Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas and New Years Newsletter

I know that it has been FOREVER since I have posted... I apologize.

there is not much excuse, other than the fact that the last few weeks in Malawi were busy.  I wanted to drink it in, and enjoy my time.  The final week was spent in an escape~ a place that I could just reflect on the four months, and slowly re-integrate into environments with more white people.  (seriously.  it takes a bit to get used to us again.)   but, during that last week, my computer also started acting a little fishy.  Glad it happened at that point, and not 1/2 way through my time there.

I arrived back in Canada last thursday (the 22nd).  It has been nice to be home (despite not being 'home'), and spend christmas in Victoria with my new "family to be."  For the last 10 years or so, they (my beloved's parents) have spent much time working in South East Asia... so, they know what it is like to come back to North America.  To transition back into life here.  To understand what it means to see the world through a different culture's eyes.

I will get back to blogging about the last little while in Malawi~  also, in a way, to not forget what it is like.  to remember the moments. the sights. the experiences.  but, meanwhile, I want to present you with my "Christmas" (more like a new years) annual newsletter.  I hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lions and Leopards and Giraffes... Oh My!

I am not going to lie.  This past week is one of those experiences where you literally have to remind yourself that what you are experiencing is actually real life.  it is also one of those experiences which plays into a "typical African stereotype"that there are wild animals running rampant.

but, let me back up a bit.  A visitor's visa in Malawi is for 30 days.  You can get it extended 2x for 5000MK (which is about 25$), and then you have to either leave or get a temporary resident's permit (or, alternatively, in my case, I could also get a student permit).  Since the TRP will take forever and a day, I knew that I would have to leave.  So, I have been contemplating in the last little while:  just go to the border, eat lunch in Mozambique or Zambia, and come back?  hmmmm, nope, that would be an expensive lunch (visa for both countries are about 50$). By a plane ticket to South Africa? (hmmm, i wish!) go on a discount safari to Zambia?  SURE!  that sounds like fun.  I mean... i am in africa.  Isn't that what you are supposed to do?

 So, last week, I packed my bag and headed up to Lilongwe.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things you would never see in Canada

Almost every day, I have experiences which kinda make me say "oh man.  I am SO far away from Canada."  Sometimes, they are very tiny things and sometimes they are monumental.  and sometimes, i even forget that that they are a little strange.  like this morning... it has so far been a relatively normal day.  Nothing too eventful.  Except for the gecko hiding on my floor that scared me. and the fact that this sign was posted on a lamp post.   Sorry for the poor photo (it was taken with my phone), but I am not sure if you can read it... it says "A night of war against satanic manipulation." oh great.  just what everyone needs.

then, a fellow saw me taking the picture, and after a minute or so of conversation said "I would like to be your friend."  HA.  OK. Fine.  And, I walked into school having a little laugh... that is one of the biggest cultural differences that is hard to overcome. no matter how long you can be here, it feels odd when a complete stranger will a) talk to you on the street and b) offer to be your friend instantly.  And, yes, I do recognize that I am a bit of a abnormality here.  Now, I do recognize that there are people who honestly want to be your friend, but there are also others who are weird and want other things (like money, or a wife).  In a culture where it is completely OK  to talk to strangers on the street, or have small talk with the person sitting beside you, you are going to meet good and not so great people.  Most of the time... it is harmless.  but... it is something that is challenging to overcome culturally.  Mostly, it just makes me laugh.  I laugh every day here.  I. love.that.  

You would also not see a flow like this just growing outside on a front boulevard in Canada.  I offer this photo, because in the next few, you will see something that will cause a huge sad face. (that is my warning... if shocking things... um... shock you, just be warned.)  I offer you this photo because it is beautiful and will make you happy.  It is one of the many realities of Africa which is amazing. This is a flower you would never see in Canada.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tidbits from academia

Every once and a while, something that you read really catches you.  And, for me, that rarely happens in academic literature.  I am currently reading a lot about "participatory research"for my new research manuscript to sum-up my time here in Malawi.  and, I came across this quote.  quite fantastic, i think...

"As people engage in dialogue with each other about their communities and the larger social context, their own internal though patterns and beliefs about their social world change;  their relationships to each other become strengthened; and ultimately, they enhance their capacities to reflect on their own values and to make new choices." 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cape Maclear

Last weekend, I went up to the infamous (at least here in Malawi) Cape Maclear.  It was great to get away from the city (once again!) to be able to hit up a little bit of sun and fun.  I was also given the chance to go and do the Mulanje Cross over... But, I was questioning the chances that I might have to get up to Cape Maclear, before I leave. 

