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Ration Challenge 2018

Sean and I are preparing for the Act for Peace 2018 Ration Challenge. Starting Sunday, we’ll be living on the same food that the typical refugee receives for a week.

Normally I like to indulge myself in thinking I’m pretty good at living simply and that I have a degree of stoicism that feeds resilience, but upon seeing our rations for the week I readily admit that I’m humbled by the challenge.

From July 1-7, 2018, there will be nothing more in my cupboard than the following:

 

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Mmmm….*                                                                                           Rice – 420g
Lentils – 170g
Dried chick peas – 85g
Tinned sardines – 125g
Tinned kidney beans – 400g
Vegetable oil – 300ml

Yeah… and I don’t even like sardines. (There’s an option to swap them for a vegetarian option, but I doubt most refugees have the luxury to be vegetarian/vegan, so I’m going to have to get over my aversion quickly.)

I’ll be back on the blog, writing about the experience next week. From a first-world participant perspective, I’m interested to see how my activity (surfing, yoga, running, writing) is affected by the challenge, and especially how my mood is. I’ve had restricted diets in the past, but have to say that this one seems particularly bleak… The lack of fruit and veg is will probably be a major factor, and there’s nothing to really look forward to. When I’ve fasted in the past it’s always been with the expectation that it was somehow good for me. On this diet, one gets the sense that it really is all about subsistence. It clearly isn’t a long-term health promoting exercise for most.

Even before starting I’ve got a slightly greater understanding of what life must be like for a refugee (and I’m only talking about food! I haven’t even begun to take into account the effects of violence, loss, grief, trauma, injury & illness, etc). They say food unites us, and in this case its limitation provides a doorway to a bit of understanding for those living in dire circumstances.

If you’ve got it in you, please give a little sugar here at Act for Peace. (Thanks to everyone who has already contributed to Team ShoDa!)

* Not pictured: an additional 1.5kg rice and 400g flour in “UN Food Coupon” form

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Mountain Man

I’ve created a monster.

After 2 weeks off the mountain, Sean is beyond eager to get skiing again. Christmas on the prairies with my family was wonderful – one of the best, really – but we have few hills to offer the keen alpinist. Despite the excitement, our return to the mountains has been delayed. First, by an extended stay in Drumheller to explore the dinosaur museum (highly recommended!), and now by a nasty cold that is plaguing me. Poor Sean has been taking care of my gross snotty-nosed self all day, forgoing his first chance to get back on the chairlift and ski at Lake Louise. It must  be love.

Around 4pm he could bear it no more, however, and packed his ski boots for the 300m drive up main street to the top of our current hometown of Field, BC. There, he hiked up the unmaintained cemetery road another couple hundred meters and strapped on his downhill skis. It was a desperate move, surely, but he returned thrilled and excited. Ready for tomorrow!

Rocky Mountain High

Well, Dear Readers, Sean here, I have never been in mountains anything like the Canadian Rockies. To say they are breathtaking is an understatement, but, gosh, darn it, they are, stunning. So taken were Daryl and I by the town of Jasper that we’ve decided to return and stay for a month from late November until just before Christmas. We arrived in Jasper by train the week before Halloween and immediately fell in love with the place. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by snow capped mountains, glacier fed lakes and the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is a picture perfect, idyllic alpine town. Elk and deer wander the streets unafraid of humans. Hunting, a popular Canadian pastime, is not allowed in national parks, hence the wildlife are much more relaxed around people than in other parts of the country.

The place we’ve rented there is an attic apartment atop an early 20th century log cabin. Complete with claw-foot bath, gas fire and mountain views. The locals in Jasper are very friendly. There is a vibrant artistic community in town and a welcoming spirit. Daryl and I went to a screening for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and fundraiser for a local family at the Legion, (that’s the RSL, Aussies) on our first night in town and won a pair of lift tickets at Marmot Basin, the local ski hill. Thank you Jasper, our ski season is off to a great start!

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While in the area we drove south to Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Field and Banff along the majestic, Icefields Parkway. It is truly one of the world’s great driving experiences. Australia’s Great Ocean Road and the USA’s Highway One, California are incredible, but for my money, the Icefields Parkway is top of the podium out of these three. If you ever get the chance, take it, but do it in good weather. Check local traffic sites before leaving, the road is regularly closed in wintery weather. The parkway winds through wide river valleys, tiny mountain passes and passed more glaciers than I had ever seen in my life. Ok, until this drive, I had never seen a glacier and there are a lot on this drive. How many? I don’t know. Anyway the wow moments are frequent.

