Wednesday, 6 December 2017

December 6th: Marking 100 Years

It was a day much different from this one. For starters, it’s 10°C, and a hundred years ago, a snowstorm was on its way. But the rainy, solemn morning in Halifax today seems equally appropriate.

Marking its 100th anniversary, the Halifax Explosion is Canada’s largest maritime disaster and one of the most significant events in the country’s war history. Sadly, the events of this day are often omitted from curriculum* in other parts of the country, despite the impact it had from coast to coast.

An estimated 2000 people were killed, countless others were injured, houses and businesses were destroyed, and life in this city changed in a flash. The cause? A munitions ship (the SS Mont Blanc) collided with the SS Imo, causing a blast that could be felt miles away. And if this wasn’t bad enough, a snowstorm hit that same evening, placing even more stresses to an already challenging situation. There are loads of sites, books, and other platforms to learn more about this event in detail, so I’ll leave this to you to investigate further. There’s even a few good tunes to be found!

Today I had fully intended to head over to Fort Needham Memorial Park to participate in the official memorial. But I just couldn’t get organized enough to do so. Instead, I prepped Gertie for her daily morning walk, and we made our way down to the Dartmouth waterfront - the next best place, I figured.

As we reached the edge of the boardwalk, the cannon sounded from atop Citadel Hill, and our minute of silence began. The ships in the harbour blew their horns, which presented an even more eerie mood to the day. It felt heavy. And it was all sort of overwhelming.

I thought of my paternal grandfather and how if he had been in a different place that morning I probably wouldn’t be here. I thought of my grandmother’s friend and infamous survivor, Barbara Orr, and of all the wonderful tales Grammy has told me about her over the years**. I thought of the kindness of those who came from near and far to lend a helping hand, and how recent disasters have typically been shown the same sense of humanity.

And as I move forward with the day, I will continue to reflect on how lucky I am and try to focus on the good that people can do. I will also take a few minutes to think about another horrific event that took place on this day and which marks the 28th anniversary of the events at École Polytechnique. This day is now recognized as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

It’s a big day for Canadian history. It’s a sad day. But it’s also a day to consider and envision a way forward, towards a more peaceful world, while embracing the gravity of both of these events.

-the Orange Canadian

*Not that we need to know every historical detail of our country, but one of this magnitude should certainly be mentioned at the very least!
**I even have some of her artwork still - pieces that my mother cherished.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Lessons learned from life with a puppy

It’s hard to believe, but somehow 6 months has already passed with Gertie. Yes, half a year ago, I brought home the sweetest little pup, and my entire life changed almost instantly. And while she’s still pretty sweet, she’s certainly not that little nugget anymore. She still remains hyper, loving, curious, WAY too amused by the male species, and a super snuggler. She’s also still quite timid at times, racked full of anxiety, and won’t let anything stand in the way of her and any source of food.

Gertie, at 9 weeks old. The first day home. 
Gertie at 6 and 8 months old, respectively. 

When I brought her home from Uganda, she weighed about 9.5kg. When we were last at the vet, she had doubled*. She has taken on an even happier personality since we arrived, and agrees that bacon is one of the better reasons to wake up in the morning (when I’m willing to share).

But aside from all of this, she has taught me so much about myself, life, and the true meaning of love. Here are just a few insights:

There is nothing better than coming home to a puppy after a long day of work

Since Gertie came into my life, I have a new understanding of time. That is, for a puppy, being gone for five minutes is the equivalent of being gone for 5 hours. Whether I run out to the car quickly, close the door while having a pee, or leave for a full day of work, the reaction when I return is the same - sheer joy, and whimpers that I can only assume translate to Mama, why did you leave me for so long?

The greeting I receive when I come home is sometimes the best part of my day. It’s also when I get a nice facial cleanse, but that’s neither here, nor there. No human I have ever encountered has ever been that excited to see me on a consistent basis like she is... except for maybe the little guy who’s family I stayed with Uganda...but I’m pretty sure he just wanted candy!

Bodily functions/fluids aren’t so gross

I have been on the record enough times for most people to know I’m not so big on the idea of children. I mean, I know they exist and are a requirement to continue the human populous, but to have one myself... PASS!

When Gertie entered my life, my maternal instincts surfaced immediately. From the first night fearing the massive responsibility I just took on (and staying up with her because she was crying and wouldn’t use the bathroom and being completely terrified I would somehow kill her) to moments where she’s been under the weather - my number one concern was for her health, happiness and safety.

A week or so ago I came home from work to find a mess that had stemmed from both ends leaking out of her crate, which then proceeded to cover my floor after letting her out. Usually this stuff would cause me to gag or throw up myself, but in this instance, all I wanted was to comfort her and make sure she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. Thankfully, her follow up indicated she was all good, but it was terrifying not knowing what was wrong.

It does, however, still freak me out, how willing she is to clean any sidewalk of poop...especially now that it’s usually found in solid, frozen form! That’s my girl!!

Karma’s a bitch

I’m a redhead (hence my ‘Orange’ status). This meant that as a child and well into my teen years I exuded that stereotypical fiery red temper. I was a snot more simply, and there are many occasions that I look back on that I think, why didn’t my mother just drop me somewhere and never look back?

