Thursday, August 31, 2006

That's a Great Question

"Do you avoid buying breakfast sausages because of all the mess and fuss?" -TV Commercial.


Haha...I avoid buying breakfast sausages because they are full of liquid heart attack. Mess and fuss hardly enter the equation.

Pictures from My Going Away Dinner in Calgary

That's me with Slovakia-bound Blanka.


I can finally learn how to cook Chinese.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Life of a Hobo

Found out today that my roommate-to-be in Cairo no longer has a home, and probably won't have one when I show up.

How strange. I was forced out of my home in Calgary, I'll be staying in Grand Forks for 3 weeks, then I'll be off to Cairo where my accommodation is by no means stable. Sounds like a hobo's story to me.

I do think it'll be fun searching for a place in a city like Cairo, especially with a Wisconsinite...or is that a Wisconsonian? or a Wisconsovite? Wisconsinese? Help?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Edmonton Part 2

The next morning, I decided to take a hungover walk through the university. It was a desolate place...like a self-contained city within a much larger metropolis. Nonetheless, I didn't see enough of the place to make an accurate judgement. All I know is that you had to walk up three sets of stairs just to get from the LRT (mass transit train) to the street level.

Nicholas does live in a nice area. He's only about ten minutes from school, so the area is full of funky, student-type stores. One that caught my eye was an organic store, which just happens to be the place where Nick was employed for some time.

When I got back to his apartment it was straight into the kitchen for some breakfast. I went straight to the omelettes, while he made up a wonderful fruit salad with a yoghurt/balsamic vinegar dressing. "The yoghurt takes the edge of that balsamic vinegar...that's the trick." There were a indeterminate number of people at his place and as the morning went on, they kept coming out of the woodwork. Every ten minutes or so a new omelette had to be made to satisfy the hungover mass coming out of the room.

After breakfast, it was time to make my now-famous chai. Jodie, Nick's girlfriend, described it as "orgasmic." Sure, she didn't have the sophisticated chai palette that Nick has, but the compliment was duly noted.

When we finished with the chai it was off for a stroll down Whyte Ave. to the Farmers' Market. Whyte Ave is quite the street. It's similar to 17th Ave. in Calgary in length and in the number of funky, beatnik shops. We passed a whole number of eccentric individuals. We were sitting, eating our lunch on a bench that just happened to be stationed outside this sketchy hotel. What a study in the social nature of people that go in and out of these types of establishments.

The farmers' market was great. We picked up some green and yellow beans, wonderful stuffed olives (with almond, feta, spinach), organic bacon (the vendor was really high on the stuff), and plums. We definitely had some interesting plans for the produce we bought. Bacon-wrapped hotdogs, yellow bean puree, and some tandoori chicken that was marinating at home.

What a dinner we had. The yellow bean puree was magical. We just roasted the beans in salt, pepper, and olive oil until they browned. Then we threw them in the magic bullet blender system for instant puree. We put it on top of the bacon-wrapped hotdogs...perfect.

After dinner, I got spanked at Cranium. Nick must be a pro or something because he seemed to know the answers to all the questions. Then the get-together that we were having imploded on itself. There seemed to be scandal all over the apartment. I won't get into any details, but it was quite the show.

Alas, my Edmonton trip was coming to an end. The next morning, I made one more round of chai to leave a lasting memory. Jodie and her mom were so gracious as to give me a ride to the bus depot for my return trip home.

All in all, I solid weekend.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Horse Vaulting...

Now there's a sport I won't be doing anytime soon.

A handstand on a moving horse? You gotta be kidding me.

How Embarrassing...

So, I fell out of the shower today. How does one do that? Well, the bathtub/shower is up two steps from the towel rack, so when I went to reach for the towel my foot slipped and I came crashing down on the floor. On my way down, I reached out for the wooden towel rack, but it didn't do much to hold me up.

Eight hours later I'm finally starting to feel the effects.

Living Arrangements

Meet Megan. No, not the Calgary Megan.

She'll be my new roommate in Cairo. All I know about her is that she's from Wisconsin.

If I apply the stereotypes, she's probably a farmer that likes cheese and is an avid Green Bay Packers' fan. I do have a feeling she's not going to fit that mold.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bolivia Bound

Just heard that a good friend of mine, Janaki, is officially off to Bolivia on September 23rd. She'll be doing some travelling and some work with water projects.

Good luck.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bye, Bye, Pluto

What a rough day for Pluto. It loyally revolves around the sun once every 91,000 days and this is the treatment it gets?

