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Archive for May, 2014

 

(This young singer from Montreal has such talent!)

The grey clouds rolled in from the sea and the gulls whooped overhead. The harbour was abuzz with activity as the city of Vancouver woke to another day. There was the deep throated hoot from a sleek cruise ship. It was dropping off its load of passengers who had made the trip up to Alaska. Then the distinctive clatter of a seaplane propeller added to the orchestra of ‘sea sounds.’ The first load of island hopping tourists was heading out to sea. For a moment I was lost in thought, as I imagined the panoramic view that would be theirs from the air. 

 

 

Seaplanes, boats and mountains....

Seaplanes, boats and mountains….

  A shout went out…..”Hey, get out of my way!” The little man hung out of his truck window. He was perched in the driver’s seat with his cap pulled right over his cheeky eyes. He skillfully maneuvered his freight down the alley to the well frequented restaurant. They were obviously replenishing stocks as the warmer weather had brought in more customers. I dashed over the street as I could see that this driver meant business!
The fine drizzle continued and I slipped into a corner coffee shop and ordered my usual….a latte. I blended in with the locals now. They were all on their way to work supporting their cup of morning sustenance in their hand……the Canadian salute!
I stopped to find an ATM and noticed that there was one inside a shopping centre. The entrance was round the side of the building. The centre was quiet as the shoppers had not ventured out yet. It was easy to admire the well laid out shop frontages with all the bright spring colours. It was time to press on and I used a different exit to get out on the street again. The bustle greeted me as I looked around. I was disorientated.

Where was the sea? I find this ‘direction finding’ in the northern hemisphere so confusing, as I never know where the sun is supposed to be! I had to admit that I was lost! I contemplated my map in my pocket but decided otherwise. I did not want to stick out ‘like a tourist!’ After all I was working hard at blending in.

Where was the sea?

Where was the sea?

This resulted in ‘the blonde’ in me turning the wrong way. I had planned a tentative route before I left the hotel that morning. The ‘wrong way’ brought me to a very different part of downtown. Gone were the sleek ships and the debonair men in grey business suits. These men stood in queues and waited. They waited to receive help…… some for basic needs, others for shelter and many needed assistance with addictions. Those who did not form part of the line stood in doorways or sat in wheelchairs. Their faces weathered with deep lines that showed the hard road that they had walked. Sad eyes greeted me as I walked past them. I hesitated as I took in this sad scene.
What were their stories?

As with any city there are the softer moments too...the Chinese Garden.

As with any city there are the softer moments too…the Chinese Garden.

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“When I look into your eyes it’s like watching the night sky.”

A pair of Canadian geese paddled across the smooth river towards me.  It was a still evening and the reflections of the ripples floated towards the jetty. The geese scrambled out of the water and clumsily waddled off. Their sense of purpose meant that they were on their way to their quiet nest for the evening. I could not help thinking that they looked about as awkward on land, as I was about to feel in a boat on water! I stood on the bank as I contemplated my next endeavour…..dragon boat paddling! The words: ‘Face your fears’ and ‘start something new,’ were drumming in my head. After all spring was here and the enthusiasm and energy were infectious!

'The Girls'

‘The Girls’

“I see that you’ve come so far to be right where you are.”

Names were checked off, life vests fastened and the correct length of paddle chosen from the stock. My stomach growled and I was not sure if I was excited or apprehensive. It was probably my supper that I had wolfed down before I ran out the front door. As I adjusted my life jacket, things felt strangely familiar.  I was reminded of childhood holidays in South Africa where we would ‘muck about in boats.’ I adjusted my life jacket like a dab hand! I can do this……

The length of this was crucial.......

The length of this was crucial…….

“And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating.”

“Take it away, girls!” At first we clashed our oars together as we struggled to get synchronized. Splashes dashed over the boat.

“Watch your partner,” this was proving to be a challenge…..to keep your eye on the person diagonally opposite you and to pull on your paddle at the same time. Not only did I have to think this through but I had to get my body to do what I wanted it to do! I hoped that I could activate some old muscle memory, as it felt that some of them were getting a bit of a rude awakening! Then there was the question of technique!

“We’ve got a lot to learn.”

“Let it run, girls!”  We had a welcome break of a few seconds in between a burst of paddling. I felt my muscles burn…… and then the relief when we could just rest. It is amazing how just those few seconds allowed you to just keep carrying on. I was feeling it now. My knuckle hurt where I had bashed it on the side of the boat. I think my paddle was too long. I needed to remember that when I chose one next time. Then there was the exhilaration of the harmony when we were all in unison……. the fatigue just melted away. Our coach persisted, “Paddles up, girls!

“I won’t give up on us even though the skies get rough.”

It was a still evening and the lights shone down on us through the trees and reflected in the water. The sun had almost slipped away but we still had the last glimmer to steer by. We felt accomplished! All 20 of us had managed to paddle our dragon boat up stream a fair distance. We did not tip over and even built up a dash of speed! There were certainly going to be some sore muscles tomorrow. In the back of our minds we knew we still had much to master but allowed ourselves to indulge in our excitement.

 It was exhilarating! 

We can aspire to.......

We can aspire to…….

 

 

 

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