Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Drinking in small towns on the Canadian Waterway: M Town

Trying to keep my blog alive while I work the summer on a boat before returning to the real world, I am coming up with small trips to go on while still keeping a tight budget. I will not be writing about the boat itself out of respect for the company and the confidentiality of the passengers. However recently on my boat I was inspired for postings which I decided to turn into a series throughout the summer. This series I will title “Drinking in small towns” which should actually continue to say, “and the crazy nut jobs I meet while doing so.”

I am going to begin with a village I will call M Town. My adventure started in M town with a nice stroll down the main street which was 3 blocks then the town ended. I noticed quite a cute guy sitting on a bench playing the guitar and singing. It was a quirky town with boutiques and shops suited for Grandmas. Walking past the local pub a few middle aged men were sitting on the patio, they recognized us from our uniforms and started asking questions. One of them asked where I was from. I thought he was talking about my co-worker as she is French Canadian and may have an accent but it was me. I told him, I’m Canadian and he wouldn’t believe me. You’re Polish, he told me. I have gotten this comment before but only when I worked in England where there was a large Polish population. They just assumed since I wasn’t English I must have been Polish. This man thought it was quite funny and tried to copy my Polish accent which turned out more like Apu from the Simpsons. “Thank you, thank you very much, please come again.” Um O.K. so I am Polish with an Indian accent.

We returned to M Town that evening when we decided to get away from work and have a drink. We were a bit sceptical as it was a Monday night and with a population of about 1000 residents there was a chance nothing was going to be open. We found an old pub with some locals sitting around the bar and decided to go in. The cute guy from earlier was there sitting with his guitar. We later found out it was open Mike night which consisted of cute guy, the female bartender, two older local guys and one random drunk. The ladder came over to our table and invited us to join. I am never averse to meeting locals and perhaps cute guitar boy so we moved over to bar stools. Instead of being serenading over pints we were entertained by the antics of our new drunken friend. He overheard us talking about toast for our morning breakfast, which he decided to jump in and say, “Toast! I’ll toast you! Burn the mother fucking toast!”

The rest of the patrons in the bar who were probably either friends or relatives all looked at him a bit oddly. We then started talking about managing employees and the best way to deal with attitudes and slackers. Our new drunk friend got right into our conversation and was pleased to provide us with some insightful advice. He claimed to know exactly how to deal with these issues as he works in a restaurant. He wanted to demonstrate how he treats his employees so he walked right up to me and shouted in my face, “Get your shit together! You making me lose money!” It caused enough of a scene in his demonstration that one of the other locals came over to tell him to calm down. They didn’t realize it was just a demonstration.

We moved on to other topics and it came out that I speak Spanish and my co-worker speaks French (Ok my Spanish is crap but it’s good enough to fool a drunk). He wanted to hear me speak Spanish but I was interrupted and the conversation was changed. Just as we were about to leave the pub he then said to me loudly for the whole bar to hear, “Well are you going to give it to me?” I froze in my steps. Everyone in the bar was looking at me and then him in shock. Then I was relieved to hear him say, “Some Spanish are you going to give me some Spanish.”
This was our clue to get out of this nut jobby town and head to another one.

This posting was brought to you by; Beer

Friday, June 18, 2010

Is this stress that I'm feeling?

I am in a management position at my current summer gig. Shocking I know! I have moved up in the world. The strangest thing was happening in my first few weeks and occasionally it still occurs. I get this ache in my head. I rarely get headaches and when I do it’s usually from dehydration and this wasn’t the case. This was strange and very unusual. I noticed on my days off it would just lift away.
I found myself in between eight 20 year old girls who I needed to manage and who were giving me the worst attitudes ever(what has happened to the younger generation?!) and the owners of the business who were holding it over my head if the girls messed up. There it was the throbbing in my head when suddenly I realized what it was, this unfamiliar was stress!! This is what everyone has been talking about! It was the fear of failure, the pressure from above, the complaining from below and never seeming to satisfy anyone. Why do people sign up for this every day, doesn’t it create wrinkles? I swear it must age you.

I skipped out on this world of stress for a while. There were times in my many jobs abroad that I was worried, there were mistakes and problems but in the big scheme of things everything was going to be O.K. Meanwhile people back home have this favourite saying, “I’m so stressed.” “It was such a stressful day at work.” It’s like they are trying to compete with each other on who is more stressed, I would just think, does it really matter? Things will all just work out.

