Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Happy and feeling glad

“I’m happy, I’m feeling glad, I’ve got sunshine in a bag”, are the lines of one of my favorite songs by the Gorillaz.  Unfortunately I inherited an inability to sing more than one line of almost any song, often jumble up the words and as such, suspect , that those might not be the lyrics to one of my favorite Gorillaz songs.
In any event, the point is that, “we’re happy” and “feeling glad”.

2014 has been a wonderful, busy year.
As you know, Adele is expecting twins.  She is currently 26 weeks.
We received this happy news earlier in the year.
I had been joking about her being pregnant with twins because she had been feeling particularly green.  We had negotiated for 2 kids, so this seemed like a practical, albeit terrifying way to make an insta-family.  
We went for the scan in Calgary – lieing to friends about a dentist appointment – we didn’t want to tell people until we knew everyone was healthy and happy.
We had a young radiology tech – just weeks from completing her program and she was excited and nervous to do the scan alone. 
“The ultrasound tech will be in the next room, if I need help, I will call her and she will be in to check the measurements” she said.
It was pretty exciting and made the pregnancy a whole lot more real when she put her probe on and instantly found a head and a spine and a heart and wait . . . .. .  What’s that?  Another head? It had suddenly become a lot more interesting.
“Are there 2 babies”, Adele said and I started giggling – we had both seen number 2 about the same time, a little before the tech.
The rest of the appointment was a process of cataloging and measuring number 1 and number 2.  I spent much of the time giggling.  It was wonderful and draining.
2 babies!  Holy moly!
At the end of the appointment there was a CD you could buy for 10 dollars which had scan pictures on it.  They gave it to us for free.  We joked that maybe they were trying to save us a buck – keep your 10 dollars, you will probably need it more than we will J

Subsequent to that we have been super busy.
We have been to Jamaica with our wonderful friends – Shawna and Rick.  We visited San Francisco and the Muir woods – probably my number 1 American city (in contention with Portland). Our friends Jess and Steve visited and we went dogsledding in Canmore.
We have hiked and kuiered with friends and enjoyed a wonderful life.
In February I did a month shadowing in the Lethbridge ER and subsequently have been working here and there in Southern Alberta trying to get into a residency next year.
Adele has been surviving pregnancy quite nicely – initially she was a bit green but she is feeling well and has become more and more noticeably pregnant (I told her the other day that ascites would suit her – maybe a little creepy but she is looking stunning (Sexiest pregnant woman ever)).
We have also been painting the babies' room and have been getting as ready as we can.
It seems to be the season of the baby and we have been trying to learn as much as we can from our wonderful baby mamma and papa friends.

And that is all I have for you this time.  My parents arrive in 3 days time – yay - and we get to pick them up for a BC road trip in the minivan (yes, much to Adele’s chagrin we bought a mini van).
Adele finishes work this week and we are slowly, happily preparing for our 2 little girls.  Hopefully there are no babies on the above-mentioned road trip.

All our Love

Rooibaard, sexy legs, the twins and a eunuch named bagel

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The infrequent blogger, 3 plus years in Canada Eh


Hey party people.  I hope that 2014 has been excellent and better/more awesome than 2013.  2013 was fantastic and will require some effort to better or match!  It was full of adventures and fun times with wonderful people.  This is what we got up to after we left off, abridged, shortened, cut down so as not to bore/depress/make crotchety all who may read this (including future rooibaard and sexy legs).

Seattle and Oregon

The last time we chatted we had just had a bat-shit crazy flight.  The airport unpleasantness did not stop there.  Our bags took 2 hours to arrive but happily after some griping we have about $200 in travel vouchers - so more travelling - yay!

We rented a car and drove from Seattle to Portland.  From Portland we did part of the Oregon coast back to Portland and then back up to Seattle.  Initially we did not have much planned, so we winged it and ended up having an amazing trip.
This area of the world is gorgeous, Portland just might be our favourite American city and we drank more beer than probably possible this epic roadtrip.  Here are a few snaps of our stops and some of the highlights.

