adventures in the far east — of canada!

Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

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

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!

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:
Dinner
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? 🙂

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, www.colorquiz.com

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.

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!

Pure magic (“ALALESTO!”)

In culture, food, friends, st. john's on July 27, 2009 at 2:17 am

Saturday evening, I went to the Lantern Festival at Victoria Park.

The event began since 2 pm, but I was exhausted Friday night (Jeanne and a coworker friend of mine went to see Orphan at the theater–a rare, decent horror flick, and Esther may become the new, evilest child to beat in the genre), so I slept in, and had a sloooow day. I did some chores, cooked some, and finally decided to go at around 8 pm. The march or procession was slated to begin around 8:30 or so, and it was a little over half an hour to walk to. Thankfully it was a cool night, some light drizzle had stopped so the march would go on, and so I trekked it happily with camera in tow.

In short, it was gorgeous, and the lanterns were utterly enchanting! I took 3 million and 8 pictures. Or so.

But first, some background. Friday, I was also helping Jeanne put up posters for the event around town; she was volunteering, and so would be there all day Saturday. Prior to the event, there were a number of free workshops around the city where you could go in and learn how to make a decent lantern, which she and a friend of ours did. I must admit–I did not do it because I thought it’d be lame. My first instinct was that it was for children, a silly bit of amateur craft designed to make you feel good about the project, satisfy the kids and their parents. A cynical view, I know, and one I regret…

Tangent! St. John’s, a small city with 10x less population than Calgary (fast becoming a favourite comparison of mine), is far more open-minded and liberal in its attitudes. See, this is counterintuitive for me, albeit in a delightful, welcome way: I’d always generalized that the bigger the urban centre, the bigger the mix of people, cultures, and lifestyles. With enough people, any minority will still number as a large group, making them not so alien, easier to relate to, encounter, and learn from. It works the other way of course–very few people will dispute that in very small towns, folk tend to have very limited experiences and be ultra conservative, and be much more likely to be racist, religiously hardline, and homophobic.

Here, however…as we put up Lantern Festival posters, we noticed there were Pride event posters (it was Pride Week here in the city until Saturday or Sunday) listing every event around the city, its venue, time, and without any vandalism. These existed right alongside other posters advertising bands, flea markets, dances, shows, etc. This may not seem significant; perhaps it is an isolated event.

But I doubt it. Karen told me about her friend or something who used to live here, a straight dude who supported the community and either put a mini rainbow flag on his truck, or a mini rainbow sticker. He never had a problem here…but then he moved to Calgary. And suddenly, he would sometimes find his truck tires slashed, the windows cracked, the paint scratched, and his siding spraypainted on; the last, she said, is a startling indication of vandalism done by younger people–it just can’t be 30 or 40-somethings or older running around with spray cans. After the guy quietly endured some of this, she told him, “Stop, it’s not worth it–it’s nice you support the community, but it’s not worth all the damage you have to pay for.” So he stopped.

Sorry, why is this important? Only recently have I become more or less certain my renter and her best friend are a couple, and so have a vested interest in the community. Tracy even told me outright that people here are very good with this stuff, and she feels safe. That’s when I told her it was too bad I couldn’t with any confidence say it’d be the same way in Calgary…

The longer I live here, the more I miss my good friends back home–but not the city.

Anyway, the Lantern Festival promised free entertainment (live music, of course!), food concessions, face painting, bellydancing, a magician, and so on, until the main event, fire juggling and acrobatics and the procession. For all my languor of that day, I didn’t take in the rest of this (Jeanne told me it was nice, but not amazing anyway), but I’m pretty sure I saw the best of it that evening.

Soon after bumping into John and meeting up with Jeanne, a rousing drumbeat began, accompanied by a bagpipe (sounding joyous, rather than the sombre tunes we’re used to on Remembrance Day), and together they led people on a march around the park if you cared to follow the leader. Little lanterns swayed on sticks, and people clapped along until the circuit was complete. Before long, the fire juggling, twirling, drumming, whipping, eating, blowing, sparring, etc began on the cordoned-off baseball pitch of the park. It rose to hills all along one side, and that’s where everyone sat amidst the trees to spectate and cheer.

