Monday, June 29, 2015

Heading home and a word of Thanks

I'm returning to Canada today and by this evening, I'll be back in Toronto.  While I have enjoyed my trip, I'm excited and eager to be home.
Sun setting over the Rockies in Colorado. (A fitting image for a journey's end, I think).
This past month has flown by and I have had a lot of fun at each of the stops along my journey.  In the past week or so, a few of my friends have asked me about my favourite activity or favourite place from the states I have visited.  Really, that's not an easy question to answer.  Each state is very much different from the others I visited.  Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, Wyoming.  It's hard to pick a favourite when I did different activities in each location and when the climates differ as well.  I will say I was happy to find cold nights in Colorado and Wyoming.  It's a little weird to me when the temperature doesn't drop after the sun goes down...

This whole trip has been so much fun and such a wonderful experience. I got to meet so many of my friends for the first time--some that I only really knew of by name before this trip--and was blessed by each encounter.  To all those friends, thanks for the rides to and from my transport connections, a place to camp out while I visited, and food to sustain my existence. Ha! ;)  I am so glad that I was able to make time for this trip and that I was able to share life with each of you, if only for a couple of hours or a couple of days.  Until we meet again in person.
Banner from CleanPlace website.
But most of all, I really want to thank the person who "made" this trip possible.  As I was staying at her house, I couldn't really think of what to say, so I will do my best to articulate it here and now.  MangyCat, thank you a million moose for making CleanPlace.  If you hadn't wanted to connect and help teen writers, life would have been very different.  Because of you, we all met and have built lasting relationships within a welcoming and supportive community.  Before this trip, I never realized how supporting.  As I appealed to the group saying, "I will be in Colorado from X to Y, or Wyoming Z to D," so many people were willing to meet me and help me, even if we had never truly talked while "on" CleanPlace.  This is a legacy that you have created. Again I say, thank you!

To the friends on this trip and the ones I have yet to meet in person, let's do life together sometime in the future.  Until then,
May the road rise up to meet you. 
May the wind always be at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
and rains fall soft upon your fields. 
And until we meet again, 
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Old Irish Blessing)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing the Incline

Until Sunday, I could not easily name the hardest thing I ever hiked/climbed.  With family and friends, I've done a number of different trails over the course of my life, but none were as hard as the Incline just outside of Colorado Springs (although a section of the Cheddar Gorge trail in the UK would come close if it had been longer).  The climb to the top is only 1 mile long, but it climbs 2,000 feet.  In combination, it's a very difficult climb.  (You can visit the trail's website here).
I snapped this just as we were starting out.  You can see the "false" summit at the top.
Despite being in fairly good shape, it took me about an hour to get to the top.  I had to pause to rest and drink water numerous times, my heart beating so fast and hard like a drum banging warning.  I knew the air would be thinner than I was used to and did not want to over push myself.  People have died on this trail.  Various factors play a role, but mainly they try to climb too quickly and don't always bring enough water.  Be prepared!
The view back down the stairs.  Stunning.
The view from the top of the stairs is well worth the climb.  The city spreads out before you, looking both petite and vast.  The sun was setting behind the mountains as we climbed, leaving us in much appreciated shade upon the stairs.  With each look out into the distance, the shadows crept further away, like a blanket spreading out to tuck in the Springs.  The sky above the mountains was painted in splashes of pale pinks, yellows and reds as the sun dropped below the horizon.
View from the plateau at the top of the stairs. (to the south-west-ish)
It got dark pretty fast after that so my new friend Frost and I hurried down the trail--but not before taking a selfie together at the top.  Maybe someday we'll meet back here to climb it all again.
Me and Frost after she made it to the top.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Mountains are Calling...

2000+ cowboy boot
I finished my brief stop in Tennessee.  Nashville was a lot of fun.  Despite being a larger city, it still had a nice small-town feel and the downtown was très cute.  Mary and I didn't do much downtown, but it was fun to walk through and mooch through some of the stores.  We saw some beautiful cowboy boots.  I found a hat that cost 500$--and I realize that there were some that were a lot more.  Considering I don't have the best track record of not losing hats, I couldn't imagine spending that much on a hat.

And now I am in Colorado.  It's been nearly 10 years since I last saw the Rockies in person and they are ever stunning.  I love how you can see them while walking around town, rising like guardians in the distance, peaks dusted with snow.  Mountains are truly an awe-inspiring structure in nature.

