Monday, February 28, 2011

Honduras - Day 2 (bodily fluid advisory)

I've got a photo album up. It's big and getting bigger (I've kept it to 70 pics so far). No dive photos, yet. And, they will probably go in a separate album anyway.

Set an alarm for 7am. Woke up at 5 to disable a fan that was causing me to be too cold. Yes I'm aware of how ridiculous that sounds what with the temperatures that most of you are dealing with. But, there was air conditioning involved! Does that make it better? Woke at 6. Too light to sleep.

After breakfast, I head upstairs to an orientation session. The first 10 minutes are a sales pitch for a company that flies people around the island at low altitude in an open-air plane. It's prohibitively expensive, so I just tune out. The only thing of consequence I learn is that anything we want to buy at the resort goes on a room tab and all the “tipping” happens at the end of your stay in one envelope for the entire staff except for the boat captains and dive master, who are tipped separately. It keeps us from having to carry money everywhere and probably encourages us to spend more than we otherwise would. Brad and I shortly leave the main orientation to begin the last of our instruction –open water.

The dive shop outfits us with our gear and we get a deal since we are paying for certification dives. Our instructor is a young woman named Alehandra. She is nice and very patient with the 10-yr-old who is also with us. But, it is painfully slow for Brad and I. I endure and think of the water as she shows us how to put our gear together (something I've done a dozen times now). She does offer some useful tips, but mostly I'm impatient.

The first dive is fantastic. The instructor complains about the cold water. The shallows feel like a bath-tub and the deep water is still warmer than any pool in Saskatoon. We walk into the water for 50m and then stop at a floating dock to put on our masks and fins. Finally we are in the water. I see a lot of seaweed, but there are fish immediately in these shallows. We slope down gently. I flap my fins vigorously and Alehandra drifts ahead of me seeming to hardly move her body and yet going forward. I try to emulate with little success.

She takes us along the head-wall nearest to Cocoview. There is living stuff everywhere. I have no idea what any of it is. Coral and sponges and fishes, to be vague about it. We are going slowly, but it is too fast. Alehandra has an agenda and is being mindful of our air supply. I want to linger at every little fish and polyp. She takes us to the wreck of the Prince Albert. The ship is covered with living things and sediment. A brightly coloured fish the size of my chest lives in one of the holes in the hull. A large Eagle Ray drifts lazily across our path. It's pale with dark spots and a fin-span near mine. Alehandra takes us to a number of places she has been that have cool little fish and crustaceans living within. At one point she overlooks some cuttlefish and gets 'inked' for her lack of observation. Embarrassingly cool.

We come back in and break for lunch. After we eat, we do some skills at the surface. It's quite windy and there are reasonable size waves. The kid, Tommy, has trouble with a number of skills, particularly clearing his mask and the CESA swim, which is basically swimming straight to the surface from 25ft, while exhaling, on a single breath of air. I find it very easy, but I've read that many people don't. The time at the surface is a lot of bobbing up and down –very much like a gentle roller-coaster. I'm not too good with roller-coasters. Sadly there is no picture of this event, but I vomited 3 times into the ocean and then felt much better. I'll have to remember to take the dimenhydrate (gravol) that I brought with me for the plane. The post-puke euphoria begins to wear off after about 10 minutes, so I head back to shore with an instructor in training, clean my gear, shower and fall asleep.

:(

Feel much better after my sleep. Brad reads while I type my journal and we head in for supper. The fare is unremarkable beyond some very nice Potatoes Anna and a competent raspberry cake with caramel sauce.

Internet continues to be dodgy, especially with everyone wanting to use it at the same time (6-9pm). It looks like we are on a satellite connection. Perhaps weather is a factor. I'm not going to complain too much yet. Wandered outside searching for a better signal and I stumbled on a lot of flapping.



They have feeders set up and the bats love them. If anyone has ever waited patiently for a solitary humming bird to show up at one of these things, you are wasting your time. These guys weren't skittish at all. I stood within a metre of the feeder and dozens of them whizzed back and forth in a constant stream –never so much as brushing my hair. It was magic. After... I'm not really sure how long I was enthralled, I decided that I didn't want to spend an entire set of batteries on this one event. Brad and I played some Chez Geek and went to bed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honduras - Day 1

Police trike in Atlanta airport
Staying overnight in the Atlanta airport. I don't dare sleep. Without a partner, I feel too vulnerable. I sit huddled with my camera bag and backpack locked together and clipped to my leg. I have a cup of coffee, pay 6$.95 for wifi access and do some writing and place a Skype call to Wendy. In the morning I through security again around 7am and then feel a bit safer. I manage to doze, though I never really sleep.