Emerald Lake is as the name suggests, beautiful. So is Lake Louise. Dazzler and I were lucky enough to find accommodation at the stately, 19th Century, Emerald Lake Lodge. With an open fire place in the room, out door hot tub and view of the lake, it is right on the lake, we loved it. I had a close encounter with a steller jay while breakfasting on the balcony there, the curious, hungry bird was keen on my oats. I also saw my first pine marten and learned the emerald waters of the lakes in the region are as such due to the powdered rock particles suspended in the water. The rock, pulverised by the advancing glacial ice lends the water a dazzling glow that left early white surveyors so in awe they named many of the region’s lakes after beautiful or regal ladies and gems. 

Banff is incredible too. We were lucky enough to be in town during the opening weekend of the world renowned, Banff International Mountain Film and Book Festival. While there must have been a mix up with our opening night invitations, we happened along nonetheless and walked right into the opening of an art show featuring site specific, story inspired mountain art, some of which was really interesting, engaging work. The canapés were running low though so, we didn’t stay long. At a local artist’s market we found some beautiful work and bought some gift cards featuring paintings of mountain birds from a French woman who settled in the Rockies a while back. We danced in the moonlight to a hillbilly band playing “Wagon Wheel” to waiting film fest crowds and hit the road.

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Banff is very pretty but very busy, a little too busy for us. So, after spending a couple days around Field, a tiny old railway and mining village, we headed back to Jasper, our favourite Rocky Mountain town.

We arrived back in town the night before Halloween. I’d never experienced the spooky, dress-up holiday in North America and was looking forward to it. The morning of October 31 we woke to find Jasper in a blanket of snow and it kept falling all day. Big fluffy flakes like feathers. Delightful. Really, the locals complained about the kids trick or treating in the snow, but for this bloke from Australia, you couldn’t do Halloween better. All those fake plastic bones and ghouls look all the more ghostly with a dusting of snow on them and cold weather is perfect for hot chocolate and an excess of candy! Daryl and I dressed as Zombie Mimes, surprised our new landlords, put on some impromptu street theatre for the easily impressed local kids and had a ball. I must confess to being a bit of a Scrooge about the rising popularity of Halloween in Australia but Bah humbug to that, Halloween rocks! Especially in a sweet little, snow covered mountain town. Thank you and see you soon Jasper!

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Next morning we boarded a Via Rail Train to complete our trans Canadian Rail adventure…

Lifestyle Banditry

Hello from the train! We are now on the Jasper to Prince Rupert section of our journey – likely the last time we’ll travel by rail this trip. The mountains are spectacular, and yesterday in Jasper it snowed big fat flakes. Sean was delighted to see the big wet flakes falling like that – he always thought it was over exaggerated in movies. It was pretty cool for me too – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such big chunks of snow falling from the sky. We joked God was shaking his dandruff out. IMG_2690

Jasper was spectacular. I was there 2 years ago but at the time I didn’t stay in town because it was brimming with tourists in summer. I went straight to Mt. Edith Cavell with some Aussie climbers, and later to Mt. Robson. It was great, but a completely different experience in the August. The shoulder season is much nicer to travel in, and I’m happy to have my own Australian with me on this trip.

After enjoying a short ski trip to Thredbo – a ski resort in the “Australian Alps” – last April, Sean and I bought season passes. They allow us to ski half price at Lake Louise and Banff, amongst other North American resorts, so we decided to head down the Icefield Parkway (93) to get a feel for it and see if we wanted to spend December skiing there. I’ve always loved the little town of Field, BC (population 161), and thought it would be an idyllic place to spend 3 or 4 weeks cross country skiing and downhilling at Lake Louise. After a couple nights in town, though, we both turned to each other and agreed that something was NQR (not quite right). There were many places available for us to stay, but we had a funny feeling from the locals. A sort of “This is a local store…. for local people” (credit to League of Gentlemen. Field is so small it has no local store, but it applies nonetheless). I decided I can still love the small mountain town of Field from afar, stop in at Truffle Pig for a great dinner and venture off to Emerald Lake when in the area, but that Jasper is a much more welcoming place and suits us better.

