My shameful, secret life behind a camera

If you are all about being politically correct, no matter what, please stop reading this post. Equally, if you are fiercely nationalistic, showing an excessive, undiscriminating devotion for your country Canada, please also refrain from reading further.

But this post is about Canuckistan, the country through which I’ve been perambulating for the last four months, so you should be okay.

More than once I have been told that all citizens – every one of them – of this People’s Republic of Canuckistan are super-friendly. In fact, their friendliness, soft-hearted nature and apoplectic apologetic nature is often the butt of their neighbour’s jokes. Like the one about how you get a Canucki to apologise. You step on his or her foot. And then you apologise for having made him or her apologise. And so it goes in a never-ending, sickening loop until you (or he or she) collapse in an exhausted heap of apologies.

But that’s exactly it, I have found Canuckis to be polite, rather than friendly. I’m not saying I haven’t met friendly Canuckis – I most definitely have. But most are simply polite.

Until you do something to take them out of their well-manicured comfort zones, make them suspicious, don’t agree with them on a moral issue, or, horror of horrors, pull out a camera in public. At that, the air of friendliness and civility both disappear quicker than a skinny minute! I think some people would be less fazed if I walked down the main street wearing a psychedelic tutu, singing Yankee doodle went to town, while blowing bubbles out of my nose, than if I whipped out my camera.

One Saturday I was at the local farmers’ market shooting fruit, vegetables and home-made goodies when a self-important mama, her knickers in a knot, waddled up to me and growled, “Who are you and what are you doing?”

To be honest, she looked reasonably intelligent. She had managed a full sentence, wasn’t drooling, and didn’t show any signs of dementia. So why could she not see how obvious it was?

I have a fruit and vegetable fetish.

Who wouldn’t? Look at these beautiful things!

Another day I had been invited to take photos at a true Canucki event – a pow wow. Again, several people asked me who I was and what I was doing there. The two large cameras slung around my neck should have served as a clue. Perhaps they were confused because I was one of only a handful of white people in the arena. But the obvious answer:

I have a thing for feathers (and brass bells).

Those feathers though!
Ooooh! Don’t get me started.

It’s a sure thing that I will be questioned in a coffee shop! But I really do have a thing for coffee. And sometimes I bring my camera along.

This Canucki cat wouldn’t even let me drink my coffee in peace!
But they were good, out of focus models

At one stage it got so bad that I began wondering whether the town was the centre of the country’s witness protection programme. What other explanation could there be for people’s reactions to my cameras in public? Walking down the road, I would be asked the same questions about my nefarious intentions over and over again, or people would simply glare from the dark of a doorway. Which makes sense – it’s not particularly pretty downtown. Who would choose to take photos there unless they were up to no good?

There is an attractive, accurate clock that chimes every 15 minutes on the corner of St. Laurent Avenue and Reid Street. It can’t hide, is worth shooting and it didn’t question my intentions.

I was shot suspicious looks at the rodeo and the art gallery and given the third degree by a burly lumberjack-type at the local hockey arena too. I told him, being from Africa, that I’d never seen ice, or people skating, and that hockey where I came from was played with a white ball on green grass or Astroturf. And that no one at home would believe hockey could be played on ice! That was why I needed the photos. To prove to all the Africans back home that I hadn’t lost my mind in Canuckistan.

And that, perfectly plausible, explanation was all he needed!

You can see the horse’s look of suspicion, right?
I grabbed some complimentary eats, took one photo and fled…
Hockey on ice?!? How’s that even possible?

The last straw though, was when I was taking photos of a little family at a little pond downtown and a beaver, the country’s national animal, got angry with me.

The pond, where the angry beaver made a fuss.
The cows were nice though!
And the ducks too. But that’s probably because I bribed them with dog biscuits!

But it wasn’t all bad, and I was determined not to let a few unpleasant incidents stop me from exploring my base-town. Tomorrow I’ll try to share about some of my favourite shots, and some genuinely friendly Canuckis…

An idiot’s guide to family photography

Occasionally I take photos of families. And very occasionally I make up a “shot list.” Like for weddings, where I am terrified of missing an important photo like “bride and groom with grandpa” or “bride high-fiving the family pooch”.

