End of Marathon
July 13, 2016, 3:52 am
Filed under: overtly political

Performance anxiety sets in about three days in advance, like dark storm clockwork. It happens.  Then sleep.  A predictable cycle.

“Bring your friends! Come back soon!” he says, passing some sandwiches over.  He’s so nice, the world is a nice place.  Waiting.

This summer has been mostly rain, not much heat.  Halfway in, feeling like it’s just about to start.  Sundresses half unpacked, waiting, like these months.  Almost.

It’s funny how the metrics change.  In this place flush with resources, some is everything and nothing.  Arriving here, there was enough.  Enough to solve problems, get out.  Then there was a surplus, enough to put a bit here and there, a net.  There were some milestones.  Not everyone has a net, but instead of thinking about that, the gaze goes upwards.  At the top of any given hill, there is a mountain ahead, something that will make a kingdom into a fiefdom, and a fiefdom into serfdom.

Credit Suisse says the median net worth per adult in Canada last year was $74,800, the true middle.  In the USA it was $49,800.  The world median is $3200. (All USD)


Hasta Luego
April 21, 2016, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Canada, overtly political | Tags:

When we moved here, the cab drivers from the suburb where there are regular gang shootings would say “you live in a bad neighborhood”.

Last week, a driver dropped me off and said “this neighborhood sure is changing.”

This morning I walked to the cafe that had good breakfast burritos and nanaimo bars, jonesing.  It was gone.  Brown paper in the windows advertising a new cafe.  The same thing happened a few months back with the best grocery store in the hood.  One day it was just shuttered, a sold sign outside.  Strange small businesses have come and gone – taking a risk on cheap rent.

We were late comers to this hood – years ago, cabs wouldn’t come down at all.  There’s no pretending to have true ownership here, we came to witness the end.

On arrival, it was perfect.  A heady mix of things within walking distance.  Sheltered from the crowds mostly due to incorrect fears.  An incubator for the small and interesting, a repository for roughed-up history.  It was friendly.  A bit weird.

It was also very obvious what was coming.

Now.  Upmarket spas and fitness options.  Replicated cafes, almost indistinguishable from each other, on each corner. Other parts of the city reach tentacles into the storefronts, making everything just a bit more uniform.  Tidy.  Many sources for cold pressed juice, all the cold pressed juice you can handle.  Little reference to what was before, spaces remodelled and wiped clean.  Made boring.

Mainstream press starts to trumpet the area as a must-see.

Personally, this is not, financially, a bad thing.  More people will consider buying this place because they are more comfortable in gentrified spaces.  This hidden enclave will have more visibility, curb appeal.

And we will disappear along with the others.

Sick Days
October 19, 2011, 2:27 am
Filed under: overtly political | Tags: , ,

“I was worried.”
“I thought you were not worried at all. You kept telling me I was going to be fine.”
“What was I supposed to say? Hey, I think you’re going to die?”

I felt a little unwell. Mildly sort of unwell. My friends were leaving town, farmwork suddenly finished, and I went to their house for some quiet farewell celebrations. Then, suddenly, I went uncontrollably exorcist on their floor. I threw up so hard there was backsplash and I had to get in the shower to try and get it off me as they threw my clothes in the laundry and cobbled together a new outfit.

Within an hour my urine was full of blood. Pouring bright red. By 1 a.m. I was walking twenty minutes to the ER, hoping it was open, searching on my phone for signs it was open, because no one has cars and no one is from here.

In the emergency room, the apparent lack of pain made things seem routine to the attending. Vomit and a little blood are standard, I’m sure. Then I gave him the sample, which was actually a cup full of blood, and he suddenly asked me about next of kin and repeatedly if it was at all possible I had been hit really hard in the kidneys and failed to notice. Then I heard him on the phone – too much blood in the sample to even read it, he didn’t know what to do.

They gave me a pill and the most hi tech barf bag I’ve ever seen. Then more pills, telling me to come back in seven hours. One of my friends slept on my floor in case something went really wrong, to fully appreciate this you should know that my floor has some of the most suspect carpet I have ever seen.

