Small Is Powerful

[This is my second Adventure in Victoria – I wouldn’t recommend trying it…]

My latest adventure in Victoria is a painful one. But before I get into it, let’s back up a few days…

My car has been making funky noises. And funky car noise scare the begeebies out of me. So I booked it an appointment at the car doctor and decided that I would try not to use it for the week until it went into the shop.

This was the kick in the patootie that I needed to get out my bike and start exploring Victoria on two wheels. And guess what?! It’s WAY better than driving! I find that the drivers here all drive a little too fast, and on the wind-y, skinny Victoria streets, this makes me a little nervous. Add to it the fact that there is no grid system here and every street changes names AT LEAST once, and I don’t know the city well yet, driving just isn’t very fun. On my bike I can pull over whenever I want to check my google maps. There is almost always a bike lane AND I get my exercise and save the planet while I’m doing errands. Bonus!

So when I dropped my car off I brought my bike to bike home with. And of course biked back to pick it up. I was just about at the dealership, cruising along a biking/walking path when all of a sudden something buzzed into my helmet. I immediately started swatting as my temple exploded with pain. I slammed on the brakes, whipped my helmet and sunglasses to the ground as the pain grew and grew. It felt like someone had shot a nail gun right into my temple.

I ran up to the nearest person, dragging my bike, helmet and glasses along with me and implored him to look at my head. Was there something in it? Was it still there? I think he was more than a little bewildered at the wild, sweaty person, breathing heavily and asking him to look at her head, but he kindly and gently checked out my temple reporting that there was nothing there and he couldn’t see a stinger.

It should have taken me about three minutes to get to the dealership, but instead it took me about 15. I had to keep sitting down and doing deep breathing. I think I was stung 2-3 times on my temple. The nail felt like it was still lodged in there, it felt like someone was pressing a prickle bush onto the side of my face, and my skull and jaw felt like I had a migraine.

Holy shit those little buggers (whatever it was) are freaking powerful.

What’s that quote about small things making a big difference?

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.

Ya, that, or getting stung on the temple by a wasp.

If I had to guess, I would pick this as the culprit who got me. Well, either this or one twice the size of it...

If I had to guess, I would pick this as the culprit who got me. Well, either this or one twice the size…

Hey Gen Y’ers: Don’t Forget to Live

There have been a bunch of articles circulating lately about Generation Y and how lazy, entitled and deluded we are. I happen to be apart of Gen Y, and I also happen to be unemployed, which gives me the time to read all of these articles that scream at me what a useless, snobby, lazy person I am (oh joy).

I have to say, these articles aren’t exactly the best confidence booster as I struggle to look for a job, and I will admit that I am floundering at the moment to figure out what I want to do. You see, I have this dream that I will be able to find something that gets me up in the morning with a smile, something that makes me feel like I’m making a positive impact in the world and something that uses the education that I worked for six years to obtain.

But maybe all those authors are right, and those conditions are FAR beyond anything I could possibly deserve. I mean, it’s not like I deserve happiness and fulfillment in my life, right?

While you can perhaps deduce my feelings about these articles, this blog is not actually meant as a rebuttle. Others have done that really well and if you want to read some, check this out, or this. What I’d like to do instead is to share some advice I got last week from one of my oldest friends.

While you have time, give yourself a break and have a few adventures. Explore your town/province/world while you aren’t busy starting your career. Make time every day to enjoy your freedom.

Now I know what you’re thinking: you don’t have the money for that. And frankly? I don’t either. But since she said that to me, I’ve been making a point every day to do something to explore Victoria. Maybe that means collecting beach glass or driftwood on the beaches near my house. Maybe that means riding my bike to a friend’s to go for a walk on the ocean, and maybe that means biking to the nearest place that I can go for a hike and hoofing it up the mountain. I’ve yet to spend money on these adventures, but I’ve sure enjoyed doing them.

When I look back at how I spent my time unemployed (in the hopefully near future when I have a job), I’m certain I won’t regret the hour each day that I took to have a little fun.

This is your world, get out there and EXPLORE!