But last week I didn’t bother with a list for the small family I was shooting, because, well, they were a small family, and how could one possibly miss an important combination? But while we were in the middle of it all, the grandma said she didn’t need one with the grandkids because she had a recent one, and then, it turns out, we missed her with her son, daughter-in-law and kids altogether.

I had one of her on her own, and I had a group shot, but none of her alone with that part of the family.

I felt so bad about it that I decided to employ some (bad) Photoshop magic for them. Oh, and on our way out to the venue where we did the shoot, we saw a bear which (aforementioned) grandma mistook for a cow. Or was it a herd of cows that she thought was a sleuth of bears?

Whatever the case, I included the bear we saw in the field in her photoshopped images. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am sure she will.

Weird, there seem to be too many legs in this photo.
She’s a sneaky one, this long-armed, photo-bombing grandma.
There’s no missing grandma in this shot!
All most calm!

Two days’ worth of one-liners from a three-year-old

I’m visiting some friends in Edmonton, who I visited last in 2016. Back then their kid was this big and quite the character:

I took those photos as part of a series which you can see here. He’s now three and prattles away non-stop. Here are just a few of the things I’ve heard him say in the last couple of days: 

His mom at snack time: “Do you guys want some chips?”
Me: “No thanks, I’m good.”
Him: “I’m not good! I want chips!”

At supper while eating steak, and sitting opposite me:
Him: “I’m going to cut your face off.”
Me: “I think I will be locking my bedroom door tonight.”

Me (speaking to myself): “What’s that Simon & Garfunkel song called?”
Him: “A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H-I-J-K-LMNOP …”

His mom: “Can you count to 10 for uncle Robin?”
Him: “1, 2, …. A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H-I-J-K-LMNOP… I prefer my ABCs.”

While out for a walk with him, me carrying his bicycle and helmet because he got tired of them: “Check out my running & skipping skills!” Important things for a three-year-old to master, for sure.

After getting back from a walk:
Me: “Dude, why do you have so many shoes?”
Him: Because I neeeeed them!”

Him, asking for a fork to eat his sushi.
Me: “What kind of Chinese child are you?”
Him: “A Japanese one.”

He keeps talking about Darth Vader so I asked if he had a picture of him. “No, don’t be silly! I don’t own a camera,” he replied seriously.

While playing with his dinosaurs: “The T-rex is eating three breakfasts: a Brontosaurus, a Stegosaurus and a muffin …”

All about Canuckistan’s national bird

Believe it or not, Canuckistan does not have a national bird.

The debate about what it should be has been raging for years, more fiercely in fact than most debates rage in this country of begging-your-pardon pacifists. Suggestions have ranged from the common loon to the snowy owl, the anonymous grey jay to the Canada goose. If it were possible for people to come to blows on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook arguing for or against their favourite fowl, they would have. In fact, in the last few months, the bickering has become almost as vitriolic as the regional lilliputian co-ed mud wrestling fixture held annually in Kickamidge, B.C.

“The cry of the loon is the stuff of children’s nightmares,” sniped one pugilist on Facebook, which was quickly countered with an almost-as-violent riposte, “but the gray jay is drab and not terribly photogenic!” I stopped reading when one commenter, in reference to another’s manners and grammar, called him “a messy, ill-tempered brute, just like the Canada goose.”

That’s just not cricket, or very fair on the goose!

In order to bring some sense of peace and sanity to the dispute I would, however, like to throw my hat in the ring with clearly the most obvious suggestion yet: the Canucki mosquito.

Wow, these things are like giant, tenacious blood-sucking raptors. With the warm, lingering summer evenings we are enjoying, the mosquitoes are absolutely thriving. And do they voraciously delight in my sweet gluten-free blood?

That was not rhetorical.

Everything I’ve experienced since arriving in Canuckistan late last month has involved these pesky soon-to-be national birds. A nice little walk through the forest with a friend became an absurd, frantic, wheezing dash back to the safety of the car, where we smooshed the blood-bloated bugs against the dashboard and inside of the windshield. Playing ultimate frisbee, swimming in the lake, hiking to a waterfall or simply sitting down to dinner all involve whacking, scratching, crying and gnashing of teeth because of the little buggers.

