Saturday, 19 August 2017

Somewhere between here and there, next to the sea and underneath the trees

To say I was nervous could be considered a bit of an understatement. While I live with many anxieties, part of that means worrying over small, tiny little, inconsequential details, such as what if I can’t figure out the automated gate system at the campground and have to spend the entire trip living out of my car instead? It turns out it was a lot more simple than I had conjured up in my head – as is usually the case.

Putting aside all of these unfounded fears, spending a week amongst nature was just what I needed. Anyone who argues against the impact that the natural environment has on our mental and physical health has simple not done it right…if ever. But the highlight for me was getting to see parts of the province I have spent the majority of my life in, that I hadn’t previously seen. And, it was even better to have my favourite four-legged buddy to experience it all with me. Seriously – Gertie is quite possibly the best little travel companion I’ve ever had… minus the fact that she refuses to enjoy swimming.

I drove 1285.9 km, at an average speed of 69 km/hr, which took 18 hours and fifteen minutes in total (I got lost or took a wrong turn on more than one occasion...). I read two books, explored numerous Nova Scotian gems (including stays at three provincial campgrounds), thought about what’s next, and finally found the urge to write again. Here are just a few photographic highlights from the week under the care of Mother Nature*:

This was the morning I left from my grandmother’s. It was sunny.
Within approximately 30 minutes of this snap, it began to pour!
Teaching yourself how to put up a tent can be challenging at the best of times.
I did it a torrential downpour. This is the look of achievement ...soaking wet!
Day two was still really wet, so it was a road trip/Sunday drive sort of day. We first went through
Barrington (to locate a much needed coffee!), and eventually took a drive around Cape Sable Island.
This is the municipal buildings of Clark’s Harbour, located on Cape Sable Island. I thought it was pretty cute.  
The boardwalk behind the municipal building was a great spot to stretch our legs.
The sign post indicates how close various cities are, which I always find interesting. 
 A view of The Hawk aka the turning point of Cape Sable Island. 
The sound of waves crashing not he shore never gets old. 

Fort Saint-Louis ... or perhaps just Green Space Saint-Louis... 
 One of spots I took a wrong turn landed us at a dead end in Baccaro...which also 
happened to house this lighthouse and some painted rocks that were free for the taking, 
but I opted not to. Instead, I just took a picture of them all!

Sometimes you just need to take in a little history... like a visit to the Black Loyalist  Heritage Centre! 
Finally the rain subsided, and I got to snap this beaut from the campground looking out towards the town of Shelburne. 
Our first stop - post coffee - leaving Shelburne on our way to Grand Lake was the Port Medway Lighthouse.
(You will start to notice there’s a bit of a lighthouse visiting theme within this trip!)

 Our second campground happened to be one of my childhood stomping grounds, although only for picnics, never for camping. However, it’s pretty small, so Gertie and I decided to do a little hike in Victoria Park! 

 Walton Lighthouse located in what apparently used to be known as Petite Riviere. 
It had a beautiful view of Cape Split, which happens to be my favourite view in all of Nova Scotia. 
Unfortunately, a phone camera doesn’t quite have the zoom technology to capture it! 
Another ‘never been’ stop - the Burntcoat Head Park.
 This is the lighthouse that you will find if you happen to stop in for a visit. 
The tide was on it’s way in...or out, who really knows. It was windy, and loud, and Gertie did not appreciate the many others that came to observe alongside us! She must take after her mother! 
The unfortunate part of our visit to Burncoat Head, was that I misread the info and thought
there was a hiking trail. FORTUNATELY, just down the road, on the way back to our third
campground is a beautiful place called Cheverie. It also happens to have a little salt marsh
trail, which gave Gert and I a gentle and sometimes shaded walk!
On my final night of camping I found myself to be the only one in the campground.
It was really nice to have a quiet night, but also really strange to not see anyone.
Now that I’ve resurfaced, I’ve found myself in a far less anxious state. I feel a sense of calm that had been missing from the past several months. The week of camping - while a bit tiring - was also much needed. It started out a lot more wet than I’d have preferred, but ended on a sunny and peacefully quiet note.

Reflecting on the entire experience, I’d have to say, that aside from the many sights I was able to take in, the best part was just doing it. I’m not sure I would have done this if I didn’t have Gertie with me, but regardless, I’m really glad I decided to go. The anxieties leading up to the trip were worth it in the end, not only for the state of mind I have been gifted, but for the bragging rights to have faced, yet another, fear and lived to tell about it.

Just a little evening candle action, for if you/re needing a sense of calm yourself!
I’m hoping my rejuvenated spirit and rehabilitated love of writing will result in getting this ‘ol blog back up to speed! Until then - take care of your sweet selves! 

-the Orange Canadian


*Quite possibly the most hippy thing I have ever written.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Return of the Orange Canadian

Hello again. It’s been quite some time since I last wrote (even though I have written a number of posts that I have not published). I apologize for my lack of voice. And while there’s much that I could, should, and perhaps more importantly need to write about, I’m simply just not ready yet.

If you follow me on any of my social media outlets aside from the blog, you have seen me in person, or have written me for an update you undoubtedly know that I’m no longer based at the Source of the Nile. I am, in fact, back in my birthplace – Halifax, Nova Scotia. …well, currently I am not there, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The decision to leave Uganda, at least temporarily, was one that was unimaginably difficult. But, as I noted in the first paragraph, I’ll get to that part of my life at a later date. For now, I need to focus on the immediate. I’m not in a position to daydream about down the road, nor would it be healthy – mentally – for me to reflect on the past few months. So, if you can bear with me, I promise, that in time, I will regurgitate all that has led me to this exact point, in my usual awkward, bordering on self-deprecating, humorous way.

