This edition will be more along the lines of a typical 10 best things to do in Vancouver during the summer :)
FYI: These are in no particular order, it was hard enough to just pick 10! Continue reading
FYI: These are in no particular order, it was hard enough to just pick 10! Continue reading
I was going to do one of those top “10” lists (some of you may have gotten a rough draft of that post by accident :( ) but realized it was going to be way too much for one post. So I’m going to give you a few at a time. These two are my top pick… well that spot moves around LOL, when I write the next one it might change.
Early morning, the air is crisp and new and you have the Stanley Park sea wall almost to yourself , this morning, if you’re lucky, you will share it with a stray coyote trotting home after a night hunt. Continue reading
Sorry about the email you got about the latest post, my finger slipped and hit ‘publish’ instead of ‘save draft’. The post wasn’t finished so please disregard, pretend it didn’t happen and the real one will arrive soon.
Old town Antigua is a mere 9 blocks by 9 blocks. The cobble stoned streets challenge your ankles while the elevated sidewalks buck and split, threatening to toss you into traffic and certain doom as you gawk at architectural homages to the Christian God. Large groups of school children, yammering like murders of crows, swarm all they meet on this treacherous landscape. (Where the hell are they going anyway?)
Surrounded by volcanoes and verdant forests, the adrenalin junkies come to play. Tour agencies are as plentiful as coffee shops and everywhere you look there is adventure for sale, accommodating all levels of courage and egos. Mount Pacaya blessed these warriors with eruptions in January so tour operators were in a feeding frenzy, luring people up her basalt shores with promises of roasting marshmallows on her lava. There are zip line operations that promise to combine thrills with extraordinary views through the forests; mountain bike tours, from a day to several days camping rough. Rivers to kayak/canoe/rubber raft/cycle on, in or through. Walking through town I could feel the electricity that is generated by risking life and limb for fun.
Inevitably I got caught up in it (especially since the alternative was endless churches) and the next thing I knew I was signed up for Pacaya one day and zip lining the next. Yahoooo!
Too late to hook up with a mid-range company, I joined a bare boned tour with an Espanol-only guide in a beat up mini bus. When they picked me up at my casa and I opened the door, my heart sank. The bus was jammed with kids 1/3 my age. sigh. The head noise started up, yammering about not being able to keep up to them, worried I would hold them back, that they would resent me … blah blah blah. I just kept gobbling anti-nausea pills to offset the 3 hour twisty, stop/go road trip through Guatemala City rush hour and then into the mountains.
Suddenly we stopped so the driver and the guide could meet up with some other guys and start discussing something important. After all I’m sure they wouldn’t have kept us jammed in the bus for ages unless it was important, right? Finally they opened up the side doors so they could talk to us… in Spanish. Helpful. Some of the kids could speak 1/2 way decent Spanish so they translated for the rest of us. Basically we had a choice of going up the safe side or the lava side and they were trying to talk us into the safe side. We all said, hell no. They said well it will cost you an extra $20 each. Whatever. At that point I was so grateful for those kids cause if I had of gone with people my own age they would have likely have gone for the other side and I would have been stuck with safe.
So we bounced along some more and then got scooped up into the back of a pickup truck – YAHOOO! Gawd I love riding in the back of a pickup truck, it is truly one of my favorite things to do when I am travelling. It was cosy since there were 12 of us and everyone seemed way taller than me.
Then after maybe 40 min. we got spit out and the march for lava was on. Without forethought we ended up on an afternoon/evening trek having no idea what amazing luck we had that we were. As we slid and rolled up the base of the mountain we kept straining to see the lava. We could see it but it was rather weak, not the dazzling show we were expecting but as the sun went down the lava’s inner light crept up until it was mesmerizing us with its glow. There was a layer of ash floating on top of it and the movement of the river would crack it open and the most intense red/orange I have ever seen would flash. The grey ash just made it seem all the more vivid.
