Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Before and After

© Digital Globe, Inc. (2006)

© Digital Globe, Inc. (2006)

These photos, compliments of Amnesty International, depict a gruesome scene. The first is Porta Farm, Zimbabwe (a settlement of 20,000, approximately 20km west of Harare) on June 22nd, 2002. The second is of that same location on April 6th, 2006.

The apparent demolition is a result of Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Taste of Indonesia

If you ever happen to be loitering at the corner of 14th St. and 17th Ave. SW in Calgary, do stop into the Indonesian restaurant that’s located there. It’s right next to a Russian Deli (which happens to serve donairs) and kiddie corner to “The Chocolate Bar.” Sorry, Andrew, but the name has been taken.

Upon entering the place, you are greeted by an adorable 10 yr old girl with a Bluetooth earpiece and cell phone around her neck. She shows you to your table and brings you the menus. I was a bit hesitant as to how Indonesian food would compare to the fare at the ubiquitous Vietnamese restaurant in Calgary. Seeing the obvious lack of soup on the menu, I could tell that there most certainly was a difference.

After deciding on (I think it was “rendang”), and some other dishes that I can neither pronounce nor spell, the little girl took our order. After each dish she said, “Is that all?” Soon, she’ll learn to say, “Is that it?”

If you’re looking for a quick meal, this is definitely the place to go. Not five minutes after we ordered did the piping hot food come out. There was beef (of which you could cut with a butter knife), lamb, vegetables, and rice. An excellent meal.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Grandma

That would be my Grandma and me. In case you were wondering, she's the one on the left. This was on Mother's Day, so she has a full bouquet of flowers compliments of my Dad. It was a great visit, although she managed to beat me at canasta (a card game) twice. This is actually quite remarkable because she literally never wins. It's mainly because she can't hold her cards for that long, so she developed a system (stapled two plastic coffee tin lids together). Apparently it worked like a charm because I got beat up pretty bad.

Some Pics from My Trip

Some Mountain Goats/Sheep

A Rocky Mountain

The Rocky Mountains

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good for a Laugh

Quotes of the Day:

Responsibilities harsh my mellow.

and

I figure that because my parents gave birth to me, they should pay for the rest of my life.

-Some legendary guy (from Canada, in fact)

Not that I watch Dr. Phil regularly, but the show is usually good for one or two really classic quotes. I heard the above bits of verbal genius while flipping through the channels today.

Ummm….wow? I’m not even sure what to say to that. Apparently the guy refuses to accept responsibility, owes a ton of money to his mom, and won’t leave the house. Then there is his common law wife who wants a full-on wedding ceremony, but won’t do it until this guy grows up. I can think of about four things wrong with that statement. None of which require explanation.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Sun Wins Again

If I look back at all the battles I’ve had with the sun, I’m almost positive that my winning percentage is .000.

In the land of four seasons, attempting to tan is an all-out struggle – well, for us fair-skinned types that turn to ghosts in the winter and get ridiculously bad tan lines in the summer.

Luckily, there are a lot of people with pasty white skin during the winter months. It’s always great when someone goes to a tropical paradise for a couple of weeks during the winter and then comes back with a crazy tan. You’d be amazed at how much more pronounced a tan looks when contrasted with the often snowy background. It’s quite humorous, actually.

One constant throughout the summer is my burnt nose. No matter what steps I take to prevent it, I always end up looking like Rudolph. Oh, and I can’t forgot about the racoon tan around my eyes (from wearing sunglasses) and the tan gradient on my arms (t-shirt tan line, cycling shirt tan line, and so forth).

However, nothing quite compares to my brother’s tree planting tan. All one can really say about it is, “Wow.”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kelsey Wilson: On Location

This just in from the land down under…compliments of Kelsey:

I had a few good days of weather, but tonight it's down to 8 degrees!! Chilly. Everyone's wearing winter coats and scarves and toques aka "beanies" and i'm walking around with a light jacket and shorts. They all think I'm nuts.

