adventures in the far east — of canada!

The Vaterland ever calls: farewell to the last German!

In calgary, food, friends, st. john's on September 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm

At the moment of writing, I am on the plane, bound for Toronto where I shall stay for about an hour (and hopefully get something to eat…), and then off to Calgary for a one-week visit. I at last have a very long stretch of time to put towards catching up on this blog!

What a week it’s been…the trip couldn’t come at a better time. Not that I knew it was going to be so crazy busy at work. It just worked out that way.

Anyhoo (a word I am pleased to inform you has been officially added into the Canadian Oxford Dictionary!), accounts of things that happened between then and now (then being Philipp’s departure from St. John’s) may unfortunately be a little fuzzier in detail, given the amount of time that’s passed. Well, maybe only a month, but still. A sad consequence of my laziness in regards to the blog, but hey, I’m already doing something most people don’t regularly! And life’s ever interesting in St. John’s. 🙂

But enough small talk.

Weeks and weeks ago, before Thursday, August 13–an important date, because that is when my friend Jamie arrived in St. John’s for a visit–Jeanne and I would send off Philipp, the last of the Germans we met in St. John’s finishing up a medical rotation.

It was just myself, Jeanne, and Philipp, and what we lacked in people we made up for with (as always) exceptional company, conversation, and food. We went to International Flavours at my suggestion, because a friend/co-worker had recommended the place to me once as a very cheap place that runs a decidedly unconventional menu that is wonderfully tasty.

Their menu is different because there really isn’t one–you go in, and the lovely east Indian lady and owner of the place explains that the only thing you can choose is chicken, lamb, or a bit of both. Excepting the meat chosen, the generous portions of curry, rice, and various sauces were the same, and they were very, very tasty. I’d also ordered the mango milkshake, because reviews had heaped praise on that as well.

I recall that day was a very rainy but warm day. I walked there from work, and I was soaked through. Upon arrival, I was assured to find that the restaurant had earned a “Places to Eat in Canada” sticker for a certain recent year (2008? 2009?). That label always impresses me, and I see it as a great affirmation of quality food by customers who vote restaurants to the honour each year. Towa Sushi in Calgary has a collection of them, but for a restaurant that has virtually no menu, that to me is pretty cool.

Taste-wise, the food reminded me of the Afghan Restaurant, as the food is from a similar region. However, I would say International Flavours (an inaccurate name indeed, seeing that they only serve one thing from one culture) does a better job of it, and the service was much more personable–the lady was a delight to talk to! She told us about her life here, her children, and her successful little restaurant despite hours that only went from noon to 7 pm and no Mondays.

The restaurant also sold various Middle Eastern groceries I haven’t seen anywhere else in the city for fairly cheap! I bought a big jar of minced garlic and ginger for a great deal, considering grocery stores sell them separate in mini jars at about $3 or more.

In the end, we were stuffed, and dinner outlasted the downpour. After making my purchase and bidding the cheery owner a good evening, we concluded the evening with ice cream at Moo Moo’s!

Moo Moo’s was fantastic as always. There was a rum and raisins ice cream that I had to have (RUM!!), as well as something caramel, I think. Philipp ordered a fudge or something, and a wonderfully tart partridge berry (I know because we let each other try our order). Jeanne was being lame (and if you’re reading this…I ordered that much to share, dammit!!) and got nothing and would not try anything, citing the “full” excuse. Bah! I ate a lot more ice cream than I’m used to that night…

Soon enough, however, it was time to call a close to the night. Philipp had a last bus fare on his card to use up, the bus was coming soon, and so we idled the last of our time together in St. John’s at a nearby movie rental place. Jeanne wanted some brainless movie (maybe her brain was also “full!” :P) and got it, haha. Back out we went, the bus was on its way, and we said our goodbyes to Philipp and each gave him a hug…

Did I mention before how people are still leaving me all the time? 😦 C’est la vie. Again, one of these days, I want to head to Germany, and hopefully see the crew again. There’s nothing better to feed a travel bug–the promise of seeing friends again!

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Nature and a billion birds!

In friends, st. john's on August 26, 2009 at 2:40 am

Well, this has been weeks in coming…

What can ya do. It’s busy here, work-wise, chores-wise, and socially. Especially the last. 🙂 Given that people want to hang out or do something, you can bet I’ll do that. I’m certainly not saying, “Sorry guys, I have to write a blog post!”

First, it seems I was mistaken in my previous post; the chronology is that I took a trip out to Salmonier and Cape St. Mary’s before sending off Philipp. They were only 2 days apart, hence my confusion.

