Surviving Halloween in the company of Kimmy Schmidt

I’m proud to announce that I made it through another Halloween alive and without a sugar high.

According to the National Retail Federation in the USA, an estimated $2.6 billion would be spent on candy for Halloween alone, and another $3.2 billion on costumes (including for the 23-million pets that would be dressed for the occasion.) House decorations would cost another $2.7 billion. Please just read those statistics again and tell me the world hasn’t gone insane. Well, North America anyway.

Across the border in Canuckistan, they take Halloween just as seriously, and claim Americans stole the term “trick or treat” from them.  A feisty bunch those Canucki kids, with the most common “tricks” originally being to “toilet paper” trees, or throw rotten eggs at the person’s house who refused to give them candy. Now, most kids just say the phrase and expect candy. If the home-owner chose “trick,” I’m sure the kids would be left standing with a mouth full of teeth; unsure how to respond.

Like their southern neighbours, Canuckis spend plenty on candy – $550.7 million last October. But with a population of around 11% that of the US … well, you do the math(s).

I added to the statistics by eating two chocolate bars, buying a milkshake and dishing out absolutely nothing to the kids who came to my front door. Well, to be honest, none came to the door because I turned off the lights and hid out in a back room, cackling like a witch as I binge-watched Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

I had thought of dressing like a photographer, and taking to the streets around home to shoot trick-or-treating kids, but the cops down here in the USA look a lot more serious and mean than Canuckistan’s RCMP. So I stayed home.

Talk about wisdom coming with age, eh!

As I have no Halloween photos, here are some I took at a Mexican evening the youth at our church held last weekend. ¡Olé la banda!

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?

The things we leave behind

Quesnel panorama from Willow Street in Red Bluff

I moved to the mythical land of Canuckistan for the first time in June 2013 from the very real country of South Africa. Wide eyed, I explored my new land in the height of summer – making full use of the long days to turn the town inside out for photographic opportunities. And find them I did.

The Wild West Riders start the show
The start of the Quesnel Rodeo

I was also welcomed into the church community I found myself in, forging deep relationships. Many of the natives, however, in the Cariboo town of Quesnel, were less welcoming of this stranger from a far off land, with his camera and very long lens. After I had been in town for a few weeks a message went out on the local Facebook page asking who the alien was and what he was doing in town photographing everything (and everyone). I was just doing what I always did, wherever in the world I was. On another occasion I was having a merry old time shooting out on a lake – marvelling at the ‘plane parked outside one of the houses, and three children swimming way out in the emerald water – when owner of aforementioned home jumped into his speed boat and raced over to me to interrogate me about my intentions. I’m told he is one of the most affable residents around said lake. Just not to me.


But I digress. I shot rodeos and dance recitals, graduations and softball games. There were bridges, mills, landscapes and people – many people. I even shot a zombie once in the 19 months I stayed in Quesnel (most of which I chronicled right here on this blog). It was an amazing, profound season in my life – difficult because I wrestled with intense loneliness and several challenging relationships, but one where I left with more constructive, enjoyable experiences and memories than negative ones.

Arggggghhhh! Run for your lives, the zombies have found us! (The result of four photos stitched together post process.)
Arggggghhhh! Run for your lives, the zombies have found us! (The result of four photos stitched together post process.)

It was the months (and year) after leaving where the depth of relationships I’d enjoyed became clear to me. Most acute was the number of children back in Canuckistan that would apparently ask after me. And how I missed them too. In all my travels, from Mongolia to Madagascar, Cape Town to Canuckistan it’s the people I leave behind that I miss the most. Sure, I’ve been to many exotic places, but I always return to my old haunts because of the people.

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Fast friends

And that’s what has brought me back here again now. I will be #cruisingcanuckistan for the next three months – not only visiting friends, but also trying to discover quaint new spots or peculiar people. Please come along for the ride.

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Discover Challenge: The Things We Leave Behind