June 28, 2012

Uganda Update #3: Amsterdam

I have just my carry-on. My big bags are checked all the way to Entebbe despite a 23 hr layover, so I have squished a change of clothes into my purse. I have no euros. I speak no Dutch. but the tourist info lady tells me what bus I need to take (after I get into the city by train), and where I can find a cash machine.

An hour and a half later, I check into my hostel.

"Do you want an all-female room, or mixed?" they ask.

"It doesn't matter," I answer, remembering how very unsexy most of my Spanish hostel experiences were.

I lighten my load and head back to the city. I walk along a canal past the zoo, and consider a visit to the Dutch Resistance Museum. But I decide to pass: my main goal is the Ann Frank House, and I'm told to expect a long wait to get in.

I go to the Secret Annex. (If you have never read The Diary of Ann Frank, turn off your computing device, find it, and read.) The only reason I am not a pool of tears for my entire visit is that I am surrounded by crowds of other tourists, slowly pressing onward. There is little space to simply stand and be sad. But it is a beautiful thing that hundreds of people wait in line everyday to see this important piece of history. I honestly regret not purchasing a postcard with the images of her bedroom wall. It was only a euro, and I didn't want to wait in line. I wonder if they will have any like this at the airport.

It is strange to think that sixty-seven years ago, my Grampie was here. If not here precisely, than close by. Fighting. For people like Ann, Margot, Peter and the rest of them. Of the 8 in hiding, only 1 survived the war.

I leave and wander the streets, half-somber, half-happy. Four things stand out to me in Amsterdam:

1. The canals. It makes the city feel less urban.
2. The bicycles. It's true. They're everywhere.
3. The cafes. Everyone is sitting outside enjoying the afternoon.
4. The well-dressed men. Many, many well-dressed men.

By the time I get back to the hostel, I am ready for bed. But it's only six o'clock. And I need to eat. I find a grocery store, feeling strangely at home as I explore this Arabic neighbourhood. I eat my cheap-ish dinner, shower, and decide to read until I fall asleep.

I have just set myself up on my bunk when 2 of my roommates
wander in. My non-female, attractive-Aussie roommates. I am startled, having forgotten my conversation at check-in. A lovely Brazilian girl comes in shortly after, and we do a round of intros. I stay mostly hidden, with my wet hair and makeshift pajamas... They have all come for a pre-night-out nap. Do I want to join them at a club tonight?

I laugh. It is 8:30 pm and I can hardly keep my eyes open. At 9:15, when I put my book* down, they are all still napping.

In the morning, my alarm goes off at 6:30. I feel homesick for the Camino as I get dressed and re-pack on my bunk, in the dark. I climb down the ladder as carefully as possible, hoping not to disturb the sleeper below. I glance in to apologize if he seems awake, but he doesn't. He does, however, seem to find the room too hot for sheets, and I quickly look away, laughing to myself and wishing I had a travel buddy to roll my eyes with.

Back to the airport. Next stop, Entebbe (via Kigali)!

*Bridge to Terabithia - The first book I ever remember making me cry. I wanted to re-read it as an adult. Still love it. I have also already read Room on this trip, and am now working on The Help. My vacation reading habits are compelling me to seriously consider requesting an e-reader for Christmas.

June 25, 2012

Uganda Update #2: Have Ticket, Will Travel

Ok, here's the story so far:

Saturday, 9am - can't check in online for my first flight. I call Air Canada to find out the proper code (I only have the Egypt Air one, as I booked my ticket through their site). 45 minutes of muzak and I get an agent. She gives me the code and tells me that my first & last names are reversed on the ticket, so I should enter them in the opposite way when checking in. Then she says, "Don't mention this at the airport tomorrow. Play innocent and see if they say anything." I say, Ok and we hang up. I still can't check in. I feel mildly worried, but think, If it was a big deal, she wouldn't tell me to play innocent.

Sunday, 6am - arrive at the airport. I go to the line for people who can't check in. They look at my ticket and say, "Your first and last names are reversed." I say, "Ok?" They say, "Get in the ticketing line." I do. It opens at 6:30. Two people bud in front of me, but I am too anxious to tell them so without being rude. So I wait. The ticketing person tells me, "We can't fix this. It's not our ticket. You need to contact Egypt Air. They have to cancel and reissue your ticket."

