey…would it be too punny if I were to say the Pilot was a bit flighty?

I had a million questions running through my head and I was a nervous wreck, then my pilot friend who got me this gig reminded me of one very important thing…

I am awesome!

Also I am smart and I have wanted to do this practically my whole life. For some reason I lack confidence at key moments. Not this time! I am a classy private jet flight attendant!

At least I was going to look the part. One of my key rules in life, you need to look and dress the part. When traveling dress like the locals, in the workplace dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

I had about four hours to pack, sleep and get ready to drive back to Toronto to leave on my private jet plane. I spent half of that time researching the colours of the company I would be working for and googling how to tie a scarf like a flight attendant. I brought my outfit with me to the private jet hanger and changed in the bathroom. I went from gypsy traveler girl juggling random jobs to a grey pencil skirt, white blouse, black blazer, red scarf wearing, slicked back low pony tail private jet flight attendant looking broad.

My pilot friend was impressed. All I had to do was act the part and push the nerves of messing up and looking like a fraud down deep inside.

The family we took to Teterboro Airport just outside of New York City was a wealthy Jewish family going to a wedding. In the aviation world you do not need a flight attendant for such a short flight but these passengers requested one, possibly because they had a lot of small children on board. I really didn't have to do anything but bring them water and hand out their customs\immigration forms. They had baskets of kosher snacks and were busy occupying their children.

When the plane look off I strapped myself in the jump seat and looked over the shoulders of the pilots down to the ground and the clouds and we ascended into the sky. I felt pure bliss; this is where I was meant to be. I didn’t have to just look the part anymore, I also felt it.

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo Da Vinci

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Leaving on a Private Jet Plane

Private Jet

Many people who know me wonder how the heck I can stand to stay in Canada for so long. I returned to this country last March from Brazil, went on a six week trip to the UK in October/November but here I am still kicking around. Got itchy feet, they ask me.

Itchy? ITCHY?! You have no idea. What I got is more than just itchy feet! Take the worst case of athletes feet, take the itch from chicken pox and add that to my tootsies and give them some poison icy for good measure and that’s the kind of itchy feet I have! Of course I want to take off and get away from my shitty jobs, my parents (whom I live with), my red neck town and the cold of this country but I promised I wouldn’t take off until I got myself published and seeing as how I have yet to come anywhere near to accomplishing that goal I will most likely meet my demise…I will die of itchy feet.

 Or so I thought until I got a late night text. Which normally I would ignore instead for some reason I looked at my phone and it was my pilot friend. You may remember him from such blogs postings as

Twilight Zone of Great Abaco Island

 Go on its O.K. you can familiarize yourself again it really was a great posting and a very random trip. 

Well my pilot friend had another offer of a random trip. He knew a private jet company that was looking for a flight attendant to do a Toronto – New York trip. I had absolutely no experience  and quite frankly nothing to wear!! When I was told the pay I couldn't refuse.

Right away I changed my work schedule at the radio station, told the ski hill I was finished for the season dumped my car at home and stole my parent’s car and drove the hour and a half to the Toronto airport for training.  

My training consisted of me making a list in the dark with a flash light of what the pilot needed to buy for the flight, such as alcohol, snacks, dishes, a vacuum….basically everything to equip the jet because it hadn’t flown in months.

“Any questions?” he asked me.

A million flooded into my head; what do I do? How do I serve the people? Where do I get the food? What do I wear? Is this the training? What about safety? Where is my hotel? Do I have to pay for my hotel?” I didn’t really bother to ask though I was getting paid money to do what I do best; travel! And 

                          I was going to New York City!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Dads

I admit it I am 29 and I live in my parent’s basement, pathetic I know but I usually crash here until I leave again to travel, I didn’t expect to be here a year. To be honest my parents aren’t that bad but I do keep threatening my Dad that I am going to copy that one blogger and make a “Shit my Dad says” blog. I am not sure if it is just mine or all Dads come up with weird things. I mean really weird! The thing is I grew up thinking these sayings were normal. I think the point when you know you have grown up is when you realize the shit your Dad says is actually shit he has made up and well your family it quite odd.

