Thursday, November 29

The Soo

Ooh Ooh look!
The red dots on my travelpost map have finally joined up across Canada - it almost looks like I've made it all the way across!
I haven't though. I'm in Sault Ste Marie. That's a whole 270km from Wawawawa where we stayed last night. It took over 5 hours to get that far, through this afternoon's blizzard. It got even more fun when it began to get dark and we discovered the headlights weren't working. Luckily high beams were, but that just illuminated the wall of snow immediately in front of us - and blowing rather hard towards us. It was all rather fun, really, and just a *tad* hair-raising.
But 'The Soo' (as Sault Ste Marie is called) seems like a lovely little town. We're staying with a lovely couple (both teachers) and their rabbit, Tutu, whom we found on, in a beautiful little house almost within view of the Mary river - the bit of water between lakes Huron and Superior - and International Bridge, that leads to the *other* Sault Ste Marie, which is Michigan, USA. I'm not going there.
Our host Sarah took us out this evening to her favourite little bar here, which just happened to be the one mentioned in my LP guide book. We even walked there! The temperature is quite warm - only -3 or so, and it wasn't snowing, at least not much, so it was a reasonably pleasant walk, and probably further than I've walked in days! (must learn to walk in snow...). There was practically no one there, but we got talking to the owner and his father, and ended up spending a lovely hour or two in conversation - mostly travel related, of course. The owner, who is not much older than me, has travelled in Australia, and so we were swapping notes about our respective countries.
Hoping to make Sudbury tomorrow - it's only another 4 hours or so, if the weather is reasonable...

Wednesday, November 28

The novelty of snow

Despite 3 days and nights of driving and wading through snow (I'd say deep snow, but I have a feeling I ain't seen nothing yet) it's still being a novelty. And I'm breaking new records all the time - yesterday I believe I was outside in -23 degrees! It probably helps that I don't feel the need to traipse around and sight-see at any of the places we've stopped so far. And having a car means that you drive to see anyway, rather than walk. I can see that outdoor time will be at an absolute minimum until temperatures approach zero again (from the wrong direction, that is). It's nice to sit here watching it fall out the window though, and it does make everything pretty. And pretty eerie at night!
And of course, the other thing that makes the snow ok, is that I found dubbin for my boots here! And I thought it was just an australian thing! I also bought gloves with cut-off fingers and a mitten bit that folds over the fingers, and something called a 4 in one hood, which I still working out how to use, and which makes me look rather ninja-ish, but who cares, when you're warm!
So I'm now in Wawa. Wa! It's a great name for a town. We're hoping to be in Toronto tomorrow, if not tonight. It's about 900km away, but as it's snowing again, I doubt we'll get that far. Also, the road skips along the edge of lake superior for a while, and then along a bit of Lake Huron, I think, so there might be photo stops along the way. Yesterday it was clear and sunny, and the road were well-plowed (ploughed?), so we got from Dryden all the way here to Wawawawawa - about 800km, which is a lot better than 350km we'd managed in the previous 2 days. We managed this by driving late into the night, which meant an increased risk of hitting a moose (Moose!) but the weather and roads were clear, and the moon, although only gibbous, was so incredibly bright reflected off the snow, and the scenery that we could see was beautiful in its light, so it wasn't a bad drive! (pics that in no way do it justice will be added soon)
In Toronto I hope to stay 2 nights, so I can spend a day seeing the place. I'm also considering a day's dash to Niagara Falls, just to tick that box and save me coming back that way later. We'll see...

Monday, November 26

Election/Back on the Road/Morocco?

