I've been really spoiled for holidays in recent years. Before Nate, I hadn't been on a proper vacation in ages. Not a good one, anyway. And now we've been to three tropical destinations in three years: Cuba, the Bahamas, and now Cuba again. We like the same sort of stuff - beaches, reading, surf, more reading. It's kind of perfect.
Anyway, we just returned from a week in Cayo Largo, which is an island off the southern coast of Cuba.
The weather was lovely for the first few days, rainy for the rest, but with the rain storms came some HUGE surf, and we both took advantage of the 6 to 8 foot waves. At one point, we were out swimming in a serious storm and even though we're strong swimmers, between the blinding rain and the undertow, I actually felt a little frightened, so we decided to get out, but man, it was awesome.
Speaking of awesome, the wildlife on Cayo Largo is great. We saw lots of stuff just in the immediate vicinity of the hotel: four different types of crabs (including weird, huge, white ones that only came out at night), big iguanas, snakes, fish that would swim right up to you in the water, geckos and lizards, neat sea birds, turtles, and even an alligator (all up close). Neato.
The best thing we did was probably horseback riding. (Always fun for me, plus it was nice to be better than Nate at something athletic. Heh.) Alas, I didn't take any pictures that day. But here are some of the snaps I did take:
Anyway, as usual, I'm bummed to be home and back at work, but that's normal. Ultimately, I'm very very lucky to get to do any of this stuff, and I try to keep that in mind.Got any holidays planned? Where should we go next? It'll be awhile before we can get away again, but it's always fun to dream.P.S.
There were mosquitoes at night, but the new bug cream we bought worked better than anything I've ever used before. It was Watkins lotion, which you can get at MEC
. Way better than Off, etc. While wearing it, I didn't get one bite, and I usually get tonnes. Highly recommend it.
Just returned from another fun-filled birthday weekend away. Thought I'd sum it up in photographs.
There was beach.
There was beer.
There was night swimming.
There was sun bathing.
There were sandpipers.
There were camp fires.
And there was cheese.
It was good.
Being in my 30s is also good. It feels satisfying. Like things are looking up. Don't you feel like things are looking up?
Lots of love to everyone who sent along kind birthday wishes (and massive nose thumbing at my family, who didn't bother to call OR email, which is, if not unheard of, then not particularly shocking either).
But nonetheless, things are looking up.
Don't worry, angst-lovers. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled whining next week. Promise.
Image credits in order of appearance: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 7.
So Nate and I, along with our friends Matt and Rachel, are going on a road trip.
First stop? Montreal. Because we have to stop somewhere, so we might as well visit friends and relatives at the same time.
Creative commons Old Montreal photo by Christine592 from Flickr.
Second stop? A cottage on the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia side.) Camp fires! S'mores! Seafood! Mud flats! It's gonna be amazing.
Creative commons Bay of Fundy photo by su_anna from Flickr.
Third stop? Halifax. See more friends and explore the town.
Creative commons Halifax photo by david_pics from Flickr.
Fourth stop? Fredericton. Attend a conference (arguably, the purpose of the trip) and recover from the drinking.
Creative commons Fredericton photo by Jeannine St. Amand from Flickr.
Then home again, home again, jiggity jig.
Sounds like tonnes o' fun, right? Any advice? Any east coast experts out there who want to weight in about great things to do and/or see?
It's been about a month since Nate and I returned home from the Bahamas.
It's hard to know what to say about the trip without sounding like a big braggy pants.
We rented a little cottage
on Great Exuma, one of the out islands. We took food with us because groceries are wildly expensive there. We lay out on the beach. We read a lot of books. We made friends with the house geckos and gathered shells. We daydreamed about owning one of the abandoned properties along the waterfront. We ate fresh conch (raw), watched LOST and went to bed early. It was lovely.
Image from travel.webshots.com by farmahgibby.
By the way, live conch is pretty ugly (as evidenced above), but it's not bad. A little rubbery.
We both liked it better raw than cooked. And we even ate the "conch pistol," a clear, slimy, dangling bit, considered to be the conch penis. (Don't worry, it isn't.) The pistol is said to increase libido and serve as a sort of viagra. "Put some more lead in your pencil!" declared the signs.
It tasted a bit like jellyfish. Did it work? Can't say. I'm a lady!
The best part of the trip was probably when we hopped a boat to Stocking Island (home to about 11 people).
From the bay side of Stocking, we hiked (and waded, with our clothes tied around our heads and our bags held high in the air) around this rocky point to the open ocean to play in the massive surf on one of the wildest, most deserted beaches I've ever seen.
In addition to the awesome surf on the abandoned beach, just a little way inland, we discovered a grotto full of angelfish and queen triggerfish. (We only found it because Nate had to pee and was looking for somewhere out of the way.) What a serendipitous bladder he has!