I have no idea what kind of news you guys are getting, but if you haven't heard about the miners trapped in Tasmania it's everywhere here. two men were trapped in a tiny cage 1km under the ground in a mine where they worked for 2 weeks, and they just got out a few days ago. they did their first TV interviews about the ordeal tonight (they each got 2.4au million!) which i think is great cause they were working-class types who deserve the money. They're okay now but their story was pretty incredible.


In other news, right here in Adelaide, a few months ago someone crashed their car into a daycare centre and ran over this small girl (about 4 years old). She was run over and got severe burns all over her body from the fire, but she recovered well so it turned out to be a happy ending. Well just a couple days ago she was in a wheelchair (from her injuries) in a crosswalk with her mom and a car ran right over her! Dumb fucking luck, huh??

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Mall

There’s nothing quite as intimidating as the mall. Inside its walls is a culture that is foreign to some, and practically alien to me. It is a land of teenagers and parents; money pits and money trees. You see kids not old enough to drive blabbing away on cell phones, wearing the newest fashions from GAP and Old Navy, walking in their little groups of three or four. No doubt their day started with, “Hey, wanna go to the mall?”

For me, it’s like being in another country. Scratch that…another planet. It occurred to me that I feel more comfortable in a Mongolian holding cell on a wire bed than in a mall swarming with judgmental teens. And it’s not even that judgemental part that bothers me, but rather the message that the mall seems to embody: Kids, bring your parents and convince them how much you need something (even when you really don’t). Or better yet, have your parents give you money to spend on useless crap.

It’s quite obvious that the mall doesn’t cater to people like me – poor college students without a desire to be trendy, as it were, or parents with unlimited credit. Give me an Indian bazaar or Mongolian market any day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bosnia & Herzegovina


Being an SN manager (I get to help people go away), I'm in contact with people from all over the place. It's usually to ask if my intern would fit a job in a specific country/city, however sometimes I get great pictures sent to me. This one comes from Merima in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It's somewhere on the coast (the Dalmatian coast, perhaps?), but it looks beautiful. I could definitely see myself living in that blue building.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Shantaram

While sitting in a little Goan café with my sister, the owner (a British guy) was telling us about a book that was a great read for anyone that had been to India. From what he was saying, it sounded like the main character was nuts. And, after all, I wasn’t the biggest reader at the best of times, so who knew if I would ever get to it.

Mildly intrigued, I filed the title into some part of my brain only to have it re-emerge last week. I couldn’t remember the name at first, but eventually it came to me. Since I was going to be flying, I needed some entertainment…933 pages worth, to be exact.

To re-iterate what the café owner told me, anyone that has lived in India MUST read this book. If you’ve ever lived in Mumbai, it’s time to go to the bookstore right now and buy a copy. On pretty much every page I was reminded of some pleasant or unpleasant memory of my arrival, stay, and/or departure. The crazy driving, the smells, the slums, the shop vendors, paan, chai, theek hai (okay), challo (let’s go) – all vividly recounted by the author, Gregory David Roberts.

The guy basically starts by robbing banks, goes to prison, escapes over the wall in broad daylight, flies to India under a fake passport, lives in Mumbai, meets a travel guide, goes to visit the guide’s family in the countryside, and then goes to live in the slum as a quasi-doctor. He meets a cast of crazy characters along the way and some insightful lessons are brought to life.

I’m only on page 230, but it’s got me hooked. It’s just too bad I have textbooks to read. Nicholas, you need to pick this book up…you’d love it. I just wish I’d seen Mumbai a lot better than I did.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

All the Famous Chefs Have One...

It just occurred to me that an outdoor kitchen is the logical next step to improving my BBQ’ing ability. Now that the weather is warm and sunny, why not prepare food outside?

I wouldn’t be able to have a fridge or sink or giant cutting table or smokehouse like the TV chefs have, but maybe some worn out tables, garbage bins, and duct tape will do the trick.

Stay tuned for pictures and/or updates, once I consult with Magi and Geoff on this one. I have no doubt that they would think it’s a good idea.

Chai Talk

Had a delightful visit with Nicholas, the crazy Canadian I met in India, last Tuesday. Little did I know, this guy can cook. He whipped up some prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, white wine chicken and mushrooms, and some wild rice. I wonder if a stereotype is going around India that all Canadians are adept in the kitchen….