At a nice little house party weeks ago at Jeanne’s roommate’s (thus her own home), we met Ivan, a Newfoundlander of lovely disposition, high intelligence (med student), and a penchant for adventure. By now, he’ll either be off soon or already gone to the Caribbean to continue his schooling (med school work requires students to go several months at different hospitals, and they can be done all over the world, or something), but during then, he was enjoying the last of a break with little to occupy his time. He’s traveled a lot, and meeting myself and Jeanne (more out-of-towners, including Shannon whom he knew), declared he’d have to show us around, and would be happy to. He wanted to get out and do something himself anyway, and told us he knows the value of locals in a place showing newcomers around, so it was his way of paying it back some.

It was all very pleasant, but I must admit I didn’t think much of it. Many people say such things out of kindness, but it usually doesn’t happen. Don’t hold it against them, it’s just enthusiasm and wishful musing about the many things you can do here from a native islander…

But lo and behold, he contacts us on Facebook, and within a day sets up a trip out of the city for the coming weekend to Salmonier Nature Park, and Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. Needless to say, we were all floored, and more than a little thrilled, and we scrambled (gladly) to put it all together–bringing food for a picnic, music, determining a time, where he can pick us up… Another instance of the delightful kindness of some of the people here! I have more examples of such gestures in future stories…

Sunday (the 9th) couldn’t come soon enough for reasons I won’t get into, I packed some butter chicken, pita, and granola bars as my contribution to the picnic, was the first picked up in the morning, and headed to Jeanne/Shannon’s, where they were getting their last things together. Shannon put together a mini feast, bringing such things as cheese, ham, lettuce, a cake (that would remain uneaten, but oh well), chips, salsa, nuts, trail mix, water, orange juice, ice…we were very stocked, let’s just say! And then zoom zoom, we were soon off!

With the help of Ivan’s self-described “lead-foot,” we made good time to Salmonier Nature Park. This was a possible stop during our Irish Loop drive way back when my brother was with me in the city for a week, but it was on our way back, and it was late enough that day that it was closed. This time, we headed out directly that way, so the free part with its impressively paved walkways were all open to us.

But first…people were feeling nippy, so we snacked a bit on all our food first. Hehe, but they liked my butter chicken so much it turned into an all-out lunch! 😀 It was near enough to noon, anyway…

Jeanne juggles granola bars after lunch!

Jeanne juggles granola bars after lunch!

After returning our chow to the cooler and the car, we made our way through the looped park. Salmonier Nature Park is sorta like a much more humane zoo–the enclosures are merely fenced out of the natural landscape of the surrounding area. Sometimes it’s for the rehabilitation of injured animals; in such cases, they may be released later, or kept because many times when animals are taken in to treat, they become dependent and it would hurt them more to be reintroduced into the wild than raised in captivity. In any case, they strive to keep it as natural as possible for the animals in residence there.

Caribou pair

Caribou pair

Caribou enclosure

Caribou enclosure

Great horned owl

Great horned owl

Salmonier above us

Salmonier above us

The forest around us

The forest around us

The entire trail was well paved

The entire trail was well paved

Trip buddies!

Trip buddies!

Moose enclosure...they were shy

Moose enclosure...they were shy

Beaver enclosure

Beaver enclosure

Caught between two cameras!

Caught between two cameras!

Sleepy fox

Sleepy fox

Arctic fox, so pretty

Arctic fox, so pretty

For a long time, we didn't notice the black one!

For a long time, we didn't notice the black one!

It was not far past noon when we emerged from the other side of the trail, despite being slowed by many pictures and brilliantly bad puns. Haha, we were a delightfully weird bunch…Jeanne was woefully uncooperative in photos, we teased Shannon into a diva persona (she hosts a radio program for the University) that she gladly had fun with, and Ivan and I were just cracking terrible jokes as we walked:

“Wow, look at all this lichen!”
(us both): “I’m lichen it!”

You get the drift… 🙂

Quite pleased with the trip, we all decided to head to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve…after another snack haha. Juice, water, granola…and the remaining butter chicken. It cannot be resisted…

The trip to the Reserve was like 2 hours away, so a few of us dozed. All along the way through the trip, Ivan was also happy to stop wherever there was something nice to see and take shots of, which Shannon probably appreciated even more than I did (she took a million and two)! Did I say he was a great guy?

Between there and Salmonier, we passed this huge…yard sale, and decided spontaneously to take a look. I dunno if “yard sale” is even an appropriate term, it was so complete. It’s not an uncommon thing at all to find in the small towns here, but this lady had a whole shed decked out with the express purpose to sell things. Overflow was spread onto tables upon the lawn, or on the grass itself, and the little shed was crammed with shelves of stuff that was amusingly kitschy and often decades old. It was like a trip back in time, and everything was super cheap. Shannon bought a metal roaster and toaster oven (not the ones where the toast pops) and a handful of forks and knives for something like $5 (she “haggled” as it shoulda maybe been closer to $10, but she just named the price and they were fine with it immediately). Jeanne found a functional, bright yellow, boxy walkman, an essential for any young hipster haha for $5 or less. And I bought…mints! Yes, call me silly, but they were cheap and chewy. Mmm.