Anyway. I don't know why I'm telling you about any of this. Maybe because it's freezing in Toronto right now. Maybe because I had nothing else to write about. Maybe because the Speaks blog has been filled with a lot of drama and old wounds of late, and I thought it was time to brighten things up.
I dunno. Maybe I'm just obnoxious.
The trips I've taken with Nathan have been the best vacations of my life. I've been a lot of places, with a lot of different people, and looking back on my old pictures, you can't really tell the difference between then and now. We all look happy on vacation, don't we? We all have photos of ourselves with our partners, wearing wetsuits, holding drinks, squinting into the sunlight... blah blah blah.
When it comes to holiday snaps, we all look happy, happy, happy.
But these are the only vacation photos I have where the pictures actually tell the truth. My Nathan trips are the only ones that left me feeling as good as the pictures make it seem.
Disgusting, right? I know. We're gross. I promise not to brag again for awhile.
P.S. The only downside of our trip to the Exumas
is that we're now forbidden to give blood for a year. Malaria warning, apparently. Very annoying.P.P.S. There is ONE way in which my pictures don't do the Bahamas justice: the water there is a deep turquoise colour that I couldn't manage to capture on film. Supposedly it's a result of reflective microscopic coral in the water. I don't know about that, but it's pretty effing neat.
It's a strange thing to be "mixed-race" in a family that is, in spirit, North American and white. Though my Goan mother didn't come to Canada until she was around 30, because I was born here, because she sees me as "Canadian," it's hard for her -- for either of my parents, really -- to understand that I don't feel white.
I don't think they realize that outside the context of our family, I am exotic. Surrounded by whiter friends and relatives, I'm assumed to be the nanny, pursued by "ethnic" fetishists, and asked, nearly once a week, "What are you?"
It's not something they've experienced. Not something they can know.
This weekend alone, the question came twice. I gave my stock answer, explaining India. But still... it's hard.
No one is asking who I am. They're asking what.
Since returning from our trip to the Exumas, Nate and I have been talking about where we should go next. In some ways, I want to do something easy. A week in Mexico, for example. (I've got a lead on an incredible little eco-cabin right on a beach with tonnes of wildlife. Sigh.) I dream about a week of total relaxation. A week designed around what I imagine I want, which is to read and sleep and eat seafood.
But then... I also want to go to India.
I've been already. Several times. But always on my Dad's dime, and always with the protective buffer of family around me. With a confident, domineering dad, a place to stay, and a mother who speaks both Konkani and a bit of Hindi, the India travel I've done has been easy. It's been about sunny days, posh hotels and pretty beaches. Sure, we stayed in very small villages too. Dirt floors, boiled well-water, no western bathrooms, but again, with family, which is not the same as traveling alone.
Even as a very little girl, visiting Kolkata (then Calcutta) when my parents had less, it was easy. I was largely insultated, protected from the noise, the dust, the beggars. Though not quite white, as a young traveller in India I might as well have been the whitest of white and the richest of rich western girls.
With some stray puppies on a Goa beach, 2004
There are so many reasons to go now. Nate has never been. And my grandmother lives in Goa and I haven't seen her in more than five years. In fact, when I last visited in 2004, I hadn't seen her in a decade. She asks constantly about when I might return, and I know she doesn't really understand why I don't. I feel incredibly guilty about it.
And there are the beaches to consider. Nathan and I both love the beach. I mean, it's not like the journey would be selfless.
But India isn't easy. The real India is something unknown.
All the more reason to go, right?
My mother's family home in South Goa
Monsoon season in Goa. Cc. licensed image by abcdz200 from Stock Xchng
Spotted on the road to the bazar at Anjuna
So the New York trip is behind us. How was it? How WAS it? It was exhausting, thankyouverymuch. I loved Manhattan. I'd definitely live there. But walking around a city for days on end isn't exactly like lying on a beach for days on end, is it? I'm tired.
Nonetheless, it's very interesting. Very interesting indeed. And absolutely packed with actors. Here's a round up of those we spotted.
On Sunday, chillin' and smokin' in the East Village: Rubicon's Christopher Evan Welch and Dallas Roberts (which might not be interesting if you don't watch Rubicon, but I do. In fact, Nate and I were talking about having to miss it just before we ran into these two.)
* CC licensed Dallas Roberts photo by Marjorie Lippan. CEW photo by Bryan Better at Getty.
On Monday, wandering through Washington Square Park: SNL's Bill Hader (who may or may not have been with a sunglasses-wearing Jason Schwartzman (couldn't get a good look past Hader's big head).