We finished off the culinary part of the evening with some Kashmiri chai, brownies, and strawberries. I made the chai and I was a tad disappointed in my efforts…the tea is to blame. If I were to use Nick’s patented “Chai Talk” rating system, the end result would probably have been a 2 out of 5.

It was definitely nice to do some reminiscing about various parties and other events that had happened in India; to catch up on who was doing what and the usual gossip (Nacho, who’s going to be the gossip queen when you leave?); and to regale each other on the perils of reverse culture shock and how that whole thing was going. We basically spent the whole evening laughing ... can’t even begin to describe how badly needed that was.

So, thanks to Nick for a good night. Rumour has it that he’s on his way to Edmonton soon and that should mean a stop in Calgary for a night at the Tandoori Hut in Kensington. And perhaps some BBQ a la Kent.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stop #2 and #3

Tomorrow will take me to the next stop on my mini-Canadian tour: Kelowna. I'll get to visit with my Grandma and meet up with Nicholas, the crazy Canadian that I met in Chandigarh. No doubt it'll be a bit weird talking to him without a 650mL bottle of Indian acid, errr, beer in hand and cake all over my face. Actually, the last vivid memory I have with Nick is the epic showdown known as the Alcolympics. That was definitely good times.

On Wednesday, it'll be off to Thunder Bay, Ontario to see my other Grandma. What I'm looking at are five days of ultimate relaxation. No need to do anything but cook, play canasta, and watch my Grandma knit an endless array of sweaters, socks, and hats. Now all that's needed is good weather. Unfortunately, that's asking a lot for early May in Canada.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Where to Begin?

"Things got a little out of hand when my Ukrainian Uncle made us take shots of olive oil." -My Brother, Rory.

I think I'll start by setting the scene:

Last time I visited my Aunt and Uncle's place, this heavenly entity known as a "Keg Fridge" was parked in the kitchen. Yes, you could tap beer off into frosted glasses held in the freezer and drink India Pale Ale til your face fell off. This same Uncle also has a garage door in his house. Want an unobstructed view of the lake? Open up the garage door.

This was two years ago. Apparently, things had changed while I was away. First, a new kitchen was installed...two ovens, a griddle, a grill, four burners, industrial strength range hood, large chopping block, and one neon sign. Second, a 54" projection screen with the HDTV package was put in for entertainment purposes. Third (as if anything could beat the keg fridge), the keg fridge was moved downstairs and replaced by a beer tap. Just imagine having your own beer tap inside your house. Three major improvements = #1 destination in the Kootenay area.

Right about now, it should be pretty clear why we made the hour and a half journey to visit our relatives. And that was only the start of it....

Naturally, you can't even sit down in the house without a pint of beer in your hand. I swear, the novelty is incredible...you can just sit there all day and tap off pints and pitchers. Life really is good. After countless glasses later, the conversation really started to reach its highpoint, but not before fennel/coriander wings, ridiculously spicy cauliflower soup, homemade pizza, and lamb chops were brought out. Such one-liners included:

"Look at that old geiser. We should wrap him in gauze and send him to the British Museum."

Somewhere in between the fits of laughter and plates of food, a rant about olive oil was started by my Uncle. He had bought some really expensive stuff in London and was complaining about how bad it was compared to what you could buy at Safeway. Then came the shot glasses...filled with olive oil.

When I think about the worst shots I've had, vodka and scotch usually come to mind. Well, move over disgusting hard liquors, enter Expensive London Extra Virgin Olive Oil. So there we were, shooting olive oil like a bunch of oilaholics. In the end, it was determined that the Safeway product (Colavita Brand) was better.

Numerous beers, frequent bathroom trips, and one short sleep later, it was time for a breakfast consisting of bacon, breakfast sausages, and a giant fritatta. The only thing that was underutilized was that 54" projection TV. Next time, I suppose.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Grand Forks Has Soul?

There's nothing like going back to your high school five years after graduation. Five years after you made a pledge never to return to that hole unless forced at gun point.

It's an intimidating place these days. All these kids with freakishly long hair running around acting like we did at the same age, however much we refuse to admit it....

