Friday, 30 September 2011

My low-alcohol journey ...

Some of you may be wondering how my quest to limit the amount of alcohol I drink is going.  Well, I can happily say that I am now down to drinking just one beer each day ...

Just kidding.  After my bout of pancreatitis attack, I took a month off drinking and since then have had fairly strict rules about when I drink.  But, rules were meant to be broken, weren't they?!  So, they're more like guidelines.  Firstly, I try to only drink on Friday and Saturday nights.  I try to only drink 1-2 drinks if I'm at home or 2-3 if it's an evening out.  Which means that I'll be practicing lots of self control at the Grand Final tonight - it will be a long night from the time we get there early to snare a table and the end of the evening when I'll be singing the Geelong theme song loud and proud.  And, it would be un-Australian not to have a beer or two at the footy, wouldn't it?!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Grand Final fever ...

This is the fourth year I've been out of Australia at Grand Final time.  In China, the Aussie expats watched it at Blue Bar, an Aussie establishment in Wuxi.  The (small) crowd was pretty half-hearted and it was difficult to drum up enthusiasm.  Last year, my mum was visiting and we desperately tried to jump online to view it (twice due to the draw), but in both cases, we gave up and went to bed in order to get an early night for our next-day hiking adventures.  This year, C and I will be joining every other Australian in Calgary at Bottlescrew Bill's to watch the Cats beat the Pies (although I do have soft spot for Mick Malthouse and wouldn't mind if the Pies got up for him).  To create a little bit of finals atmosphere at home, I've been listening to podcasts of the Coodabeen Champions and listening to a lot of old footy songs, such as this one, my favourite:

To combat my feelings of homesickness for the footy, I've also been introducing 11 year old B and 7 year old R to the joys of the sport.  We've been doing all our Maths around AFL - logic puzzles involving the ladder order, dice games simulating goals and points, and probability investigations into the 'fairness' of the finals structure.  They won't be there on Friday night, but you can bet that the first thing on Monday morning we'll be doing is singing the Geelong theme song.  We are Geelong, the greatest team of all ...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Calgary Tower ...

The Saddledome

On Monday, 7 year old R took me to the Calgary Tower, a revolving restaurant, for lunch.  I'd been before and it's a fun experience for the kids.  The food is terrible, but the views are amazing.  We were there for quite some time, so managed to 'revolve' twice, seeing Calgary from every angle, including the river, downtown and out towards the Rockies.  We then went down to the Observation Deck where R delighted in seeing her teacher too scared to step out onto the glass floor over the street, approximately 190 m above the ground.  I've dined in the Calgary Tower twice now, once with each of my students, but I don't think I'll be hurrying back, despite the amazing views.

Autumn colours and the mountains

The Bow, which will be the tallest building in Calgary when it is done
The Bow River

Monday, 26 September 2011

Tunnel Mountain ...

The Banff Springs Hotel golf course beneath Rundle Mountain (to the right of the picture)

Weekends just seem to fly by at the moment.  Between doing all the necessary things like study, exercise, socialise and fill in bureaucratic forms (the never-ending task in my life at the moment), there never seems time to get out of the city and into the mountains.  However, this weekend I was determined to get out and enjoy what could possibly be the last of the warm, sunny weekends.  On Saturday I did a lovely long walk around the river, culminating in a lovely long workout at the gym.  On Sunday (with a slightly fuzzy head after a dinner party on Saturday night), we decided to take an afternoon drive to Banff for a stroll in the mountain (and to visit the marvellous Banff tea shop).  I say stroll because I don't think you could possibly classify the walk up Tunnel Mountain as a hike.  It took us about one hour and thirty minutes to walk to the top, have a snack and a look around and return to the car.  Despite the short walk, it was lovely to enjoy some fresh mountain air before getting back to those bureaucratic forms.

A glimpse of the Banff Springs Hotel

(And, in case you are wondering, there is no tunnel on Tunnel Mountain.  The original CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) planned to drive a tunnel through the mountain, but on second thoughts, it was decided that it was easier to go around the mountain.)

View over Banff townsite from the top of Tunnel Mountain

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Pearl Jam ...

Eddie Vedder just has to be one of the ultimate rock gods around.  Last night, C and I went to see Pearl Jam in concert which was amazing given that Pearl Jam's music was among the first that I owned as a hip (!) teenager.  The concert certainly didn't disappoint.  Eddie had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.  In fact, the audience members on the floor looked remarkably like Hitler's followers many years ago, albeit slightly less brainwashed.  I've never been to a huge rock 'n' roll concert where the guitarists go mental and the crowd are on their best head-banging behaviour.  It was amazing.

