True to my New Year's Resolution I decided today to look at the beauty of -40. Your not going to see a sundog in Sri Lanka.

True to my New Year’s Resolution I decided to stop and capture  the beauty of -40. You’re not going to see an ice halo known as a “sundog” in the tropics.

Another year has come and gone. It’s amazing to think that one year ago we were in the Himalaya’s drinking Nepali home brew and dancing around a camp fire with a troupe of super sherpas. This year we stayed a lot closer to home for the holidays. In fact, aside from an extended weekend ski trip to the hills where we discovered that it is still possible to hot tub in -45 degrees, we stayed right at home. It was nice to celebrate with family and friends.

It also was a reminder of just how hectic this time of the year can be. Shaun and I both found ourselves setting guidelines to keep things simple this year. The commercialism and the expectation of perfection can be enough to drive anyone crazy.  Luckily I’ve learned over the years that the key to life is low expectations. If you are disappointed, you simply need to lower your expectations.

That leads me to my rant about New Year’s resolutions.  My resolution is to be less negative. Now this is a lofty goal since I believe resolutions are for chumps. But then again, I’m just going to be less negative not more positive. This is an important distinction as I won’t want to become someone who puts 21 exclamation points in a single Facebook post; that’s just not me.

So here are some ways I believe we all could be less negative.

* In Saskatchewan, in the winter, avoid all conversations having to do with the weather. They are a trap.

*  In the small window of time when the weather becomes warmer, drop everything and get outdoors. Build a snowman, go for a run, snowshoe, ski, toboggan, skate and sleep in an igloo all that very day.

* Move to Kelowna, BC, the magical land where real estate is cheaper and it has been only -1 all week!

* Listen to Ace of Base. If you are of my generation and female, you just can’t feel down when reliving this classic 90s school dance hit.

* See the humour in everything. Believe me it is everywhere. For example, when your dad lends you a calving sleigh to take a couple of Congolese kids sledding for the first time, but first uses it to take a deer carcass to them. Or when you try to explain that a traditional Christmas in your family means ordering Chinese food on Christmas Eve and getting together with your Jewish relatives.

* Watch Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologize. It never gets old.

Happy 2014!

Trina

Grandpa Manuel and I take a break from the manual labour. How did I get so dirty?

Grandpa Manuel and I take a break from the manual labour. How did I get so dirty? And why is Manuel wearing my hat?

It’s been awhile. There hasn’t been much to write about in the corporate, Canadian world, which is why I decided to go to El Salvador in November for 10 days to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity build.

I’ll do anything for some blog material.

The truth is the meeting to sign up for the build happened the week I got back from Sri Lanka in March. I saw it as a sign from sweet baby Jeebus and signed up before I had got my first pay cheque.

Needless to say it was an awesome time (as us Canadians always say) and it’s easily been the best decision I’ve made since coming home (the second best decision was buying a Grey Cup ticket, the third was remembering Trina’s birthday).

So, me and 37 other colleagues made the long journey down to San Salvador on November 8, and after a couple days relaxing on the beach, we spent 5 full, sweaty days working on 3 homes for 3 different families. We all paid or fundraised over $2,000 each to get ourselves down there, make a donation to Habitat El Salvador and buy the building material for the houses.

I know, I know. If you enjoy judging others as much as I do, you’re probably asking why we all just didn’t put our money into building houses in inner city Regina where the need is huge for decent homes?

Well, first off, it’s fucking cold in Regina in November, so the 30+ temps looked pretty good (sorry for being selfish). And, second off, I think you’ve got to do both.

For sure we need to take care of our own backyard, but the fact is we don’t live in a bubble anymore. Those days are gone. If you don’t believe me just look around Regina at all the new faces. What happens in Sri Lanka, or El Salvador, will eventually reach us here.  And instead of being surprised or outraged or ignorant when it finally does, why not search for a bit of understanding now, a bit of common ground.

And while I also know that a 10-day Habitat build is a small drop in the bucket, there was nothing small about it for those 3 families. Those three homes will completely transform those people’s lives forever.

