We went to the Bahamas! Like, months ago. Sorry. I really should have posted this sooner. 

Where did we go? To a very wee place called Stocking Island. Only about 11 people live there. My hopes were high, and it was a bit of a let-down as a result. The trip was expensive by our standards -- three to four times what it usually costs for us to spend a week in Cuba. And I guess I thought the quality of the trip would be commensurate with the increased cost. It wasn't. 
Don't get me wrong, the island was beautiful, the hotel was fine, the food was ... less fine. (Think about paying $18 USD for a pasta dish only to be served a plate of something that looks and tastes exactly like Lipton Sidekicks.) But the beach was beautiful, and the waves were generally huge, and we made friends with some cool animals, including a confused heron-like bird that banged on our cabin door in the night and flew right into us when we were walking through the trees to dinner, inexplicably. Crazy heron. 
There were lots of nice things. Nathan clowned on the beach (as shown). I binge watched Orange Is the New Black on a laptop at night (there were no TVs), and read all of The Hunger Games. And cried over all of The Hunger Games. (And then cried some more because that shit is brutal.) And then we came home and were hassled a little in the Miami airport and almost missed our connection. (And when I say we were hassled, I mean I was hassled, of course. No more than usual, but combined with the extra chaos that is the Miami airport, it was annoying. Of course, Nathan sailed right though. I wonder why.). Finally, we had to deal with dumb people crushing us with their seat-backs on an over-crowded airplane. (I'm only 5'4" and my knees and computer screen were smashed and bashed.) Ugh. So there were some not-nice things too.
Do you like my animal shots? That hermit crab was huge -- as big as my hand! I couldn't get him to come out of his shell any more than shown, though. He seemed to know I was lurking. The geckos were cute, as always. I couldn't get a shot of a more brightly-coloured one, though. That last crab is dead, perhaps obviously. I just thought he looked kind of cool. Poor crab.

Anyway, we're home now. If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen some of the pictures I took with my iPod, (stingrays!) but this post features the ones I took with my real camera. I hope you like 'em.
Next time, we're probably going back to Cuba.
 
 
Remember yesterday when I posted all those flower photos? I took some other photos around the neighbourhood too. Uglier photos. Darker photos. Here are those photos.
A tree against the sky, heavily messed with in Photoshop.
Some leaves I arranged on the sidewalk.
A foamy puddle on the street.
Yellow leaves in the gutter.
A cool vintage bike.
A crack in the sidewalk.
Horse chestnuts! As you can see, I gathered many. Possible craft to come.
And finally, a hideous Halloween decoration honouring Frankenstein's monster.
Happy Fall, my friends.
 
 
Went for a walk. Took some pictures of flowers. Let me know if I've got the names wrong.
Yellow roses.
A couple of bees enjoying a susan or sunflower.
Salvia, I think.
Yellow daisies?
Red mums.
American mountain ash.
Another yellow daisy.
Last of the summer pansies.
Another bee on a susan/sunflower?
Geranium himalayense.
A black eyed susan, or conedisk sunflower, dying, sadly.
Some kind of wild mint, maybe? Possibly a variety of creeping jenny?
Daisy again.
Many mums.
Coreopsis rosea, being enjoyed by a bee.
 
 
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.
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There was beer.
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There was night swimming.
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There was sun bathing.
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There were sandpipers.
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There were camp fires.
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And there was cheese.
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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.

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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.
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Creative commons Bay of Fundy photo by su_anna from Flickr.
Third stop? Halifax. See more friends and explore the town.
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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.
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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?
 
 
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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.

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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).
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
 
 
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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.
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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?
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My mother's family home in South Goa
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 Monsoon season in Goa. Cc. licensed image by abcdz200 from Stock Xchng
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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.)
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* 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).
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* 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!)
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* 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.
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* 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?)
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* 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.
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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?)
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* Central Park image by Piotr Bizior from Stock Xchng.
* Buildings & Cab photos by Niels Jansen from Stock Xchng.