In addition.... it is crunch time! I know it seems strange to consider the fact that I am actually in school while I am here in Malawi... but the end of the semester is just around the corner.  That means that my clinical rotation is finishing up (just two more days!).  I have a clinical note due this week.  I have a concept map that I need to present during the week of December 5th.  I have a rough draft of my manuscript (... aka... my new "research project" which is a manuscript, that often feels like I am writing prose, on establishing inter-institutional global health nursing research collaborations) due on monday.  I have faculty interviews to do.  I have a visa run to Zambia to do.  it is crunch time, my friends.  but, the bonus... I'm in Malawi.  And, crunch time in Montreal (from what I remember) is much more stressful than crunch time in Malawi.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The best and the worst of Malawi

On wednesday, I had a day that really hit both the best and the worst parts of being in Malawi.

I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but Malawi is nick-named "the warm heart of Africa." I believe it is because of the well known warmth and friendliness of the people who live here.  I know I have mentioned previously how I find that Malawians are quite reserved (as compared to other Africans, especially West Africans that I have met);  but, with that sense of being reserved, they just seems to contain a gentleness and kindness that seeps from their personalities.

Late last week, the caretaker of the hostel I am staying in came into my room.  "I want to tell you something," he said.  Yolam is an exceptionally soft spoken, gentle fellow, not prone to boughts of extreme excitement.  most likely not accustomed to extreme extroversion that is sometimes included in my personality.  "My daughter...." (silence.)  "Yes, Yolam.  tell me."  (i was in a tiff that week, thinking that everyone was wanting to ask for money.  i, in no good reason, thought that he was about to ask me for money as well... how wrong I was."  "My daughter... My wife.. She had a baby last week."  "WHAT!  OHHHH!  YAY!  Yolam!  how exciting! let me give you a hug!"  and, there it was.

so, on wednesday, as I was walking to the hospital for my clinical rotation, I met Yolam on the road.  We did our regular greeting and I shook his hand.  As he shook his hand, he then (somewhat hesitantly, but, still, he initiated) he hugged me!  and, i don't know about you, but, a hug a day is pretty much something that is essential in my life.  It was such a special moment for me, because all of a sudden, it seemed as if we had crossed the line from "caretaker-liver in hostel" relationship, to friendship.  and, that just made me so happy.

that is the best of malawi.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NIxon's Paintings

Ok, yesterday I told you about Nixon, who is an artist.  These are his paintings.    They are a variety of sizes and a variety of styles, as you can see.  They are Nixon's sole source of income, and he has asked if I could bring them back to Canada to give to a friend of his to sell.  I thought I would blog them, in case YOU might wan to buy one.  Send me an offer.  I will bring them back to Canada, via seattle.  So, they can be shipped to you (you pay shipping), or if you live in Montreal, Vancouver or Seattle-Tacoma, I can get them to you directly.  

Let me know which one you like, and shoot me an offer.  I will tell you if it is appropriate, and then I will tell you how to get the Money to me, so that I can pay him for them.   He will be using the proceeds to pay for school fees for his children.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Calm...

if this post works, I will be *thrilled.*  my internet is SO touch and go these days.  skype cuts in and out.  webpages just don't load. even at the college the other day, it took about 3 hours for one episode of "bones" to download.  i can't read any facebook notifications or messages, they just don't load (gasp.  what in the world am I going to do!??!  ha!)  emails may or may not load.  siiiiigh.  and, yet... I try.  I try to connect to the internet, even when the internet gods are telling me to cease and desist.   oh well.

I am over my tizzy from last week.  And, I am SO glad about that.  The calm, the joy, the wonders of being here in Malawi have returned from lacking last week.  my grouchiness has past, and most days I am walking around with a little jump in my step again.

except... I am sick.  I feel a little silly, because I am such a typical "muzungu" and, I automatically expect malaria.  "its malaria!" I say.  but, my signs and symptoms are so non-specific.... nausea, diarrhoea, malaise, headache, achey muscles, sore throat (that is definitely not common with Malaria).  "its not malaria.  don't make silly presumptions!" I say.  but, when you take anti-malarial prophylaxis, your signs and symptoms could be suppressed. "it's malaria!" I say.  but, i have a sore throat. "it's not malaria.  people with malaria don't get sore throats.  and, they have a fever more often than not."

so. maybe i have malaria and am going to die.  or, maybe i have a cold and I need to sleep more.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I just had another person ask if I could help pay for school fees for their children.  I know the solution is not to just give hand outs... as people would say, "it breeds a culture of dependancy."  but, sometimes I also wonder, as it was recently mentioned to me, if that is just an excuse for not helping.

it feels awful not to help.
but it feels awful to just just give out money.

how?  how do I help? what is the answer here?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A little homesick

For the first time since being in Malawi, I have felt the pangs of homesickness.  And, it sucks.  homesickness just makes you feel sad, even if you are so happy with where you are.  I think it is due to a few factors:

