Ontario visit: June 5 – getting caught in the rain

At the last minute I checked the weather forecast for the afternoon, grabbed my Mac in a Sac and headed out the door. I had three destinations. Via Rail to buy my ticket to Toronto for the following week; coffee; St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Although not initially a problem I realized I had forgotten to change into my sturdier shoes when I was more than a block from the house. I decided to forge ahead.

The Via station is a one person operation, I like the personal touch and it was important I have a manned station to use my e-vouchers. Sadly, the Kitchener Station will soon be fully impersonal. As it is the hours were cut. The clerk, perhaps they are still called stationmasters, he certainly was doing more than selling tickets – I did not think to ask, was very friendly and helpful. I used one of my $20.00 vouchers which meant I only had to pay the grand sum of $5.99! Onward to my second cup of coffee for the day.

A sign of visiting the same coffee shop too often is when the staff recall your order, and what you were doing the previous day. I had asked if my destination was easy to walk to despite the actual distance. My daughter called me so we had coffee together over the phone, then she ‘joined’ me while I walked to my final stop.

My knowledge of the bible is limited, however, I am pretty sure this depicts Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
I saw this window, and drew a complete blank. Aha! Joseph with Christ as a child.

Keeping in mind there are a lot of food items I am not supposed to eat (big grrrr) I had packed a salad although I was hoping to partake of the lunch. For the extravagant price of $8.00 I could have the full lunch: sandwich – thoughtfully pre-cut into triangles to allow diners a mixed choice – ‘pickles’ (or just the thin vegetable sticks); dessert & tea or coffee and of course the concert. everything served on proper plates and in mugs too. I rather liked the idea of ‘lunch and a show’. We were also encouraged to eat in the pews!

I tend to eat breakfast early, by the time I had my plate of food I was ravenous – there had been four sandwich triangles

What I had thought was an organ concert was actually a trumpet and organ – Piazzola, Pipes, Tangos & a Trumpet. If you can ever watch someone play the organ from behind do so – the solo organ, with fancy footwork, was amazing! I had no idea so much work was needed to play. Many cities these have summer noon concerts at churches that I highly suggest anyone try to attend. The music was fun, the audience appreciative, a lovely way to spend an hour.

The musicians were Debra Lacoste (trumpet) R; Ann-Marie McDairmid (organ) L. (Random audience member in centre)

They might have considered playing Copacabana (Barry Manilow) rather than Tico Tico (Zequinha de Abreu) as played in Copacabana the movie, with Carmen Miranda, to warn us of the weather outside! I am not a music aficionado, I just happen to know the Barry Manilow song and the movie!

I opened the door then rapidly closed it. Time to don my raincoat. Not that it helped much. It was a downpour. I most certainly did not like getting in the rain. Especially with significant changes to the transit system. Two stops were closed due to construction. By the time I sloshed onto a bus, and got back to the house I was soaking wet. My feet were still chilled two hours later.

I was quite shocked I spent so much money in one day! However, as with the previous day I do feel that the cost of lunch most likely went to something along the lines of a good cause.

Expenses: $5.99 one way Via Rail ticket Kitchener to Toronto; $14.10 drugstore (items needed); $8.00 lunch

A Last Hurrah? Memories & Plans

Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday. I am working on my trip to Churchill, MB with the plan to leave Toronto on June 30th, my father’s birthday. If all goes well I will arrive in Winnipeg, where my father’s only surviving sibling lives (my aunt – the eldest) on July 1st. Then to Churchill where I will spend one full day, July 5th, my sister’s birthday. She was born in Churchill, I believe we left when she was still an infant – perhaps it was before the next snowfall.

Not that any of this is important; I just found it interesting, and then some moments to reflect on all that has happened in the last five plus years. More if I include when my father died in 2010. We are so often surrounded by memories of birthdays, the continued passing of time. Which brought me up short, why am I even planning this trip? The polar bears will most likely not be around. There will probably be black flies, accommodation seems ridiculously pricey even for two stars. Yet, despite the railway having closed for 18 months due to a washout I was ecstatic I could once again take the train to Churchill.

Then, I recently found I am feeling less excited. The cancellation in 2017 turned all my plans upside down. It feels like a task rather than an adventure. I am hopeful that as everything comes together I will be excited. Even if it means staying one night in Winnipeg. At least it might be fun with arriving on Canada Day. Of course, one major factor is finances. I could afford the trip two years ago. Times change, bills still need to be paid, and not enough is coming in.