And after a particularly wet winter and spring, it seems as if the legions of bloodsuckers are just getting started, readying themselves for as many kamikaze attacks on my exposed bald head and chicken legs as possible.

Obviously voting them the Canucki national bird won’t make my visit here any less itchy. But really, for their ever-presence, sheer size and weight in numbers, they do deserve your vote. Don’t you think?

High jinx fashion at the village of value

I don’t know a Canuckistani who hasn’t heard of their premier thrift store chain Value Village – either having donated something to it, or bought something from it. Even I was schlepped off to their branch in Prince George in northern BC to stock up on cheap and second-hand wintry goods when I first lived in Canuckistan in 2013. I must admit though, I didn’t find them that great value, but after seeing some of the stuff they were selling, did decide they were the perfect place to do a faux-fashion show.

With a nurse, actor and student as my all-too-willing models I finally realised that dream this week at one of their lower-mainland stores. The village’s staff observed quizzically from a distance but we did at least entertain several of the older patrons who agreed that our models looked absolutely fabulous. Most importantly, we had a ball.

 

When the vegans tried to commandeer the skies and forced me to join them

I’ve been genuinely impressed with the German airline Lufthansa on this trip to Canuckistan. Amongst other things, their flight attendants were uber-friendly and funny to boot, always ready with a tongue-in-cheek response for this cantankerous traveller. I don’t think I’ve been this impressed with flight attendants before. Ever. 

And the slick show they choreographed with the service carts was something to behold. The drinks’ trolley went first and performed a deft pirouette into the narrow corridor between bulkhead and bathrooms as the food cart rolled by. Out twirled the first into the emergency exit area to let the true star of the show – the svelte hot drinks and dessert trolley – into the wings. And so they went throughout the serving shift – a pirouette here, a je ne sais quoi there. What would be a traffic jam on any other airline was the most precise, calculated ballet by the Germans. 

RM6_3770
Some of the trolley-twirling flight attendants: Sophia, Sophie, Sophie and Schuyler. *

I had to get that off my chest before dealing with the elephant on the plane: the gluten-free food. Some people think I’m just being picky, with my mostly gluten-free diet. Others laugh at how often I cheat with said diet. But the truth is, I hate being gluten-free. I long for all things gluten-packed: pizzas, freshly-baked rolls, pasta, beer, carrot cake … I could fill my blog post with things I miss but that would do no-one any favours. Ever since I had that pesky Malagasy black mould growing in my chest, gluten and yeast have affected me by producing extra mucous, which makes it feel as if I’m drowning … And when I fly, especially, I’ve found that I can’t cheat, otherwise the journey turns into what feels like a drowning drama on the high seas. 

But here’s the thing. In order to save money, I suppose, the airline lumps all the weirdo gluten-free, low-sodium, no-lactose, no-flavour and vegetarian meals under the same umbrella: the vegan one. 

If you’re vegan, good luck to you. I’m not. Already I have to deal with the dense, dry GF breads, but I, personally, like my meats, eggs and all things artery clogging. So, when I was served vegan dishes between Munich and Vancouver I longed to launch a rebellion to rival the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette‘s “let them eat cake” had nothing on the indignation caused by “let him eat vegan.”

But I was fighting solo: a fight I had no chance of winning without fellow rabble-rousing vegan-food-haters brandishing their plastic cutlery to back me up. 

The moral of my story? if you plan on having me around for tea or a meal, please don’t follow the last French queen’s plea and let me have cake, even if it’s gluten-free. And please, pretty, pretty please, don’t use the Lufthansa recipe book of “special meals” either.

* (Of course, I made that up but I had you going for a minute, didn’t I?)

Of trashy romance novels and outdated wills

It’s been a year since I blogged here, but I’m back. For those of you who are visiting for the first time, the name of this blog is Cruising Canuckistan but it could just as easily have been called Chronicles of the Consummate Globetrotter, as you will see as you read on …

I left O.R. Tambo International Airport last night bound for Vancouver, Canuckistan’s eclectic, sleepy heart. 8.35pm, our scheduled departure time, came and went with us sitting still in our slim, assigned seats on the South African Airways A330-200. Skinny jeans are popular. Skinny aircraft seats are not.