  1. sean visited, and he went home last monday morning.  and, I miss him. 
  2. despite the fact that i am enjoying not cooking for myself, i am missing things like Big Ass Salads. and grapefruit. and smoothies.  and greek yogurt.  and things that are not deep fried.
  3. i am feeling like i am getting a rice gut.  and, i am getting some exercise (running 3x a week, swim 1x a week, and am starting to do yoga on the other days), but, it is just not the same.  I really really miss my bike.  riding on the back of a bicycle taxi is just not the same.
  4. i struggle with the balance of wanting people contact, but not wanting to spend all my time with ex-pats, and also not having found solid malawian friends yet.  i miss my friends.  
  5. my school work has been on a stall recently.  and, it is about to pick up again, but, this 'transition time' has been slow, and actually somewhat annoying, because i have been bored.
  6. it is REALLY hot here right now, which makes it difficult to sleep. and function.
I have just over 7 weeks left here in Malawi.  and, it is a two sided coin.  I miss home, and I will be very happy and ready to go and see the people i love. 

but, as the boy experienced when he was here, I will be exceptionally sad to leave.  There was one point when we were lying on our mattresses on the Ilala ferry, and i just started crying a bit, because i love being here so much, and it saddens me to have to leave.  ANDDDD..... just as a note, you can check out my roweramo's photostream on Flickr.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Malawi through someone else's eyes

This morning, I went out to the Chikela airport outside of Blantyre to drop off my beloved, after having him in Malawi for about 12 days.  It was so amazing to have him here... and, now, it is time to get back to "work."  Albeit, "work" here in Malawi seems so much different from work back in Montreal.

After the 9 day holiday and a few days in Blantyre that we had together, there is lots to report on about the amazing things that we saw and experienced and people we met.  Like traveling to Likoma island.  And seeing monkeys in Monkey bay.  And seeing hippos and elephants in Liwonde national park.  And seeing fantastic rural community initiative projects.  It was a refreshing (though, somewhat tiring) time.  So, wait for the upcoming posts on those items!

The boy i like was off this morning, to get back to "Real life." back to a place which is pretty much the furthest away possible from me on this earth.  back to a long distance relationship.  And, i can't wait to see him in December.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Island in the sky: Part 2

Ahhhh… so, those moments in time where all of a sudden, time stands still.  I am sitting on the top deck of the Ilala Ferry, somewhere on the southern part of Lake Malawi, with Mozambique to the starboard side, and Malawi to the port.  It is HOT out, and the boy I like love is sitting beside me. Life is good. 

So, I finally get to hit back on the second and third days of hiking the island in the sky, mt mulanje.  And, it seems like it was ages ago… but, still oh so good.  The second day of hiking was, physically, less challenging than the first day up boma trail.  We were heading from Libuhka hut, to Chisepo hut, which is at the base of Sawipta peak, the highest peak of Mulanje.  It was kinda cloudy, and definitely questionable as to if we would be able to succeed getting to the top of the mountain.  The distance between the two huts was approx 10km, and it took us about 4 hours.  We went down, and then up up up again.  But, just as the day before, the vistas and the scenary were stunning. We were pretty stoked that we had gotten hiking early (wake up: 5am… that’s just what you do when you go by the sun), so that we could make it to chisepo with lots of time left in the day to 1) eat a good lunch, and 2) attempt to summit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

oh wow. did that just happen?

Wow oh wow oh wow oh wow.
Where do I start?  Well, maybe by saying that I do not want to not post about the 2nd and 3rd days of hiking mt mulanje.  They may not be as fresh in my head when I write about them, but, I am about to explode with the past couple days.
Last night, I came home, and I could not stop smiling.  In the morning, I had said it outloud: this week, I have hiked a mountain, helped deliver close to 10 babies, done school work (which also included some not-so-great news about the ethics approval from University of Malawi about my project… but, at least it is something which provides at least some direction.) and have gotten to meet the archbishop of Canterbury.
What the!??!? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Island in the Sky: Part 1

I love mountains.  there is just something about them that makes my heart happy, serene, and peaceful.  I love them anywhere... From the mighty Denali, to the rolling hills of West Virginia and Vermont, to the mountains in Petra, Jordan, to the close to home Rockies.  

There is just something about them that makes my heart happy.  oh right.  I already said that.

so, when I found out that Malawi has the highest peak in central Africa, south of those famous ones up in tanzania and kenya, and North of the Drakensberg's, I was thrilled.  Mount Mulanje  hits a maximum peak of 3002m (9850ft), which, for those of you who need reference points:  Blackcomb mountain is 1609m, Mt Edith Cavell 3363 m & Mt Robson is 3959m.   this "monadnock" is situated about 2hrs away (ish) (on minibus time) from Blantyre.  Long story short, I arranged with a new Australian friend of mine, that we would be able to hit up the mountain this past weekend.  I wanted to go now, since next weekend there is an exciting visitor to Blantyre (which I will not mention, until he arrives), then the two following weekends will be filled with a visit from the boy i love, and then it will be toying with the start of rainy season (well... maybe not.  they say november/decemberish for the rains).

but, at any rate, I didn't want to wait.  And, I am so happy I didn't. I will also be uploading over the next few days the better photos from the trip onto flickr.  Keep an eye there! 