Portland the weird:  There is a car sticker that read, ”keep Portland weird”.  I have always been a fan of weird and we found Portland to be magical.  There are so many different groups of people living there, from tribal toting peoples to hipsters to hippies and to general Joe smoes - if there was a big man wearing a tutu, driving a unicycle and sporting a woodcutters beard - I don’t think anyone would have blinked.
This was also the first holiday that we used airbnb - big fans so far!  We stayed at 2 different locations in Portland (before and after the oregon coast).  
The first was with a lady named Shelby.  She is an image consultant, has a beautiful house overlooking Portland and was fantastic.  We had a few interesting and fun chats in her kitchen, got a bunch of recommendations on places to visit and really enjoyed the stay.  From her house we walked through forests and groomed paths (with an eclectic bunch of walkers and joggers) passed many vegetable gardens, bee hives and a bunch of beautiful and eclectic houses to the downtown.
The second place we stayed was with a wonderful family.  We actually booked the house the day of, they had driven back from San Francisco and we stayed in their basement suite.  We arrived as they did with toys and children falling out of their car.  We helped them unpack some of the toys and really enjoyed staying in a pretty awesome basement suite and meeting some fun new people.  They are pretty much the nicest and most interesting people you will meet.  He is a previous aerospace engineer and now works with green energy.  She is an ex USA fencing champ and owns a local coffee shop.  They are both very interesting and active in their area.  (They have bees in their backyard - which I find very cool and the neighbourhood shares the equipment needed to process the honey).  As it was the 4th of July they had a street party and we helped/watched them set up some of the decorations for the parade.  All in all 2 great places to stay - I will happily send you their information if you’d like it.
I would feel bad that most of the last paragraph is about where we stayed and the people, but for me the acceptance, the eclecticness, the friendliness and awesomeness of the people we met in Portland are part of what makes this a great city.
The city of Portland itself is magnificent.  There are 8 bridges entering the downtown and Portland is often referred to as “Bridgetown”.  Each is unique and it would be worth visiting just for these.  There are expanses of trails and tall, beautiful towering trees and Adele and I loved walking through these paths (The TV series GRIMM is set here and you can understand why!).  
Then there are beautiful places like the rose garden (reminded me of my gran, our mums and of Johannesburg), the Japanese gardens and all sorts of other public spaces.
Under one of the bridges we found probably one of the best markets that I have ever been to with beautiful jewelry and actual, unique items (often markets have so much rubbish!).  
Another cool spot to check out is the Kennedy school.  This old school has been repurposed with restaurants, a brewery, a theatre etc.  There are interesting stories and pictures on all the walls and it is well worth a visit.
If you like books then Powell books is huge and wonderful.  You can also get a decent cup of coffee here, another thing that Portland does not have a shortage of is excellent, delicious coffee.
We spent much of our time sampling this tasty coffee with delicious donuts (check out voodoo donuts online).
Along with the coffee and donut scene, Portland is renowned for it’s craft brew.  There are at least 50 breweries.  Adele and I enjoyed a few of these spots.  I believe there was a petition to name Portland ‘beervana’ at one stage.  So many good beers!  So many flights of beer!  So much fun!
After writing this last segment I am hungry, thirsty and have a longing to go back to Portland.  Please do yourself a favour and visit “Bridgetown”/”Beervana”/one of the best cities we have ever been to in our travels.

Voodoo donuts

Wonderful pathways and trees

Airbnb did not disappoint

Yachats:  Our next stop was Yachats.  On the way we stopped at 2 more breweries.  One gorgeous McMenamins in Shelby and Steelhead in Eugene.  The McMenamins - the Thompson Brewery and public house was pretty fantastic.  The house that has been reused is gorgeous and we enjoyed some more good beer on wooden tables outside.
A really good spot to stop along this part of the oregon coast is the Heceta lighthouse.  There is a great beach, beautiful views and a lighthouse (Did I have you at lighthouse?) (pictures to follow).  
That night we found a hotel in Yachats right near the sea.  The sunset was perfect and we sat by the hotels fire, eating s'mores and listening to the other guests.  The next morning I went for a run along a coastal path with beautiful rocks and sea views past dogs and other walkers.  It was wonderful to be near the sea again and to hear the waves lapping against this gorgeous coastline.
One interesting fact we learned here is that in 1967 Oregon passed a pretty awesome bill called the Oregon beach bill.  The Beach Bill declares that all "wet sand" within sixteen vertical feet of the low tide line belongs to the state of Oregon.[5] In addition, it recognizes public easements of all beach areas up to the line of vegetation, regardless of underlying property rights. The public has "free and uninterrupted use of the beaches," and property owners are required to seek state permits for building and other uses of the ocean shore.[
Pretty cool!
So Yachats gets 2 thumbs up!

Beach at Heceta lighthouse

Flights of beer


Cannon beach:  From Yachats we drove up to Cannon beach via Newport.  Newport is pretty cool with an interesting art deco bridge.  We had some more good coffee and beer here.  The Rogue brewery was a very, very tasty place and had a wide range of beers to try.  We were less impressed by their food but a good place to visit.  (Talking about food - we had some unbelievably awesome seafood on this trip (Holy moly - I just want to go back now)).
There are some interesting curio and art stores in Newport.  It was also very apparent that this is still a large fishing town, with it having a strong fishy smell and a fish processing factory in the downtown.  
What was also pretty cool is that a lot of the wooden beams on the boardwalk have had grooves worn into them by people crabbing.  
Another big plus to Newport is the aquarium - amazing aquarium.  The best part being the walk through - picture below.  We really like Newport as a stop but didn’t feel the vibe as a place to stay so we kept on going.  We visited another lighthouse and then had one more stop that day at the Tillamook cheese factory.  Adele will tell you she loves cheese.  This is both a lie and a truth.  Adele does not like blue cheese or camembert or brie or any other sort of “funny cheese”.  She absolutely loves cheddar!  Suffice to say that the Tillamook cheese factory does a lot of really good cheddar and like someone at an amusement park, going on their favourite ride over and over again, Adele hit the sample queue quite a few times at the Tillamook factory :)
That night we arrived in Cannon beach.  We didn’t have accommodation again and stayed at this really fancy, pantsy hotel for a fraction of the cost (if we had not taken the room it would have been empty so they gave us a great price).  It was probably one of the nicest rooms that we have ever stayed in, which was great because the next day was Adeletjies birthday.  The room had full panoramic views of the ocean.  We had an amazing dinner at the Wayfarer restaurant that night (their clam chowder is fantastic and the views are as good - just an awesome restaurant).  
After a walk on the beach that night we lounged on our balcony and watched bonfires light up and people running around with sparklers.  It was a magical place.
The next day we took a long walk on this beautiful beach.  It was pretty busy but not crazy and we got to see Puffins on Adele's birthday!!!  There is a large rock formation called the Haystack which is home to a number of birds including tufted puffins.  We love birds and this was very special for both of us.

