They Made The Weather

“The made the weather then they stand in the rain and say, shit! It’s raining!”
~Ruby Thewes, Cold Mountain

When I was a little girl and there was that bad feeling in the house, I could feel this dread and I was scared.  I was little and I was afraid.  There was thunder down the hall and it was coming.  Shaking the house. I would hide behind Mom’s legs.  Mom was at the kitchen sink. I would squeeze between her legs and the cupboard.  When she would turn to face the raging man that was my dad, I would hold on tight and wish and pray that he would go away.  He would roar in a very scary voice.  He would growl and yell about some thing that had gone wrong.  Sometimes he would be waving a piece of paper marked with angry red ink. It was about spending too much money.  My mom spending too much money. She was too soft, too stupid, he would scream.

When my son was little, he would sometimes come to stand beside me when I was doing dishes at the sink. I would be looking out at our yard and watching the birds land on the feeder. Sometimes I would be talking on the phone and he would stand there with his chubby arms around my legs.  Sometimes his dimpled hand would stroke the skin behind my knee.  His chubby cheek pressed against the side of my leg. My hand would float down to touch his flaxen head. Just calmly leaning on me. It was a precious little gift and I would rejoice that so much had changed in the three decades since the times in the previous paragraph.  I would thank the heavens for the happy home and financial security I found myself in.  I would be ever so grateful that I had a kind husband and that my little guy didn’t ever see a raging dad.  We would love him and support him and show him kindness.  With this we would watch him thrive and grow displaying confidence in the world around him.

These two memories came flooding back when my dog’s wet nose sniffed the back of my knee to read the information I had gathered in my outing without him. I nearly crumpled to the floor with the traumatic feelings that washed over me for that little girl from five decades ago. So unfair how so many children live with fear and anger and rage and violence.

A wish went up that we fix our world and that we cherish our children and that we have them because they are planned for, wanted and loved.

This lead to another question which comes from the place of hearing my father say he didn’t actually want all of us — should have stopped at three, he would say (I am number 6 of 7).  Why don’t men take care to not impregnate women if those men don’t actually want children?

She said she was on the pill.

She was all over me.

She was asking for it.

I was drunk.

Birth control is against my religion.

None of these is a good excuse for the possibility of making a baby. A new tiny helpless human who needs love and care, nurturing and shelter and nutrition.

In the words of Ruby Thewes in the movie Cold Mountain: “They made the weather then they stand in the rain and say, shit – it’s raining!”

The Badlands & A New Biz

Overnight my job is lost due to a fire…it wasn’t long before we struck upon a viable business idea one that is still operating today

After Paddy’s had the fire and I was instantly out of a full-time job, I painted most of the rooms in our house and felt the freedom of deciding what to do with my days.  Every day, after walking my son, Leo, to school, the day would stretch out with all kinds of possibility.

It wasn’t long before Dean and I were kicking around the idea of starting up our own business.  We had noticed the need for a driving school in town, and one thing led to another, and before long we were up and running.  This was ironic due to me having been a Transportation Logistics Officer in the Army.  I had taken courses in military driving, off-roading, convoying, forward delivery points in the field and had even helped set up a heavy trucking school in Germany, teaching the Service Battalion soldiers how to drive the HLVW , (Heavy Logistics Vehicle Wheeled).  These bad boys, as seen below (creds to the guy who signed the pic).

HLVW

I also had all the office-related knowledge: payroll, payables / receivables, customer service and the like.  Dean would be an instructor: he loved to drive and he was both laid-back and had great reflexes.

Just prior to opening doors of our new driving school in June of 2006, while awaiting a few details to solidify, we realized we still had two flights to anywhere in Canada due to cancelled trips of earlier that year.  Dean and I brainstormed over where to go and we finally settled on Calgary with the idea that I would take Leo to The Bad Lands and to see the Dinosaur museum.  I had my old and dear friend, Layla out there and could possibly stay with her for a few days in High River.

Off we flew and rented a car at the Calgary Airport, driving to High River and seeing Layla was amazing.  It had been decades.  We smiled and hugged, and I said, ‘we look the same, just weathered.’ Now, she was married with three boys.  Leo, who was close to seven, was so excited about three instant new buddies.  We walked to meet them after school and Leo was instantly enjoying his new mates as Layla and I got re-acquainted.

I began to notice that Layla was a bit distant.  She didn’t meet my eyes fully.  She didn’t have all of her normal energy.  She was tired and she was keeping me somewhat at arm’s length. We went up in her sons’ tree house and saw a robin staring us down from her house’s rooftop.  We put words in its mouth and then laughed and laughed because we had both been thinking the same thing: ‘Get the fuck out!’  That’s what it was saying to us. ‘Get the fuck out!’  There she was.  Her old self had surfaced briefly.

Later that evening I had the pleasure of meeting her husband.  I immediately sensed that this guy was off.  It was all about him.  She was in a bad marriage and it was all about him.  I felt bad.  (Thankfully, it ended a few years later and now she is rid of him.  They had met in a religious cult which Layla was in for a few years, because of him).

The next day, Leo and I hit the road out to the Bad Lands and finally getting there, were astounded at the beauty of them.  The striations of colour in the sand-stone were incredibly artistic.  We took a walk.

Later we went to the Royal Tyrell Museum which was literally out of this world.  We couldn’t do it justice though as Leo was feeling a bit sick from being in the car.  In the town of Drumheller, Leo climbed up the inside of the steel T-Rex and he was giggling to the whole way.

Later we went to a pool which was the nicest and biggest and funnest pool we had ever been to.  There was a huge foam floating climbing structure to jump off and ropes to swing from and slides to go down.  This must be Alberta, I thought.  At the time, it was very wealthy compared to Nova Scotia.

That night we stayed in a hotel with a Jacuzzi in our room (the clerk, seeing Leo, gave us a free upgrade – he was the cutest!).  We put bathing suits on, got in the tub with the new movie ‘ELF’ on the big screen tv.  We giggled and giggled and this is a fond memory for me because Leo had been feeling some nausea.  He was better and that was a good thing.  I loved to hear him laugh.

The next day we were back at Layla’s, staying in a house of an absent in-law of hers and I made a simple supper for them all to come and enjoy.  I looked out the window to see all four boys on one bike.  Leo was having the time of his life!

We went for a hike in the mountains and had a picnic lunch.  The mountains were spectacular!  The gray jays were everywhere.  We visited a friend of Layla’s with a trampoline and once again, Leo was out there and all the children were laughing and having fun on the trampoline while Layla, Beth and I visited and had coffee. Later Layla made us pate chinoispate chinois and it was delicious (earlier, I had reminded her that it was my favourite childhood meal that mom would make.  I would get home, famished from gymnastics or basketball practise and sit down to Pate.  Scrumptious!)

We then played foosball and watched a doc.  Foosball was a scream, because I was screaming and because I was screaming, so was Layla who also kept looking at me to see if I was for real.  Yep.  I get into it a bit much.

The next day, we walked down by the river and all through the little downtown.  We had lunch at a wonderful diner.

Layla told me she had received a call that her Gramma was on her deathbed in North Bay.  Layla would accompany us to Toronto where she would rent a car and head north.  Sitting on the flight, during the safety briefing, Layla made a face in response to a curt instruction from the flight attendant.  Oh my god, I nearly peed.  She can make me laugh like that and it is just so stupid and funny that there is no rhyme or reason to it.  Layla wasn’t able to rent a car because it was her husband’s credit card (and he wouldn’t allow it).  She took a bus and made it to her Gramma who died just after seeing Layla. She had made it to say good-bye.

Upon returning to Nova Scotia, we began the driving school and it is still running today, twelve years later.  It has been great undertaking with three or four employees whom we generally have a great time with.  Driving instructors tend to be folks retired from other professions.  We have had a retired school principal, a retired teacher, a retired scientist, an ex-airline worker and a retired engineer.  They have taught me a lot over the years and I appreciate them immensely.

I also truly appreciate my old childhood friends.  They are the ones who know you.  Where you came from.  How you were raised.  What you are made of.  Your values.  A genuinely good friend is one you can just pick up with from where you left off.  Even decades later.  I have several of these people in my life and I appreciate them with all my heart.

Trying Something New?

A Friday night visit to the video store ends in mortifaction…

When we first moved to our sweet little tidal town in Nova Scotia, it was before itunes  and netflix.  For entertainment, we would go downtown to rent videos and DVDs from a little place called L&S Video.  L&S had an amazing collection and going there to pick out a video was a bit of a social experience because the four people who worked there, including the owner, were engaging, knowledgeable and pretty hilariously entertaining.

So, one Friday evening I found myself at L&S looking at options for Dean and I to watch after little Leo was in bed.  It was a Friday evening so many folks, strangers, friends and acquaintances were coming and going and I was just having a fun ole time engaging with quite a few people — all of us in good moods due to it being Friday night and with the whole weekend ahead of us.

Nick was working that night and he was en forme .  We were talking and bantering back and forth about various movies.  I would say something profound like: you know the movie with that guy?  And he would say: oh ya, TROY. Then I would be like: exactly. Nick was amazing.  He knew all the movies, plot lines, and actors.

At some early point in the better-part-of-an hour that I spent that evening at L&S, I was squatting down looking at a low shelf of vids and reaching into my pocket, proceeded to put on my lip balm.  My lips had been pretty dry and my favourite lip balm: Burt’s Bees, just felt so nice to slather on.  Somewhat absentmindedly, I ensured that it was on real good.  I put it all along the top of my lips and lip edge and all along the bottom of my lips and lip edge not staying within the lines at all. Then I did it again, just to be sure.  My lips tingled. The peppermint in Burt’s Bees actually caused lip-tingling.  I loved it.

I stood up with my selection: I, Robot.  (I LOVE Will Smith).  I didn’t actually exit the store as of yet though.  There were so many friends to talk to and banter with.  As I was talking and visiting with them though, I got the feeling that something was slightly wrong.  I was getting some looks and double takes.  Hmm.  Strange.  Maybe it was because I was looking super hot that night.  I was wearing my new jacket and my hair. Well, it was a good hair day.  That must be it.  So, I stayed a bit longer.  It was busy in there.  I was on fire!

At the check out, Nick had a wee smirk on his face.  As he looked at me, then down at my selections, then to the computer, then back at me.  I had the feeling he was suppressing a giggle.  I thanked him for all of his expertise, yet again and wished him a great night.

Off I drove home.  Pulling into the driveway, I smoothed my good hair in the rear-view mirror.

AND

THEN

I

SAW

MY

LIPS

THERE WAS BLACK GUNK ALL OVER and AROUND MY LIPS.  Much like bad makeup on a sad clown. Reaching into my pocket for my beloved Burt’s Bees, I realized my mistake.  I had used my dark brown-tinted Burt’s Bees Lip Balm instead of the clear one.

Anger rose within while my face reddened and I scrubbed the dark lip balm off while my mind clicked through the dozens of townsfolk I had encountered with my very badly done sad clown lips.  Still sitting in the car, I grabbed my cell phone and called Nick at L&S Video.

‘Why the hell didn’t you tell me????’ I shouted at him.

Pause, muffled chuckling.

‘I thought you were trying something new,’ he said.

EXTREME MORTIFICATION ensued.

twirl

(I originally posted this a year ago but am re-posting because this story takes place in my wee town’s video store.  Said video store has since been closed and re-opened under a new name by one of the original, amazingly talented employees.  It then moved twice and now, several years later, it is about to close for good.  It seems there is no longer a market for videos and DVDs, no matter the incredible collection.  I was saddened to read this story in our local paper and then to hear the owner speaking on CBC Radio about her ideas and aspirations for the future.  So, this re-post is a tribute to our closing video store.)

(Credit for this photo goes to the ever talented T.M.B. Renaissance Axe Woman )

The Loss of Dane, part 2

Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door
~Live

Continued from The Loss of Dane, Part 1

Warning…this part is graphic…

The hours of the day ticked by and the pains grew worse and worse.  I called my doctor who was to go away on holidays but she luckily was able to arrange for an ultrasound for me immediately.  It looked normal.  I was told that this might just be Braxton Hicks — or practice contractions that prepare the womb to deliver in the future.  I had had experienced them with Leo’s pregnancy.  I knew that this was NOT that.

I soaked in the tub and tried to find comfort laying on my side. It was a hard night, with little sleep, the pain coming in waves.  At one point, my sister Amy called from three provinces to the west and her sweet voice took my mind off my troubles.

The next day, I found blood on my underwear.

“DEAN!’ I screamed.

“WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL !!”

The pains became worse and worse.  We had Leo taken care of by Everet and Tina, friends whom we had known for years. Everet, Dean and I had been in the army together.  We knew each other very well.

I did not want our little Leo to see me in this kind of pain.