Today was youth day - a day that involved going back to the high school to see just how many people my age were actually still in this town. I saw only two, although I'm positive that most were too afraid to admit that they were still in town and refused to show up.

One of the "highlights" was a performance by Red One of the Rascalz, a Canadian hip hop group. His manager actually went to high school in Grand Forks and so implored the artist to play here. Honestly, there is nothing like seeing an overly predominant caucasian audience "groovin'" to hip hop. Apparently this town really does have some soul.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just a Casual Ride

Went out for an "easy" ride with the local cycling group today. Whenever you hear the phrase "easy ride," it's pretty much code for "we're gonna warm up at 31 km/h and finish off at about 41 km/h. Oh, and there's a big hill in there somewhere as well."

I have been riding with these guys, one of whom is my Dad, for 5 or so years, so I'm used to the lingo that gets tossed around. But for some reason I still believe it'll actually be an easy ride. Well, today was about 70 km of pain-packed fun. I had been riding a bit on the trainer in Calgary, however nothing compares to the actual rode...something I hadn't been on since India (and I was riding a grocery boy special).

I noticed quite early on that I was habitually on the lookout for rickshaws, cows, people, trucks, and cars. Seeing none, I proceeded to realize that the air I was inhaling was in fact clean and not consisting of suspended coal, diesel, and other particles that shouldn't be entering me lungs. Once that phenomenon was realized, I could help but notice the ease at which the bike was moving along the road. Instead of dragging a 40 pound beast down the road, I was pedalling a 20 pound feather...it was like I was floating.

No near accidents, no accidents, no stupid driving, no psycho rickshaw drivers, no fun.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ahh...Relaxation

One unfortunate part of driving in Canada is the hazard that is deer darting across the road in front of traffic. On the way back from Calgary last night, four these creatures met an untimely end. It was weird because each one I saw got progressively worse: the first one was largely in tact, while the last one was completely mangled. Mind the gory details.

On a positive note, we saw about 100 moose and a few mountain goats. Pictures to come....

Although Grand Forks isn't the most exciting place on earth, it does offer a rare condition known as relaxation. Everything just slows down in this neck of the woods. Life involves: getting up at 11, drinking beer on the pool deck in the sunshine, eating, bbq'ing, watching hockey, and doing the odd chore out in the yard. This is just what I need to end an interesting semester and to get ready for a crazy one.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Intracountry Travel

I’ll be taking my act back to my hometown today. It’ll only be a week or so, and then it’s off to Thunder Bay, Ontario to visit my Grandma. I suppose when you can’t travel overseas, you might as well do it in your own country.

My only hope is that the weather is at least half-decent in Grand Forks. In Calgary, we’ve had nothing but snow, wind, rain, and hail over the last 3 days.

So stay tuned for some slightly more interesting posts about country life and plane trips.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kelsey Down Under

Kelsey has landed safely in New Zealand. I've given her strict orders to write "blog worthy" emails, so we'll see how that goes. Here is her first installment:

Haha hey Kent. yeah this is a lot of pressure.. blog worthy e-mails??? Well i went up the Christchurch gondola to get a good view of bank's peninsula (that word is dangerous to spell) he was Captain Cook's right hand man, and he saw the peninsula first to C.Cook named it after him (although he made one of his FEW geographical errors as he thought the peninsula was an island) SO i went up there and it was gorgeous and there was an optional "LEISURELY"30-minute hike. So i start off. It was fun! There was a combo of rugged terrain and rainforest, so i kept going. I got to a few peaks and had some wicked-good views, but the trail just kept on going. I got to this point where there were these HUGE left-over bunkers, maybe from colonial times?? not too sure...but when i peeked into one of them a giant bird swooped out at me so i ran away. I managed to meet up with an irish guy and an american guy who were lost (this is at the 2 hour mark, 20-minute-hike my ass) and we try to go back. Well we must have taken a wrong turn because we ended up in a sheep field. They were everywhere!! They were friendly but i didn't want to get too close. So finally we get back to the gondola (4 hours after i went on my "leisurely hike") and we basically crawled to the top at the restaurant and asked for water. It was a wicked good time, but my knee is KILLING me now...hopefully that will go away