Some more Oregon coast


Newport fisheries

Wayfarer restaurant with the Haystack

Newport Aquarium

Crab fishing Newport

Astoria.  Our next stop was Astoria.  Astoria is a pretty town with some gorgeous old school houses overlooking the Columbia river.  We stayed at a pretty cool hotel on the river.  The hotel had a schedule of when boats would be traveling past and it was fun to lie in bed and watch them pass or blow their horns.  
The Astoria column is worth a visit.  The large, concrete monument has pictorials painted on the column from top to bottom depicting the history of the area.  It also has spectacular view of astoria and we enjoyed a great sunset.
Astoria also housed my best brewery of the trip - for some reason I found the beer at the Fort George brewery curled my beard in all the right places.
Astoria and the columbia river
By this stage we were a bit tired and retired early.  Still, a beautiful town and more of the awesome Oregon coast.

A Lighthouse - believe this was on the North side of Newport

The Astoria Column

View from the Astoria Column

Seattle:  From Astoria we stayed another night in Portland and then went up to Seattle.  We stayed in another airbnb apartment with Rob.  Rob was a lovely guy and had a very intense love of Jazz which he shared.  He had a rulebook bigger than most textbooks but we still enjoyed the stay and continue to find the air bnb experience pleasurable.  He was really close to the Discovery Park and we enjoyed a few morning runs and walks around this park.
Some of the highlights of Seattle were:
- the Duck tour.   In downtown Seattle there are “duck tours” on old world war 2 amphibious vehicles.  It was hilarious.  The guide made a point to be a legend, he continued to tell some pretty corny (but hilarious) jokes and changed wigs and costumes while driving the vehicle (safely of course).  It was a fun and really good way to check out the downtown and learn about the city and it’s culture.
-  The EP museum - if you are a Nirvana or Jimi Hendrix fan - really interesting.  There is also a sci fi section.  Good place to spend a few hours.
-  The space needle had amazing views and is definitely worth a visit (pictures below).
-  Chihuly is a famous glass blower.  The museum for his work is pretty intense and fantastic!  From videos of how he does his work to amazing glass creations.  This is a place I would like to revisit and revisit and revisit.
-  Pike place market is pretty iconic and you can see why with the fresh flowers and tasty fishy catch on display.  It was a little crowded for us but still fun to see people throwing fish around, getting a smell and feel for the place.
- The Ballard locks was pretty cool. There is a salmon ladder and an underwater viewing station - good for working up an appetite for the restaurants below.
- Other than that we had more good coffee, had great donuts at the Top Pot downtown.  We discovered that there is a void on the sales tax if you are from Alberta - I cached in on the savings for a new camera lense.
2 restaurants that I would recommend are Saltys on Aiki beach, really good food and great views of downtown Seattle, and Chinooks at the waterfront, amazing fish tacos and beautiful views of this Marina.
Chihuly and space needle

Pike place market

Seattle from Aikiki beach

Duck tours

Captain Bodalicious

The Ballard Locks

We cannot wait to get back to Oregon and Portland.  I think next on our list for this area will be checking out the rest of the Oregon coast and checking out the giant redwoods between Seattle and San Francisco.

Brazil, Argentina and Chile

In August last year we had the privilege of traveling with Adele's sister, Shani, and Charl, her boyfriend.  We travelled from Sao Paulo to Rio to Iguazu in Brazil.  In Iguazu we jumped across to Argentina and then made our way down to Buenos Aires and then across to Mendoza.  I had to get home after this but Adele, Shani and Charl travelled across to Chile.
It was an incredibly fun trip with some beautiful people and some rich, amazing scenery.  Here are the highlights of that trip.

Airport reunion

Sao Paulo:  We arrive in Sao Paulo a couple of hours ahead of Shani and Charl.  We waited at the airport for them and then made our way to our accommodation.
It was wonderful to see them again - Adele and Shani have a very special and close relationship.
We stayed in Uvaia hostel the first night.  I cannot say enough good things about this hostel.  It was fantastic.  The owner was incredibly helpful and directed us around the corner for dinner and beers.  I cannot remember the name of the restaurant but remember having a good meal and having a delicious beer.  On the way there we had asked some Brazilians where to grab a meal and they had pointed us down the street.  On the way back we stopped at a different restaurant to grab another drink and relax.  Shortly after arriving we received a wonderful note, see below, inviting us to a large table full of people, including the people we had asked for directions.  
Now we were a bit nervous, or at least I was, what if this was one of those cons where we end up with a huge bill at the end of the night.  In any event we decided, together, to meet these new potential Brazilian friends.  They were fantastic.  We were all interested in each others culture and customs and chatted constantly.  Some of their group spoke really good english, especially the one girl Flavia who is involved in tourism.  Flavia’s husband was a big tall animated guy, did not speak much english but was incredibly entertaining.  Beers and food kept coming, we laughed, they danced and it was a very special night.  They were all a great group of people and it was an amazing start to our holiday, probably one of the highlights.  Brazilians we had learnt early, are proud, loving, fun, wonderful people.
The next day we went to a market.  It was in half swing - not full season yet but was a great place to get some new smells and tastes (some of them not good).  The market was the Mercado Municipal and is worth it just for the awesome venue (the building is gorgeous).
This was a Sunday and we made our way through Ibirapuera park which was close to our hostel.  We love urban parks and what they represent - a space of greenness where people can relax and communities come together.  We have been to amazing parks such as central park and stanley park (NYC and Vancouver).  This had to be the busiest park that we have ever been to.  It was fantastic.  There were people slacklining in one section, people doing yoga in another or lounging in the hammocks set out, while other people played musical instruments under the trees.   When I think about this day it is a happy and warm thought, I wouldn’t mind being back there under a tree/in a hammock reading a book and soaking in the sights and sounds of happiness.
We ended up spending only the one night and one day in Sao Paulo but it was a good visit.  Our hosts of the first night were fantastic and set the tone for a really good holiday.
That night we boarded our first (and by no means last) sleeper bus for our trip to Rio.
I remember us all sleeping really well, comfortable and happy.

