adventures in the far east — of canada!

Archive for 2009|Yearly archive page

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!


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



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!



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.


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.

Auf wiedersehen, meine Freunde!

In food, friends, st. john's on August 12, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Regatta Day had a curious effect on people. Not all, but certainly myself and many others at work.

It felt like a Monday; it felt like we just had a weekend. I called a morning greeting to a coworker, and just stopped short of asking, “So how was your weekend?” I told him what I’d wanted to say, and he told me he had just done some maintenance stuff at the studio, a procedure he only does on Monday…and then he realized that it was actually Thursday. Needless to say, it was an off day, and people were tired. I believe the coworker who rowed took a day off to recuperate.

I don’t recall if I said so, but during our discussions splayed out upon the grassy shade near the lake on Regatta Day, we did come to a decision on where to eat, with the basic goal that the Germans wanted more seafood. They tell me it’s terribly expensive back home, and Maria said she had only had lobster once in her life as a child before coming here. Once! Poor girl…

So off to the Murray Premises I went, a square courtyard I didn’t know existed that grew right off of Water Street until I set out looking for it. There, we waited for everyone to arrive, and for a table at the Hungry Fishermen on small bleachers set up around the courtyard. There was a hotel there as well, and some small shops, and curiously, a few international flags hung bordering the area’s handful of picnic tables. I wonder what that’s all about? Perhaps I’d discovered a new happening place in St. John’s…plays? Performances? I’m not sure, and no one was 100% certain either, including native Newfoundlander Angus.

Our table was ready in about half an hour, and everyone was present except Celine. Before we went in, though…

Leading up to her departure from St. John’s, Maria had a small list of things she’d wanted to do before she left, as it related to Newfoundland and Canada (even though she’s visited the country before). The other day she went to the Regatta and had maple syrup at Angus’s, but there were still a few things she missed, like seeing an iceberg. She was also set on eating moose sausage, and we were light-heartedly recounting some of these things as we got ready to head in. She was extremely mock-disappointed that moose sausage had eluded her (though with these things, I do suspect there is some real regret, of course).

And lo and behold…Philipp hands her a tinfoiled plate. She didn’t know what it was; it couldn’t be, could it?

IT WAS! Haha, she was delighted…Philipp’s roommate’s parents hunt or something, and they had a freezer full of different meats. He said they had plenty of moose, and apparently, sausage is one of the things most people like to make out of it, because it keeps well. Along with the meat was also a generous pool of mustard sauce.

She happily ate it, proclaiming another item struck off her list, and joked that it was her appetizer for the meal. Offering it around, I declined, despite not having tried any moose sausage myself…it was her moment, you know? 🙂

Inside, we chatted and waited for Celine some more, until it just got later and later. Despite the free buns and butter, we were hungry, and she was not answering her phone. Leaving a day after they were (except Philipp), they told me she had endeavoured to pack up, finish up all her own chores here, and bake a lot of treats for the hospital for her last day. She was probably still rushing about.

I can quickly gloss over the food at Hungry Fishermen. As I had said before, Karen told me most Newfoundlanders don’t go to seafood restaurants–it’s much cheaper to buy and prepare it yourself, and many have family out in the bay towns, and they can get freshly caught fish and lobster from them if they wanted for free.

It was a fine restaurant. It was priced very lavishly, but we knew that going in; however, to send off these good friends, we were all more than willing to. The food was good, but there wasn’t very much of it, and for what I paid, I could have had a whole lot more shrimp and scallop! The Germans were very pleased though, so I was, too–they had lobster bisque and a wonderfully chunky seafood chowder, a salad, and a variety entree that had a bit of a lot of different seafoods. For example, it was the first time they’d had halibut and scallops, which to us may sound weird!

Unfortunately, one of their coworkers from the hospital (from NL) had to abruptly leave–as is the case for many hospital staff, he was on call, and while they told me it’s rare after their long day, he got buzzed in and had to leave…the girls packed up his dinner (before it’d even arrived), and would give it to him afterwards.

As we concluded dinner Celine at last arrived! Actually, she’d thought the event was an hour later, and had just finished up her chores. She apologized profusely, we were cool with it, and she ordered some salad, telling us about the berry cupcakes she’d baked after picking a whole bunch here.