Then the nurses said that the Radiologist would give me an ultrasound, himself. Unusual. I lay down on the bed and he put the goop on my belly.  When the picture came up, it looked different.  Dane was alive and there was a heart beat but there was no water in my uterus.  There was no amniotic fluid.  How could Dane be alive?  I had been in so much pain, my brain was messed up.

It would not conclude that which it should be concluding.

Nor did the Radiologist then tell me that which he should have told me.  Thinking back to the exhausted state I was in with very little sleep over the past two days, I remember that I glanced at his face and he just looked at me, then away.  He didn’t explain anything.  (Later, he apologized for that).

I was wheeled back to another room off the emergency room.  On my way past the waiting room, I saw Wally, Everet and Dean with heads together, whispering.  Wally’s arrival made four of us that had been in the army together a decade earlier.  Through the haze of pain and exhaustion, I was touched that they were here for this. Here for us.

I would get through this and we would all be fine and well.  Dane would be okay.  All these people were here to support us.

Dane would be fine. Right?

The pain continued.  The nurses were good to me.  One nurse kept getting warm towels and swabbing down my back, as my johnny coat was open and allowed it.  It felt like heaven. At some point, in a tortured voice I told them I felt like I had to poop. They helped me to squat up on the bed and they put a metal pan under my bottom.  I pushed. I pushed again.  One more time…

Then,

I

looked

down.

Dear God,

there were tubes or something hanging out of my vagina.

“What’s that?” I asked, perplexed.  My red, sweaty face a question.

A nurse rushed over and gently tugged on the tubes as she attempted to soothe me with, ‘It’s going to be okay dear.  It’s going to be okay.”

Something of size came out.

It was not tubes.

It was Dane.

It was not tubes.

It was my perfectly formed tiny dead baby, Dane.

I held him in my hand.  He fit the length of it perfectly.

Little eyes never to open.

Tiny hands never to hold.

I stroked his little bluish body and wished him well in heaven while tears blurred my vision streaming down my face.

I cried, “My heart is breaking. Ohhhh No No No.  My heart is breaking.”

I laid back on the bed and hands on my heart, wept bitterly, for the loss of my little Angel Dane.  And having lost him, I knew for sure that I couldn’t try to do this again.  Upon telling Dean this, we both readily decided that Leo would be our only and we would count ourselves lucky and blessed to have him.

What I felt later was this overwhelming sense of failure.  I had failed to give his little body a fertile place to grow.  I had failed to be a good woman.  A good mom.  I was a failure at making a baby (which was stupid since my body had already made Leo).

But, thankfully, time heals and now, over a decade later, I have a different view of this.  I feel that my body was doing what it needed to do.  There must have been a good reason that my body did not allow Dane to thrive, or that Dane’s body didn’t allow him to thrive. Especially in these last years, I have learned and concluded that my body is an amazing organism that should be trusted, revered and respected.

It is doing it’s best to keep me alive, comfortable and well.

I think of Dane often and wonder what our lives would have looked like with him in it, growing up as Leo’s little brother, as our youngest son.

I wonder about the lesson in this loss.

Why did it happen?  What is it meant to teach us?  The value of life?  Gratitude for our blessings? I’m not sure, really.  But, I am sure of this:

I love that little soul

that was in that little body

that I held in my womb

and then in my hand.

I wish for him to be forever at peace.

highway

Please consider leaving a message and telling of your loss.

(Thanks Google images and creative commons licence for the pics).

The King of Korea 🇰🇷

For a couple of years in a row, we did this thing: we took in a boy from Korea for the month of January and the next year we took in he and his little brother.  Charlie and Joshua were something else (can you say, high maintenance?) and I have to say, when we finally said our goodbyes, I was wiping my brow.  Many parents asked us about our Korean visitors.  They could not believe that parents would send their young children half way around the world for a full month to stay with complete strangers (us).  We certainly could never do that with our son Leo.  The motivation, of course, was for them to learn to speak English.  Worth it to them.  Our motivation was to introduce Leo to other cultures and the idea of sharing his stuff (and us) with a temporary sibling or two.

At that time, Leo and Joshua were 7, Charlie was 8. From the get go, Charlie and Leo were pretty much opposites in most areas of life.  Charlie loved math and studying.  Leo loved to play, draw, run and build lego.  Charlie had a huge appetite, Leo not so much.  Charlie was a black belt at taekwondo, and at any given moment, he would run across the room and execute a seriously high kick which would miss someone’s face (mine included) by a fraction of an inch.  He was a maniac.  Leo was pretty chill, usually.

The morning Charlie arrived from Korea, we had some extra time before school after Charlie’s stare-down with his oatmeal – so I told Charlie he could play with Leo in Leo’s cubby.  Leo had this really cool tiny playroom off the kitchen that was actually the space over the stairs, and it was carpeted, with a light and door – almost fort-like. We painted it purple and added toys and called it his cubby.  I could see him while preparing food and it was ideal for that.  Anyway, Charlie said, ‘No, I must study.’  So, he sat with his University level math book and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from travel.  After a few repeat performances, I took Charlie aside and told him, ‘Charlie, look, you are here in Canada for a whole month.  Canadian kids play every chance they get.  Why not just go ahead and play while you are here?’  Charlie took my advice.  The following year though, I learned from Charlie that he had been ‘beaten’ by his mother because he had decided to play in his free time instead of studying.  So, let’s just look at that: your child is away from you for a whole month, on the other side of the world, gets home and you beat him because he decided to play with other children instead of study.  Oooookay.

Pond Skating 5

When the children would come in from outside, after skating, snow-ball fights or running around and tumbling in the snow, Charlie would ask excitedly, ‘I put inside clothes on now?’  Of course, we would always allow this, and of course this made him very happy.  He would then run and jump and almost kick someone in the face before running off to change.  I imagine back home in Korea, there must have been many more demands on his time…academies of all sorts that took place at various hours of the night.  Charlie had told us that he regularly got to sleep by midnight on school nights and then on Saturday and Sunday they would sleep until noon, then the fam would head out for a movie and supper and start the whole process over again Monday morning.  I was commenting to a friend that Charlie could play a gazillion instruments and was a math pro and my friend said, “When did he learn to play cello?  At 2 in the morning?”  Something like that.

skating with king of korea

Now, we live in a tiny little town of about 4000 residents and Charlie and Joshua came from Seoul (see picture above) with a cool 29 million souls.  Quite a big difference.  One evening, we were heading down the highway to the indoor soccer facility.  That road is dark in January and can be pretty sparse for traffic.  Charlie, in the back seat, says in wonder, “Where ARE we?”  He had never been on such a dark, fast road. My mind flicked back to our travels in Oz, when that was my daily litany.

dark highway

One day, I took the kids to a farm so they could see hens, goats, lamas, cows, sheep and pigs and so they could hold a warm egg, just laid (seeing as Charlie was eating three eggs every morning and a litre of goats milk).  Other outings were to indoor soccer, area hikes, sliding, skating, haircuts, music events and movies and restaurants but their favorite thing, by far, was bedtime when Dean would read aloud from one of Leo’s chapter books: A Single Shard,  by Linda Sue Park.  Three boys in pjs, teeth brushed and waiting for Dean to enter the room to read.  We had put a small cot for Leo in his room. Charlie and Joshua shared Leo’s big sleigh-bed that we had purchased from the Amish in Virginia when we lived there and when Leo was born.  I remember thinking that Leo was doing really well with all this sharing of his stuff.  I’m biased, of course, but Leo was always pretty sweet-natured about things like that, perhaps except when it came to Buzz.

Bedtime Story

Charlie really liked his food.  I would be making eggs in our large cast-iron pan at the stove in the morning and I would feel a presence by my side.  Suddenly a voice, ‘What are you making?’ After peeling myself off the ceiling, I would realize that it was Charlie.  He was inspecting.  He asked me to make his eggs a bit differently.  A quasi fried-scrambled kinda thing with ketchup.  We began to refer to Charlie as ‘The Inspector’.  He had high standards and he wanted to maintain them.  Initially, he would be eating his meal, with gusto, chopsticks flying, and he would moan, ‘more kimchi, more kimchi’.  We taught him to at least look up, meet our eyes and ask for more whatever with a ‘please’ on the end.  He cottoned on.  We weren’t his paid help, like he had at home.  He was a visitor in our home.  He got it.

IMG_1094

Charlie kept us on our toes. Joshua was just easy, a quiet shadow of his older brother. One time, I arrived at the school yard to pick up Leo and Charlie.  Charlie was nowhere to be seen.  I ran around like a madwoman looking for him, my mind whirling with how I would explain this to his mom over in Korea.  Suddenly, there he was.  He had been in the car of the Korean man he had met at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Geez. Thanks a pant-load, Buddy.

Charlie would head into the bathroom on any given afternoon and after a bit, we would hear the toilet flushing about five times.  This always made Leo laugh.  Having a chauffeur at home, Charlie and Joshua hated the walk to school.  Granted, it was about a mile in snowpants and boots and we did it almost every school day, there and back.  One day, we got half way and he threw himself on the snowbank and would not get up.  When he didn’t get what he wanted he would say, ‘It feels me bad’.  We wrote a song about him called, ‘It Feels Me Bad, Baby‘.

To say goodbye to Charlie and Joshua, we hosted a bowling party at the area bowling alley and invited some friends.  It was a lot of fun.  We never saw Charlie and Joshua again, nor have we ever heard from them again.  From time to time, Dean and I will wonder aloud about what the boys must be doing these days.  We always imagine Charlie as the King of Korea.  Maybe he is?king-sejong

Boquete, Panama – a place of firsts

By the time we reached Boquete, we were done.  There had been many legs to this journey from Costa Rica, but at least now we had arrived into the eternal springtime that is Boquete. It was February 2004, our third month of overland travel as we rolled into Boquete in Panama’s Green Mountain Highlands, the nearest city being David.

Panama-physical-mapAfter a few tries, we found a wonderful hostel.  We had our own room and bathroom and it was just down the hall from a large, organized, cook-your-own-food kinda set up. There was also a dining room with square tables and brightly-coloured red and green checked oil cloths.  The whole place was, clean, organized and well run and the owners were diminutive.  They weren’t in our faces, but they made it all happen from behind the scenes.

Across the street there was a large dusty open field where several children would play pick-up soccer matches.  Leo, who was four years old, was in heaven.  He just wanted to run around and play with the children.  We went to the field and played frisbee, a game they had never seen before. My husband Dean and I enjoyed teaching the local children about frisbee.  They caught on quickly – very coordinated and fit but, not a word of English. Ricardo and Eddie proudly showed us two tarantulas.  They poked at these shy creatures with a piece of hay until their hairy mandibles grasped the hay.  Then the children would swing the spider side to side showing us how the tarantula would hold on.  Next the boys showed us the spiders’ casas, pointing and saying to us, ‘Casa! Casa!’, which was a hole in the dry ground.  The play continued with Leo getting soaked by the water “pistoles”, kicking the soccer ball and throwing the frisbee.

A few easy days passed which saw us walk lazily all over the town of Boquete and explore its various parks and markets.  I bought a huge bag of fruit and vegetables, plus pasta, butter, milk, cheese and eggs, all for less than $20.

One day we stopped into a small place to have some supper.  It was a couple of hours after eating there that Leo began to vomit.  He could keep nothing down, not even little sips of water.  The night hours passed in somewhat of a blurr because we were up with him for hours and hours and praying and worrying for him to improve. At one point he was hot to the touch and he began to moan loudly and said’ please help my belly.’ He also screamed with the cramps, burped, vomited and then fell back to sleep. Then he would begin to vomit or wretch again.  I began to get pretty worried.  In the morning he became listless and I screamed at Dean to get a taxi…NOW!  Destination, the medical clinic.

We walked into the clinic, Dean carrying a listless Leo, and within about five minutes, Leo was hooked up to an IV for re-hydration.  The local doctor spoke perfect English because he had been away to the States for a work term.  He answered all of our questions and re-assured us that Leo would be fine once he was re-hydrated.  The nurse came into the room and tucked a hand-stitched quilt tenderly around Leo.  I was left wondering if we would have received this level of care in Halifax.  Wait, first we would have had to shovel the driveway, drive the 20 minutes to the children’s hospital and then find parking.  Then we’d wait in emerg.  It would have likely been hours, depending on the triaging at the time of our arrival. Here, it was minutes and we were the only folks in the clinic and they were totally and completely sweet to us.  The fee was so small it was negligible.  Leo rested and slept with the IV in his arm.  When he was awake, we read to him and told him stories.  Later that day, we all walked out of there.

Unfortunately, the vomiting continued shortly after we got back to our hostel, so we had a repeat performance at the clinic.  Then we took Leo out to a restaurant and ordered him a bowl of soup.  He promptly threw up into the soup bowl.  After that, we were ‘soup-er‘ careful.  He directed what his tummy could handle.  It was in Boquete that Leo had his first ever can of pop. Canada Dry Ginger Ale, of course.  And, it stayed down. Boquete was also the place where Leo learned to tie his shoes.  Add  playing with the tarantula and having an IV re-hydration and it was the place of firsts.  We will fondly remember Boquete, even though we had a bit of a scare there.

boquete (1)

From Panama we made our way back to Costa Rica to catch our fight home to Canada.  There were several over-land legs to the journey back and it was bitter sweet as we knew our big four-month adventure had come to an end.

