Wednesday, March 30

Dear Anthony Bourdain

Dear Mr. Bourdain,

I've recently begun watching your show and I'm hooked.  I have travel fever (and, unfortunately, no amount of cowbell will cure it) but, alas, I am finishing my second straight year of my masters program and getting on the subway to go to a new neighbourhood is an accomplishment these days.  My certification exam to become an speech-language pathologist is just three weeks away so I keep my lecture notes open on one side of the screen and your show on the other.  As part of the SLP program we complete internships and my next (and FINAL!) internship will be in Kenya this summer.  Hoping to get an idea of the food there I looked for an episode on Kenya but could fine none.  So I have decided:  you should join me and Hi-C (everyone gets a nickname on here, her parents weren't Minute Maid enthusiasts)!  We're young, we're fun, we'll be in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mbita.
A bit of a catch:  your show is called "No Reservations" but I definitely have some.  All the more reason for you to join us, really.  I love to travel but my difficulty with new food-ventures or food-speriences holds me back.  That live wriggling octopus on your Korea episode?  Queasy.  That jelli-fied lamb on the Saudi Arabian episode?  Squirm.  There is hope for me though:  I've eaten guinea pig in Peru.  I even tried ceviche.  Perhaps I'm biting off more than I can chew (har har) by asking you to visit and challenge me but you only live once and I'm tired of pretending to be a vegetarian when I travel.  I'll bring the immodium and peptobismal.

Think about it,


PS.  I think you would out drink us as well but we would be willing to try.

Tuesday, March 29

So Pretty

I love flipping through my passport and appreciating the exotic stamps. 

The blue-fading-to-pink of the Chilean stamp.  The boring, grey Peruvian stamp with a 60 written on it and a 90 written over it.  The extra 30 days I begged for at the border and received in paper but not in the computer system.  This would later get me in trouble at the Bolivian border and my 35 sol "special" stamp saying that I overstayed my welcome in Peru.  They eventually let me out of the country and (whew) let me back in to get all my stuff before coming back to Canada!

Remember this awesomeness???
The blue-fading-to-green Bolivian entry and exit stamps that span just 3 days in November 2007 but remind me of the most incredible place I have ever visited:  The salt flats of Uyuni. 

The big red Bermudian stamp representing the very first time I saw the ocean (and fell in love with it).  A whole week of sharing sun and beach and wedding celebration with good friends.

Oh, and what is this?!?  A visa?  My very first visa.  A lovely sticker from the Kenyan government granting me access to their country.  A multiple entry visa just in case I feel like taking a jaunt into a neighbouring country.  Perhaps I'll see some of the animals that have been poorly photoshopped onto the visa:  a cheetah, water buffalo, rhino, lion and elephant.  Thanks Kenya High Commission!

Sunday, March 27

Nerdy SLP Stuff

We happen to have a dysphagia (yes, swallowing) guru teaching a class this semester.  She is teaching us about instrumental measurements in speech pathology so she brought along an sEMG* machine for us to try. You slap some electrodes on your throat and you can measure the force of contraction** of (some of) the swallowing muscles.  It is useful in SLP to teach more effortful swallows for clients to avoid getting nasty lung infections if food and bev goes down the wrong pipe.  ShanWow and I were selected as volunteers although you could tell the prof didn't want to choose me because I strolled in almost an hour late.  The lateness wasn't my fault though, I had to file that dang police report for credit card fraud (which is still ongoing). 

Anyway, lateness grudgingly overlooked I went up front to be electrode'd.  Apparently I'm jittery and tense (go figure) because you have to get the resting contractions below 10 for 20seconds before you can swallow and it took me forever!  Plus mine hovered between 4-9 (ok 4-11) and ShanWow's rested calmly at 2.  Some reinforcing music would play whenever the electrical potential detected was under 10 and would shamefully stop whenever I couldn't keep it together.  Here is a photo recap:

I'm in the green, ShanWow in the blue.  My swallow was more effortful!  Ha!