At dessert time, the table was too curious not to try Screech Pie, so the table ordered 2 to share…but I must say it was quite disappointing. It was a rich chocolate cake with cookie crumble bottom and tasty fruit reductions drizzled around, but what could have been (I imagine) a very subtle and successful rum accent was in reality far too strong. The flavour of the cake was ruined with how alcoholic it tasted, and we joked that people shouldn’t be allowed to drive after a slice (the not very attendant waitress had joked that we’d still be able to). I bet you the pie was flammable.

After a hefty bill, we headed to George Street! We went to Lottie’s, a place Angus tells us is very disreputable (creepy guys, crazy anything-goes), but it was a Thursday night, and they’re known for $4.50 White Russians every day, all the time. So we had some haha–Maria insisted on buying mine, because I think she felt it was her last opportunity to pay me back a little for the hospitality. I never need to be paid back for kindness, and I was putting up some fight, but I could tell it’d mean a lot to her, so… I gladly accepted. 🙂

Throughout Regatta Day and today (still), Lisa was rounding up the last signatures for Maria’s gift mug, and it was at last time to present it. They tasked my with the job of chatting with Maria until 10 to 12 or something (11:50 pm), while Lisa, Celine, and Philipp set up by a stand of trees across the street. Jeanne and Angus were still with me, and I carried on the conversation…with some difficulty! We’d spoken a lot already these past few days, and were comfortable, so there were no more getting-to-know-you-more kinda topics…so there was weather…plans and things she’ll have to do in Germany…uh….

I kept making these less than discreet yapping motions at Jeanne and Angus, who both either did not see, or did not care lol. Angus was busy, mind elsewhere with mime-drumming some live music heard from within a bar, and Jeanne later told me she just wanted to see me struggle! Maria at one point asked what I was doing. “Oh, nothing…” I rolled my wrist to the flow of the music (as you would typically do with an index finger), and bobbed my head more. Haha.

At last, we were retrieved! And Maria was surprised with a mini cake (more a cupcake) impaled with a handful of candles, but only a few were lit (Lisa was having a lot of trouble in the wind). There was also some champaign that Philipp brought, and her gifts arrayed around the set up, and they sang “Happy Birthday” in German, and us in English.

And then all too soon, the night was over…the rest of us had work to return to the next day, and Lisa and Maria’s separate flights were both long; one even had a stopover in Ottawa for 10 hours! Yes, it’s true–flying somewhere from St. John’s is tough, and usually ends up with you flying away from where you want to go for a distance (if you’re lucky, the shortest delay is to Halifax), and then flying to your destination…and on the way traveling back over St. John’s! It’s not a huge enough city that all the big destinations go there, so you connect via cities like Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa.

Alas I did not bring a camera that night–forgot! Hopefully I will receive some pictures from the others soon.

Well, it’s really no matter–honestly, thinking back, I still hold onto the memories closely and gladly. We only knew each other all briefly, but as we hugged goodbye, I think we all felt we’ve become good friends. It was sad to see them go, and indeed my plans to one day visit Europe seem that much more urgent, with something more to look forward to than just discovery and adventure: meeting old friends again.

Auf widersehen, meine Freunde. We will meet again some day!

Regatta Day, 2009

In culture, friends, lingo, st. john's on August 10, 2009 at 11:58 pm

After some uncertainty about whether Regatta Day would go on Tuesday night (August 4)–in fact, that was why Jeanne and I retired home earlier from the bars on Water Street (not George Street this time–it was the last day of the George Street Festival, so entrance would’ve come with an all-inclusive $15 cover), as neither of us had a lunch ready to go if we did have to go to work, and she was going to help sell shirts at the event at 9 am. To be safe, we left downtown not long after midnight, after taking in a weekly quiz event at the Rose and Thistle, where teams of up to 4 answer 30 trivia questions; winning team gets a $50 bar tab, and the team with the best name gets 4 free rounds of shots. There is no fee to play, so why not, right?

It was only us two that we could quickly scrounge together (the plan to hang out after work was a same-day email she sent, “Want to hang out?”), but we didn’t do too bad…something like 14 or 16 out of 30. The winning team had…20 or 21 correct answers or so. If we tailored our team a little better, I’m sure we would have been much more competitive.