After arriving, my friend Jessica and her mother picked me up from the airport and took me to see the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.  Don't be deceived by the name as I was.  It is not a traditional garden.  The primary feature are the red rocks that reach up to the sky in a jagged and breathtaking array.  People can even scale up the rock face--if they have the appropriate equipment and a permit, that is.  I for one don't think I would be brave enough.

I'm hoping to get in some good hiking while I'm here.  There's so much beauty, it would be almost a waste not to.  The mountains are calling and I must go!

Me sitting at the entrance to the Garden of the Gods Park
View of the rocks in the garden from one of the vantage points.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hyde, Jekyll and I: A Review

Last weekend, while in Florida, I started the Korean Drama Hyde, Jekyll and I.  I had a couple hours to kill as I waited for Amanda and decided to start a new drama.  I have a list of dramas I'd like to watch and didn't think much about which one came next.  Little did I know that it was going to be the best k-drama I had seen to date.

Image of main characters (
Image via Google
The premise of the show is as follows:
The main character, Goo Seo Jin is the heir to the Wonder Group company.  Due to a traumatic childhood event, he has dissociative identity disorder (DID or multiple personality disorder) and lives his life like a glacier, icy and detached from everyone around him.  When his heartbeat exceeds 150 bpm, the alternate personality of "Robin" emerges.  Robin is kind, gentle, full of smiles and has a "saving" personality--a stark contrast to Seo Jin's cool demeanor.

When we enter the story, for the past five years, Seo Jin has kept Robin under control, but things are about to change.  Seo Jin's doctor disappears the same day she tells him that she found a cure for his illness.  The only witness is Jang Ha Na, the new spunky leader of Wonder Land's circus.  Despite Seo Jin's wish to keep people distant, he is forced to look after Ha Na as the kidnapper now targets her life.  With Ha Na in danger, Robin begins to appear more and more and pretty soon the two are falling for each other, despite Seo Jin wishing otherwise.  Things won't stay the same for long in Seo Jin's world.

My friend Kendra joined me in watching while I was in Georgia and she, too, was drawn in. Fast.  The story was quick with a lot of twists and turns.  We often wondered to each other: just where were the writers going next? One thing would seem to resolve and then Bam! What was white and blue became gold and black.  Emotional cries left our lips as events unfolded, sometimes leaving us stupefied and quivering on the couch. 

What's more is that we felt really attached to some of the characters.  Without giving away spoilers, we both really felt strongly about the villain.  For a number of episodes, we were cheering on the bad guy! I don't remember the last time I ended up feeling for and sympathizing for a villain character.

The only potential "downside" was that we made a lot of fun of the soundtrack.  There was one song that had us in fits of giggles every time it came on and we'd walk around the house belting the English lyrics out in horrible, out of tune fashion.  

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this k-drama and would highly recommend it. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Forest of Lights: Atlanta Botanical Gardens

There is something about light that is fascinating.  Mesmerized by a starry sky, we can lose ourselves in the vastness above.  I know many people who will stay up late, meeting up at that perfect location to watch a meteor shower.  Or think of when there's an eclipse: we are drawn to the hanging silhouette (hopefully with eye protection!). We gather as communities for fireworks displays, or come together as family and friends for a campfire in someone's backyard.  Children especially love playing with sparklers and the like.
More information on the Forest of Lights.

Light is powerful and beautiful.

Currently, at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, there is the "Forest of Light," open Wednesday through Sunday evenings this summer.  The gardens, spectacular to see during the day, are now equally breathtaking and enjoyable after twilight.  Designed and installed by Bruce Munro, the lights transform the gardens into a fantastical get-a-way.

In large part, the display makes me think of the forests of Pandora from the Avatar movie, although I recognize that the "Forest of Light" precedes the film.  Strings of light diverge from their central power box. Twisted in loose shapes, they are encased by plastic bottles to create a lantern-like appearance.  As you watch any of these structures, the colours fluctuate along the rainbow.  Ah, c'est belle!
Shot of the inside of one of the structures.
A number of light structures around a pond, each changing colour.
One of the cool features of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is that there is a suspended walkway that curls gently over and down into the Storza Woods.  The artist used this feature well.  The forest floor is a meadow of light blossoms, ever changing in colour as you walk over and along the paths.  I could have lost myself amid the beauty.  My photos cannot fully capture how awe-inspiring it was to be among these luminous flowers.

