Mini-Adventure: I saw a Heffalump today

I purposely set out to search for woolly mammoths. I had photo evidence of them frolicking at the Royal Bay Beach Park in Colwood. Off I went, solo.

The beach is perhaps an 8 minute drive from my home depending on traffic and lights. Royal Bay Beach Park was once an unsightly gravel pit, inaccessible to the public for over 100 years. Driving along Metchosin Road we could see the stunning ocean views but always had to keep our windows up to keep out the noisy equipment, flying dust and even the odd bits of rock. It is nice to see this privately owned piece of land is being transformed and is open to the general public.

More woody than woolly, this must be a Heffalump and a baby Heff

These days neglectful digging had better not be discovered!

I spent a lovely hour checking out the main path, nifty driftwood huts, attempted some nimble balancing, and strolling along the seaweed strewn beach. My knee was not very cooperative so I kept mainly to the path and sand. This just meant I would have plan an outing with my daughter in tow.

I cam across maybe five structures, these were the two I rally liked. Some of those pieces must be heavy. One had a very sturdy looking cross beam from back to front. Budding architects.

Perhaps a Push Me-Pull You was lurking in the brush? I did find out these were sawdust arrows for a dozen or so people following the path. Could they not figure out how to turn around to go back from whence they came?

Although all we can see now are the vestiges of the pit days on land, the encroachment of industry is always in view.

The winds blow hard enough that trees permanently list.

Next time I will walk along this section. I drawn towards the beach as though called by a siren. I wisely acknowledged that it would be better to have someone with me.

First day of Autumn/Last day of summer? – Dallas Road views

I am fortunate to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. Not that I am anywhere near the high income bracket. Truth be told, I am far too close, financially and now physically, to the tent city that recently set up camp at Goldstream Provincial Park & Campsite where I explored some of the trails in April. (mini-adventure-goldstream-park-the-other-side.)

One of the pluses with living in Victoria has to be how accessible walking along the beach is. Dallas Road is the perfect walkway for gathering thoughts, allowing the flotsam and jetsam of life to leave on the winds, breather in the fresh ocean air, listen to and watch the gulls, eagles, herons and other birds depending on the season (Spring is wonderful for seeing hummingbirds), and get in a great walk regardless physical ability.

The driftwood ‘shipwreck’ from the day before. I live beyond the distant hills that are hiding behind the cloud bank. That monolith in the background was the first cruise ship for the day.

From Ships Point to Clover Point, the path is about, according to a google maps check, 3 km one way via Bridge Way. I must have not taken that exact route as my return walk was roughly 7km and I did not make it to Clover Point. I was going at a fairly brisk pace – for which I suffered later and the next day. I fell into pace with one cruise ship passenger with whom I walked and chatted for about 8 minutes. He was 77, originally from Beijing, left in the early 1960s. This was offered after we had noted we were both limping slightly exchanged knee problems with his query as to how I had I injured my knee. I even dared to pull out some of my latent Mandarin. (Too bad his saying he was happy to meet me only properly translated in my head after I said I was a little happy) He had a great outlook, always be happy, smile at people – it worked too. Wishing home a great visit I said goodbye and sped up while he waited for family. I had a goal to make it to the Marilyn Bell cairn this day before turning around. Which I did and beyond, and made the following discovery.

When I first lived in Victoria I was mesmerized by the thought of swimming across this channel – I never did attempt it.,
When walking remember to look beyond – you never know what you will discover. Also look up!

As I tried to find a good angle for a picture of this I nearly stumbled into an unobtrusive tent tucked away into the bushes. We never know hw close we are to needing that little space.

Enter the Dragon’s Lair: Part 2 – We gain a cat

Email excerpt Sep 25/01: The following is a message for Crispin and other kitties in the know.

hi, my name is cotton and i am 3 months old.  i have studied english for about 4 days-[retty good arent i.i decided to let her invite me into her home.  she keeps muttering about being too old for babies.  she also says i miao too much when i want her, but i keeplosing her.

Yes, we have a kitten, three months old.  She finally figured out where her litter box is-we use sand stolen from the construction area going on within the school. She was a gift from a student of mine.  He said her mother only had the one kitten so I think she was either very spoiled or very neglected. She has finally started to purr and seems to think the mosquito nets are for her personal pleasure.This means locking her out of the bedrooms at night.

As I continue down this journey of reminiscing I love coming across these little gems. We were still in Xin Cun, still encountering all sorts of problems and still wishing, at times, we were elsewhere. We had indeed been landed with a kitty. I was of the opinion that Chinese parents told their children that foreigners love to be given pets. (It had happened before and would again) As if there was not enough on my plate already! Naturally the attack on my emotions would only work if my own children were with me. The little boy was clever, he brought the cat to school (I never did find out how he smuggled it in) and he had a Chinese teacher who spoke English translate for him. I thought they were laying it a bit thick when I was told the boy would be beaten – another ploy for sympathy I would encounter more than once – if he brought the kitten home. However, heartstrings were plucked. We had a kitten. We had also gone away for a few days so I must have been feeling magnanimous.

Cotton rarely posed for us. She was always quite skittish. I have no idea why the photo was black & white other than probably my poor translation skills in either buying film or having it processed.

Oct 3/01: P.S. Tell Crispin there is Kitty food here, about $1.00 (yes, CDN) per small can, I hope Cotton stays small!