Questions are general knowledge, history, pop culture, entertainment, science, and so on. One question I was quite pleased with was “Which burger chain created the famous ads with the slogan, ‘Where’s the beef?’ ” Okay, I admit I struggled between two answers (Wendy’s and Burger King), but I got it right in the end by trusting my gut, which had instantly responded with Wendy’s! before the question even finished. Another good one was something about naming 1 of the 2 nuts featured in the Bible…there were some grumbles–I guess we were all pretty irreligious–but the host was good fun. During the answer, he said, “Okay, you only need 1 of the 2. You could have put down…religious.” (Religious nuts, har har). After some laughter, he amended that it was actually pistachios, and something else I don’t recall.

After that, we went next door to The Grapevine for some free live music. That place is lounge-y, classy, and the music was mellow. We had a drink each, bumped into Jeanne’s roommate Shannon and her beau, hung out some, and then called it a night. There was talk about rain Wednesday, and I hoped not, with the lunch thing and going to bed early…

Weather permitting, Regatta Day is a unique holiday for Newfoundlanders every first Wednesday of August. By “weather permitting,” I mean that if it rains, it is announced in the morning on radio and TV and such that Regatta is postponed, and everyone grumbles and goes to work. That continues until a clear day comes along, and Regatta Day goes on, and most everyone gets a day off. It’s the oldest continuing sports competition in North America, and teams of all men or women rowers train intensely for a chance to win some medals. It’s held at Quidi Vidi Lake, where I took in the Canada Day fireworks.

Well, Regatta happened! I rushed off early in the morning to get there by 9 am–a coworked of mine was on a team, and her boat of racers were long pegged along with another to be the competitors to beat. The best teams race early in the morning; in the evening, the top 5 then race for the championship, so as to give them the most time to rest as possible.

I met up with Jeanne on the way there, but sadly, I missed that first race by a few minutes. 😦 Still, I was there to speak with my coworker, run into some other Target compatriots, and hear the results; their boat finished second at 5 minutes, 4 seconds or so. She and some others told me some cool Regatta facts…that the women’s record time is 4:58, and most years, the best womens’ boats come in at 5:10 or later. So this year, they were doing very well…granted, they were beat narrowly by the other boat, but this wasn’t the finals yet. It’s always a possibility that teams hold back some for the big race…

After some chatter, I left them and Jeanne to her shirt selling, and wandered around the Regatta grounds around the lake. It was like a fair ground…vendours selling pretty much everything, some charities present, fairway games, some minor gambling, a billion food stalls, some basic thrill rides, bouncy castles for the kids…it was like a mini-Stampede. After taking in a few races and having some delicious lunch at an Indian food stall, I headed home. My coworker’s race would be at 7 pm, and Maria and I had made plans over email earlier to meet there later in the afternoon. Retreating inside the house (it was a stiflingly hot, humid day), I did some chores and was soon contacted by–surprise, surprise!–Angus, a great guy I met at the CouchSurfing bonfire last month! He and Maria were at the Regatta, and making some arrangements to meet, I headed back out.

…after first talking to my new roommie (first arrived late Tuesday night), the probationer/druggie replacement. The guy’s sane, thank goodness. That’s all I have to say about him, really, a normal guy, which is fantastic haha.

Anyway, after much confusion as to where we were, I met up with Angus, Maria, Lisa, Celine, and Philipp. Jeanne was still selling shirts until 6, but I spoke to her while I waited for Angus and Angus waited for me, both of us hidden from view from each other probably not even a hundred meters apart. We all hit it off again, hung out, etc. etc.

We soon retired to a shady patch of grass away from the crowd a bit…it was getting even more disgustingly hot, and we wanted to make plans for a farewell for Maria, Lisa, and Celine; excepting Celine who would be leaving Saturday and Philipp next week, they were going back to Germany early Friday. 😦 It was also Maria’s birthday Friday…but here’s the funny thing. On Thursday, it would be a day before her birthday here in Canada…but in Germany, it would already be Freitag, them being a day ahead. So wouldn’t it be her birthday in normal circumstances? I dunno.

While we lazed around the grass, Lisa quietly took each of us aside to sign a lovely gift they’d bought for Maria. It was a ceramic coffee cup, in the shape and form of the disposable Tim Horton’s cups, but with a resealable rubber lid as well; she told me that in Germany, they had no such cups for coffee! Weird, eh? So we all signed it, they had drawn some Canadian/Newfoundland pictures on it both as jokes and best memories, and it would be sealed later so as to become permanent.