Gertie has taken on some of these same qualities. I mean, she is an Orange Ugandan, after all! But I frequently catch her rolling her eyes at me, having some temper tantrums, etc.

To the latter, I now know why my Mom didn’t just drop me somewhere. Gertie has developed a number of aggression problems, mainly around food, but also my bed, and a few of her toys. We’re working on it... but it’s hard. I constantly feel like I’ve failed her, or that I can’t take it any more. And just as those thoughts enter into my mind, she usually stops and gives me the sweetest look or does something really funny that I know I shouldn’t laugh at, because she’ll think I’m encouraging it, and all those negative thoughts dissipate (which goes back to the first point!).

There are people who should be in your life, and others that shouldn’t 

The best piece of advice this little four-legged beauty has offered me is that of my value and self-worth. She has taught me so much about unconditional love and the type of relationships I should have in my life. And, I’m not just talking about romantic ones, although she has been an incredible lesson in that department, as well.

Part of my leaving Uganda has been the result of some not-so-good friendships. Ones that demanded more of me than I was willing, or should have been asked, to give. A few of these became quite dangerous**. However, I’ve noticed that some of the relationships I thought I had awaiting me when I returned to Canada were of a similar, unhealthy nature, which has made coming back far more challenging than I needed or thought. But with the help of Gertie, I’m weeding out the people in my life that don’t allow me to live a positive, healthy life. So, people who only focus on my weight, my career, the fact that I brought a dog home from the opposite side of the planet, etc., don’t get the attention they used to, because I am more than a number, a confused workaholic, or a crazy dog person, etc.

But relationships of the romantic variety are also starting to change. I’ve never really felt the need to be in a relationship, and in fact, I actually quite prefer the single status! I’ve learned over the years that I’m way too independent and goal-oriented to put another person ahead of any of that, and luckily Gertie falls into those objectives more than she inhibits them! Yet, guys I’ve been involved with in the past haven’t been the greatest, either***, and Gertie is slowly teaching me the power of standing up for myself, and not just continuing something for the sake of routine. She’s teaching me that I need, and should only give time to, a sir that challenges my ideas about the world and supports my career goals. She’s teaching me that reliability, honesty, and hard work is a two-way street and not one that I am solely responsible for (which has been difficult!). She’s teaching me to stop making excuses for such behaviours, as well, because I want to see the best in people, or I want to believe that the glimmer of hope I saw on that one occasion a long, long time ago is worth putting up with all the other foolishness for in the hopes that that glimmer will once again shine again. (Insider tip: it usually doesn’t!)

So there you have it - a few of the many, many lessons that this little beauty has taught me in the short time we’ve been together. I know there is much more to learn from her, and many more adventures to come!

- Gertie’s Ma

*I sure hope she soon stops growing, because my flat isn’t big enough for Clifford!
**although to be fair, I have left some pretty amazing friends behind also, and I look forward to seeing them someday soon!
***I’m not saying all of my selections were poor, just that most have been

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Walk in the Woods

Today was my first day off, that didn’t include some form of work. In fact, I’ve just awoken from a much need 4-hour power nap. Now I’m sipping tea, wrapped in a blanket and reflecting on the past few weeks. It’s been quite a trip overall - travels to The Netherlands, interviews with Acadia Alum and CBC Radio, writing contracts, and everyday work.

While in Zeist, I took a much needed walk in the woods...times two. It gave me a bit of a chance to ponder what was then my current position in life. It was beautiful! The leaves were turning, the air was crisp, and the smell of autumn was inescapable.

This morning I woke up, enjoyed a sip of coffee (or three...) and packed up Gert before making our way to one of my favourite spots* to unwind/unclutter my thoughts/enjoy nature - the Musquodoboit Harbour Trail. Now, in full disclosure, there was once a time (once a year, to be more specific) that I hated this spot. This was none other than the ESDH Walk-a-thon. But in the years since I left that dingy old school, I have come to appreciate that trail more and more.

I had hoped to get there before the leaves had completely fallen, as that walk is so stunning when the leaves are various colours. There were still some leaves attached, but most had fallen and begun settling into their winter hibernation. Still the crisp fall air and smells were all around us - it was perfect nonetheless. And best yet, a solid 6kms of training went off without a hitch, so my training is well underway for the PeaceWalk in May!

Not a bad way to decompress, if I may say so myself!

-the Orange Canadian

*Most of you have come to know Lawrencetown Beach to be my #1 spot to think

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Ultimate Nudge in the Right Direction

You might remember that last year I found myself in the Netherlands for a 3-day intensive workshop/conference for leaders in sustainability. This was known as the Nudge Global Leadership Challenge, but was changed to the Nudge Global Impact Challenge. This basically means, that of the participants that attended last year, 6 were selected to return to this year’s edition, and pitch what they’ve done over the past year in 3 minutes. I was honoured to have been selected as one of the six, AND the only female nominee for the Impact Award.

