Bill: Moments of true happiness

Bill!One brilliant thing about Summer being over is the fact that our dear friend (my boyfriend) Bill is not as busy with his travelling nomadic ways and hence is available to spend more quality time with us / mE! Oh what a blessing. In the case of Bill, 80 something is the new 40, except when it comes to energy levels. Otherwise, Bill is ever keen to participate in any activity that we can dream up, spending quality time together before he heads south to Mexico for the winter.

A month ago, when the leaves were splendiferous in all their glorious vibrant technicolours, Bill sashayed through the leaves with us over by the Talisman, lending to a very colourful afternoon. And just last week, Bill was my date at a tremendously inspiring evening of music and stories focused on the plight of the homeless. Bill and slaDE~Despite the candid somber topic, it was actually an uplifting and emotionally charged venue with Tim Huff reading from his book ‘Bent Hope‘ and other very talented musicians and authors exploring the topic and Tim’s writings through voice and song. Hearing Bill’s wise viewpoints on such serious topics is always of great interest and always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy, knowing the friend that we have forever found in Bill.

My infamous Hippo adventures

Well it’s official. I’m famous :~). Joking! But I am privileged indeed to have had my prize-winning Hippo adventure story broadcast live over the CBC airwaves. How spectacular!

So now it’s time to share. I’ve been alluding to this story for ages in my blog. And here’s the honest-to-goodness non-fictional tale which won us the prize tickets to the ‘Skydive’ play here in Calgary.

Many people have had wild animal encounters (especially those who live near the mountains, where bears and mountain lions and cougars rule the land) — not counting squirrels and rabid rabbits ;~) in their lifetime. Within the 3 year lifespan, I had 3 rather scary encounters with wildlife that will last me a lifetime. The scariest of confrontations happened when I was travelling through Africa in 1993. I was on an overland trip with an Australian friend. We started our trek in Nairobi with the Kamuku outfitter and ended it 6 weeks later in Zimbabwe (or as it was known at the time). What an adventure! Such an incredible continent, free-camping at every opportunity, totally immersed with the wildlife and nature, no holds barred.

To begin my story, I must start with the fact that one of my biggest fears (apart from heights) is of sharks and crocodiles (or anything with wicked jaws submerged in the water, with me and the possibility but highly unlikely far-fetched close encounter). To be honest, I’m a scaredy-cat, believe it or not.

The tale begins on one long and eventful evening when Snehal (my Ozzie friend) and I were camping in Malawi beside the incredibly beautiful Lake Malawi. The day before, on our arrival at the empty beach front, I had asked our Trek Leader if there was anything dangerous like crocs or other creatures in the fresh water of the vast lake. Her response: “Nothing that you need to worry your pretty little head about”. Taking her advice to heart, I didn’t hesitate to jump in the water at 5am the next morning, after my unsuccessful attempt at wrestling with our rain-drenched tent fly (and hence rather damp and dreary tent). I was big into ‘aqua-aerobics’ at the time, so I spent the next 30 minutes ‘aerobic running’ in circles whilst I watched the lightening light up the early morning African sky. With not a care in the world, I curiously turned my head at the ‘ploop’ sound that I suddenly heard behind me in the quiet morning still. At first I thought a log had surfaced whilst I stood there in water up to my chest, the soft sand squishy between my toes. But with a double take at the outrageously beautiful brown and purple mass that stood 5 feet away from me, I instantly recognized the face of a curious Hippo with its ears twirling faster than my heart was pounding at that moment in time. Yes, you did read correctly: Hippopotamus was its name. Female or male, I know not. Nor did I care to stick around and question the irrelevant thought. I believe that I instantly went into shock. No one had ever educated me on how one was to jettison oneself from the water when encountering a wild animal, especially when chest deep and without flippers or weapon to my name. Not that either of those would have made a difference. What seemed like a slow-motion picture show that I look back on, I turned and haphazardly scrambled / swam/ crawled / fought my way to the shoreline. Tina Fey’s ‘lifeline’ seems rather comical at the thought. No amount of ‘life life or buoy’ could have pulled me out of that Lake faster or with more flare and zeal. Adrenaline brought me to the water’s edge, crying huge crocodile tears, hyperventilating like a crazy woman who had almost drowned. I didn’t look back once I scaled the sandy beaches, heading straight for our Trek leaders tent. I didn’t care that it was 6am and her husband Tim {our overland driver} was delirious and feverish with Malaria. I vomited my story to Molly and she laughed at my ridiculousness. I instantly lost trust and respect for her in that moment, in shock and disbelief at the obscurity of it all. I awoke my tent-mate and the rest of our overland crew, reliving the story with no need to embellish or flavour the tale. The aftermath of shock has a way of placating even the most high strung. Yet snickers of disbelief resounded through the crowd. It was then that we were directed by a Malawi resident to go and stand by the water, and watch the surface for a while. Hippos can submerge themselves for up to 30 minutes at a time, and then they will come up for air before going under for another bout of grazing and ‘meandering’. We walked down to the rickety pier and sat watching, curious as to what we would witness. Within a one hour time span, we had counted over 40 Hippos surfacing within eyesight. The term ‘Shock and Awe’ holds an entirely different meaning than what Bush ever intended. Believers I had of the overlanders after our viewing and show by the Lake.