We landed in Toronto and made our way west to visit everyone in Leeford…Eva and family, Amy and family, Mark and family who threw a very large and fun 35th birthday for moi, with tons of balloons and with a big cake, singing and story-telling.  We laughed and laughed.  At one point I reached into my jeans and pulled out the grey, worn waist band of my underwear to illustrate the struggle of over-land, back-packer-style travel.  Everyone smiled and nodded.  Now they GOT it!  Some had assumed we were resorting the whole time or something (NOT!).

From there we went to Scarborough to stay with Paulie for several days.  Leo just LOVED being with his big cousins who indulged him so much.  Paulie and I worked on clearing out unneeded stuff so that Paulie and Seth could sell up and move to Leeford.  The nearby vertical slum was pushing them out and Dean and I wanted to help them get going.

Then it was on to Halifax and the launching of our quest for A Simple East Coast Life.

TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND!

My son, Leo’s favourite toy of all time was Buzz Lightyear, the action figure who emerged from the 1995 block buster movie Toy Story.  He wanted the action figure very badly.  We would make special trips to the toy store just to look at them and imagine owning one.  The weird thing was that we had more than enough money to buy one but, at the time, I just didn’t think it would be good for Leo to have everything he wanted. The Buzz Lightyear action figures were retailing for about $75 plus tax, at the time.  I thought that it would be too much to just go ahead and buy him one.  Don’t worry, Leo didn’t want for much.  He had a lot of toys and his own room with a double bed, a hand-made quilt with a space theme from two of his Aunts in Newfoundland, and, he had me all to himself as I was a full-time stay-home mom for his first five years.  He was much loved.  I just didn’t want to spoil him.  There’s a fine line.

BuzzOne day, Auntie Bonnie came to visit and we decided to head to Kitchener for the day and go thrift shopping at Value Village and then have lunch.  Thrift shopping is so much fun.  The thrill of the hunt for something of great value at a low, low price.

We were wheeling our way around the store.  Leo was getting a ride in the cart and as I say, we were just getting warmed up when…low and behold, on a shelf with many other toys…there was…

NONE OTHER THAN…

CAN YOU GUESS???

YES!

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!!!  The one and only.  And the exact size of the ones he had seen at the toy store.

Suddenly, everything slowed waaaaaay down.  There were a few other people in the same aisle. If you can believe it, there was a boy closing in on the same area where we were.  The boy was looking at Buzz.  My hand was reaching.  His hand was reaching.  I didn’t want to muscle a toy away from someone much, much smaller than I, but then…

the boy reached for the frisbee instead. Whew!

My hand grasped the cool hard plastic of the toy’s mid-section.  I held him up.  He was perfect, except that someone else had loved him quite well before. It was obvious. Because he was missing a boot.

Leo didn’t care.  He grasped Buzz and hugged him tight.  ‘My own Buzz, Mommy?’ he asked.  ‘Yes, sweetheart, your own Buzz.’  He was one happy little gaffer that day.

Buzz did not leave Leo’s chubby fingers for days.  It was as if he was glued there. If someone asked about the missing boot, he simply explained that Buzz had lost a boot on a dangerous space mission and then he would hold Buzz tight and sail him over his head with a sonic whooshing sound, ‘To infinity and beyond!’

One day, Leo was running in our house on the ceramic tile and took a spill.  There went Buzz, flying across the room and smashing on the tile.  When Leo retrieved him, he was missing an arm.

I did a bit of research and found out that the Disney Thinkway Toy Company had an office located in Markham, Ontario which was just around the corner form Dean’s office at IBM.  I called the company and explained that we needed some repairs done on a very much loved Buzz Lightyear toy. They said to simply bring it in and leave it with them for about ten days.  They would see what they could do.  We explained to Leo that Buzz had to go in for repairs.  After awhile, Leo understood and said goodbye to Buzz.

The next day, just before they closed, Dean walked into the Disney Thinkway office with the old Buzz.  The man behind the counter said, ‘You must be the people who called about repairs to an older Buzz Lightyear.’  Dean nodded and held up Leo’s Buzz.  The man nodded knowingly, seeing the missing boot and missing arm.  He then said, ‘I told my boss about your wife’s call and how your son loves Buzz so much,’…the man then reached under the counter and handed a shiny brand new Buzz to Dean.  No charge, as long as they could have the old toy to study.  Dean gladly surrendered old Buzz.

Leo awoke in the morning with the shiny new Buzz beside him. You never saw such a happy youngster. Not wanting to run with Buzz anymore, he shuffled into our room and sang out, ‘it’s morning time Mom and guess what?  Buzz is all fixed up!’

buzz2
Leo’s drawing of Buzz Lightyear.  Age 5.

The Loss of Dane💔, part 1

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.

Leonard Cohen
Bird on a Wire

When my son, Leo was two, I became pregnant for the third time.  We had had an early miscarriage before Leo came along in 1999.  It was during the early weeks of this pregnancy that we decided to move to the East coast.

My husband, Dean found us a furnished two bedroom sublet with a garden and a patio and which accepted pets — we had two big dogs, at the time.  Our new digs had a gas fireplace, two floors, two sunflower-upholstered love-seats, laundry just down the hall and an underground parking space. The apartment was just around the corner from the Public Gardens in Halifax and we thought we had died and gone to heaven.

While Dean would be at work down at Purdy’s Wharf (the two tallest, newest buildings on the Halifax harbour), Leo and I would be hanging out in the Public Gardens which are truly a beautiful place: green lawns; winding pebbly pathways; ducks, geese and swans in the ponds; a band-stand; a canteen with ice-cream stand — paradise!

Public GardensIf we weren’t in Public Gardens though, we might be out with our Realtor who was trying to find us a house.  It was a hell of a market.  A sellers market where everything was selling out from under us, even as we were walking through a house.

Dad and my step-mom, Wendy, came to visit for a week.  They took the train from Ontario, getting into Union Station where we easily picked them up.  The best memory of that trip was our day in Peggy’s Cove.  The five of us, with jackets, water-bottles, sunhats and wallets piled into our wagon, along with our two big dogs, Delta and Grizzly, and away we went to the second best known landmark in Nova Scotia (the first being the Fortress at Louisburg Historical Site).

When we rolled into Peggy’s Cove, after the twisty-turny roads, we all felt a wee bit squeamish.  We all wanted to just exit the car and get some fresh air and stretch the legs. I look over to the left, see a brightly painted old school house with a sign that reads: ‘FREE JAZZ CONCERT TODAY’.  I say the words aloud to Dad and Wendy, it was like, well, music to their ears. Golden, simply golden.  We clambered out of the wagon and made our way over the beaten-earth pathway to the Old School House. Walking in, Dad began to smile and to take Wendy’s hand.  It was the music of their age. From their day.  They began to dance.  When the song ended, Dad said, ‘If I just had a black coffee now, I would be all set’.

‘Back in a flash,’  I said and out I flew, down the path and over to the cafe, which wasn’t far away. Peggy’s Cove is a tiny village and harbour with colourful wooden houses, flapping clotheslines, hat-wearing locals, tour buses and fishing shacks, and let’s not forget that lighthouse.  Upon my return, the musicians were conversing with Dad and Wendy who both had large, wide smiles and the glassy eyes of reminiscence.  They took a coffee each, thanking me, and sat back, the picture of relaxation and contentment. We hadn’t even seen the lighthouse yet.  Imagine.

Peggy's cove village

The next day we went to one of the best beaches on the south shore: Bayswater Beach. For once we were not fogged in but enjoyed the perfect weather.  The added pleasure of this part of the visit was that my step-sister, Paulie and her family were staying in a cabin on a large beautiful lake and we arranged to meet them at the Bayswater Beach, it being the hometown area of her husband, Seth.  Seth set up lawn chairs for everyone and then Dad said, ‘If I only had an ice-cream now, I would be all set’.

‘Back in a flash’.  I carried back a couple of trays of soft-serve ice-cream for all of us bought from the lady in the truck selling all manner of take-out food.  I marveled watching Dad and Leo who were obviously enjoying their cones the most.  We had a very sweet time on the beach, Leo playing with his two big cousins in the warm stream of water that runs to the sea.  The ocean, being the North Atlantic, was beyond freezing cold.  Of course.

Bayswater Beach

For the next couple of nights we stayed in a cabin, close to the one that Paulie and family were staying in and enjoyed hours of swimming, canoeing, story-telling and eating. It was ideal.  I’ll never forget the interactions between Leo and Paulie. Especially when it came to saying I love you and goodbye. At that time Leo wasn’t speaking very much, but he was signing. And he would sign ‘I love you’ — dimpled hand held up with chubby ring finger and middle finger bent to his palm. This one day,  while saying our goodbyes, he signed ‘I love you’ and then with his index finger pointing at Paulie, he signed ‘I shoot you’.  When I saw this I was horrified. But Paulie, in her sweet gentle way, saw the fun in it and chuckled loudly making Leo want to do it again and again.

Then it was back to just the three of us, with now a jumbo-sized peanut in my belly, slowly, slowly getting bigger and stronger.  Hearing our baby’s heartbeat and being told we were to have another boy, we were over the moon.  His name would be ‘Dane’, after the great soccer player, Zidane.

Then one day, out of the blue, on the Friday morning of a long weekend, I was having tea and toast at Tina’s house, watching Leo and Jude playing and I began to get a strange sensation in my lower belly.  It was the same type of feeling that would come at the beginning of a menstrual period.

‘Ah oh’, I thought. ‘Can’t be.”

Continued at Loss of Dane, Part 2

 

 

 

*******************

Crane photo courtesy of an old high school friend with the initials G.B.

All other photos from google and pinterest

Leave a comment. It tells me you were here and also, tell me of your experience of loss.

La Cucaracha Report ~ Ometepe 🌴 & Costa Rica

I was born in the sign of water, and it’s there that I feel my best. The albatross and the whales they are my brother….Little River Band

6 Feb 2004

Apparently the waters surrounding Ometepe Island have fish with thorn-like fang teeth. Well, I didn’t want to swim in Lago de Nica anyway.  The ferry getting across was rough but, I knew the secret now...little white pills.  Seasickness be damned.  Much to Leo’s delight, we have been riding in the back of a pick-up truck belonging to new friends of ours: Lori and Don from San Diego.  Lori and Don routinely rent out their tiny San Diego house, making much more income (some crazy, jaw dropping amount) than they can at the office.  With the rental income money, they travel with their three children for months on end.  There are so many ways to live.  We met them in San Juan Del Sur, Nica. They are true vagabonds.  Of course, due to Leo pulling on our pantlegs and asking us to ask them, we indeed did ask them about Lego Land.  Yes, we can certainly visit with them if we ever make it to Lego Land in San Diego. We are so tame. Another friend was with us in the pick-up truck: Kennedy.  He is a commercial painter in California.  He paints for six months and travels for six months a year.

Last night we picked up a Nica man who had been seriously hurt in a motorcycle accident. The driver, Don, agreed to take him to the hospital so Kennedy and Dean lifted him into the bed of the pickup.  As we rolled along the bumpy road, the man hollered with pain but he was very brave and trying to converse with us.

Prior to that we had found Ajo de Aqua a natural spring in the woods.  It took a few hours to find this place but we had loads of fun seeing all the sights and hiking through the jungle of Ometepe Island.  

In our cabana last night we had two massive spiders.  I didn’t need to sleep anyway.

On the ferry from Punta Renas, Costa Rica to Paquera.  It is a beautiful ferry ride (no little white pills required) over the calm waters of the Gulf of Nicaragua.  Leo is throwing peanuts to the flock of gulls following us off the side of the boat.  He is giggling with glee.

gullsWhen we arrived in Costa Rica, we were at the edge of Mal Pais, a dusty little seaside village with molasses paved roads.  They put molasses on the roads to keep down the dust.  The place smells amazingly sweet because of it.  Mal Pais is known for it’s astoundingly, expansive beaches and surfing.  We walked for about ten minutes, sweating profusely due to the heat and humidity and found a youth hostel stuffed with surfers who were about half our age and twice as cool.  They immediately took to Leo and started entertaining him.  The hostel was tiny and our room was right outside of their common area: a patio with old plastic patio furniture.  We prepared for bed while Leo squealed in delight with the young surfer dudes outside our door.

I awoke in the morning to a nice surprise:  a massively fat june bug standing on my chest and staring at my face.  Holy shit.  Big bugs scare the be-jesus out of me.  I flung my sheet off of me and the june bug hit and literally made a clattering sound on the floor. Clackety-clack. I jumped up and kicked it out the door.  Then I involuntarily shivered. Ew. That was gross.