The pills worked, the blood stopped, I did not experience organ failure down under.

The other part of this story is that I called my insurer only to find out there was a mistake I didn’t notice when the policy issued and I had just found myself uninsured in a first class medical system. With lab tests pending and a lack of clarity about whether what was being used to treat me was even, in fact, going to work long term. I laid in bed, passing in and out of sleep, wondering how close to a thousand this little adventure would run.

Yesterday I paid the bill at the hospital (and hopefully fixed my insurance). $177. For two visits, lab tests and an arsenal of strong antibiotics. Given how much everything else costs in this country, I practically hugged the woman at accounts.

I’m sure there are a lot of morals to this story but the main one for me is that living in a country with public health care is amazing. There is nothing like having to ask yourself, on a twenty minute walk to an emergency room as your bladder pumps full of blood and your mouth tastes like vomit, whether your insurer will Cover This and how quickly you should call them. There is nothing like dealing with caustic claims people whose job it is to exclude you from coverage however possible. The Canadian healthcare system has a lot of things that could and should be changed but the cost to access it is not negotiable.

Feels Like the First Time: Being a Foreigner
September 29, 2011, 3:19 am
Filed under: overtly political, voyageur | Tags: , , ,

A long time ago, this space debated the use of the word expat versus immigrant. For the record, when people ask, I just call myself a foreigner.

Work is a microcosm of the larger community. From behind a counter, a lot about relationships between local groups is apparent. One of the most interesting, personally, has been the relationship between Aussies and foreigners. As yet, I have yet to meet a foreigner who has been fully accepted by the community here regardless of how long they have lived in town or what they do. This initial impression has been confirmed by a little something that happens after ten at night and about twenty tiny little glasses of beer when yet another random mildly xenophobic comment about someone else in the bar is uttered. Maybe it’s the song they chose on the jukebox, maybe it’s talking too loud. Some will say they fit in fine, like it here even, but those ten pm truths are sharp and constant and for some the desire to fit in is palpable.

To be fair, no one has said anything truly xenophobic to me, but this is probably because I fit in a different category of foreigner. I’m transient, part of the entertainment.

I can’t help but compare with my life in Africa.

Maybe it’s because everyone is so different, so multilingual. Maybe it’s because the second passport is often a status symbol. Maybe it’s that people are more relaxed about things generally, TIA. All I know is that my life in small town Africa was marked by the openness of people. It’s not lost on me that a country notorious for xenophobic attacks over the last couple of years is a place where my own experience was tolerance and acceptance. Yet another paradox.

I really enjoy the people in this town, and they have been incredibly nice to me so far, but today I’m just a little homesick for that small town an eight hour flight away.

Advice is a form of nostalgia: on money and college
March 16, 2011, 2:18 pm
Filed under: overtly political, when I grow up

Reading yet another study about student loan defaults in America. A comparator study in a place where higher education is less expensive/less of a puppy mill would be interesting.

The afternoon after I finished my final university exam, probably ever, I went out and bought a book about money. Not one of those motivational be-a-millionaire things, an entry level book about things like taxes and RRSPs. Hello, geek. I figured that for the first time in my life I would have a salary that didn’t entirely go towards living expenses and tuition. As I read, the one thing I was sure of was I wish I had bought the book when I was 16 instead of 24.

Mostly, for the record, so I would have understood the nuances of tax credits, the stupidity of having my parents claim my tax credits at the advice of their accountants, and what different kinds of investments were. I would have been better at the kind of receipts I kept and didn’t keep – also crap advice from their accountant. I also probably would have applied for more government student loans on the interest free basis they were provided and would have invested the money to pay them off in bonds or GICs. I would have considered working harder during gap periods to make cash to max out my non-taxable income and inflate my GST rebate a bit. Basically, I would have taken a more active role in managing my cash.

Continue reading

March 8, 2011, 2:12 pm
Filed under: overtly political

About to give fried chicken a go, for the first time EVER. Fried chicken and green beans and maybe some squash.