It was a good show, but myself, I was more taken with the stretch of lanterns arranged up the hill and watched closely by fire wardens and volunteers behind yellow caution tape (later, Jeanne told me they strung all the lanterns together with invisible fish line, so it was a definite fire hazard should the general public be allowed in too close). As the sky darkened, the lanterns came to life–and what a setup they had! Is there any wonder why I took 22 trillion and 6 pictures? Unfortunately, many are blurry, because to take these images with a sucky digital camera, it takes several long seconds before it can gather enough light. And no one–no one–can stay absolutely still from head to toe until the picture is captured. I did not bring a tripod over to St. John’s, or have a much nicer digital SLR.

If it’s not apparent from the pictures, the setup they made (Jeanne told me it was not planned, but constructed into its scene based on what lanterns were available from submissions) was like a little city–there was a beautiful river and boats at harbour on the bottom of the hill with a lighthouse, city buildings spread out to one side with cars and buses, stars, suns, the world, and air balloons twinkling above, and some miscellaneous–like the drum set, the dragon, the puffins, the mushrooms and caterpillar… I’m disappointed many of the pictures are blurry (I have even more than what I’ve put here), and I’ve tried to choose the best here. Some turned out excellently–but I must say, these are still a poor substitute for the real thing! It really was enchanting that night–I felt like a kid again–and everyone was just marvelling at and enjoying the soft, wavering glow, the artistry, the gentle sway of those suspended in the breeze… As I said, it was magical.

After the show, Jeanne, John, and I headed to you-know-where for a drink and to chat some more. On the way home, I passed an awesome store that sold sheet metal, fronted by many tin men. It was hilarious. After a few drinks at Bridie Molloy’s, we all headed to The Rock House to take in Mercy, the Sexton, a very talented indie rock/pop group also doing pretty well for themselves. We met and spoke to the keyboardist Duncan prior to the show, and the backup singer/tambourine player Geraldine afterwards. Again, people here, performers even, are so willing to meet with you and talk.

Also ran into a group of my work friends there, so I visited between my friends. 🙂 It was a lovely night, and I had a little too much to drink with too little food in me, so I had to indulge in some Newfoundland chips, dressing, and gravy (their “version of poutine”) at one of the sinfully delicious mobile concessions outside (the most popular here being Ziggy Peelgood’s, but John recommended to me Winky’s for their wedge fries); dressing is a term easily misunderstood (“More sauce?”), and is actually like stuffing. Very tasty, but something I’d typically avoid, but it was a good night, and we stayed at the show until closing (around 3:30 am) before trekking it back home in a soaking rain.

As a result I was tired Sunday, but not as bad as before. I may be getting partied out! Nevertheless, I still can’t wait for next week–the fabled George Street Festival. Oh my goodness, my brain’s going to explode! 😀

International Relations

In culture, food, friends, st. john's on July 20, 2009 at 12:07 am

Saturday, I was phoned up by Jeanne–

“Hey, do you want to play squash today?” Yes. YES! Oh my gosh, yes!

“Oh, this afternoon? Uh…sure, yeah.” 🙂

I had asked her if she wanted to try it one day, and she was game. So we went in the afternoon, she borrowed a racquet, and a guy leant us a ball (it seems Kevin, now back in Calgary, took the ball). I taught her how to play, and we spent a few hours rallying, and me running her through some exercises and practice things, and so on. She said she liked it, and we could try again another time. Another newbie initiated…

Anyway, it was late afternoon, it was pouring out, and neither of us had had lunch yet. I proposed that we try out the vegetarian/vegan restaurant in town, Sprouts (upstairs, it’s also where the Idlers practice their stuff). We walked to my place (we both needed to shower), had some rum and Coke (one of the only places I’ll drink pop; rum is one of my special weaknesses, especially Lamb’s spiced with vanilla and cinnamon–liquid heaven!), took turns in the washroom, and then we were off!

It was almost 4:30 when we arrived, and they told us they closed until 5 (for dinner). No late lunch for us, then. Oh well, we walked around downtown instead, and Jeanne wanted to see if she could find a cheap wok.

Along Water Street, we bought some stuff at various stores. Myself, I went back to the sports store and bought a new squash ball, and “speed” jumping rope–I’ve started to skip like mad between sets of things at the gym to keep the heartrate up, and it really makes for a more intense workout. Anyway, the guy at the shop remembered me, and he asked how my squash was going. We chatted briefly, and I explained how my partner returned back home and such–I was a little caught off guard, but pleasantly surprised. When we bade each other goodbye, Jeanne and I talked about how nice and common it is here that shopkeepers, staff at places, and so on all seem to make a special effort to remember you and your unique situation and treat or chat with you more personally. It’s a nice feeling!