Sao Paulo friends 
The note we received

Sisterly love

Shani and Charl are a bit handsy

Best park ever

Sao Paulo market

Rio de Janeiro:  So we arrived in Rio de Janeiro fairly early from our bus adventure and made our way to a hostel that we had tried to book the day before.  The owner of the hostel is a Californian surfer (Chris) who has been an expat for quite a while (previous military child so used to travelling).  The hostel was located fairly close to ipanema beach and a big lagoon.  Chris was a pretty cool character and we ended up staying for 3 nights.  It was really nice being close to the beach and close to the lagoon which had a really nice running path around it.  We met some nice Irish people and a really good South African while we were there.  Charl is a great people meeter and he met an Argentinian lady at the hostel next door and spent quite a while getting some ideas for the Argentinian leg of our trip.
Some of the highlights of Rio:

Walking:  We had a few days that were overcast (perfect for me :) ) which were great for walking.  We walked along ipanema beach.  I also got in a run or 2 which was fantastic.  We also walked to Copacabana beach and to the botanical gardens.  I must say that wherever we walked cars would stop and suggest that we put away cameras/be safe because we looked like tourists.  This had the effect of making us feel safer rather than less safe.
On one of these walks we were tired and hungry and discovered these buffets in Brazil.  You put what you want on your plate and they weigh it for you (Much cheaper out of the tourist areas).  Really good food and good local beer (Charl and I had a good taste of the local stuff wherever we went).
Walking along the beach was a lot of fun.  There was always volleyball or soccer or someone exercising.  You can definitely see the beach culture in Rio and understand why it is such a popular location - I can only imagine how busy it would be in peak season.   
Downtown:  We caught the subway to downtown and spent a day walking through markets in the city centre.  Found some tasty meat pies and enjoyed window shopping.
Sugar loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer:  We had one and a half absolutely stunning days.  We made full use of the weather and went straight to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on Cordova mountain - the one you always see on TV/in tourism pamphlets.  We managed to get there fairly early and did not have to queue too long.  The ride up was on a tram with glimpses of the statue and great views of the city.  Really pretty ride.  From the train it was a pleasant walk up with some marmoset monkeys.  
The statue itself is pretty amazing.  It is considered the largest art deco statue in the world and was designed to have the dimensions of a cross, so a dual representation.  It is pretty impressive live and pretty fun to dodge and photo bomb, or be photo bombed by all the people posing like idiots (including ourselves) below the statue and people leaning or lying in all sorts of positions to get the perfect shot.
The views from here are also spectacular and we had a perfect day for it.
Not wanting to miss out on the sun we went from there to sugar loaf mountain.  Here there are cable cars linking a number of peaks.  Very pretty and great views again.  Really enjoyed being transported from peak to peak and we enjoyed a deserved rest and refreshment at the top.
At the start of the sugar loaf mountain near the beach there is a fairly nondescript restaurant that has a great buffet at a really good price for anyone who may be visiting.
The coffee:  Every morning we enjoyed these small delicious coffees.  Did not have a bad coffee in Brazil.
The soccer game:  We went to the Maracana stadium for a soccer game (months before it partially collapsed).  It was Cruzeiro against Flamengo if I remember correctly.  Flamengo are a local Rio team and it was a quarter or semi final so a fairly big game.  We were just next to the part where the opposing teams fans were.  They had fences separating them from the rest of the crowd and were too far to throw anything at.  Every time there was a goal or something good the opposing side would shout insults and throw zap signs across the divide.  At the end of the game police and police dogs came onto the field and the visiting fans were let out first - hectic!  Can you imagine what would happen if there was no fence?!?
Behind us we had a very animated 6 year old.  She was getting so excited by the game that her dad had to tell her to calm down and sit down a number of times.  Was a really fun and great experience.  The fan support there seems to verge on cultish and the vibe in the stadium was amazing.   
The people:  I do not want to harp on about the same topics but the Brazilian people we met were friendly, healthy and beautiful.  I think Brazil is not unlike South Africa in that there is a big divide between the poor and rich, there are some dangerous places and potentially dangerous situations, some bad politics but for the most part the people are good and the country is awesome.