On my build we heard the same thing every day from our family: “I can’t believe you came here from your country to help us. You don’t know us. You don’t speak our language, yet you spend your own money and leave your families at home to build us a house. It is unbelievable.”

To me, that says it all. It’s real. It’s simple. It’s human. And, it was great to be a part of.

Where to next?

Shaun

The boys love posing for the camera especially in my sunglasses.

The boys love posing for the camera especially in my sunglasses.

This blog is dedicated to Chantel Johnson who at the most recent Rider game told Shaun that she has read every one of our blogs and thinks we should keep writing even though we’re back in less exciting Regina.

What does it mean to truly be Canadian? It’s interesting that you never really think about that question until you are on the other side of the world or you are trying your best to help a refugee family from the Congo fit in. Since befriending Calvin and Josie, I’ve done more “Canadian traditions” than I’ve ever done before in my life. At the age of 33, I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner. Josie is regularly asking to learn to cook Canadian food so with her by my side I’ve now made homemade pizza, spaghetti, chili, soup, bread and pumpkin pie. On the flip side, she has taught me how to make tilapia and ugali. Next up will be cassava leaves.

We’ve also been trying our best to answer their questions about Canadian society. Sometimes it is just too difficult to be politically correct so we may be guilty of oversimplifying things. Here are some examples:

Example #1

Calvin and his friend Moses (after I have dropped off chocolates and carved a pumpkin with them): Tell us, how did this Halloween thing originate?

Me: Well, people from Europe brought this custom. They used to believe that spirits would come out on Halloween night so to scare them away they would dress as scary things like ghosts and witches.

Calvin: Then why are you dressed in that (referring to my Minion costume)

Me: Now people dress up in fun costumes. We no longer really believe in ghosts. I am a character from a cartoon movie. All the teachers at our school are dressed up the same for today.

Calvin: Oh . . . This is not a very professional way to dress. It is good in Canada that you don’t worry about these things.

Example #2

Calvin: People have been phoning me to offer me a credit card. Who are they?

Shaun: These are evil people who will get you into trouble with money. You must hang up on them. It is not rude ; it is a part of our culture.

Example #3

Me (as I drop something on the floor): Aiyo!

Joel and Jesse: Aiyo! Aiyo!

Calvin: What is the meaning of this?

Me: In Sri Lanka they say this. It means “oh dear”.

Calvin: I like this.

Jesse and Joel continue to throw things on the floor and exclaim “Aiyo!” as we all laugh. It is the one expression the boys have truly embraced.

This is a picture 4 year old Jesse took of his brother Joel and me on a visit to their house. This Congolese refugee family has the everyday in Canada exciting for us. Trying on toques and other winter clothing became an awesome event.

This is a picture 4 year old Jesse took of his brother Joel and me on a visit to their house. This Congolese refugee family has the everyday in Canada  exciting for us once again. We can’t wait to take them tobogganing!

It’s time to blog again.

How do I know this?

Well, there have been a few signs. First, it has been nearly two months since our last blog. Secondly, one of my students said she thought it was cool that I kept a blog and as I get older I have to take all the “coolness” I can get. Thirdly,  I’ve just poured myself a glass of wine. The weather may be different as well as the alcohol of choice but the sentiment is the same; it’s time to write.

“So what has it been like to adjust back to Canadian life?”, you might ask. It’s been fantastic. It’s been really tough. And it’s been everything in between. In other words, it’s been life.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

