About a jalopy’s amazing journey through Canuckistan

What feels like way way way back in June, I arrived in Canuckistan. I stayed down on the lower mainland for a week or so and then flew up to Quesnel in the Cariboo area, where a generous friend (let’s call him “Dave” for the purpose of this blogpost) lent me a car to use for the duration of my stay. On the day I picked it up someone backed his vehicle into the passenger door. I drove it like that, with a bashed in door, for the rest of my time here. The tyres were bald and the hybrid battery was iffy, but it served me well. 

In total I drove approximately 18,700km in the jalopy without an oil change, exploring the gorgeous Canuckistan – on a day-trip to the unremarkable Burns Lake to deliver some truck parts for a friend, to the hillbillies outside town and the elderly lady who has run a holiday resort for several decades in the heart of the Cariboo. I drove back down to the lower mainland to a wedding and enjoyed several hikes with friends to lakes and waterfalls and god-awfully-high viewpoints over the ocean. From there I drove to friends in Edmonton, and to people I didn’t know in northern Alberta. I shot the northern lights and a couple of goose hunts, went on a day-trip to the North West Territories to find waterfalls, and undertook several excursions to look for bears to shoot (with my camera). Much of the driving was done around Quesnel itself to discover and photograph many of its most beautiful spots and people. I visited a (semi) random farm in the Okanagan and then, as my journey was coming to an end, I found myself back on the lower mainland, where I had started. (In total, I’m sure I travelled way over 20,000km in 5 months, including in other people’s vehicles, side-by side off-road vehicles and on a motorbike that caught fire.)

My final three weeks in the Pacific Northwest, I stayed with friends in the States, which necessitated a few trips across the border. 

Just before I departed for the U.S.A. I Googled to see if I needed a letter from Dave giving me permission to take the vehicle across the border. But I couldn’t find anything that said I needed to. And for the first dozen or so times that I crossed between Canuckistan and the US I wasn’t asked about the car. 

But last Friday that all changed.  Last Friday the tetchy woman in the booth decided to question whether I had permission from Dave to drive his car. I told her I did but she wasn’t taking my word for it, sending me into the customs office to deal with it further. 

Up until then, I had been amazed at how friendly the border control guards were (on the American side especially) but on that fateful Friday everything changed, scarring me for good. On Friday I was forced to deal with a border control guy of whom Heinrich Himmler would have been proud. I’m amazed he didn’t strap me to a chair with a bare lightbulb trained on my face.

It seems that he had decided I was guilty of something at first glance. I’ve always said I have “one of those faces”. He barked out questions, none of which had anything to do with the borrowed car: was I married, did I have children, what work did I do, how had I been travelling for so long, had I been working in Canuckistan or the States, why did I have so many friends to visit in Canuckistan and had I ever watched “Corner Gas” set in Dog River, Saskatchewan? Well, that last one wasn’t true, but he then proceeded to empty my wallet. The goon studied every grocery and fuel receipt, examined my drivers’ licence at such length that I suspected he had fallen into a profound trance, and dug things out of the tiny pockets that I had forgotten were there. He rifled through my phone; through my entire web browsing history and all my photos; he read my messages and emails. I felt violated.

I’m convinced that border control employees are required to have their senses of humour surgically removed after accepting the job. And so I have learned not to try joking or being light-hearted with them.  It’s like trying to be cute with a Doberman guard dog. Not at all wise. My mouth was dry. I was sweating. 

But perhaps I’m just overly sensitive. 

My two phones, one of which I use purely for music, were a massive (combined) red flag for him. If I were the joking type I would have told him one was my burner for all things nefarious. But I didn’t. Life is boring when you don’t get to make up fantastic stories for border guards.  

Eventually he actually asked me for Dave’s cellphone number.  

“He doesn’t have one,” I answered.  

“Who doesn’t have a cellphone?” asked he, while studying both of mine. 

Again, I could have responded with one of so many snide remarks, but I held myself back and rather just said, “Dave.”