I chose to subtitle this post as The Return of the Orange Canadian, as I’m afraid I’ve been a little lost lately – not just in terms of blogging, but as a person, as a mental state, and on a spiritual level. My soul has been depleted, and so, I’ve taken a few weeks to reorient myself to my surroundings. Now, I’m on a quest to get back to my normal self – and what better way to do that than under the comfort of thr stars, with my pup by my side (hint: I’ve gone camping).

I’m already breaking my first rule, which is to shut off technology – no Facebook, Instagram, email, or phone, more generally. But, I finally had an urge to put pen-to-paper, or finger-to-keyboard, as it were, so thought I’d take a few minutes, piece together a few words, and then shut it down until I return to “civilization.”

Today is only day one, and already we’re off to a good start – it’s been torrentially raining all day, which in and of itself is not the best way to start a camping trip. But to make things even more misadventurous, I had to teach myself how to put together my tent for the first time in said downpour. I’m sure anyone watching had a good chuckle at my expense, but at the end of the day, I’m proud to say I got it together. …mind you, there’s at least a 30% chance that it will collapse on Gertie and I in the middle of the night, but for now, we are staying dry and enjoying the downtime. The good thing about the rain is that it gives a justifiable excuse to not be worrying about doing things for the sake of doing something.

The funny thing about the above scenario, is that every time I have gone camping in Canada it has either rained or snowed. And today is no different. In fact, the entire duration of my time away is forecasted to be a rainy mess, so that… should be… fun. Good thing I love the rain!

Anyway, I want to leave this post by ensuring you all that I’m okay. I am safe, healthy, and surrounded by good people (when I’m not off in the wilderness!). Life is amazing, and I have had the fortune of getting to live some pretty big things over the last few years. And, while I’m not saying some of those things have concluded, what I am saying is that it’s time to figure out a different routine. Even though I may not be where I had hoped to be at this moment, I’m exactly where I need to be – and that is something I needed to remind myself. Life has a funny way of working itself out, and I have no doubt there are plenty of adventures to come.


- the Orange Canadian

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Rama-done!

It was a month to the day that I began the journey of my first-ever Ramadan. Eid is among us, and there is cause to celebrate. For one whole month, Muslims, and those tagging along during this holy tradition endured a daytime fast, a whole lot of prayer, and the many other aspects of Ramadan.

As a first-timer, this was a unique experience. One of my deciding factors for participating in Ramadan this year, was that the family I am staying with are Muslim. I thought it might be rude to be cooking a desirable smelling lunch while everyone around me fasted. Well, it turns out the joke was on me – exemptions of participation include children and pregnant folks. Mama is pregnant, and the two boys are children, so they didn’t participate. Papa was away during the weeks, and was only home on Saturdays and the occasional Sunday, so on those few occasions there was someone else fasting. Everyone else who stays within the same compound, including Mama’s brother, are Christian, so they, too, are also exempt from fasting! So, I, in effect, was the only one in my Muslim compound partaking in Ramadan… This meant I was the one that had to endure the tempting scents of cooking food during lunch time!

But aside from that, the experience was so much more. The meditation became a place of solace. It gave me time to think, to grieve, to be thankful, but most importantly to reflect. As the month went on, I became so much more aware of my feelings, of my mental state, and of what I was wanting – or perhaps needing – from life. I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever been more aware of my inner workings, nor my surroundings, and that has been the most rewarding part of this experience.

Fasting was not as much of a challenge as I’d anticipated; although some days were more difficult than others. I missed coffee, as the early morning hours made me feel sleepy throughout the day. And sure, I could have had it, but I was worried about the mid-afternoon caffeine crash/shakes. You know, the ones that require you to get something in your system in order to stave off?! I was actually quite surprised how easy the first few days were and yet how challenging the last week became. I found between 1 and 4 to be the times that I felt the fast the most, and occasionally around 10 or 11AM, which is when I would normally start thinking about breakfast. And now that the fasting as finished, I’m really struggling to eat, as I’m no longer used to scarfing down multiple meals a day!

Following the month-long fast is Eid – the big celebration culminating the end of Ramadan. Isma, my boda driver and good friend, spoke all month long about how great this celebration was going to be. He told me about years past, all the food that would be prepared, and insisted I join his family. I was all too happy to attend, and had this in mind throughout the month, especially in times where I was wanting to break before it was time. But, as many of the other expectations went, the morning of Eid, Isma awoke to an empty house. His mother had left to spend Eid in the village, meaning there would be no celebration for Isma, nor I! Luckily, the family I lived with sent me a plate from their celebration, which was both delicious and thoughtful… although a little strange that I was not invited to join them while we all ate. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this gesture and thanked them for thinking of me.

Eid dinner, as provided by my neighbours - rice, chapati, Irish, and matoke, with beef stew!

Now to sum it all up. In the post I wrote at the start of Ramadan, I indicated that following each prayer time – of which I decided to meditate rather than pray – I would make note of one thing that I was grateful for. At the time, I thought that this would involve 152 items, but because of the date on which Ramadan ended, it ended up being (only!) 148! I also decided that instead of just writing each thing down and posting a long list of randomly placed things, I would record myself identifying each of the 148 areas of gratitude. The result is a (just under) 6-minute video. Many of the things I list came to me fairly easy, although some days were a bit more challenging.


One that I left out, was how grateful I am for all of you who follow the blog faithfully* (and even those who just check in from time-to-time!). Life is pretty amazing, and I learned just how much I take for granted. I would love to know what things you are grateful for, as well, so feel free to send me a message, or leave it in the comments below!
                          

-the Orange Canadian

*And also bacon... actually I had accumulated a little list of additional things that weren’t included.