When we all got up, we went to the beach….oh my god…it stretched forever…and went to the waters edge.  We marveled at the temperature of the sea.  It was TEPID!!!  Who knew the ocean could be tepid??  It certainly isn’t tepid in Nova Scotia.  The North Atlantic causes me an instant headache upon putting in a toe.  Here we swam and frolicked for hours…checking out the tide pools and exfoliating with the warm sand.  It was heavenly.

Dad and Leo CR

We had heard that one of my step-brothers and his family would be in Mal Pais at the same time as us.  We wondered if and how we would find them…suddenly there was Patrick, walking along the beach and greeting us like it was the most normal thing in the world.  mom and leo CR

We were overjoyed to see him as Patrick is a true vagabonding adventurer.  He really got us. After talking for a while with Patrick, we made plans to meet up later at their hotel: The Blue Jay.  Trust me, the Blue Jay was a little nicer than our june bug – surfer-boy place.  When we returned to our hostel, there was the june bug from my chest.  Apparently it had landed on its back when I kicked it out the door.  You know what that means to a june bug. Certain death.  There were a million teeny-tiny ants transporting it bodily to god knows where.  Lovely.

The next day we climbed into Patrick’s rental jeep and headed up and over the mountain, on very bad, nearly washed out roads, to the village of Montezuma.  We occasionally had to exit the jeep so Pat could drive over some particularly bad areas. When we did that, Leo just couldn’t understand it and would remark about it.  At one point he wanted some answers from Uncle Patrick about why we were getting out of the jeep.  Patrick’s response was one that will go down in history: just… get in the truck he said with a fake exasperated lilt and a very sweet smile with kind eyes at our little Leo. We all laughed and laughed, especially Leo.   We walked around the village and then had lunch.  It was impossible to relax outside.  It was so extremely hot and the sun was treacherous.  Any bit of exposed northern skin was burned in seconds.strangler fig

After returning to Mal Pais from Montezuma and stopping for a photo of an incredibly intricate and tangled five meter wide strangler fig, we returned with glee to the beach. Leo drifted in the shallows while I walked along marveling a the crabs and how they so quickly bury themselves when they sense a large presence.  So cute.  I bent down to touch a few of them and they tried their best to deter me by quickly pinching at my fingers and retreating bodily into the wet sand.  As Leo and I made our way up the trail heading to the Blue Jay Hotel  to meet Patrick et al again, we were startled at the loud sound of the local howler monkeys in the trees.  At the howl, I grabbed Leo instinctively to protect him and then we had a laugh about it.  My laugh was more of a nervous titter.

Iguanas, lizards, palmetto bugs, ants, hermit crabs, howler monkeys, grass hoppers, birds and butterflies in beautiful abundance in Mal Pais.

Patrick had us come to the Blue Jay for dinner and it was pure decadence!  He gave us half of his ceviche and it was the best we have tasted yet.  It was so lovely to be with them and to connect in another world despite myriad possible changes, problems and hiccups.  We actually made it happen and it was very sweet.

From my journal, written 13 February 2004

We have been here two nights in a pit of a room, in a hostel.  It’s okay because there are a few interesting travelers to talk to.  One couple spent several months in South America and have been telling us of the benefits of traveling to Argentina (I always remember that guy we met in India in 1994…’Argentina, Argentina, Maradona, Maradona’ — he wasn’t put in prison in Tangiers because coming from Argentina he was associated with the soccer star: Maradona).  Anyway, they describe it as a European environment of the finest food, hotels, excellent service for seriously cheap.  She said ‘imagine traveling to Europe, going to a restaurant with white linen, candlelight, five glasses, having wonderful food…WHATEVER YOU WANT and paying two dollars!!!’ 

Leaving Mal Pais, the ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya enroute to Punta Rinas was, once again, beautiful, very hot and sunny.  Following that, we were quite packed tight for the bus ride.  The ticket agent did the old hold-back-some-change-and -see-if-they-notice scam.  I noticed.  The bus ride was very warm and almost panic-level humid and sweaty. I literally had to conduct some personal deep breathing exercises, we were that squished and hot on that bus.  Finally we caught the wind up in the hills and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Next stop…Panama.

La Cucaracha Report – Honduras 🇭🇳

Our stay in the paradise of West Bay, Roatan gets a little scary when our four-year old gets sick….

4 Jan 2004

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow morning early!  We are en route to the Bay Islands of Honduras!  Finally.  We will be tropical by noon.  Steaming hot and shedding clothing.

This minute, we have just walked into the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel Restaurant in Antigua – simply for coffee and dessert.  It was Dean’s idea.  A good one – pure decadence.  Rich people are so funny to watch too.  A bonus.  We have ordered a whopping three desserts, two coffees and a milk for Leo.  It could be a late night and we have a long walk after this.

8 Jan 2004

It’s Dean’s 41st birthday and we are enjoying ourselves completely in Roatan, Honduras.  We are in a cabana just a few steps from the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.  Our cabana is an upper apartment with a bedroom, a clean bathroom with hot shower and a kitchenette on one end of the living room.  In the kitchen / living room there is a single bed and a TV / VCR.  We are just now watching the movie Titanic.

It feels great to have some luxury because we had two days of hellish travel from Antigua to Livingston, Guatemala – the dirtiest, ugliest, most disappointing village thus yet and where we had to spend a huge US40 to rent a room with some sanity and cleanliness to it.  It had a nice pool which we swam in in the dark.  We were up at 5 the next morning and on a launch for 1.5 hours to Puerto Barrios in the rain.  From there we jammed into a suburban with two Austrians, two Australians and two Americans.  The driver and navigator were Guatemalans and we Canadians.  Five countries represented by we 10.5 squished travelers in this suburban.  Not bad.

After a couple of hours in the suburban, we came to a town and had to stop for fuel.  We all piled out to use the bathroom facilities in the gas station.  I remember feeling like I had just passed through some kind of black hole from one reality into another.  Stepping into the modern, air-conditioned gas station full of convenience items and candy and bags of doritos and with clean normal toilets, was a real treat almost like Dorothy waking up in Oz — from black and white to colour.  They were even selling brewed coffee with cream.  My point here is that we had been on this trip for a couple of months now and convenience items were few and far between.

This vehicle full of us chatty travelers took us the five hours, over dirt and sand roads with washed out portions, small villages and across the border to San Pedro Sulu, Honduras.  This is where we caught a second class bus. Waiting for the bus to fill and prepare to leave, many entrepreneurial-types came reaching up to our bus window selling their wares.  Everything from large, colourful plastic wash basins to, bars of soap, combs, or coca cola in a small sandwich bag with a straw.  They would never give you the can or the bottle with the coke – they needed to keep it to get the deposit back.  

The bus ride was another four hours to La Ceiba and then just the 90 minutes to this island.  Lastly, a thirty minute taxi ride .  Exhausted, we had no idea where to stay and so settled on a pit of a room for the first night in West End and then found this near perfect place the next morning in West Bay Beach.  This picture is just outside our cabana.

roatan

Cabana Roatana, 11 Jan 2004

Still in paradise.  A few days ago Leo was very sick with high fever, chills and a swollen node in his neck.  Coincidentally, the new owner of this place is a doctor who immediately examined Leo and reported that he had a virus.  He told us that Leo would get worse before he got any better…that night, Leo had hallucinations and was in a bad way but after the doctor examined him again, he reassured us that it wasn’t what we feared most – namely meningitis.  Thank god!  Dean and I both breathed a sigh of relief.  What luck to have an ER doctor right here doing house calls to our cabana on the beach!

Greg, the doc, took a last look at Leo the morning he left for home and was certain that he would be fine in a couple of days.  The sea, sun, sand and fresh air all would help.  

Today is a rainy day so we have stuck pretty close to our cabana.  We did manage a short hike to the tip of the island this morning and it was lovely.  We found some pretty sea shells and bits of coral and Leo held a small crab-like creature for a few minutes. 

West Bay, Roatan, Honduras  14 Jan 2004

Leo is a fairly sick little Gaffer.  He was restless last night and the night before, literally waking up every ten minutes due to his sinuses being blocked.  Dean and I are both bagged because of it.

This morning we got right up and prepared for a trip to the medical clinic in Coxen Hole (a true hole of a town!).  We were lucky to find a very good doctor who spoke English very well.  He examined Leo and concluded after seeing a normal level of platelets in his blood test result that Leo has a viral and bacterial infection. We were given four types of medicine: coaxicilan, col-dex ad, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  We also bought lots of vitamin C.  The bill came to 68 US dollars.  The fee for the doctor was 400 Lempira which equals about 24 US dollars!!  We picked his brain about all sorts of things and he ruled out malaria and dengue fever.  It was well worth the effort.

Writing this now in 2017, years later, I recall with wonder the completely awful state of the dirt road outside this little clinic in Coxen Hole.  There was litter, bad smells, loose chickens, rusted out cars and then just inside the door, a long line-up of local people waiting patiently with their many, well-behaved children, in order to see the doctor.  As we white westerners walked into the clinic, with our expensive backpacks, watches, sandals and other telltale signs of our comparative wealth and with our very cute white-blond four-year old son, they ushered us swiftly passed the line-up and directly in to see the doctor.  I felt so blessed and privileged.  I felt badly for those waiting but I was deathly afraid for my precious young son whose health was worsening and god only knew why.

After leaving the clinic, we bought a few groceries, ate a bight of lunch, mailed postcards home, got some cash from the bank and then split a taxi back to our cabana with a couple from Alaska.

Talking to them was great fun.  They told us of two mistakes they made and it was exactly as we had done.  They too were conned by the woman named Laurel who asked us to help her at the ferry landing in Coxen Hole.  She came up to me, we were fresh off the boat, and told us all of her money, passport, travelers cheques, visa card, bank card – everything had been stolen…

Now, I would normally be a bit more discerning and ask a few more questions, but, I had just been on that darn ferry boat over to the island.  On the boat, they issued each passenger two little white pills – presumably for sea-sickness.  I get very sea-sick easily and so after asking for clarification on the pills, and receiving an answer in Spanish which I could not decipher, I gobbled down the little white pills and hoped for the best.  Not something I would normally do, but, it had been a long few days since leaving our peaceful Antiqua.  A few minutes later, I was seated on the ferry with Leo asleep on my lap and I realized that I could not feel my face.  It was the strangest feeling.  I also did not have any feelings of sea-sickness at all.  In fact, I felt awesome.  Looking back, I think I was stoned. So, when the con-artist approached us…

We gave her $20 US and the Alaskan couple gave her $30 five days later.  She had told us that her money was coming in to Western Union the next day.  The next mistake for them was getting a taxi to West End and staying in the same pit we did, but they paid for two nights sight unseen.  Bad move!

Sat 17 Jan 2004

Right after breakfast in our cabana of oatmeal and fruit, Dean was asked to help retrieve the hotel’s car from the airport.  His first driving experience of this trip.  The first time he has driven in two months.

Leo asked me to take him snorkeling on the close reef down at the end of the beach.  He has been practicing in the shallows just out from our place.  Now he wanted to see the real thing!  He was very impressed.  He saw some fish and the first outcroppings of coral.  After that, we examined the rock wall at the end of the beach and saw an iguana frozen in stillness.  Leo watched to see if it would move but, no.  We then discussed how iguanas can blend in with their background as a defense mechanism and Leo said, oh you mean camouflage.

Fri 23 Jan 2004

Our holiday here in Roatan has been excellent if we don’t count how sick Leo was with full blown tonsillitis.  We were back and forth to the Coxen Hole medical clinic (called the Jacklin Wood Medical Clinic) three times.  We worked with Dr Raymond first and then with Dr Wood.  They were both excellent.  We also were lucky enough to have the owner here look at him and a guest, Dr Chris, look at him.  We were rich in advice.  All that to say that it was a little scary for a few nights.  For four nights Leo’s throat was so swollen he had a hard time breathing and so woke up, sat up, coughing and sputtering about every fifteen minutes or so.  He was feverish, off and on, for ten days which made the doctors want to take blood tests to rule out dengue and malaria.  Consequently, our little Leo was stuck, like a pin cushion about six times.  The second time we took him in he was given an injection of a strong antibiotic.  On the third visit he received another injection of antibiotic and that night he showed a vast improvement.  Our little guy was quite sick and this was terrifying for us.  I would look at his throat and see that it was nearly completely blocked with ulcers and puss.  Awful!  Thankfully, he is back to normal and sleeping soundly again, much to our huge relief.