Oct 7/01 (email to my eldest daughter): We have a cat now. Her name is Cotton. She is as much a scaredy cat as Bailey!  She refuses to go onto our balcony or even sit at the window in the living room. Her favourite new trick is to climb our mosquito nets and sleep in the top as though it is a hammock.  It is quite disconcerting to have a kitty hanging above one’s head. I have to discourage this because she is getting too heavy and will leave gaping holes in the netting-great for mosquitoes intent on nibbling at our toes!

Canadian Thanksgiving. It seems I had been very ill with probably bronchitis, this would be a problem throughout the years I lived in China, so we missed Thanksgiving Day. However, the next day we were treated to a lovely feast and given the leftovers. I said it was probably because we had a fridge. Or the fact I had three children.

Oct 9/01: So Cotton gets a fish head for dinner tonight. I hope she doesn’t complain about the soya sauce and stuff on it. Cotton is growing very fast.  She has decided she prefers cat food to fish heads or shrimp.  

Her fur was so white that capturing a candid photo was nearly impossible! She had lovely eyes. (When we gained our second cat, Mozzy, Cotton taught him the high art of grooming – he never appeared to be dirty even after missing for 21 days. That is another tale)

At the time the currency exchange was roughly 1CAD – 6CNY. Which does not sound like a lot until it is added up. Even $30.00 for cheap cat food in Canada was a lot of money! I have a vague recollection of earning no more than 5000RMB per month. If housing had not been included money would have been extremely tight. However, Cotton lifted our spirits as only a young cat can do.

Oct 18/01: Message to Crispin and all the other Kitties from Cotton

SHE keeps telling me i am too fussy because i like to have my kittypan cleaned more than once a day.  SHE does not like cleaning up after me.  AND SHE says i should not sleep on the net over their heads. i like it but SHE says i am too big. isn’t big good?

Response from Crispin: Dear Cotton; Of COURSE Big is Good.  You should tell Her that i[t] must be that the net is Too Small.

My youngest daughter and Cotton hanging out away from everyone.

Readers will discover that one of the ways my family manages to stay somewhat sane is due to how besotted we are with out kitties! These excerpts were often near the end of emails I sent bemoaning my lot in life. Usually along the lines of my children not listening, my students not listening and Administration not listening. Cotton listened, purred, and kept me company. She was with us for less than two years.

Before we discovered that Cotton was unwell Mozzy joined our family when he was barely seven weeks. Cotton was a wonderful foster mother to him.

Enter the Dragon’s Lair: My years in China Part 1 – 9/11

I moved my family to China to further my exploration of this ancient, culturally diverse, somewhat secretive, vast country called China. I was there to teach. My children were there because they had no other choice. So, join me down the bumpy, often steep, memory lane of my years as a single parent teaching English in China. I shall do my best to include excerpts from what I, my daughters, family and even friends wrote as well as my memories. I will even try to find some photos from before the days of digitally enhanced photography.

As I begin my 61st birthday – it took weeks to finally decide it is alright to write and post this – it reminds me that events of singular import to me, family, and in the news, often occur on family birthdays. Therefore, rather than write about my first foray into the Middle Kingdom with my children from 1997 to 2000 I have chosen to start at my 44th birthday. September 11, 2001. Two days after arriving back in China after a year in Canada. A date etched on the hearts of so many. And yet, September 11 is so much more than one horrific date. Just as August 6, (Hiroshima), December 7 (Pearl Harbour), and too many more dates of man’s destruction of anything different. This is my observation. I am not wishing to enter into a debate.

It seems that whenever 9/11 comes someone asks, “where were you when you heard”? We had been out celebrating my birthday and signing teaching contracts at a local restaurant. By the time we got back to the school around 8:30pm and climbed the three flights of stairs to our apartment, we were all pretty exhausted. We had only arrived in Xin Cun two days earlier and I was expected to teach the following morning. I sent my two youngest girls to bed, turned on the TV – living so close to Guangzhou we could get English language channels – to a movie we really had no interest in was playing. Until an extremely distraught Hong Kong newscaster came on. When we realized it was not a movie. I recall gasping, then sharply telling my two younger daughters to go back to bed after they heard their sister’s and my shocked voices. I have little recollection if I really slept, I can still clearly see one of the newscasters becoming more and more distressed over the course of events. He knew people who died that day.

By morning, daughters up, fed breakfast and ready to head to their new classrooms (disastrous in another way) I was frazzled and wondering if we would be told we would have to leave the country. (As events unfolded we learned of thousands of people were stranded all over the world so it seemed highly unlikely.) As I met teachers they all seemed invariably happy. It was surreal, surely the events over the news must have affected them if only peripherally. Turns out very few of them owned televisions and many would have already gone to bed. Eventually, a shrug here and there. Besides, as we from western countries tend to respond to events in other countries, it did not affect their lives.

Looking back to that birthday, and the weeks after, it seemed everyone was a little ill at ease, looking over shoulders a lot and not specifically referring to the disaster. Fortunately, although it seems I wrote very little immediately after, I must have said the right things as I was not asked to leave!

It was eerie how easily we all slipped into our daily routines. Easier to shut our eyes to the impossible. Easier to laugh ,sing, make friends. Except it was not, and we did not. A knot of anxiety was always present. Nastiness was in the air. Insults flung at us in Chinese. My children were bewildered. By November we left. To a kinder, welcoming , new city and old friends. Nanning.