View from Christ the redeemer

Note the guy on the far right 

Shani climbs a tree

Sugarloaf mountain


The top of Sugarloaf


The bra thief

Iguazu:  We flew from Rio to Iguazu in Brazil.  I had not known before but the iguazu falls are shared by Brazil and Argentina, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  
Both Brazil and Argentina claim to have the best parts.  We met some British ladies who were absolutely gobsmacked by the falls and had spent 2 full days seeing it from both sides.  Apparently the Brazil side gives you more panoramic views but the Argentina side gets you closer to the falls.  After some deliberation we decided to skip the Brazil part and head straight for the Argentinian side as we arrived late at night and we had other places we wanted to get to.
Our taxi driver took us across the border and arranged a really decent and cheap hotel for us in Iguazu on the Argentinian side.  That night we found a really good restaurant.  I remember having a delicious and incredibly huge steak which looked oddly like Africa (nom nom nom).  Argentina is reputed for the meat, and as true South Africans we were all very excited about this.  
We also discovered that our money was more valuable than we thought but will get back to this when we talk about Buenos Aires.  
The next day we got up very early and headed to the national park.  The park is a treasure of walkways and lush greenery.  We got our fair share of exercise exploring these paths, bridges and waterfalls.  There was a train that took us to the main falls and we took a lazy boat ride back with an informative guide.  
The falls themselves were spectacular and mind blowing.  We had views from above and from below along separate paths.  It is incredible how much water flows through this area and I don’t think it was even at it’s peak.  It was a good day, a really good day.  
After this we rushed back to town to try see if we could get an overnight bus to Buenos Aires.  We must be the luckiest travellers because we arrived 5 minutes before a bus was leaving and got a really good deal.  For most of the trip our timing was perfect.
(I mentioned the busses in Brazil earlier.  The buses are a great form of transport.  They are fairly pricey but if you use them to sleep on then that’s a hotel and a long trip mixed in one.  You can also choose from a number of different luxuries.  We chose busses that can recline fully and got full meals and drinks on the trip.  Was a great way to travel and relax between stops.  The only down side is waking up to a swerving/bumping bus at 3 am in the morning.  At least at this time of night most people were sleeping and were unaware of the nervous farting in the back of the bus.
And that was Iguazu, onward to Buenos Aires.

Nom nom nom

Buenos Aires:  I found Buenos aires to be a pretty enchanting city.  It has a number of neighborhoods, each with it’s distinct personality and sights to see.  I get the feeling, like a New York, that you could spend your weekends until the end of forever discovering new places and having new adventures.
I also found the culture to be friendly and inviting, and it felt a lot like South Africa in some ways.  Maybe this is partly their love of meat, the average increase in BMI compared to Brazil or maybe something different but it felt a bit like home.
Buenos aires also reminded us a bit of Havana, Cuba.  The building style was often very colonial Spanish and there were some magnificent old buildings.
Here are some of the things that we did or learned about in Buenos Aires:
-  The exchange that they give you on the interweb is not the exchange rate that you can get on the street in Buenos Aires.  The day after arriving we had to exchange some money.  We were walking around the Plaza de Mayo looking for a bank.  All the banks were closed so we asked a british tourist where we could exchange money.  The internet exchange rate at the time was about 5 pesos to the American dollar.  He pointed us down Florida street (a large pedestrian only walkway) where he promised we could find vendors to exchange our money at a rate of 9 - 1.  True to his word as we walked down Florida street we were greeted by a number of people offering us this exchange rate.  Suddenly our trip went from cheap to cheaper.  The only problem with this was that now that we knew how far our money could take us, if we ever had to spend money at the lower exchange rate we rarely did (even if it was still cheaper than in SA/Taiwan/Canada).
The reason for this discrepancy is that you have to apply to the government to get foreign currency if you are an Argentinian - you cannot go to a bank or any other institution for money like we do.  This way the Argentinians can set the value of their currency.  In order for some Argentinians to get foreign currency they buy their dollars from these money lenders who might charge them 9.2 pesos to the dollar.  I’m sure this is very illegal but the police in Florida street did not seem to mind and it was great for us.
One of the funniest moments of the trip for me was watching Shani’s face as we went into a fairly nondescript building to a room whose windows had been blocked out with newspaper and exchanged money.  She looked like someone unwillingly caught in a drug deal.  As soon as we had made the exchange we bought something to make sure we had not been crooked.  We had not been crooked - happy Shani, happy travellers.
-  Taxi drivers in Buenos Aires were of a different breed to the ones in Brazil.  We had a few wild rides in this vibrant city.  One taxi driver almost kicked us out and looked at us with such disgust because we had ice creams in his cab that it verged on a tense situation.  
Another very animated guy swore and made the sign of bulls horns as he edged and almost rammed his way through traffic.  When it was clear that he was lost and had driven us through the dodgiest neighborhood we had seen (people looked at us like we were lunch) he eventually had to stop and ask for directions a few times.
There was definitely almost some ground kissing on a few occasions.
-  There is a strong food culture in Buenos Aires.  Along the promenade near the eco park there were all sorts of vendors cooking wonderful looking meat treats.  My mouth is literally watering yet again, thinking of these.  Charl was in second heaven, as were we all.  
There are these restaurants called Parrillas - meat restaurants.  The one night we went to one in Palmero.  Charl and I ordered a parrilla to share in this very vibey, lekker spot.  When the meal came out there were all sorts of meats, intestines and sweet meats.  Some was good, some not so good and we almost made it to the end of the dish before our full tummies shut us down.  Now Charl and I are big guys and we couldn’t manage this meal between us.  To our amusement and delight the 2 x 60 kg girls at the table next to us polished off their meal with much less effort than we did.  Argentinians like their meat as much, if not more than us Saffas.
-  The walking culture was great in Buenos Aires.  On more than one occasion we stopped to watch people Samba dancing.  There is good greenery, interesting streets and beautiful buildings.
-  In the plaza de Mayo there is a stately pink building.  This is called the Casa Rosa.  It had it’s pink colour because cows blood was historically mixed in the paint to prevent damage from humidity.  This is the building where politicians used to give speeches to the masses (This is where Evita had given some of her famous speeches).  
Argentina has a fascinating and bloody history.  From Evita and her husband who were loved and reviled to the dirty war where countless people disappeared.
Mr Peron allowed Nazis to relocate to Argentina at one stage and the story of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who was captured by Mossad in Buenos Aires and whisked out by plane like something in the movies, is worth a wiki search if you are interested.  
The dirty war refers to a period of state run terrorism in Argentina where people disappeared by the thousands if they had anything bad to say or opposed the government.  A ship captain admitted to dropping half drugged people into the ocean and there are many other horrific stories from this period.  There are still mothers that meet and march in the central plaza, their goal, to find out what happened to their children during this “war”.
Inspite of this fairly recent disturbing history, Argentinians are friendly and it feels like a safe place to visit.
- Argentinians know how to dance and they like to Samba.  At numerous tourist spots they cashed in on this but there were still numerous spots where we saw locals dancing and having a gay old time.  It reminded me, again, of the rhythm and dancing in Cuba.
-   There were tons of really good quality markets in Argentina.  We went to one in Recoleta which was full of amazing and interesting goods and knick knacks.  There was also a really good antiques market in San Telmo where I almost parted with some cash for an antique pocket watch.
Shani and Charl tried to see a different area which becomes a Gaucho display (Argentinian cowboys) on weekends.  The Gauchos epitomised a form of freedom in Argentina - living on the land and not having any master.  Unfortunately they were mostly pushed out or incorporated into big ranches.  Every weekend in Buenos Aires you can still see a representation of this lifestyle.  Unfortunately Shani and Charl missed most of the action but suffice to say that there are many neighborhoods and things to see in this wonderful city.
-  Boca was the one area that we were told not to walk to.  Around this colourful tourist spot you are likely to make friends with someone who will happily take your wallet.  Apparently on game day (soccer), it is especially unsafe to walk around.  The tourist area was safe and colourful and interesting.  Pictures will do better than my words.  We enjoyed a good beer and some pavement culture in this neighborhood after our exploring.
-  Another interesting spot was the recoleta cemetery.  This cemetery for the elite is its own little city.  We spent a few interesting hours walking around and looking at the variety of adornments.  It is really interesting how people look after their dead and this cemetery was pretty opulent.   There were crypts and beautiful stain glass windows.  Some of the tombs were for one person while you could tell some were for generations.  Some were well kept and some had fallen into disarray.  Evita was buried here but this had to be done in secrecy because the rich, elite did not want a woman who stood up for the poor and gave them a giant headache in their ranks.  She was apparently brought in to the cemetary in the middle of the night.  We spent a good while walking up and down looking for her grave.  She is not signposted and I think the reason for this, was the same reason people did not want her to be buried here.  It was fairly comical trying to track down her tomb with other people searching as we were, and all of us popping out here and there like a giant marco polo game.
I personally cannot understand the need for such opulence in death.  When I go I would like to be cremated and then, well whatever will make you feel good, for I will be dead.