"After decades of enduring scorn for being a pint-sized poseur, leading astronomers sealed Pluto's galactic fate on Thursday by declaring it is no longer a planet." -CTV.ca

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Edmonton - Part One

Albeit a week and a half late, here is a post on my trip to Edmonton.

I've hated Edmonton for as long as I can remember. Everything about the place...the sports teams, the people, the city itself. It's nothing personal, just a general hatred that began when I made a pledge of allegiance to Calgary-based sports teams. Perhaps my hate for the city was a little unfair see as how I've never actually been there to judge for myself. This is part of the reason why I decided to go in the first place...to see for myself.

I would've been satisfied if all I saw was the area around the bus station. My friend Nicholas had forewarned me that that area of downtown wasn't so nice and that I should avoid accepting candy from strangers, if it all possible. He was right...the place was a hole. Apparently some guy had been walking down the street with his pants down just a few days earlier. Such colourful people the city had.

What was cool about downtown was that it was kind of up on a hill, overlooking the river valley. This speaks to the general attitude of Edmontonians who seem to think their city is the greatest place on earty, or at least in Alberta. That said, the only nice thing about downtown was the Alberta Provincial Legislature building, and perhaps the Fairmont Hotel.

The one ubiquitous thing about the whole city is the smell. I was always told by my best friend in high school that Calgary had a bad smell and that he and his dad had to put on gas masks everytime they drove through it to get to Edmonton. Naturally, I'd argue to the contrary. Edmonton has a far nastier smell that can be likened to a mix of three-day old fish, hippies, and bog water, with a hint of cinnamon.

Nick was gracious enough to meet me at the bus station, so I didn't have to try to take on the city of my focused hatred. We made some turns and went in some direction and finally ended up at a place called 82nd (Whyte) Ave. Rumour is it that it's the main street in Edmonton and it's where all the partying happened during the Oilers unsuccessful playoff run (hurts, doesn't it?).

Some renovations were in the works, but Nicholas had himself a friendly abode. After a stop at Pita Pit and the liquor store, we put on some Indian tunes and started with the drinking. A few hours later, we ended up in a club that was really red. There I met all of Nick's friends. Some of whom were going to places like Doha and Uganda.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Random Stuff

Home has been good so far. Today was the first day that I was able to sit out on the pool deck and finally get going on my novel.

Some random things:

Congrats to Geoff, who just picked himself up a job at Niska Gas Storage.

A friend of mine, Sarah, is off to Japan in a couple of weeks. I'm trying to convince her to start a blog, so hopefully she gets on that.

One of our SNs, Alex, arrived in the Czech Republic yesterday/today. I hope things go smoothly for him.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Farewell, Calgary

Who knows when I'll be back again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

After 5 Years, It's All Over

I handed in the very last assignment of my university career today. It means that I am unofficially graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in International Business with a Minor in History.

Things won't be official until November when convocation takes place, but for all intents and purposes, I'M FINALLY DONE!!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's Official

"Such consistent performance under pressure and in difficult conditions are the mark of a true chai stand master and I think Kent is a rising star we should all be watching." -Nicholas

Edmonton stories are on the way, I promise. In the meantime, I have finally received Chai's equivalent to the Michelin Star for restaurants...Chai Stand Chai.

The consensus is that Nicholas is the world standard when it comes to rating chai. Such an acute ability to judge the different spices and how they interact on his tongue, combined with a unique ability to put what he tastes into eloquent verse. Rumour has it he is making a video documenting my chai technique that will soon be available on YouTube. Stay tuned for that.

I'd like to say my life's work is complete now that I've accomplished this goal. But I know there will be other teas and chais to conquer. I've heard the Egyptians enjoy mint tea every once and a while, so it sounds like it will be my next challenge.

Rabbit a la Calgary

Does the title even make sense? I don't know French, so....

So, yes, I did in fact eat rabbit last night. Being homeless, that might invoke pictures of me with some sort of snare or spear trying to hunt the rabbits that run around the city. And while I've contemplated such actions, nothing has ever come of it.

But where do you get good rabbit in Calgary? I had no idea until I walked in to Don Quijote's on 2nd and 2nd. Upon looking at the menu, rabbit immediately jumped out at me. As for the potent potables, Alhambra beer looked the most exotic (having been to the Alhambra in Spain, the choice was easy).