Brad arrive mid morning. We launch a failed attempt to have our seats put next to one another (after the airline messed them up when changing planes earlier in the week). We will have to sit five rows apart. Not really chatting distance on a plane, but the consolation is I get to eat breakfast with him. I'm hungry after refusing to eat yesterday, save a few wine gums and some coffee. We manage to find a place where the food looks good and the sign promises “healthy food.” There are even a few vegetarian options. It may be the worst quiche that the concourse had to offer. I hope so. It was the worst I've ever eaten. I'm disgusted, but don't quite retch. I was just trying to have a companionable meal, but I should have waited until we got to Roatan. At least hunger doesn't taste bad.

The flight is pleasant. I'm seated next to a healthy looking retired couple who have been coming to Roatan for the last 5 years. They've just purchased a home there where they plan to spend the the cold Californian winters. We have a little chat about cold. The man has a brother who lives in Calgary, so he did actually have some concept of what Canadian cold is all about. The pilot announces it is currently 84F in Roatan. Only 120ish degree temperature change from my last night in Saskatoon.

The sky begins clear, but grows increasingly cloudy. I enjoy the occasional smudge of a luxury liner skimming the ocean below or the whimsical smattering of islands that we pass over. But the landing is my favourite part. Approaching from the far side, we nearly circle the whole island on the approach giving me a terrific sense of the kind of land it is. I thought it would be sandy and flat. As it turns out, Roatan is extremely rugged. Sharp slopes and forested valleys. Nothing we'd call a mountain --Just hilly. As we land my first feeling is that this is a banana republic. I guess movies are good for something after all; They help me make stereo-typed snap judgements about places I've never before.

Roatan Airport
The runway is not in the finest of repair and our large plane bounces and totters fiercely on landing. The airport smells strongly of poorly burned fuel, but the surroundings are lush, jungley and a little wild. Varieties of palm and indeed banana are in evidence as well as many trees with which I am totally unfamiliar. Strange black birds with long tail feathers call a welcome.

The airport is small and cramped. Basically a warehouse. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in noise. The immigration staff of 4 are quiet, but there are a dozen men and women wandering about with signs and hollering for the various tour groups, individuals and resorts. It seems very chaotic. I sit by and wait patiently. Someone is there collecting people and baggage for our resort, so I just wait and make sure the pile of pink tags that represent our luggage doesn't go anywhere without us.

A single x-ray machine sits to one side –the gateway to the outside world. Every piece of luggage must go through. The screen faces into the crowd where we can all try to read the odd colours on the screen. The man in green just past the door who carries a combat shotgun lends a certain authority to the situation. However, is a tropical paradise and no one lets diligence get in the way of our vacation. Not only was the x-ray machine often unmanned with luggage just passing through for the sheer experience, but I watched as our luggage (after waiting forever for it to come off the plane) was taken to the machine, the pile and time considered by it's handler and then just pushed around the machine and out to our waiting van.

The van ride is about 20 minutes. We snake our way through the island. The streets are narrow, but not suicidally so. Motorcycles honk and pass with the entitlement of royalty. The buildings are a tumble of styles, sizes and colours. Sellers of all descriptions line the streets. We pass in and out of towns, countryside and estates. With the dense vegetation and steep slopes, it's hard to tell if we are in a village or just some sort of rest-stop. Perhaps there is no distinction.

Eventually we arrive at a dock. Another short wait and our boat arrives. Coco view is on a tiny island in a bay. Though still a bit rough around the edges, it looks manicured compared to the countryside we have just driven through. There is bare wood, rope and sand everywhere. Everyone here appears to know everyone else. I feel a little out of place, but not any more than usual. The real contrast is that everyone else seems jubilant compared to home. Why shouldn't they be. They are in a diver's heaven, have been coming for years and locals don't know what winter is. Except for Brad and I, every group from 4 to 8 individuals has a number of veterans. Some look like they've been coming since before the Coco view opened, more than 20 years ago.