In a random tangent, we also spotted a funny spider walking in the grass–it was noticeable because of bright red somethings on its back. It was not part of its normal colouring, but looked like giant, bright red orbs stuck to the sides and back of the spider. Looking closer, we figured it had to be mites…but man, those were big mites! I mean, proportionally, it would be like six or seven monkeys on your back…it was kinda gross/sad.

Anyway, Jeanne joined us after 6, and we chatted some more/watched races until near 7 pm, when I insisted we go closer. Sitting by the lake with our bare feet dipped into the deliciously cool water, we watched my coworker’s boat finish……………………….second. 😦 Oh well, they gave a good chase!

And what do you know, we bumped into Whitney, the CouchSurfing member whom I attribute my explosion of friends to, along with the Australian with the yummy bread at the bonfire, and a few of their friends! Together we all caught up, and watched the last championship race, the men’s (who have longer races, clocking in times of around 10 minutes).

After the last race, the bright sunny day very suddenly gave way to a mass of dark clouds blowing in…it couldn’t have been a better closer! We took our leave from the other CouchSurfers, Celine and Philipp also headed home, but the rest of us stayed for Angus’s invitation to hang out at his place.

In conclusion regarding the Regatta Day event…enjoyable, but not amazing. The races were neat to watch, but I doubt anyone watched them all, and the fair grounds were, as I said, just like a mini-Stampede with no giant rides. Great excuse for a day off, though, and it was really well attended–the radio said that it often draws in excess of 50,000 people. Think about that for a second–remember how many people St. John’s has? A little over 100,000. That’s right–nearly or over half the population at one place! Incredible.

This year, there were 18 races…but I was told last year, there were like 30 to 40. And years before that, even approaching 100! They were lamenting the decline of rowing, the rising cost of entry, and the need to interest youth again. Yeah, I can totally see how it could be a much more exciting and fast event with like 80 races in one day! With only 18 races, 2009’s Regatta Day races were usually set a lengthy 30 minutes apart.

Backtracking a bit–while we spoke on the grass, the Germans expressed a desire to eat seafood for the farewell dinner. There was a suggestion to cook it, as it would be cheaper, but no one had a big enough place to host everyone. There was also talk about going to the Thai restaurant, but I killed that by warning them against that…and asserting that if they wanted to try out some tasty Thai green curry, that I’d be happy to show them what it’s really supposed to be like! This is relevant, because I offered to go home first, and bring to Angus’s some of my cooking–a lovely rich and spicy brocolli, onion, and goat cheese soup, and the aforementioned Thai green curry. While I retrieved that, Angus would prep some rice.

The dinner was a hit! 😀 I love feeding people, and they loved the food! We chatted for ages about some brilliant and random things, Angus shared some chewy cookies and wine and I shared some of my spiced rum, and the Germans tried some real Canadian maple syrup with his crackers! We had to round out their final experiences in Newfoundland, see.

Angus also educated us all on some more Newfoundland lingo! He showed us some old “grammar worksheets” he made a while ago for fun with Newfoundland vocabulary and grammar. I shall share what I remember…I reminded him today that we’d love some scans!

World’s shortest conversation:
(A fisherman yells to another returning from the sea): “Arn?”
(He replies): “Narn.”

Isn’t that great? Back in the day, “Arn?” meant, “Did you get any fish out there?” or thereabouts, and “Narn” meant “Nope.” In the case that fish was found, it’d be a fuller reply, I imagine, as both words sound so similar.

Mealtime confusion:
in Newfoundland can mean lunch…but it can also mean the evening meal, supper.
Supper here always means supper, however…
…but both of these words are used! So if someone asks about dinner, they could either mean lunch or supper. I joked that if I were invited to dinner, I would in all likelihood arrive 6 hours late!

Newfoundland “conjugation”:
Add -s to all verbs. So you’d say, for example–“Yeah, I likes it,” “Yes, I sees it,” and so on.

Newfoundland terms of endearment:
Me love
or m’love is for men to women who are strangers
But you may call friends a trout, duck, or ducky, usually preceded by “me,” “my,” or “m’,”–m’trout, my duck, or m’ducky. Angus said you can certainly mix it up by saying something like, “Me ol’ trout.”

So in review of this lingo and previously covered lingo, I ask any readers–Where’re ya at, m’trouts? 🙂

I can once again walk through the streets unmolested!

In st. john's on August 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

What I mean is, of course, that the spanworms are done their cycle! I think they have now, for a week or more.