This is your world, get out there and EXPLORE!

Love: In Smoothie Form

I have a confession to make.

I kill plants like it’s my job. And no I don’t mean pesky weeds, I could probably make those thrive. I mean nice, pretty, joy inducing plants; the kind that sort of breaks your heart when they are all droopy and dead.

It’s been quite a few years now since this started happening. When I lived with my brother when I first moved out we had two plants. They were the most resilient buggers in the world. Every other month or so, Michael would go away to a world cup for two weeks and it would just be me and the plants. The first time, I was completely oblivious to the plants. I did nothing to help them live. When Michael got home, he was all “did you even water the plants ONCE?! Jill, you can’t just leave them to DIE!”.

Nope, I hadn’t even watered them once. In fact, the thought never even crossed my mind.

But they survived, so the next time he went away, I was determined not to let them down. They needed me!

I watered them every.single.day. When Michael got home, again he lectured me on the importance of watering the plants…But I had! Where had I gone wrong! I’d watered them with water AND TLC for two weeks straight!

I had nearly drowned them in all that water and TLC. Turns out you can’t water plants every single day or it kills them. Go figure.

We’ve been through numerous herb plants and I think they are the hardest. They always die, and quickly.

But I’m determined to hone my skills. Fresh herbs are just TOO delicious to have around the house, this time, I can’t let them die. I’m doing everything I can to keep them alive; I’m pruning them, watering them (but not too much), making sure they have sun, but aren’t too close to the window where it’s cold etc. etc. etc. Except reading about caring about plants. Maybe I should try that. 

And so far so good! It’s been five days.

But on to the smoothie love part. I’ve been using my delicious basil plant in smoothies! And it has yet to disappoint.

My smoothie and my basil plant...aren't they beautiful!

My smoothie and my basil plant…aren’t they beautiful!

Strawberry Basil Smoothie

6 large frozen strawberries
1/2 cup plain greek yogourt (or any plain yogourt, that’s just what I had)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp honey
5+ basil leaves (just grab a bunch, lovingly, and toss em’ in!)

Put all ingredients together in a magic bullet cup or blender and blend! I usually have to add a little water part way through because I don’t put enough liquid, but I like thick smoothies, so I do that sparingly.

And enjoy! The basil takes the smoothie to a whole new level, right?!

Mmmm fresh parsley and basil soaking up the sun. Don't worry! The window isn't too cold and I take them away from that ledge AS SOON as the sun goes away. I'm trying!!!

Mmmm fresh parsley and basil soaking up the sun. Don’t worry! The window isn’t too cold and I take them away from that ledge AS SOON as the sun goes away. I’m trying!!!

On Community. And Enthusiasm. And saying no to ‘Cool’.

This is a blog about community. 

Community:
1. A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: “a community of nuns”.
2. All the people living in a particular area or place: “local communities”.

When we were planning our move to Victoria, I craved community. I couldn’t wait to know my neighbours, walk to the grocery store and feel like I belonged here. Kind of like how I feel in Yellowknife, back home. While I’m not quite there yet in my neighbourhood in Victoria, it’s had me thinking a lot about one of the most beautiful communities I’ve ever encountered; the Philippine Running Community.

In my race report about the Four Lakes 100 km/Old Spanish Trail 60 km I talked about this a bit, but I want to expand.

In North America, it is my experience that we as a group have a overarching goal, at all times to be ‘cool’. ‘Cool’ often involves being non-chalant and not all that enthusiastic. It’s not ‘cool’ to exude excitement and unabashed, genuine enthusiasm. This is something that I have struggled with over the years, and I actually have actively worked to ‘tone down’ my enthusiasm so as not to overwhelm those around me.

When the other racers arrived in Kayapa on the day before my first 100 km (Keith and I had been there for five days already), the whole village was bursting at the seems with ALL THINGS RUNNING. People were gushing over gear, proudly talking about their PR’s, exchanging ‘war’ stories from other races, and generally just totally geeking out about ultra running.