We also stopped by Hava Java, so Jeanne could speak with her roommate, who I’ve also become friends with. At the cafe, we bumped into Ben, the big tattooed dude at the bonfire! We all chatted briefly, we extended an invitation to our Sprouts eat-out, but he had other committments. However, he informed us that he’d be hosting a house party at his place for CS members and friends next week, and he was going to tell everyone soon and that we had to come. Of course we would…and just like that, there’ll be another lovely get-together. 🙂

Anyway, he had to leave, and Jeanne consulted with the roomie–they were off to a show that night on the last evening of the Jazz Festival on George Street, and they had to figure out the ticket thing and other logistics. We let her go shortly (it was busy and she was harried), and continued looking for the Asian Variety Store (to see how they compared to another Asian grocery/paraphenalia store, The Magic Wok, a place we’ve both visited). As we left, we caught a glimpse of Mark, the frontman for the Idlers walk by in the opposite direction, but he was already too far along when we exited the cafe. First Ben, then Mark…one random encounter is one thing, but two…little did we know, however, it was just the beginning!

As we continued down Water Street, we suddenly ran into Maria, one of the CS German ladies at the bonfire event we had such a great time meeting with. She was wanderin around alone, and we were all pleasantly surprised to see each other. Discovering that she was indeed just wandering about, we invited her along to our (eventual) Sprout dinner.

She was initially hesitant–she had no money, as the ATM system that day had totally blitzed (it was not just her Euro currency thing), and of course there weren’t tellers around this late into Saturday. She insisted she’ll come, but just not eat, but I assured her it was not a problem if I paid for her dinner, as we’d rather have her along than not, and how often do I meet friends from Germany? It was my pleasure.

We continued just as before, chatting happily, and I’m pretty sure that’s why we totally walked by/did not find the Asian Variety Store, even though I had had an idea of where it was. Suddenly, we found ourselves near my work place, and Water Street did not continue much further. Oh well! I settled for showing Maria the War Memorial by Target instead, explaining its significance and the wreaths and such.

Jeanne decided the wok could wait for another day, and that we should eat–a wise decision. So we went to Sprouts…

Such amazing vegan food. I was mighty impressed by the menu–I really did want to try it all! Well-priced, and they all sounded so tasty! It was a cute place, too, with stuffed puffins suspended flying over our heads, and the interior delightfully coloured. I knew it was going to happen, but Maria humbly ordered only a single small soup, so Jeanna and I resolved to share as much of our food as she’d take, and she was just overwhelmed by the gesture and our insistence, and told me I was sweet. 🙂

And just to be clear, we’re just friends–she has a Mexican boyfriend, but was just genuinely touched by all the friendliness of the place (beyond myself and Jeanne). Besides, I love to feed people, and a bit of food is small beans for an international visitor!

Speaking of beans…I’d ordered a black bean chili, and asked for spoons for everyone to share–it was big enough that it could have been a meal in itself for one person, along with the bread. Wow. That was amazing chili, so expertly spiced, and so cumin-y. It was so good, you wouldn’t even notice the absence of ground beef. Maria was being a little cautious again, so near the end, I made her eat the rest.

She had a miso soup (“Me-so Hungry”), and they really did it different–this wasn’t the standard miso soup you get so easily from Japanese restaurants, they really refined it from just the miso paste with water thing. It was tasty.

For the main, I had their vegan Pad Thai (I’ve heard that it was amazing), and Jeanne couldn’t resist trying a vegan poutine “with a twist” (remember, vegans cannot have cheese). The Pad Thai may actually be better tasting than real Pad Thain with meat–not kidding. Wow, that was really good stuff! And the “poutine”–very interesting and tasty, but not so different. We shared everything, and after dinner, we just sat there and talked and talked and talked!

Jeanne had earlier in the day informed me that Montrealer Jason was getting screeched in today, as he was leaving soon–he’d be at Christian’s Bar at 10. I told Maria about it, and she on board as well–and bonus, there will be people there (aside from Jeanna and I) that will have already done it, so we can take all the pictures for them!