*Surface electromyography. 
**ok, it is actually the electrical potential but, you know

Wednesday, March 23

What an Adult Way to Spend my Birthday

You know you're getting old when the excitement on your birthday is filing a police report for credit card fraud.  At least that is what I will be doing tomorrow.  All thanks to the completely inept CanadaPost for the almost $1000 in charges on my account.
Backstory:  my mail goes to my parent's house since I still move around so much.  Every few months she sends it to me wherever I happen to be.  This time she sent it with my birthday present which, according to the tracking number she sent me, arrived two Fridays ago.  So it arrived but I never saw it.  I called them and they offered to open up an investigation.  No word for almost a week so I called back.  They gave me the run around, my mom had to call and eventually they fessed up:  since it didn't fit in my mailbox they must have left it at my door.  WHAT???  At my door?  Aren't they supposed to bring it to a post office to keep it safe?  Completely incompetent.  So someone stole my mail along with my birthday present.  That person happened to be a fraudster.  That person likely lives in my building.  Awesome.  Happy 26th to me.

Is it sad that the upside I find in this is that I haven't ever filed a police report so at least I get to do something new? 

Tuesday, March 22

Lumbar Support is Key

Hi-C and I took a trip downtown to pick up some Kenya supplies.  She has done the backpacking thing before while I've always lived comfortably out of a home base with a suitcase so she already had many of the major pieces of equipment; I, however, required a backpack*.

First stop:  the Crocs store.  There was a sentence I never thought I would say.  But they have changed, my friends!  Changed!  No photo but they are adorable black flats but made of that handy Croc material that will get dirty and wash easily, get wet and dry easily. 

Second Stop:  MEC!!!!  Glorious MEC.  Bug spray.  I sucked it up and got the deet-ful kind.  So did Hi-C after a riveting 10 minute convo about the malaria-prevention properties of non-deet-ful sprays (none).  What soap, one of those quick-dry towels and a day pack.

Oh, and, of course, the piece de resistance (imagine I included the proper accents)

Impressive, no?  It is so comfortable.  I will have to fit my entire life in there for three months.  And a side note:  how do you feel about my outfit?  I, personally, loved the leg warmers all pulled up high.  I took off the offensive socks and paired it with my new black flats.  Perhaps un petit weird but I loved it.  You know those outfits that you realize probably wouldn't gain popular approval but you just love? No? Oh, it's just me.

*This is not me conceding on my regionalism.  It is still a "packsack" when it is small and carrying my books to school.  It can be referred to backpack when it is a massive 70L trekking pack.  It works as a differentiator.

Sunday, March 13

Achilles St Patrick's Day 5km Run!

I may not have signed up for this race had I realized that last night was "spring forward", the dreaded lost hour of sleep.  Not tired, I stayed up a bit too late enjoying a lovely wine and cheese party with some old friends and some new ones.  But since it was only 5km* it was well worth the decreased sleep to participate in a fun race with a good cause**.  The run was a 5km out and back that started and finished at the Steamwhistle Brewery.  I left the house at 8:45 to be there for 9:30.  The weather report said 2 degrees celcius which sounded so balmy that I ended up fairly under dressed and shivering on my way there.  I experimented with race fueling by having a piece of toast with PB&H and a small bowl of grapes (+ lots of water!) 2 hours before the race.  This seemed to work.  ThePrez also ran today.

Race Recap:
The Prez does a little power-up before the run. 
I'm pretty excited about the sweet tees (they're technical, oh yeah).

Our race kit came with gloves too!  Not to mention the Irish Spring deodorant (manly) and free body wash and coconut water after the race.  I'm a sucker for swag.  The two of us are standing in a crowd of 1500 racers waiting for the gun (?) to go off.  We never actually heard a gun. 
Fast forward to the end of the race!  They handed us some free chili and beer and we hunkered down on the floor to listen to the live Celtic music. 
The food.
The eating. 

HOW DID I DO???!?!

For my first official 5km race since the Turkey Trot Incident of 2001 when I ran it in over 33 minutes (meaning my second ever official 5km race)  I ran:

Had I known I was so close to getting under 28:30 maybe I would have tried harder.  Maybe not.  It felt fairly impossible to speed up.  Likely because my first km was painfully slow getting stuck in a pack of 1500 runners and trying to dodge without being a total jerk AND my second km was way too fast.  I should have been in the middle a bit more.  But I'm happy with the time.  Here are my stats (they aren't exact because it got a bit confused among all the tall buildings downtown and mapped me running through structures...hmmm).