While in Roatan, and staying at the cabana, we enjoyed three weeks of bliss (except the ordeal of Leo’s tonsillitis).  Our little upper cabana, a few steps from the sugar-sand beach was very sweet.  We met a few travelers and would have them over to talk about travel and discuss our dreams of future travel.  We met an eighty-year old wealthy man who was traveling like a backpacker because he said it was more interesting.  During the day, we would go swimming in the turquoise waters and Leo would jump in off the dock again and again.  Sometimes, local people would sell us fruit on the beach and sometimes they would sell us cold drinks like a beer and a pop for Leo. At supper time I would cook up a very simple meal for us to enjoy and we would thank the heavens for our good fortune.  As backpackers, how did we afford such a lovely place to stay?  We had found out that the month of January was low-season on Roatan due to the rain.  Using this, we simply asked the owners for a cut rate and offered half the amount.  They went for it, probably because Leo was with us and he was so cute that they likely just wanted us to stay.

Next stop…Nicaragua

La Cucaracha Report from Nicaragua 🇳🇮

We regretfully leave our sweet cabana on Roatan for a day of overland travel on ferry, chicken bus and taxi to find a sweet hostel with a peaceful and friendly courtyard in Granada, Nicaragua…

Leaving our sweet little cabana on the pristine sugar sand beach of West Bay, Roatan was difficult. We had spent three weeks there.  Granted, Leo had been quite sick with tonsillitis, but where better for him to be sick? We had the perfect little set-up for him to let his little body work the wonders of healing.  Now it would be on the road again and hoping to find another sweet situation in Granada, Nicaragua.  Here is a picture of a friend we made and us snacking on tiny bananas just in front of our cabana.

Banana Roatana

We were again on the ferry from Coxen Hole (yes, HOLE!) over to La Ceiba and then over land for several legs to Granada.  When we finally pulled up to our hostel, we were exhausted, dusty, tired, hungry and we had to pee.  Don’t get me wrong, we did love travel.  What I am attempting to purvey here is the difficulty of overland and backpacker travel.  It is not all roses.  No, we didn’t have to go to work everyday but, there were hardships and mishaps which made up the journey.  I digress.  We walked into our hostel and smiles quickly found their way onto our faces.  Our hostel was ideal.  There was a large inner courtyard with hammocks.  There was a smallish pool in the courtyard, a telephone with free international calling, free internet and a little café with decent food and coffee.  Above all, there was a very nice atmosphere to this place and many people were already approaching us in order to meet our little four-year old son and magnet of joy: Leo.  Many touches of the blond hair and cheeks.  Leo’s eyes were wide open, taking in all the new faces. He was such a social guy.

We were given a private room with a private bath and we quickly changed out of our dirty clothes.  There was a hand-washing laundry area on the roof and that was one of my first tasks.  While Dean and Leo unpacked and got cleaned up, up I went and enjoyed the effort of getting our travelling clothes washed.  The scene from the roof was of variously shaped roof-lines of all manner of dwelling.  There were calls of roosters and hens and backfiring car engines.  There were smells of burning garbage, which is never pleasant, but which is prevalent.  A note here on our attitudes regarding Leo and his welfare.  One of us was ALWAYS with Leo.  Not once was he, even in a friendly hostel, left with a stranger.  We just had no idea what could happen to him while our backs were turned.  Kidnapped?  Sold? It was a constant worry for me.  I clearly remember the low-level stress of that reality.  Our precious son needed to be watched by us because there are crazies everywhere.  And sometimes it is impossible to detect.  Although, I’m pretty good at detecting it.  Takes one to know one.

We met some interesting folks at this hostel.  Karin from Germany. Peter from Holland and a big guy named Erild from Norway.  We ended up hanging out with them for several days while in Grenada.  We had met Erild of Norway in the Tegucigalpa, (the capital of Honduras) bus station where we started the second day of our journey enroute to Granada from The Bay Islands of Roatan. We shared a taxi ride from the bus station in Managua and after a couple of tries were lucky to find the great hostel here in Granada.

From an email message home:

Jaden-Thumbs-Up

The next day Erild, with his camera, came with us to find a playground for our little ball of pent up energy (I wonder of whom I am referring?) As luck would have it, we found a park with play equipment on the wonderfully breezy banks of the huge, fresh water sea: Lago de Nicaragua and the next day we went to a 600-meter-deep volcanic lake and spent the day at the only hotel there, swimming, basking and eating wonderful fare at the lake side restaurant retreat.

 Laguna-de-Apoyo-2

The taxi ride there was hilarious.  Picture a 250-pound Norwegian squeezed into the tight front seat of a compact rust bucket.  He wasn’t as comfy at the other 4.5 of us in the back seat though: Karin of Germany, Peter of Holland, Dean, Leo and I were tighter than a can of worms.  We bottomed out a couple of times and all cursed in various languages (except Leo, he squealed) in unison.  The taxi driver being Nicaraguan and Leo being a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S. meant we had six different nationalities squashed into one little car.

We spent the day at a hectic, large, dusty market in a town called Masaya and upon our return literally ran for the pool and sizzled as we hit the cool water.  I’m still wet as I try my best to put a few lines together about out latest adventures.

Tomorrow we are going on a canopy tour of Mombacho Volcano which is a 45 minute chicken bus trip at a cost of 50 cents each.  The owner here, who has a four-year-old girl, says that Leo will love it.  We’re hoping to see some live forest creatures.  Maybe even a sloth!

From my journal, written 1 Feb 2004:

When we got on the bus this morning there was this gorgeous bright young boy of about ten or so selling squares of nutty snacks, two for one dollar.  They were quite delicious.  I winked at him and he didn’t really know how to react but, finally, he smiled.  We gave him a pair of pants that Leo has out grown.

An email home:

Tuesday 3 Feb 2004

Canopy Tour and Haircut — a good day!

Good Morning Family!

We are leaving this hostel today and will likely not have as easy access to internet in the Pacific Coastal town of San Juan del Sur, Nica.

I couldn’t wait to tell all of you about our adventure yesterday.  It was the coolest thing.  We were in the canopy of the Mombachu Jungle for several hours, walking, sliding, swinging and climbing through the treetops and then abseiling down to the ground again at the very end of it.  Truly awesome.  Leo was gob smacked (as the UKers say), as were we. The guides geared us up with climbing gear and helmets and gave us the very serious safety talk. Leo asked a few questions! “Is this the carabineer that my gloves go on?” We could tell that he was concentrating on understanding all that was said.  It was too cute.  He could sense the seriousness of it.

zip line Nica

He started off a wee bit tentative climbing up the initial ancient, massive tree — the ladder was 100 feet long and just made it to the lowest branches. (We were glad when they told us that the trees were not harmed — they strap the trees with canvas and rubber, instead of nailing them, like some of the other companies). We called to Leo, telling him he was just like Spiderman.  Then we started singing the theme song: “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can…”  That seemed to get him into the spirit of the thing.  From there we stood on a platform, safety tied with the expensive climbing gear, while the three guides prepared us for the first rope slide to the far-off tree.  Leo did that one with a guide but had so much fun and was so unafraid that the guides allowed him to do the next several slides unaccompanied and he even did the Tarzan swing and the 150-foot abseil at the end!  We all had a ball.  The guides decided to DROP me down the tree “Rapido” because of all my crazy antics during the tour.  I thought I was going to die, for a split second there as my heart leaped into my mouth.  But it was fantastic.

On the walk out of the jungle, Barcell, the Senior guide, climbed into a cocoa tree and got us a cocoa fruit.  A football shaped, bright yellow fruit that he then let us sample.  Very interesting.  While the guide was cutting it open we were telling Leo that a Snickers Bar was inside.  ha ha

The road into and out of the park was 30 minutes and was so bumpy we all had a great workout bracing ourselves.  Leo was so wiped out after the tour that he actually fell asleep in my bouncing lap.  It was so bumpy we couldn’t even talk but that wee guy was just pooped!   We were very proud of our little guy.  He is a true adventurer. This is his mother writing though, what else would I say?

Later that day, after a good, hearty lunch, I took Leo for a haircut. The haircut cost Cord 20. about $1.50 (that’s one dollar and fifty cents!!!!) but it was not just a haircut, it was a 45-minute CEREMONY.  The barber, a young, perfectly groomed Nicaraguan man of about 30, was INTO IT.  Seriously INTO IT.  He flicked out that towel. He waved his arms around.  He brushed the blond hair off his face once, twice, three times during the course of the ritualistic haircut.  I was quickly understanding, as I sat and watched the other several clients being beautified: 4 men and 2 small boys, that these people take the male haircut very, very seriously.  The very small boys did not so much as move a muscle for the whole thing.  Conclusion: they have had haircuts of this nature from infancy.  After a brief head massage and then combing, the barber removed the drape, flicked it out and called me over to inspect.  I could see from my seat that it was absolutely perfect and went to hand him the money but no, there was a further step: he unwrapped a shiny new straight razor blade and made a point of me seeing that.  He bent it and examined it, showed it to Leo and then put it into the straight razor.  (at this point I was frantically telling Leo, it’s very, very sharp. You must stay perfectly still.  Freeze, okay?  His big eyes told me that he would obey. With a dab of water all along Leo’s hairline and a flourishing wave of the blade, the finishing touches were made. Then the palm-aid and combing again. This time each hair was placed with the comb.  I had taken three photos by this point.

haircut

Tuesday we will leave for San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast and hopefully get Leo going on the boogie board again.  We will stay there for a few days and then cross the border into Costa Rica and meet friends of ours on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Life is great.  Hope this finds you all happy and wintering well.  We miss you and hope to receive messages from you!  We love news from home!    Next up….San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

La Cucaracha Report – Honduras 🇭🇳

Our stay in the paradise of West Bay, Roatan gets a little scary when our four-year old gets sick….

4 Jan 2004

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow morning early!  We are en route to the Bay Islands of Honduras!  Finally.  We will be tropical by noon.  Steaming hot and shedding clothing.

This minute, we have just walked into the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel Restaurant in Antigua – simply for coffee and dessert.  It was Dean’s idea.  A good one – pure decadence.  Rich people are so funny to watch too.  A bonus.  We have ordered a whopping three desserts, two coffees and a milk for Leo.  It could be a late night and we have a long walk after this.

8 Jan 2004

It’s Dean’s 41st birthday and we are enjoying ourselves completely in Roatan, Honduras.  We are in a cabana just a few steps from the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.  Our cabana is an upper apartment with a bedroom, a clean bathroom with hot shower and a kitchenette on one end of the living room.  In the kitchen / living room there is a single bed and a TV / VCR.  We are just now watching the movie Titanic.

It feels great to have some luxury because we had two days of hellish travel from Antigua to Livingston, Guatemala – the dirtiest, ugliest, most disappointing village thus yet and where we had to spend a huge US40 to rent a room with some sanity and cleanliness to it.  It had a nice pool which we swam in in the dark.  We were up at 5 the next morning and on a launch for 1.5 hours to Puerto Barrios in the rain.  From there we jammed into a suburban with two Austrians, two Australians and two Americans.  The driver and navigator were Guatemalans and we Canadians.  Five countries represented by we 10.5 squished travelers in this suburban.  Not bad.

After a couple of hours in the suburban, we came to a town and had to stop for fuel.  We all piled out to use the bathroom facilities in the gas station.  I remember feeling like I had just passed through some kind of black hole from one reality into another.  Stepping into the modern, air-conditioned gas station full of convenience items and candy and bags of doritos and with clean normal toilets, was a real treat almost like Dorothy waking up in Oz — from black and white to colour.  They were even selling brewed coffee with cream.  My point here is that we had been on this trip for a couple of months now and convenience items were few and far between.

This vehicle full of us chatty travelers took us the five hours, over dirt and sand roads with washed out portions, small villages and across the border to San Pedro Sulu, Honduras.  This is where we caught a second class bus. Waiting for the bus to fill and prepare to leave, many entrepreneurial-types came reaching up to our bus window selling their wares.  Everything from large, colourful plastic wash basins to, bars of soap, combs, or coca cola in a small sandwich bag with a straw.  They would never give you the can or the bottle with the coke – they needed to keep it to get the deposit back.  

The bus ride was another four hours to La Ceiba and then just the 90 minutes to this island.  Lastly, a thirty minute taxi ride .  Exhausted, we had no idea where to stay and so settled on a pit of a room for the first night in West End and then found this near perfect place the next morning in West Bay Beach.  This picture is just outside our cabana.

roatan

Cabana Roatana, 11 Jan 2004

Still in paradise.  A few days ago Leo was very sick with high fever, chills and a swollen node in his neck.  Coincidentally, the new owner of this place is a doctor who immediately examined Leo and reported that he had a virus.  He told us that Leo would get worse before he got any better…that night, Leo had hallucinations and was in a bad way but after the doctor examined him again, he reassured us that it wasn’t what we feared most – namely meningitis.  Thank god!  Dean and I both breathed a sigh of relief.  What luck to have an ER doctor right here doing house calls to our cabana on the beach!

Greg, the doc, took a last look at Leo the morning he left for home and was certain that he would be fine in a couple of days.  The sea, sun, sand and fresh air all would help.  