I finally decided to just do a “Shit my Dad says” posting. Below is the word or sayings and beside is his translation. These are his exact quotes….not mine.

Zoob: An Idiot

Rinky Dink: Old person

Benzi Maroon: someone that cuts you off while driving – “They drive like a Benzi Maroon.” A Benzi Maroon is usually a Rinky Dink.

Willnots; They are the little balls of shit that cling onto the hairs of your arse and will not come off. Long finger nails like the woman who works at Country Style are good, they are Willnot removers.

Rode hard and put to bed wet: Expression used for whore-like women.

Jerky boy: A Jerky boy could be anyone that does anything that jerks you around or pisses you off.

Crawdad: similar to a Rinky Dink only older. They are so old their hands are crippled and look like craws.

Turky lips: Anyone can be Turky Lips; Someone that does something stupid, just a general name could be anyone.

Itshit: similar to an Idiot or a Zoob but some Zoobs can be a Zoob without being an Itshit. Alcohol can bring Ishits out in Zoobs.

These are just a few examples, I really could go on.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Working in Canada Over the Winter: Random with the Rednecks

Instead of working at a busy ski resort and perfecting my snowboarding skills in Canada I have been staring out from my parent’s basement at rain and temperatures in the pluses. This is partly a good thing because my poor thinned blood from 6 years of endless summer does not agree with the cold.

I have been doing random jobs for the radio station including but not limited to accounting, filing, painting, errand running, board oping and blood donor clinics. As well on weekends I was working at the ski hill where I get paid to read a book because no one is coming out to the hill when there is no snow in the city. The fools, we can make snow!!

I tried to record a demo for an on air position at the station that recently came open but I sound like a deaf 15 year when I record myself. No one listening to a radio station marketed towards a 35-55 female demographic wants to hear that or anyone for that matter. I admit I did sound alright when I did recordings in the summer but I had to be super happy bubbly and now I need to sound mature and clever, its soooo hard! Just be yourself they say, hmmm…don’t think that will go over too well with sensors.

My prospects weren’t looking so good....

Then I was asked to cover an event for one of the sales reps. I took off in the station vehicle like I did all summer and was back on the road, going on adventures in small rural towns meeting the local rednecks. I was hobnobbing with councilors, reeves and business owners who were happy to see me; a representative from a radio station promoting their event and showing we care. I was drinking Mapleshine with ice sculptors at ten in the morning (homemade alcohol made from maple syrup) and running away from creepy rednecks hitting on me. I was doing the random again and it felt great. I need crazy and adventurous, I crave it and thrive off it.

To the people in these redneck towns drinking Mapleshine with a guy in suspender snow pants, curling with paint cans on a lake with the town’s mayor while people drive their pickup trucks across the lake to buy cheap cigarettes at the native reserve may seem normal but to me and hopefully to you my reader this shit is messed up! It’s wonderful!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jobs of a Traveler- What's your list?

I seemed to have spent the same amount of money in six weeks in the U.K. than I would have in South America in six months….

In other words I came back slightly broke. I wasn’t counting my pennies because I knew I would come back to a job and well…my parent’s basement. I went back working casually for the radio station I worked for the summer before and I got a job at a ski hill.

However we travelers are quite the resilient folk. It’s quite normal to travel for months, sometimes years on your savings not knowing what you are going to do when that money runs out. Things have a way of working out, they always do sometimes we need to remind ourselves that but we are the types who seize opportunities.

This means we have had some pretty random jobs to get us by and get us traveling again.

So fellow travelers and bloggers out there, here is my list, what does yours look like?