“Evening folks,” announced our chipper captain a few minutes after we should have taken off. “We discovered a little technical problem, but we think we’ve fixed it and should be off shortly – as soon as all the indemnities and other paperwork to do with the issue have been squared away.”

Of course, his breezy explanation left me completely at ease – considering that he was about to attempt to launch a 230-tonne metal casket with wings and 139,000 litres of highly flammable fuel and a “little technical problem” into the sky. My back went into spasm at the thought. Thinking about my will (which I haven’t updated recently) added to the stress. The point is, if we all died in our fiery metal coffin, people I don’t see anymore could inherit all the valuables I don’t have. And that, obviously, would not do!

But with many a rattle and the combined will of every passenger on board, the Airbus eventually lurched towards the stars 45 minutes late. I never did learn what the little problem was – I was dealing with my own. Literally. Have you ever noticed how everything on a commercial airliner seems to be smaller than in the real world: The seats. The salad and salad dressing. The drinks.

Drink responsibly, warned the label on the tiny bottle of Shiraz … I asked for a six-pack. It was the most responsible thing I could think of, after all the drama of the delay and pondering my outdated will. The flight attendant looked at me funny and drove his drinks’ cart into my knee.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.27.15 AM
My seat, number 65G

Speaking of which, my seat was near the back of the plane – part of a group of three, inset a bit from the four in front of it. I had read about it while checking in online, and chose it because, according to the experts’ recommendations, one would have less chance of being hit by passing passengers or meal carts because of the seat being slightly further from the aisle. The first cart’s reversing chauffeur thwacked into my shoulder with his derriere. The second cart hit me squarely on the funny bone, and then, on the way back, rode over my foot.

My slightly offset seat posed other challenges too. Firstly, my neighbour’s meal tray was at my left leg, while my tray stuck slightly into the aisle. Several times I found one of her potatoes and green beans on my fork. Fortunately she didn’t choose a drink to accompany her meal, or I am sure I would have shared that with her too.

Secondly, one was always sitting slightly skew because the seats didn’t line up properly with those in front of them. Despite having the tour de force “Captain Underpants” as my only movie choice (I had seen everything else), I decided to try to sleep as soon as the dinner stuff had been cleared away. Halfway into the flight (after more tossing than actual sleep) I began hallucinating about spooning with the elderly woman next to me. My right buttocks were cramping so badly from the offset seat, all I could think of was to lean over, fling my arm across her ample bosom and take the pressure off my butt. But no, one doesn’t do that kind of thing in the civilized world of air travel. And she had made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t interested in chitchat, let alone my spooning, but rather on the heroic French ship’s commander, hero of the trashy romance novel she made herself comfortable with the minute she boarded.

And now, as I get ready to hit “post” I am sitting at Munich Airport willing my eyelids to stay open until I board my next flight to Vancouver. How I adore air travel!

 

 

 

More chronicles of a peripatetic shutterbug

I’d always been warned not to fly via the USA. Stories of delayed flights, rude staff, lost luggage and chaotic customs had all terrified me into avoiding America’s skies like the plague.

But this trip saw me flying on a United Airlines ticket. Only one of the legs – to Los Angeles – would be on United, with the rest covered by British Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa and South African Airways.

I already wrote about my flights into Canada earlier in the month. Both were surprisingly good and I wasn’t dreading my flights back to South Africa too much.

The first inkling of trouble came, though, when I couldn’t check in or choose my seats online 24 hours before the flights, as I’m used to doing. “Report to a United representative at the airport,” all the airline check-in sites I tried instructed.

My routing was to be Prince George to Vancouver (an hour to the south by air) and then on to Los Angeles, Frankfurt and finally Johannesburg – 40 hours travel time in total.

Would you like me to check your baggage all the way through to your final destination,” the friendly Air Canada check-in chap asked helpfully in Prince.

“Why, yes please,” I replied. “And could I choose my seats and get boarding passes for all my other flights now too,” I asked hopefully.