The Glory of Mulanje.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A little teaser

It is 9:33 pm.  And, I am exhausted.  This weekend, I made it almost up to 3000m in altitude.  My effort was trumped by rain and hail, but it did include lots of moments like the two photos that follow.  More will be updated as I get less tired, but there are a few shots of the weekend adventure (with some description) on Flickr.  So, hopefully that will keep you content for now.  Until then, dream of the beauty that comes with being in the wilderness.  Dream about being on an "island in the sky," because I certainly will.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Day on the Ward

two days a week, I spend my day at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, here in Blantyre.  QECH is the largest referral hospital in Malawi, with approximently 1100 beds, spread out over a massive land area.  It is interesting, because, apparently, when they were designing this place, it must of thought it would be unwise to go "up" in building, so they just went a single story... so, it is perhaps the most sprawling hospital that I have ever been in.

Have I ever mentioned how much I am a big fan of public health care?  Think what you might, but I think that health is a human right~  not something that you should have to pay for.  and, that is why it thrills me that I get to be doing my  clinical rotation in a public hospital in Malawi.  I was even a patient there, during my week of explosive diarreah.  and, I when i was brought there, I was asked "Are you scared?"  um... no?

they do have qualified doctors and nurses, right? (yes)
they do have medications if needed, right? (sometimes.  Mostly yes.)
they do have ability to do diagnostic tests, right? (yes.  though it took 30 minutes to find a urine dipstick)
they do have sterile syringes and equipment, right? (yes)

am I scared?  nope.  Because despite the problems with public health care (especially in resource poor situations), I want to encourage it.  and, I trust in it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

one month down, three to go! A story of culture shock.

WOW...  1 month since I left Edmonton, too travel over the ocean to this strange and distant land.  To fufill something that frequently happens in my dreams. to do something that I have never done before.

And, you might think... you might think that I would have the time to update my blog and tell you all about everything that is going on here and the sights i see and the food i eat and the people i talk to. and, honestly, I probably do.  but, sometimes, it is hard to decipher what I want to write.  What is meaningful, both for myself, and for my readers. (if there are still any out there!)

so... where to start?  First off, to say, I guess, that I LOVE being here.  There is something that just settles so right inside of my being.  something that makes me have this deep rooted peace.  I don't know Malawi very well, and my time being here is SO different from every experience that I have had in any other African nation.  (on that note, don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream)

So, thanks to facebook, shall we take a little life rewind to some of those other experiences?

Shall we rewind to South Africa and Liberia, when I was doing Segue on Mercy Ships from Sept 2005-March 2006? (yes.  I had just shaved off my beloved dreadlocks.)  

Or, perhaps to Cameroon in 2001 with Teen Missions?   The trip where I (amongst other things) broke my arm (despite it being covered with my "Tag"), and realized that my life would be a walk towards serving this continent?

Orrr.... even way back to Nampula, Mozambique in 1999? (yup, i loved that rowing canada hat), with Teen Missions again.  The trip where i wrestled with God, and thought that I would never step foot in africa again.  Because, you know... been there, done that.  There were other places in the world to explore. 
why yes.  we shall rewind to those times, for your viewing pleasure.  but, we shall also continue in the present...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My first real week in Big A Africa... oops, Malawi.

There is something about African sunsets that, in my opinion, are unmatched in the world.  Now, I have never been everywhere else in the world, but, one thing I do know... sunsets here kick any Canadian sunset.

I think it is probably how you can almost directly look at it and the sun is this radiant light, which, if you turn away (or blink) at the wrong moment, will suddenly disappear... when it nears that horizon... watch out.  it will disappear in seconds.    That magnificent reddy, orange, pink, purple, radiant circle of light.

Tonight, as I was sitting tonight reading my book, watching the sunset, I thought about big A Africa.  

you know the one.  the one where there is this continent of unknowns, and there are either wild animals running rampant, or civil wars where people are having their limbs lopped off with machetes, or people who are all the same, or disease is ravaging everyone, and every person is part of a "tribe" who wears lots of rings around their neck? 

yeah.  that big A Africa.

as I sat and watched the sunset, i thought about how that is probably the sole similarity between Malawi and Liberia (the last time i was in Africa).  In Liberia, we would go out for dinner, and sit... on a septic tank... to watch the sun go down.  Here... well, they have running water in Blantyre.  And guess what?  it's safe to drink out of the tap... it's been treated!

Not saying that there aren't similarities, or that the things i mentioned earlier aren't true for parts (or historical moments in time) of this Continent.  But, did you know that the USA can fit into the continent of Africa about 3 times?  So, expecting that Malawi would be the same experience as Liberia is like saying that an experience in Texas would be the same as an experience in the Canadian north  (HA!).