I suddenly realized I no longer had to watch where I was walking, or look up at trees and their overhanging branches suspiciously.

Now, there are these delicate white moths everywhere…

I make it a point to destroy them when they’re around, just out of spite. Who knows, maybe one of them was once one of the worms that so annoyed or crawled on me. I’m only slightly evil. 🙂

Me, currently

In food, friends, internship, me, st. john's on August 4, 2009 at 2:30 am

Introducing a new category of posts: “me”! Yeah, it’ll be about me, a little more personally, rather than just my musings and observations of events and life here in St. John’s.

Firstly, weekend wrap-up: yes indeed, it was a good one! George Street Festival on Friday with the lovely Germans, which amounted to much chatter to catch up, some drinks, and some dancing. This took place in a few bars and pubs, because during these big events on George Street, it’s sectioned off, and to enter, you pay $15–but this is cover for all the bars on the entire street! On a normal night, there may or may not be cover at pubs, depending if they have performers or events, and it usually ranges from $5 to $10 and above. Of course, that’s just only one establishment…if you wanted to check out the entertainment elsewhere, you might have to pay another cover. So, the George Street Festival and any other similar big events are a great deal.

Before Jeanne and I met up with them, we had dinner at Zapatas. It was Mexican cuisine, and it was rather bloody tasty. We were going to have the supper with Maria, one of the Germans, but in the medical field being on call is pretty rough and demanding, so she just couldn’t get off in time, even though she planned to.

Anyway, it’s another restaurant that gives free stuff! Free homemade (or at least it seemed like it) tortilla chips, extra thin, very ungreasy, and definitely homemade salsa that the waitress gladly refilled for free. Good stuff.

You know, it’s the first time I’ve actually eaten at a fully-fledged, self-identified Mexican restaurant. You know, everywhere has like tacos, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas, and such, but here was a restaurant whose menu gave some history on the revolutionary hero Zapatas, whose interior was decked out with lovely Mexican art and wall paintings, and the background music added to the ambience.

I had their beef chili–super amazing, sweet, spicy, cumin-y and thick, but you know, it actually proved something else for me–how good The Sprout’s vegan chili was. Minus the meat, that chili was very similar, so I appreciated that day at The Sprout even more!

I had a thick enchilada with a twist, as it had a bunch of Newfoundland seafood like shrimp, and it comes with a dollop of more chili, some rice, veggies, and beans/lentils on the side. Topped with sour cream and a generous heap of homemade guacamole, it was pretty heavenly. It was hot, I sweated as much as I ate, but we had a great meal. I helped Jeanne finish hers, because she wasn’t going to package it, and take it around with her to George Street.

In short, I’d go again.

Anyway, afterward we met up with the Germans, and they filled us in on their Gros Morne trip (jealous!), and their capelin encounter (jealous!), which Jeanne also had. I was so determined to see the capelin roll in when I learned about it maybe last month, and I may have missed my chance this year. 😦 Some of my co-workers saw it too, and gushed the awesome experience to myself and another coworker friend (“WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL US?” we demanded), just as Jeanne and the Germans did.

Basically, every year near the end of July or in early August, small capelin fish (sound familiar? Their roe is the mini orange fish eggs you can typically find in Japanese sushis) come to spawn in the thousands on the shores of Newfoundland. As far as I know, you can only see it here. They roll in for a few days in hours, and people await sometimes with barbeques or fires by the shore and bring nets or buckets; just dipping it in the water will net you hundreds. Maria told me they caught like 240, and have over 100 left after some major fish eatin’, and I’d be welcome to it if I like. It is a generous offer, but I’m more interested in the experience.

These capelin are destined to spawn and then most of them die, washed up on shore to dry or snapped up by birds. So no, it makes no difference if people catch them, and indeed it is an annual event for many. They are eaten cooked whole, dried, dried and salted, or smoked, and are usually available in grocery stores here (but this is free!).

Anyway, one of my friends at work gushed her amazement: how the water in buckets used to catch them seemed to boil, because they were so full of darting fish, how going knee-deep in water was so ticklish with the silver swarm of capelin thronging you, and Maria told me how she caught 10 just by sticking her hands in the water and bringing them up! Oh man, I can’t believe I missed this!! The season may be over now…

On Saturday, myself and that other coworker friend tried to go see them at around 2 pm…we could see three little masses of them in the distance (“boiling” water, and birds were diving down to eat them), but they didn’t come ashore. She brought a friend and the friend’s mother, and they got impatient, so we left. 😦 I needed the ride back, but I betcha they did eventually come in (I read more about it–best time to see it is generally during high tide, which was like past 5. I woulda gladly waited).