My biggest issues were, where in the world was I going to work next to keep moving on (Still kind of is). Once I am traveling I have to decide, am I going to read in my hammock or on the beach? Do I leave here or stay a few more days? Do I stay in a hostel or couch surf? I am usually on my own so these arguments happen inside my own mad little head. Rice and beans or rice and beans?

A life as a traveler does keep you young, at heart and physically young. Although I believe the two go hand and hand if you allow yourself to enjoy life like a child there will be less stress and worry in your life. In the end everything shows on your face. My father never had a stitch of grey hair until I left for a year and a half to travel on my own.

Expensive beauty products are not going to save you, no matter what the Israeli at the Dead Sea booth in the mall says. Instead get out there build sand castles on the beach, throw a Frisbee and run around with a goofy smile on your face. I remember when I lived on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua for a month. A girl from Sweden and her English boyfriend made a treasure hunt for the rest of us staying at the camp. They hid clues all over the tiny island in coconuts. When we got close to the end one read, “beware of pirates”, they jumped out from hiding with fire crackers and pretended to attack. Our reward was a fresh coconut. As the sun was setting the English guy ran into the water yelling, “The last one in is a poo!”

This was last year; we were all in our late 20’s.

World Cup Fever

I had this epiphany that my country was missing out on something back during the last World Cup in 2006 when I lived in Greece. World Cup fever was at its height, men women and children showed up to my bar wearing team colours, faces painted, wigs and bullhorns. I worked in the only bar on the island that broadcasted the games with English commentary the rest were all in Greek. Needless to say as the only waitress I was busy. The English wanted another pint before their first was half finished, we ran out of wine glasses during the French matches and I will always remember carrying a tray of cocktails past an Aussie when they scored against the USA, the tray went flying.

When I was traveling Egypt that winter there really wasn’t much to do in the evenings but drink coffee, smoke Shesha and watch English football. I found an old journal entry from that time;

Nov 26, 2006
Café’s and Football; It seems the world’s language is football. Where ever you go in the world no matter what language or religion differences there are you can always trust that you will have football in common. Everyone knows the best teams in the English Premiership, the Champions league and the best players in the world. If you can’t say hello in another language you can get by with Beckham, Rooney or Zadane. So if this is the case than Canada must be mute.
I was amazed at how the guy making coffee and tea worked with such speed and talent, he looked like a bartender. A country that shuns alcohol drinks their teas and smokes their shesha like it’s a pub. A bunch of men in Canada would probably have a laugh if they saw a group of grown men ordering rounds of sweet tea. I guess if you can’t drink alcohol you pick the next best thing to watch football.

Four years later I find myself in a Mexican restaurant with red, green, and white. The world phase book now holds Messi, Xavi, Franco with Kaka, Rooney and Ronaldo still in there. The excitement can be felt through the TV and with Shakira’s “This time for Africa” played during half time accompanied by complimentary guacamole and nachos. Not much of the fever can be felt on the streets of this Canadian city except for the occasional Greek flag flying past on a car. Having lived in three of the countries playing which one will I cheer for? Well I guess that depends on who I am cheering with. For now when Mexico plays I am their fan, the same with England. We’ll see if they ever meet up or if I get more free Nachos.

Music; The World's Language

In my opinion there are two world languages: football and music.
With World cup fever well under way I may need to dedicate several posts to that topic but for now it’s all about the language of music.Music speaks to the body and the soul no matter what language it is in.

When traveling there are the songs you hear over and over again that eventually grow on you and become the anthems of your journey. After my first venture away from Canada I came back from the Dominican Republic with Shakira and the resorts favourite song “Follow the Leader.” I still claim that I knew about Shakira well before anyone in Canada, introduced to me by my new Colombian friends.
My Europe trip in 2002 was Sophie Ellis Baxter Murder on the dance floor. It was also when Will Young won the first ever Idol contest. In the Irish clubs in 2004 you couldn’t get away from Danzel’s Pump it up. I still feel nostalgic when I hear Love Generation by Bob Sinclair which was the Anthem to the summer of Greece, 2006. This winter traveling in South America backpackers couldn’t get the Salsa song Yo no se manana by Luis Enrique out of their heads. Completely cheesy and irritating at first but catchy and seriously grows on you. I still find myself singing the lyrics to dumb founded crew members on my boat.