Trekking up a volcano covered in basaltic rock which, being light and unstable, meant rolling and scrambling, threatening ankles and knees (what is it about this area with ankle threats?). All, of course, while going gradually but surely uphill. Determined not to be left behind I struggled to stay in the middle of the pack.
As we caught up to the front of the group I realized our guard, a dark, brooding Latino, was handing over his gun (sorry have no idea what it was – just big, black and very heavy) for photo-ops. SHUT UP! This day was just getting better and better. I elbowed my way in and got someone to shoot (LOL) me posing with the gun. Now when I look back at the photos I do wonder what the hell I was thinking coming up those poses. I look off balance, both mentally and physically. Kindly, no one laughed. (In fact I seem to have forgotten everything I learnt about posing from America’s Next Top Model on this trip!)
When we got close enough we spread out and sat on the edge of an overhang, just staring at the river of lava, mesmerized. A few went closer till their feet got too hot and then retreated. There was absolutely no safety talks (few would understand them if there was any), no “you can’t do that/wear a helmet/wear asbestos suits/steel-toed boots/hook up to a safety harness”. It was wonderful.
Too soon the guide was rounding us up and herding us down to the truck. I could barely tear myself away from the pulsing, shifting, brilliant glow of dangerous fluid. As dark descended and the stars came out it got harder and harder for me to focus on the treacherous hike down. I kept stopping and turning around gulping in the sight for all I was worth. It felt primal, the two ancient plates grinding till they partially melt, creating a soup of devastatingly dangerously beautifulness that spews out onto the surface. As a result of being hypnotized, I definitely brought up the rear, well after the guard, who showed no interest in making sure I was alright. In fact I had a clear feeling that if I were to stop and drop, he would keep going. Still, I was torn. Part of me, even now, wishes I could have spent the night up there. What helped motivate me down was the noise of a large animal unnervingly close. I scrambled to catch up.
Piled into the back of the truck I managed to worm my way to the rear so I could continue to stare at the sky riddled with stars and the lava river flowing and glowing, visible for a very long time. The kids chatted away discussing past and future parties and where they were going next. In my happy place bubble the head noise was mercifully silent and my energy hummed me into a high.
On my return to Antigua, I picked up the makings for spaghetti and tomato sauce and wandered home. I actually managed to pull together a passing dish and had extra to share with my host, who gave it a 2 thumbs up. The rough outside kitchen, where I could still look up and see the stars, was a perfect place to end such a stellar day. Later, I fell asleep with the lava still flowing behind my eyelids.
I shan’t bore you with much about the next day’s zip lining, it was not post worthy. Safe and secure, strapped in till I could barely move, the scenery flew by too fast to really enjoy, it was anti-climatic after the rush of the previous day. And the group? Well they were very nice, 1/2 my age and 3 x more careful. Most had to be talked into going on the zip line rather than the coffee tour. I’m guessing they would have chosen the safe option the day before. :)
5 days a week I passed the dark man who never failed to move me as few street people have, and he was most clearly a member of that tribe. He sat under the Burrard St. bridge on a chair in the community garden, leaning his elbows on his thighs looking down at the ground between his legs, dreaded hair hanging forward. Sadness/loneliness/despair, all emanated like mist, almost visible for its strength. His chair sat amidst a garden that spoke of hope and renewal as spring dawned. The juxtaposition making his presence all the more poignant. People walked, cycled, ran and drove by and I never saw anyone give him a glance.
Then one day he was gone, him and his chair vanished. I almost gasped for the lose. I looked around hoping that he, looking for some privacy, had moved deeper into the garden away from the street – but no. After a week went by and he didn’t return, I finally caught someone tending the garden. I asked him what had happened to the dark man. He told me the city had sent some workers to take him away, that some people had reported that they didn’t like him, thought him garbage, that some children had been scared of him at night. One of these men insisted that he was litter and would not listen to the pleas of the gardeners. They threw the dark man away.
The dark man was a sculpture, made by an anonymous artist and mysteriously placed a month previous in the night and discovered the next day by the gardeners… and me. The dark man was art in the most powerful way – he made us feel something – sadness, loneliness, anger, disgust, fear. His presence moved the garden from just a pretty place to part of a work of art.