After much delay in ordering (AIESECers like to show up at random times), the rabbit was finally brought to me. The meat was simply incredible. Like chicken, but more tender and flavourful. Oh, and I got a lot of it...way more meat than anyone else. I would recommend it to anyone.

Thanks to AIESEC Calgary for a great farewell dinner.

Hangin' 'Em Up

Finally retired my Columbia shoes today, after about a year and 8 months of use. They will be remembered for taking me to foreign lands and never breaking down.

But did I reward Columbia for its good work by buying another pair of its shoes? Nope. They're too curved for my straight feet, so I had to go with Merrell. Check back in a year and a half to see how the new shoes turned out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Prep Sessions are Fun

One of the great things about helping out with the Outgoing Exchange part of AIESEC is the prep sessions for interns going abroad. We've matched 5 so far (in Hong Kong, California, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Hungary), so there has been a lot of sessions, with a lot of great food.

Take last night. Normally, the intern gets to decide what exotic food he/she wants to eat, but I had this lamb leg hangin' out in my freezer without much hope of being eaten (especially in a house without a working oven). So I set it to roast at 200 degrees fahrenheit for about 6 hours, or until the meat literally melted off the bone, and proceeded to carry it on the c-train in a tupperware container. Got a few questions about the contents of the container...it didn't look very pretty.

We decided to soak the lamb in mint sauce and then throw it in a pita with tadziki, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It was might tasty.

Too bad this is my last prep session....

Meghan on a Terrible Bus Ride

Here is Meghan's latest tale:

We were in Kampala until the end of July working at a TB clinic and then an AIDS Support Organization. It was a lot of fun and we met lots of really nice people and saw some amazing things. We got to go out on a food distribution drive which was pretty amazing. The organization (with the help of WFP) distributes oil and corn-soy-blend (CSB - some kind of gross flour staple) to its clients once a month. So we go to this huge community center/school/shelter in a tiny little slum community and distribute a months worth of food to all the people in the area...every client (they must be HIV positive) receives 9kg of CSB per person in their family (up to 5 people only) and 4 L of vitamin A enriched oil. Its pretty minimal and its crazy because each person has to lug all this food back to their house and on the day we went it was pouring rain...and they only get this once a month. It was pretty sad.

After Kampala we took a bus to Kigali for four days. Rwanda is a beautiful country and from what we could tell one of the least corrupt places that we've been to so far. We toured around the city and went to a few genocide memorial sites which were really interesting. There were buildings where you could still see the bullet holes and the grenade markings of where the Hutu rebels killed 6 UN peacekeepers....intense. And the saddest thing was going to the main memorial site for the city where they have mass graves for the victims that were slaughtered and there are families still bringing in more bodies to be buried there...12 years later. And there were also some pretty horrific accounts from families of victims. But its pretty impressive how far Kigali has grown and developed in the last little while. It was one of the nicest cities we've been to.

After Kigali we took a 24 hour bus trip back to Nairobi...well it was suppose to be 24 hours but ended up being more like 36 hours. It was insane. We almost got arrested at the Ugandan border for being supposed craft smugglers...ridiculous. All they wanted was money it was crazy. And then halfway through Uganda someone had dug a ditch in the middle of the road and traffic was stopped for about 4 or 5 hours...its pretty amazing the 4x4 power of a huge rundown bus. It was terrifying trying to get around the ditch and through the backed up traffic. And then to top it off they almost wouldn't let us back into Kenya. It was pretty much the worse bus trip of my entire life!

We spent one night in Nairobi and the immediately hopped on another bus to Mombassa. We got some much needed rest and relaxation by the beach and then headed back to Nairobi only to have the bus breakdown in the middle of no where and we were stranded for 4 hours waiting for a replacement bus! Got back into Nairobi and then left again to go on a safari in the Masai Mara.

The Mara was amazing. So many animals and such beautiful scenery. There were over a million wildebeasts that were migrating into the Mara and we even got to see some lions eating their breakfast. And there is nothing quite like watching a lion suck a wildebeast's entrails out of its ass first thing in the morning! All in all though the safari was amazing, we got to see everything!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Edmonton Stories Will Have to Wait

Isn’t it great to arrive back home after a weekend out of town to find a note on your desk saying that your place of residence has been deemed “uninhabitable” and that you should seek “alternative accommodations”?

All this with only a week left of school and a week left in this house. I feel like such a hobo.

Friday, August 11, 2006

When Will It End?

The saga isn’t over…not even close. We were informed yesterday that our entire kitchen needed to be gutted. All I can say is that I’m glad I’m off to Edmonton for the weekend and don’t have to deal with this for a few days.