Sunday, 6:45am-10:30am - my mom helps me track down all the numbers in the world for Egypt Air. Toronto, Montreal, London, Cairo. I get no human beings. She wonders if twitter would help. I tweet at them and get a response - an email address, at least. I email them with my urgent request. They ask for my passport and credit card. I take pictures and email them (thankful at this point for free wifi). The email responses are generally vague and awkwardly worded. I am not sure what they are telling me. Also, it takes at least half an hour for each response. I consider buying a ticket to London, and trying to sort this out at their Heathrow booth the next day.

Sunday, 9am - my flight leaves for London without me.

Sunday, 11am - I find myself in Mass at the chaplaincy centre. Don't ask how. A friendly Nigerian priest is vaguely encouraging but also not. I am not really focused on Mass, although I am glad I go, and it does make me think of Spain, which only makes me more sad, because I frigging love to travel.

Sunday, 12:30pm-4:30pm - Karen picks me up from the airport, feeds me, distracts me with So You Think You Can Dance. An Egyptian friend is messaging his family in Egypt to see if they can help find me a phone number or if they can reach anyone at Egypt Air. I am still emailing, trying to figure out if I can catch the last flight out to London tonight. Getting nowhere.

Sunday, 5pm - I resign myself to being here another night. Resolve to call the Toronto office at 9am sharp and see what to do. I file a complaint with Air Canada that the awful advice given to me on Saturday cost me my flight. I cry a lot. I am very frustrated.

Sunday, 9pm - Karen and I eat gelato and go grocery shopping at a massive Superstore. Food is so cheap when you aren't in Forest Hill. (Limes = 4/$1 vs 3/$1.80!) Then home. Then bed.

Monday, 7am - I wake up, waiting for 9am. I feel very sure Egypt Air won't help me.

Monday, 9am - I call Egypt Air. Online bookings can only be modified via email. I am given three addresses. I email them all.

Monday, 11am - no response to any of my emails. I call again. Get one more address. I email it. And the address from the day before.

Monday, noon - I am looking online at other ticket options. I see one roundtrip for $2,300. I call my mom and ask if my parents will lend me the money when my credit card bill comes. She says yes. I say I will try Egypt Air one more time. I call and ask for her manager (not because I'm displeased with her. She has been friendly and vaguely helpful). Her manager is in NYC. I call NYC. Am placed on hold, twice. Then hung up on.

Monday, 12:30pm - I get an email from Egypt Air (finally). To cancel and rebook my ticket will cost an additional $2,260 US for the fare increase, plus $370 in no-show fees. I call my mom to confirm I am not crazy, we talk through the plan, and I walk two blocks to Flight Centre. "I want the earliest flight to Uganda," I tell them, "for under $2,500."

Monday, 1:30pm - I leave Flight Centre with a new ticket and insurance for less than $2,400. I email Egypt Air and say, "No rebooking, just the refund, thank you." I find a hostel in Amsterdam and begin making plans for 24 hours in the Dutch capitol. I tell Vanessa and Jamie that I am coming, and that I am staying two days longer. We are all happy.

Monday, 11pm - my scheduled departure. My bags have been packed since Thursday night (no joke. I am my Grampie's grand-daughter).

June 24, 2012

Uganda Update #1: Delayed. Canceled?

My day is not going as planned. When I wasn't able to check in to my flight yesterday, I sat for 45 minutes on hold before someone discovered a ticket error and then advised me to "play innocent" and see what happened at the airport today.

Now I have missed my first flight. And spent many hours trying to reach someone from the appropriate office. Twitter yielded better results than the phone, but still not actual, immediate help. Email got me an answer, but not a helpful/clear one. Now a friend with Egyptian family has enlisted their help. In Egypt. In the midst of major country history.

I am angry with myself for making a mistake, I am angry with the person who told me to wait til this morning, and I am angry with the airline who cannot be reached anywhere in the world by phone today.

I don't know if this is fixable. If you are a pray-er, please pray. If you are a do-er with travel connections, I will accept your help. And if neither of those apply to you, I accept your sympathy.

I also would like to say that my friends are the best imaginable. Karen even rented a car to pick me up, made me lunch and distracted me with So You Think You Can Dance. What a girl (men, if you are not already married, you should be lining up around the block to ask her out).