“Dave doesn’t.”

Dave’s in his 70s, you see, and is so busy at work, that he doesn’t want one. So I Googled his work phone number, which the SS goon wasn’t interested in. 

“Is this a business-owned car or his personal car,” he asked. “If it’s registered to him personally, why are you giving me his work number?” 

Apparently they removed his brain at the same time as his sense of humour, because I had to explain (very calmly) that that was the only place we could get hold of Dave on a weekday. Because he doesn’t have a cellphone. (I’m sure I had mentioned that before.) 

So, the Nazi called Dave. And, amazingly, managed to get him on the phone. Because anyone who knows Dave knows that you only get to speak to him around 12.63% of the time when calling him at work.

I heard the one side of the conversation from the awkward bench to which I had been banished. All seemed just fine. Fortunately, Dave did not use his dry sense of humour on Hitler’s friend, who, seemingly satisfied, typed something on his computer and then called me over to the counter. Dreaming of a strong cup of coffee, satisfied that I was almost on my way, I sauntered over confidently. 

“Give me your keys,” he demanded. “And go and sit down again. I need to search the vehicle.” 

I hoped that he would enjoy all the touristy photos on my two DSLRs, which were on the back seat. But he never mentioned them. He was apparently too fixated on the cash he had found in my man-bag. You see, I don’t tend to use credit cards when travelling – it just gets too confusing what with wildly fluctuating exchange rates and all. 

“And where did you get this money?” he asked. 

“Africa,” I answered obtusely. “I brought it with me from home.” I considered getting just a teeny bit feisty: “Is it illegal to travel with cash now,” I almost asked. Because one is allowed to travel across the border with up to $10,000 in cash. And I most definitely did not have that on me! But I held my tongue.

He asked if I was hiding any more cash in the car, and I almost asked him if he would be willing to look for me. I mean, I have no idea whether Dave ever used the vehicle to stash cash. I was kind of hopeful.

But fortunately, he seemed to be getting bored at the fact that he wasn’t allowed to water board me or use shocking tools on my genitals, so he shoved all my stuff across the cold counter at me, told me to pack it up and leave. I tried asking another question but I had ceased to exist. He was already eyeing a new nervous victim across the room. 

Two days later I travelled across the border agin. This time they searched the trunk with a fine-tooth comb, stripping out the spare tyre and several car panels. Again, the guy seemed disappointed not to find anything in the jalopy. Fortunately it was relatively easy to replace the panels. Don’t tell Dave.

Yesterday I was relieved to give the car back to Dave. Of course, I blamed him for all my border trouble. 

And thus ended my trip through western Canuckistan in Dave’s jalopy. I’m headed home to safe, secure Africa, where everyone is friendly and doesn’t possess a bone of suspicion in their bodies. See you on the other side!

Generally just down-to-earth, genuine people

Yesterday I wrote a blogpost about some of the challenges I have had taking photos in a small town here in Canuckistan. And I was given a real dressing down by a friend later who took umbrage at me generalising about Canuckistanis and how impolite and unfriendly they can be.

Of course, one should never generalise about an entire population, and that was most definitely not my intention – I was just reflecting on some of the less welcoming, sometimes suspicious individuals I encountered in this tiny pocket of Canuckistan.

The majority were interested in where I came from and actually happy that I would take the time to document their lives and the town they called home. Like the older couple I saw walking hand in hand on the riverfront trail one evening. I pulled over, grabbed my camera and jogged over to them to ask if I might photograph them. He answered in the affirmative, with flowery language that would have made a sailor blush. But I loved how down to earth both of them were, and just how in love they seemed to be.

There were the golfers with equally as expletive-laden language and the two wheelchair-bound women fighting for better facilities and access for the handicapped in town. The twenty-something lady walking her dog under the golden canopy of Ceal Tingley park humoured me by going back to do it once, twice and a third time so that I could get an angle with which I was happy. The dragon boat paddlers invited me, a complete stranger, onto the boat with them and the yoga ladies at the local recreation centre made sure to show their best form. The group of skateboarders were only too happy to show off their moves for the camera, and millwright students took time off class to pose for my camera. The most accommodating and pleasant though, were the staff and interns at the local hospital.

