Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel

Why Oh Why #AtoZChallenge

Oh, why oh why do I love it so?

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Well, let me count the ways.

The A to Z Challenge – O is for Ontario

This province is located, nicely, centred in the middle of Canada, between the west and eastern provinces and the north.

I have had a good life here, growing up out in the country, surrounded by farmer’s fields and the agriculture of the area.

I have family living in Ontario’s capital, Toronto.

I’ve got family in eastern Ontario, near the border with Quebec.

My favourite Niagara Falls, tourist spot that it is, but I love it so.

I love Toronto for its hustle and bustle of the big city.

I love The Forrest City.

The town where I live isn’t much, but it’s mine.

We have our issues, small town and big city, but overall this is a pretty nice place to live.

Up north we have some of the most beautiful landscape there is, known as Cottage Country.

We have Great Lakes and rivers. We have islands and Georgian Bay.

I want to travel and see so many places, but I always return back to Ontario, my home.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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When We Grew Up #AtoZChallenge

We all wanted to be a lot of things when we grew up. We’ve all dreamt of being many things. I know I did.

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Librarian. Artist. Doctor/ Nurse. Psychologist. Novelist/writer. Bookstore owner. Travel blogger. Author/speaker.

The A to Z Challenge – M is for Marine biology

I now dream of a career in writing, but once I dreamt of studying to become a marine biologist. I loved/love the ocean and all creatures within, so so much, that I wish I could have done better in science and somehow become someone who could study marine ecosystems and make a difference to the oceans and everything living in them.

I didn’t do too well in science and I am afraid of boats. Always have been. I believe I carry a healthy, respectful fear of the sea. Its immensity makes me feel as small as anything else ever could. Yet, I am utterly fascinated by it and everything existing in it.

I want to study jellyfish.

I want to study dolphins, whales, sharks, sea turtles, rays, from the smallest organism to the blue whale. I love it all.

We sometimes must admit that we won’t ever be what we once dreamed of, but I keep the faith I might one day get to write about the ocean, even if I will never study it scientifically.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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A Balloon In My Mind #AtoZChallenge

In my dream, the balloons were in the yard, trying to get in the house.

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My grandma once told me of the time she was walking along a beach and came across this blue balloon thing on the sand. She gently reached out toward it. She wasn’t shy, even when she had no clue what something was.

The A to Z Challenge – J is for Jellyfish

I have seen jellyfish in my distant memory, but since I’ve lost more of my vision, the image of what one looks like has faded.

So now, after my grandma’s description and the dream I had, I think of a balloon whenever I try to imagine what a jellyfish looks like.

I have studied them intensely, on the many ocean documentaries I’ve watched in my time. They aren’t something I would like to touch in the near future. I fear walking along the sea or swimming in it, for fear of coming up against one. I hear the stories of stings and still, for some reason, the jellyfish is still one of my favourite marine creatures.

There is a place, an inland lake, somewhere in the south Pacific Ocean, on an island known as Palau. I want to visit Jellyfish Lake, if I could go anywhere, because then I could stop imagining what a jellyfish looks like, and actually swim with a bunch of non stinging jellies.

What might you envision in your mind, if you’d never before seen a jellyfish? Balloon or something else? Balloon with stinging tentacles of course. Such cool creatures, but it made for one hell of a bad dream.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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Chasing Horizons, #SongLyricSunday

Road trips are one of my favourite things.

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This song, any time it comes on, reminds me of sunny days on an open highway.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1D3a5eDJIs

I race toward the horizon. Yet, I am in no hurry.

***

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down I had the radio on, I was drivin’
Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little Runaway I was flyin’
[Chorus:] Yeah runnin’ down a dream That never would come to me Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads Runnin’ down a dream
I felt so good
like anything was possible
I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
The last three days the rain was un-stoppable It was always cold, no sunshine
[Chorus]
I rolled on as the sky grew dark
I put the pedal down
to make some time
There’s something good waitin’ down this road I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine
[Chorus Out]

Lyrics

***

On this lovely April day, the weather is perfectly seasonal and for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday,
I am thinking about taking a road trip.

All the while, I remember those I’ve gone on in the past fondly.