First: some election rejoicing: yay! And the Bennelong result (albeit as-yet-unofficial) is just utterly brilliant. We're just waiting for Howard to concede officially (again) so that McKew can claim it officially. But of course, Howard is well known for hanging on until long after he should have made a graceful exit...
Some of my favourite election opinion pieces are this one by Paul Keating, and this, slightly more vehement one.
And stay tuned

Next: I have left Winnipeg! Sadly - I was having fun there, staying with these lovely Sunday-Breakfast-Eating people:

But I have a Mission. I must get to Montreal!
I'm travelling with a guy on his way home to Toronto in a slightly dodgy dodge car. I knew it was slightly dodgy, in that he had been delayed getting to Winnipeg by a couple of days by car troubles already, but I don't mind, as I'm not in a hurry, and I much prefer the adventure to just taking the bus. Of course, we'd barely gone a hundred km (through the driving snow) when the engine started losing power and chugging a bit, intermittently.
We made it to Kenora, and decided to stop to get it fixed. There's nothing open on a Sunday afternoon, so we got a hotel room across the road from the place that will open at 7.45 in the morning, hopefully will be on the road soon after that! My current plan is to spend a day in Toronto before heading to Montreal, but I know that none of my plans are ever set in stone!

Last: Would anyone think me odd if I suddenly went to Morocco? I think I'm going to apply for that job I mentioned in a previous post. It's so very tempting. But of course, it's possible they won't give it to me, which would be one way of making me stay in Canada. I'd regret it if I didn't apply, though... The job is from January 7th to Feb 28th, and then I could either come back to Canada until June, or go live in Paris. Hmm... Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, November 24

The suspense is killing me!

It's 3am, and I was supposed to go to bed hours ago. I have plans to see an art gallery and/or a museum tomorrow, but at this rate I'll be up all night listening and reading the election coverage. My mistake was reading an opinion that said it should all be settled within an hour or so of polls closing. So I thought I'd stay for that, but of course, it's not settled yet, and now I can't go until it is! At least my blog is benefiting from the extra time...

The most amazing, exciting, thrilling thing that I'm waiting on is, of course, Bennelong. I find that I'm relatively confident about an overall labour victory, but ousting Howard not only from government, but from his own seat as well, would just be too wonderful for words. Until now, I hardly dared hope, but reports like this one from SMH: "The Labor Party's Maxine McKew is ahead of Prime Minister John Howard with a swing of 6.6 per cent at this stage with 14.9% of the vote counted." leave me breathless with antici


Blog Work

So I finally succumbed and transferred this blog to the new blogger template system thingy. I've been resisting because I knew I'd lose a lot of my personalising - everything I had spent hours html-ing for.
But I've been really wanting a 3rd column for a while, and all the how-to's I could find online dealt with New Blogger, and there were various things that suggested it was hard to add another column to blogger classic. So after spending an hour or two trying to avoid it, I gave in.
And then I spent another hour or so browsing templates, figuring that if I have to redo everything, I could change the whole look. But everything I found would have just got in the way of my own personal style. So 'minima' it is.
And now I've just spent yet another hour adding my old link lists and widgets to my sidebars. And fiddling to try to get the colours more or less the same as before. With maybe a few changes. Let me know what you think: I've added a poll - one of the things that is now much easier in New Blogger. I've also improved the 'Recent Comments' widget, thanks to this guy, and added the labels links on the left, which will actually make me use them properly. Over then next few weeks (months) I'll tidy the labels I've already got. I've found lots of other interesting things to add at some point too, but not tonight.

At least it's kept me occupied while waiting for the polls to close in Aus, and Roy & HG to turn up on triple J. I'm glad I've got a decent net connection tonight!

And here's something else I found in my blog-tip-surfing today. I've been meaning to add my NYC pics, so here they are - all of them - in an Even Better Slideshow than before.

I managed to vote, just!

I dropped my postal vote in a mail box at about 4.50 this afternoon - with 10 minutes to spare before the last scheduled pickup. If it had been postmarked later than today, it wouldn't have been accepted, which would have sucked. The reason it was so late was that I spent 2 hours trudging through the snow (ok, not a lot of snow, but snow nonetheless!) trying to find someone who would witness it for me. It had to be a minister of religion (who all seem to leave early on Fridays), an officer of the military or JP (where does one find those?), an Australian Citizen (for once, I seem the only one in town!) or a doctor. So, after trying a church or two, I was directed to a medical centre, where a doctor did agree to sign it for me - as long as I paid him $15! I was outraged at this, and refused, not surprisingly. It just seems incredibly wrong.
I finally found another medical centre, at about 5.45, and a doctor who signed it without really looking or caring, but that's ok with me. Thankfully there was a mail box right outside, as well, and I'd already bought the right stamps earlier in the day, just in case this happened.
So, phew! That's done. And with only minutes to spare. By about 4.30, I was beginning to think it wouldn't happen, and that would have been a pain.