  • World’s Famous Fries Chip truck
  • Funtastic Funhouse – play place for children (Ghetto chucky Cheese)
  • An office assistant in a travel agency
  • Line worker in Truck Plant at General Motors
  • Customer Service Consultant – Encore Cruises
  • Customer Service Consultant – Lufthansa Airlines
  • Cocktail Waitress – Meltemi Bar, Santorini, Greece
  • Biglands Bakery, Southampton, England
  • Assisted passengers at Southampton Cruise ship docks
  • Receptionist, Tour Guide, Hostel manager – Hostal Pochon, Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Writer for a English newspaper in Mexico
  • Waitress beach restaurant – Roatan Honduras
  • Picked stones out of a farmers field (what’s the name for this job? Farm lackey?)
  • Waitress – Hiawatha Native reserve
  • Advantage Disaster restoration – Restoring houses after floods and fires.
  • Hostel receptionist – The Dreamer Hostel, Santa Marta, Colombia
  • Activities Co-coordinator/ Supervisor on a river cruise
  • Cruiser girl for radio station
  • Devil’s Elbow Ski resort – Worked in Pro shop and rental shop
  • Flight attendant on a private jet
  • Receptionist/Traffic assistant for a radio station.

Do the last few surprise and intrigue you? Well I will be getting to those later….

Until next time!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Leaving England: "Interested in everything, committed to nothing."

I left England very similar to how I left it five years ago saying goodbye to a lover in a train station. Only this time no hearts were breaking. I came over on a whim and on a chance that perhaps something could have come out of a spark that started in Colombia.

Travellers lead different lives and in turn they lead different love lives. I do not live on an ecological hippy colony in South America having orgies and declaring free love as some of my friends back home would think. We meet people on our way sometimes we fall in love and our lives forever are changed as was the case for my best friend from home who is now living in Germany with the guy she met in Australia. However most of the time we end up saying goodbye in train stations freeing us for more adventures.

Perhaps all us travellers have what plagued the main character in the book Shantaram in common.

“Interested in everything, committed to nothing.”

The funny thing is when I first read this line it really affected me in an unsettling way and I couldn’t get the words out of my head. As I was writing this posting I thought I would Google this quote to see if I could find something that relates to what I am talking about. Google brought me to the blog Giramonda.com. The author of the blog had described the very same feeling I had about those lines, and then I realized this blog looked really familiar. It was the blog of a girl I met in San Pedro Guatemala in 2008. Small world isn’t it.

It made me feel better reading her words:

“We hit upon the quote in Shantaram that seemed to completely throw my head into chaos. “Interested in everything, committed to nothing.” Ever since, I’ve been desperately trying to explore why those words affected me so much. Dustin solved that with two words: Renaissance Woman. He told me my unwavering interest in all things new is simply an attribute of people of renaissance.”

Thank you Laura!

This Renaissance woman is leaving the island for everything the world has to offer.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What’s with the Brit’s Obsession with Tea?

British rule over India left the Brits with two things; curries and Tea. There are more varieties and better tasting curries in England than there are in India now. As for tea, it is to English as wine is to the French. Their water, lifeline, their obsession.

The first time I visited my relatives in Scotland ten years ago it shocked me how often people drank tea. What about juice, milk or water? When one cup was finished it was topped up with another perfectly steeped pot. By the time I left to travel Europe I have my fill of the substance. That was my first introduction to the British obsession with tea. We do drink tea in Canada but it always seemed like a thing for stay at home moms, they would drink in the afternoon while they gossiped. Tea was also brought out at home when we had company, on special occasions, and especially whenever my Grandma came over. My mother would bring out her fancy tea pot and cups with saucers would be filled after a large meal. I know it sounds very Leave it to Beaver but well that’s how it was. So to me tea wasn’t a drink I craved or really even thought of so much.

I then got together and traveled with my English boyfriend whom I met in Greece. One of our first purchases when we landed in Cairo was metal cups, a mini kettle and an element so we could make tea anywhere there was an outlet or fire. His precious cargo was a zip lock bag of tea bags given to him from a South African friend in Greece. I didn’t understand the need so much for tea but I went along with it as I did with most things he did and it was nice on the cold desert nights. When I lived with him in Southampton I still didn’t accustomed myself to the beige liquid. When I asked if I could have a glass of milk his family looked at me like I had a third eye and told me milk is for the baby or to go in tea.

Over my travels I have seen the English cherish a cuppa in a foreign land and pine for a nice brew but I just didn’t get it.