Yesterday, I met up with a few of my fellow alum, to prepare our presentations, and catch up on all of the things that have happened over the past year. This involved endless cups of coffee, many laughs, and the familiar feeling of being welcomed home after being away. This in and of itself was an honour. I felt like I had already one. BUT, I was also hoping to use this opportunity to network, and potentially secure the funds required to make my Uganda project get off the ground.

The foreigners - Hector, Lucky, and myself - outside of the Peace Palace. 
Last night, we arrived at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Surrounded by the current cohort, industry leaders, and many other important figures, we stepped up on stage, and spoke of what we had achieved over the last year. I was once again surprised at how comfortable I felt on stage in front of 200+ people. But I put my heart on my sleeve and told the story of my team in Gweri, Soroti. I tried to paint the picture of how amazing, resilient, and inspiring the members of that community were, while also throwing in a joke or two about my love of the Backstreet Boys!

Above: Inside the dinner at the Peace Palace
Below: Giving my all!
Photo credit: Nudge Global Impact Challenge

After the speeches were given, the judges left the room and deliberated on who had made the biggest impact over the course of the year. There would be three awards in all, in a first, second, and third place standing. I was super excited when it was announced that my friend, Hector was the third place recipient for his efforts in making work uniforms, and the Mexican textile industry more specifically, more sustainable. Michiel, came in second for his work with Heroes and Friends by accomplishing 8000 acts of kindness. And, unbeknownst to me, I was awarded the top prize for my work in developing the Youth in Agriculture Initiative.

The nominees, a Maasai Elder, and one of the judges
Left to right: Bart-Jan, Matthijs, Ezekiel, a judge, Hector, Michiel, moi, and Lucky
This morning I awoke, ate a lot of bacon, sipped bottomless cups of coffee and tried to fully comprehend what has just happened. I later took a walk on one of the several trails on the property where the conference is held. This walk involved a lot of crying, contemplation, and the initial absorption of just how far I’ve come in the last year. I’m completely overwhelmed, honoured, and humbled by this.

My award - sculpture by Bart Ensing
What’s more, is that this walk has served as the first of many training sessions. Part of the award, aside from this amazing sculpture made from an olive tree, is a trip to Kenya, to spend 6 days walking in the Maasai Mara, hosted by my dear friend, Ezekiel, and joined by me fellow award recipients. I cannot wait to experience Africa in a complete different way, nor can I wait to share this all with you. More about this leg of the adventure to come!

-the Orange Canadian

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Where ya off to now?

Hello ol' friends! It has once again been some time since we last connected. I haven’t forgotten you, I just haven’t had much to say... or at least anything worthy of a post, or that I have been able to put into words.

In the last month, I have had two really incredible opportunities to speak to current students of my undergraduate program at Acadia University - Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESST). One was at ESST Camp, where I was tasked with trying to put a little hope in the what happens after we graduate bubble, and the other was recounting my life story for International Community Development. It was a tremendous honour to have been asked to both occasions, especially since giving back to the program that sent me on my path is top priority. Plus, it’s always great to be welcomed to the familiar sights and smells of Camp Mockingee, or a late night stroll throughout the tranquil campus, which is currently painted with beautiful fall colours.

Throwback to one of my very first posts.
I have far less stuff coming with me this time!
Earlier today, I was rushing to get a myriad of tasks done. I failed at several of them, but they weren’t life or death, so we can let them go for now. As I jumped into my car and began the drive to the airport, I became overwhelmed by all of the emotions I haven’t really had time to feel. My return to Canada has been difficult, and in ways I never anticipated. I continue to struggle with my identity in terms of home and place, but I’m getting there. I have acquired a new job, which has surrounded me with a group of ladies who are all weird, wonderful, and supportive in all the right ways, and have made me feel part of the family from day one!

But today’s drive was a bit different. I once again packed a bag, albeit this time quite last minute (and I’m fairly certain I have forgotten most of what I actually need!), and made my way to the next adventure. The level of stress I have been living over the past few weeks has been at about a 9. Today felt more live 11, if the scale is between 1 and 10.

I have seen a lot of changes in my life over the last year. I’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things, and learned a lot about who I am, what I’m capable of, and that failure isn’t really a thing. Yet today, on that highway, I began to tear up - slightly out of panic, partly out of not having eaten yet (at 2pm), but mostly because it’s really the first time I’ve given myself a chance to really sit back and think about it all (while trying to piece together a small talk I’m supposed to be giving in a few days). And over the next few days, I’m going to build on that - leaving my beautiful pup at home, in the capable hands of one of my best friends, and jetting off to see how much fight I have left in me for my Uganda project.

What many don’t realize is the toll my burnout has taken on me. It’s tiring to constantly be trying to figure out how to make the world better, how to help the people who have had such an enormous impact on your life, and just how to live, and for the right reasons. And despite all of that, the tiredness, the long hours I’ve been putting in the past 6 weeks in particular, I realized that all of that is pretty tremendous. I have much to be proud of, just as I have endless supplies of gratitude for all that I have been able to see, experience, and do so far. And I want to stress that so far bit, because I’m only getting started!

So, I shall report back to you all very soon. I don’t know what the report shall reveal, but that’s where I’m at. Two more flights, and many more hours to go, but I know it will all be worth it.

-the Orange Canadian

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