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Past and Passing, #SongLyricSunday

Okay, so I decided to try the A to Z Challenge, on a whim yesterday, but the trick of it is that you are supposed to blog for every letter of the alphabet, each day except Sunday. Well, the challenge began on a Saturday this year, so I guess I can use today to prep for Monday’s post.

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And also I can do my favourite thing of the week.

Song Lyric Sunday #SongLyricSunday

In the month of March (of which we just completed a few days ago) a friend was posting for an 80s music challenge on Facebook. She shared a song from that decade, every day, and then she extended it. I discovered some great ones from her. I joined in for a week, stopped for a week or two, and then thought I would end the month (on the final days which were 30/31st) by posting two more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NvsMKYgCsM

This is the first of the final two I posted, on March 30th.

I like it because it is a beautiful song by Richard Marx and I love the saxophone solo and the fantasy feeling throughout. Apparently he wrote it about him and his wife and a trip they took to Hawaii together.

Endless Summer Nights, 1988

Sounds like paradise to me.

***

Summer came and left without a warning
All at once I looked and you were gone
And now you’re looking back at me
Searching for a way that we can be like we were before
Now I’m back to what I knew before you
Somehow the city doesn’t look the same
I’d give my life for one more night
Of having you here to hold me tight; oh, please
Take me there again Oh, oh

[Chorus:]
And I remember how you loved me
Time was all we had until the day we said goodbye
I remember every moment of those endless summer nights

I still recall the walks along the beaches
And the way your hair would glisten in the sun
Rising in the afternoon Making love to you under the moon, oh
Do you remember all the nights we spent in silence
Every single breath you took was mine
We can have it all again
Say that you’ll be with me when the sun brings your heart to mine Oh, oh

[Chorus]

There’s only so much I can say So please don’t run away from what we have together
It’s only you and me tonight So let’s stay lost in flight Oh, won’t you please surrender


[Chorus]

Endless Summer Nights (Lyrics)

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So, I went with A to Z Lyrics because that kind of mirrors the A to Z Challenge and I like coincidences like those.

I like this Richard Marx song because it feels nostalgic and that’s what the eighties feels like to me. He’s looking back on a past memory, a passing thought, vacation in paradise with a lover. The story is told well from Marx’s POV.

I, myself, was born in 1984 and so it’s the decade where I was able to just be a kid, with my family, a simpler time in reflection.

I’ll never get that back and that makes me sad, despite everything I’ve been lucky to have and experience since those years of innocence, when everything was under control in my world and I was taken care of. It feels like so long ago now, a time long gone by.

In the moment, sometimes, it feels like it will last forever, an endless perfect moment or night with someone you loved. Sadly, realistically, it never does.

And one more, likely lesser known 80s song, from my favourite movie of the decade: 3 Men and a Baby.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aznod0Ij43g

BONUS.

Boy, do I love 80s music.

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The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

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‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

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‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

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TToT: Spring Has Sprung – Bright Side, #10Thankful

“I’m living on the bright side. It’s all a state of mind.” —Angela Saini

I’ll be honest, often, the world scares me.

I look to things like this TToT and its gratitude exercise for some relief.

Ten Things of Thankful

So, let’s just get to it, because I need some relief from the news of the day.

I am thankful for writers and thinkers such as Margaret Atwood.

I have not read The Handmaid’s Tale, as Atwood’s genre is one that covers uncomfortable truths and possibilities, through fiction and inside fictional realities. I don’t feel comfortable reading that stuff, but I do believe I am missing out.

She has had a long and esteemed writing career in Canada and we are lucky to have her intelligence and her talents.

I am thankful for those I know who travel and are out there living life, reporting back to me somehow on their journeys.

The world scares me and that is why I must see more of it, as much as I possibly can.

But, when and where I cannot, I value my friends, better than all the travel blogs I have followed on Facebook. My friends and those I’ve met, somewhere, somehow are out there and inspiring me to not feel so scared all the time.

And, if I am unable to push away my fear completely, they prove to me that it is possible to go ahead anyway. You miss less by going and doing, fear be damned.

I am thankful for Canada and my extremely privileged citizenship here.