This is an interesting article. Notes on the diaspora:

…the vast majority (65 percent) of non-resident Canadians were born in Canada. This helps to explain why members of the Canadian diaspora seem to have a strong sense of affinity to this country: 64 percent continue to call Canada home, and close to 70 percent indicate an intention to return to Canada at some point in the future (almost half of that number within the next ten years).

I have come across and handful of Canadians who could be considered part of the diaspora in this country. One moved here strictly to be with her boyfriend, another worked as a university professor and on a PhD, a third was working illegally and making visa runs. The only one I particularly identified with was the one who had attended school and worked in this country of her own volition, as we had similar solo travel stories and observations that result from institutional integration (i.e. being part of the traditional workplace, attending school).

I can’t actually imagine giving up my citizenship. Ever. Or referring to myself as something else first, and a Canadian second. National identity is too much a part of my personality, history, values, and ideals.

Finally, resident Canadian citizens need to start conceiving of Canada in non-geographic terms. Yes, its hub exists in the upper half of the North American continent. More broadly, it is a particular configuration of goals, values and shared experiences that is dispersed around the globe. In this sense, as Loat has put it, Canada becomes “wherever Canadians are.” And that makes it a very big country indeed.


It’s hot here today, unusual for our tiny outcropping which tends to be breezy no matter how boiling it gets just twenty kilometers inland. We went swimming at lunch, the water is Carribean blue. Normally this weather means the wind shifts onshore midday, but right now things are pretty still and we’ll be checking out the beachfront again when LG gets home from work.

cash only basis
August 5, 2010, 1:00 am
Filed under: nomadisms, overtly political, runaway, voyageur

This city is overrun with gypsies!

I am starting to savour possible lasts, just a bit. This kicked in mid last weekend, at my first bar. The first bar I ever attended where they stopped checking my ID and free drinks were possible (alas both of those privileges have faded with time). So much insanity. Think a dance floor unexplainably full of dudes, mass shuffling to a Thriller remix (which was the point where I told E that it was clear, God Loves Her), and some guy who do-see-do’ed around me in odd concentric circles as I laughed hysterically. Words don’t do the scene justice, the universe conspiring for a memorable goodbye. We were in the bathroom and I was looking in a mirror I’ve examined myself in a hundred times or more and I needed to take a picture, of us, looking in that mirror. Something to remember this place by.

I don’t know I’ll ever make it back there.

Of course, we don’t make it back a lot of places. But there are some where so much has happened that it takes on a certain kind of personal sacredness. Two of the trashy bars from my trashed out youth have been disassembled and rebranded this year.*

Random thoughts pop up constantly. Like: I should get all my change together to make sure I use it up. Everything inconsequential; some form of processing above ground.

My new passport arrived. Thanks to the awkward lighting and three retakes, I look more like a terrorist than ever, and will continue to look as such until 2015. I used the old one to get the new one and the post office lady remarked it had gotten a lot of use, hers was mostly blank. And yet in comparison to everyone I judge mine against, I feel like I haven’t been anywhere, even though of the four and a half years the passport was in operation I’ve spent at least eleven months out of the country, probably closer to twelve. That’s about 1/5 days, stats masters.

As I write this an obscure song I listened to daily in one of those places pipes in over the coffee shop speakers. Believe.

Because I read too much WSJ, NYTimes and G&M, sometimes paranoia sets in about what’s a good and bad idea before thirty. But, one of the radical things that happens on going to far flung places is that you realize the media is severely, seriously wrong about a lot of objective things taken for granted (politics, geography, you name it), and much is not to be believed.

Someone asked me about going to the “safe, Southern part” of Africa. This made me laugh because only a few years ago, the Southern portion of Africa had a rap for being the belly of hell. Apparently a month of FIFA without any massacres (save a bombing in Uganda that probably didn’t register and certainly didn’t drive any of the foreigners I know personally out) a safe place makes. I’m not saying it’s safe, or unsafe, but if anyone was wondering if the PR job that was FIFA 2010 was effective, at least temporarily, I’m going to venture a yes.

*I promise all my favorite spots aren’t watering holes – they tend to be socialization hubs. I still miss my favorite apartment and various houses my friends lived in during college but, oddly, am probably not permitted to rampage through them years later in search of nostalgia