* CC licensed Bill Hader photo by Hans Watson.
On Tuesday (and this was exciting): Vogue's André Leon Talley AND Mr. Manolo Blahnik at Bergorf Goodman. (We stumbled on a book signing and scored free champagne!)
* CC licensed André Leon Talley photo by David Shankbone. Manolo photo by blogger Chanello (who was also at the signing).
On Wednesday, chillaxing on an practically abandoned and very nondescript deli patio in Tribeca: Harvey Keitel.
* CC licensed Harvey Keitel photo by David Shankbone.
And finally, on Thursday morning, picking up his dry cleaning in the theatre district, Dan Lauria. (And if you're old enough to remember The Wonder Years, you should know he is. If not... well, so what? I loved it, okay?)
* CC licensed Dan Lauria photo by the strangely monikered yotambientengosuperp oderes from Flickr.
Now, I know these Creative Commons photos are kind of spazzy. But I just couldn't bring myself to accost any of these people or pull out my own camera to snap them in person. I didn't want to seem like a big, dorky, starstruck tourist. We all know I'm not as cool as I'd like to seem, but THEY don't have to know that.
Anyhoo. Kind of exciting, right? More on the NYC trip to come.
P.S. I may also have spotted Julia Stiles, but frankly, so many thin, blonde actresses look the same to me. I couldn't tell if it was her or a look alike.
I know it's obnoxious when people boast about their partners on the internet.
But you're just going to have to deal with the obnoxiousness for a moment because it's official: I have the best partner ever. The best. The bestest. His awesomeness is unbounded. His adorableness unmatched. He probably puts your stinky boyfriends to shame and that's the truth.
So I'm obnoxious. I know. But at least I didn't call him a cutesy blogger nickname like my "hubs" or the "DH" (which stands for darling husband). Be grateful for small mercies.
Anyway, a couple of months back, the world's official reining Best Partner Ever got me, the world's official reining Most Obnoxious and Silly Blogger-Type Person Ever, a trip to NYC for my 30th birthday. And now, the trip is upon us. Or practically upon us. We're heading down in October. The flights are booked. The hotel is booked. We're nearly on our way.
I'm excited. (Can you tell I'm excited?)
I have wanted to go to NYC since I was about six. And that's saying a lot, because I'm slightly agoraphobic. But who cares about minor neuroses and mental illness at a time like this? We're talking about New York City, people. A girl has to prioritize.
And speaking of prioritizing, that's why I'm posting. I need some advice. We've only got about 4 days in the city booked and I need your expert and inexpert input on what to do. We're planning to ramble for the most part, but if you've got some tip (restaurant recommendations, bars worthy of note, shops that an anti-capitalist and a Goodwill addict might like visiting) I need to know. Send me your comments and I'll send you my eternal devotion.
Autumn in New York. It's happening. I'm excited. (Have I mentioned I'm excited?)
* Central Park image by Piotr Bizior from Stock Xchng.
* Buildings & Cab photos by Niels Jansen from Stock Xchng.
September always gets me thinking about change. It feels like there's always something new to examine. New school, new city, new home, new job, new relationship, new whatever. New life.
But this year, I'm staying put, right where I am. I guess thanks to a combination of happiness and luck.
So instead of looking forward as I am wont to do when the weather turns, I thought I'd do a little looking back instead.
1980 to 1998: Toronto's Hillcrest Village, intersection of St. Clair Ave. W and Alberta Ave.
1998 to 2002: Queen's University, Kingston, ON (in the student ghetto), Alfred St.
2001: Study exchange in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, UK, Seven Sisters beach
2002 to 2004: Vancouver's West End, Haro St.
2004 to 2007: Vancouver midtown, intersection of Broadway and Granville St.
2007 to 2008: Toronto's Annex, Bloor St. W
2009 to Present: Toronto's Cedarvale, Glen Cedar bridge
Snow photo, St. Clair, Toronto, ON by Chlywhite from Flickr.
Kingston street photo, Queen's University, ON by ct208 from Flickr.
Seven Sisters photo, East Sussez, England, UK by Jen Selk.
Haro St. post photo, Vancouver, BC by PinoyMonkey from Flickr.
Granville & Broadway photo, Vancouver, BC by sabel from Flickr.
Annex bicycle photo, Toronto, ON by tryone warner from Flickr.
Cedarvale pedestrian bridge photo, Toronto, ON by Lone Primate from Flickr.
It's been more than four years since my last proper vacation. Four. Years. And the last one wasn't even very good. It was a forced trip to Mexico, financed by my ex's family, which sounds good in theory, until you have to spend your free Mexican vacation making endless chitchat with near-inlaws, misogynists and idiots all. God, it was endless. But it was sunny, and that's saying something.
