Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gdansk Cathedral

Eating at a 'Milk Bar' - We were told they were cheap, but we paid $2.50 for a coffee. It was well worth it though.

A plaque on a ship that we toured. We first watched the crew (mostly 20ish year old men) polish the deck. They didn't look to into their duties but they did a fine job.

I ordered potato salad but I got a bowl of mediocre tomatoes. I say potato, you say tomato?

Chris getting some shut eye on the Warsaw-Berlin express. Trains in Poland were slightly out-dated but we could open the windows to get some fresh air and they were priced right. Apparently a train derailed in Poland while we were there, which I found out about because my dad told me after watching it on the news back home.

After a long flight we finally make it to the train to Karlskrona. Chris manning all our baggage. Exactly 4 x 50 lbs.

Crossing from Copenhagen to Malmo (Sweden) on the ├śresund bridge. Apparantly the longest road and rail bridge in Europe.

Getting settled. A cool old boat turned flower bed on the harbour front.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A week and a day ago, my grandfather passed away. He is the first person close to me who has died - and I guess this makes me lucky, especially considering this lately-more crazy world we live in. He was a very interesting man who I admired and respected very much. He was sharp-witted, generous, and had an air about him that made you feel like you were important whenever he spoke to you. He kept meticulous records of history, relevant news clippings, birthdays, his personal finances, and he also had a roaring social life and knew what was important to him. He died surrounded by 19 children and grandchildren - literally standing around his bed, feeling connected enough to him that they would be willing to witness his final breath of air. I figured if you die like this, you've done something right.

The reverend canon at his funeral talked about the desire humans have to have a home, and the desire they have to leave home, and related this to my grandpa's own life of leaving home, and coming back better - to contribute to his community in a more meaningful way, to be able to have special skills, in his case a teaching education, that he could use to make his community better. He had a strong sense of where he came from but he also had a great adventurous side in him, and I think that was the base of our relationship. He actually approved of adventures, and I actually admired his ability to have a strong a foundation, and a strong 'home'.

This theme really resonated with me as I have been aching to leave home - whatever that is for me- again for quite some time. I feel like I need this constant ebb and flow or leaving and returning or else I get bored and depressed. I am waiting to hear from a school in Sweden to see if they will accept me - oddly enough the town is directly across the Baltic Sea from Kaliningrad, Russia, what was formerly Prussia, and also where the name of this blog comes from. Somehow I am drawn back to this Russian enclave. Oddly enough my grandpa printed out my entire blog and gave it back to me in a binder. He thought it was important to add to his meticulous records, and he enjoyed my updates, or at least claimed to.

The above picture is of my father and grandfather, enjoying one of the last days of summer. We moved a bench from beside the house to the center of the grass and it was one of the last days I spent listening to my grandfather's stories - as if he wanted to share them one last time while his memory, mind, and voice were all clear enough to let him. He could remember more about what happened in 1940 than I can remember about last week. I take comfort in knowing that my grandpa will be with me, in some form or another, at home, or as I leave home. I just have to deal with the fact that he won't be reading my blog and printing it out for me anymore.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oddly enough I was feeling overwhelmed with all the options I have to spend my Sunday afternoon. I should be outside as it is sunny. I could be walking, riding my bike, kayaking, canoeing, or sunbathing. I should be gardening, or doing yard work. I could be reading, cooking, doing laundry, or buying groceries. I could be shaving my legs or cleaning my room. I should be writing that letter to the government explaning that the rules of the Tax Free Savings Account were not clear and that I don't want to pay a fine. I also have a big week ahead of me at work and I should be working a bit to ease the shock of tomorrow morning. Can I do all of these? Some of them? How long will each one take? How is it that it is already 6:30 and I haven't really done much of anything despite all these seemingly important things I should be doing.