So we returned to Jasper, splurged on a great hotel room for a couple days, and found the cutest attic apartment in the top of an old log home (circa 1926) where we’ll return to at the end of November. It’s a lovely spot and has everything we (I) were (was) hoping for: a clawfoot bathtub, fireplace, views of the mountains, walking distance to shops and around the corner from the library and swimming pool. Add to that list of wonderful things, is the rent – we’re getting it for a fraction of regular cost. When the lady told Sean that she’d rent it to us for a $1000 he, being from Sydney, had to ask: “per week?” (Face-palm).

We call the concept we live by “Lifestyle Banditry”. It’s almost overwhelming how many things I get to do and learn about living this way – working in a targeted way, having time for creativity and exploration. In December I plan to do levels 1 & 2 of CANSI cross country ski coaching, which I hope to put to use in Australia during the southern hemisphere winter. Sean and I have cooked up some good artistic ideas, and the island of Haida Gwaii (where we’re headed) is already inspiring me to get some water navigation courses under my belt. January should see us back in Busintana in Colombia, and my mind has also schemed up different ideas for working with the Arhuacos there. It’s exciting to see things coming together, and I am grateful to be in these awe-inspiring and wonder-invoking natural places.

In the meantime, we’re headed west….

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Instilling Saskatchewan Values: Pumpkin Pie, Rider Pride & Bush Roasts

There are so many good days when you travel. Even when things don’t really go your way, there are unexpected surprises and new discoveries each day when you’re in a new place.

Today, however, is not that kind of day. Perhaps because this place, this train I’m inching across Canada on, is moving at a caterpillar’s pace across the Prairies at the end of October. I’ve spent so much time on this train that the steel cross bar under my threadbare seat is imprinted with the shape of my derriere. This is not to say that the Prairies are not stunning – this trip has served to remind me of their astonishing beauty and I appreciate every sunset and moonrise. However, the leaves have fallen, the landscape is stark and if I hear another easterner tell me the joke about watching your dog run away for 3 days in Saskatchewan I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Via Rail isn’t exactly the most customer-friendly company in the world, but it’s not totally their fault. The rails are owned by CN (Canadian National Railway) and they often block commuter trains so the freight trains can do whatever they need to do. This means we’re consistently 6-12 hours behind schedule and often spend hours not moving for no clear reason. Kind of reminds me of this Julia Ward Howe quote:

Heavens knows what I have not been through with, since I saw you-dust, dirt, dyspepsia, hotels, railroads, prairies, tobacco juice.

Good thing I’ve got good books and wonderful parents who picked us up and dropped us off at 4am.

Aside from train-bashing, the last couple of weeks at home have been wonderful. It’s been a year since I saw my parents, and it was a great reset to be home and to introduce Sean to my parents (Dad didn’t bring any guns to the station – surely a good sign).

Here’s a photo journal from time at home:

  1. Thanksgiving! (AKA: Sean Finds a New Love in Pumpkin Pie)
  2. Sean had his First Thrilling Encounter with a Beaver:

2. Quad-picnicking at Shell Lake:

3. Rider Pride at Rider Nation

4. QT with a Few Favourite People & my BFF’s Birthday:

5. Appy-Day & Another Rider Game:

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The pictures say more than I can type, but still aren’t the whole story. It was a wonderful time to be home – to reconnect with friends and loved ones, to be with Mom & Dad and to watch fall give way to the start of winter. We’ll be back for Christmas and are already looking forward to it. Sean made friends and has plans to go winter camping, ice skating, curling and dog-sledding. Whether I envy or pity him will depend on how much colder than -20 degrees C it is.

Lakeside under a Living Sky

G’day twofunkyhearts Readers,

I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance and so happy to be the newest funkyheart that I’ve been at a loss for words this last week or so. As to where to begin, you guys are pretty smart and there’s far too much back story to delve into it all today. Suffice to say this, Daryl and I quite literally danced into each other’s lives in Sydney, Australia back in April. It was some cosmic soul connection through time and space or, you may say, good old-fashioned love at first sight. Whatever it is, we’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since and here we are today, mid-way through a journey across Canada at Dazzler’s spiritual childhood summer home, Shell Lake, Saskatchewan. We’re on this trip together to take Daryl home to see her family and to introduce her parents and I. They are lovely. So far, I think it’s going super well.