1      5:57
2      5:10
3      5:49
4      5:16
5      5:45

AVG 5:35

A big shout out to The Prez for making like Trogdor and BURNINATING that course.  I don't have an exact time but she ran it in under 26 minutes.  Way to go!

*Aren't I obnoxious?
**  This organization supports physically disabled athletes to train for and run races

Saturday, March 12

Yams are the New Potatoes

It seems like any time I cook something and post it on this blog it involves sweet potatoes.  It always feels fun to take an old potato favourite and make it from scratch with the oh-so-trendy sweet potato.  This time we took the class gnocchi and orange-ified it.  It makes me feel better about pasta since it is over 50% veggies (with vitamins and sh*t) plus all that flower and egg whereas regular pasta is basically just flour, eggs, water.  See, healthy.  An ideal Friday night:  friend to hang out with, producing yummy food from scratch, eating licorice, watching a movie, imbibing.  And I love any recipe where I can cut food with scissors!

Fabulous, no?

Friday, March 11

Just to Prove I'm Still Around

I thought about titling this as a running update but, well, I haven't been doing much of that.  I took a few more days off after my butt x-ray and sat around on the roomie's hot water bottle.  I was going to break out of the running funk on Wednesday when the sky cracked and hasn't stopped leaking since then.  Yes, I realize that it is possible to run in the rain.  I even do it sometimes.  But it is really cold and it created a slick icy cover over many of the sidewalks and....I'm lazy.  The worst part is:  I have a 5km race on Sunday.  I swear, if I can't finish 5km anymore I will cry.  My goal was 29:00 but I'm running with a friend and her goal is 28:30 so why don't I just make that my goal.  The reward is chili and live music so hopefully that acts as sufficient motivation.

I have been working on/avoiding a post about health care and ethics.  Partly because I am out of that realm now so it isn't all up in my face every day. The other reason is that I like to explore the issues but I think most people would find what I say fairly offensive.  Heads up:  me exploring an issue doesn't mean I have decided that is what I think about it.  Actually, it is often me just noticing a few inconsistencies and drawing them out to the most extreme conclusions and wanting someone to counter with a point I hadn't thought of.  In fact, I was talking through some of my points a few weeks ago with JHarv and she brought something up that I hadn't considered which may have changed the course of my post somewhat. 

Saturday, March 5

Youtube Hilarity

Sorry for spamming you all with youtube links.  I really try not to do this on my blog but I like tasteless humour. 

EPIC MEALTIME:  watch any one of their videos and you won't be sorry.  I recommend four loko chili.  These guys make me so proud to be Canadian.  Next time, we eat the internets.

Friday, March 4

Running Update #55: To Rest or not to Rest

The fall on the Rideau on Feb 21 is still haunting me.  I took a week and a half off running, partially intentional and partially me forgetting to bring running shoes to Montreal.  But things aren't getting better and laundry has been the most painful chore, having to bend over to pick up the basket. 

When I finally got back to running this week I did a 5k and a 7k the next day.  They were fairly quick and felt good but by the end of the 7k it was painful (yes, I'm talking about my ass) to increase my speed.  Now walking is a little uncomfortable.  I finally gave in and went to the walk-in today and she sent me for x-rays.  My poor ovaries.  But now there are pictures of my sacrum and coccyx and hopefully I'll get the all clear.  If it is just a strain then I'll keep my runs short and treat it with a heat pack.  I really can't take more time off running because my body will forget how to do it....and I have a 5k race next weekend. 

The x-ray tech was very helpful and let me see the x-ray images.  I'm no radiologist but nothing looked immediately off.  Apparently I have a sacrum/coccyx that is almost horizontal.  This came as a surprise to me since I have no ass at all.  Goes to show the two aren't related.

Tuesday, March 1

A Foreigner in my Own Country!

