Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Putting it in Perspective: A Bad Day.

Yesterday, I had a bad day. As you know from reading my post here I take the train to work 5 days a week. Well, yesterday the train was delayed, and my fellow passengers and I were to be transported to downtown Vancouver on city busses. Now, there is a drastic difference between the train and a city bus. The train is 1st class public transit. It is temperature controlled, clean, comfortable and fast. I also don’t experience motion sickness on a train. So, I got on the crowded, humid, smelly bus, where I was unable to place my train blankie to get some rest and tried not to vomit for the duration of the jerky trip. Then, I got dropped off quite far away from my workplace and had to walk many city blocks, late for work and in need of coffee. I had no time to stop because Mondays are rough as it is in the office, and I didn’t want to abandon anyone as I am the person they count on to open on Mondays.

So, as you can see, I was indeed having a rough day. Then, I found out the details of the train delay. Someone (jumped) ended up in front of the train and died. Terrible. Of course, I made fun of the incident a bit because that is how I deal with tragedy, but really I was sickened by the whole thing and felt like a douche for being so irritated by my morning delay. I mean, I am only human and am entitled to my (many bad) moods, but still. That dead guy had a way worse morning than me. Whether it was a suicide or not, to be depressed to the point of ending your life is tragic, and although I don’t understand and barely tolerate depression, I still pity it, and I am still glad that my life is free it.

The rest of my day was tainted by a melancholy air. This is unusual for me mid-cycle, and I blamed it on the tinge of motion sickness I experienced from having to text message while on the bus. I started to read the news, trying to find out what happened that morning on the tracks. I ended up reading a bit about the humanitarian crisis in Somolia, where innocent people are suffering famine, drought and genocide. Now, I know that it is kind of old news, and that many of us easily turn a blind eye to the crisis’s in Africa, but it really bothered me to read it, and view the pictures of the children suffering from malnutrition. I follow the news on the Human Rights Watch website so I have somewhat of an awareness of the trials of the Somolian people and the terrible conditions of the Kenyan refugee camps. I think the reason that reading about it yesterday affected me more than usual was because I had been soooo upset that morning about being late for work and missing my breakfast and coffee, but really, I have nothing to complain about.

I missed one meal. These people walk for days on end with no food or water, abandoning weaker loved ones on the way. The world is so full of human suffering: of people losing loved ones to famine, disease, or suicide; of women suffering rape and countless forms of abuse in societies where such treatment is the norm. I live in a society where I actually get to complain about being fat. Where the food on my plate is full of nutrients and tastes amazing. A place where I get to both drink and wash my car with delicious, clean, fresh water.  We spend countless precious hours of our lives crying over relationship problems, whining about going to work for 8 hours a day, yelling at our fellow humans for poor service, stressing about not having enough money to buy all the excessive things that we think that we need. All of these negative actions will eventually affect our health, and trust me, when your health goes, you will feel like an idiot for ever worrying about money.

I made it through my bad day. A client came in and started yelling at my colleagues over something so trivial that I had to leave my desk, or else she would have got a lecture on the trials of the Somolian people. The minutes ticked by and eventually I got to board the comfortable, modern, immaculate train to go home. I reflected on how lucky I am: not only am I lucky to have been born here, where my job involves zero physical exertion, and where I get to drink fresh spring water all day at my desk, but also on how happy I am with my frame of mind. I rarely stress about the little things, am healthy (knock on wood) and have surrounded myself with good people who are loyal and that I care about. We all have bad days, or days where we feel sad or angry, and we are entitled to feel that way. I guess my message is to just not let it get you down too much, and try not to sweat the small stuff, because when put in perspective, most of the things in our lives that upset us, are quite small indeed.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Facing Fears (well, one of them)

I was spending time with my man a couple weekends ago, and he has a motorbike. He has been saying for a year that we are going to go for a ride, but never got around to getting it road ready. I pretended to be genuinely fearless, and agreed that when it was ready, we could go for a ride. In reality, I am scared shitless of anything that goes fast, except for my Honda when I am in the driver’s seat. I was secretly assuming that he would continue to procrastinate and that I would remain off the hook for the time being. Well, finally, it was ready. He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I lied and said “Yes!”

Me getting ready to go
Being a couple days shy of summer solstice, it was sunny and warm and many motorbike enthusiasts were out and about. So, he got the R1 all ready. By all ready, I mean, filled up with gas and oil, scrubbed own and towel dried, triple checked to ensure spotlessness. It did look great, as good as new! I was content admiring it from the garage, but it was time to stop admiring it and get on the back. I was instructed that I would need to wear jeans, a long sleeved shirt, socks and proper footwear. Flip flops apparently aren’t proper footwear. When I asked why I needed jeans he said “because it gives you more protection if we crash”

I responded “But, we aren’t gonna crash”
“Just in case” he said, hopping on the bike.
I didn’t care for the “just in case”. I know that accidents are called accidents for a reason, and that no one intends to crash and that sometimes it’s unavoidable; otherwise they would be called “deliberates”. But still, I was hoping that he would offer me a guarantee that I would be absolutely safe while trying to enjoy the ride.

After a quick lesson on how to be a good passenger, we were on our way. I was scared of the 1st corner, because I had been told to just go with the turn and not fight it. I didn’t really know what that meant, having never rode before, so I was afraid I would screw it up somehow. I took to heart 100% the instruction to hold on tight. I became exhausted from holding on even before we got to the real road!