Now if I could only find some way to eat….

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Finally

Rumour has it a plumber is coming to re-install the facilities in the bathroom, so everything should be good in a couple of hours.

Can’t say the same thing for the downstairs, though. The whole place is being gutted and re-done.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yikes

Ok, so the demolition will take place tomorrow and we’re left without properly functioning bathroom. I hope the neighbours don’t mind us answering nature’s call in the backyard.

Demolition Derby in my Bathroom

So, my toilet blew up on the weekend. Well, the pipes connecting to the toilet burst when none of us were home so water was just gushing all over the place. I just found out that people are coming to demolish the bathroom and install large de-humidifiers that generate a lot of heat. Too bad it’s 31 degrees outside….

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Mumbai Mirror

Looking over my blog stats, I noticed that someone from the Mumbai Mirror had come to my blog. I clicked the referral link to find that I had been quoted with 2 other blogs on the site. The excerpt was from my post on India banning child labour. Check it out here.

This is cool.

New Link

A friend of mine from university residence is in Italy right now studying Italian for four weeks in Perugia. Already, he`s been to a Bryan Adams concert in the shadow of the Colliseum in Rome and sat next to a Polish priest in class.

"I made it to Rome alright, and luckily had booked a hostel for two nights because most places were full. I guess otherwise I would have slept in the train station. Looked like it would have been nicer than that bench in Tokyo..." -Adam in Italy

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Crepes on the Danube

Am I right by saying that any restaurant named “The Danube” is bound to have great food?

I thought so.

Tonight’s restaurant adventure took me to a basement diner on Kensington Rd. From the outside, the establishment advertises crepes, and lots of them. I was a bit puzzled as to how one could turn a crepe into dinner, but apparently this place knew how.

I think the best part about this place, aside from the Eastern European woman with a great accent, is the fact that it’s like someone’s house. The kitchen is completely open and there is scarcely room for twenty people. Then there is the stove. It’s not some fancy professional range, but rather a simple oven/range you would find at home. Did I mention it was from the seventies?

It’s true what they say…it’s not what you have, but how you use it. Judging by the food, I would say this woman uses it pretty well. Speaking of the food, it was amazing to me that over fifty varieties of crepes were available. Dinner crepes are available, but they seem overshadowed by the much larger dessert crepe menu. I’m just going to skip right to the dessert crepe, but I should say that the dinner crepe was indeed tasty.

Honey, roasted walnuts, and ricotta cheese stuffed the first crepe, while dark mint chocolate, coconut, and whip cream made up the second. The presentation was tremendous and the taste was even better. They had richness you just can’t find when you make crepes at home.

So, if you’re ever in Kensington looking for dessert, this is definitely a place worthy of satisfying your cravings.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is Big

"India bans child domestic labour" -BBC



This is big news. The law, to take effect in October, bans all domestic labour for children under 14.

Sure, it's bad that kids are forced to work at a young age, but where else are they supposed to go? It's not like the country is doing much to educate them. The guy holding the teapot is from Bihar, a "backward" state in India. I'm not sure I want to know what he'd be doing if he wasn't serving tea to tourists in Kolkata.

Then there is Rishi, the servant-boy to our landlady. If it weren't for this job, he'd be back in the slums without much hope of an education. He gets food, shelter, clothing, and plenty of time to play cricket and soccer in the park. And maybe even a chance at an education one day.

I'm not advocating child labour, but you can't just ban it and hope everything will be alright. Other options, economically feasible options, must be provided, so that these kids have something useful to do.

De-boning a Fish

Have you ever had one of those moments when you buy something on sale at the grocery store, only to find out that significant manual labour is required to consume said item?

I had one of those moments today. It started when I saw some cheap salmon in the fish area. It looked like it just had the head and tail chopped off. I thought, “Hmm…I can’t believe how cheap this salmon is, and all I have to do is take it home and cook it.” Thinking nothing of the situation, I paid for my groceries and went home.

My plan was to have the salmon for dinner, so I took it out of the packaging and was aghast at the site of a spine.

“Aargh…now I gotta fillet this thing? I’ve never done that.”

This is where Google comes in handy. I found some decent instructions and set about filleting the fish. It wasn’t overly hard, although I definitely didn’t end up with those professional-looking fillets you see on TV. One problem is that I gave up looking for bones really early. I figure I can just take them out while eating, instead of slaving away trying to pull them out of the raw fish.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.