  • I miss the way Sri Lanka challenged me to think about what lies below the “cultural iceberg “of everyday interactions that I just didn’t understand. Canada still challenges me to think about the world from different viewpoints, but I find myself less forgiving of what have become my own culture’s glaring flaws.
  • The fact that it only taking 15 minutes to get anywhere in the city is fabulous and driving your own car certainly beats the Sri Lankan bus. So why is it that I find myself rushing in the car from one place to another? Why still the overwhelming urge to fit so many things into one day?
  • I really miss “the Sams”. I wish neighbours in Canada were just as receptive to people showing up at their door to chat. Look out Nadine and Mike, we just might stop over for an hour or five unexpectedly.
  • Shaun and I were both super stoked to meet a refugee family from the Congo through the Regina Open Door Society. Calvin, Josie and their two sons , Jesse (4) and Joel (2) have blessed us to see Canada through their eyes. You should have seen their excitement when we brought a bag of winter and fall clothes for the boys to try on. Not to mention the boys’ first time at the public library.  It was hilarious seeing them drink from a water fountain for the first time as well as  running round and round through the automatic doors.
  • I have writers’ block here. It’s not that there isn’t anything to write about; it’s that I’m more afraid of offending people. Political correctness can be so over the top.
  • There are still really big issues in Sri Lanka post civil war so it is difficult to take some of our Canadian issues seriously. For example when trying to explain to Calvin the Regina water referendum he said, “I like water so I will vote yes”. When Shaun and I explained that he would get water either way, he replied, “Then I don’t understand. What is the issue?” *DISCLAIMER: Now that I have offended a ton of people, I’d like to make the following disclaimer. I educated myself about the issues, I voted on Wednesday and I am proud to live in the nation that has the right to vote about such things.*
  • One thing that has definitely followed me back to Canada is paperwork. Thankfully, I still have to fill out forms for every single request I have. Albeit there is one key difference. Bureaucracy in Sri Lanka was all about making things followed the correct hierarchy and in Canada it’s all about protecting yourself from being sued. Some new paper work additions to Regina Public Schools include a form for having an animal or plant visit your classroom, a form for teacher access to student records, a form to transport students, and a form to to get the form for reactivating my medical and dental insurances.  Basically my first month back to work has been spent filling out forms (most of which are PDFs on websites that I have been asked to print out , fill in and mail via post).
  • I’m also pleased to see that the man who installed the door on my classroom is not the same man who installs the doorknob so even though there now is a door we will be waiting for the doorknob for an indefinite amount of time. I guess there is a little Sri Lanka in all of us.

The point is that no matter where in the world I go – there I am. The environment I’m in and the challenges I face each day might be different but how I chose to face them can be the same. I’m going to do my best to keep the temporary, pretend life attitude with me and see the humour in everything.

Trina

If you ever get the chance to go to LA, jump on it. While it’s not a city I’d like to live in, it’s a great place to visit. Around every bend (or crazy freeway) is another pop culture reference or reminder, the weather is fantastic and the people are bat shit crazy – a great combination for fun.

With Trina being home for 17 days, it was to time to get out of Regina again. She was getting stir crazy.

So, along with our pal Schneidz (aka Trevor), at the beginning of August we decided to hit up Los Angeles to see the Blue Jays play (sort of), visit our friends Kristi, JJ and Baby Ezra in Malibu, and drink Original Coors and eat In and Out Burger.

God bless America!

It was a great time. Here are the pics:

At this family "do", my Uncle Daryle tells my father the secrets to mixing a Peach Keen ****ed Up Monkey martini. The next thing I know he is on all fours rummaging through the cupboards to find the perfect ingredients for this creation that we must have.

At this family “do”, my Uncle Daryle tells my father the secrets to mixing a Peachy Keen ****ed Up Monkey martini. The next thing I know he is on all fours rummaging through the cupboards to find the perfect ingredients for this creation that we must have.

So it’s been nearly a month since I’ve been back in the Queen City and blogging has been difficult. Several times I’ve started to write, but ended up deleting the entry. Somehow nothing seems worthy of writing about. It’s weird because there have been plenty of humourous everyday occurrences. My mind is still constantly running a commentary and summer in downtown Regina is prime people watching (there are some interesting characters out there). However, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it all.

I’m experiencing a strange mix of feelings. One moment I’m loving the fact that I can do the dishes with just a touch of a button and the next I’m cursing the labyrinth that is the Walmart parking lot. Probably the thing that has hit me the hardest is the lack of spontaneity in our culture. In the temporary life that we were living in Sri Lanka nothing felt as serious or long lasting.