In addition to a bad temper and a tendency to hold a grudge, I inherited from my family the workaholic gene. And hilariously, being a bit of a whiner, I make it worse. I burn myself out and then become resentful as if it wasn't my own fault to begin with.
I am bad at vacations. I worry about money. I worry about how it will look if I take time off. I worry about a lot of stupid crap that keeps me from taking the holidays I need and deserve. But no more! Part of Project Good, which involved me finally refusing to continue doing soul-crushing and morally vacuous professional work (journalistic and otherwise) in addition to many other things I won't get into now, is regular vacations. And Nathan (the man, not the fish) and I are going on one now. Right now.
In less than 24 hours time, we are off to Cuba. We've found a little hotel, right on the beach, designed by a group that specializes in eco-tourism. Nathan is happy because of his Marxist tendencies and because he feels it's relatively ethical to go to Cuba (as opposed to somewhere like the Dominican), and I am happy because I get to read while lying in the sun soaking up the Vitamin D. Life could be worse.
I've been to Cuba before. In May of 2000, nearly 10 years ago, The Boy and I went to an all-inclusive not far from Havana. I took this photo on that trip, back before I had a digital camera. The two men looked so alike. Like the same man, in some sort of time warp. It's one of the few moments from the trip that I remember well.
Sometimes, I try to call up other memories from that time, but most of it has faded, as things tend to. Or I've blocked it out. It's hard to say. I wonder if I will forget this trip too, ten years from now. It feels different, so maybe I won't. That was a desperate attempt to make the best of a thing that had gone bad. Like eating around the edges of something rotten at the core. This is different. Nathan is infectiously happy, bouncing around like a little kid in anticipation. I'm more subdued. Then again, we carry different sorts of weight. A decade's worth of difference.
But in the grand scheme of things, four years isn't such a long time, is it? Even ten can seem to pass in no time at all.
Being in Vancouver again is strange. On one hand, as I stepped off the plane and into the airport, I felt a bit like I was nearly home. On the other, ever since I made it into the city proper I've distinctly felt like the home I had has been sold. Or burned down. Or occupied by squatters. And like if I knew what was good for me, I'd just head right back to the airport and the hell out of dodge.
I never know what's good for me.
A couple of year ago, when I was still living in Vancouver, I wrote a stupid little story for a stupid little magazine called Vancouver View (advertorial CITY) about Vancouver's Identity (or rather, lackthereof). It was a chatty little piece called Vancouver (Un)Defined, largely opinion based, and if I remember correctly, after the most cursory research imaginable, I pounded it out in less than an hour. (I was fast, man.) Anyway, I just reread it (you can read by clicking the link above) and it occurred to me that I was completely wrong. I said Vancouver was changeable, that it had a little of everything. And even though I think that was/is sort of true, my perspective on what that amounts to is totally different now. Vancouver isn't changeable, Vancouver is still. Not stagnant, but calm. Unchanging. Steady.
Despite the proliferating glass towers, the impending Olympics, the seeming diversity of the landscape, Vancouver never changes. It's comforting, this sameness. This mild weather that rides an undulating low wave season to season, this endless construction, this city of evergreens, ever green.
I'm here again and it's like I never left, which makes me all the more relieved that I did when I did. I might have been hypnotized here forever.
My friends MJ and Kathryn are getting married tomorrow up at UBC. I'm technically a bridesmaid, but they're not pretentious people and the wedding party doesn't have to match. I plan to wear my prom dress. My (more than) ten year old prom dress. This may or may not be the best/worst decision ever. I'm just so excited that it fits me again.
And I'm a cheapskate.
Being in Vancouver is making me think about a lot of things - like what home means, and who I am now in relation to who I was then and what it means to "be yourself." In 2004 when I was living in Vancouver and still relatively happy here, I saw the movie Garden State and heard the following in regards to home (and I know, I know, it's sort of overrated, but still):
"...When you move out it just sort of happens ... you get homesick for a place that doesn't exist ... You won't have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start. It's like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place." - Large
Ten years before I saw Garden State I was in love with the TV show My So-Called Life, and I remember hearing the following in regards to the second thing (the thing about self):
"People always say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something. Like you can know what it is, even." - Angela
So that's what I'm thinking about. It's oppressively overcast and wet here, which is what strangers expect from Vancouver, but which I wasn't prepared for. I never felt it rained as much as people said it did. I'm foolish, I guess. I didn't pack the right sort of clothes and I'm cold pretty much all the time. I miss my new home, actually. As much as I wanted to come.
Oh well. The wedding will be fun, I'm sure. MJ & Kathryn are great, and that will make it great. That's how these things work.
Prom Fashions Barbie, Alias: Jen