It was my experience that ‘cool’ was the complete opposite in the Philippines than in North America. It was actually COOL to be totally engaged, keen, and pumped up. It was cool to jam about the latest gear, compare running shoes, and talk about each person’s FEARS for the next day. And you know something that is almost too incredible to be able to put into words? Probably one quarter of the people registered in the race HAD NEVER ACTUALLY COMPLETED AN ULTRA.

Let me repeat that. There were people in the race who had yet to finish a race that they’d entered (and they had entered their fair share of races). They had DNF’d every ultra they had attempted. At first I thought, “Why not do shorter distances? Why not do something you know you can finish?”. But reflecting on this, I think it only further illustrates this incredibly supportive community. There is absolutely NO looking down on a DNF. In this culture, a DNF is leaps and bounds ahead of a DNS (did not start). Because you know what a DNF means? A DNF = Courage, Determination, Risk Taking. A DNF says “I tried my very best, and am damn proud of it”. Here at home, DNF is almost a ‘bad word’, one that indicates weakness of spirit and of body.

BUT I’M CALLING BULLSHIT. Bullshit on being cool. Bullshit on masking our true emotions. Bullshit on controlling our enthusiasm.

In the Philippines, a finish or a DNF means “I SHOWED UP AND FOUGHT WITH EVERYTHING I HAD”. It means, “I am present and engaged in my life”. It means “I am myself, without apology.

And in my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful demonstrations of community that I have ever had the honour of taking part in. 

(I’d like to again, from the bottom of my heart, thank the Philipino people for their love, kindness, and hospitality. I am forever grateful and can’t WAIT to come back some day and also to welcome and share with you MY community here in Canada)

Suitcase Dweller – No Longer!

After four long months of travelling – three in Asia and one in Canada, I can finally say that I have unpacked my suitcase for ‘good’. I am now settled in a tiny apartment in Victoria, that is close to school for Keith, and close to the ocean and some running trails for me. While the last two weeks have been fun, they have definitely been an adjustment as I set up our place, find my way around this impossible to navigate city, and try to figure out just what the heck I’m going to be doing now that I’m here.

In order to help get myself out the door, I thought I’d start blogging about the adventures to be had in the City of Victoria and it’s surrounding areas. While I generally think of myself as an adventurous person, I’ve been having a hard time motivating myself to get out the door – instead I’ve been feeling a bit frozen in my comfortable little home, afraid to venture into the scary outside world. Perhaps this can help other people in Victoria get out and explore their city as well!

This is the truth, right?! At least I guess I'll be testing out the theory!

This is the truth, right?! At least I guess I’ll be testing out the theory!

While this wasn’t my first adventure, I thought it was a good one to start with. I always love starting things on a funny note!

I was out on a run last week, that turned more into a search-for-beach-glass, when I had a bit of an odd experience. I was walking along a small beach near our place, so focused on the small pebbled beach in my search for glass, that I wasn’t really watching where I was stepping. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a log that was right on the edge of the water and decided to step on it. Of course my eyes were still glued to the rocks when I hear and feel a big ssspplllluuuurrrrccchhhh and immediately jump back with a small (ok, big) yelp! I look down at the ‘log’ that I had stepped on, and it turns out it was a dead seal, missing it’s head, just lying there on the beach! I spent about five minutes in a fit of laughter before I had to turn and leave the beach immediately…I think I may have popped the stomach in my ill aimed step and the stench was nauseating.

I know what you’re thinking, “How on earth did you not smell it when you got to the beach?” and to that I can only respond that I just didn’t. It wasn’t really decomposing except for the fact that it’s head wasn’t there and it had a cut on it’s side. I think it might have been hit by a boat prop and then swam to shore to die. The smell only started when I popped the stomach with my foot. I briefly considered taking it home and skinning it (the northerner in me for SURE), but figured I a) wouldn’t be able to stand the smell while I walked the couple km’s home and b) may be breaking the law by doing that, so ran away laughing to hit up another beach for glass instead. I unfortunately didn’t think to get a picture of the seal, but that would just be sad anyways, right?!