This past summer I struggled with my Grandma dying and the one good thing from the English boy was he told me to have a cup of tea, “it’s a hug in a mug”. So I did, whenever I felt sad. I had tea on the hottest day of the year; I had it any time of day. I drank it imagining someone’s arms around me. I brought some to my Grandma’s hospital bed hoping she would have a cup with me and the both of us would be swaddled in that warm imaginary embrace washing away the fear, worry and sadness.

So when I returned to the UK this fall the weather was damp and cold and I happily accepted a warm cup of tea. I shared a cup in the morning with English boy on the days he decided to be nice to me and it made me hold onto him when I probably should have let go. I gossiped over tea with my girlfriends in Brighton, recapped the day with my mom’s cousin in Scotland, sat nestled in my cousin’s flat in Edinburgh talking about everything and watching Save the Children and it was a nice warm break from pub life with my friend in Hereford. With every cup I had created a memory; I felt the warmth of the liquid and the warmth of the person I was with. I came to understand the English obsession with tea and why they crave it when they are far from home.

It’s a start to your day, it’s an afternoon break to say your almost there, it’s a chat with an old friend or with a new, it’s a night cap to tuck you in, it’s a memory and it’s a;

Hug in a mug

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond

When my Grandmother was in the hospital last summer before she passed away, I decided I was going to go to Scotland. I hadn’t been in years and I had family there plus I wanted to see English boy and needed an excuse, I mean I really didn’t want to tell people I was going over there to see a guy, that's pathetic really.

My Grandma said to me, “you going to the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.” I had no idea what she was talking about and since she was medicated I figured she didn’t know either. Eventually it came to me. She used to sing to us, “Oh! ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye” she sang it on car rides and around the house. We all knew these lines by heart. It was the same for my mother growing up but when I discovered the next line of the song I realized she wasn’t talking nonsense. When she passed away I knew I needed to go over boy or not. I wanted to see the place was she was from and the land she sang about. She became Canadian and learned to love it here but her heart always remained in the land of her birth.

I saw the touristic sites in Scotland before, this time around there was only one thing I wanted to see and that was Loch Lomond. My cousin’s husband agreed to take me but warned me it wouldn’t be worth it to go if the weather was poor, the lake would be covered in fog and you wouldn’t be able to see a thing.

The day he took me started out horrible and I was ready to be disappointed, to come all this way to Scotland and not be able to see the Bonnie Bank of Loch Lomond. The rain came down, the sky was grey and fog had drifted across the road. A feeling of regret and disappointment washed over me. We waited in the car at a gift shop for a while hoping for the rain to stop. When it eventually lightened up I got out in my wellies, raincoat and umbrella and walked down to the banks of the lake. There the sky cleared in front of me showing bright blue in between the clouds. Rays of sun brightened the snow covered mountain peak in the distance. It was beautiful.

Scotland is a country rich in history, culture and tradition. People from this land are proud and humble. They are warm, friendly and welcoming. The countryside is stunning with beautiful lakes (known as Lochs), mountains (known as Bens e.g. Ben Nevis). Sheep roam the rolling green hills with a history so deep in the past that a Canadian cannot fathom, except when I hear the old song my Grandma would sing to me. I can feel the pride and passion and a shiver runs up my spine.

“Oh! ye'll take the high road and
I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

The mystery of the Plastic Basin in British sinks

Now upon my return to the UK after leaving here in 2007 I was reminded of something that absolutely perplexed me and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. I am an experienced and avid traveller, I am a writer even a journalist in my own right so it was about time I solved the mystery of the plastic basin.

Some of you may not be following so let me explain. If you go into the homes of the British you will find a plastic wash basin in thir kitchen sinks. To me this made no sense what so ever. At first I thought perhaps this person has lost their plug and instead of buying a new one they decided just to throw in a plastic bin. Which is odd really, just going to your home hardware store and buy a freakin plug!!

I soon realized everyone had these plastic basins even the bakery where I worked, but I could not fathome why? No one could give me a proper explaination!