In other election related things, I've been busy opinionating all over the triple J election blog Float Your Vote. You can see my thoughts on overseas voting here, and on whether I'll bother returning to a Liberally Governed Australia here. (At least, you will be able to when the comments are approved and appear...)

(And I know 3 posts in one day is excessive, but as I'm probably going to be travelling for the next few days, who knows when I'll get another chance! And I'll break up all this dull text with some pictures soon too, I promise.)

Friday, November 23

Election Day!

It may be only Friday here, but it's Saturday morning in Australia, and the polls will soon open for the election we've been waiting 10 years for!
I sooo hope Howard loses his own seat. That would just be wonderfully fantastic.
Meanwhile, I've just heard that my own ballot papers have arrived at the house where I was staying a few days ago, so I have to go over and get them, and post them so that they are postmarked today!
I get to vote! Yay! Although it looks like it might not matter, if the massive swing predicted happens... Still, I'm very happy to be part of this election.
Better go and trudge through the snow to get the ballot papers and send them off. You see the lengths I'm willing to go to for politics!?


I've been homeless since mid-june at this point. That's 5 months. 5 months of travelling thousands of kilometers in a bunch of different countries. I'm kinda looking forward to some stability and a flat of my own (well, sublet) when I get to Montreal. So how come I lay awake last night planning the next several countries I want to live in? And being impatient to get there?
You see, last night I went to FTW Collegiate again, the DIY educational evening that they run here. I learnt so much about the Dewey Decimal System, and also about Yoda, and also about the similarities between mathematical and political radicals. It was fantastic. After that, we went to the pub that seems to be *the* place to hang out. And there I met someone who is about to start a new job in a cafe chain store. Not exciting, you might think. Until you find out which branch she will be working at. One on a military base in AFGHANISTAN. And getting paid more than I have earnt in the last 2 years for her 6 month contract slinging donuts and making coffee.
I could *so* do that.
Although I'd probably prefer to find a teaching job. But Afghanistan sounds like fun!
And then, of course, there is the fact that I would love to go spend some time (3-6 months, maybe) borrowing Sean's life in Paris. I haven't really wanted to live in Paris before, but, damnit, despite my quebec sojourn, Sean's french is so going to be better than mine - it probably already is.
And then there's the 4 months in Kiribas that Pam did this year. I want t
o do that - AND it would be a good-on-the-resume job.
But then, what about going back to Istanbul? I've wanted to that for a while now.
And Romania? I've been talking about living in Romania ever since I was there in 2005!
And then there's africa somewhere - I could do a volunteer stint...
Grrr! The world is too big, and there isn't enough time!

EDIT: And then there's this job in Morocco, for just 8 weeks, and then this one in Algeria, for 6 months... Maybe it's not the end of the world if I don't find a decent job in Montreal...

Wednesday, November 21

Cold much?

So right now, outside, it is apparently -11 degrees Celsius or so. -16 with wind chill...
I'm not sure what the coldest temperature I've ever experienced in my life is, but I can't remember anything negative in double figures. So it's all a new and exciting experience for me.
And tomorrow, I'm going to buy proper longjohns (I've discovered that there are longjohns and longjohns, and I need the latter, if I'm to survive).

One major benefit, however: Jack, whom I'm staying with, just brought home a huge quantity of icecream from a local dumpster. And frozen waffles. In Vancouver we joked about the possibility of dumpstering icecream. Here, it's a reality... And you don't need the freezer space - just store it in a plastic box outside!