Having arrived back in Canada, we are expected to make plans and think of the future- boring. Life seems to be measured by what you are going to do and what you are going to buy. Nothing at all was measured in Sri Lanka. Not a single household would even own measuring cups for cooking. When I first arrived and asked Aunty Nagani, “How do you know how much spice to put in?” She replied, “It just feels right. You follow your gut.”

Now that sounds like some good advice. Only half the time I don’t know what my gut is telling me because my mind is racing.

Tonight as Shaun and I sit shivering on our balcony and listening to sounds of the Exhibition (Regina’s Fair), we’ve compiled some random wisdom for people returning to Canada after a stint overseas.

  • Track down your nearest specialty grocery store. Tony’s India Food Centre, “Where the spice is right” has been a godsend.
  • Prepare standard answers to stupid questions. The best way to deal with this is to make your answer sound like an ancient Chinese proverb. For example, when someone asks how your trip was reply with, “A trip is always good, but a journey; that is a test.”
  • Don’t fist bump every immigrant you pass on the street. You might feel like you are one of them, but you will freak them out.
  • Realize that no matter what you say, you will offend someone. We can’t keep this politically correct language straight. Referring to people as Indian can get very confusing in our province, and saying East Indian just seems weird now.
  • Connect with others who have traveled. As long as he or she is not a one uper,  you will have a brilliant conversation with travel stories including agreeing that monkeys can never be trusted.
  • Invite people over for (insert country name) food. People love food, and ethnic food makes them feel open minded.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and exercise and don’t feel guilty if some days you just need to lie in bed and shut out the world for a bit. It’s normal.

That’s all for now. We are off to LA in the morning to visit good friends and hopefully collect some more blog worthy material.

Trina

Whether it was on the streets of Mumbai or NYC, there were tons of people to entertain me on my travels.

Whether it was on the streets of Mumbai or NYC, there were tons of people to entertain me on my travels.

I’m back in Regina (pause for snickering from all the immature readers).  With less than 48 hours back in the Queen City here are some things I’ve noticed.

  • Everyone has an iPhone or the Samsung equivalent. Not sure how I feel about that but I’m going to see if I can get minutes for the cell phone I was using in Sri Lanka just to rebel. I purchased it in India in 2008 for about $5 and the only special feature it has is a flashlight (which I might add is very useful.)
  • There are only about two degrees of separation in this city. You can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know and stopping for a chat. It’s really great to catch up with everyone. In fact, I bet I wouldn’t even need to phone any of my friends. If I just walked around outside long enough, I would see everyone I know or ever have known in this city.
  • People in Saskatchewan love to complain about the weather. All winter Facebook was filled with posts of how horrible it was and given the winter they had it was warranted. Now I’ve overheard people complaining about the heat. Come on people it may be getting up to 34 degrees today but that will only be for about 5 minutes! Try jogging outside in that 34 degree heat while blow drying your hair and then immediately cram into an unmoving city bus with 1000s of people packed like sardines and then you might have an idea of what Sri Lanka hot is.
  • I start every sentence with “In Sri Lanka . . . .” That could get really annoying for people to listen to.
  • The internet is super duper fast.
  • Our condo seems really big and really clean. I haven’t seen a single ant on our counter top. Weird.
  • There is no traffic. I haven’t seen a single cow or elephant on the road. But I do already miss the ability to hail down a tuk tuk to take you anywhere you want to go.
  • The prices are killing me. Okay, it is cheaper than New York City, but my money is going really fast.  I won’t get a proper pay cheque until the end of September and there is not a single place you can get a $1 lunch packet.
  • The new Safeway in our area is a cornucopia of food and other convenience items. Some of the items I love having easy access to are good deodorant, lip gloss and proper hair elastics. It is all so exciting that I feel the need to use multiple exclamation points even though over use of the exclamation point is one of my pet peeves!!!

The past month has been full of blog worthy experiences, but with either limited time or reliable internet access, I just haven’t been able to keep up. So I guess I’ll just begin with a photo montage of South India and New York and then write about some of the juicy details later.

Trina