Those were just some of the people I didn’t know who let me photograph them.

In addition, over the course of a month and a bit, I cajoled a whole bunch of friends to come out and help me to stage photos to show off some of the best this town and its surroundings has to offer too.

And after weeks of photographing, I realised that it’s not nature, buildings or facilities that make the town beautiful. It’s its people. I know that sounds twee, but it’s a simple truth I hope I never forget. The main memories I take from my last four months Cruising Canuckistan are of the new people I met, and the friends I got to know better as we spent time together photographing the city.

 

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…

In search of a latte, I got dishwashing liquid

A funny thing happened to me today while cruising Canuckistan for coffee. I walked into my regular café in these parts and stuck my head into the kitchen to say hi, as is my wont.

And I just knew, instinctively, that all was not well… One of the bakers was working as a cook, the regular barista was helping plate food, and the 14-year-old who normally only wakes up at 2pm was heard moaning at the washing-up area, while the boss flitted between jobs fixing this and making that.

“How can I help,” I asked sympathetically, and instantly had a plastic blue apron thrust into my hand. “We are understaffed, you can help wash, it’s back there,” I was instructed, before I could suggest that I would prefer helping the baker/cook.

And so, for the next three hours I rinsed, scraped, washed, scrubbed and polished. My helper, the 14-year-old with Attention Deficit Disorder worked in spurts but would disappear without warning. Amongst other things, I found her fawning over a baby (on several occasions), making herself a bacon snack, skateboarding between patrons in the courtyard, fashioning a portable speaker out of a disposable coffee cup (because one cannot work without music) and jamming the door of the cold-room closed, with the barista locked inside.

By the end, my Birkenstock sandals were sodden, along with the hem of my shorts’ legs, but there was a silver lining: whenever the barista wasn’t locked in the cold-room and remembered me slaving away at the sink, I would receive a perfect latté – the very thing I had originally come in for.

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?

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

About chicken legs and a wee whiskey or two in the night

Friends have been asking ad infinitum when I planned on blogging here again. And I haven’t had an answer. Until now.

The kick-start I needed came this evening.

Firstly, I went for a run. That in itself is noteworthy enough, but what really got heads turning was the fact that I was wearing shorts – with the temperature at a balmy -10°C. By the end of the run my legs looked like two flame-roasted chicken drumsticks. One of my neighbours, who was out promenading her toddlers, was so embarrassed by the sight that she spun her kids away and together they pretended to admire non-existent rose bushes in her snow-encrusted front yard.

The second significant event was that I had supper at my dining room table for the first time ever: me, with my giant pink pig for company. Most evenings I just sit glued to the TV or my laptop, but now that I’ve broken the ice, I may enjoy many more meals at said table, with said pig. Perhaps I’ll even invite others around to enjoy the atmosphere.

It’s been 13 cold days since I arrived home from South Africa, and I am finally beginning to acclimatise.

SAA and a tractorI left Johannesburg on the 12th of February on a journey that was to take 30 hours. We were bussed out to our Airbus on time, and before I could begin feeling homesick, pushed back from our parking spot. And then we stopped. And waited. We waited longer than any plane should have to wait for a slot to taxi and take off. And then the captain came on: he with his calm, monotone voice, the one that couldn’t possibly be concealing any worry or irritability.

“Hi folks. You’re probably wondering why we aren’t moving,” he began, stating the obvious. “Well, we are unfortunately stuck on the pushback tractor. The airport was trying out flashy new technology, where one rides the plane’s front wheel right up onto the tug … and now our wheel is stuck. I’ll keep you updated; I’m sure we will get going very soon though.”