The Germans have been rushing to do and see as much as possible here, because they leave Friday! They’re pretty heartbroken, having had so much fun and met such friends, and I’m just as sad to see them go. I will be joining them for a farewell dinner Thursday.

Meanwhile, I’m on a similar mindset, because I don’t know what the future holds for me (but dammit, I missed the capelin!). Will Target keep me? All my plans kinda hinge on that–if they’d like, I’d stay, if not…well, time to uproot and return. Whatever the case, I’d like to know sooner rather than later…and either this week or next, I’m supposed to meet with the creative director and at least one of the art directors or writers to discuss my future. Yikes!!

Saturday was a house party at Jeanne’s and her roommate’s. Met some nice people, the coolest being a guy insistent that he could show us some of the things a little ways outside the city such as Salmonier, because we had no car and Jeanne’s due to leave in August… Argh, I’m going to have to deal with another round of people leaving soon!

Sunday, a plan to go sea kayaking with the Germans sadly fell through for me, much to our mutual disappointment. We’re running out of time!

Okay okay, back to the “me” part, the deep dark secret stuff you’re privy to only if you’ve read this far (good for you!), or just skipped ahead (tsk). Actually, I was editing one of my former instructor’s work, and went to something she highlighted,

Taking it, I recalled I’d taken it before in the past, and that it was eerily accurate for whatever reason. I wondered whether results changed…you know, as you progress in life, maybe it picks up different things, reads into current situations?

Well…let’s just say I was a little spooked by the results. All very true…and all from me choosing the colours I liked the most right now two different times?! Thought I’d share…and provide commentary. Because I feel some things, read alone, might make me seem not so great, and I don’t want anyone to be concerned, and you kinda need to live my life to understand stuff, haha. Nah, no deep dark secrets (that was just a hook), but it is more personal, if in an abstract way–because gosh knows, I don’t write about absolutely everything I do or go through here, and no one should assume so! There’s blogging, and then there’s diary material, and while I don’t keep a diary, I never think it’s cool for anyone to record such material in such a public format.

But enough blabber. My results:

My Existing Situation
Desires to be respected by others in order to gain their trust and support for his own personal gain.

Well okay, yeah. Since day one at work, I’ve consciously worked very hard at proving myself and my skills to both earn respect and trust (to get more advanced work and duties), in the hope that I can continue. So yes, it’s “personal gain,” but the wording sounds incredibly selfish when all I’m guilty of is desired career advancement.

My Stress Sources
Feels empty and isolated from others and wishes to overcome this feeling. Believes life has more to offer him than what he has experienced thus far, and doesn’t want to miss out on anything. He purses all his goals and dreams, fearful that any missed opportunity will cause him to miss out on even more. Quickly becomes an expert in any field he pursues and can sometimes come off as overbearing and nosy.

This is really evident–couldn’t you tell from my angst at missing the capelin?! lol…kidding aside, most people know I value time highly, and that I don’t know where I’ll be when my 3 months are over…I want to see and do as much here as I can if I may have to leave!! I’m all about efficiency…totally, that’s how I think–if I miss out on x, maybe I’ll have missed out on y, who knows? Everything’s a chain of events.

And yeah, I’m young yet, I totally believe life has more to offer than what I’ve done and seen thus far (at least I hope so), I haven’t been around for long. As to being overbearing and nosy, I really try not to.

My Restrained Characteristics
Current events leave him feeling forced into compromise in order to avoid being cut off from affection or future cooperation.

Indeed. Hard to explain. I plan for the future, and don’t prefer cutting anything off–what if I realized later it was useful, worthwhile, or important after all? As I said, chain of events. Generally, I don’t like being boxed in, I like my options and doors open, and this pertains to both how I relate to people and opportunities.

Emotionally demanding and will involve himself in close relationships but won’t get too involved or give too much of himself.

Agreed. I demand emotionally because I feel I give a lot…to make others happy, make sure they’re okay, etc. I often feel I put more into others than into myself. So please, I demand you don’t be angry or depressed around me; not that I’d be very irritated, but because you’d drain me in my efforts to make it more bearable for you somehow. As to the last, I’m terribly empathic. If I latch onto someone, I’ll essentially share every pain, disappointment, and worry. I need to keep a little distance until I’m sure of a few things.