I am seeking inspiration. Yes, Churchill is expensive, it is in the far north of Ontario and only accessible by train or plane. That is part of the adventure. It is not exactly safe to wander about outside the town. Polar bears cannot be trusted to not suddenly decide to visit. Interesting note, car doors are left unlocked in the event anyone is caught out when a polar bear is nearby. However, I hear the place has gone downhill over the years. What will I do? I do have a half or full day tour, not polar bear chasing, tentatively booked and I will be trying to find out where we lived. I want a photo.

There it is, that spark that drives me. Going home because it is interesting. There is a personal history as well as the history of the country. All the planning, all the bits of paper, pencil shavings (very old school), emails and telephone class are all part of the adventure. Granted, the coat is still an issue. Perhaps my last great travel hurrah?

Pondering life: Or What to do when Grounded

I seem to be racking up blog drafts that drift off for lack of my interest. If that is how I feel about them I am not about to burden the few readers I do have with my drivel. During my morning constitutional my mind tends to rattle off ideas, plans, silent conversations, (with others and myself), edit papers, (not mine) along with random darker thoughts. Lately being grounded from travel has turned to an attempt to ground my psyche before I blow up or delve too deeply into self pity.

If I cannot travel perhaps I can write about how that affects me and learn from others how they handle lack of actively seeking new cultures, history, food, new friends, adventures without going completely mad. Of course, the question is why am I not travelling if that is what I really want to do? Health and finances of course.

When I injured my knee on my last trip I did not expect to still be suffering the consequences. Reiterating a major note to fellow travellers: if you have travel insurance USE IT! I did not. I also had not intended to use up the money I still had to cover everyday expenses at home. However, not working, and nearing 61, created two problems for me. No income and ageism.

Much to the horror of my family I do not want to just grab anything. Unless a job can be done at my pace, will benefit others, our planet, and give me some pleasure, I am not interested. I would love to write and travel, sadly I do not think my musings and travels are what people are looking for. Then there is the fact I would still need money to go anywhere. Meanwhile, I try to fit in mini-adventures. A day trip to a new place close to where I live so as to pace myself. Sadly, many of these still mean I need to be with someone. I read. A lot. I write. I rail against the injustice of it all until I realize that is more self pity.

So how do I manage without money? Or so little? It is not easy and I do not know if I will ever be able to travel beyond the borders of my own country again. Such a sad prospect. However, I am not yet living on the streets, (I expect that has been blogged to death) I do have the Canadian medical system, and one of my daughters is on the cusp of working two jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies until she moves to Toronto in about six months. I am fortunate. Although many would consider it selfish.

After all, some would say, why should our children care for us as we age? The same question is not even considered in many cultures. Rather, supporting an extended family is expected. Even if the parents cannot provide much towards their own care. Yet, in our western culture anyone without a good pension plan, savings, or a long term plan, is considered a second citizen – unworthy. It seems to not matter what brought someone to a position of living on the edge. If we, counting myself as on that edge, have not fallen or jumped we are invisible because we do not appear to be failing. We simply withdraw.

Wedding Wednesday: 66 Days

Earlier this week my daughter and her Matron of Honour (MOH) – such archaic terminology – drove to Ottawa for a one hour appointment at David’s Bridal. Seemed simple enough, would most likely take less time than expected giving a chance to visit family who had recently moved there – including the young niece my daughter was thinking of inviting to be in the bridal party. I have no idea if that happened, they were at the one store for about five hours! I cannot imagine how long it takes when in search of a wedding dress!

Why they were there for so long made me laugh. Despite having made the solid decision to be happy with the dresses the other women in the party would wear they ended up checking out option. It was made easier when the MOH had taken her current dress with her to determine if another choice would complement the original in the event of two styles walking down the aisle. The consultant had the bride also try the favoured, now in the running, dress on as she is about 2″ than her 4’11″sister. The last I heard another Ottawa trip is planned – except it must be a quick turnaround to fit in the bachelorette that was finally carved out to fit everyone’s extremely busy schedules. Big sigh, despite checking for fares on various sites I simply cannot afford to go. Even if I were to stay for a week or so to tie up some of the various planning for the BIG DAY.

We are still doing distance planning. Sometimes I hear a bit of a sigh behind my daughter’s voice when we do discuss the various items that still need crossing off lists. I am never sure it is because it would be easier if I could be there or if I am too detailed oriented. Perhaps a bit of both. I need a cash windfall. I would love to just show up.

Speaking of money, the budget was also recently discussed. With the possibility of a change in dress my daughter feels obligated to pay for them, or partially. As with most events costs fluctuate. Money is moved about on paper to cover all expenses. The bride made a strong suggestion that transportation may have to be reconsidered.

The plan was for the Kingston Trolley to pick guests up at their various hotels, and Queen’s University where many of us will be staying, as well as taking the bride and her party to the boat. My financial brain is still attempting to figure out how she can still keep that. It is so much a part of Kingston, and most likely less expensive than a carriage. Also a nice touch for out of town visitors who might not know where to park. On a long weekend. Where everyone congregates.