We have been settled in Bungalow B. It's on stilts right in the bay. Tonight I will sleep right over the water. The view is... ridiculous. Describing it might be insulting. It's going to be easy to fall in love with the surroundings.
...with a view
Having arrived too late to start our certification dives today, Brad and I have some left-overs from lunch. There is pasta, rice and beans, garlic toast and a few orphan cookies left. Simple fare, but delicious.

A live band is playing in the common area. This is the only place where supper and the internet are available and I hope the band doesn't play too late. They are fine, but not really my taste. I can't manage a Skype call to Wendy and the girls until they stop. It gets dark early and people are going off to bed. I overhear comments about being up early and diving tiring people out. Brad and I stay up until 9:30pm playing a card game and driking Coke from glass bottles. Later, in bed, I type the days events furiously trying to capture all the flavour to send home.

Pictures are hard to deal with on my mini. I'll give you what I can when I can.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honduras-On the way out

Yes, I've been excited for the trip day to arrive. That's not to say that I haven't been doing anything. You already know that I've been battling the winter blues, as usual. One of my weapons has been walking to and from work. Recently, on a super cold, but windless day, I spotted this cloud as I arrived home. The sun was sinking and I just had time to grab Anwyn and my camera and get out to Diefenbaker hill for an unobstructed view of Mordor's poisonous fume (perhaps about to swallow the men of the west). I'm happy with the picture, but it would have been magnificent about 10 minutes earlier. I'm definitely keeping my eyes open for another opportunity at this one.

I think I was pretty much a basket case at home the whole week before departure. Wendy put up with a lot of missed sleep and a very distracted man. One night I missed about 2 hrs of sleep and had the most irritating dreams about being pushed out on stage to sing without knowing the song or choreography. I guess I wasn't feeling ready. I don't do enough travelling that I can be confident in my level of preparedness. Consequently, I spend a lot of time worrying about it. Sometimes I'm as adventurous as the little tyke I saw being pulled in his sledge.
He feels perky and really full of himself, but someone else is pulling the strings, keeping him safe. I hope all those cars don't mow him down. Thanks Brad. Thanks Wendy. I owe both of you a rather large debt.

So I'm in Atlanta, right now. It's 3:30am in Saskatchewan. Against the advice of my councilors, I have denied myself the comforts of a hotel room. Even at the cheapest I could find it would cost me $50 just to sleep in a bed --a monetary insult that I would have to suffer again on the return trip. I opted instead to strap my belongings to my leg, huddle on a chair, hook into the electrical equivalent of an IV bag, drink a cup of coffee and buy a days worth of airport wifi ($2.20 + $6.95). I've finished the Wine-gums I brought with me and the peanuts I had on the second leg of my flight have long been digested. I'm holding out for my planned feast when we arrive at the Cocoview, in Honduras. That should only be 13-15hrs from now. Gurgle.

I'll tell ya, pulling out my camera gear and setting up the gorilla pod in the middle of the busiest airport in the world during the wee hours of the morning and snapping some photos really helps me appreciate the rule of law. And, in case it isn't glaringly obvious, this is what I call fun.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back in the Deep Freeze

A little while ago I took some pictures of the frost that forms on the French doors overlooking our back yard (and many sunrises). Shortly after I made this beautiful discovery, it got dramatically warmer and all the frost disappeared. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it's back. It was -31C this morning (-39 with WC). I indulged in an hour of photography.
It's funny how you can be so focused on something and miss something even better -- even if you're staring right at it. Yeah, it's true metaphorically as well, but this morning it was quite literal. I got some nice frosty pictures as you can see. It wasn't until I started to pack up my equipment that I noticed an extra sun outside. That gave me pause enough to inspect further. To my surprise, there were two extra suns, as it were. I grabbed my camera, slipped on my sneakers and flew out the door and sprinted half a block down the alley. That was the closest I could find an unobstructed view of this spectacular phenomenon. I took a few shots and to my dismay discovered that I couldn't get the whole thing in the frame. I had a lens attached that was only capable of capturing 50mm at the widest. I ran back to the house (my hands were pretty frosty by this point), switched to my 18-55mm, slipped on some gloves and sprinted back down the alley.

The final shots were certainly worth the effort. I assume this partial rainbow was caused by some intense ice fog near to the ground dissipating low enough that the full rainbow couldn't be formed. I'd certainly like another chance to do something interesting with this weather event.