But that was a bridge too far for the fellow. I was told to sort it out in Vancouver, which is what I tried to do the moment I pranced off the ‘plane in the rainy city.

But there I was sent from pillar to post. First, United told me they could supply my boarding pass as far as Los Angeles but no further, and that Lufthansa would have to sort out the rest. So off I went to the counter staffed by curt Germans. “Nein,” they told me. “That can only be done in LA. But you could try the call centre. Maybe they can help.”

And so I did. And they couldn’t. LA it was to be!

Getting through customs was challenging. Apparently people who need visas to get into the US are treated as untouchables in the customs caste system. Me being me, I broke the line after 15 minutes of seeing everyone and their auntie pass us by, and approached an official to ask if we could ever expect to have our passports stamped so we might get to our flights.

“You will,” she answered in a deep drawl and left us waiting another 15 minutes. Finally a bored-looking customs guy took pity on us. I made it to my flight on time. Some passengers were not as fortunate.

I had paid for a slightly better seat from Vancouver to LA but it turns out that was a waste of time and money. When things go pear shaped, they go well and truly pear-shaped.

“Hi,” I said breezily when the flight attendant came by with her drinks’ cart… “I paid for a different seat with more legroom and free refreshments.” But apparently she didn’t understand South African English because all I got was a bag of pretzels, a glass of apple juice and a disparaging glare.

“Uh, I can’t eat gluten, do you perhaps have peanuts, or a banana maybe,” I inquired of the rapidly retreating back of her head.

LAX is an interesting airport. I’ve flown into several international hubs around the world, all of which have had some sort of train or transport system to take you from one end of the terminal to the next. LAX? It doesn’t. And so I did my best interpretation of a high-speed train from the edge where the United plane vomited us out, to the opposite end where the Lufthansa flight was waiting to welcome us into her warm embrace: up stairs and down escalators, along lonely, labyrinthine corridors with only my hollow, footsteps and dead-weight camera bag as company.

“Hello, ello, ello,” I called out at one point, “is there anybody out there?”

I wondered if I was fated to die a lonely death wandering the subterranean halls of LAX in search of the Germans. But, of course, I did find them: I’m a worldly-wise, well-travelled voyager after all. Thankfully, the Lufthansa rep was able to check me into the flight – in the middle of a central cattle class section up against the bulkhead.

“Ah, I love the bulkhead,” I thought to myself (based on my experience on two flights earlier this month.) Things were looking up! I thanked him profusely.

Once again, he couldn’t check me in to my final flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg because of a glitch in the system, he said. I knew he was just making that up: he didn’t have a clue why no-one all day had been able to do what they were trained to do with my booking.

“Oh, and your baggage has also only been routed as far as Frankfurt,” he informed me nonchalantly. By this time I was sobbing all over the complimentary German magazines on the check-in desk.

“Don’t worry,” he said, scared of a scene and soggy magazines on his watch. “I’ll call the baggage boys and get them to fix it.” Just before boarding I went around to make sure it had been fixed. By the hidden crew of handlers. There was a new guy with a latino accent at the terminal. I trotted out my sordid well-rehearsed story again.

It’s amazing how someone can smile while giving you bad news. “I am sorry,” he said. “There is no sign of your baggage having arrived in LA. But the good news is that the flight is on time, and we will begin boarding immediately.” Obviously I begged him to check again but was served the same excuse I had received all day – they didn’t have access to the system and the next airline would have to sort it out.

It also got me thinking about how two massively potent nations like Germany and the USA could manage to bungle something as simple as baggage delivery. Hopefully that’s at the top of Trump’s agenda to make the country great again: stop losing your visitors’ luggage! It doesn’t make a good impression.

And so here I am, as I write this, sandwiched between a man who smells of stale alcohol and a mademoiselle who speaks no English but keeps trying to vacuum her partner’s lips off with a “rowwwr” and a va va voom on the aisle. I’d tell them to get a room but, strictly speaking, this is one – just with 300-odd fellow occupants.

Fortunately there is a toddler and her copy-cat sibling somewhere at the right wing who have been screeching since take off to drown out the amorous liaisons.