On a brighter note, chair sashes and table runners were ordered, paid outright, rather than trying to match the fabric and colour choices provided by the venue. Yes, more money but less than renting and they can most likely be sold after the wedding. Perhaps after the BBQ planned for the following day – not that chair sashes will be necessary. Cupcakes were taste tested at a local bakery I discovered during one of my visits – then promptly forgot about. Flowers have been chosen and ordered. I even managed to provide a mock up of the table settings using what I have on hand. If I forget to pack the orchids I will be in trouble!

Finally, not directly connected to the wedding, I was very happy to discover that Via Rail renewed my Preference Privilege status for another year despite my not having used their services much since last summer. I realize this is a sales push but it fits my needs.

I have one coupon for a 50% discount off a sleeper berth – the train home being what is planned. As mentioned, I need a cash infusion so this will help a lot! I might even have enough e-coupons to cut 1/3 for another sleeper for one of my daughters returning with me.

Vietnam Motorbike Tour: Day One

I was pretty well packed and ready to go, all I had to do was put on my runners, drink my tea and finish chatting to my daughter who had decided she will meet me in Hoi An as there was not enough time for her to fly to Saigon and catch up with me. I received a message saying my ride had arrived – 45 minutes early. I decided right then we would get along. I hate being late for anything. 

I need to stop here to say most of the day remains a bit hazy. I must have been more overwhelmed by the experience than I realized as I simply cannot recall one clear memory. It was more of a sensory overload. I needed to become acquainted with the bike and driver, and he with me. Trust is a major factor when sitting astride a motorbike. First I had to hop aboard – easier than it sounds. Then getting out of Saigon seemed to take forever and the traffic remained crazy although not quite as insane as in the centre.Fortunately it was a nice day – heck, it was HOT! I applied sunscreen 3-4 times and still had a sunburn on my back where it is never easy to reach.The weaving in and out of traffic, light touch of the horn as we passed by others; the city giving way to lush green, with too much garbage on the roads to mar picture perfect moments. The smell of oil, fish, garbage all mingling into a barely bearable bouquet that we finally left behind before our first stop for coffee.

Cute little drip cups makes a small, bold coffee to give the day a kickstart. Add condensed milk and go, go, go! Most people drink their coffee with ice. Also a cup of green tea. I am hooked except for the Conde seed milk – only because I want my blood sugar to stay down.

It took quite some to get out of the city, Saigon and the surrounding countryside is huge! I thought we would never leave the traffic behind. Finally crossed what I thought was a toll booth but was the entry to catch a small ferry boat across to an island -.this seems to cut down on time and is far more pleasant to sit for about ten minutes without all the exhaust. To help with the fumes, dirt and wind Toan bought a cowl like cover up for my face. We drove off the ferry towards a monastery of sorts. I would find myself getting rather confused as to just what I was visiting at times. The way I understood it this was a retreat of sorts for monks but with a distinct Chinese influence. 
In Vietnam always assume shoes have to come off if entering a temple of any kind!

Of course I do not read Vietnamese so the first notices telling visitors to remove their shoes went unheeded – oops. Thank goodness there was not anyone around. I remembered before entering the largest hall, it helped that I saw shoes but no people right away. I put away my worries about the, being stolen. I was quite sure nobody would want my runners – not a common type of footwear.
Pho for lunch and of course more coffee.

We did a lot of driving and had to stop in one place when the motorbike started to make strange noises. Eventually it was suggested I be dropped off at a cafe while my driver went in search of a mechanic after the one he wanted was closed – it was Sunday. I suggested Highland – I had seen it a couple of blocks back – because I was quite sure they would have AC and a western toilet. Ah, the conveniences we prefer. I was also able to charge my phone and iPad. As I said, trust was important. After all, I had paid him and he had all my stuff except my purse and daypack. About 40 minutes he came back, had to jury rig what he needed because the piece could not be found anywhere.
Our trusty steed.
Seems a black plastic ring was not put back on when the bike was serviced before I was picked up.

Of course we wasted a lot of time so made it to our hotel just before dark. I was exhausted, and Toan was most likely worried I would be unhappy with the turn of events. However, we had stopped for coffee a couple of times and lunch as well as short stops for him to point out places and explain them to me. Money has yet to be discussed other than the cost of the tour it self which includes my guide, the bike, fuel etc., accommodation and entry fees to sites. For the day we took turns until dinner. When we discussed thwt took up his offer to being me chicken and rice to the room which he insisted on paying for. I was ready to fall asleep.