Have you ever accidentally happened upon (literally) a dead animal? I want to hear about them! I seem to be accumulating the most random animal stories (as featured here), and can only imagine that there must be many, many more stories out there!

Ha Long Bay in Pictures

This is a photo blog! Now that we’re back home it’s easier to load photos, so I figured I would let the photos tell the story of our time in Ha Long Bay.

First stop, Surprising Cave. Which was ENORMOUS.

First stop, Surprising Cave. Which was ENORMOUS.

It was pretty dark so not great for photos.

It was pretty dark so not great for photos.

The view from the top of one of the many karsts that Ha Long is known for.

The view from the top of one of the many karsts that Ha Long is known for.

Our boat!

Our boat!

Some of the MANY boats that dot the bay. I think I counted 42 and that was only the ones that I could SEE.

Some of the MANY boats that dot the bay. I think I counted 42 and that was only the ones that I could SEE.

Sunset from our boat.

Sunset from our boat.

Looking up at a karst from my kayak. And introducing my new floppy hat!

Looking up at a karst from my kayak. And introducing my new floppy hat!

Kayaking through a cave into a bay that is only accessible by through this cave. We went into three different bays like this!

Kayaking through a cave into a bay that is only accessible by through this cave. We went into three different bays like this!

We weren't lucky enough to see a monkey (in Monkey Bay) but our guide did point out a squirrel which was HUGE so I just pretended that it was a monkey (haha).

We weren’t lucky enough to see a monkey (in Monkey Bay) but our guide did point out a squirrel which was HUGE so I just pretended that it was a monkey (haha).

A pearl! We visited a pearl farm and learned about how pearls are made. I was a bit horrified by the brutality that we inflict on the poor oysters just so that we can have their pearls.

A pearl! We visited a pearl farm and learned about how pearls are made. I was a bit horrified by the brutality that we inflict on the poor oysters just so that we can have their pearls.

One note about choosing a cruise in Ha Long: do some research online about the different companies and their ratings. Although we had fun, we felt quite ripped off after learning that there were other people on our boat that had paid almost half as much as we had paid. The boat also triples the price of drinks (including water) which is frustrating. I’d also recommend doing only one night, instead of two. If you want more info about our experience let me know, I have many more thoughts about cruising in Ha Long Bay!

No Spicy, No Good!

Jungle Trekking in Laos

We arrived in Luang Nam Tha, Laos after a two day journey from Chiang Mai. After reading about what Luang Nam Tha has to offer here, we thought that it would be a great place to do some trekking. Originally we’d planned on doing a trek in Northern Thailand also, but with about a billion (rough estimate) trekking outfits trying to sell to us, we’d become overwhelmed and opted for the farm instead.

After some research on the different companies in Nam Tha, we picked Forest Retreat and headed over to chat about their options. We had planned on doing three days of trekking, but after some convincing settled on one day of kayaking and two days of trekking. The next day we took ourselves on a tour of the village and a few surrounding villages on cruiser bikes waiting and hoping that some other people would sign up on our trek to cut down costs.

Mountain biking on a cruiser! One of the most fun ways to explore.

Mountain biking on a cruiser! One of the most fun ways to explore.

Lucky for us two other couples signed up so the next morning we were off! The first day was kayaking and after arriving at our starting point (a small village) we were put in our double blow up kayaks and told to go! It took a few minutes to figure out steering etc, but luckily since we both have paddling experience we were fine.

Helmets are always in style. Kayaking on the river.

Helmets are always in style. Kayaking on the river.

Over the course of the day we shot a number of small rapids that were fun although a little nerve wracking. It was good that the boats were blow up because it’s on the tail end of dry season and there are still many rocks showing in the river (that we hit, many times).

Henk and Kirsten.

Henk and Kirsten from Holland.

Nicolle and Calin.

Nicolle (from South Africa) and Calin (from Romania).

About half way through the day we stopped for a break and our guides built a bamboo rope swing into the river. It was awesome! They had collected the bamboo earlier in the day and spent about 20 minutes rigging it up. Tanoi, our English speaking guide, spent a good chunk of time up the big tree getting it set up which was hilariously precarious. We had great fun tarzaning into the water cooling off before finishing our day of kayaking.