Then there are the secrets that you discover, new unknown bands or unknown in your country and new styles of music. This is a fantastic part of traveling. I upgraded myself this time from CD’s and a Discman to an IPod but didn’t have time to download music to it. I arrived in South America with a practically blank IPod which was probably the best choice I made. I now have a unique assortment of music which I took from other travelers and locals. Mostly Argentinean Reggae from the dirty hippy Artisans. The best finds were from a Colombian guy who stayed in my hostel in Santa Marta. He introduced me to the Pacific coast music. One band in particular, Chocquibtown (“Choc” is for Choco, their home state; “Quib” is for Quibdo, their home city and the capital of Choco. “Town” is like pueblo; the neighborhood, the barrio) highlights Pacific coast Afro-Colombian music jazzed up. Their music fuses funk, North American hip hop, Jamaican raga and elements of electronic music to produce elaborate beats. They also incorporates traditional rhythms such as bunde, currulao, bambazu and agaubajo as well as other Latin American and Caribbean rhythms such as salsa, songo and guajira. The music videos bring Colombia’s pacific alive with typical street scenes, traditional costumes, colours and dancing displaying the Africa inside Colombia. They are trying to promote and preserves their culture within their country and introduce it to the world.

Changing coast to the Caribbean Liliana Saumet main vocalist in Bomba Estero a Santa Marta native is shaking things up for the Coastal King Carlos Vives. With similar musical influences to Chocquibtown of Colombian folklore, African, reggae, dub, and electronica music, they too produce a unique beat and show cases the sights, sounds and smells of Colombia’s coast. The music is as diverse as the country it comes from.

These are just two example of great music I have discovered while traveling. One of my favourite quotes reads; “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” When it comes to music, those who do not travel hear only one song.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Gringa Trail Date Job Description; Applicant requirements

I recently attempted to sign up for an Internet dating site. Don’t get me wrong I have absolutely no problem meeting people and I don’t feel I need a relationship I am quite content how I am but at times I miss companionship and I can’t seem to find someone who fits my lifestyle. So I went on the free site I soon got frustrated and erased any personal information the site had on me and walked away from my computer outraged. I filled out a lame user name and my contact info but when I got to the application part I just couldn't bring myself to fill it out. They wanted to know what height of guy I would like, I don’t care how tall or short he is, I mean I don’t want a mini me but really if he is shorter I don’t really care. So I left that one blank, then there was the hair colour. You had to click on one hair colour. How can someone possibly only want to date men with black hair? That eliminates a whole lot of options. I tried finding the option for, “hair colour does not matter” but there wasn’t one. I had to fill out only one hair colour, what kind of site is this? How does this actually work? As far as the physical I don’t have one type and who really does? Plus I find people more attractive after I get to know them. If someone can make me laugh I find it really sexy. If you can hold my interest about a world issue and are passionate about your beliefs, I get a little excited. I remember going to school with a guy who I never looked twice at. He was good looking but I didn’t really pay much attention to him, until I saw him sing in a band.

This website isn’t designed for people like me at all. I wished I could just put up a profile of what a guy needed to capture my attention but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I then remembered a book I had read a few years ago, “Around the World in 80 Dates” by Jennifer Cox. It’s about a British woman who was a BBC travel journalist and the head of public relations for the lonely planet travel guide books. She decided to travel the world in 80 dates to attempt to find her soul mate and write about it along the way. She first wrote a relationship resume going through past relationship she had;

Date: The years they dated
Title: Relationship title e.g. first love
Company: Guy’s name
Major responsibilities: What they did together
Reason for leaving: Why the relationship ended

After that she wrote a soul mate job description giving information about her and what she is looking for in a soul mate in a job application manner. She then sent off the information to her “Date wranglers” friends, co-workers and acquaintances to help her find 80 dates all over the world. She tried to cover the globe as equally as possible. It turned out to be a very interesting book and made me think if I just gave out my criteria as picky as I may be I wonder what would happen?