Monday, September 5, 2011

the art of being uncomfortable

Ohhhhhh… where to begin?! 

I guess it is with the thought that being comfortable in “Africa” doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable to me.  And, I will get more to that in a bit.  I arrived in Blantyre (Malawi… if you haven’t read my recent posts) on Friday night.  School “officially” started last Thursday.  In those two days, I managed to register with the nurses council of Malawi and get my research proposal together to submission to the College of Medicine ethics review board.  And drive to Blantyre.  And. That. Is. All.

One of the common things that people talk about when being in Africa, is the different concepts of time.  Time doesn’t necessarily run the same way here, but sometimes it does.  And, so, I tend to take the outlook of “be ready on time, but prepare to wait.”   Pretty much, that way of thought gets you by, and you are consistently reminded to be patient. 

Moving to a new city is hard.  No matter where you are.  It is always going to be big and confusing and lonely.  And, I am not even going to say that it is especially hard because I am in Africa… but, it is definitely challenging.   You feel a long way away from the things you know in your everyday.

 When I arrived, I was put up in the College of Medicine guest house.  Which is not a terrible option for people… who have money.  Which… is something that I do not have.  7000 Malawi Kwatcha translates into just over 40USD a night… which, times 30 is just over 1300$/month (which includes a small breakfast).  Which, obviously, I cannot afford.  Um… I pay 350$/month accommodation in Montreal!!!  Not being happy with this (or… the fact that it was lonely, or that it was in a very upper class part of town, or that I would have someone come in and make my bed every day…)  It gets back to the comfort thing.  In Lilongwe, at “The titanic off shore lodge…”  in Blantyre at the COM guest house… it can be comfortable.  It can be easy. 

But, that kinda (and, when I say kinda, I mean really) makes me uncomfortable.  To me, there is something very uncomfortable to me to stay in a place that is so far out of touch of the communities that surround me.  To me, there is something very uncomfortable about “being a rich white girl” in Africa.

So, I prayed.  And then… I walked.  And then... I prayed while I walked.

I explored Blantyre by foot and I jumped on the mini busses and turned corners that I didn’t know where they led and opened doors to new places and peaked over walls where I heard laughter and spoke to people who looked like they might be able to help and bought food from vendors that I would see. 

And, through this prayer and exploration, I was able to find (um… be provided with?!?!) a more suitable accommodation.  I was able to have intelligent conversations with people who weren’t just asking for money.  I was able to discover where I was supposed to go for school.  I was able to laugh. I was able to wave.  I was able to take photographs.  I was told by the people who “are responsible for me” that they are amazed with how independent I am.  I was able to start being reminded why I love to be on this continent.

Every day, when I was starting to feel a little “meh” something would happen that would remind me… about how my heart beats for this continent.

And… now I am uncomfortable.  I am uncomfortable in the way that I should be.  I am uncomfortable in the way that will make me slow down and be reminded of the things that are important.  I am uncomfortable in the way that I don’t have internet, and when I do (to quote a PhD student I am sharing an office with), “It’s a nightmare.”  I am uncomfortable in the way that will make me eat food that I normally would pass up on (um hullo meatballs for dinner)… but, since it is what the people around me are eating (and frankly, that is all there is.  Well, at least for now), and what I have been provided with, then it is great.  I am uncomfortable in the way that makes me look around to see what people are doing, to make sure I am not just offending the world with my actions or words.  I am uncomfortable in the way that could lead to me having an amazing, self-directed research project.  I am uncomfortable in the way that I know the next 3.5 months are going to change my life.

It will take time for me to find a groove.  And that time finding a groove will probably prove to be to be really challenging.  But that’s ok.  Cause the groove will come.  I am in high anticipation of it.
With love from Malawi…

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodbye South Africa, Hello Malawi!

It has officially been one week since I have stepped foot on this continent, and I am happy to be here.  (Sometimes, though, i just have to remember that!)  :)  It has not been a problem remembering that when I was in Stellenbosch/Cape Town, with people I know and things to do.

but, when you arrive to "The real Africa" things are a little different.  Life is slower.  You arrange things as they come up.  Especially when not much has been arranged for you.  I was thinking that I would be arriving here to have a little bit more news (from McGill/our main contact at the College here) than what I actually have.  but, not really surprising, if i think about it.  How would they know more than what i would know?  So, as I got in an email yesterday: "it seems like McGill is McGill.  and Africa is Africa.  and you are in the better of the two."