At least I’m not drinking alone…

One of my most imbecilic performances ever

I still can’t believe what an idiot I was!

And with that one sentence a myriad of images flooded your mind about what I could possibly have done? Well, it’s this you see …

It’s sometimes easier to do the impossible than to do the embarrassing. Ashleigh Brilliant

Shortly after arriving in Canuckistan I took my camera and two lenses for a swim: my two not-at-all-waterproof lenses and only-slightly-splashproof camera.

I have climbed into and out of canoes more than I’ve had hot breakfasts, but this time I wasn’t thinking straight; I rushed into the green craft too quickly, my camera swung, throwing me off-balance and I toppled in. My wide-angle lens was in my pants’ pocket (the obvious place for it to be) while my camera with 50mm lens attached was slung around my neck. Obviously none were in waterproof bags. After all, I’d climbed into and out of canoes without falling in more times than I’ve had hot breakfasts.

The scene I was heading out to shoot.
The scene I was heading out to shoot (an iPhone photo).

Two friends who were watching the whole comedic affair remained rooted to the spot on the bank. Although, now that I think about it, one may have fallen off his lawn chair, so vulgarly boisterous was his laughter. My wide-angle hit the water first, and stayed submerged for an eternity. My camera I grabbed as I tumbled in, mostly keeping it out of the water’s clutches. It did get a little moist but not like the wide-angle, which literally had water pouring out of it, once I’d squeezed it from my pocket.

I stumbled up and out of the water, stammering that everything was fine, while secretly wishing I could have hidden my sodden self under the dock until the witnesses had left.

I was at a church camp at the time, and within no time news about my idiotic act had spread through the group. But that’s probably all my doing – what with my bald self bursting into the meeting hall begging for a hair dryer. Need I say more?

610_4784
How they would have looked at me as I burst in with my news.

Only after spending hours blow-drying the three precious pieces of equipment, inadvertently fogging up their innards, did I read that the worst thing possible is to use a hair dryer. Eventually a couple of colleagues suggested that I use silica gel sachets (those things one gets in medicine bottles). Several of them generously raided their medicine cabinets and I stuffed the sachets into every nook and cranny of the camera body and lenses, praying fervently all the while.

One of those who helped with the silica treatment.
One of those who helped with the silica treatment.

The final step in my attempt to resurrect my photographic equipment was to put the pieces into porous bags and to plunge them into cheap rice for several days. After over a week of treatment (and being forced to shoot with my phone) the rice, combined with the silica, seemed to do the trick for the camera and wide-angle. Unfortunately the 50mm never did recover. The camera itself still has occasional tics and twitches, where it refuses to focus or kills the battery too quickly, but in general she’s back to her old self.

And the moral of the story? I don’t know.

You tell me.

When I went out later with my iPhone.
When I went out later with my iPhone.
Sunset shot with the iPhone.
Sunset shot with the iPhone.
A kid having fun on the water slide (an iPhone shot).
A kid having fun on the water slide (an iPhone shot).
Disappearing legs (an artistic iPhone shot).
Disappearing legs (an artistic iPhone shot).

Throwback Thursday: These Canucks are crazy, I tell ya!

This was one of the first blogposts I wrote after moving to Canuckistan in 2013. I thought it was worth revisiting (something I plan on doing every Thursday while I’m here – looking back at some of my blogposts from back then.) I’ve edited it slightly, but you will get the point …

________________________

So, before I moved over here I was told that everyone was absolutely charming. Of course, all Canucki adults are polite as punch, but I was informed that the teenagers and children were all most lovable too. And I do appreciate a disciplined, delightful youngster.

Since arriving at the beginning of the month I’ve experienced some strange phenomena, however. I’m not sure if these occurrences are caused by some until-now-repressed zombie gene (formed years ago by the foul-smelling stuff pumped into the air by the pulp mills) or just because everyone has had enough of my camera stuck in their faces …

But when I do try to photograph the kids, these are the results. One old chap informed me that I probably wouldn’t make it to winter at this rate. All I know is, I’m willing to die trying.

