Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Monday, November 27, 2006

Village Life

Hi folks,

Another short one as internet is moving slow and minutes are ticking fast. We are at a cafe in a small town near another small town a few hours north of Accra, where we attended the 3-day funeral of David Firang's mother. She was a well-respected elder of the community who died unexpectedly a few months ago. In Ghana funerals are usually held a few months after death and they are as much a period of celebration of the person's life as they are a final mourning period. Life in the village has been an incredible adventure that we will hopefully describe in some detail very soon, but for now know that we are safe and sound, despite the car accident we had on the way up here...more on that later too. Suffice it to say we are well, healthy, and enjoying this steep learning curve of an adventure.


Monday, November 20, 2006


I know that we've been doing more apologizing than posting details lately, and for now that sad trend must continue, largely due to ongoing jetlag and the fact that we have a flight to Ghana in the morning. We've had our ticket for several months but on our second last day in Japan we found reason to doubt that we would make that flight:

We had thought that we could get a visa to enter the country on arrival. Turns out we were wrong, and that processing a visa application takes 4 business days. Those 4 days should have started today, this being the first day of our time in London that the consolate has been open. Fortunately, we managed to get a rush job and we are now equipped with two very fresh 6-month visas.

So now, after being treated (last night) to a fantastic dinner with my York University buddy Zoe, her husband James, and their 3-year-old son Alex and 6.5-month-old daughter Julia, and then spending a lovely day with my friend Rachel, who now goes by Megan, whom I met when travelling and volunteering on organic farms in British Columbia, and finally an Indian feast at Masala Zone in Soho with Pranav (who we hosted in Toronto when he and Miia attended the same course on international refugee policy), Allison (who went to York with Miia and was on Greenest City's board with me), and Gemma (with whom we are staying and who Miia met in Warsaw at a conference), and Megan, we are about to pack and gain a much needed night's sleep. Seeing old friends in a new setting created a strangely delightful nostalgic newness, and it was great to catch up and create new memories. But here on the blog many stories remain untold, for now.

The craziest thing is that tomorrow evening we will be in West Africa meeting the incredible David Firang, Miia's U of Toronto classmate who has proved himself to be one of the most generous people alive in performing logistical gymnastics to ensure that we are welcomed and made comfortable and connected in Ghana. This arrival means that by the time of our next post there will be another million stories to be told.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

An answer to the Russian wedding question

From my friend Gemma who I met in Warsaw but lives in London and has studies in Russia and is now in Canada as I, just in from Japan, lay in her bed in England!

"It's true, Russians do enjoy an en masse wedding. It's because wedding traditio indictates that you must travel around the city to place flowers at all the major landmarks like famous buildings, war memorials etc. So in Autumn you'll see a huge amount of last minute weddings congregating at tourist sites before the winter hits. Also it's not normal to get married in church so you need to find picturesque venues to take wedding photos after the ceremony."

There you have it. Thanks Gemma!

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal and the Island of Olkhon

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Some apologies and updates

I did want to write more on the blog as we travelled but, as I'm sure you all understand, it's not always feasible. The Gobi Desert, for example, did not lend itself to www connetions and China seemed to have a complete block on blogger. Japan we did have more time but tentative connections and, well, sometimes you just have to opt to live life rather than write about it. Know what I mean? So I will try to write some updates here now in London over the next couple of days. There is, as always, much to say.

But for now...

We took the super fast Nozomi train from Iwakuni (the town where Chris' brother Kevin lives) to Tokyo yesterday. We managed the super efficient subway well and found our way to the international youth hostel, the 18th and 19th floors of a highrise in kinda central Tokyo. The view from the window in the room reminded me of Lost in Translation - sprawling cityscape as far as the eye can see. It's a bit daunting, really, and when Chris and I played a game this morning where we described each place we've visited in just three words, we both came up with "built/buildings" to describe Japan. Since we didn't see the whole country I'm not sure it applies across the board, but Tokyo is certainly the shining example.

At the same time, we walked down some lively streets full of restaurants, shops, offices, people coming and going. Even in the midst of such immense human settlement, we don't need to lose humanity.