I was indeed reminded that I was in Africa yesterday, when i "hurried" my lunch so that I could get back to the hotel for "just after 3pm" to meet my contact/supervisor from the college.  I got dropped off, was waiting around, read a bit.  Fell asleep for a nap.  wondered if she was going to show up.  at about 5:45, knock on the door.  "Hello Amelia!  Welcome to Malawi!  Sorry I am a bit late."  ohhhhhhhh.  Africa wins Again (AWA!).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Upon arrival... Jet lag sucks

it is 3:25 am.  I went to bed at 10.  5hrs sleep is not enough.
unfortunately, it is 7:35 in edmonton, which... is not sleeping time.


so, i will write a quick update, hopefully to put myself back to sleep.  I guess I can start by saying that this blog is going to take vast turn in subject matter.  For, over the next 4 months, i will probably barely touch anything triathlon related. Oh sure, i brought my (now very old/used) running shoes.  I have my bathing suit, swim cap and goggles.  but.  as if i am going to get the chance to do anything close to training.

for I have arrived.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alberta Challenge mini race report!

Today, I had a *Great* day.  I swam biked and ran like it was the last race of the season.  Oh wait.  It was. the. last. race.  And, suffice it to say, i had a good ol' time racing today, despite the fact that from about 1km into the run, i wanted to die.  i wanted to throw the towel in and curse Alberta provincial parks for their challenging forest trail systems.

so, i wasn't going to really write a race report.  but, as i started writing, it has just flowed.  I will also grace you with photos that my chum took, with a bit of a teaser of how each leg went. also, a link to my Garmin files.  which, btw, is the first time racing with the 310xt, which i should've gotten back in may.  I LOVED racing with it, and the super great soft heart rate strap.   however, one thing is forsure... looking at my files really shows me how much i have to work on.  UM.  hello variable heart rates throughout a race!!! i need to learn how to control myself!  I really wish that I had had this tool earlier, so that Mary could've used it in her coaching of me this year!  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

weddings and roadtrips and work


so many things happening these past few weeks.  And, because it is impossible to blog about all of them, i will do a high low list, with some pics attached (which, btw, for credit purposes, were all stolen off their facebook pages.)

Highs in the recent weeks:

  • Jessie Vredevelt's and Christopher Shultz's wedding
    • I mean really.  Held at Gorge Crests Vineyards overlooking the columbia river Valley in Oregon, and Mt Hood, how can you go wrong.  My lovely friend, Jessie, looked stunning.  I know Jessie from Mercy Ships Segue course, where she and I just spoke truth into each other's lives.  She and I made eachother cry on many occasions, she came to take care of me following my bike crash in 2007, and typical of her, she made me cry as she was walking towards her love.  
    • and... it was a really nice occasion to be able to put on the hipster heels, and the fun black dress that i bought this spring, look fancy, and get to know new people.

  • Dana Falk and Deiter Warkentin
    • Held at Birken Lakeside Resort, Dana and Deiter and the little D that is growing inside of Dana's belly had a no-frills, way more casual, super fun mountain wedding which was a celebration of family and closest friends.  People wore plaid and flipflops and sat on cabin patios drinking beer.  Stanford, the dog, was looking very formal with his bowtie, and feet were hung into the lake (not to mention a sunday morning lake dip in a wedding dress!) Dana and I know eachother from our time working at Body and Soul in Vancouver, doing triathlons during my first season of competition, and getting tattoos (she is a brain cancer survivor, and got an infitinty tattoo on her wrist, in my presence!).
    • this was a wonderful time to enjoy nature, have a casual dinner and dance and wedding, and just celebrate love.... while eating smores.

  • the epic wedding roadtrip
    • and, you may ask, how did i manage to get to two weddings, in two places, in two days?  did i fly?  did i drive?  did i sleep?
    • Well, i drove through some of the most stunning landscapes that Western Canada and the Pac Northwest has to offer.  This was my route. I saw so much amazing landscapes and saw so many peopel i love (including my papa) and was able to get excited about living on the Left coast again. I listened to good music, and great public radio (thanks to the amazing car that the boy i love rented for me).  3,330 km of driving... 1 day, 17hrs, according to google.  
    • i love road trips, i love driving, and i love the solitary time that you get while in a car.  you get to a lot of thinking, and a lot of talking to god, and a lot of outloud singing.