I think this incident speaks to our society’s growing demands of instant gratification. If something disturbs/moves, we have neither the time nor the inclination to ask why, to delve deeper. Art demands self exploration, demands we maintain an open mind. Parents lost yet another opportunity to teach their children something valuable when they failed to open a dialogue about why they feared the dark man, explored why he looked like he did etc. This is the same distorted thinking as exhibited by the woman in the US who demanded that The Diary of Anne Frank be banned from the school library because it made her daughter uncomfortable!!!!! Missed opportunities.
I found the “No Fun Vancouver” campaign irritating, that it was created by bar owners trying to sell more liquor. Gawd knows that I enjoy my wine but I don’t see the correlation between more fun and more booze necessarily. For me, Vancouver fails to be a fun city because of city hall’s control issues when it comes to spontaneous creativity. Everything needs a permit, nothing is allowed to blossom and bloom organically. Public art being the biggest victim, they have to have meetings to angst and survey and blah blah blah. Bureaucracy at its worse. 5 people complain and city hall freaks. As if you could get more than 2 people to agree on anything. So we go beige, builder’s beige at that.
We lost the “Device to Root Out Evil” by Dennis Oppenheim because it made people uncomfortable. Really? Why can’t we say that it is ok to feel uncomfortable? Why are we trying to wrap ourselves in bubble wrap?
I called City Hall and talked to a nice gentleman who made all the right noises but had no power to actually do anything other than pass it on and promise me a call back, which never materialized. So I needed to write it to process and let it go. But it isn’t going anywhere. I am still pissed.
What about you? How does this make you feel? Do you think we should allow more spontaneous creativity?
Update: It has been over a week and still no call back from the City of Vancouver so I called again. The lady assured me that my report had been passed onto the Parks Board (case #4736410) and she would do her best to light a fire under their butts (my words) to call me back.
When I came up with Travelling Crone as the name for this blog I just went to wordpress and plopped in the name with 2 LLs and all was fine. But when I was writing an email tell a friend about it, spell check didn’t like the 2 LLs. OHMYGAWD!(yeah yeah most people would have used spell check first but at the time that would have been akin to checking the word ‘crone’) In a fit, I created my email using 1 L and fretted on how I was going to change the wordpress name. THEN I checked it somewhere else and it said the 2 LLs were correct. (insert head pounding on desk). Of all the challenges I foresaw in writing a travel blog, never saw this one coming – controversy on how its name was spelt. So in a quandry, I left everything as was and figured I had my bases covered.
Then this morning I came across a post on FB about why some english words are spelt differently, depending on where you are from, by my geeky friends at www.quickanddirtytips.com/, a spelling and grammar site. Intrigued, I popped over to check it out. Well it was worth the effort and about 1/2 down there it was – travelling/traveling. It was that bugger Noah Webster’s fault! In an effort to symbolically separate the U.S. from Britain he started spelling words differently. The result is that Canadians get into these silly conflicts with spell check and American friends. Zee/zed, check/cheque and yes, travelling/travel. Who knew?
So now I am stuck with both spellings but I definitely prefer the 2 LLs, it looks more elegant and lets face it, the Crone is all about the elegant. :).
Do go check out the article, it will enlighten and amuse you. “Why We Have Both “Color” and “Colour”“. Thank you Grammar Girl for shedding light on this, now at least I have an interesting story when I need to explain the discrepancy between my blog and my email. yah.
Ok so it sometimes takes me a while to get with the program. This would be one of those times.
Approximately 3 years ago Mr.Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of GoDaddy.com decided to shoot and kill an elephant in Zimbabwe. He video taped the night hunt including the killing shots. There was also the now infamous shot of him standing over the body, gun in hand grinning. We watched the villagers, sporting Godaddy hats, cheering when the animal died and then descend on the body, stripping it down to the bones.
You know, a typical vacation vid everyone loves to put up on FB or youtube.