This is my first time in Canada. What a stunning, vast country it is! So much water in this great Northern place it blows my Australian mind. I have never experienced a Northern Hemisphere autumn. We’re crossing the country by train, which deserves a blog post of its own. Such a beautiful time of year watching the gold, red-orange trees turn day by day. Makes sense they call it fall here.

In keeping with the theme, these are 5 facts as I see them at the time of writing:

  1. Until last week I had never eaten pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving rocks, if only as a reason to eat extra helpings of this delicacy.
  2.  I have seen and communicated with a moose and a beaver in the last week. Canada’s most famous fauna did not disappoint, they are both fascinating creatures. I’ve been dismayed to learn that beavers really are destructive pest when too close to civilisation.
  3. Canadian Football is a sport I respect and enjoy watching yet have very little understanding of. Go Riders!
  4. Potluck dinners are an excellent North American idea I hope the rest of the world picks up on.
  5. Halloween is a great way to recycle Thanksgiving’s left over pumpkin shells.

 

A New Masterpiece

Dear twofunkyhearts Readers,

As always, thank you for your patronage of my little blog. The fact that people actually read this and catch up on what’s happening in my life never stops surprising and delighting me. In the last few years I’ve had periods of silence in my posts, but regrettably my current absence has by far been the longest.

When I last posted, I’d moved to Australia and was working with a small company. I had many positive experiences and love Australia (and Australians!), but I was working in an exceedingly toxic environment which infiltrated to other parts of my life. I found it hard to write here without being honest about what was happening professionally, so I stopped posting altogether. In July my position with the company came to an end – a true blessing which took some time to accept. During and after my employment I wrote often, but I’ve not yet published any of those posts (perhaps I’ll catch up on the last several months – I’ll do my best but knowing me, I’m quite likely to be distracted by new events).

At the time of writing, these facts are true:

  1. Bronte Beach in Sydney is where I call home.
  2. I’ve finally taken the Universe’s unsubtle hints and exited the medical industry.
  3. I have a wonderful man in my life, Sean, and our philosophy is to make each day a masterpiece.
  4. I am currently writing from a cabin on a river close to Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
  5. Last night Sean and I played checkers with salt & pepper packets during a 20 hour train journey from Sudbury.

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Sean and I are taking a couple months and traveling by train across Canada. We’re heading home to Saskatchewan for his first ever Thanksgiving, and will continue west then south, then north again for Christmas. There will be a lot to tell and Sean is probably even more eager than I am to write about it and post photos from our adventures. And, seeing how this site is called twofunkyhearts, it seems to make sense to invite the funkiest heart I know to write here too. So, please welcome our new contributor to twofunkyhearts. I’m rather fond of him.

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More to come soon.

Regeneration by the Sea

Today I left my shoes in the car, ran across the road and walked through the supermarket barefoot. It was a little cold for my feet in the store, but the sense of freedom is unparalleled and makes me wish North America would get rid of the “No Shoes” part of “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service”. They don’t know how they’re limiting themselves.

Prior to stopping at the store, Sean (my absolutely amazing partner in wholesome crime), and I had been down at Clovelly beach, our favourite swim spot. The water has recently come up from the Antarctic and the rush is intense, clearing the brain and sinuses. Sean was swimming laps, but I’m easily distracted by the abundance of marine life below and instead find my heart pumping from holding my breath than actual swimming. Today I spotted a new rainbow fish, and while searching for it under a rock edge, a big blue grouper fish swam right through my arms! I know this particular grouper well – he has a yellow starburst pattern around his eye and always seems to find me underwater. I call him Hal. Anyways, Hal and I hung out for a bit and I was about to swim on when he seemed to want to show me something. I went back and looked at what Hal was hovering over and saw an octopus was scooping up his tentacles under a rock! If I hadn’t seen him in motion, I never would have – his camouflage is impeccable. I floated above him in the freezing water for a good 10 minutes, before heading back to shore for hot tea.

It was a great day, and such a cool reminder from nature of how amazing life is when you stop and really look. Life all on it’s own is full of magic, easily seen when  you step out of reality and into the world to see the moving synchronicity in things: how an octopus perfectly blends to his environment, the way sea plants move perfectly in time underwater, how every member of a school of fish floats in waves, keeping perfect spacing. And all these little things are seen, sensed, realised, and have the power to completely enchant.