Perusing the sale shed

Perusing the sale shed

So much stuff

So much stuff

Curio

Curio

Crafty miscellany

Crafty miscellany

Super original, eh?

Super original, eh?

Junk or treasure?

Junk or treasure?

Outside the supershed

Outside the supershed

Shed's owner's home

Shed's owner's home

Carrying on towards Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, which is 1 of (I think) 4 bird sanctuaries in Newfoundland–Ivan’s seen the other 3, but not this one, so it was good to think he’s also getting something out of the trip. The place has a fantastic view of the coast, a small but decent museum…and honestly, I must confess I was a little disappointed. Was this all it was?…

Cape St. Mary's mini museum

Cape St. Mary's mini museum

Different birds, different levels on the rock...

Different birds, different levels on the rock...

Bubbled birds

Bubbled birds

Most certainly not. There was a short trail (just under 2 km) along the shore, and in the distance, you could see one of those huge rocks with a ton of birds perched on it or circling above. You could hear their distant calls…it was pretty cool.

The bird metropolis from afar

The bird metropolis from afar

Buttcrack of the world

Buttcrack of the world

A long way down

A long way down

Steep (looking back)

Steep (looking back)

We were, however, wholly unprepared for the fact that at the end of the trail, we came to within a few short meters of them!

Nearly the end of the trail

Nearly the end of the trail

Just meters away from us

Just meters away from us

Let me tell you…it’s hard to put into words. Hundreds of birds. Thousands of birds. They were noisy. They were stinky. They were beautiful! We watched bird couples smooch and nuzzle, chicks in their nests, and birds like airplanes guided by air traffic controllers wheel in circles overhead, attempt landings, abort, and whirl back up to make another circuit. They often flew very close to us, it was astounding. I took a few videos (here’s one–be patient, it’ll take a bit to load), and I encourage you to take a look at it! It is a very poor substitute to actually being there, but it is still very impressive….

Bird metropolis!

Bird metropolis!

Unbelievable

Unbelievable

We're just staring

We're just staring

Close quarters

Close quarters

Home with a view by the sea

Home with a view by the sea

Ridiculously awesome, no?

Ridiculously awesome, no?

We all came away from there awed: Ivan told us this was by far the best of all the bird reserves in the province, as you could get the closest to them here. First visit to the best of the bird sanctuaries? The trip couldn’t have been any better!

And in continuation of our horrible puns…

“So on the way back, we’ll do a quick in and out of Dildo…” And then he realized what he said.

Yikes!

Haha, but we never did manage to get there. We weren’t lost so much as we missed the exit….and it was more hassle to double back, and Ivan had been more than kind and indulgent of us, and that small stop would have been just a cheeky photo. Besides, it was getting late. I suggested a nice sit-down dinner back in town, but people were tired and wanted to save some cash. When he dropped me off, I tried to pay Ivan with some gas money, but he wouldn’t accept it–said my food was more than enough. He’s a rare kind, that one!

I thanked him profusely, and bid my friends a good night, completely satisfied with my day. I would go back to Cape St. Mary’s in a heartbeat! And given no other objectives, I’d watch the birds fly until sundown…oh, to be so free!

What the? Surely I’m not that interesting!

In internship, Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 at 1:13 am

Sorry, just a short post to acknowledge a few things and show you guys something from my blog stats…

I usually get 5-10 unique views per day. My highest visitor count was 120 something, nearer to when the blog was fairly new. It was around the time I related the disastrous roommate thing.

Days back, I was astounded to find this:

alalesto! blog stats

alalesto! blog stats

Looking at what was clicked, it seemed my Lantern Festival pictures were each being rabidly viewed by many people. Well…it’s good to know people think they’re as cool as I did! A consequence of the spike is that it really warps the typical visitor count that falls back into place after that day due to the hugely expanded scale.

Anyway, just wanted to say I’m a little backlogged with entries. What’s upcoming that still needs to be written–and these things take time and care and lots of love (especially if there’s any photos to go through and upload)–is sending off Philipp, the last of the Germans; a trip with friends to Salmonier Nature Park and Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (the last was ridiculously amazing!); and of course, my friend’s visit to St. John’s! The last will have to be several entries, because we did a lot in the city, out of the city, and flew to St. Pierre, if you recall.

My gosh, too much goes on here…

Stay tuned!

In other exciting news…it happened like the day the dinner at Hungry Fishermen took place (I just forgot to mention it), but myself and the company that day sat down to discuss my future.

The long and short of it? I’ve been extended to Christmas! And then we’ll speak again…but still! I’ve been extended to Christmas!

And–I shall be visiting Calgary in mid-September to attend a friend’s wedding and visit friends and family! Yes indeed.