Zombieland 2 Zombieland 5 Zombieland 6 Zombieland 8

Z I've got a booger up my nose! And finally, the cutest zombie of them all:

Zombieland 9

Vancouver, the town that helped vanquish my vicious jet lag

I feel for my friends the Steenkamps in Vancouver, I really do. They are the ones that always get me at my most bushy-tailed and bright-eyed as I arrive from South Africa via Europe.

As if.

It is they, the most patient of families, who get to struggle with the jet-lagged zombie that emerges through the yawning doors at Vancouver International airport after his 30-hour transcontinental flight. But somehow we always manage to visit Stanley Park, Cypress Mountain or Blenz Coffee in Horseshoe Bay within hours of my arrival. Me, with numb bum, bloodshot eyes and the sense that the earth is in constant motion; and I flying ten feet above it.

The morning after I arrived I decided to pretend I wasn’t allergic to either gluten or yeast, and joined the family for the most heavenly croissants this side of France. “It’ll be fine,” I assured them. “They don’t use yeast in croissants. I ate them in France and Switzerland for months earlier this year and was quite healthy, thank you very much!”

Except, here in Canuckistan it’s apparently easier to use yeast than to practice the regular time-consuming technique from the homeland, which involves too much butter and lots of folding of the croissant dough, to make it rise. With me feeling decidedly queasy, one of the boys suggested we go to a coffee shop and roastery on the city’s north side that his boss had been going bananas for.

“A perfect cup of coffee is all you need to set your stomach straight,” he assured.

“Mmmmmm? This is different,” I thought to myself after the first sip. I glanced over at my mates to see what they thought of their drinks and then at a lass at the table opposite who was sipping her coffee, grimacing and looking quizzically at her cup. I’d noticed one particularly excited customer who bought three bags of beans, leaving the store as if he had just secured the crown jewels of Java. But I wasn’t convinced.

I kept glancing surreptitiously across at the girl opposite, who was pulling weird faces after every sip, and eventually could contain myself no longer.

“Hello,” I said to her creepily, after sidling softly over to her right shoulder. “I’m doing a snap survey about what you think about your coffee.”

Of course, being Canadian, and not wanting to offend anyone, she lied at first.

“It’s fine,” she shrugged.

“… because my coffee tasted a bit strange and I couldn’t quite place the taste,” I continued.

And then the floodgates opened.

“Yes,” she replied. “It is kind of disgusting. Like dish water, or raw sewage. Yes, raw sewage. That’s how I would describe it.”

Laughing, I left her staring still at her cup of raw sewage and went back to my table. Everyone there agreed that the coffee was a bit off, and that we would never return. I could just imagine the young Canadian describing her strange morning to friends or family …

A day later, while on the ferry to the sunshine coast, I managed to fling the entire contents of my camera bag down a flight of stairs, lost my travelling companions and caused an incident when I tried to board their car as they exited the boat, in a no-picking-up-passengers zone. I blame the jet lag.

But, to be honest, this time I got over it pretty quickly, and jumped on a plane bound for Quesnel (600km north) feeling refreshed and ready for even more adventures.

As I didn’t take many photos in Vancouver this time, I leave you with a few from previous trips.

A bomb you say?

WingYesterday afternoon, two hours late, I left Vancouver in the People’s Republic of Canuckistan bound for Africa – that dark, dangerous continent that harbours so many nefarious no-gooders. All went quietly (although very slowly) on the flight over to Frankfurt, which is where I’m sitting now – waiting for my connecting flight in 10 hours (yes, you read that right.)

Although I went through customs in Canuckistan at the start of the journey – which is pretty uniform around the world, I would assume – I had to do it all over again in Germany. I made it to customs eventually with a mass of smelly, sweaty fellow travellers and removed anything that could set the scanner off, including my glasses, watch and belt, and waddled through clutching my pants, which were trying hard to embarrass me by diving to my ankles at every step.

The customs officer looked surprised I’d made it through without setting off alarms. Before I could wonder at her attitude, a different uniformed woman, with a very serious countenance, called me over. I blindly squinted towards her (remember, I’d removed my glasses) trying to fathom if she was indeed beckoning for me or another poor sap in my general direction.