Casa Rosa

The tiny meat eaters in the background

Fantastic markets

Mendoza area:  From Buenos Aires we enjoyed another sleeper bus to Mendoza.  This was a different bus company and was just as pleasant as our previous experiences.  Shortly after starting this journey the pleasant Argentinian bus host offered us something in Spanish.  It was a small piece of paper with numbers on it.  We took it, not wanting to miss out on anything and shortly realised that we had signed up for some bus bingo.  For the next 30 minutes the host proceeded to shout out numbers, allegedly, in Spanish while Adele and I pissed ourselves laughing because we had no cooking clue if we had won or not.  I was even tempted to shout bingo so that he could check my ticket.  I think bus bingo does not usually take 30 minutes because at one point, a very exasperated bus host proceeded to say something which I could only guess sounded like this, “this is bullshit guys, stop f$#@ing with me.  I hate you guys”.  
Mendoza was an interesting city.  The downtown area was pretty attractive and we spent a bit of time walking around.  It is a fairly big and flat city and there is urban sprawl with wine farms imbetween.  At some of the houses we were not aware it was a wine farm until we walked into the back area of the house to greet the grapes.
We stayed at a fantastic backpackers - hostel international.  It was pretty cheap and they had a variety of tours that were affordable and ran from the hostel.  Shani and Charl went river rafting and horseback riding while there.  We all went on a wine tour which is always good, and we also had a really interesting fruit and olive oil tasting.
While we were at this hostel they also arranged for us to have a braai/barbecue and we feasted on rounds and rounds of tasty meat.  Was a really good place to stay.
On the day that Shani and Charl went rafting Adele and I decided to go wine tasting.  We had heard that Chacras de Coria - a nearby area had really good wine and was a good place to do a cycle and wine tasting.
Now cycling and wine tasting should probably be illegal but sounded like a great idea so Adele and I caught the bus there for this adventure.  We arrived just in time to rent a bicycle and get directions to all the wine farms in the area.  We circled about 4-5 and mapped out how to get to each, some of them had certain set hours for tastings and we had to drive quickly through busy streets to get to the first stop.
The first stop was Lagarde.  We had an animated and wonderful hostess who showed us around the vineyard in her thick coat.  There were 4 of us on the tour, so it was nice and intimate.  After the tour the other 2 guests had lunch at the vineyard, so Adele and I had our own private wine tasting.  She kept us laughing with tales of her vegan boyfriend who did not do well in meat friendly Argentina and who eventually enjoyed his vegan meal, the best he had eaten, which definitely was not vegan but she was not going to tell fussy pants that.  
We had such a good time that we left Lagarde - great wine - tiddled and loaded with all the wines that we had bought.  This was the only stop on our wine tour, we were happy and abandoned the next few stops.   Probably a smart decision - more wine and then riding our bicycle was probably not a great idea.  We had a wonderful lunch (and a beer - bicycles safely handed in) and that was that.

