Thursday, September 30, 2010

from the "a place called Chiapas" dept.

San Cristobal's main cathedral

After a delay of about a year, I'm now back where I should be: The tropics. But in a new place: San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

And damn, it feels good.

Wednesday was one long day. It started at 3:30am in Cochrane, Alberta. After driving to Calgary's airport, then flying to Houston, then flying to Tuxtla Gutierrez, then driving to San Cristobal, I arrived at my new home.

As it was dark, I didn't see much. Dennis and Kelly were waiting for me and we celebrated new beginnings with two bottles of cheap (but tasty) wine. I went to bed at 2am - almost 22.5 hours after the day began.

This morning I woke up to the sounds of roosters and church bells. Tired, I hung out at the house for a while. Then Dennis, Kelly, Lucy the Dog and I went for a stroll around town. We stopped for lemonade and watched the world go by.

Home Sweet Home

The weather is nice: cool and humid. And the vibe in town is very positive. I think I'm going to enjoy it here.

I'll take some pictures over the coming days. But for now, I'm just adjusting to a new life in a new country and an elevation of 7000 feet.

And away we go!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

from the "on the road again" dept.


Why am I up so early? Because I am making a second attempt to fly to Chiapas, Mexico in a few hours. Let's hope it actually happens this time.

UPDATE (1:14pm central - Sept 29);

Now in Houston for a 6 hour layover. Boring.

More soon.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

from the "hold your horses" dept.

Promises, promises.

I'm not in Mexico. Yet.

Long story short: I was unable to fly out of Calgary yesterday due to mechanical problems with the aircraft. This resulted in me missing my connection - the twice a week flight from Houston to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. The next opportunity is Wednesday, Sept. 29.

So I'm back in Cochrane for 4 more days.

A longer story to come.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

from the "where's waldo" dept.


I never thought I'd say it but: I am tired of driving. As part of my Western Canada Goodbye Tour, I've put more than 7000km on my rental car (we like unlimited kms). I've been hither and yon, getting my life in order and visiting friends. It's been nice.

But I'm done. I don't think I can do another 10 hour/1000km drive for at least a year. Hell, last week I did something like 4000km. My arse hurts.

Now that I'm back in Cochrane, Alberta and there are less than 48 hours until my departure for Mexico, I have to attack my "to do" list with increased vigor. Not that there's much left to do. Mostly deciding what not to take and organizing the stuff staying in Dave's basement (thanks, Dave!).

There was snow earlier this week, and as I write this the air temperature is a frosty -2c. Time to join the rest of the ducks (patos) and head south for the winter. Although, that said, the skies are clear and the forecast high is a balmy 16c. Perhaps a quick trip to Banff?

In my head I have a plan for the coming months. But a lot of it depends on how things go. Interesting times, indeed.

Best get packing.


Friday, September 10, 2010

from the "vangroovy" dept

Home Sweet Home (one of 'em)

I should write a love song about being torn between two coasts. Left and right. East and west. Atlantic and Pacific.

How is it that I came to be so attracted to two cities so far from each other? Halifax and Vancouver. Talk about an expensive long distance relationship.

The songwriting is for another day. Today I'll focus on my current visit to the left coast. I've been here in Vancouver for a week now and I've been having a blast: Enjoying a social life, getting out and doing stuff, visiting old haunts.

Hanging with former VTV/CTV colleagues at the Irish Heather.

I've written before about my rekindled love affair with this city, and that hasn't changed. In fact, my love has grown -- especially as I now have something to compare it to (10 months in Edmonton). Talk about night and day.

It's far from perfect, but it's a damn nice place to hang out in. And maybe move back to, one day. Or, in the evil plan in my head: Live in the tropics from November to May. Live in Vancouver from June through August. And then Halifax for September and October. Wouldn't that be grand? Better put that on the white board.

I've still got a few places left to see and a few people left to visit. And then it's back to the Prairies. Getting stuff sorted in Calgary. Visiting Southwestern Saskatchewan for another photo safari. And even more, before heading down south on Sept 25.

It seems like there's lots of time between now and then. But the window is closing. And I better get my arse in gear...


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

from the "time machine" dept.

A book of dreams? Of history? Or just junk?

Despite my constant wanderings, I still keep a large storage unit just outside of Vancouver. It's big -- 7'x9'x7' -- and it's packed with the remainders (and reminders) of my material life.

There is some stuff in it that needs to go, like old furniture. There's some stuff that I want to keep, like travel souvenirs and books. And there's some stuff I have to keep, like 7 years of tax paperwork.

As much as I'd like to do away with it all, I can't. Due to the amount of stuff I have squirreled away and the logistics of paring it all down, the path of least resistance is to just keep it in storage for 100 bucks a month. For now, anyway.

Sadly, I totally fall into the storage company's business plan. Sucka!