Today is a rainy day so we have stuck pretty close to our cabana.  We did manage a short hike to the tip of the island this morning and it was lovely.  We found some pretty sea shells and bits of coral and Leo held a small crab-like creature for a few minutes. 

West Bay, Roatan, Honduras  14 Jan 2004

Leo is a fairly sick little Gaffer.  He was restless last night and the night before, literally waking up every ten minutes due to his sinuses being blocked.  Dean and I are both bagged because of it.

This morning we got right up and prepared for a trip to the medical clinic in Coxen Hole (a true hole of a town!).  We were lucky to find a very good doctor who spoke English very well.  He examined Leo and concluded after seeing a normal level of platelets in his blood test result that Leo has a viral and bacterial infection. We were given four types of medicine: coaxicilan, col-dex ad, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  We also bought lots of vitamin C.  The bill came to 68 US dollars.  The fee for the doctor was 400 Lempira which equals about 24 US dollars!!  We picked his brain about all sorts of things and he ruled out malaria and dengue fever.  It was well worth the effort.

Writing this now in 2017, years later, I recall with wonder the completely awful state of the dirt road outside this little clinic in Coxen Hole.  There was litter, bad smells, loose chickens, rusted out cars and then just inside the door, a long line-up of local people waiting patiently with their many, well-behaved children, in order to see the doctor.  As we white westerners walked into the clinic, with our expensive backpacks, watches, sandals and other telltale signs of our comparative wealth and with our very cute white-blond four-year old son, they ushered us swiftly passed the line-up and directly in to see the doctor.  I felt so blessed and privileged.  I felt badly for those waiting but I was deathly afraid for my precious young son whose health was worsening and god only knew why.

After leaving the clinic, we bought a few groceries, ate a bight of lunch, mailed postcards home, got some cash from the bank and then split a taxi back to our cabana with a couple from Alaska.

Talking to them was great fun.  They told us of two mistakes they made and it was exactly as we had done.  They too were conned by the woman named Laurel who asked us to help her at the ferry landing in Coxen Hole.  She came up to me, we were fresh off the boat, and told us all of her money, passport, travelers cheques, visa card, bank card – everything had been stolen…

Now, I would normally be a bit more discerning and ask a few more questions, but, I had just been on that darn ferry boat over to the island.  On the boat, they issued each passenger two little white pills – presumably for sea-sickness.  I get very sea-sick easily and so after asking for clarification on the pills, and receiving an answer in Spanish which I could not decipher, I gobbled down the little white pills and hoped for the best.  Not something I would normally do, but, it had been a long few days since leaving our peaceful Antiqua.  A few minutes later, I was seated on the ferry with Leo asleep on my lap and I realized that I could not feel my face.  It was the strangest feeling.  I also did not have any feelings of sea-sickness at all.  In fact, I felt awesome.  Looking back, I think I was stoned. So, when the con-artist approached us…

We gave her $20 US and the Alaskan couple gave her $30 five days later.  She had told us that her money was coming in to Western Union the next day.  The next mistake for them was getting a taxi to West End and staying in the same pit we did, but they paid for two nights sight unseen.  Bad move!

Sat 17 Jan 2004

Right after breakfast in our cabana of oatmeal and fruit, Dean was asked to help retrieve the hotel’s car from the airport.  His first driving experience of this trip.  The first time he has driven in two months.

roatan-2Leo asked me to take him snorkeling on the close reef down at the end of the beach.  He has been practicing in the shallows just out from our place.  Now he wanted to see the real thing!  He was very impressed.  He saw some fish and the first outcroppings of coral.  After that, we examined the rock wall at the end of the beach and saw an iguana frozen in stillness.  Leo watched to see if it would move but, no.  We then discussed how iguanas can blend in with their background as a defense mechanism and Leo said, oh you mean camouflage.

Fri 23 Jan 2004

Our holiday here in Roatan has been excellent if we don’t count how sick Leo was with full blown tonsillitis.  We were back and forth to the Coxen Hole medical clinic (called the Jacklin Wood Medical Clinic) three times.  We worked with Dr Raymond first and then with Dr Wood.  They were both excellent.  We also were lucky enough to have the owner here look at him and a guest, Dr Chris, look at him.  We were rich in advice.  All that to say that it was a little scary for a few nights.  For four nights Leo’s throat was so swollen he had a hard time breathing and so woke up, sat up, coughing and sputtering about every fifteen minutes or so.  He was feverish, off and on, for ten days which made the doctors want to take blood tests to rule out dengue and malaria.  Consequently, our little Leo was stuck, like a pin cushion about six times.  The second time we took him in he was given an injection of a strong antibiotic.  On the third visit he received another injection of antibiotic and that night he showed a vast improvement.  Our little guy was quite sick and this was terrifying for us.  I would look at his throat and see that it was nearly completely blocked with ulcers and puss.  Awful!  Thankfully, he is back to normal and sleeping soundly again, much to our huge relief.

While in Roatan, and staying at the cabana, we enjoyed three weeks of bliss (except the ordeal of Leo’s tonsillitis).  Our little upper cabana, a few steps from the sugar-sand beach was very sweet.  We met a few travelers and would have them over to talk about travel and discuss our dreams of future travel.  We met an eighty-year old wealthy man who was traveling like a backpacker because he said it was more interesting.  During the day, we would go swimming in the turquoise waters and Leo would jump in off the dock again and again.  Sometimes, local people would sell us fruit on the beach and sometimes they would sell us cold drinks like a beer and a pop for Leo. At supper time I would cook up a very simple meal for us to enjoy and we would thank the heavens for our good fortune.  As backpackers, how did we afford such a lovely place to stay?  We had found out that the month of January was low-season on Roatan due to the rain.  Using this, we simply asked the owners for a cut rate and offered half the amount.  They went for it, probably because Leo was with us and he was so cute that they likely just wanted us to stay.

Next stop…Nicaraugua

La Cucaracha Report – Guatemala 🇬🇹

Guatemala was all colour.  We were agog at the tapestries hanging two and three deep on each side of the main street as we arrived in Panajachel.  We spent one day just walking around and looking at all the beautiful crafts.  We bargained for tapestries and later, met a guy heading home to London, Ontario.  He easily agreed to take woven gifts home for us.  That was a relief as it is hard to carry anything extra on a trip such as this.  Every bit of weight counts when it is on your back for hours and miles.

late atitlan

From my journal in 2004:

Dean and I are sitting on the pebble beach of Lake Atitlan while Leo plays with four children – digging by the shore.  The water is clear, cool and extremely deep.  A tiny girl just came by carrying an armful of necklaces and hand woven purses.

Guat Girl with wrapShe is wearing a long wrap embroidered skirt and a colourful top.  Her hair is ink black and braided with colourful ribbons.  Our western clothing is so lifeless next to theirs.  We are constantly asked to purchase their wares.  It gets tiring to have to say no gracious so often.

***

Dean is reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman, aloud to Leo for a goodnight story.  It is superb.  Leo is sitting, utterly enraptured.  It is a great story of love, adventure and survival and it is funny too, as in the movie.

 

Here is an email I wrote home.

 

Happy New Year from Antigua, Guatemala!

 

Dean, Leo and I are well, happy and fat with good food, drink, sun, travel and relaxing.  It simply doesn’t get much better than this!  Here’s hoping that all of you have enjoyed the holiday season to the absolute fullest!

 

Before I give you an update about what the devil we have been up to, I would like to tell you that our four-year old Leo enjoyed a lovely, little Christmas in Palenque Town, Chiapas, Mexico.  He went to bed only after laying out a stocking and a note to Santa at the end of his bed and leaving a huge piece of chocolate loaf for he and his reindeer on the bureau.  He awoke, bright and early to find the stocking full of goodies and a brand new Lego racer toy, exactly the one that he had wished for!  Imagine that. lego racer smile Here is his big smile even though his Christmas loot was quite small. The box was just a little bit squished but that was understandable, since Santa had his sled packed as tightly as our backpacks have been.  We then spent Christmas day at the amazing Mayan, jungle enshrouded ruins of Palenque.  Leo ran in, out, up and down the ancient stairs, passageways, tombs and temples and squealed at how cool it all was.  Just like a great big fort!  We took the earliest bus and therefore arrived quite early in the day and so were able to enjoy the ancient ruins without crowds.  It was a very special Christmas.  Later, we met and tried our best to communicate with an Italian family.  The only Italian we speak, though, sadly: spaghetti, ravioli, fettucine, did not really work itself well into the conversation.  There was a lot of gesturing and Leo found this very funny.

 

We have completed a lot of little adventures since Christmas but the highlights have been hiking for several hours, on a tiny, cliffside footpath, around the huge and wonderful Lake Atitlan on New Years Eve day and marvelling at the volcanoes.  We did this hike with Bo and Tine from Denmark.  I nearly had five heart-attacks as Dean carried Leo on his shoulders for the steepest part of the trail.  If Dean had slipped, it would have been certain death as the drop was hundreds of meters and the steep angle of the hill, combined with the loose scree, would not have allowed for him to stop.  I seriously could not look.  Dean was so nonchalant about the whole thing.  He is not one bit worried about heights and he is very sure-footed. Me, not so much.  It was a very hot day and the dust was extreme.  By the time we were done, I was a wreck.  We ate a nice lunch – I should say, we FELL on a nice lunch and devoured it.  It was at a lakeside restaurant and quite lovely.

lake-atitlan-swim

Next we swam in the very deep (340 meters!!), crystal clean, cool waters of Lake Atitlan and then made our way back to our hostel in Panajachel.

 

I should mention that on the way to our hostel, I happened to come across a vendor selling friend chicken and another vendor selling family size (this is what they call 1 litre bottles – family size!!!) bottles of Gallo beer.gallo  Guess what we were having for supper: chicken and beer.  Yum.  It was the best darn chicken and beer I have ever had.  We made a picnic of it in our room – the only furniture being our bed, we put a blanket on the floor and after cleaning up in our cold-water only bathroom, we sat down for our feast.  Just then…BANG!…BANG!…BANG!.  It seems that gunshot was the mode of celebration.  It didn’t really matter.  We were exhausted and slept easily through all the noise.

 

Another great but simple memory will be the ride from the lake to this beautiful city of Antigua.  We were on a chicken bus, which became quite crowded at one point — probably 200 bodies were on this converted school bus.  This tiny little Mayan girl found herself sitting next to me (Dean and Leo were somehow in the seat behind me).  She was a sleepy little thing. She looked up at me with the sweetest eyes, checking me out, then she simply curled into my side and fell asleep like a warm, soft, little cat.  Her exhausted mommy, with three other small ones around her, gave me a huge, toothless smile and on we rolled through the countryside. We peered out the windows agog at the patchwork fields of vegetables on terraced hillsides seemingly too steep to climb, some had to be at least a 70-degree incline.

 

The last highlight has to be watching Leo playing with the various children and other traveling families whom we have come to know as we go.  We were lucky enough to be in the room next to a Quebecois family with three children, two boys age 7 and 9, and a girl aged 13, in San Augustino, Mexico.

 

Leo would awaken each morning with the first light and jump up asking if the boys were up yet.  They had boogie boards, which they took the time to teach Leo how to use.  He is such a little fish.  It’s great.  At that beach Dean had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time for a pick up game of bare-footed beach soccer with five Mexico City students.  He held his own pretty good too!

We will leave Antigua tomorrow or the next day for Rio Dulce and then to the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Here’s wishing you all the best of love, and hugs and hoping, once again, to hear all your special news. ~Morgan, Dean and Leo in Guatemala

 

Writing this in 2017, I fondly remember our time in Guatemala.  On Jan 4th we climbed a steaming volcano.  Going up the hill was somewhat tough, especially the last forty minutes on the scree of the cone.  There were high winds and it was cool.  Leo did very well.  I was terrified at the top as people neared the steaming hole to take a look.  I wouldn’t go near it and held fast to Leo.  Coming down was a blast: sliding on the scree and giggling all the way down.

The only part I did not like was the Guatemalan Caribbean.  Back then, anyway, it was not in good shape there.  A lot of garbage everywhere in town and all along the beaches.  A lot of over-drinking by the local people.  Hostels we looked at were unclean and untidy.  When we arrived there, it had been raining and so there was a lot of mud everywhere too.  We were exhausted and ended up splurging and spending $40 US to stay in a proper hotel room in Livingston.  There was a pool and even though it was after dark, we all went for a very relaxing swim in the pool.  We felt like a million bucks having splurged but truly enjoyed the luxury.  So, perhaps our impression of Livingston was just our perception and tainted by rain, mud and exhaustion.  I hope so.

Up Next…Honduras

La Cucaracha Report – Mexico 🇲🇽

With a golden handshake from IBM we embark on a four month backpacking trip in Mexico and Central America…with four-year old Leo…mostly amazing

We arrived at the Guadalajara airport late in November of 2003.  We were tired and stunned from the long day of travel.  We left our dark; quiet Atlantic Canadian home, by taxi at 4:30 in the morning with Leo, aged four, almost impossible to awaken at that hour.  His little body just did not agree with getting up before dawn.