We have our problems and we must acknowledge those. I see protests and silencing in Russia, famine and governmental corruption in Africa, and the unrest and polarization in the U.S. and I hope Canada can face our sins and remain as united and reasonable as possible.

I plan to write more about this as Canada Day, 2017 draws closer.

I am thankful for audio progress reports.

The sound of the App notification on my phone is enough to make me smile and forget my other racing thoughts for a few moments.

My friend may be over in Ireland, but I still get to hear her daughter’s growth, through trying to fill her baby’s bottle and spilling an entire jug of milk all over the floor or not understanding why she can’t fit into her doll’s clothes.

The photos my friend captions for me and then I listen to the short video clips with great interest. I look forward to them in my week.

I am thankful for more time holding my baby niece.

Speaking of growth…she is now one month old and my sister feels she is already growing too fast.

She loves to eat. I like to hold her the other times, when she is not nursing, and then my sister can do some other things.

My niece has a real angry cry, as babies do, but I hold her when she sleeps and she is so peaceful then. Hard to believe it’s the same child. You gotta love it.

I am thankful for all those who help me understand things better, things I often miss out on, those like my extremely generous friend.

My writing mentor is teaching travel writing across some of Africa and she posted a tree. I knew she wouldn’t post it for no reason. She must have seen something special in that tree. I wanted to try and see something in that photo too, in my mind.

“When a bulb burns out, I see. Even in the dark, it feels sunny to me. Skipping in the shadows, every corner holds beauty. There is always light if you look closely.” —Angela Saini

I don’t expect the world to always modify for my needs. Photos are visual things. I get that. Sometimes I just want to imagine what one looks like.

My friend, a writer and a scientist, she heard about this and offered to describe the tree. I learned a lot.

“Splashing through the puddles. Knowing that’s how green grass grows.” —Angela Saini

I am thankful for the first real spring weather.

The other day was so mild. The sunshine was warm on my face. No more shivering.

“I don’t own a poncho. Whenever it rains I only see a rainbow.” —Angela Saini

Spring means rain. I like a good rainstorm. Bring it on.

A rainbow is one of those things, like any photo, that I long to see and never likely will. I appreciate any person’s interpretation of what a rainbow looks like.

Anyone want to give it a go? Leave your description in the comments to this post.

I am thankful for a lesson I thought was certain to be bad.

We had to miss a week. My teacher is in university and this time of year is particularly chaotic.

Any time we have this happen, like when I was in Mexico, I assume the next lesson will not go well at all because of the extra time in between.

I’ve learned this isn’t always the case. I had an extremely productive and energetic practice just before and we had a great talk about the strain and endurance of playing the violin.

Oh, I also did work on the actual practicing techniques too, trying to make it more of a constant flow of sound, rather than always so start and stopish.

Like this. Maybe…one day. Maybe.

I am thankful the U.S. dodged an extremely wrong and risky bullet.

At first I was negative about it, as it strikes a nerve because I have needed lots of medical care, so I immediately thought this was winning a battle but not the war.

Why does this need to be a fight anyway?

Then I was reminded, if I were living in the U.S and relied on the healthcare system there in a big way, I’d want just a short period of time to relax and feel relieved for this moment in time.

I am still worried, anxious for all who would be affected, but I feel helpless to do anything.

Many of us feel like people see us as such a drain on the system, but we’ve faced death or serious illness. It’s no game to us.

“My train home is three hours late. Must be time for another piece of cake – I like chocolate.” —Angela Saini

I am thankful for the positive reception and Canadian support of the newly told.

The Canadian people watched the new Anne of Green Gables series and they have spoken that they approve.

The CBC was going to air the second episode two weeks after last week’s premier, but the reception was so positive that they went ahead and aired it last night.

I am keeping an open mind, as the story makes Canada proud from what I see, so I am going to keep an episode diary on my Facebook page every time it airs.

I will call it Ahead By A Century, like the theme song for the show, by The Tragically Hip.

Living On The Bright Side – Angela Saini

This song is all about seeing the silver lining, but her lyrics suggest there is always something good in everything. That’s what TToT is all about too, in a way.

Of course, I know this is a bit of an over simplification, we all know it, but really we have to at least try.

“Enjoying life, cause’ I’ve got only one.”

—Angela Saini

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