I left England five years ago with un answered mystery always lingering in my mind. While staying at my cousin’s house in Scotland I asked her why she has it and

she really didn’t know, she just always had one. What?! That’s not an answer I mean at one point wouldn’t you think, “I have a sink why do I need to put something in it to wash my dishes.” I began to ask everyone I stayed with but no one could give me a proper answer. Someone thought it was more hygienic , but really grime sticks to plastic more than metal so that couldn’t be the case.

I stayed up one night in my bedroom in Scotland determined to figure this out and if people in their own country who use these things can’t tell me thatn there was only one thing left:

The Internet

My good ol’ friend google once again to the rescue.

Here are some of the reasons I found for the plastic basin:

  • "I’ve no idea. I’ve never really thought about it or questioned it. Or even thought about questioning it. It’s just the way things are done, right?You’ve put me in a real state of conundrum. I might have to rethink the values I hold dear and throw out that silly plastic washtub."

  • "That’s a washing up bowl, so you can fill it up to do the washing up, and still be able to pour lfte over coffee and that down the sink, without getting the water dirty. Also, some people have ceramic sinks (butler sinks) and they can chip the crockery."

  • "When you live on an island, there is nowhere to run to in times of trouble except another part of the island. Given this inherent neurosis in our character, a plastic bowl in the sink is the least of our foibles."

  • "Because traditionally they had cold ceramic sinks which made the water cool. Now with the modern sinks they have not got out of the habit."

  • "There are several useful reasons for this habit, but they stem from two primary causes: the small size of a typical British kitchen, and the poor state of UK plumbing in years gone by.Many British kitchens are compact. The sink sometimes has only one bowl, and misses out on the advantages of a twin-bowl sink. With a twin-bowl sink, you can wash the dishes in one bowl (filled with detergent and hot water) while you pour any liquid slops down the drain in the other bowl. Then, you can fill the second bowl with clean hot water and dip the washed plates into it to rinse off the detergent. A plastic basin in the sink provides a workaround. It allows you to pour the slops around the edge of the basin, so that they can flow down the drain."

Right so some valid points and I did learn some but it the end its just like the hot and cold coming from separate taps, doesn’t make sense now does it.

Hot hot hot!!!!!!

Cold, cold cold COLD!! HOT!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A real Backup

Perhaps the best back up plan isn’t a boy because as we all know if one lets you down then the next just might as well. The tried, tested and true back up; a friend.

“What are you talking about!” you are probably thinking at the moment because my last blog posting was Feb 29th so I have you lost don’t I? Well we are still in Scotland and the backup boy failed, that’s where I left you, yes I am back to my old ways of leaving you hanging in some random country waiting months for a posting…..

Anyways here we go again trust me when I am well famous you will be glad you stuck around and read my shitty yet highly entertaining blog.

The truth is it’s nice to have a few boys in the back pocket to fall back on. I mean it’s always nice to have options right? Well in the case of a momentous occasion like a birthday I was glad my backup was a friend whom I met in Colombia. We met at the Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta. I actually met a number of amazing people at the hostel where I worked for a brief stint, it seems like minded people hang out in similar places.

Cressy had already been in Scotland earlier in the week but took the train back up from New Castle and stayed in a hostel just to visit with me and go out for my birthday. She was a saviour…and so was my sweet cousin. I had a lovely dinner in a nice Italian restaurant with them and had drinks at the Black Cat Pub on Rose street in Edinburgh.

Now if anyone reading this knows this pub and knows two guys that sing there…I believe one is name Ian and he has glasses and an amazing voice, please let me know who he is because it is rare that you hear a voice like that. One of the great pleasures of traveling is to find undiscovered talented people in small pubs that just blow you away. I had a similar experience on my birthday last year when I was serenaded on the beach in Colombia.

Perhaps I need to remember that I am the one that creates my own adventures and random experiences and the only backup is a true friend, one like Cressy whom I only met briefly in Colombia but was there for me to celebrate my birthday or how she put it, “Have a night out on the tiles!”

Blog directory