June 22, 2012

5 Reasons I'm Smiling Today

1. My holidays are officially underway, and I am a happy camper.

2. I am singing this song:

(That's also what I look like when I dance.) 

3. This cartoon on text-flirting, wit, and insecurity.

4. These sleep-walking quotes.

5. This cartoon(is it a cartoon?) on travel and leaving luggage behind.

June 19, 2012

Summer of the Skirt: Hazards

It's the Summer of the Skirt. Or Summer of the Dress. Summer of Pantslessness, perhaps. Anyway, these are the inconveniences I've encountered thus far:

My current favourite skirt. Cost me $5. Also, the guilty party in story #3.

1. You have to shave more frequently.

This isn't about being anti-shaving. It's about being lazy. And fair-haired. But the extra five minutes in the shower are worth it in feel-good points.

2. You will get more attention when out and about.

Partially, it is because you carry yourself taller when you feel better about yourself, and that confidence is notable. Partially, it is because you have legs. Either way, it happens. Be prepared.*

3. You will inevitably expose your undergarments at least once, no matter how careful you are.

This will, of course, happen near a busy intersection when one hand is full and the other is rifling through your bag for the mail you are trying to drop off. Stay calm, don't make eye contact with the people who can now identify the print on your panties, and walk on. There are other mailboxes.

*I have about a bajillion more thoughts here on modesty, body image, and being a woman in the 21st century. Perhaps I'll pull them together in some sort of coherent fashion for another entry.

June 17, 2012

This Week Will Fly By

My weekend trip to Hamilton extended itself when friends needed someone to stay with their kids while they went out for their 20th anniversary dinner... It wasn't exactly babysitting, as the oldest three are 16, 14, and 11 (ish?). But the youngest is 4, and the most energetic child I may have ever met. The boys from my nannying days have nothing on this delightful daughter.

I love the mispronounced words and poor grammar and quickness to laugh that characterizes small children. And I'm glad I stuck around for a few extra hours with a pre-schooler on-the-go and three fun teenagers.

On the train back to Toronto, I discovered that my ticket was not adequate for the distance I was traveling. This set me into the sweats, but after listening to a strict lecture on the difference between TTC and GO transit systems (which I know well), I was let off with a warning instead of the $100 fine. He must have been able to tell I was on the verge of tears and that it was an honest mistake.

This is apparently what happens when you start to gloat that you are getting free trips to friends, courtesy of a partially-used multi-ticket given to you by an ex. You don't verify the details, and it turns out you were misinformed, and it almost costs you a lot of money you don't have... But then you remember that once upon a time, it was a gift given in kindness, and you didn't pay for this delightful visit with friends, and the transit cop was gracious and next time, you'll buy a $4 add-on ticket, like he told you to.


Today I cleaned and shopped and baked cupcakes for a celebratory dinner tomorrow night. My upstairs neighbour had excess icing that she was going to throw out, but knowing my penchant for eating spoonfuls of the stuff, offered it to me instead. Now I have sweets all ready for the week. I used this cupcake recipe, and tomorrow's guests can choose between strawberry cream cheese and mocha buttercream icing.

(this little guy fell apart in one corner, so I had to eat him. #TakeOneForTheTeam)

I am going to opt for spoonfuls and spoonfuls of both on top of mini cupcakes. Mmmmm. If I fatten myself up this week, I can get traveller's diarrhea next week, and end up at a normal weight when I get home.


Seriously though, pumped for my trip. I just booked my hotel near Heathrow (with an 18hr layover, I am going to get a normal night's sleep!), and as I carefully verified all the shuttle & transit details, it occurred to me: If I am confused, I can just ask. Because we speak the same language! It's been a few years since I've traveled internationally through/to an English-speaking country, and let me tell you - I am looking forward to it. Our Spanish phrasebook was a lifesaver last summer. This summer, it will be SO refreshing to speak freely and fluently.

June 15, 2012

June 15th & My Roommate is Great

me: Today is June 15. We are halfway through the month. We are halfway through THE YEAR today!
Karen: Um, no. That's the end of June. But we're almost there...
me: Right... Yep. That's true.

a text convo, re: a change in my plans - 
me: Hey, turns out I'm coming straight home from work after all. Not sure what you're up to, but just thought I'd let you know.
Karen: Dang. I guess I'll have to find a different Naked Night this week.
me: Yup. And I've called dibs on tomorrow.

and texting on her move-in day - 
Karen: We might have to reinforce the walls and windows in our apartment... How else will it be able to contain all of our awesomeness??
me: Our awesome is going to blow this mother down.
Karen: Whoa, whoa, whoa... Let's not be hasty. We want our security deposit back.
me: I am literally laughing out loud on the bus.