EDIT: So we went back, with the car, and there is now over 100 litres of icecream and a similar quantity of random other frozen food stuffs sitting in the back room here. And that's even after we've all stuffed ourselves this evening. Apparently, the store had a freezer break down today, so dumped all the stuff in it before it thawed. The max temp today was -4 or something, so everything is still good!
The back room here is pretty cold, as it's a sort of add-on to the house and there is a tree sort of growing into it. Unfortunately, my dollar store thermometer is only reading 4 degrees in there. A great temperature for a fridge, not so good for icecream. There are too many animals outside, and not enough plastic boxes to put it all in. This could get interesting...

Monday, November 19

Oh Canada!

I'm back in Winnipeg! And very happy to be back in Canada. And in Winnipeg, which I enjoyed so much last time.
I'll blog more when I haven't just spent 13 hours on buses. I miss the Beast! :(

Saturday, November 17

The End of the Beast

So yesterday I borrowed Brian's prius (yay for hybrid cars!) again and drove out to Avon to collect all my stuff from the beast. It was hard to do - not least because, by the time I sorted everything so I could leave, and drove the hour and half there, I only had about 50 minutes before the place closed to transfer everything I own from the Beast to the prius. This was stressful. But I managed it. I still have this feeling like there was a cupboard or something I failed to empty, but I think I got it all. By the end I was just tipping the drawers into bags to sort out later.
And now I'm sitting in the living room at the place where I've been staying, next to a large pile of everything I own, trying to decide what I can get rid of, and what I actually want to keep - and carry. I'm hoping to avoid having to post anything, but I will have to abandon a lot, I think.

To mark the passing of The Beast, here's a slideshow of ever photo tagged "The Beast" in my flickr account. You have to pretend it plays automatically and has sad and soppy music playing over it. In fact, if you want these things, click here for the pathos-enhanced version!

Friday, November 16


I need to invent a term that is even worse than ludicrous...

There is, at least, a resolution today. I'm taking the money, losing the van. The Beast Will Be No More. And they offered me a little more money for it.

Here's an excerpt from the latest email. I realise this may not be ethical, but it saves me typing the info:

the policy was sold for 3 months only to allow you (as a non resident) to get to where you were moving, 3 months is the maximum - also the territory rating on your policy should have been for out of province use, territory z, but it is listed for lower mainland use, which is incorrect if you were always intending to go outside of bc with the vehicle

So there was some doubt as to whether or not they would even cover me now! Ha! There was, of course, no mention of me not being a resident when I bought the vehicle. I had an address and was looking for a job. I was offered whatever term of insurance I wanted. I chose three months as a compromise between convenience and cost. I don't recall any question or mention of a problem if I were to to take it out of BC. And I can't believe you that taking your vehicle out of your own province makes your insurance questionable!

So, now I just have to work out how to get me and my stuff back to Canada. I'm hoping to be able to drive the hour and half to where it is today and clear out everything I can. And then bring it back here and sort through what I actually want. Which is probably not a lot of it. Maybe I should have a yard sale tomorrow - or a car boot sale, I suppose! I could advertise on Craigslist, even last minute!

So it's almost over... nearly... although I'm not planning to relax until I have the cheque in my hand, and I'm out of the US...

Thursday, November 15

I should have known it wouldn't be that easy

So I was given the wrong information, and I can't renew my insurance over the phone, because I'm not a British Columbia resident. I pointed out that I have an address in BC, and I don't have an address anywhere else, and that makes me a resident, right? Wrong. The only way to prove you are a BC resident is to have a BC drivers license, which of course I don't. Legally, I only need the Australian one and the international one for the first year I'm in Canada.
More hysterics over the phone.
That was hours and hours ago, and I'm still waiting for someone - anyone - to contact me.

Second problem: my van has not yet been towed to Minneapolis. I was looking forward to getting to see it tonight! I should have known it wouldn't happen.
The american claims and repair company with which my insurance company is now working told me last night that they were waiting on some information from my adjuster (the one who is on holiday). I was able to give them the info they required. This morning, I rang again, and they told me they were still waiting on contact from my adjuster. Something about a discrepency in the ACV. I didn't know what that was, neither did the person on the phone, but she went away to find out, and was told it was the 'actual cash value'. Something about them seeing a photo of the van and questioning its value.