  • The birch parent's visiting.
    • the family of the boy that I love is great.  And, about 2 weeks ago, his parents visited.  The visit included nice round-the-town activities, dinner in at his place, and dinner out at a fancy restaurant with my mum.  So nice to catch up with them prior to them going to Laos for the fall, and my heading to Africa.
  • The final preparations for going to Africa
    • I have gotten emails from people in the past few days ironing out the details for my week in the Capetown region, and the 4 months in Malawi.  I am starting to get really excited, because when emails like that come together, it makes things more of a reality.  I cannot believe, many mornings, that in 9 days... I will be flying away to the continent that I LOVE oh so much.  
  • The last weeks of training
    • I have loved training this summer. I am not going to lie and say that it has been fantastic, because i lost a lot of my focus, following my olympic races in June/July.  I was just so tired.  But... swimming with the Master's group I have been swimming with this summer, and going out for the early morning long rides through the Alberta Prairies, and slogging out those runs.  wow.  I love it.  I LOVE doing this sport. 
  • Spending time with the boy i love and talking about getting married
    • This summer has been close to unbelieveable, to just see Sean so often.  we have had so many good times, like getting pedicures, and eating amazing food, and traveling to the mountains, and hanging out with friends, and hanging out with eachother and talking about future plans.  i LOVE this boy so much!
Lows in the recent weeks:
  • my 1/2 ironman was cancelled.
    • not enough participants.  But, i get to do an olympic.  however, you don't plan a season, and training around having a race be cancelled.  And, this caused me to loose LOTS of my motivation.
  • My africa freak out.
    • alot of the time... it seems like it is going to be a gongshow, and that i just don't know what is going to happen.  and, that causes stress, and worry.  but... we can see how it goes.  honestly, i could look at it like there is lots of expectations, because i am the first mcgill student to go from my program, or I can look at it like there is no way i can REALLY screw up bigtime, because i am the first mcgill student.  I choose the second.
  • the epic wedding roadtrip
    • it was too much driving for a short period of time, with not enough time to enjoy being with my friends at their weddings.  There was a lot of late night driving, and a very bad borderwait in the middle of the night.
  • Mary's coaching switch
    • A GREAT opportunity for her, but something that was not totally expected.  It just throws lots of thoughts to run around with as an athlete. 
  • Talking about getting married
    • it's complicated.  it's confusing. it takes a lot of patience and understanding and strong efforts at communication.
  • Feeling disconnected from my friends and teammates out east.
    • 2hrs time difference makes a big difference.
  • feeling fat
    • good food and good times has meant that i have not leaned down as much this summer as i would like.  but, honestly, i know it is ok.  its not a bad deal, but, i do recognize how much effort it takes to keep on keeping on.
  • stress
    • I know that the boy i love is experiencing a lot of pressures these days with a big city move, and a big job move, and a first time trip to africa being booked, and the selling of his house, and the thinking of wedding plans.  And, i wish i knew how to make lots of those pressures go away, but, I can't.  and, i don't like that, and i wish it was easier.
  • Mosquitos
    • edmonton sucks because of the copious amounts of rain, and mosquitos that are in this city.  it is really ridiculous.  and, it means lots of itchy skin.
that's it for now, folks!
T-7 days till my last race.
T-9 days till I am on a plane to africa!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

beware of attack squirrel!

surely, this cannot be true.  but, alas.  i can see the end of the summer.

in a mere 4 weeks, I will be one day post my last race of the season, and 1 day pre-leaving for africa.


it feels like there is so much time left, but also so little.  Scheduling is crazy and time is ticking away.  between now and then, there are weddings to attend on the west coast, "inlaws" to visit with, training to be done, Rx's to be picked up (yup. the doc convinced me to go on malaria prophylaxis), bags to move and people to visit with, work to do, and school work to be formatted.  oh yeah.  a lot of finger crossing and god praying to be had that my trip to Malawi is not a total gongshow.

Anyway, i was down in Canmore this weekend, supporting and cheering and volunteering for the boy I like love's 24 Hour of Adrenalin  corporate team.  Like last year, it was a load of fun, I had a (marginally) better volunteer position, and I just LOVE being in the mountains, in a race atmosphere. but, I also got thinking a bit about my own race season.

but, not after a squirrel ran up my leg.  seriously folks.  i rounded a corner, into a pedestrian underpass, and there was a family of squirrels (a mother, and about 6 baby ones, some nursing, at that moment).  i looked at them, the looked at me.  i looked at them, they looked at me.  i took a step forward, they paused.  i took another step forward.  they freaked out.  squirrels scattered everywhere.  down the tunnel.  up the walls.  towards me.   up my leg.

seriously.  have you ever had a baby squirrel run up your leg?  probably not.  but, i have. I may have screamed like a girl. oh wait.  i am a girl. 
so.  in that occasion, a photo from Key Largo, circa 2008.
anyway.  race season...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Balancing life and working out the details

so, the other day, I had the first conversation where training got in the way of "life."  I mean, there have been other times, but, this time was the first time I had a conversation where I realized that not everyone thinks that my way of prioritizing is "normal."

the conversation went something like this, at about 10 pm:

"well, I have a 2-hr bike ride for sometime tomorrow and swim practice in the morning.  And a dentist appointment.  and work.  Do you want to join me for the bike ride?"
"hmmm, sure, that sounds good.  What time?"
"Well, I was thinking after I get back from work."
"when are you working until?"
"ummmm.  you want to ride at 7:30, for 2 hours?  when are you doing to eat dinner?"
"well, after?"
"errrr... isn't eating just as important as training?"
"well, yes.  but, i will eat.  just after riding."
.... quizzical  stare.
"i mean, it's not a big deal.  i'll have a snack.  then i'll ride.  then eat something for a sort-of dinner.  yes, it's late, but whatever. big deal."
"ok.  i just think you are not prioritizing in really the best way."
 "well, when else am i supposed to do it?  before my early morning dentist appointment? should i wake up at 5 and do it then?"  (getting grumpy.  i just don't like waking up early):
"i'm not necessarily saying that..." 