2 things that I have to mention about Argentina and Mendoza that I was really impressed with are 1.  their treatment of their elderly and 2.  their treatment of the dogs.  When we were on the bus in Mendoza whenever an elder came onboard someone would stand up and make a space.  Compare this to a lot of the 1st world where I have seen people ignore the elderly or sit in their designated area.  
There were a lot of street dogs in Argentina but they were all friendly, looked incredibly healthy and people treated them with a lot of respect.  We definitely made a few friends in some of the towns and had packs of dogs following us.

From Mendoza we rented a car and drove through the Tupungato valley.  This area is spectacular and gorgeous.  This is a high elevation for wine growing and a newer area.  As such the buildings and layout are more modern and more green than the ones we had seen in Mendoza.  There were some amazing wine farms - pictures to follow.  
We also had some really tasty wines and it was a lovely day.
One of the doctors in Lethbridge is part owner of a wine farm in this area.  We had planned to visit his wine farm when we were there.  While in Mendoza we had looked up the address listed on their website but there was no office and we were starting to wonder if he was the victim of some sort of scam.  In Tupungato we checked in on the tourism agency and he gave us directions to the farm.  We drove this beautiful dirt road and were starting to wonder if we were on a wild Zorzal chase (the name of the winery) when we came upon the building with a beautiful backdrop of the Andes.  It looked pretty quiet but we decided to take a few pictures and have a look around.
As we approached the cellar door we noticed a man inside and introduced ourselves, asking if we could take some pictures.  He proceeded to give us a private tour of the cellar - he turned out to be the wine maker and it was really cool.  He seems to be a fairly famous sommelier, along with his brothers.  At the end of the tour he reached into a box and gave us a bottle of wine that was not for sale yet - thankfully I was the only one who really enjoys red wine and we later enjoyed this treat, with great memories of a wonderful day.

From Tupungato we drove another beautiful dirt road through the mountains to Uspallata - a high mountainous town - where we spent the night.
We spent some time walking around, just barely managed to find a hotel and had the most delicious steak that night in a local restaurant.
We left Uspallata and drove back to Mendoza via a dirt road with some of the most amazing scenery, it felt like we were on mars.  We did not make it the full way on the dirt road because I was worried about missing my evening bus so we turned around and took the tar road down to Mendoza.
It was all in all a great trip with some wonderful people.

Olive oil and fruit tasting



The tasty gift






The moon

My flight back:  Sadly this was the end of my trip.  I said goodbye to everyone and hopped on another bus back to Buenos Aires.  Adele, Shani and Charl had another week and planned to go to Chile.  
I am not going to go into details because it was not a great experience but I discovered that my flight had been bumped to the next day when I arrived at the airport.  After about 5 hours of begging, calling, begging some more, smiling, angry faces and more begging I managed to get a new flight to Chile and then to Calgary via Toronto.  I arrived with enough time to spare in Toronto, but baggage took an inordinate amount of time so I missed that flight and had to take a later flight.  Not the best end to an amazing holiday but it was good to be back in Canada.

Chile: The rest of the crew went to Santiago and then to Valparaiso. Adele reports that Chile is an amazing country with wonderful people - by far the friendliest in South America. They had a wonderful tour around Santiago with the animated Filipe who kept them in hysterics. There is a really big urban graffiti scene and they had a great time walking around.
Valparaiso is a colourful city with rolling hills and trams (funiculars) going up the hills. There were a total of 15 trams in all. Valparaiso is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
An interesting thing about Chile is that people are not allowed to fly flags except for Mondays and the month of September otherwise you can get fined.
They were also there on the anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup - September the 11th - they were warned not to go out and the city went on lock down but no rioting and no drama.
Adele did have a bit of drama with travelling after I left. Firstly their trip to Chile was delayed a day due to heavy snow and then she had to fight, kick and scream to get onto her flight back to Calgary.
We will miss you Shani and Charl, until the next time.

The rest of the year and the beginning of the New Year

Going to keep the rest to the highlight reel.

During the month of October I did an elective/extra training in the Edmonton ER.   
I have pretty much fallen in love with Edmonton after this month.  It was a great month of good food, exploring and meeting new friends.  Edmonton itself has a wonderful valley and path system and is a cool city.
Adele visited me in Edmonton one weekend and we enjoyed the legislative buildings - really cool and worth a visit.  We also took a drive to Jasper and had a lekker time exploring.

We watched an Oilers vs Canucks game with Robbie, Lindsay, Mark and Michael.  After this we had one of those amazing nights of dancing and fun that only happen every now and then.
Robbie has made this his year of hockey and he watched many an Oilers game so it was really nice to see him.
I also got to meet a whole group of really fantastic new people through Brendan and Jen - they threw a party and I have not seen as many South Africans in one place since I was last in South Africa.

Outside the legislative buildings in Edmonton
Legislative buildings

Edmonton in Autumn

Talking about hockey - we have a package of tickets to Calgary games arranged through Robbie.  Has been fun going up to Calgary and watching hockey with friends.

Adele went cruising the bahamas and visited Miami with one of her best friends, Carrie.  By all accounts it was fantastic and fun to watch them complete each others sentences when they got back, both a lot more tanned.

We also did our fair share of hiking in 2013.  We had a wonderful hike with Justin and Kendra and their 2 beautiful children.  Have spent a lot of time with these wonderful people.

We also hiked Waterton and acted like the paparazzi with Eric and Carrie.

 Justin, Kendra, McKenzie and Kadence

 Adele and Carrie

The Eric

I can’t remember the month but we had a wonderful, clinic paid weekend at the super larny Banff Springs hotel with Mark, Michael, Susan, Dorothy, Natasha and other bigelow fowler staff.  It was a weekend of laughing, fun and getting to know great people better.  What happens in Banff stays in Banff, or something like that, so enough on that one.
Also got to see the McLucks family which was awesome - they happened to have a conference on the same weekend.