The resulting fury by animal activists was of tsunami proportion. Mr.Parsons was surprised when it actually started to affect his business. Misunderstood, he wanted to set the record straight. See, we just don’t understand the situation in Africa, these damn elephants are causing some serious damage which results in hunger because of their insistence on eating and moving around. He was just helping. He was a hero.
But shit happens and I get distracted. Plus my account with Godaddy was on auto-renew, so easy not to pay attention.
But then I got an email from Godaddy warning me that my visa card had expired and that I should get right on it and send them my new one. What’s that? Mr.Parsons needs more money from me so he can go rescue a bunch of Africans from starvation. Finally I get my head out of my ass and get with the program. The fog lifts and I start doing some research.
So here I am, a passionate animal advocate paying money to a known animal slaughterer. Nice work Crone. Well people, no more.
I have a problem with your extracurricular activities. Killing elephants disturbs me.
In addition to killing that elephant you then compounded your sins with issuing a defensive condescending missive. You say you were just trying to help the villagers save their crops from being destroyed and causing starvation. Really? The fact is they were living in what used to be an amazing fertile country until President Mugabe moved into office. Since then he has raped and pillaged his country to decimation. It will be a miracle if anyone, animal and humans, survive. So if you wanted so much to help the villagers your bullets would have done more good somewhere else.
Watching the video and listening to your defence gives the impression this was a desperate act on the spur of the moment. Yet you have been going to Zimbabwe for 6 years and witnessed first hand the desperation of the people there. Did it ever cross your mind to work with conservation organizations that are on the ground working on ways for humans and animals to co-exist? They are doing this on shoe-string budgets and little government co-operation. But no, you decide to Rambo in and rescue the poor black man. Yah you. Well congratulations Mr.Parsons, you join a proud tradition of foreign, rich, white men eager to teach these poor souls that if you have a problem, the solution blow it to pieces with a gun. Barring that, a machete. The black man has learnt well over the years. The level of violence in some countries of Africa is staggering.
But that kind of solution doesn’t feed into your ego as much does it? That kind of stuff is for those pansies like Bill Gates. No, you’re a MAN! I can just feel all that testosterone and adrenaline pumping through your system, shit there are no drugs to do that. Oh and we can’t underestimate the rush of having all those villagers cheering and calling your name as their saviour. Damn, I bet you thought your head (both of them) was going to explode with the joy and the power of it.
I am soooo small potatoes, my measly $24 a month for my domains won’t even rate a blip on your billionaire radar. But it means a lot to me. I donate money every month to organizations that work hard to save animals from death and torture. The thought of my money going to support your activities makes me nauseous. And it isn’t just that you slaughtered a magnificent animal for nothing, it is your attitude that I find even more disturbing. Your attitude towards the people of Zimbabwe. That is bone chilling. You are not their saviour, you and your kind through history have been the problem, why that continent continues to struggle. Too many of their leaders learnt your lessons all too well at the cost of their people.
Beguiled by Santa Cruz’s Church
The “road” to the village is multiple 90º switchbacks that instantly puts your pulse into the aerobic zone. Of course the little Mayans zip up and down it like they are on level ground, in fact they are probably uncomfortable on anything less than 70º.
I decided I needed an alternative from sloth so with no particular goal in mind up I trudged. And as with most Latino villages, all roads lead to God’s house. The square in front was the site of a very important soccer match between the 7 year old boys momentarily released from the school. Their little legs and big voices tore back and forth, charming even this curmudgeon. I weaved my way through them to the church thinking I was here anyway, I really should pay my respects.
It is a gentle church, adobe and white and small. It doesn’t yell at you and call you sinner. No, it is woven into the village by the women like they weave their beautiful cloths.
I moved from the bright, sunny boisterous square into the dark, hushed space. Alone except for the ghosts, I am convinced still linger here. The side walls are lined with carved wooden statues of Saints about 4 feet tall. Somewhat coarse but still I see the considerable skill in the folds of their robes and the lines on their faces. Some paint still lingers and some have suffered amputations. I gently touch, wanting to connect with these long dead artists. Were they thinking pious thoughts or hoping to make enough money to feed their family? I don’t know since they deigned not to talk to me.