After dinner, Maria had to meet up with Celine at her place, so we all went. She was thrilled to see us, and invited us in–later as we chatted over their dinner (with Celine’s roomie, from St. John’s), but minus Jeanne who had to rush home and get the tickets to Shannon. I stuck around, and the ladies had delicious cod, salad, and German-ish potatoes (they insisted I have some, so I took some salad…); I also stayed because I was optimizing the roommate’s laptop. She’d told me it was slow–a common complaint–but boy did she mean it! Launching Internet Explorer literally took 20 minutes from when it was clicked…I offered to try and fix some things up given her permission (I’m not about to rummage through another’s laptop uninvited), or at least do the best I can.

As I got to know everyone even more, the Germans once again marveled at the people here, telling me that they have never gone anywhere or met anyone so briefly (and they’re fairly seasoned travelers), and so quickly invite us into their home. It was such a warm and gracious compliment.

In the end, I did a big cleanup of the HP Laptop (crap, just like Dell’s stuff–both of them fill their computers with dozens of useless junk programs many people don’t know how to remove), and while it was agonizingly slow at first, it got faster and faster and faster. Near the end, things actually happened as you clicked them, in real time! Stacy was so excited and impressed. 🙂

As I worked, Lisa arrived from an on-call shift at a hospital (always grueling work), and they fixed up dinner for her. By 10, I wasn’t quite finished my work with the computer, but it was already so much better than what it was, and I promised I’d be back if she didn’t mind; she couldn’t have been happier, and she saw us off as we made our way to Christian’s.

Jeanne and Jason were already there, as well as some other friends of the ladies’, including another German there for the same program/work, a dude named Philip. Another great guy, if a little shy because of language, but we got him talkin’! We all went upstairs, they signed up for the ceremony, and chatted jovially yet some more over beers, waiting for the event to begin at 11:15 pm.

What can I say but it was another full house, and everyone was super entertained? Every screech-in is a little different, and I was glad we all goaded Celine into doing it, as she was so adamantly against kissing the frozen cod. In the end, she had a lot of fun. 😀

With that, Jeanne had to leave for her show just a little further into George Street, and the rest of us sat and…you guessed it, chattered! And marveled at their certificates…Maria seemed so pleased, she handled hers so carefully! I’m so glad it’ll be something she’ll remember, none of them could stop smiling.

It was getting late for me–I do the morning runs on Sunday, and regretfully had to take my leave. When I left, they all gave me a hug, declared we had to hang out some more before they leave (too soon, too soon!) and it was once again quite astounding to think we’ve only just known each other for two days. Jason told me if I ever went through Montreal, I had to give him a message, and the girls, when they did leave, the same for when (not if) I visit Germany.

They were in a dancing mood, and I believe Jason led them to O’Reilley’s (Irish pub), where people inside seemed to be having way too much fun–from what we could hear and see, there was a lively band of musicians playing that traditional fiddly jig, and at the front of an enthusiastic crowd were guys and gals doing their best Riverdance impression. Brilliant…wish I coulda went, if not for the run!

I closed the book for that grand day, and hurried home before I regretted it too much!

Friday: Couch Surfing bonfire meet-up!

In culture, friends, st. john's on July 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

The much anticipated event has passed, and I’m still smiling!

Having joined the Couch Surfing community to meet friends and hopefully one day do some traveling, I discovered that groups based in cities across the world organize monthly (or so) get-togethers that any CS members, world travelers, and their friends can attend. Yesterday, in many cases complete strangers came together (and gave rides to others to Topsail Beach) in Conception Bay South, just 20 minutes or so out of the city, to a big bonfire meet-and-greet. We roasted hot dogs, marshmallows, baked bread from some tasty dough an Aussie gal brought, drank some booze, told stories, there was a song, and even some half-hearted interpretive dance. All in all, it was a glorious night, and everyone came away friends eager to meet again.

The speed in which we all connected was incredible…it’s like when you typically make friends, you invite them to things, see them a few times, and then get to feel you know them better in a few weeks. Here, it seemed all condensed in one night–and I don’t mean it in a bad way–and all the formalities (if there were any at all) disappeared, and everyone raced ahead, eager to know you.

I brought Jeanne along because we’re pretty good friends now, but I was wholly prepared to go myself if she couldn’t. It’s always nice to have someone you know along. Along with another Montrealer, Jason, we took a ride with a lovely young St. John’s couple. Jon greeted us happily at my place (had Jeanne over for a light dinner, so they could pick us both up easily), and somewhere between negotiating seating and rearranging our bags of stuff–blankets, food, and booze–we were already kinda joking around. It’s almost a nice icebreaker, I think, to have a squishy car, and be obliged to sheepishly apologize haha.