The end of my tether was reached quite some time ago. I'm now way out in untethered land. Ropeable, one could say.

I wanted to blog more about NYC, but it seems a long time ago now. The photos are on flicr though, and I'll add some highlights to this blog a bit later. I have to go have hysterics on the phone again now.

Oh, and it's my birthday. Yay. I think I will move it to December 15th instead, as I don't feel like having a birthday right now!

Wednesday, November 14

I just agreed to have the Beast repaired...


  1. I just spent a weekend travelling in the old-style: Flights, airports, buses, hostels and junk food. There are definite advantages to having your own transport and taking your home everywhere with you.
  2. It would be such a waste! ok, they'll sell what parts they can, but the rest is a huge, perfectly good van that would probably end up in landfill or whatever it is they do to dead car carcasses.
  3. The insurance company will let me renew the insurance over the phone, as long as it's before midnight today (when it expires)
  4. I'm not allowed to be afraid of a couple of days driving through what will probably be very cold and possibly snowy conditions. I have good 'all-season' tires, and, while they aren't winter tires, they should do on the highways.
  5. And I'm not allowed to be afraid of freezing to death. I can always pay to stay either inside or somewhere with electricity if it's bad, although I was doing pretty well finding gas station car parks that have power outlets before...
  6. I realised that I'm not likely to do nearly as much travelling in spring without it.
  7. I'm reading John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" about his journeys in a van (a far nicer, custom built van) with his large poodle. I've only just started it, but it has some useful ideas already, mostly about the anonymity and freedom of solo van-travel, and about eternal wanderlust.
So now I just have to hope it doesn't take two weeks more just to get it back on the road...

Thoughts thunk on a subway train

The buskers on the subways in NY address everyone as 'New York'. As in "Help us out New York!" Which got me thinking. Who is New York? Should I feel included? And then I realised: for these four days *I* am New York. I am one of the cells of this huge seething organism of a city. I may not live here, but I'm as much a part of it as those who have chosen to live here (in lofts, fancy apartments, or subway stations) and the tourists shopping on Fifth Ave.
Nowhere else have I had quite the same feeling that you can be anyone, anything, and still be a n integral part of the whole. For this is a city that welcomes everyone without exception, folding them into its rich - and occasionally stained - fabric of diversity.

Tuesday, November 13

Second impressions of NYC

  • Central Park - Wow. (this was a first impression, and now a second, and tomorrow probably a third impression too)
  • MoMa - wow again.
  • The Guggenheim - my third Guggenheim, and still pretty impressive, although the current exhibition wasn't my favourite, although it made me think philosohically about photography (more about that when I have more net time)
  • I look like a local. I know this, because I get asked for directions an average of 5 times a day. Even locals ask me for directions. And I thought my new beanie, with which I am cultivating my convicted felon look, would keep people away! (pic uploaded when I'm back to my own laptop!)

More musings on the fate of the Beast

While lying awake in my 12 bed NY hostel dorm last night, I was thinking about the fate of the Beast. And the fact that staying in hostels and buying food out all the time isn't nearly as luxurious as travelling with your own space, bed, and kitchen. The Beast may have some drawbacks, but it really is a good way to travel. And it would be such a waste to declare dead a perfectly good van. Think of the environment!
I'm still thinking about what to do, but I have come up with a whole lot more arguments for keeping it. I think this weekend of flights (not my favourite form of transport) and hostels (private space is a nice thing) and pizza slices, hotdogs and an apparently fibreless traveller's diet, maybe a few days of cold and the possibility of having to do some driving in snow might be worth having the use of Beastie next spring. I probably wouldn't do nearly as much travelling without her.

Monday, November 12

NYC: First Impressions

  1. 6.30am flights are Not My Thing
  2. I broke my 'no flights this year' resolution...
  3. New Yorkers really *do* talk like that!
  4. AND look like that!
  5. The Statue of Liberty is small than you think.
  6. The subway is about as reliable as the london tube, and twice as confusing.
  7. It is a LOT cheaper though.
  8. And the people on it are nicer. I've even had a conversation!