The rock god himself ... Eddie Vedder

The support act was Mudhoney, who we'd never heard of but Googled quickly during their first song (thank goodness for iphones!).  It turns out that Mudhoney were actually deemed the founders of grunge music in Seattle ... their music was popular way before Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam hit the big time with their grunge.  Kind of funny to think that 25 years ago they were bigger than these three (now) well-known acts but are now playing support gigs.  Mudhoney were pretty good in a frenzied, screaming kind of way.


Then came Pearl Jam.  Wow, did they put on a good show.  They played for over two hours, including not one, but two encores.  They played a ton of hits as well as some that I didn't know (including a song called 'Rats', which was played in honour of the fact that Alberta has been rat-free for 50 years, a fact of I was not aware!).  The only disappointment from rock god Eddie was that they didn't play 'Spin the Black Circle' or 'Better Man', my two favourites.  I was dying to see 'Spin the Black Circle' live, but had to make do with a youtube clip this morning ... 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The commute ...

The early days of commuting in China - I'm still wearing a helmet!  That didn't last for long!

For most of my career, I've had a very easy time getting to my workplace.  For the most part, I've been able to walk or ride a bike to work.  The best commute was when I lived in China when I never knew what would happen on the 20 minute bike ride to work.  But now, my years of easy commuting have been replaced by a two hour round trip.  The reason for the long commute?  About 6 weeks ago, C and I decided that it was ridiculous for us to be half living at each others' places.  We decided it would be easier (and more fun) if we just lived together in the one home.  So, now I'm officially a resident of the lovely Calgarian suburb of Hillhurst, right near the Bow River and a 20 minute walk from downtown.  Unfortunately, however, it means that I am now living about 65 km from my work.  Hence the long commute.  Luckily, my commute is against the traffic so it's a relatively smooth journey.  I'm also lucky that it's pretty drive - out of the city, over the foothills and towards the mountains.  However, I only have another three weeks of this commute and then I'll be off to Australia (after a three week holiday), where my commute to work is a 20 minute walk along the beach!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

'The Tree' ...

Simone played by Morgana Davies

 Last night, C and I headed to The Plaza, the local neighbourhood cinema to see an Australian movie that C had heard about on the radio, 'The Tree.'  I'd never heard of the movie before which is an Australian/French collaboration that closed the Cannes Film Festival (with a 7 minute ovation, according to Wikipedia) in 2010.  It was a slow movie but incredibly moving - the story of a family who grieve for their lost husband/father with the help of a huge, ancient Moreton Bay Fig Tree.  The young girl, Morgana Davies, who played Simone totally stole the show with an amazing performance.  The movie is worth watching for her performance alone.  I can highly recommend 'The Tree' to anyone, but especially to any Australians who are overseas and missing the Aussie accent as well as the landscape!

Monday, 19 September 2011

A slow weekend with a side of culture ...

Perehudoff - The Optimism of Colour
I came back from the island on Friday night feeling tired and unwell.  Being cooped up in a small house each day with two sniffling children does not bear well for one's immune system.  So, I decided to have a very slow, lazy weekend.  Most of the weekend was spent pottering about the house, reading the newspapers, cooking soup and strolling around the river.  The highlight of the weekend was when C and I decided to head to the Glenbow museum to utilise our membership and see the current temporary exhibitions.  The first exhibit was the Perehudoff exhibit of abstract art.  This 93 year old Canadian is a well known abstract artist from the prairies.  I enjoyed the display but sometimes struggled to see the 'art' in the huge canvases of coloured lines.  The second exhibit was entitled 'Cut! Costume and the Cinema' and featured a number of period costumes from movies such as 'Finding Neverland', 'The Duchess' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'  This exhibit was particularly interesting because it described the way in which costumes are constructed, how they are made to look old and also showed the undergarments which give the full figured shape to the beautiful period dresses.  The Glenbow is a fantastic museum and I'm looking forward to heading back over the next 6 weeks in order to make the most of my membership before I head back to Australia.

Cut!  Costume and the Cinema

Friday, 16 September 2011

Goodbye Salt Spring Island ...