Seriously love this girl.

June 13, 2012

June 12, 2012

On Writing & Womanhood

"I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life. I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know. I am trying to come alive, to find the distances in my own recesses and bring them forward and give them color and form.”
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down The Bones

June 11, 2012

Today's Thoughts: Uganda & Job-Hunting

Two weeks from today, I will be on a series of planes over Africa. Actually, right about now I'll be on the homestretch. The homestretch to Uganda, that is.

To say I'm excited is an understatement.

The interesting thing about this trip is that I'm not going for a safari and I'm not going for any humanitarian/aid reasons, which are generally the top motives people head to sub-saharan Africa.

I'm going for friends, and I'm going for me and I'm going because I can and because I believe that traveling with open eyes and a student's mind will inevitably change you.

Anyway. That's my philosophical tidbit for the day. My packing list has been made and I'm figuring out when to do laundry so as to have the most amount of clean clothes without having to resort to second-class outfits before I leave.

The great thing is that I'm embracing skirts and dresses this summer, but likely won't take those with me to Uganda, as above-the-knee is deemed inappropriate in Christian circles.


I am applying for jobs and this is an exciting and terrifying thing. Exciting because I'm moving towards change. Terrifying because I hate rejection. It also means I spend even MORE of my day on the computer as I prep resumes and cover letters in my spare evenings. A tolerable but not desirable reality.

Having these applications out in cyberspace has made it easier to be (slightly) more present at work. There is an end in sight, even if it is not yet determined. I am really enjoying the thought of having a job that I can sink my teeth and heart into, an environment where I feel like I'm part of a team, and the possibility of career advancement within the same organization. This is what I'm dreaming of.

June 8, 2012

Readers Gonna Read

I used to get in trouble for reading at school.

I know. Ridiculous!

Mrs. Dow in particular was unimpressed when she would discover a novel tucked under the edge of my desk, my gaze focused downward while she taught. But then she would ask me a question about the lesson, and I would answer correctly, and what else can you say?

Sometimes I would lose the book despite my (because of?) my smart(ass)ness, and be left bored and/or daydreaming... It seems by Grade 6, I was already developing the philosophy that if the work is boring or easy, so long as it gets done, the rest is details.

And now I'm 27 and good books still suck me in and work is still sometimes boring, and this morning as I heard my boss coming down the stairs, I hurriedly closed The Night Circus with a twinge of guilt.

But mostly, I spent the morning glancing over, wondering what was happening next, and when I would have the chance to find out.


I read on the walk home. As Karen said, "It's the original texting and walking."

Regarding my recent reads, can I recommend (quite strongly) The Shadow of the Wind? It is a good thing I started it on a Friday night, because I finished it at 4am that night... And likely would have done the same on a work night.

June 7, 2012

Read What I Read

When I'm bored at work, I look for interesting articles and good music online. Often I tweet the links, but not always. Also, link posts seem to be popular these days, so here are some things I've enjoyed this week:

An interview with Justin Timberlake, on Botox & being "real" as a musician.

The Temper Trap's new album is streaming.

So is The Tallest Man on Earth's.

Thisismyjam.com - I think it could catch on. Still very beta, very British. But so was Spotify, once upon a time.

Trappist Monks email about the practice of silence.

Andy Samberg on why he didn't get a huge SNL sendoff.

Rachel Held Evans has a whole series of posts on egalitarianism this week. They're lengthy and many in number, but for church folk who recognize that word, they're a good read.

June 4, 2012

Monday Morning Music Mix

It's Monday morning and it's cloudy and these are the songs that I'm still in love with. Nothing new, I'm afraid.

The Head and the Heart

First Aid Kit
(the Swedes make strange videos)

Of Monsters and Men

(Also. Thank you friends who have messaged me to say DON'T STOP BLOGGING! I don't plan on it... I just have these crises on a regular basis, and need to recalibrate my motives/hopes/expectations for it all.)