I had a day like this 7 weeks and 4 days ago. Sean and I went down to Clovelly and saw whales surfacing less than 50m from where we stood on the shore, broad speckled tails clearing the water as they played in front of us. It was spectacular and, following the events of the previous day, felt like a sign that all was well in the world.

7 weeks and 5 days ago my ego took a big hit. I was unceremoniously fired from the job that I moved back to Europe for in December, then here to Australia in February. My working relationship with my boss was confusing and strained, but we had been friends and I trusted him – I went to his birthday parties, ran with his wife, brought presents back for his kids from South America. Working together hadn’t been easy, but I stayed in part out of loyalty, and truthfully out of fear I’d be perceived of as lazy by  or not-tough-enough if I quit. So I stayed quiet through various frustrations – the weeks I couldn’t work because they hadn’t filed my visa papers, reporting my activities by the hour, the chauvinism they self-described as “French”. When I worked in the office, the young, inexperienced female employees were spoken of by what they wore, what they weighed, and what they ate. When I spoke up about it, they told me that even though I’d already worked 2 years in Europe, I still didn’t understand European culture. The office-wide joke was that they needed sexual harassment training. Later two of these men, during an informal meeting with surgeon colleagues and another coworker, told one of the surgeons to take my card, adding “so you can do her.” (They later apologised when I brought it up, saying that despite working in English their entire professional career, the two of them believed the phrase meant “to cook”…). At the time I remember thinking that being fired was the best thing that could happen, but to be honest, I’m only just coming to terms with how impactful the experience has been. I’m anxious writing about it, afraid I’ll come across as overly sensitive or bitter. It’s just what happened though, and is part of the reason I haven’t written much in the last several months.

Each day improves, and this week is great. I’m free and back to living the life that I am much better suited for – without shoes! Sean and I have decided to go back to Canada and South America, and will leave in 2 weeks for a trip of five months. Little is planned so far, but we have lots of ideas to make each day a masterpiece.

New Zeal!

I’ve spent the last 5 days in New Zealand with my wonderful, amazing, inspiring friends, Libby and Jimi. Libby and I met last year in Flores, Guatemala, playing Spanish Scrabble and eating tamales at the night market. It’s been a great reset that I didn’t know I needed, playing in waterfalls, walking down rivers at night, having a grown-up Easter egg hunt. They’re fellow adventurers, and have taken me to some amazing secret Fern Gully-style places (including one Jimi found while floating for 10 days down a river on an $8 inflatable lilo to raise awareness for mental health).

Jimi and Libby are in the midst of constructing a tiny house, and I was really happy to get a chance to put some energy into that yesterday, especially when we found the welding masks.

Being with people who are doing good in the world while having both feet planted firmly and happily in the earth, is a big blessing. It’s reminded me how important it is to be in nature – something which I haven’t had much of a chance to do since my return to industry hours in November. This time has also put into perspective so much of what’s been stressful over the last 5 months. I haven’t written about it much, but the return to work was a big challenge. Having expected it to be a fairly easy transition with friends and people I trusted, it was instead fraught with difficulty at every step – from visas to flights to housing – full of problems and delays. It’s been especially taxing for me to be at the fringes of enormous workplace turmoil, as I’ve always self-identified as an easy going, happy person, that has never had such interpersonal dramas before. The last 5 months feel like a continuous soap opera, and I’ve never liked daytime TV.

The process of moving countries and changing jobs is a significant one, not to be undertaken lightly, but I never thought it would be like this and cost so much from a wellbeing perspective. Being here, with feet firmly planted in the sand, watching the tide go out, I’m back to myself. All the other stuff has been static and I’ve finally tuned back in to the worthwhile things in life.

Ironically, as I was having this amazing day yesterday I learned that the Australian PM abolished the 457 visa… That’s the visa I was told had been submitted back in February upon my arrival, but which I learned was only put in last week. Oh, and my title in R&D is no longer on the list of approved foreign highly skilled worker titles. So while I’ve been settling into my life in Sydney, feeling at home, getting grounded, building a community and a life, I’ve found that it may all crumble due to the same administrative oversights that have defined my return to a conventional lifestyle. I suppose this time around, with 5 months of wisdom-promoting experience under my belt, I can look at this next phase and try to move through it with more grace and patience and love and acceptance.

That said… living on a mountain in the Dolomites, a surf van in the Algarve, or a tiny house on Cape Breton is looking more and more appealing.

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