20 minutes later:

ME:  "ok.  so, what i hear you saying is that you don't want me riding tomorrow night, so we can eat together. i'm going to wake up early.  and, i'll ride before the dentist appointment."
why don't you add the ride to the dentist as part of the 2hrs.  then it won't have to be so early?
"ok.  fine.  good idea.  i'm sorry i got grumpy.  but, just so you know, sometimes i prioritize differently.  this isn't going to be the last time that we have this conversation.  and... you are not the only partner of a triathlete who feels like this." 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Relationship Building

One of the things that I said to the boy that I like love, when I first started dating him was "Listen up, buddy.  I am flexible with a lot of things, but, one of those things is NOT living in Edmonton for the rest of my life.  I just will not do it.  SO, if you plan on this being a long-term relationship, you need to realize that you will have to eventually move out of this city."   That was 3 weeks in.

and, his response?  "Eh.  Ok.  I'm good with that.  I've just been looking for an excuse to move anyway."

but, all that being said, It means that I have spent the last two summers in this city.  And, I don't mind, because I get to be with him.  However, what I do mind, is the mosquitos.  They are so bad, they are covered by our national news.   and, of course, the local newspaper.  Swarmed by blood thirsty mosquitos. i hate that.

however, all that being said, the summer is not that bad in this city.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hawaii: The Holiday

so, i have been back from my holiday for about a month.  and, I have not yet written about the rest of my holiday. Not because I haven't wanted too (it has been waiting in my "edit" box).  But, this summer has been busy (HA!  as if my life is never not busy).  So, in memory, here is my Hawaii post, holiday edition.  remember, it was written quite a while ago.

in arriving back to Canada, i think that edmonton weather has had me in the ultimate state of revenge.  Since getting back (last monday morning, 10 days ago) there has not been one nice day of weather until yesterday.  10 days of sunshine in hawaii.  10 dreaded days of rain in edmonton.  I even had to do my long saturday ride on the trainer!  UGH!  it is JUNE!  but, at least I am not in Saskatchewan (or north dakota, for that matter), where the rain and flooding is causing people to evacuate.

so, in order to remember the sunshine, here is my post about the rest of the holiday in Hawaii.  Oh yeah.  and, I'm racing on Sunday (already!?!?).  A local Olympic Distance race... 30 women registered.  one of the others is the girl (um... super fast runner!) who won last year's Slave Lake Triathlon (you know the one... i ran with bare feet?).  It should be fun to race my edmonton "Arch rival..." (HA! not really...)  but, it will be fun to race a race that is all of 5 minutes away from the place i am staying!

but... HAWAII!  The amazing Hawaii!  if you have seen my facebook album, you have seen these photos.  I will hopefully add some more, in the coming days, but, for now... just lavish in your jealousy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Racing Madness!

So, after a 1/2 ironman, and two olympic distance Events in less than a month, all I can say is.....PHEW!  my body hurts!    Honestly, I always say that I love racing so much more than training.  I mean, if there is not a goal at the end of the tunnel, why would we bother?  but honestly, at the end of the day, your body just says WHOA.  slow down there.

and, it is that time.  I have a rest week this week.  I might even skip my ever-loved outdoor pool master's class.  I  will only race another two races this season.  A 10km trail run in mid-July, and a 1/2 iron on the 21st of August.  Then, it will be off to my love.  Then, it will be off to Africa. There is so much to do between now and then.  Like the getting my eyeglasses.  And the dentist appointments.  and the doctor appointment (all this week). and the waiting for my new passport. and the applying for a Malawi Student Visa.  and buying a plane ticket to South Africa and Malawi.  and weddings. and racing. and working.

SIGH!  there is a lot to do, when you are doing the things you love!

Such as, this weekend.  The first weekend in July is special.  Not just because it is Canada day, but, also because it signifies the beginning of another trip around the sun for me.  The weekend was spent in Canmore, Alberta.  Which, as it happened, had a triathlon.  It was an Olympic distance, and it also happened to be a qualifier for the Canadian Age-group team for the ITU 2012 World Championships in New Zealand.  So, Although it was not an "A" race, i had some self-inflicted pressure.  Was I capable of winning my age-group, and qualifying?!  was I able to overcome my fatigue, and in  poor ability of hill climbing/training, and the elevation change?  Did i have a chance?

well... maybe.

The weekend was to be one of fun.  I was traveling with the boy i like love, to meet my friends: Erika, my previous roommate from Vancouver, and Sydney, and their husbands and one baby.  here is a photo of the three of us. i love friends.