The Gringa Trail date job description:Applicant requirements

*Above all, is funny and makes me laugh
*Loves to travel
*Educated – worldly educated or post secondary
*Open minded
*Likes music
*Would be nice if he could play an instrument
*Likes the outdoors
*Likes to read (books)
*Thinks I’m funny
*Interested in learning other languages
*Knows how to budget and manage his money
*In decent shape
*Wants more than just sex
*However loves sex and wants lots of it
*Gets along well with family
*Does not smoke
*Is not a pothead
*Works a seasonal job to allow for travel in the winter
*Is passionate
*Realize life is short and will live everyday to make the most of it
*Not care what other people think of him
*Dance when no one else is and to stupid music
*Be silly, completely silly
*Be serious when needed
*Is independent
*Prefers dogs over cats
*Strong but can be soft
*Gives good hugs
*Not afriad to try news things, espically food
*Is spiritual
*Culturally aware
*Has a good taste in music
*Allows me to be independent
*Encourages my dreams and aspirations however insane they may be
*Is not needy
*Is not a mama's boy
*Likes to cook and lets me cook as well
*Admits when he is wrong and calls me out when I am wrong
*Enjoys a good argument or debate
*Enjoys fine wine, an old whiskey or a real ale
*Dresses well but not better than me
*Knows the value of a dollar
*Is somewhat artistic or at least appreciates the arts
*Has his own dreams and aspirations
*Is manly – I’m the girl in the relationship
*Is able to teach me something
*Likes the summer over the winter
*Is patient
*Does not value money as important
*Does not value material possessions as important
*Not afraid to discuss his bowel movements and hear about mine
*Is physically active
*Realizes social status is a crock of shit

This list could go on, I realized at some point I needed to cut it off to give my readers a break. It was at that point I thought to myself as I read through the list of requirements for a job no one is really going to be willing to apply to, “I am screwed!”

Getting out of a speeding ticket and into the paper

Most people are afraid of traveling to far and exotic places for fear of culture shock. I fear returning to my home country for the same reason. What awaited me back in Canada were pickup trucks, country music and the good ol’ hockey game. Not many things change in a small Canadian city, you can leave for years and return to the same bar scene with the same people having the same conversations and the same drama. I have become a pro at coming and going so this time it wasn’t so bad, although I didn’t have much time to think about it jumping into my new job after just 24 hours in the county.

I had to drive out to butt fuck nowhere Ontario to find a boat which is going to be my home for the summer. I was a bit late meeting my new boss for the first time and had bad directions. The roads were long and wide open I pushed down the peddle doing 40km over thinking how great the driving is here compared to the roads in Colombia when the sirens and lights went off behind me. Only 24 hours back in the country and I was going to get a speeding ticket. I explained to the police officer why I was speeding and shoved my bad directions in his face. My luck had finally changed when he let me walk away from a $400 fine saying as he returned to his cruiser, “I just saved you a lot of money.”

Then 48 hours after being back in Canada I appeared in my local newspaper. I was at the library’s semi annual massive book sale and fundraiser where I was picking up new books for my boat’s library. I was in the hobbies and collectors section when some woman with a video recorder started asking me questions about what I was looking for and buying. After telling her what I was doing and showing her my fantastic waterway finds she tells me I just made her top story.

Note: It isn’t too hard to make the top story in this town.
None the less I had a feeling the scales of fate had shifted and everything was going to be O.K.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sex and the City 2; A movie/cultural commentary

Deserts, Camel toes and disrespect, it made me missing the Middle East, but did my favourite television show and movie franchise go too far in the east?

I spent 8 months in Muslim countries which for a female is not the easiest place to travel in. Many of times there were fashion wars with my boyfriend regarding what I wanted to wear on the streets. I was a lot younger and didn’t own a pair of shorts that came anywhere near my knees and couldn’t understand why I needed to. It was the desert, it was hot and I wanted to wear my tank top! I became hard after many grabs of my ass by young boys and men glaring at me. I couldn’t leave my boyfriend’s side and when I was there people would ask him about me, I didn’t exist.

With everything however there is the good that comes with the bad, because I was female other women would talk to us and let us into their homes. We got to meet families and learn about their culture. Sure there is repression; you can’t even see the eyes or hands of some women, their burka covers everything with a black screen to look through which scared me in the beginning. After getting to know the scary people behind the black veils they don’t seem that scary anymore. I would chat with them in the Cairo zoo where I became the biggest attraction. I took one young girl to town dressed in her Burka so she could call a boy feeling grown up in her gown. The writers of the movie may have gone too far and pushed the cultural envelop but they did get a few things right, Muslim woman are fashionable. I swear the women of Cairo have a different scarf to match their skirts for everyday of the week. They are also slightly sexier and mysterious with just their eyes showing, it is true women in that part of the world are stunning. Don't even get me started on the fashionable and forward Queen of Jordan, the opitome of East meets West, with her progressive ideas and stronge traditional beliefs.

In the ending scene of the movie Samantha is singing hallelujah to lady liberty as she has a butt naked Dutch man nailing her on an American beach, meanwhile the Sun shine girl on page 3 is fully clothed, music videos don’t show nipples and you can’t say bitch on the radio. I wouldn’t be so quite to judge.
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