But he was lying through his teeth, of course. They always do. Eventually, half an hour later, with no updates from him, his first mate or any of the flight attendants, we lurched off the tractor and were on our way. The rest of the trip to Frankfurt, Germany, was uneventful – the plane half empty and, with two seats to myself, I managed to doze, resuscitate my comatose backside, doze, stretch my aching legs, doze … and so on for 10 hours.

After a few hours of wandering Frankfurt’s airport like a zombie, I boarded my next flight for Vancouver. This time the plane was chock-a-block and I ended up next to a quiet German woman on her way to heli-ski in BC, and an older lady who hailed from Glasgow and was now living in Wigan, an outcast of a town sandwiched between its better-known neighbours Liverpool and Manchester. She unpacked snack after snack, and tabloid magazine after tabloid magazine and settled in for the flight. I soon discovered that she wasn’t quite as demure as the German next to her.

In fact, a few whiskeys into the flight and she was laughing raucously at Forrest Gump, completely unaware that she was not alone in her living room with her husband. The few times I did manage to nap I was woken, heart racing, by a god-awful screech in my right ear.

“OCH GIVE ME ANOTHER WEE WHISKEY THERE, LUV. AND MAKE IT A DOUBLE! ON THE ROCKS, OF COURSE! THERE’S A DEAR”

The flight attendant, who was at my left ear, could have heard her order from first class, 50 rows away, so loud was my delightful old Glaswegian neighbour. She was sweet, though (I discovered, when we chatted in the wee hours of the morning.) Loud and sweet.

But she had nothing decibel-wise on the little boy three rows down. He screamed from the time his mom tethered him to her lap before take-off, right through supper and into the bassinet. I will forever remember the few movies I watched on the flight as having a “scream” soundtrack. He did quiet down for a bit in the middle, and then, as the attendants rolled out breakfast two hours before landing, he started his wailing again – finally leading us all whimpering into Vancouver airport’s welcoming embrace. His mother smiled sweetly at him throughout, the flight attendants smiled sweetly at him, and I hatched a myriad of plans on how to shut him up. Unfortunately I never got to carry them out. The one involving sneaking copious amounts of alcohol into his milk bottle would have worked, I’m sure!

If only.

Then there was the Asian family who were seated in row 49, whose carry-on baggage was just too large for the overhead lockers. I watched entranced at how first the dad, then the son and then the daughter tried to shove the bag in and close the latch. It was turned this way and that, duty-free purchases and coats were jammed in above the bag, beside the bag, under the bag and finally in another locker altogether. Eventually, after an uproariously entertaining eternity, with the daughter on the son’s shoulders, pushing with all the might she could muster from her shoulder, she latched row 48’s luggage locker shut with a loud click. I think I heard the bag groan inside. Or perhaps it was sniggering.

And then the passenger actually sitting in row 48 arrived, opened the locker, wedged his laptop bag in alongside the Asian family’s (still) too large carry-on … And so recommenced the same dance. I should have helped, maybe, but then I would have missed out on better entertainment than anything the airline could offer us all flight.

I could go on about the flight, talking about the young Bavarians who played drinking games and giggled for hours, or of the solid, sawdust-like dry gluten-free bread foisted on me at every meal, or of the stomach churning turbulence over the north Atlantic, or the stark beauty of Nunavut, but I won’t. Like any journey, this post must also end.

I love flying: the characters, the entertainment, the reality of it all. I’m just about ready for my next travel adventure … What’s next?

If you aint crashing, you aint skiing

The most obvious winter sport for me to have tried (apart from hockey and ice-fishing) would have to be skiing. Not the cross-country type, which involves gliding gracefully along beautifully manicured tracks. No, I’m talking terrifying, eye-watering, hair-raising downhill (skiing) …

I have skied once before – as an 18-year-old exchange student, when I was living in Belgium in the 1980s. A group of us hired a bus and travelled all the way across Germany to Holzgau, Austria for three days.

Our group, on the way to Austria.
Our group, on the way to Austria.

Honestly, I don’t remember much skiing taking place. What I do remember is night-time sledding, followed by plenty of gluhwein. The weather was foul most of the time we were there and we managed to get onto the slopes only once – most of us being the laughing-stock of our Canadian and Scandinavian friends, who were excellent skiers.