Is feeling emotionally drained from stressful and tense situations. He is in need of peace and quiet in order to overcome his lack of energy and may become irritable if he does not recover.

It’s another work thing. Not stressed per se…but I’ll tell you my efforts are having an effect. I have more work and responsibility than ever haha, but if anything can be gleaned from my work posts, I’m having a blast. My peace and quiet time is weekdays, there aren’t many events as they’re bad times for everyone. Haven’t become irritable yet.

Feels he is not receiving his fair share and is unable to rely on anyone for support or sympathy. He keeps his emotions bottled up, leaving him quick to take offense to small things. He tries to make the best of his situation.

All true. I just said I sometimes feel on an uneven place in terms of emotional support, didn’t I? I’m always Mr. Sympathy, and I’m fine and happy to be that–but sometimes I have to wonder, where’s my support? I do take offense in little things, because I am personally very mindful of my words and actions; people who aren’t are reckless and often disrespectful, and often need to grow a brain and some sensitivity. I ask very little of people and anything I seek is usually very minor; I admit then, that I am sometimes galled when it is refused (mental reaction: “I’d totally do it for you no problem, anytime!”). Lastly, I always, always make the best with what I have.

My Desired Objective
Feels hopeless and depressed and looking for some relief. Wants to feel safe physically and emotionally and a chance to recover from the depression that he feels.

Not depressed. Just need the relief of knowing what’s to come in my near future at work. Rest is true.

My Actual Problem
Fears he will be held back from achieving things he really wants, leading him to search endlessly for satisfaction and become involved in activities which are pointless.

Same deal–all true. What I want to achieve is the start of a career I love, and I’m afraid of being held back, yes.

My Actual Problem #2
Feeling held back and restricted from moving forward, looking for a solution that will give him more freedom and less obstacles.

In closing, I only feel this way by not knowing what’s to happen at work. With more experience, I’m told I may be able to work anywhere–a great freedom.

Well, how creepily accurate was that? I guess you can only take my word on it: whether in-depth or glossed-over in detail, it is very spot on.

The forecast: an incredible weekend?

In st. john's on July 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm

All you need to know is: the George Street Festival began Thursday, and will continue until Tuesday. 😀

I have lost the Wii-mbledon

In internship, st. john's on July 31, 2009 at 11:41 am

That is all.

Wait–no, I can say more than that…

It was against (currently) the only other art director in Creative (we’ll be getting another Monday); we smack talked each other. At this point–the quarter finals–the players are actually good. In my defense, haha.

Dax blitzed me with power serves I could only return a few of, and when I blitzed him back with power serves, he could typically return them competently. If we rallied, he’d eventually send it to unreachable corners or sides. So, it was a good, skilled loss. 🙂

It’s unfortunate I couldn’t get the extra day off, but now there will be an epic semi-final matchup between Dax and the other best player, Chris. See at this point, only the young people are left, guys and girls.

Our department has done very well overall in the Wii-mbledon. In the quarter finals, of 8 pairs, half of them–2–were from our department of 9. Everyone else is their own department, a big mix.

Creative naturally seems to excel at games whether the people had experience or not, and despite the huge majority of ladies here, the guys have done exceptionally.

This week has been just full of laughter! I’m downstairs, and everyday you can hear people hooting and cheering as they played or practiced the game, with typically a small crowd watching. It’s so great people are having so much fun…

So much fun, in fact, that the Social Committee is already talking about a possible, upcoming Wii Bowling Tournament! 😀

Board games!! And the Target Wii-mbledon

In calgary, food, friends, internship, st. john's on July 29, 2009 at 12:33 am

On Sunday, Jeanne and I went out to a late lunch (we stayed up far too late the previous night at Mercy, the Sexton’s gig) at Get Stuffed, a lovely little restaurant (classy, lounge-y interior, plushly plump seating) that served brunch.

Afterwards, we were due to meet a couple I contacted via Board Game Geek, yet another community I’m a part of. I’ve been there a goodly amount of time, exploring the immense world of hobbyist board gaming (we’re not talking about Monopoly or Life, here). I’ve got a decent collection of games myself (say around 20 titles), and back home in Calgary, I played them with my brother and various friends. It’s such a great hobby–board games may seem so trivial, but it really brought a lot of my friends closer, because of the shared social experience beyond trying to kick their asses. 🙂 It was a regular-ish thing, and I think we all looked forward to it.