Saturday, November 10


Today didn't start well. I didn't get the promised phone call from the insurance company this morning (I was past expecting it, anyway) and then when I rang my usual person - the one who's been dealing with my claim and whose answering machine I'm on intimate terms with - her voicemail message had changed. It said not to leave a message, as she was out of the office until THE 20TH OF NOVEMBER.
Yes. Despite pretty much daily contact with this woman, she had failed to tell me she was going on holiday. And leaving no information to anyone about anything to do with my claim. Not even the name or number of the assessor whose report we were still waiting on, despite it being 10 days since he was employed!
After a few moments of hysteria, I followed the instructions to talk to someone else, who in turn put me through to someone else, whose answering machine said she was 2 days behind in returning messages, but to leave my name and number anyway. Oh, and I later discovered that Monday is a public holiday and thus 'two days' actually means Wednesday next week.
So after a little more hysteria, I rang again, and followed different menu options until I got to talk to another real person, demanded to talk to supervisors, etc etc. Eventually got someone who was as helpful as she could be given that she apparently had no information. I also got the name of someone who would be looking after my claim from now on, and a promise (yet again) of a phone call within an hour or so (which would be after 5pm local time, so too late to organise anything to be done before this long weekend! But still, it was something).
I did get to talk to someone this evening, eventually, and it was someone who was actually helpful, and apparently far enough up the chain of command to make offers and decisions. And she's given me three offers I get to think about. Oh, and apparently the assessor finally gave them his report this afternoon. The three options now are:

  1. They will pay the estimated $1200 to repair my van (I have to pay the first $300 of that). This can be arranged and happen on Tuesday, more or less.
  2. They will give me a $1200 cash cheque, couriered to arrive on Tuesday. The van will then be my responsibility to either repair or 'dispose of' however I wish - including auctioning for parts and I'd get the money.
  3. This last one she seemed to think up on the spot while we were talking on the phone. She can do some research on Tuesday and find out what they are likely to be able to get for the van, and can then come up with a figure to offer me - possibly/probably not the $4000 it's insured for, but maybe over $3000...
So I have to make a decision. Right now, I've asked her to do the research for option #3, as the other two will still be options after that. But I still have to decide. So pros and cons:

If I repair the van:
  • I have a van to live in/use next spring
  • The Beast would ride again!
  • It's MY Beastie!
  • I would have to pay to renew my insurance before wedneday, when it expires.
  • I would have to drive through what is now 2500km of snow covered roads and below freezing max temps to get to Montreal.
  • I would have to find a place to store it for the winter, as I don't want to get expensive snow tires, and the Beast hates the cold anyway. This storage is unlikely to be free.
  • I might not want to use it next spring - the 'drive down the east coast' plan is off - I don't want to come back to the USA for a long time. I might also want to head for Europe earlier than the end of June, or be so involved in my job/Montreal life that I don't want to live the Van Life again...
  • I would have to spend time/effort/money selling it before I left the country, and I'm told the Montreal market is no where near as good as the Vancouver one, so I might not get my money back. A glance at has sort of confirmed this.
That doesn't seem very balanced... And the last 'pro' is a purely emotional one, and I'm long past being emotional over my poor little Beastie...
And then I have to decide whether or not to take the $1200, and the van, or the $3-4000 and no van. The latter seems easiest there. And well worth it. Still, I'll sleep on it, although I'm not sure how much time I'll have to think this weekend, as the next thing I'm going to do, right now, is buy a plane ticket for New York. For tomorrow morning. If I'm stuck in the US for the weekend, I may as well spend it somewhere interesting...