 

After stopping and waiting for hours and changing planes in Toronto and Houston, we were just starting a backpacking trip through Mexico and Central America.  Thank goodness for the small soccer ball we brought and the vastness of space in the airports for recreating with Leo.  We didn’t even know the Spanish word for bathroom and I was busting to go pee.  It didn’t help that Leo was asleep in my arms, his head on my shoulders with his little body sitting right on my bladder.  I looked around the surprisingly clean and normal looking airport.  I guess I was expecting something much, much worse.  Dirtier.  More people. The weight of my four-year-old was already breaking my arms. I was also feeling weighted down with money belt, fanny pack, day pack and neck pouch and it was all quite cumbersome when retrieving documents and money.

 

We had no reservations for a night in a hotel room.  I couldn’t examine the guidebook or my handy-dandy phrase book because both of my hands were holding Leo.  Dean was nearby.  He was chatting (with some hint of urgency and fear behind his voice – that I could detect or maybe just imagined because that was how I was feeling) with a blond woman dressed in tight jeans and shit-kicker, pointy-toe black boots.  She spoke a heavily Euro- accented English.  She was Polish and her name was Jalo.  She could see that we needed assistance.  She was trying to help.  Another man came over.  He was Mexican.  He too spoke English and saw that we needed help.  Was it that obvious?  I felt a little better…not so scared.  People would help us find our way.  It was like that everywhere.  Good things would happen if you were good to others.  The Universe would unfold to help you.  I was always saying that to Leo.

 

We asked Jalo if she knew of the small surfing and fishing town of Sayulita. Our first destination.  She did and then she related a story, which we would recall later about how to bargain for a room in the off-season.  She paid $40 per night for a seaside room instead of the initial quote of $100.  Score!

 

The Customs line was moving slowly but, the Mexican man made a phone call on his cell phone and made a reservation for us at the Best Western.  He told us that the price was 950 pesos or about $95 US.  We shrugged and went with it.  It was a lot to spend but we couldn’t be choosy just then.  We could make up for it later in the trip. We thanked the two of them profusely.  Mucho, mucho gracias!  The next thing we knew we had cleared Customs, used the bano (no supplied toilet paper) and were swept onto a torn vinyl rear seat of a rusted out, dusty, creaky old shit-box, with no seat belts and no remnants of seatbelts.  Having learned, in advance, that we should pay only 50 pesos for the ride to the Best Western.  Our precious child, Leo was between us, unbelted, no car seat, sleeping as we whirred through the dark and deserted streets of Guadalajara.  My arms were tight around his little belly. The billboards were for products we have never heard of except, of course, Corona.  Nothing looks familiar except, of course, Corona. Guess what I was wishing for just then? Of course, Corona. Thank goodness we had, at least, tasted this beer or we would likely feel very, very out of place.  I had this large lump of fear in my body as we raced along with this old Mexican cabby who spoke no English.  Had we made a good decision to come on this trip? Were we taking our only, precious, preschool son and ourselves into a needlessly dangerous situation?  I swallowed the fear, smiled and leaned in closer to Dean.  We were a team.  We would be fine.  We’d been to INDIA for goodness sakes.  We could handle Mexico.  All would be better when the sun came up.

 

The hotel room was a shade on the tight side but it was clean and had thick curtains.  There were no signs of animal life under the beds or in the bano.  We showered and got into bed.  Dean turned on the television.  All Spanish except for CNN.  We fell into bed, cuddled up and fell asleep until 10:00 the next morning.

 

The traffic noise started very early and somewhat awakened me.  Leo and Dean were still fast asleep.  When Leo awakened we allowed him to turn on the television and watch some Spanish cartoons while we organized ourselves for venturing out and having breakfast and making our way to the First Class bus station.  We were not used to how we had packed our backpacks and didn’t know exactly where things were.  We brought too much shit with us and yet, managed to forget the small pile of tiny toys we had set aside for Leo.   He was not at all happy about this oversight.  Thank goodness we brought a couple of different balls, including his dollar-store suction cup ball and a small soccer ball (both of which will be with us for the whole four-month trip) and a pack of cards and the children’s version of Rush Hour by Binary Arts.  I made him a couple of toys out of string and carabineer hooks.  That seemed to help.

 

The hotel restaurant looked inviting and, even better, smelled like good coffee.  In we went and out came the phrase book and the journal.  We were about to enjoy our first Mexican desayuno.  This is what I had written in the journal about what we did next…

 

We enjoyed a marabioso desayuno—huevos rancheros y café negro para mia y café con leche para Dean.  Hotcakes y leche fria para “el”– Leo.  We are here! Finally, we are in Mexico!  Yahoo!

 

After breakfast we packed up and grabbed a taxi to the bus station where we were lucky to find an English speaking Mexican to help us with the purchase of our tickets, first-class, to Puerto Vallarta.  The bus was pure luxury.  Videos, fully reclining seats, air-conditioning, pillow and throw-blankets.  As Dean and Leo jokingly would say, This isn’t a bus, it’s a bed! ha ha.  The tickets cost us about 850 pesos total.   Once we were in the countryside I was agog at the beauty of the hills.  Leo slept almost the whole way.

 

We arrived in Vallarta at around 7:30 pm and paid 280 pesos for a taxi to Sayulita (a very bad price! Considering the local buses cost around $2.)  As we rolled into town I couldn’t believe how sweet this little town appeared – all colourful stucco, cobbled streets and hanging wares for sale.

 

 Back home we had rented out our Halifax house to a young businessman from Montreal and to that end had made several trips into the attic and the basement with our personal things – we had left him a furnished, neat-as-a-pin house.  Everything included: linens, plates, cutlery, pots and pans.  Our car was parked in the driveway with most of the insurance coverage removed.   Having set up a bit of an apartment in the basement and locked the kitchen door, we slept the night before the flight down there in order to leave the upstairs beds made fresh for his arrival.  We had put so much effort into the trip already:  Relatives taking care of the dogs in Newfoundland – a special trip to get them there.  A friend on the street was picking up and sorting our mail and bills. Her son would shovel the snow from the sidewalk.  Other friends acting as landlords and troubleshooters during our absence.  All our bills were on automatic payment, except Visa, which our friend would open and email us the total so we could pay it, on-line.  The Internet had transformed long-term travel.  All that work was forgotten as we went forward and found new adventures in this strange, hot and interesting land.

 

Sayulita, Mexico.  Leo, Dean and I are sitting in a beachside, open-air restaurant.  We have been here for the day and have booked and paid for a small apartment with kitchen that I was able to get for $30 a night, down from $80 a night.  Dean was very happy about my efforts.  A good deal, or so it seems thus far.  It’s a bed and breakfast place but the owner has cut out breakfast as part of the deal.  No biggy.  One of the patrons, upon leaving, a young surfer guy, said he had eaten about as much ham bread as he could handle.  We chuckled at that.

 

We awoke this a.m. to gunfire at 05:37!! We had expected something because today is a Mexican holiday: Revolution Day.  There was also a parade in which all of the village school children were in revolution costume—disturbingly dressed like Mexican soldiers.

 

Friday 21.11.03 We are at a café across from our apartment and we’ve just ordered breakfast…inflation is on the rise in this town.  Everything is a tad more expensive than it should be and the sandwich boards and menu prices have all been recently increased, as in evident by the telltale stickers over the original prices.

 

There was a man selling fruit off the back of a truck with a loud speaker to announce his wares.  I bought a few bananas and oranges for ~60 cents.  Fruit is still a good deal.  I had a bit of a hard time bargaining with him because of the language barrier but it was fun and got a few smiles from him.

 

Dean was just reading to Leo as a medium into his siesta.  It was the middle of the day and so hot it was impossible to stay out of doors.  Leo said, instead of watching television everyday, I want to read.  I love this book.  We were reading A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle.  It was one of my favourites as a child too, which is special.

 

I was feeling a little disenchanted this morning, with travel.  It’s much more expensive than we thought and it is over-run.  The people are being exploited; the children walk around eating DORITOS and other junk like Coca-cola.  There are empty plastic water bottles everywhere you turn.  I actually said to Dean, Let’s go to Europe.  To Portugal.  He just laughed.  He knows my moods.

 

After breakfast though, we went to Playa del Muerta (beach of the dead, so named because to get there one must hike through the cemetery).  It is about a 10-minute walk south of here.  What a beautiful beach for children.  Leo was in the water for about 1-½ hours straight.  We did some floats together.  The waves crashed right over his head and washed him along and he just giggled.  He did have a bit of a hard time with the salty water stinging his eyes but then he started to accept it.  There is another slight annoyance:  jellyfish tentacles, which have broken away from the fish and they sting a tiny bit as they brush the skin.  It is akin to the bite of red ants but not quite as bad.  There’s not much to be done.  In the event of a serious sting, rubbing hot sand and /or peeing on the area takes care of it.

john-and-jaden-walking-to-san-pancho

 

Sunday 30 Nov 2003 an email message to home:

 

Hola!

How is everyone up there in reality-land?  It was so good to read your news just now.  I’m sitting here in my bikini and sarong and have a tear glistening in my eyes to hear news of our loved ones from their respective homes.  Thanks so much for letting us know how you’re doing…

 

As for us…life could not get much more hellish.  It’s all just more of the same old stuff.  Sun. Sand. Sea. Little Adventures.  Cheap Corona (65 cents each) yadda, yadda, yadda.  I think we’re all getting a little too fat with all the burritos, tacos and nachos.

 

Leo’s foot is completely heeled and the flip-flops and salt water were the ticket. (Leo had stepped on a fire ant which had promptly stung him and made him cry.  There was a tiny sore on the bottom of his foot which hurt him badly.)

 

So the other night I couldn’t sleep after hitting the pillow at around 8:30 pm, I awoke in the wee hours to read while Dean and Leo snored away. (I just finished that particular book, a good one for someone like me, by Po Bronson, WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE?) and my eye caught movement above the edge of my book…el cucaracha (yes cockroach!) and he was a cool 4 inches long, at least.  There he was, just a crawling along the windowsill and then along the top of the bathroom doorframe and then do-da-do across the wall and along the floor.  At that point I had scrambled up off the mattress and grabbed Dean’s shoe and lo siento (so sorry) el cucarache…it was exactly then that he met his demise. SLAP and CRUNCH.

 

Enough details for you?  We have seen lots of weird and wonderful insect, flora and fauna life here.  Some not so pretty, as I just related. Definitely not in Kansas anymore.  The geckos are super cute but do send a shiver down one’s spine when one sees them out of the corner of one’s eye…can anyone relate?

 

We are scheduled to hop a bus south in a couple of days.  We’re just going to hop along day by day, or every couple of days, and stay here and there and get into some more authentic-type situations and out of tourist land. The Spanish lessons have been most helpful and we’re both feeling pretty good about our ability to buy bus tickets, food, beer, necessities, find a hotel room and ask directions to the bano and all that.  I’m sure we’ll be picking up more as the days slide by.  It is amazing how much our French has come in handy when learning to conjugate verbs and what not.  There are many similarities.

 

Dean is doing fabulously and you’d never know he had a hernia removed last month.  He went for another run today and is getting back into shape.  He’s very happy about that.  Swimming has been very helpful too.

 

Gotta run!  Time is up…

Love and hugs and best wishes,

 

Morgan, Dean and Leo

 

Saturday 13 Dec 2003

 

La Cucaracha Report

 

Buenos Dias!!!, one and all….

 

Sorry it’s been so long and so quiet…but get ready for a small tome.  We have so much material you may as well start yawning right now!  First of all, this key board really sucks so don’t expect proper punctuation and capitals at the beginning of all sentences…shall we move past that—okay where the heck is the question mark…forget it.

 

Secondly, we’re now down in Puerto Escondido on the southern rim of the pacific in Oaxaca state –pronounced wah haka. and all is well and very very hot.  as they say in Australia, its stinking hot…I am sitting here while Leo is having his daily siesta, I have an ice cold marguerita next to the key board but can’t find my shaker of salt.  oh well.  life is tough.  This is only my third marguerita of this whole trip so don’t go envisioning us partying all the time.  the only reason I mention it is to add that I am dying with the flu.  Dean just passed it on to me and Leo will likely be next.  it is weird having a runny nose, fever and the chills in this kind of climate.  the pool and the ocean and the cheap coronas and marguerites really help though. ha ha ha

 

we spent a week in a town called Barra de Navidad, which was wonderful.  We stayed at a hotel owned and operated by a German man who was an Olympic swimmer in the 60s.  He was always commenting to us on Leo’s swimming ability –which, by the way, he is now swimming like a little fish—and during a soccer match that he and Dean went to, he admitted his past.  He then offered to give Leo a couple of lessons in the hotel pool.  we were literally jumping for joy to have this world record holder, Gerhard Henz, give our little sweety a couple of lessons.  it went very well and will always be remembered.  Barra and the HOTEL DELPHIN is quite the spot.  The town has been built on a huge sand bar and has a nice calm beach which, when we weren’t in Gerhard’s pool, we were in the ocean.  the soccer match, mentioned above was between the national women’s team for Mexico and the Barra men’s team.  score 0 – 0.