Plagued by my decisions I went onto and just started listening to random talks. Oddly enough, I quickly found this one about the Paradox of Choice; this guy's thesis is that the amount of choices we have in the western world has a negative impact on our lives. No matter what we choose we are always curious about the next best thing we should have chosen. We are responsible for what we choose to do so we blame ourselves when something goes wrong or isn't perfect. We are able to spend our time to make us happy, so what happens if we pick things and then they don't make us happy? I feel like whatever I write, I am somehow paraphrasing someone elses smart ideas so I might as well be upfront about it. The examples he talks about are salad dressing, vacation spots, who you marry and what type of drugs you should use to treat your health problems.

Thanks, random man on I feel alot better about not knowing how to chose an activity for my Sunday afternoon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

'Merica, Music, Men and Kindred Spirits

When I was 18, I was in a hostel in Rome drinking wine with some fellow english speaking travellers. I met a boy who seemed to have alot in common with me. We lived thousands of kilometers away from eachother but were somehow listening to the same music, watching the same tv shows and developing the same world view. Everybody else called it a night and we started wandering around Rome and did so well into the wee hours. We passed by all the major monuments, with wine in hand, we ate gelato in some little cafe with cute old men watching soccer. We shared all kinds of things with eachother that we generally don't share with strangers. He said he was from Colorado and that I should go to Red Rocks one day because it is the most amazing outdoor amphitheatre in the world. 7 years later I heard of many of my favourite bands playing at this Red Rocks place and I decided along with a cute boy that we could and should make it happen.

So we drove from Calgary to Colorado. It's about 1800km one way, and you have to drive through 2 entire states; Montana & Wyoming. The journey was great for many reasons. America is an f'd up place, the festival was ever so entertaining, and I had a very cute, burly and entertaining travel partner.

Part 1 - 'Merica

Travel south for 300 km and you will hit another country and you'd assume that things would be pretty similar to Canada. You learn almost immediately after crossing the border that things are not quite the same. The differences are almost impossible to describe. Signs for fast food restaurants and gas stations are uncomfortably bigger and taller, you can buy beer these gas stations, people somehow have odd accents, there are about 2000 casino's per capita, and healthy delicious food is nowhere in sight.

Take the city of Billings, Montana for example. There is something that makes me uneasy about this place. You can't help but notice that the town was built around the railway and oil refineries or the stench from these refineries. Our goal was to stop, eat some semi-healthy food, stretch our legs, and get back in the car. We spent almost an hour driving around unable to find a restaurant other than Taco Bell. The entire city looks like the wrong side of the tracks. Finally, on our 3rd loop through the city where we ended right downtown where there was 1 suitable restaurant with some sort of cheese-sauce buffet taking place.

Keep in mind, we were in the free world. People in 'Merica can learn, worship, think, consume, watch and read whatever they desire. The world is their oyster. Yet they choose Taco Bell, refinery row retirement complexes and all you can eat cheese sauce.

I came home and learned that Billings is in fact voted by Men's Health magazine the #3 best place in America to Raise a family. It is known for their hospitality industry (there are 480+ restaurants), there are in fact 3 oil refineries, and people are not sent here or forced to stay but they make a conscious decision to make this place their home. Maybe they find the industrial stench refreshing as it equates with cash money and freedom. Maybe I wasn't there long enough to see the beauty of this place, or maybe people are scared to leave.

Part 2 - Music!

So many great bands, songs and dancing opportunities, but I will just talk about one. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don't even like them that much typically, but their show was amazing. Every seat in the red rocks was incredible in that you could see every detail on stage and hear everything perfectly. During the song "Maps" I started crying and I have no idea why. Then I went home, watched the video and saw that Karen O. was also crying during this song, and a bunch of comments below the video of people saying they started crying during the song too. People were nice, the beer was delicious, and bands were great. Red Rocks is incredible, and pushing idiots aside so I could be in the front row for HEALTH makes me a better person.

Part 3 - Men.

There's no way I will talk about this on here even though nobody is reading this. Let's just say when he dropped me off at 3am after 4 days together and 3600km worth of conversation, I would have been happy to get back into our little Malibu and start the whole journey again.

Oh yeah, two days after returning from this journey, this boy from Colorado who I met in Rome in August 2002 found me on facebook and reminded me of our stroll through the city that night. He lives in Japan now and just had his first baby a few days ago. Strange.