Wednesday, November 7


So I'm waiting for my van to be repaired, right. Or rather, waiting for the insurance company to assess whether or not it's repairable. The deer incident happened on Friday night - nearly two weeks ago. It was WEDNESDAY before the insurance company realised they might have to send an assessor to make sure it was repairable. It was FRIDAY before the assessor actually saw the van. I expected a pretty quick report - it shouldn't be that hard! But it took until today - ONE WEEK LATER - to get it. And then, just to make the whole experience perfect. HE ASSESSED THE WRONG DAMN VAN! Apparently, the holding yard where it is showed him to a green Dodge Caravan (which is a type of people mover - like a tarago). They didn't even start making those until several years after my 1979 Dodge Van was made.
(I also have to say that this isn't the first time there's been confusion over the Dodge Van vs. Dodge Caravan difference. Especially when I describe my van as a 'Campervan', or to minimise confusion, a 'camperized van')
So now I have to wait until at least tomorrow to know if I will still have a van or not. I'm a little sick of the waiting game. But at least I don't have to sit by the phone today, as I know it won't happen til tomorrow. Morning, hopefully.
At this point I hope they just write the poor Beast off, so they can fax the paperwork, give me my money, and I can be out of here. After clearing everything out and arranging for all my stuff to be shipped, of course. And then resigning myself to a 2500km bus ride...
It would be sad, of course, but if they do decide it's repairable, I STILL HAVE TO WAIT AROUND WHILE IT IS *ACTUALLY* REPAIRED.
Can you sense a little frustration in my writing? Gee, I wonder why...

Tuesday, November 6

1000 visitors

I was just my own 1000th visitor to this blog. I rarely look at the stat counter, but the round figure in the sidebar caught my eye just now. And, then, as I went away and then came back to the blog, I was my own 1001th visitor as well. Yes, that is pronounced "one thousand and oneth", in case you're wondering.

Monday, November 5

And another thing...

It's over a week since this happened now, but I didn't have net access for a lot of that time, so I just thought of blogging it now.
I had a very disturbing experience just before I left Winnipeg. It was about 5am, and I was sleeping in my van in a friend's driveway, which was in the back alley behind the houses, when someone tried to break into my van. Now earlier that day I had noticed my back doors were hanging funny, like someone had tried to open them. They aren't the most secure back doors. Although they lock together well, the pins that should lock them into the door frame in the middle are bent or rusted, and don't stand up to anything but the lightest tug. You still can't get in, because they do lock together very well, but it means I notice if someone has given them a try. That was the first time anyone had, though, I think.
So I think it was probably the same person who came back at 5am, this time armed with a crowbar, and tried to break in again. I woke up as soon as they tugged on the doors, and pulled the curtain between my bed and the 'garage' at the back of the van aside and saw a guy in a toque (that's a beanie to australians) on the other side of the window. He was just working on applying the crowbar, I think.
So I leant over and knocked on the window before he could damage my back doors any more than they already are. It was quite amusing really. He got the fright of his life, jumped back, yelled out (he must have had a friend somewhere) that there was someone sleeping in the van, along with a few expletives, and then hightailed it out of there. And I went back to sleep.

The thing is, I was supposed to be sleeping inside the house, as there was a spare room, but I was enjoying being in my own space until late at night, and decided just to crash in my own bed. I'm more at home there, as a rule. If I hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't have lost anything of value (the important things don't get left in the van unattended overnight - they aren't insured if they are, I think), but my back doors would have been damaged, which would have been a pain. I've no idea what they thought they would find in an ancient beat up dodge van. And they couldn't steal the van - it takes a good 10 minutes to warm up so you can drive it at all - probably longer in the middle of the night when the temp is below zero. It's the best anti-theft device I've seen in a car. Silly thieves.

And I've just uploaded more pics on flickr, for your enjoyment.

And I'll go back and add a few to my previous posts, just to make this blog look pretty.