Oops. Forgot to put a link to the photo album. Here you go.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Done Another Round of Crazy--Monster Update

I have volunteered with Saskatoon Summer Players since we moved back to Saskatoon, 8 1/2 years ago. Since then, I have done West Side Story, Pirates of Penzance, Kiss Me Kate, Cinderella, and been M.C. for The Broadway Bash on 3 occasions. They should not be confused with Gateway Players (now defunct) with whom I performed in Becket: or the Honour of God, The Mouse Trap, And Then There Were None and a privately produced version of Monkey Business.

Last year I decided to try and take more of a leadership role with SSP and I allowed myself to be nominated to the board of directors. I've been acting as Secretary since then. The "on paper" commitment is one meeting per month and a second one in November for the AGM and I keep and distribute the minutes. As happens with me occasionally, things have managed to get out of control.

Summer Players has been attempting a restructuring during this last year for a number of reasons that I won't go into. The result is that there has been more work than would be usual for the board. A short term pain--long term gain sort of thing. Add to this that Gateway Players decided to fade into the dustbin of theatre history without so much 10 minutes notice. The only inconvenience here was that we were splitting the rent on the building in which we worked. We couldn't find a partner, couldn't pay the entire sum and couldn't find a suitable space to rent so we bought a property in Dalmeny. We have moved all our materials there and plan to do all our major set construction and costume storage. That still leaves us needing to rent for rehearsal, but that's not a particular burden.

Let me be clear. Compared to most of my fellow board members, I don't feel that I did too very much at all. It was still a lot more than I bargained for.

Recently I agreed to help out with our newsletter. That was a major time sink. We tried to rush it out just after the new year. I'm mostly pleased with how it turned out. If you feel like you've missed out on our musical theatre news, feel free to download a .pdf copy.

The Broadway Bash was a success this year. I wore a tux, sang Give My Regards to Broadway and acted as host for the 3 performances. Leora painted her skin green and sang Defying Gravity, from the Musical Wicked (which, btw, we are going to see this summer). I was kept pretty busy during the whole thing, so I wasn't able to produce my characteristic photo bonanza. Rumor has it that Dad shot some video, but I haven't seen anything yet (hint, hint, Mom). Sometimes practicing can be nearly as fun. Not on this occasion. I was pretty bored during rehearsals but loved performing in the show.

To top off my busy year, I have taken a permanent position at the library. Meaning that I have gone from a schedule that is completely flexible to one that is entirely out of my control. It rankles, but I'm trying to get used to it. I do get to do a few of the more interesting jobs such as, children's story time, some collection management and selecting and managing displays. It has been 11 years since I haven't been able to make my own schedule. Perhaps I crazy to have given that up. Time and my bank balance will tell.

That's about it. I've covered quite a bit, but you know that there is only one thing that I'm thinking about at the moment, anyway.

SEF-Sprouting Day 6(ish)

This is the last of the sprouting posts up at SaskEcoFamilies. At least, for a while.
All of the pictures from this blog series can be found by clicking on the thumbnail below.
Or Here, if that seems too hard :)
Sprouting Alfalfa, peas & broccoli

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

SEF-Sprouting Day 3

I've posted an entry on SaskEcoFamilies about how my little charges are growing up so big and tall. Well... they ARE growing.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Blogversification


I'm putting these frost/sunrise images here because I love them, and want to share them, but don't want to do a post just for them. Suck it up.


Onward...

Our family was involved in a research project over the fall and winter that was looking into what barriers existed with regards to sustainability and general environmentally efficacious behaviour in Saskatoon families. We were prodded by a wonderful university student and subjected to meetings with her and other families that she was interviewing. We were asked to set personal and family goals, given some money and asked to journal the process. All in all, it was a terrific process that we all benefited from.

Our part in the project is over, but one of the after effects is that those of us in the project were interested in staying in contact and chose to set up a blog to which everyone could contribute. It is my hope that we will continue to inspire each other and introduce one another to ideas to which we might have otherwise overlooked. My point being that I will be doing some blogging there. My posts on growing things, composting, or building stuff should be largely as they would have been here, only they are likely to include some repeat information and I will probably go into a bit more detail than I would here (since I won't be trying to avoid boring you).

For the time being I will just link to them from here rather than reproducing the entire post.
Like so! This one is on growing sprouts.