The couple have been in the province pretty much their whole lives, but were Couch Surfing newbies, as was I (minus meeting Whitney); it was another small bonus, another small point to bond over, our mutual inexperience and excitement over our first events. Jason was a more seasoned traveler, and was just in St. John’s for a while before he headed elsewhere–he leaves Monday, unfortunately.

At the party I was pleased to meet with Jenna, one of the moderators of the St. John’s group–so warm, so motherly, so full of life and stories. She was very happy to meet and welcome me into the St. John’s CS group, and made sure all the newcomers had a great time; she even provided prizes for things like the best story, best dance, song, and food. Small things, but the effort and gesture was touching.

Myself, I shared my naming story. 🙂 It got 2nd prize for best story, and I received a pair of fabulously giant, kitschy glasses–in the shape of stars lol. Jenna proclaimed, “And you get these, because you’re such a star!” I hope you can get just a small sense of her lovely self from my entry here, though words can’t really do it justice.

I also got to know 3 lovely German ladies, here to do some nursing/health care/med stuff at Memorial University and at one of the hospitals. They leave early August, much to my disappointment–they are so cool! They told us Canada has a great reputation for having excellent programs or practicums and such for the field, and they had wanted to see the East Coast. They were so friendly, polite, open, and so ready with their laughter, and were an example of that amazing European phenomenon of knowing too many languages–one of the gals, Maria, speaks German, English, French (she could confidently converse with both Jeanne and Jason), Spanish, some Italian, and some Swedish. It’s so normal for them there, where so many different countries are at their doorstep!

As a result, they seemed so cultured and adventurous–they were so into all this foreign cuisine, so thrilled to try the seafood here (among them, they’ve never or only once in their lives had lobster, because it is prohibitively expensive in Germany–now in St. John’s, it doesn’t get much cheaper or tastier!), so well-traveled, and so curious about other people and cultures. They were a pleasure, and I hoped I would see them again…and I did, but that’s another story. 🙂

Beyond the incredible range of backgrounds there, this was also a venue to meet great people I may never have met normally. Ben, a big guy with many tattoos looks like a rough character–but he’s a really sweet, affable guy. A real free spirit, he was the only one to wade into the ocean, shirt off, and into the night…he insisted it wasn’t that cold, we just laughed and watched. Like many other CS members, he just has this sense of adventure and curiosity, and far from being prejudiced, related a story when he was briefly in Toronto, and was both delighted and startled to encounter such diversity–for years, he’s been so used to the cultural and racial composition here, which is much more predominantly European and caucasian. He’s got a big North American trip lined up–his first significant trip–and he’s super excited.

There was a weird, instant connection between myself and another dude, Angus–barely into our first conversation, it was revealed he was a graphic designer. Hehe, there’s just something about us design people, and from there we were already comfortable and swapping stories. It was unfortunate he had to leave early, but encouraged me to keep in touch. No need to ask man, I hope we’ll hang out some more, and maybe even trade some typography jokes! 😉

These are just those I got closest to, but there were many other wonderful people. I wished I was able to speak with them more, a few were a little more reserved, but I do hope to see them again some time, because my experience with everyone was still very positive, if perhaps not as thorough.

In a strange coincidence, I was pleasantly surprised to hear someone yell playfully, “Natrix, go home, it’s past your bedtime!” during the night. Investigating, I discovered it was Karen and Tracy from the house with their own friends!

The event ended at 1:30 am, and almost on cue, a light drizzle started. I was more than happy to stay longer, as were most of us, but the rain convinced most to head home. Some stuck around a little longer, particularly the latecomers. Jeanne, Jason, and I took the ride back with Jon and Shantille, and on the way back continued fostering our own little group that developed on the way there.

Man, what a night! Unfortunately, I’d forgotten my camera, but it was pretty dark there anyway for decent shots. Despite that, I don’t think I’ll forget this one, and plans began to take shape to screech in the Germans and Jason….. 😀

PS: if it’s not been clear enough already–thank you Couch Surfing, I love you.

An evening on Water and Duckworth (Afghani food)

In culture, food, friends, internship, st. john's on July 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

CBC was in the studio yesterday to film about the Pitcher Plant, part of the logo Target developed for the provincial brand. There was a lot of hustle, pretend meetings, and warnings of no phone calls to Creative; I wondered if another free music concert at the Park (despite not being Friday, it just happens a lot) was annoying the film crew. Hopefully not.