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We spent the night in a village in a bamboo hut that Forest Retreat had built. The Laoation government has an eco tour program whereby villages apply to host trekkers and in exchange receive some infrastructure for the village (like an extra toilet and water pump) as well as some income as the trekkers buy weaving and other handcrafts. The village was very welcoming and we explored, watching the women weave and the children play. In the evening Tanoi talked about what it was like growing up in villages and what life in Lao is like.

Fun with the village children.

Fun with the village children.

High fives are always a good way to bond!

High fives are always a good way to bond!

A village woman who would turn out to become my hero. I love this photo because it proves that somewhere in the world, I am a giant!

A village woman who would turn out to become my hero. I love this photo because it proves that somewhere in the world, I am a giant!

First thing in the morning we set out to cross the river and start our trek! Two more guides from the village joined us, hilariously wearing flip flops (not so funny when they totally kicked our asses at hiking wearing said flip flops). From the get go we had a huge climb to get up the river bank – a taste of what was to come.

The jungle was incredible. The diversity of life reminded me a bit of our snorkeling trip on Koh Tao. I think that it knocks my socks off even more having grown up in the north in such a challenging environment where we have only a fraction of the life that there is here. I saw more bugs, spiders, ants, wasps and butterflies than I’d ever seen before in my life! And unfortunately got bit by a few more than I’d have liked!

Bamboo grove.

Bamboo grove.

A jungle unicorn.

A jungle unicorn.

Fun with ginormous bamboo shoots.

Fun with ginormous bamboo shoots.

After about 4-5 hours of hiking we arrived at our jungle camp. It was a bamboo hut for sleeping with a small cook shed and a small toilet beside a small creek in a gully. Pretty rustic and very dark thanks to the canopy of trees over head. We were all relieved to arrive as the final descent into the gully was long and very slippery. In fact everything was slippery all day even though it wasn’t raining!

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Look at the size of that tree!

Look at the size of that tree!

We went to bed really early because of the lack of light and in the morning opted for the ‘easy’ way out following (or mostly going THROUGH) the creek back to the river. When we got back to the river we crossed on our own instead of waiting for the boat. I was up to my belly button in water!

Our home on the second night.

Our home on the second night.

Our guides cooked tons of good food for us (according to Tanoi – “No Spicy, no good!” even though the guides were the only ones loading the chillies on!). On the second morning they cooked up creek crabs and frogs that they had caught the night before.  We were all pretty sick of sticky rice by the end though as it was a staple at every meal.

Pure Gold. This woman epitomizes super woman.

Pure Gold. This woman epitomizes super woman.

We couldn’t have had a better group to trek with and although I’m not hankering to get back into the jungle any time soon, we had a great time. I think I’ll take the Rockies any time over the jungle (my skin is crawling just thinking about it and my bug bites were still itchy almost a week later). If you are in Laos I definitely recommend checking out Forest Retreat and doing one of their treks!

Banana leaves make the best plates! Biodegradable and all.

Banana leaves make the best plates! Biodegradable and all.

Super Guide Tanoi

Super Guide Tanoi

Jungle trees: putting northern trees to shame since the dawn of time.

Jungle trees: putting northern trees to shame since the dawn of time.

Why go around when you can go through?

Why go around when you can go through?

Why would we wait for the boat when we can just walk through the river?

Why would we wait for the boat when we can just walk through the river?

My hero.

My hero.

Tanoi gifted two baby mice to Nicolle and I. We didn't really know what to do with them so we just ended up holding them for about an hour before putting them at the base of a tree. They were gone in the morning (and not because they scurried off...).

Tanoi gifted two baby mice to Nicolle and I. We didn’t really know what to do with them so we just ended up holding them for about an hour before putting them at the base of a tree. They were gone in the morning (and not because they scurried off…).

Trip bracelets!

Trip bracelets! (And sticky rice).

The best group we could have asked for.

The best group we could have asked for.