A pair of novice skiers in the 80s.
A pair of novice skiers in the ’80s.

But I digress.

Back to Canuckistan. On the opening day of the ski season, some of the church’s youth invited me to go along to our local resort an hour from town – primarily because they needed a ride. Still nursing a throbbing wrist, from my hockey mishap the previous weekend, I was planning on sitting in the lodge all day with a good book and steady supply of hot drinks. But as soon as I saw the slopes, and all the smiling, excited ski-folk, that plan high-tailed it straight out of the door and up the bunny slope.

A couple of runs down said bunny slope had my confidence racing. “I can do anything,” I thought to myself. But it turns out the slopes and snow-ploughing were not the only things I had to master. Enter the dreaded T-bar lift – the system for transporting pairs of skiers and snowboarders uphill. Interestingly enough, the French name for it is “Pioche”, which translates to “pick-axe” in English. Which is most appropriate because the apparatus is as comfortable and easy to ride as an actual pick-axe would be. On my first attempt I smacked my T-bar buddy across the ear with my ski poles in a desperate attempt to jam the bar securely behind my derrière. My dismount was as disastrous as I panicked, skidded wildly off to the side and then fell flat on my back, smacking my partner in the head with my skis. But she survived, albeit with a few bruises.

Troll, our local resort
At Troll, our local resort

Our first run down the mountain was reasonably uneventful and pleasant, and she forgave me my previous T-bar indiscretions, agreeing to go up to an even higher slope for our second run. This time I was the epitome of grace and poise as I mounted the disagreeable bar. “Well done,” she assured me. “But now, whatever you do, don’t fall, or we’ll have to walk the rest of the way up. This thing can be tricky!”

“Pffffffff,” I thought to myself, gripping the bar even tighter, “Me, fall? How rude!” And then I did. A few hundred metres from the summit my left ski developed a terrible wobble, which transferred itself up my left ankle, through the knee, thigh, and left buttock, to the taut right buttock, down my petrified right leg and, finally, into my mutinous right ski.

“I’m going to fa …” I shrieked, before hitting the ground in a puff of powder. Desperately, I tried to hold onto the bar, which dragged me inelegantly a few more metres before breaking free from my grip. Looking back I saw my partner glaring up at me from where she’d been deposited. We trudged the rest of the way, she muttering that she was finding a new T-bar buddy.

But that wasn’t the end of our adventure. We did a few small slopes – where I fell only a dozen or so times – once to much applause from some onlookers. Then we climbed higher on yet another T-bar to do a series of slopes from the very top … Swish, turn, glide, (etc.) we descended at pace to a point where the teens decided to do a short “powder” run through the trees.

“This is pretty hard,” one of them told me. “You don’t have to do it …”

“Ah, no problem, I’ve got this,” I assured myself (imprudently, it turns out.) “Wheeeeeeeeeee!” I launched down the slope, as the others zoomed out ahead. And kablooey, I belly-flopped into the powder a few seconds later. Deep. So deep that I had to dig my skis out. So deep that I couldn’t stand; couldn’t crawl. At one point I deliriously half-prayed for a St. Bernard to bound through the snow to my rescue, or for someone to toss me a life ring from the secure ground above. But the closest I came to any help was the few people who skied by, smiled, shouted an “are you okay?” over their shoulders and zipped out of sight before I could gasp an answer.

After what seemed like an eternity leopard-crawling out, and having coughed up half a lung, I finally flopped exhausted onto the harder snow. After a further eternity to clear the snow from my boots and skis, and get them reattached, I skied down the easier run wobbly-legged, as if in a coma. Amazingly, my T-bar buddy had waited for me a few hundred metres on – forgiving angel that she is. Somehow she coaxed me down to the lodge, where I dried out, caught my breath and steadied myself for a few more assaults on the slopes that afternoon.