This morning we were up early and went by subway and then train to Narita airport. And then, of course, the long flight though the food was yummy (quality Bento box!) and we saw lots of movies (Dave Chappelle's Block Party a highly recommended favourite). A strange incident on the plane was when the guy across the aisle from Chris bent over the arm rest of his chair into the aisle and we both thought he was looking for something but turns out he had completely passed out or was having some kind of seizure. We jumped to help him and hailed down the cabin crew who brought him a tank of oxygen and some water. Luckily there were enough spare seats to get him to lie down for the rest of the flight.

Into London and then by tube to my friend Gemma's place although, by funny coincidence, she's been called away to work in Calgary and we are being hosted by her great husband Andrei. As I write this I am dizzy with fatigue so will sign off here. There is much to tell and to think about. At this point, as we are at the end of one long leg of the journey and about to embark on another, it will be good to look back and think about the good, the bad and the ugly. Will try soon, I promise.

Much love to everyone, Miia

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Amusing Ourselves

Below are many more pictures from Russia, the accompanying stories remain untold for now.

We have finally arrived in Japan, and are staying in Iwakuni, near Hiroshima. This is phase III of operation family-building, a phrase I've borrowed from my former boss Catherine. We are visiting my brother, Kevin, who is an ESL teacher here. His fluency in Japanese has given us a break from the usual linguistic gymnastics, which is nice but has prevented us from learning more than a few words (konichiwa, arigoto).

In China there were other barriers: tonality, pronunciation, the velocity of our throughfare, and poor health. We missed large chunks of what seemed like a great country due to an ongoing game of swapping sickness, which is where first Miia got food poisoning, and once I was sure she had recovered, I got food poisoning. Beijing, as Miia desribed in an earlier post, was a wonderful city to visit, filled with history and mystery, elegant beauty and modern excitement. Shanghai had a nice hotel near the ferry terminal with HBO in English. The hotel was listed in Lonely Planet as a real deal, cheap but stylish with oodles of history, including a visit from Einstein. Somebody must have read that and seen an unmilked cash cow because by the time we arrived it had been "restored" into an over-priced colonial gem complete with bowing doormen and snooty desk staff. We handed over enough cash there to last us, in our usual budget accomodations, about a week, for our overnight. Having just travelled on an overnight train and lugged our baggage across town (twice actually - the first place we checked out seemed unnecessarily far from the ferry), we decided to splurge. In all fairness the rest of the staff there were exceptionally nice, and went so far as to go to a pharmacy and pick up a new thermometre for us when my fever hit 38 degrees. It just seems a shame to me when something goes from being financially accessible to yet another means of exclusion.

As for me, I spent two long wretched (literally) days on the boat to Osaka, while Miia (fortunately) made the most of her good health and made several new Scandinavian, German, and Australian friends, feasted on first rate bean curds, and made the most of the free ping pong table and hot tub. Our bargain basement boat trip turned out to be fully loaded!

By the time our 7-hour train rolled into Iwakuni I was feeling much closer to human and ready to feast on Japanese Indian food. Since then we have visited the spot 500 metres below where the first atomic bomb exploded, and a nearby graveyard. Around that neighbourhood are numberous monuments, including one honouring the 10,000 children who perished in the blast with an eerie computerized megaphone voice emanating from an angelic statue laced with colourful paper cranes, which symbolize long life and health. It is a sad place with a sombre air to it. What a difficult thing to memorialize.

But in true Japanese style we capped the day in the more festive present. If Aldous Huxley was right about the world, Japan is the proof. It is super-happy-joy-of-life land. As the evening descended we enjoyed yakitori, or meat (and veggies) on sticks, and later, kereoke and Japanese whiskey, and beer, Dylan and Costello. The pillars of civilization.

Tomorrow we visit one of Kevin's schools and meet his students, show them pictures of our travels and once more break the linguistic barriers to communication. What a joy to be in a place more than 3 nights, see it through more than a passing window, a clicking shutter. And what a joy to be with family again.


On the Road to Tuva