I ascertained it was indeed me she was after, and shuffled closer.

“Come vit me,” she said gravely, hauling out my computer DVD drive as I approached. “Ve are going to test zis for bomb matter. Und you haff been randomly selected to be scanned too.”

I almost laughed out loud, And started picturing being led into a tiny booth with this menacing personage for a full going-over, a bare lightbulb held hotly before my face as they beat a confession about my bomb-making skills out of me.

“Why did I go for that prostate exam the other day,” I thought to myself. “I could have had a free one here.”

But sadly for the story, and fortunately for me, my imagination didn’t quite line up with reality. They solemnly scanned the DVD drive (and me) and sent me on my way when it turned out it was, in fact, just a DVD drive. I could have told them that, but who would have believed a strange, shuffling, pants-clutching, squinting guy like me?

Ah, what would air travel be without something eventful to make it more memorable? Right?

Planes at Frankfurt Airport
Planes at Frankfurt Airport

You can’t fix stupid but you can ROFL at it

After a long, emotion-filled love/hate relationship with Facebook, during which time I maintained three different profiles, I stepped away from it all several months back. And, honestly, most of the time I don’t miss it at all. Sometimes, though, when in need of a good old laugh, I wish I could just log on and troll over to the local “buy and sell” network to which I used to belong.

It was a place, not only filled with many laugh-out loud posts, but also somewhere I could expand my grasp of the English language. Last year I posted these on one of my little-used blogs on another blogging platform. I’m sure they are worth a re-post.

Excuse me madam, but I think your son may have been abducted by aliens ...
Excuse me madam, but I think your son may have been abducted by aliens …
In South Africa we call Jeans "a jean-pant" so this made me really homesick for a moment with its "studio pant". GUC: German University in Cairo? Nope, that can't be it... Why not just say "Good Used Condition" ... It's not like she's paying per word to advertise here. Unless she meant "Growing Up Creepy" but that would just be weird...
In South Africa we call Jeans “a jean-pant” so this made me really homesick for a moment with its “studio pant”. GUC: German University in Cairo? Nope, that can’t be it… Why not just say “Good Used Condition” … It’s not like she’s paying per word to advertise here. Unless she meant “Growing Up Creepy” but that would just be weird…
How cool is that - a snowflake on the arm that changes colour to tell you if it's too cold! Or you could just look at the colour of the baby in the suit. Blue-tinged baby = too cold. Red, flushed baby = too warm.
How cool is that – a snowflake on the arm that changes colour to tell you if it’s too cold! Or you could just look at the colour of the baby in the suit. Blue-tinged baby = too cold. Red, flushed baby = too warm.
Sorry, but exactly what is that thing that you're trying to sell? Lindsay seems to know, but it's all still fuzzy to me.
Sorry, but exactly what is that thing that you’re trying to sell? Lindsay seems to know, but it’s all still fuzzy to me.
Of course, sticking to accepted conventions of good grammar and spelling is completely lost on most people here. I'm still trying to figure out why she bothered with the colon.
Of course, sticking to accepted conventions of good grammar and spelling is completely lost on most people here. I’m still trying to figure out why she bothered with the colon.
Online marketing tip number 1: highlight the pros of what you are trying to sell, for example "double bed ... has stain." Perhaps further enhance the selling point by describing how the stain was created, like "only one owner: incontinent grandma."
Online marketing tip number 1: highlight the pros of what you are trying to sell, for example, “double bed … has stain.” Perhaps further enhance the selling point by describing how the stain was created, like “only one owner: incontinent grandma.” Still available? I’m shocked.
I've never really understood the whole "need gone ASAP" which one sees on the site often. Surely if the owner is trying to sell it he or she wants it gone? But in this case, I have to agree. That thing is nightmare-inducing. Seriously, get it out of the house like yesterday already!
I’ve never really understood the whole “need gone ASAP” which one sees on the site often. Surely if the owner is trying to sell it he or she wants it gone? But in this case, I have to agree. That thing is nightmare-inducing. Seriously, get it out of the house like yesterday already!
"Gently used." I should hope so!
“Gently used.” I should hope so!