To this day, I am extremely grateful that I didn’t know the extensive and bloody history behind Africa’s most notorious man-killer (Genocide warriors, Aids and Malaria aside). Someone was obviously looking down on me and blessing me with 1 of my 9 lives that December day. Most people killed by Hippos find themselves between the Hippo and the shoreline. I’m also grateful that I didn’t brush up against one of these blubbery mammoth beasts, as I surely would have had a heart attack on the spot. Or they would have chewed me in half by their gigantic sabre-like teeth.

I’m a winner!

Well, I must admit, that it’s not very often that I get to the chance to enter a contest and actually win what I was striving for. I don’t usually win contests or actually rarely do I enter them. I leave that task up to my friend Sandy, who has this uncanny ability to enter HUGE contests, and win them, each and every time!

So imagine my surprise, after opening my gmail account this morning, to read this email from CBC Radio:

You’re entry to our Scariest Thrill contest is a winner! The Homestretch is pleased to present you with a pair of ticket vouchers for SKYDIVE, Theatre Calgary’s next big play. Thanks for entering our contest and enjoy the show,
~ The Homestretch Crew 

WOW! I’m actually a winner, Sandy will be so proud :~).

The Calgary Theatre Play 'Skydive'I’ve always loved to write (if you hadn’t noticed by now with my blogging style) and consider myself half decent when it comes to putting word to paper and expressing my thoughts and visions. When my friend Susan called me last week telling me about this play called ‘Skydive’ and the CBC Homestretch contest for winning tickets, I was totally enthused and energized at the prospect to entering. The stipulation for entry was to write about one’s scariest thrilling experience ever. And boy, did I have a couple of doozies to share and write about. The play itself is 1.5 hours long and it is entirely acted hoisted up midair, and encapsulates a whole 30 seconds of a skydive. The real beauty behind this act of faith is that in real-life, one of the ‘skydiving’ actors is a quadriplegic.

Here’s the writeup about the play, as expressed on the Theatre Calgary website:

Leap into an exhilarating celebration of imagination in the pursuit of the universal dream to fly. During an ill-fated skydiving adventure, two Vancouver brothers untangle the threads of their relationship before realizing the true impact of their leap of faith. Soaring above the stage with breathtaking aerial choreography, this production abounds with gravity-defying delight. 

I’m really looking forward to sharing in this experience with my beloved husband. A play about pursuing ones dreams and skydiving. This rings so close to home. What an evening of fun this shall be!

Sarah Palin Grilled by Fargo Marge

Sarah Palin ... puppet extraordinaireThis is WAY too funny! Loving the third degree from Fargo Police Chief Marge Gunderson in ‘interviewing’ Sarah Palin … crisis and the little man.
“Ya sure, yew betcha. I can see Russia from my front porch as well, no kidding!”
Click here for the YouTube video.

I wish that we had cable so that I could savour the squirm-factor on tonight’s Saturday Night Live debate do-over. Tina Fey did such a bang-up job on the first round with the SNL ‘Governor Palin and Senator Clinton addressing the nation’ skit. You can see it here

As the stomach turns

Winding through the Osoyoos Rockies, returning from a lovely long weekend in Vancouver, my stomach is rumbling, twisting and turning as quickly as the road is catapulting us in every possible direction. Who would have thought that a skydiver / pilot like myself would get road sick as our bike-frenzied driver makes like he is on his Honda ST1300 rather than his Ford F150 Lariat. As soon as we were able, a sudden pit stop was made (in an attempt to avert the big hurl) with me running in search of some Gravol (I had forgotten to bring along aromatherapy oils — ginger — which always seem to work for me). It being a last minute decision to come along on this trip, many things, that would have been useful for our travels, were left behind. Such as the power-cord to the Powerbook laptop, my essential oils and my pleasure book for reading. Oh well, at least I had my husband along for entertainment ….. and that is all that matters, truly.

It all began last Thursday evening when we attended Gazoo and Janice’s wedding reception. They’re new skydiving friends who have an edge for adventure. Approaching us after the reception, they asked us if we wanted to tag along to another friend’s wedding in Vancouver, leaving tomorrow after work. Game for a skydiving roadtrip, we jumped at the chance. Eleven hours night driving from door to door made for a long trip. but at least it was a very comfortable ride in their king cab, leather seats.

We have family friends of old who live in Surrey and were openly receptive to us crashing on their couch whilst exploring a weekend of possibilities. We ended up spending the day with Ron & Peggy, who gave us a quick tour of Vancouver, ending the day with the best Ethiopian meal EVER. Whirlwind indeed, fantastically fun, absolutely.

On the Sunday morning, Gazoo picked us up, after listening to a water presentation on the Kangen water system. Looking out at the blue skies, we made a speedy exit for the door and made our way to the drop zone in Abbotsford. The Pilatus Porter is their biggest draw with a beautiful valley of mountains surrounding the outskirts of the city. It was a lovely day of jumping for slaDE~ and friends. They were lucky to get in as many Porter jumps as they did: Abbotsford is a busy tandem factory indeed.

We spent the night at Leah’s place, after eating a scrumptious Thai meal at the Mango Tree restaurant, before crashing, in the company of her roaming fluffy cat.

The drive back to Calgary was long along the southern winding passage of British Columbia. A fabulous but painfully stiff journey with a 1am arrival back in the big smoke. Guess a 6am wake-up will determine whether I’m up for an early morning bike ride to work. Nighty night.