Last weekend I went to visit my stuff at its home in a big warehouse in Delta, BC. I opened up my storage container and was nearly crushed by a cascade of cardboard boxes overflowing with reminders of my previous adventures, of which there have been a few. Paintings from Ghana. Sand from Malta. Beer cans from Portugal.

I wasn't visiting my stuff to risk life and limb or to take a stroll down a junky memory lane. No, I was looking for some specific stuff to take with me to Mexico at the end of the month: hiking shoes, rain gear and other assorted bits and pieces that I want to have down south.

In one big Rubbermaid tub, I spotted a thick black book. A Daytimer. The faux leather was cracked and pieces of paper stuck out from between its pages. Feeling like Indiana Jones, I blew off a layer of non-existent dust and threw it open.

Inside was a treasure trove of a past life. Specifically from the years 1996 and 1997, when, at a tender young age, I:

- Quit my job at CKY TV, Winnipeg
- Decided to travel to Bosnia to produce a documentary
- Went freelance and turned down an investment opportunity with Frantic Films (d'oh!)
- Moved to Vancouver to start a new television station (now CTV BC)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway... Inside the front cover, a clear pocket held a mix of memories. Vancouver Television business cards, notes from girlfriends (!) past, and a label from a long ago enjoyed Moosehead beer. But this was just the beginning. There were more old business cards, a yellowed Far Side cartoon and lists of phone numbers of current and not so current friends.

My favourite Far Side panel

Pages and pages of people, places and long forgotten important reminders including hockey games, Spanish lessons and fancy dinners in L.A.

Hangin' with Wolfie, no doubt.

I'd intended to toss the whole collection into the trash. But in my ongoing struggle to banish stuff my life, I find I win some battles and lose others. This one may be lost.

Can I really toss out a phone list from 1992? A stamp from the United Nations post office in New York? My Halifax and Dartmouth library cards?

Flotsam and Jetsam

A pragmatist would say yes. But I think I'll say no. Not because these bits and pieces in and of themselves mean much. But because taken together, they mark a major transition in my life when I quit a full-time job and travelled to distant lands before starting a fresh, new chapter.

Sort of like today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

from the "getting down to business" dept.

Today marks the beginning of my second week of not having to go into the office. And, somewhat oddly, it is also Labour Day.

Since arriving in Vancouver Friday, I have been poking away at things. Getting my papers in order for the upcoming tax season (talk about getting an early start!), sorting through the detritus of my life that resides in a distant storage unit, and buying small things to make living abroad easier (velcro!).

This week will see the white-boarding of the next year. Formulating a game plan, if you will. Crossing out distractions and focusing on a single goal: Income. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but thankfully, a slow one.

In just under 3 weeks, I'll head south to San Cristobal, Mexico, armed with firm goals and a financial buffer. Then the hard work begins.

As I prepare to return to the coffeelands, I am glued to the computer, following the tragic news coming out of Guatemala. Rain, landslides, death. It's not pretty and there seems to be no end in sight.

My friends who live around Lake Atitlan have an additional worry: The lake is rising. Fast. Businesses along the shore are threatened and there is little they can do to hold back the water. If the rains don't let up soon, the towns and villages that ring the lake could be in serious trouble.

While it is wet in San Cristobal and Chiapas state, they don't seem to be suffering the same problems as Guatemala. This is likely due to better infrastructure.

The landslides in Guatemala mean that travelling on almost any highway is now very dangerous. The earth is saturated and very unstable. The latest death toll is estimated at 50. Not good.

This also means that visiting San Pedro likely won't happen for a while. If whole hillsides keep collapsing on the main roads, there will be no way to drive down. And there is no direct air service other than a circuitous route involving long bus rides and flights through neighbouring counties.

So in the interim, I have toes and fingers crossed for the people of Guatemala. And I continue ticking off items on my "to do" list.

And so it goes...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

from the "day 4" dept.

Go West...

So far, the first week of the latest chapter has been going well.

I've sorted through my stuff, tagging items as "to be sold", "to be junked" and "to be taken to Vancouver". I've also made Cochrane my official address and alerted anyone who cares.

I continue to pitch a writing project centred on the Celtic Colours music festival this October in Cape Breton. No bites yet. It seems a long shot.

In the meantime, I'm preparing to depart for Vancouver tomorrow (Friday 9/2). I'm going to drive there, leaving first thing in the morning to hopefully avoid crazy long weekend traffic -- especially between Hope and Vancouver. I hit that the last time I drove out and it was BRUTAL.

I'll stay in Vancouver for a week or so, sorting through my storage unit in an attempt to reduce the amount of flotsam and jetsam that I have. Spending $100/month to store what is essentially crap makes no sense. I want to whittle it down to just photos/papers/negatives/travel trinkets -- and find a smaller, cheaper storage solution.

Four days into this new life I feel pretty confident. I've been poking away at formulating a plan for Mexico (I head there 9/25). And everything seems to be going smoothly. And it's funny: The last 10 months have seemingly disappeared from my memory. Weird.

And so it goes...