 

soccer-on-the-beach-mexico

 

To get down here to Escondido, which by the way, is the most beautiful beach town we have been in yet, we had to take a 14 hour, very crowded, second-class bus from Manzanillo to Acapulco.  Leo slept the whole way, some of it on our laps and when some people got off the bus we would switch around and grab some zzzs in a free seat.  that was when Dean’s flu decided to hit so he was suffering even worse than I.  it may have been that we were seated right beside the toilets at the back of the bus and the door continuously slapped open and shut –in tune with my eyelids– and when it was open there was this no deliciouso perfume wafting over us and the toilet itself spoke to us, all night, much like a sucking chest wound.  not pretty. no guapo.  definitely not.

little-shoes-out-the-window

 

in Acapulco we really treated ourselves in taking Leo to a huge air-conditioned shopping mall and buying him three new toys.  he has been such a trooper and hardly ever complaining.  we then had a huge meal at a good restaurant where the wait staff couldn’t pull their eyes off Leo and kept saying el guapo, el muy guapo…translation –he’s beautiful, he’s very beautiful.  these people love children so much, it is unbelievable.  They embrace us as a family and very much respect our little travelling unit. it is lovely.

 

from Acapulco we got on a five-hour bus ride to a tiny town and found a clean hotel, then went out for a meal.  it was amazing in this little town. the road side restaurant had no printed menu so this waitress or owner had to come over and tell us, in a sweet little voice with a few words here and there in English, what she had to offer –which wasn’t much–but it was all they had and we enjoyed it.  hand-patted, flour tortillas with beans and cheese.  Leo had a huge fried banana with honey and a fresh squeezed orange juice.  the juicer was exactly like the one mom used to use at the lake. after that we fell into our beds like the dead.  fireworks woke us up around 7 am.  some sort of celebration going on.  There’s a lot of those this time of year.

 

Next, the sweet voiced patron from the night before showed us, on her own initiative, to the bus station and made sure we were getting on the correct but to Escondido.  unfortunately, the only bus available was a chicken bus…now our adventures were getting very interesting.  Here’s the lay out of the bus.  dirty, noisy, broken seats, no bathroom and definitely no pre-packaged little bagged lunch and cold soft drink like they gave us on first class from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.  thank goodness it was only a 7-hour journey with many, many mucho milk stops. suffice to say we have now tried several different levels of restroom in various tiny, dusty, sleepy towns down the Mexican pacific coast.

 

At one point, I was thinking about all you musicians out there as a smiling hombre boarded the bus with guitar and I couldn’t help myself but yelled out, musica, musica…he was all over us like a fat cucaracha on a discarded smarty.  he stood in the aisle, beside us, on a very bumpy ride and played several heartfelt Mexican tunes.  when he paused I, of course, ¨ asked him to play feliz navidad and HE DID!  when he came to the English part…I wanna wish you a merry Christmas…he paused and I belted it out.  great acoustics too, that chicken bus.  it was something of an authentic experience, I like to think.  then, he shook our hands and we offered him a small tip and he was off…

musica-mexico

 

Escondido has been wonderful.  We have met up with our friend Sharon from Campbellville who is here for three months.  she is going to accompany us for a little while, as we go on our next little trek to Oaxaca City for Christmas and, perhaps New years.  it has been great with Sharon.  we did a couple hour, nice beach walk with her and all along the cliff side on a stone walk way with many hand carved stairways and bridges.  we stopped for a dip in a sandy-bottomed rocky little cove with water as warm as …well, you can guess.  A far cry from the north Atlantic.  yesterday we walked the length of the beach in the opposite direction to a shallow, wavy cove and just rolled around and frolicked in the waves.  Leo loved it.  Later Leo met and played with four little Mexican girls on the beach across from our hotel and as the sun went down they played chase and mirra, mirra.  Lots of giggles and touching of his blonde hair.

jaden-and-levi-jumping-on-beach-mexico

 

other than feeling yucky with this head cold or flu or whatever, it has been an amazing time so far.  we are all doing wonderfully and think of all of you often.

 

We would so love to hear the news from home and hope that you will save up your best moments and pass them along.

 

All the best from down here… bye for now.

Leo is now playing with bubbles with several other children.  The language of play is universal and wonderful.  We are in San Cristobal where it is chilly and it is our 11th anniversary today, Christmas Eve.  We are having coffee and pastries as well as chocolate rum balls in a warm local bakery.  The rum balls melt in the mouth and are the best I have ever tasted.  I will dream about them.  There is an artist from New York sitting next to us: Victoria Behm, and, of course, she has taken to our little Leo, who is so sweet and friendly.  She sees my mole-skin journal and asks if I would like a sketch for my journal.  Sure.

sketch

http://vbehm.tumblr.com/

Next stop: Guatemala.

A Simple East-Coast Life

Seeing the hand-lettered notice SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE…we knew it was meant to be

I am from Ontario and Dean is from Newfoundland.  Leo was born in Virginia.  How did we make our way to a small East-coast town and how did it become our home in 2003 when Leo was four?

We had been living West of Toronto in a country property for a couple of years.  We had bought it upon returning from two years in Virginia where Leo was born.  (And what a birth it was!! A couple of stories from Virginia: Prune Juice & Pregnancy (age 33) 😳and  Locked Up in D.C. 🔐 )

While there, Dean was working at a huge, multi-national corporation and his commute was 1.5 hours at high speed across the top of the city on the 407 doing about 140 km per hour.  He soon over-taxed the engine of his vehicle and it began to need a lot of oil.  That may have been the straw that broke to camel’s back because, it was about then that I told him that this lifestyle was just not working.  Although I had all kinds of time with our son and we had a big country house, we had large week-end long parties for family and we had Neighbour Night gatherings, his work life and commute was not what I wanted and he, being quite exhausted by this point, seemed to agree rather easily.  I had come up with an idea for an exit-strategy.  Ask for a transfer to their East-coast office.  Even if it had to be on our own dime, it would still be quite welcome.

Sure enough, they, accepted the idea and said we could move East as long as it was at our own expense.  Too easy for two former Logisticians! On-line, Dean found us a furnished garden apartment right downtown Halifax near the large public gardens and we were allowed to have our two dogs and cat with us.  We packed our things and sold the house.

We arrived on the East coast, in Halifax, and just breathed a sigh of relief.  Immediately we noticed the sweet nature of the people.  They were prone to smile and chat and just be sweet, almost all of the time.  Even when walking the hounds in the pouring rain, I would see folks and they would smile at me.  This was such a gift to me, the jaded upper Canadian.  Also, I was in the early stages of pregnancy and feeling a bit off.  I would take the dogs out before Dean left for the office so that he was home with Leo.  I would hope and pray that this had been a good move for us.  All these years later, I can say that it certainly was.  Without a doubt.

Two years went by.  (We had lost the pregnancy, and that had been a very sad and traumatic event: The Loss of Dane (age 35) 💔)

We had bought a Halifax house (2 story salt box) but, we were not yet feeling that this was the situation that we wanted.  Dean’s company began to offer some employees an exit package if they would quietly go away.  Dean and I thought it would be a perfect time to do that extended bit of travel we had wanted to do.  Four months in Mexico and Central America.  Could we really make that happen?  With our four-year-old?  The planning began, and it was extensive.  We bought our flights into Mexico, to arrive at Guadalajara….

While away on our trip, we took the opportunity to talk about what we REALLY wanted in our next living arrangement.  We made a simple list:

  1. Live in a small, walkable, nice little town;
  2. Live walking distance to Leo’s school;
  3. Make a circle of new friends;
  4. Start a business together;
  5. Volunteer in our community;
  6. Live in a small-ish house;
  7. Live a simple life.

Getting back from Central America we decided to take day-trips to all of the various towns around.  We spent a day in Antigonish – too far North; Mahone Bay and lunenburg

Lunenburg – too quiet in the winter; Truro – loved the park, but not quite right; Parsboro – too far from everything.  Hubbards – too small.  Then, we rolled into Wolfville….it was

Wolfvillejust right.  Instantly we felt at home.  People were everywhere, smiling, chatting, drinking coffee and discussing things. The energy was palpable.  The students were all over the University green.  It was April and Spring was springing and everyone was out and about. We walked on the dykes and my cell rang.  It was my sister Eva calling.  I tried to explain to her the phenomena of the dyke-lands (now a World UNESCO Heritage Site).  She would see them for herself when she visited in March, she said.  We had a wonderful day and were quite hopeful when we left to return another day, just to be sure.

dykes water
I took this one while walking on the Acadian dyke lands near Wolfville, NS

A few days later, we had another sunshiny day and took the opportunity to drive back out to Wolfville.  It was only an hour away.  We pulled in to a curb-side parking space in front of a Real Estate office on Main Street.  I was the passenger.  I looked at the window to see a small, hand-written notice done in a Senior’s hand:

SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE 542-1234.

I knew it.

I absolutely knew what this meant.

We would be moving here and taking this summer rental. It was another one of those forks in the road mixed with serendipity showing a pattern that I knew was pointing us in the right direction. As I picked up my cell to call the number, cautious Dean says: ‘Marti, we can’t take this place.  We’re not ready to move to Wolfville.’  All I had to ask was: ‘Why not?’

The elderly gentleman on the phone had a cheery German accent.  I told him we had read his notice and that we were interested in the summer rental.  I said: ‘There is just one problem….well, actually two.’

‘Oh?’ he asked.

I told him, ‘We have two large dogs.  Would they be a problem?’

He said, ‘No.  We love dogs. Come on up the hill.’

Two minutes later we pulled into the driveway of our new summer home which boasted a beautiful view of Cape Blomidon and the Minas Basin which was an off-shoot of The Bay of Fundy.  We got the dogs and Leo out of the wagon.

While our new landlords were watching, Grizzly saunters over, backs her ass up and proceeds to pee on their basement window.  I was mortified… for a moment.  Hubert and Suzanne just chuckled.  They had lived interesting lives and seen it all.

We moved in in mid-April and a few days later after putting my resume in to a few places, I got a call that I was being invited for an interview at Paddy’s Pub, downtown Wolfville.  I hadn’t stepped out to work in six years.  Overjoyed, I found myself jumping up and down in sheer delight at the possibility of winning the position.  I was clapping and jumping up and down and smiling so widely that Dean just looked at me and smiled.  He knew it was going to be a good move and he was very happy for me.  With Dean able to stay home with our four-year old Leo, it would be just lovely to step out to work, knowing that the boys would be together.

I worked the lunch shift and was trained in a couple of days.  I was told I would be working on the deck or in the hall for most of my shifts. Translation: many stairs. Many steps. Crap tips.  They could have told me I would be working in a shit-hole; I would have been happy.  In my mind, my getting this job was instrumental in us transitioning to Wolfville.  I met and worked with some great folks at Paddy’s and we made it our business to have a good time a work – finding any excuse possible to laugh.  We had a great team and we all backed each other.  I served almost every soul in The Valley and therefore, met a good slice of the population.  This helped with making good friends and connections in a new Province.

For a year and a half, I worked almost every weekend and many nights per week, missing supper with Dean and Leo and bed-time with Leo.  It was tough, physically draining work.  Sometimes customers were hard to deal with and sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was emotional.

One evening, the place was dead.  It was a Tuesday shift and I was working up front.  I saw a lone customer up by the front window.  I walked up to the table with a menu and my face must have fallen because I recognized the man at the table.  He was a small man with narrow shoulders and a cute chipmunk-like smile.  He had been a colleague of mine in Germany when I was posted there as a Captain from 1989-1992.  He had actually asked me out one time and I had turned him down.  So, this guy looked up, recognized me and with a look of horror on his chipmunk face says: ‘M, what the hell happened to you?  The last time I saw you, you were an Army Officer doing well in your career.  Now you’re serving tables???’

I almost began to cry, this insult cut to the quick.  I gulped and waved my hand at him and said something like: ‘Oh, we just moved out here and this is a stop-gap until we have time to find better jobs or start a business.’

A year later, Paddy’s had a fire and closed.  I was out of work.  Gulp.

Next, we rallied and started our business which is now over a decade old.  It is going well.  We have never looked back and continue to be happy and content in our sweet little East-coast town.  Our son, Leo, who started here in Primary (kindergarten) has now grown up over six-feet tall, attends Acadia University here and…

…he is still walking to school.

uhall

 

Most of the pictures come from google images…thank you to the folks who took them.