Glassy water this morning

Today is my last day on 'the island' with 'the family.'  I fly out on the 1.20pm seaplane.  Last night, I ticked off one final island 'must-do' ... jump off the rocks into the water and have a swim.  It took much encouragement from fearless 11 year old  B, who put me to shame with his somersaults and twists as he dove into the f r e e z i n g water.  I took one jump and lasted all of 2-3 minutes in the water before I hurried to the other end of the island to warm myself up in the hot tub.  Next time I'm in the Gulf Islands, it will likely be as a holidaymaker and not as 'the teacher.'  And who knows when that will be since there is so much of this big country to see.  So, until then, goodbye Salt Spring Island!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

An autumn morning ...

And so it seems that summer has left us and in its place are grey, windy island days. Although, I shouldn't complain because apparently, the weather in Calgary is more than dismal.  As soon as the rain hits Calgary, the temperature seems to drop at least 10 degrees, no exceptions.  However, the scenery in the Gulf Islands is just as spectacular even when the weather is less than ideal.  I love the misty, mysterious mornings, like the one in these pictures.  Despite the greyness, I'm going to soak it all up, as tomorrow I head back to Calgary.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' ...

This is one of the books that I purchased in a Victorian thrift store on the weekend.  I was initially intrigued by the title and thought to purchase it for C, who likes odd books, particularly non-fiction.  Little did I realise how much I would enjoy this quirky novel.  I read the blurb and the first few pages and was hooked.  The opening paragraph reads:

Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcee.  He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six.  She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.

So, in the end, I bought it for myself (it was a big purchase, all of $1.95).  I began reading Friday evening and finished Sunday evening.  Not a common occurence now that I am studying.  'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' is well worth the read if you're after a funny, somewhat sad and delightful family story.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Victorian weekend ...

Leaving Fulford Harbour

This past Friday afternoon, I headed to Victoria (by Model A car, ferry and bus) for a weekend break from island life.  On Friday afternoon/evening, I explored Chinatown where I discovered that, after living in China, I will always be disappointed with Chinese food outside of China.  I also rummaged through some of the many thrift stores in Victoria, settling on several books and an old record - 'Rolf Harris in Vancouver Town' (!) - for C.  I discovered a new tea shop called DAVIDsTEA, where I tasted many teas but settled on one package of herbal tea, 'Northern Lights' and one package of green tea, 'Lime Gelato.'  I finished my Friday night wander with a movie, 'The Help', which I can highly recommend, but be sure to take your tissues.  I slept at Ocean Island Backpackers in a small, comfortable but mighty hot room.

If you look closely, you can see Mt Baker (US) in the background - totally covered in snow, year round

Ferry to Vancouver

I began Saturday with a baguette and a delicious chocolate quinoa cupcake whilst watching the activity on the harbour front - boats coming and going, tourists sipping their Starbucks and the Natives setting up their stalls of junky trinkets to sell to unsuspecting tourists.  Here, on the harbourfront, I read my book for several hours before giving in to the delights of the Empress Hotel and spending some time wandering through the hotel and its lovely courtyards.  I contemplated going for 'high tea', but declined when I saw the $60 price tag that accompanied the experience.  In the afternoon, I wandered from cafe to cafe, seeking sunny places to (reluctantly) read about qualitative research.  In the evening, I met with C's parents for a delicious Thai dinner before crashing at their place.

Red buoy

Fan Tan Alley - Canada's narrowest street

Sunday's activities were in the hands of C's parents.  In the morning, we drove up Mt Tolmie and enjoyed views over downtown Victoria, the Gulf Islands (Canada) and the San Juan Islands (USA).  For the rest of the day, we focused on food.  We visited the market gardens and stocked up on local, fresh fruits and vegetables before heading to Sidney Harbour to eat.  We dined on fresh halibut tacos and local beer at the Rumrunner pub.  Sidney Harbour was beautiful but not quite so large or iconic as the Sydney Harbour.  In the early evening, I met up with 'the family' and we boated back to Deadman Island.  It was the perfect weekend escape from island life.  Now, I have just one more week to enjoy the island before I head back to the ocean-less Calgary.

Chinatown, the oldest in Canada

Breakfast view

And another breakfast view

Parliament House which lights up at night in the most spectacular way

The mighty Empress Hotel

A courtyard of the Empress Hotel

Downtown Victoria - look, no high rises!

Fresh corn

Boats and baskets at Sidney Harbour

Passionfruit flower

Sidney Harbour, beautified

On the way home, BC ferry in the background

Just hanging out near Deadman Island

It's a nice evening for a sail, except for the fact that there is no wind!