Obviously, moving to St. John’s diminished my games group–or rather, obliterated it altogether. And it’s fairly apparent that it’s not really a huge thing in St. John’s–not that it was a huge thing in Calgary (or in most places, I imagine), but it definitely had a presence. Here, there is little more than a whimper.

Through BGG, I contacted a user based in St. John’s. We corresponded via email some (she was actually not in town for a while, before moving back in preparation to go back to Memorial University), and at last, with her and her boyfriend’s return to St. John’s, a meet was scheduled Sunday. And they’d even give us a ride, too!

I’d coerced Jeanne to come, so there’d be another player, and she was curious, anyway. It was supposed to happen 1 pm, but let it be known that Get Stuffed is a rather slow restaurant. However…to their credit, their food was delicious.

I had a Get Stuffed Omellette–I have this theory that any restaurant that has a dish named after themselves (not entirely uncommon) that it has to be pretty amazing–because it would be stupid to associate a dish so closely with your own name if it sucked. I was proven right–I’m not sure I’ve had a better omellette, or more tasty hash browns!

It was a beast that looked more steak than egg, and it was filled with leaks, artichoke, some salami that had a special name, some sorta great cheese, onion…I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Such are omellettes, though, so mixed up it’s sometimes hard to separate. In any case, it was so very fluffy, moist, juicy, and savoury. The hashbrowns I would describe more as potato cubes, baked with their skins still on, and they were seasoned expertly. Where very often you would have ketchup or something with such fries-like things, to spoil such grandness here was out of the question!

Jeanne had a masterful seafood chowder (of course) and a pulled pork sandwich that was marinated very well–you could plainly taste the cider vinegar it described in the menu, it was juicy, and there were two! There was also a fried pickle, a thing that puzzled both of us, and we concluded it must be a Newfoundland thing.

After brunch which I took care of (she’d paid my cover and a few drinks for me the other night), we got picked up at 1:30; Daisy and her boyfriend were lovely people, and were as excited about playing some board games as I was!

We ended up playing like 7 hours worth, haha. There were some breaks where we fooled around with their 2 ferrets as well–so cute!! They’re like…furry slinkies, so flexible. They’re quite playful as well, and so soft; the girl, Kaylee, was practically obsessed with the Pooh Bear toy she had, and she brought it along everywhere, snuggled with it in a small shelter, and would dutifully fetch it back every time Flint, the other ferret, stole it. We’d sometimes take it and it could be used to steer her, she would just not let the thing out of her sight!

We played Aquadukt, Animalia, Ys, and Cuba; the first two were gateway games (easy to learn, easy and quick to play, meant to ease in new players or those new to hobbyist board gaming), and the last two were deeply strategic games that were new to everyone, because they had a backlog of titles they still haven’t tried. Between them, their collection of board games numbered over 200 titles!! I was much impressed, and I’d like to try as many as I can…

Because it would only bore you to get into details, lemme just say Ys and Cuba were both pretty cool. I’ll have to make note of them…this will be a great way to expand my own collection, eventually!

We finished the day in great spirits, and they urged us to do this again. Better yet, I found out they were huge fans of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books (Mark’s favourite–I also cite them as my favourite all time novels, as well), and they’re both big fans of the show Battlestar Galactica. Oh my goodness, I was in heaven–geek-splosion! I’m so glad to have made these 2 new friends. 🙂

In other short news, at work, we’ve begun a Wii-mbledon Tournament. Haha, you guessed it–Wii Tennis! A round robin has been set up, and I’ve won my first match to advance. The ultimate winner…gets a vacation day!! I’m very determined; my friend will be in St. John’s soon, and I have off 4 of the 5 days she’s here. This is my chance to get that 1 missing day!

But I gotta say, the competition may be stiff–the guys here, few as they are, are pretty intense at the game. On Monday after work, I spent an hour in the office practicing. Will it be enough?? I may need more practice to beat them confidently…I can’t afford to mess it up. I’ve asked various friends to give me tips, tricks, and strategies, and they have been more than obliging (one even sent me a video of his technique!). In my hour of practicing, I found value in all their collected wisdom.

I can do it fairly often, but if only I can perfect the smash serve 100% of the time….

Wish me luck!