Definitely well worth the visit if you are in the area and have time to go.

Shot from the bridge overhead.
Focused on one "bulb." 
The forest rising up toward the suspended bridge.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

My (Brief) Florida Vacation

Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom
Well, I'm on the move again and am now in Georgia.  I started out my trip in Florida to visit my friend Amanda.  She's pretty cool because she's an über-talented seamstress and she can talk in a chipmunk voice on cue.

This was my first time in Florida and I had the pleasure of going to Universal Studios one day and to Disney's Magic Kingdom on another.  Both were pretty cool parks to walk around.  There's a lot to look at, even if you don't go on many rides.  I've always been a fan of Disney--especially the soundtracks.  (Alan Menken is one of my favourites!).  As a kid, I would see the commercials for vacations in Disney Land or Disney World, I'm not exactly sure which one.  My young brain only caught on to "Disney."  I knew it was beyond what we could do as a family, but I always wanted to go.

I'm glad that I was at last able to go to at least one of the parks.  I hope that sometime in the future I will be able to go to the others as well.  The building structures and the layout of the Magic Kingdom was really pretty.  We got there just in time for the afternoon parade.  Looking at the costumes as the people and floats went by, I couldn't believe what they were wearing in the heat.  Some of the cast members were dripping with sweat! What troopers.
Beauty and the Beast in the Parade
Merida on bagpipes
While I didn't find the rides as exciting as the ones at Universal (or Canada's Wonderland), they were still entertaining.  I almost lost my hat on one ride.  I would have been really sad if that had been the case, but my luck held out and I was able to get it back.

Universal also had some really cool buildings relating to the movies.  The Harry Potter sections were my favourite and I even got a picture with the Night Bus like a cool tourist.

The Night Bus and me.
The recreation of Hogwarts was also cool to look at and very majestic sitting on the hill above everything else.  I wish it had been a model that we could have walked through.  Oh well...  All in all, it was an enjoyable experience.  

And now, I look forward to the next stage in my adventure!
Hogwarts Castle

Thursday, June 04, 2015

brb Canada

Well, I'm off on another adventure.

Currently, I am flying out of Montreal, headed down to the United States.  I'll be hitting up a number of states.  Which ones, you ask?  I could tell you, but that would be telling.  So I won't.  It shall be a mystery!  Muahaha.

My luggage is ready to go!
Looks like I'm in a bit of a silly mood today.  Whoops.

I'm really looking forward to my trip because I haven't yet had the chance to see much of the States.  I lucked out with a window seat on my flight, which means that while I won't be making any trips to the bathroom, I have a lovely view of the earth below! I remember looking out of the window when I was flying over Québec on my way back from England.  It was both awe-inspiring and confounding.  To think that I was so high above the ground!


My trip is also a wonderful excuse to meet up with some awesome people.  New and old friends--people I've met in real life before and people whom I have only spoken with through various forms of communication.  How excited I am to meet these friends on my "road trip" of sorts.

Well, that's all for now.  Wish me the best!

Be right back, Canada.  See you in a month.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

And that's a B.Ed

Well, I've made it.  I have completed both my undergrad and now my Bachelor of Education. 

The past year has gone by so fast.  Between the class work and the in school placements, the year has been busy.  Exhausting and stressful at times, yes, but also very satisfying. 

I am so glad that I can now say that I am done.  There's another milestone done; one more leg on the journey of life.

In a way, it's weird to think that, for the moment at least, this marks an end to my formal schooling.  All my life has pretty much been school, and, while I am now qualified to be a teacher and thus won't be leaving school really, it is time to join the "adult world" (as my mum tells me).  So many changes are on the horizon.  So many new things are coming in the next couple of days, weeks and months.

Amidst all of this change, I will take a moment to stop and think on all that has happened.  

I'm here now, celebrating in this moment.As I stood in the wings today, waiting for my chance to walk across the stage, I couldn't help the giddy smile that pulled my lips apart. From all the workand assignments I pushed through to all the friends I was lucky enough to make, it's been a good year.  

That's a wrap. That's a B.Ed. Now onto the next adventure!

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...