Perhaps a better night for a kayak?

Monday, 12 September 2011

A message from Victoria ...

After uploading a ton of photos and writing about my weekend jaunt to Victoria, I lost it all when blogger decided to issue a 'saving error.'  I'll have to re-post it all tomorrow.  Until then, here is a cool t-shirt that I came across in Victoria on Friday evening.
It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber

Friday, 9 September 2011

A mink!

Each morning, for the past few mornings, as I settle down with a cup of tea at my computer to prepare for the day ahead, I've seen a mink.  It (I assume it's the same one each time) dashes from behind my cottage, across the front deck and out on to the path that connects the houses on the island.  Each time, I jump up to grab my camera but by the time I'm organised, it has disappeared.  Hence the above picture from Google Images.  They are funny little creatures, very sleek and super quick.  Other than mink spotting, I have no real adventures to report on.  Each afternoon, after work, I've headed into town for a walk, a gym workout and some studying in the sunshine.  I'm heading to Victoria this afternoon for a weekend of having some 'me' time, visiting C's parents, getting some uni work done and just hanging out in the sun.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Early morning island time ...

My favourite time on the island is early in the morning, when I wander down to one end of the island to eat my breakfast whilst watching the early morning activity in the harbour.  Sometimes,  I'm lucky enough to watch some seals playing in the water and on the rocks but normally, I just watch the boats coming and going (including the Scholarship, the local school 'bus') and the seaplanes as they take off and land not far from Deadman Island.  Whilst I'm here, I normally try to get up super early on at least one morning and watch the sun rise.  Sitting on the rocks eating breakfast is such a pleasant, relaxing way to start the work day.  If only I could begin every morning like this!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Island time!

Our classroom yesterday afternoon

Yesterday, I began my journey to work nice and early - I caught a 7am flight to Vancouver, followed by an 8.45am seaplane flight to Ganges and then got picked up in a speedboat.  By 9.30am, I was settled in my island home and ready to teach.  We will be here on the island for two weeks and I'm determined to make the most of every minute, since it is likely that this will be my last time living and working on Deadman Island.  The weather is going to be spectacular, so each day after I finish work, I'm planning to head to the 'mainland' that is Ganges and have a little adventure.  Yesterday, I got dropped off at the yacht club and from there, I walked into town, hung out on the lawn with the hippies, bought some veggies at the farmers market and ended the afternoon with an early dinner and a glass of wine at the Treehouse cafe.  Ah, it's easy to slip into life on the island!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Happy Fathers Day Dad!

Beers with Dad in Xian, China

 Happy Fathers Day Dad!  Even though I haven't been able to physically see my Dad much over the past few years, we still have a great time when we do get together, whether it be in China, Canberra or Sydney (still waiting for you to book a trip to Canada Dad!)  We also chat on Skype weekly and email tons.  I can't wait to see him when I get back to Australia in just a few months.  Happy Fathers Day Dad!  (and I hope you played well in your Fathers Day golf game!)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Update on the cute old home ...

Remember last week, when I wrote about the destruction of the tiny old homes in C's neighbourhood?  Like this one ... 

Well, this is what it looks like now ... 

 It kind of made me sad when I walked past it the other day.  I guess that my naive brain thought that perhaps there was a graveyard of some sorts for these cute old homes.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

No more 'distracted driving' ...

Cartoon from Tuesday's Calgary Herald

As of today, Albertan drivers are no longer allowed to be 'distracted' whilst driving.  According to the Alberta Transport website, 'distracted driving' includes
  • using hand-held cell phones
  • texting or e-mailing
  • using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players)
  • entering information on GPS units
  • reading printed materials in the vehicle
  • writing, printing or sketching, and
  • personal grooming

It seems strange that it has taken so long for this rule to be enforced, given that using your mobile phone has been banned for a long time in Australia.  Other Canadian provinces have introduced the law and taken it seriously, nabbing hundreds of drivers daily for breaching the 'distracted driving' law.  The penalty here in Alberta will be $172 per conviction.  The law doesn't really affect me, as I try not to use my mobile phone in the car (although I do send texts whilst stopped at traffic lights and make the occasional call), but I guess I'll have to stop sketching in the car.

On another first of September note, it's the first day of school for North America today, and also the first day of winter it would seem with a huge dump of snow on the Rockies.