Wednesday, 26 November 2008

How I spent my fall vacation

Here’s what I was doing in Calgary: playing nanny to two very special girls, my great-nieces-by-marriage. I think I'm in love. This picture shows Shanna and Florianna, aged 5 and 4.

Yup, we actually have family in the country, to my total joy. Chris’ nephew Tim has moved to Calgary. Tim and his wife Marjel are both geologists. It seems to be the family profession. The very first post on this blog mentioned the severe lack of rocks in our native Holland. For the same reason Tim and Marjel have lived and worked in Scotland, Texas and the Philippines, but the most recent move brought them to our part of the world. YEAH!

Marjel has a good professional brain and she likes to use it. After 4 years doing the soccer mom thing she is back at work, so a live-in Nanny was hired as the most child-friendly, least stressful solution to childcare. Legal red tape around immigration and work permits is keeping her away till December. In the meantime grandmothers came to the rescue. I filled in a gap between her Mom and his.

Quite frankly, I was thrilled to be asked, but somewhat worried about my ability to deal with small kids. It has been a while, and I have never been what they call “good with children” that are not my own. (I wasn’t good with children when I was one either.) Tim assured me that pedagogical skills were not required, “as long as the kids didn’t run out into the snow in their bare bum”. That ought to doable.

Shanna and Florianna made the job pretty easy. The sisters are the most open, welcoming kids ever. They live in a pink little girl world rich in mermaids, fairies and princesses, crafts and music. There are NO video games. TV is limited to one hour a day, devoted mainly to the Backyardigans, a really neat creative and musical kiddie show.

This picture shows a soccer game that Floortje and I laid out for the Backyardigans in their stuffed manifestation. We spent hours acting out scenarios with them. The most complicated one involved the Backyardigans, puppets in the form of wild animals, as well as Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas' horse in Lego form, and a supporting cast of mermaids. I didn't know I had it in me. Overall, I love being "Auntie Ien"!

Monday, 24 November 2008

That Fresh Alberta Air

I have just returned from 2 weeks in the Calgary region. The trip yielded food for thought on different topics, but I'll start with some observations about the place.

The region where mountains meet prairie is stunningly beautiful. I love that sense of space you get in the rolling open land, combined with the drama of the mountains in the distance.
This picture was taken along the TransCanada on the way home from a trip, getting closer to the mountains.
From just West of Calgary they are barely visible some days and loom clear on other days.
Calgary was our first Canadian home, in the spring of 1969. At the time it had about 300.000 inhabitants and the downtown skyline was just being constructed. Now it is a booming city of over a million, sprawling out into the seemingly endless prairie space around it.

The climate is awful, but they have a lot of really nice weather. That may sound like a contradiction, but it is like this: Snow is possible almost every month of the year, but Chinook winds can bring balmy days in midwinter. You never know what to expect, but overall the sun shines a lot.

Alberta is colder, dryer, sunnier and windier than most of B.C.
We always feel the difference as soon as we cross to the Eastern side of the mountains. Alberta air has a clear, crisp, invigorating tang to it in any season.

Dare I say it? The average Albertan probably works harder than the average British Columbian. B.C. is the California of Canada, while Alberta is more like Texas North. Oil, Cattle, Bible. Not necessarily in that order and of course with endless variations.

I wonder if there is a connection between that crisp air and the more vigorous work ethic? Our small village has had an influx of fresh folk from Alberta in the last few years. Like it or not, they are making things happen. That is a whole other topic for another time.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Entering The Long Grey

Ask me how I am, and you get a weather report. I don't get clinically depressed when the days get short, but my energy sure picks up the moment the sun comes out. Winters here are GREY. The only way to keep your sanity is to make your peace with clouds between Halloween and Imbolc (AKA Groundhog Day), the dark time of the year. Be mentally prepared for endless grey, and consider every appearance of sun a total bonus.
Periods of high pressure result in blue skies for the heli skiers, but a ceiling of low cloud over the valley. Temperature inversion creates a narrow band of fog that hangs halfway the mountain. Or is it the other way around? Whatever. We call it "Flat Cloud" and it is my least favorite feature of the local climate. It makes you feel like you are in a pot with the lid on top.
It just needs a breeze to lift, but our deep valleys tend to be sheltered from the wind. The best cure for 'Flat Cloud Blues' is a trip to higher altitudes, so you get above it. I cherish a beautiful picture by Rosie of the view from a logging road high above the lake, looking down on the sea of clouds, with the mountain tops forming a different coastline. Alas, it doesn't exist in digital form.
Right now we are in the season when the snow line starts coming down the mountains. We had the first token fall on the land the day before yesterday. It is all gone, but soon the landscape will be a subtle symphony of black and white. I took this picture in mid October, on the first day the mountains started getting their winter look. Too bad about the power lines, it was just a quick shot while driving to town.
Snow makes it all brighter. So here's my firm resolution to get my lazy butt out there during the dark times, even if it is just for 15 minutes, FlyLady style.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Welcome Back, America!

If the world could have voted Obama would have won by a landslide months ago.
We all held our collective breath yesterday, and let it out with big cheer when the only country with a real say in the matter agreed to give Hope a chance. had a place where people from all over could vote. I can't find it anymore.
Canadian votes were 89% in favor of Obama, perhaps surprising from a place that just re-elected conservative Steven Harper, albeit still with a minority. Merci, Belle Province! But we digress.
Yesterday on CBC radio Diana Francis, a dual citizen who considers herself conservative in Canada, explained why she supported Obama in the USA. According to her even a rightwing
Canadian is still to the left of the Democrats. Interesting.

The world desperately needs the BEST that America has to offer. It needs the openness, the sense of possibility, the egalitarianism, the inventiveness, even the sheer exuberance and goofiness. It does not need the paranoid bully that maskeraded as USA during the Bush years.

Yes, we know, 911 really happened. Welcome to Planet Earth. The fact that you're paranoid doesn't mean no one is out to get you, and vice versa.

Anyway, America, it is great to have you back.

(Deity of Choice) bless America.