We skied in freezing, blizzard-like conditions at times and I fell more than I can remember (although never on the T-bar again) but I had a blast. If there had been a T-shirt for everyone who made it to the end of the day, I would have it. In fact, I would have demanded two!

You can call me a useless skier, you can call me a stubborn old mule, but never call me no quitter, eh! Got that?

A blurry pic inside the lodge.
A blurry pic inside the lodge.

To the Pacific Province in May 2013

Any person who deigns to read this blog may feel inclined to ask: “Why did you want to make a record of a plain and simple thing like a trip to Canada? Hasn’t that been done before?”

My answer is as follows: “Yes, it has. But not by me. Moreover, people who have done similar trips have not necessarily documented them the way I hope to.” And if that does not adequately answer the question, then I will say, “I wrote it just for the heck of it. And because it will be cool to read one day when my memory isn’t as it should be; to relive my adventures all over again. Like in two years time, perhaps.”

I hope to use my photographs – along with the generous use of words – to paint pictures of my travels, church life and other experiences … Some readers will follow my tales of small-city and small-church life religiously; others will not – popping in now and then to see if I’m okay. And that’s just fine with me.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in with some background …

Canadian visa details

For those who know me, and have wondered if I will be joining Leonard and Lorie in Edmonton, I won’t. I am going to Quesnel, a town in the Cariboo District of British Columbia, around 660km north of Vancouver and 840km west of Edmonton. As far as I can ascertain, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the town, although its residents may disagree. Really, I know nothing about it. I don’t know where I will live, I know next to nothing about the church I will be going to, I don’t know how long I will stay.

All I do know is that I have felt a tug to Canada for the last six or seven years. That tug got stronger three years ago, and then, by the end of last year, became something I had to pursue.

So, why exactly am I going? Because I felt it was where God wanted me, and because it’s what I live to do – to serve the church. Oh, and because my friends Brian and Lisa, who lead Lakeview Church, asked me to come. God’s call has previously taken me to Mongolia (that’s outer, not inner), throughout southern Africa, France and Madagascar. Each time I have been stretched and challenged to trust God more. Preparing for this move has been no different. After five months jumping through hoops for the Canadian visa authorities, I now have a W-1 working visa. I’ll have more details on what that means when I arrive in B.C.

But, let me try to end before I prattle on and lose you completely. My evenings are currently filled with farewells, my days with thoughts on things I need to get in place before I leave this Wednesday, the 15th. I will be flying via London to Geneva, where I will see some friends, before flying out of Europe and on to Vancouver in early June. After a night in Vancouver I’ll fly up to Prince George and then travel on to Quesnel by car, God willing.

I have 100 Canadian Dollars, 85 Euro, a few loose US dollars and a piece of plastic in my travel wallet. Let the adventures begin!

Is it even English?

“Sorry, so what does this new blog title of yours even mean,” a friend asked me recently. “Is it English?”

Rather than have to answer the same question every other day, I decided to kick off my blog with the explanation:

perambulating:  present participle of per·am·bu·late (Verb)

  1. To walk or travel through or around (a place or area), esp. for pleasure and in a leisurely way.
  2. To make an official inspection of (a boundary) on foot

My first blog was called Madderinmada, because that’s what living in Madagascar felt like, and it was an off-beat, fun blog title that made me laugh. Then came Rambling with a Cantankerous Old Mule – another fun title for a blog, I think. I let Pretoria’s staid character influence me way too much when I succumbed to peer pressure in changing its title to The Great Escape: Life from behind a lens a year later.

And so, when the time came to design this blog about my trip to Canada, I needed to redeem myself. Life’s too short for something inane like My trip to Canada. Pffff…. My friend Sue gave me “Perambulating”. The rest I decided on after googling nicknames for Canada. Again, a title that included “The True North” or “The Great White North” was way too boring. Then I saw someone refer to “Canuckistan” and I was sold …

There we have it then. My new baby: Perambulating in the People’s Republic of Canuckistan. It’s goofy, memorable and mine.

Check back soon for the second of many posts …

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