The room was still dressed up for Christmas with wonderful wide woven banners draped from the ceiling in pastel colours. Simple bright tinsel decorations that we would find in the dollar stores at home were hanging from the banners, the ceiling and the altar. There was a dude in a glass coffin to one side, I think (hope) it was a statue. Two large doll-like statues stood at the front, maybe 5 feet tall dressed in elaborate satin-ish costumes in glass cases. A simple altar draped in a local woven cloth. I wandered and touched and took pictures and enjoyed having the room to myself.
Finally I decided to just sit in the quiet. That is when a family of tourists wandered in but I just waited them out and they finally left me to my contemplation. I closed my eyes and opened my heart and tried to absorb the energy. You see I believe that all buildings of all faiths absorb the energy of hundreds of years of prayer/mediation as much as the slaughter houses absorb the terror and panic of the animals. I believe that on some level we can feel it if we can still our minds enough. Even as a non-Christian I can appreciate the result of thousands of prayers. Tears sprang imagining all the joy and all the pain that those walls have witnessed. These people live and die in simplicity, enduring and enjoying everything between birth and death. And most of it ends up in this church. From the baptism to the funeral.
I got a glimpse of this cycle when I was with the old woman teaching me weaving. Her grandchild, Elizabeth, arrived with news whose effect was immediate. Tears and grief bloomed on her lined face. The word morté was the only word I understood but the pain I understood immediately. All I could do was touch her arm in sympathy. I wanted to offer to come back the next day but I lacked the words and she soldiered on with the task at hand.
I wish I could have meditated in a temple in Thailand but I don’t have good enough boundaries to block out all the energy of the inevitable hordes of people. When I return I will search out a quiet remote temple to sit in and listen to the monks chant.
Maybe I will sit through a mass in this tiny church and see how it feels. Maybe not.
How do you feel in churches, temples and such? Are they just museums or do you feel their energy?
Since Elephant Nature Park I have realized that I choose my holidays based on the desired experiences and not site specific. I chose Thailand last year, not because it was Thailand but because Elephant Nature Park was there and I wanted more than anything to volunteer with elephants. If it had have been in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan… welllll… no no, I would have gone there too. Honest. That realization went a long way in making my next trip choice much easier. I had thought of the Yucatan in Mexico since I have wanted to explore it for some time but going alone with no structure didn’t feel right. So I thought about what I wanted/needed out of this trip and then proceeded to track down accommodations that would support it. Now who knows if it will, that is the joy of internet travel planning. You can only go on one’s intuition, experience and what the web site looks like.
What I wanted was some down time, space to get grounded and try to make peace with my diagnosis. Even though it has been a few months, it has been so busy I really ‘get‘ it yet. So I needed quiet, cheap, people around to socialize with but not crowded, beautiful, isolated but not so that it would take me 5 days to get there. Finally, after much trolling, I came up with La Iguana Perdida, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. And when I read up on the lake I was sold.
Lonely Planet writes at the beginning of their introduction to the lake: “Nineteenth-century traveler/chronicler John L Stephens, writing in Incidents of Travel in Central America, called Lago de Atitlán ‘the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw,’ and he had been around a bit.”
Aldous Huxley famously described this lake as, “really, too much of a good thing.”
Found this vid, that I hope represents the kind of folk I’ll be meeting there, “The Chicken Bus” .
So Saturday I am off to see if Lake Atitlan lives up to it’s reputation. My plan is to do yoga, learn weaving, kayak, hike, swim. I’ve even played with the idea of getting my PADI. Or maybe lay in a hammock and do nothing but stare at all the different shades of blue and green in that world. Oh and there will be wine.
I am curious, how do you choose where you go on your trips? Is it because you have dreamed of gliding down the canals of Venice? The galleries of Paris? Or do you close your eyes and flip open an atlas and stick a pin in it? (I have always wanted to do that :) ).