Since it is reading break and I already turned down the chance to accompany 8 lovely friends to Cuba for budgetary reasons (can I really justify Cuba with Kenya in 2 months?) I headed to Montreal for a more affordable vacation.  One of my oldest and dearest friends* WallRat** hosted me even though she is in the throes of her real masters program.  Even though I have traveled through Peru, Bolivia and Chile (and ventured afar a few other times to Bermy and the UK) and have even ventured to Montreal once this was the first time in my life I have been faced with not being able to communicate due to a true language barrier.  I could get by in Spanish even when I first arrived in Cusco and the first time in Montreal we had a French-speaking friend to guide us.  This time WallRat and I were both at a loss for French words and a few times I ventured off on my own being both lost and not French enough.  It was so pathetic.  At first I was frustrated at everyone when I could tell (ok, assume) they could speak English just fine but refused to do so, not even slowing down to accommodate my complete confusion.  After some reflection I realized that I was not really frustrated with them I was annoyed with myself that I couldn't ask even the easiest questions in French, summon the right vocab or understand basic directions.  The first time I ever felt isolated by a language barrier was in my own country.  I could write a scathing post about the abysmal French system in Canadian schools but I think I already have told the story on here  about how my parents attempted to enroll me in French school as a child and were told that, since neither of them could speak French, I was not to be allowed in and there wasn't an immersion program in the tiny town where I grew up.  Thank you Canadian government (and possibly Huron Superior Catholic District Schoolboard) for restricting my access to one of the official languages of this country, to communicating with fellow citizens and to future job opportunities.  I'm still bitter.

I gave up even trying any French pretty quickly when I realized that I couldnt' open my mouth without Spanish coming out.  I said "gracias" to a bus driver.  "Si" came out any time I tried for "oui".

And after that rant I'll have to admit that I had a great time!

Nuit Blanche:  We trekked outside in the freezing cold to experience the open night in the city.  Our first stop was McDonald's.  Sadly, that ended up being one of the only stops.  It was so cold and we didn't have a definite plan so we wandered to Old Port.  Apparently every obnoxious teen had the same thought (no, it doesn't say anything about us) and we could hardly move in the crowd.  By 230am we were headed home with tired eyes and cold feet after having seen maybe one exhibit.  Perhaps better planning next time but the company was great.

Ethiopian Food at Le Nil Blue:  classy restaurant in St Denis that satisfied a hankering for some Ethiopian even if it wasn't as good at Ethiopian House in Toronto (which is more affordable too).

Poutine at La Banquise:  a friend recommended this place and it was worth the metro, bus and walk to get there.  Drool.  I want it again. Note:  you only need a regular...the large looked insaaaane.  We got a classique and a BOM (bacon, onion, m-something sausage) to split and both were chemoreceptor heaven. 

A Montreal Bagel:  drool

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal:   this wasn't in the guidebook and no one had mentioned it before but a big thanks to B for recommending it!  I put aside my feelings about churches and headed over by myself.  B was kind enough to look up the directions giving me the stop to get off the bus at but that I should just watch for a giant dome, I couldn't miss it.  Thank goodness I saw a sign (and that Oratorie/Oratory are spelled similarly in French and English) because there was no dome, you crazy kids.  This is what I saw when the bus pulled up:

After wandering around the seemingly endless building*** for over an hour I left.  After walking down the 5 or so flights of stairs and across the grounds I looked back again.  Oh, apparently that's where I was!

Rat Surgery:  WallRat's roomie (and fellow Guelph alumnus) treated me to a rat surgery in her lab.  Fascinating.  No fainting!

Rock Climbing:  I have found all the attractive men and they go to climbing gyms.  Plus it is an intense (and intensely fun) sport.  Thank pb&j that falling doesn't frighten me, I trust the belayer.  Although I was doing 5-7s and fairly unsuccessfully I did refuse to give up until my hands would let me grip anything and my legs were shaking.  I'd love to continue this a few times a week.

*We went to elementary school together in Wawa and then she followed me to the Soo for high school.  We made horrible gingerbread cookies and held memorial services complete with flattened, stale and circular bread for hosts for her dead amphibian and reptilian pets.

**This nickname is appropriate for two reasons:  she goes to the climbing gym all the time and she cuts the heads off rats and then studies their brain tissue.  For her research, I suppose I should add.

***My favourite part of the whole building was the exposed rock face off to the side of the candle chapel.  I spent the most time there just smelling it.  That's right.  One of my favourite smells in the whole world is being underground like being in a mine, all the cool, damp rock.  Mmmmm.