After work, I met another person in response to my long-ago ad. If they don’t drop off the face of the earth a step before meeting, I always set up a meet with them (at a public place, of course).

Hava Java again, one of the popular, hipster coffee/tea places here, such as in Calgary Higher Grounds (Kensington) or Caffe Beano (downtown). Had a hot chocolate–literally! It was called “Cocoa del Mexico” or something, and it burned your throat. It was good, though, but it made for a bad impulse purchase on a very hot day…

The girl I met was nice, if a little shy, but it certainly says something that she agreed to meet. I found I had to start the conversations or topics usually, until much later when she decided I wasn’t horrible or something, haha–which is fine, I can work with that, I like trying to make people comfortable. She pretty much grew and lived here her whole life, so there was good chatter about the city and how things go here. I am still learning!

After over 90 minutes, I declared I shouldn’t hold her up any longer–it was a little past 7, and neither of us had dinner, and she’d told her parents she’d be back for that! So we departed, and hopefully I’ll see her again.

On the way home, I decided I didn’t want to do some late cooking, and strolled down Water Street instead (which is where the cafe was located, anyway), scoping out a restaurant to try.

Thursday evening there were buskers as always, a guitarist/singer, the bagpiper, a group of 4 young guys drumming…as ever, downtown St. John’s was fairly lively. There was a big lineup by a cotton candy machine on the sidewalk, and I stepped aside, not really looking to buy sweets. But the lady asked me, “Do you want some free cotton candy?”

I looked again–their sign proclaimed jubilantly, “FREE COTTON CANDY!” Cool! People were happily clutching big clouds of the pink fluffy stuff on paper cones, adults and children alike. I laughed a little (it just made me happy), but politely declined–true, I wasn’t looking to buy sweets, but hunting for dinner, I guess I wasn’t looking for free candy either (appetite and all that). But I thought it was a lovely little thing that they were giving free cotton candy to passerby. There was no event happening, at least not that I could tell.

Anyway, there seems to be a lot of tourists in town at this time of year. A lot of families and groups clutching maps, walking around, heads up looking at everything. I’m still like that, minus the map, now; I pointed the way to one group looking for George Street, as they were heading completely in the opposite direction.

In the end, I found the tiny little family-run Afghan restaurant on Duckworth, just one street up. I’d looked it up before, and knew it was either on Water or Duckworth. Their menus proclaimed they were St. John’s first Afghani restaurant, but I thought they could up the prestige and change the wording to St. John’s only Afghani restaurant. Because categorically, they’re the only one listed…but it may not be correct, as there are some fast-foody, bistro-ish places that sell shawarmas and such.

For such a tiny place, I was surprised how fast the food came. I ordered, and a few minutes later, it arrived. It’s really tasty stuff–I don’t think I’ve ever went to a self-identified Afghani restaurant that serves nothing but–and the food really reminds me of Indian food, but much milder, and a little less elaborate (not a bad thing, just a characteristic). And it was super, super cheap!

You can easily have a satisfying dinner for about $10 there, but since I was there to try something new, I ordered almost $20 of food. I was hungry, but more importantly, I was curious!

Super cheap, but weird pricing–why not just round it to the nearest dollar, or 5 cents? I thought it had something to do with the HST–once factored in, I guessed maybe it would even out the sums. Nope.

I had:
Beef kabab (apetizer, $3.99)
Chicken curry (main, $7.83)
Rasgulla (dessert, $1.74)
Baklava (dessert, $1.93)

The chicken curry is more complex than the name suggests. Besides a huge serving of basmati rice and a sauce that covered their own halves of the dish, there were 5 smaller spots of different marinated vegetables or sauces on the rice. Very flavourful, and very fresh. Speaking of cheap food, I recall in the appetizers there was a Vegetarian Pakora available for $0.50, and a Veggie Samosa for $1.50!

I went home suitably pleased; service was quick and pleasant (if a little shy), the food was wonderful and inexpensive, and I didn’t have to cook for a night. 🙂 I don’t get lazy with that often, but it happens!

Besides…I ended up cooking anyway. Another big pot of spaghetti sauce for future lunches, a light, citrusy curry chicken, shrimp, and scallop sauce, with onions, carrots, cashews, and asparagus. Mmm. Now I have a larger roster of food to choose from: Thai curry, butter chicken, beef stir fry, and now this!