The Beast with the broken nose

So this is why I've been in Minneapolis so long. I had rather planned to be pretty much in Montreal by now, and here I am still thousands of kms away.
The Beast had an encounter with a deer. An argument, you might say. I wasn't driving at the time, and it was very late at night, and no one was hurt - except the deer, who definitely came of worst in this. And the Beast, who is suffering from a badly cracked radiator and a squashed-in nose. It's all covered on insurance, thankfully, although that has actually considerably slowed down the repair process, but it should be driveable and back on the road, though probably not very pretty, in a few days. I hope. The only catch is that I have to go back to Canada for the rest of the repairs - so I think I will go via the north side of the lakes after all - I did come south in the end, but I'm already pretty sick of the US, and will be happy to get back to Canadia. Also, I didn't get a new US visa thingy, as I already had one from last time, but now the old one is nearly finished, so I'm just going to get out of this silly country as soon as I can.
One good thing, however, is that the deer incident happened only a bit more than an hour outside of Minneapolis (although even closer would have been even better) and they guy who was driving, Jack, has a wonderful family here in Minneapolis who have very kindly adopted me until the van is fixed. Jack's back in Winnipeg already, but I'm still here hanging out with his parents, which is actually kinda fun. It's just sad when I remember that poor Beastie is sitting all alone and cold a hundred miles away in a auction & holding yard full of dead autos, while the people who work there keep threatening to auction her for parts (they really aren't used to repairable vehicles coming through their gates!).

Sunday, November 4

Random thoughts

There's something wrong with my brain. I just thought 'oh, I'll blog that straight away before I forget", and then, in the time it took to open a new browser tab and get blogger up, I forgot. Damn.

So I'll blog this, instead. It's a book called 'Does God Love Michael's Two Daddies?' which some fundamentalist bigot saddled with the name Sheila K. Butt has recently released. There are two reader reviews on amazon - both well worth reading. One of the reviewers had even actually read the book!

Thanks to Slog for entertaining me with that and similar nonsense.

And now back to answering Craigslist sublet & sharehouse ads for Montreal...

Oh, that reminds me what it was I wanted to blog: I've been studying maps of Montreal to work out where I might want to live, and I've just noticed something: unlike every other city and small town I've been to on this continent so far, Montreal appears to actually use street *names* and not numbers. Not a single '24th street' have I yet found. AND a glance at a map of the city shows you that it isn't laid out in the standard North American battleships grid pattern, which, while it makes navigation a little simpler, seems to lack soul and character. I have a feeling that I am going to like Montreal. I think it will be refreshingly European, and, after 3 months on this continent, I'm kinda missing that! I wandered through the European section of the Minneapolis Institute of Art the other day, and realised that I suddenly felt more at home than I have in ages. Canada is better than the US, but I've not been entirely at ease in either place. It all just feels too American. But it seems Montreal, with its street names, language and metro system, will be quite different. And that, of course, is a major part of the reason that I chose it as my destination in the first place.

Saturday, November 3

Pearls of Wisdom

So I don't often wax philosophical on this blog, but I recently met a very interesting Sikh grandfather on a bus who spoke with such sagacity and profundity in such a lovely lilting indian accent from under his turban (or rather, between his turbans - I'd never seen a beard-turban before!) that I felt I should write down some of what he had to say.

  • The earth provides all things.
  • Be cool with the nature. Look at the nature.
  • Keep the whole world inside you, and you will be happy anywhere.
  • Novels, TV, Movies - all these things are Distraction, Diversion, Deception. They are not freedom.
  • Meditate everyday.
I'm sure it all sounded a lot more profound when he said it, but they are the major principles I remember from our conversations. And I'm not going to convert to Sikhism and run off to India. At least not yet. But I am going to make more of an effort to find yoga classes more often again. It will all be easier when I finally get to Montreal and start setting up my life again.

I must be in a particularly philosophical frame of mind lately, as I also noticed this in the PD James book I'm currently reading:

'You couldn't exorcise the past either by returning to it or by running away. You couldn't resolve to put it out of your mind and memory because it had made you what you were. It had to be remembered, thought about, accepted, perhaps even given thanks for, since it had taught her how to survive." (A Certain Justice)

I like the idea that everything that happens to you, the good and the bad, becomes a part of you, and you have to accept it as a part of you, and value everything because it is a part of you.

Anyway, I realise this is not the promised post about my recent adventures. I'll get there. Really I will. And I'll even try to upload some photos. Soon!