Myself, Adele and Mark spent a weekend in Whitefish in the summer.  We chilled and swam in mountain lakes.  We read, enjoyed amazing scenery and had our very own pub crawl in Whitefish.  We danced and danced and danced - it was great.
The road to the sun is a spectacular road and one of the most scenic you will drive.  It is closed most of the year and is a bit hairy for me, scared of heights, at times.
There is nothing better than a beach and a Canadian lake in the mountains - perfect!

We have started a tradition of pumpkin carving every year with the Kings.  This year was no different and we had a really good time.  There were some pretty amazing designs this year - it’s getting harder and harder to trump the year before. Unfortunately I cannot find any pics :(

After my month in ER I decided that I want to try and make this a career change.  I miss ER from South Africa and while I love my job, it is a very comfortable space so I felt I needed a change.  I really want to get some extra training and there is a one year programme I am going to try get into for 2015.  This has meant that I have quit my job of 3 years plus and will be pimping myself out in the ER and hospital in Lethbridge and the surrounds for the next year.

We were incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to see Vimal and Karishma for dinner in Calgary this last year, we drove up for the night to see them.

Adele has a new car.  We traded up her bug for a Ford fusion.  Needless to saw, Adele slept in it the first night - as you do :)

Sleeping in her car

We live really close to the valley in Lethbridge - called the coulees.  Just down the road there is an area called the sugar bowl.  Every time there is a good snow people come from all over Lethbridge to slide down this hill.  One night Mark and Michael arrived and we all went sledding at midnight in the snow.  Bagel loved it and we had great fun building ramps and being silly.

Air time

Trent bought a house!

Clark and Nicole had a baby!

Enjoyed a really great weekend in Banff for Brendan's bachelors.  We had some good laughs and a good party with great guys.  Also went skiing in Sunshine.  It was minus 36 with no wind chill so the lifts were shut until 11 am but was a wonderful weekend and was really happy to be a part of it.

Have managed to get on the ski hill a total of 4 times this season.  Sunshine at the bachelors.  Had a great weekend with Adam and Trent in Castle - much better skiers/snowboarders than me but really patient and great guys to have fun with.
The other ski days were Kimberley and Revelstoke - see below.

Had a wonderful Christmas period.  Mark and Michael threw their annual Christmas Party, now also a tradition I hope.  It was a great night with some very special friends.

The Christmas party thrown by the clinic was a hoot with a lot of the docs playing musical instruments. Also a great chance to see Lowell and Julie whom we do not see often enough.

Lowell and Julie

Over Christmas itself we went to Kimberley with Mark and Michael.  We had a great ski day - a really small hill but fun and we’ll go back.
We had a really good Cross Country ski at the nordic centre - I think I enjoy cross country almost as much as snowboarding!  Had spectacular views of Kimberley and really good snow with perfectly groomed tracks.
We had Christmas dinner at the Old Bauernhaus restaurant which was just as excellent as we remembered - Cheese fondue, schnitzels etc. etc.  Was a great Christmas with some of our Canadian family.

From Kimberley we had an 11 hour drive to Chilliwack.  We decided to surprise Jess, Steve knew we were coming.  We have missed them since they left Lethbridge but we have all been pretty good at keeping up.
We relaxed and laughed and had a great time.  Kaitlyn is getting so big and kept everyone entertained.  Wonderful people :)
We also got to spend time with Kylie, Marc, Ty and Zeke. Will have to make another trip back to spend more time with all these great people in 2014.

Steve, Jess and Kaitlyn

Mark, Kylie, Ty and Zeke

From Chilliwack Adele and I spent 2 nights in Vancouver.  We watched a pretty awesome game of hockey in Rogers arena in probably the best seats we have ever had.  Canucks lost but it was well worth it with overtime and a shoot out.  We seem to be cursed to never watch them win live.
The rest of the time we relaxed, walked around Stanley park on the sea wall, enjoyed good beer and pub food.  Love this city.

After Vancouver we made our way to Revelstoke with a stop in Chilliwack to wish Kaitlyn happy birthday.  
Revelstoke was a fun little town and we enjoyed it with Connor and Shawna.
We had one pretty epic day of skiing with 30 cm of snow as we skiied.  It was powdery and great.
The aqua centre in Revelstoke is pretty epic with slides, hot tubs, pools, a sauna, a steam room and a lazy river.
Was great to spend more time with these legends.  We decided not ski the last day but rather head out.  Unfortunately the snow had caused an avalanche and we spent the morning exploring revelstoke until we could get going.

We travelled from Revelstoke to Calgary and spent the night with Duncs and Chan,  Mathew is getting so big and is such a fast crawler.  I hope we live in the same city as them again soon, for the moment it is really good to see them whenever we go up.

And that is a summary of the last of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 (New Years was in Vancouver),
So far this year has been good, maybe a little stressful.
I have 2 weeks left at the clinic and have been trying to wind down.  There is a lot of mixed emotion about leaving and I am nervous about the change, but know it will be good.
It is my mothers 60th this year so they are coming up and we’ll do an Alaska cruise.
Adele and I both have conferences in Banff in January and February so that should be a lot of fun too.
We also plan to go to the Stampede again and have tickets to Goo Goo dolls.
Other than that 2014 promises to be interesting and great.  

I look forward to seeing you and spending more time with you this wonderful year.

Doctors a jamming