As for the real road, I was not impressed. I was hoping he would take me on some traffic-less back roads, perhaps through the country where there were minimal turns and practically zero chance of colliding with another vehicle. Nope. We went right through town, stopping at stop lights, turning with arrows, and changing lanes. Whenever any of those situations would occur, I would almost hide behind him, careful not to focus too much on the other cars, maintaining such a tight grip with my arms and my legs that I started to get sore. I figured, oh well if I survive this, as least I’ll have gotten a workout out of the deal!  At one point, I looked around from behind him and noticed that we were turning onto the highway. I was really not cool with that. As soon as we got on and he started going faster, I started to regret the decision to go on the bike. I am terrified of almost everything and I was craving the safety of my little Honda.

 As we continued on, my confidence slowly started to increase.  I eased my grip and started to look around a bit. I noticed that the riders of every other bike that passed, whether a sport bike or a hawg, would wave, and he, in turn would wave back. I found this to be an interesting part of the motor bike community!

We ended up at a nice pullout overlooking the Columbia River.  At that point, I wanted to continue riding, and go explore more scenery, but it was time to go. The way back was much easier. I only cringed a little on the turns and I wasn’t deathly afraid of stoplights or the cars around me.  At one point I even caught myself thinking about how bad the wind must be for my hair! I realized that my thoughts had migrated from fear for my life to fear of damaged hair, and I felt immensely relieved. I started to almost feel cool!

When we got back to the house, I was exhilarated and satisfied that I had finally experienced something new. I had faced one of my fears, and was back safe and sound. A couple weeks later, we ventured out again, this time going on a longer ride. It was amazing! I loved being able to feel the coolness of the foliage on the side of the road, and I no longer felt unsafe at all, having survived the last ride. The destination was stunning: a small hike through a forest to an impressive lookout where 5 different mountain peaks are in view. I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger, and only feel hindered by the fact that my clothing options are limited when going for a ride! My butt got really sore after the long ride, but I can tell that in time that will ease up.  I feel safe on the bike now that I realize that I am probably safer on there with a helmet on than I am in my Honda, protected by mere fiberglass and a seatbelt!

I had been on the back or a motorbike before, in Southeast Asia, but this bike is much faster, and going for a ride for pleasure is different than using it for a short trip to a specific destination. It helped that my man is an experienced rider, and that I know he will be extra careful with me on the back. I am looking forward to the next chance to go for a ride, as this is just a new addition to the many things that I love about summer!

Hope everyone else is having a good summer too! Cheers!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Cheers to all!

Being Canadian, I am seldom offered the opportunity to celebrate my country or act patriotic. Sure, we have Hockey but if you aren't aware of how we react to our national sport, read my previous post here. July 1st is Canada day. It is the day that marks Canada's birthday. This year, my country turned 144 ( I think), and the day was marked with celebrations including parades, fireworks, a stat holiday (on a Firday, yippee!) and some moderate drunkenness. Some say it is akin to the July 4th celebrations int he USA, but I beg to differ.

This year was the second year that I missed out on my nations birthday. Instead, I have  been in the USA to celebrate their nations independence (well that wasn't my reason for going to the USA, but it just worked out timing wise.)  I don't really get it, having only a slight clue ofwhat it is all about (I am neither a history buff or American) but I do know that it is one hell of an excuse to party! This year, I spent the day floating down the Clackamas river getting daytime drunk. It was hot hot hot out , around 30 C, ( I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit) and it was the perfect way to celebrate summer, regardless of my nationality. At night I celebrated by going on a motorbike ride (as a passenger, more on that in an upcoming blog post) to watch some fireworks.

The 1st thing I noticed when driving through the state of Washington on July 1st was the numerous places to purchase expolisives. I mean, at home we have a handful of places to buy fireworks around Halloween , but nothing for Canada day. We do have fireworks displays, but no one really ventures out to blow up their own, instead flocking to the city or the town square to watch. In the USA, everyone has fireworks! Days before the 4th, the sky will be randomly lit up with colour, even in quiet neighborhoods, and there are people on every corner holding signs to direct traffic to the nearest place to buy them. We went to watch a display, but there were numerous private diplays in every direction. On the ride back, while on  the highway, the sky was constantly lit, until after midnite. On the way back from the fireworks show, I noticed that the places to purchase more fireworks was still  open even though it was 11 pm! I suppose there could be a few patriots that were runing late and still wanted to blow shit up in the last hour of the 4th... I personally love fireworks, and think it's great that so many people were putting on personal displays. I continued to watch through the window after returning to the house.

So,  I didn't end up getting as drunk or partaking in a BBQ like I did last year, but I smelled BBQ everywhere I went and went for a wonderful patio burger at a pub situated on the Columbia. I feel a tad guilty for missing Canada day 2 years in a row, but I'm sure that my absence went un-noticed.  Here is a small shout out to my nation:  link to a post by a fellow blogger listing some wonderful canadian creations.

I am proud to be North American, proud to be Canadian, and proud of the Americans for partying harder than us on their July holiday. Cheers to all, even if it is a little belated ( I am on vacation and there is a keg of raspberry flavoured beer here....)