Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Next Destination: Iceland

11:57 AM Posted by Sharon , ,
Dear Past Sharon,

Thank you very much for booking this trip 6 months ago when the Canadian dollar was stronger than what it is today and when the Icelandic economy was facing signs of trouble. How else could such a destination be so affordable?

Thank you again for having kind foresight, or perhaps supreme psychic abilities. I had no clue that my life would become as busy as it has over the last few months. Deadlines, contracts and obligations abound, so what better time for a vacation? There wasn't a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence. I really do think that I would have worked myself into a hysterical fit if it were not for this vacation.

Money is great, but what's the damn point if I don't get to enjoy my limited time on this earth? In a few short days, I'll be trekking on glaciers and bathing in thermal hot springs. If all goes well, throw in the Aurora Borealis.

Gratefully Yours,

Present Sharon

P.S- You should have exchanged money before the Canadian dollar sank!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Ecuador: Day 6, 7, 8

2:28 PM Posted by Sharon , , ,

DAY 6 

Saying goodbye to the jungle, we started our trek up to higher altitude and cooler temperatures. This was a relief since humidity is my enemy. To get more exercise in, we ended up in La Punta Ahuano  to see El Paillon del Diable or "The Devil's Cauldron". It's a waterfall and when viewed from the front base, you're supposed to see the devil's face. Originally, I thought it got its name from the insane gush of water and jagged rocks at the bottom of a nearly enclosed pit.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reminders for myself

8:32 PM Posted by Sharon

After an insanely stressful week at work. I am finding myself closer to the end of the tunnel. THANK GOODNESS!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ecuador: Day 4 & 5

12:32 PM Posted by Sharon , , ,

One of the main reasons for the trip was a visit to the Amazon.  Although Brazil is famous for it, we knew our budget would not allow for a Brazilian vacation during a World Cup year. So we looked at a map and looked to see where else we would be able to affordably see the Amazon. 

I loved it and I hated it. I hated myself for loving parts of it. It's complicated to wrestle with the images of extreme poverty and my own participation in the middle of all of it. What could I do? (I'll explain later.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ecuador: Day 2 & 3

1:04 PM Posted by Sharon , , ,

Back into the blogging swing of things, I plan on posting the rest of my Ecuador entries before the month is out!

Day 2 and 3 of my Ecuador adventure saw us jumping from city to city. Waking up early in Quito, we checked out the colonial section of Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site. We whizzed through Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace

Monday, June 09, 2014

Ecuador: Day 1

9:54 PM Posted by Sharon , , ,

Yes, I went to Ecuador. No, I did not go to the coast or visit the Galapagos Islands.


It's much cheaper to see the rest of the country and to explore the incredible volcanoes atop heights close to 9,000 feet above sea level and then to venture all the way down to the jungle. 

Why did I go during rainy season?

To escape the bitterly long Canadian winter. And when you travel at the tail end of the rainy season, you get a few beautiful days when chance smiles upon you. 

DAY 1-  Arrive in Quito

Flights into Quito are a bit tricky if you're Canadian.Tricky in the sense that you have no choice but to go through the states. American airport security makes no sense. We landed, got through customs and security for a second time before we repeated the whole thing all over again at another airport in a southern state. We only had carry on luggage, which saved us a bit of time, but we still ended up annoyed and tired. 

We arrived in the middle of the night and cabbed it to our hotel. Cheap cab fare, considering the trip took a little under an hour. We were exhausted and fell asleep immediately. When we woke, this was outside our window:

It was a good omen, despite it being rainy season, we woke to a clear blue sky. We hopped out of bed immediately and hit the town to see as much as we can before the clouds arrived. 

Our first stop was the Basilica del Voto Nacional. On top of a hill, the Gothic cathedral was impressive on the outside. The inside, which only cost $2 US to enter, was a bit of a bore. The day we went, the steps to their tower was closed off for repairs, so it was a bit disappointing. We spent more time outside, looking for all the South American animals on the outside of the church. 

With the sky still blue, we made for El Panecillo. We negotiated with the cab driver (which is how to take a cab in Ecuador) to take us up the hill for a mere $5 US. The dab driver took it upon himself to drive us to the prison and point it out to us first. For limited English and poor Spanish, we got on quite well. 

And there she stood, La Virgen de Quito. She was impressive and so was the sight from the top. The entire city laid out before us and it hits me that we were in a vast, growing city where poverty still haunts. While a small portion of it looks like any other metropolis, the haze that was starting to show from diesel powered buses weren't enough to obscure the slums covering the hill side. This was Quito, the capital city. I knew that these were the lucky ones and that I'll only see more over the rest of my trip. 

When the clouds started to gather, we knew that we need to head back down to the city. We caught a cab and this time the fare was only $4 US. We wandered in and out of souvenir shops in Old Town. I thought these figurines were rather odd and could only think to associate it with the racist past of southern USA. Later on in the trip, someone explained that these were in fact cucuruchos. They are men dressed in purple cone shaped coverings during holy week and walk in a procession carrying giant crosses and chains on their feet.

Despite being healthy late 20-somethings, my boyfriend and I both got altitude sickness on the first day. Quito rests at a little over 9000 feet above sea level. We grew short of breath when we climbed the virgin. We weren't able to see or do as much as we planned on the first full day. By 3pm, I had a migraine and needed to go back to the hotel to rest. Lucky for us, that's when the rain started.

After a nap, we had a light dinner and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing. More physical aspects of the trip were still coming up, and we didn't want to tire ourselves out immediately. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Books I can't finish: The Fault in Our Stars

Reasons why I came across the book:

  • A movie is being made
  • Quotes and images are all over moody teenagers' tumblrs
  • Good reviews

I'm very thankful that I didn't spend any money on this. I couldn't even get past the first chapter! It's overly sappy and incredibly predictable. There is nothing original here. I'm actually a fan of young adult fiction. Hell, I even read Twilight and didn't think it was that horrible until the films came out.

Remember when A Walk to Remember came out and every female went crazy for it? The Fault in our Stars is trying to do just that for the younger generation who may have missed out on pouty Mandy Moore. At the time it was novel and I would even dare to say somewhat creative. Now, it's just tacky and vomit inducing, which is what I would have done if I kept reading The Fault in our Stars.

The writing is crap. Please tell me everything the narrator is thinking, even when it's unnecessary. *sarcasm* A good writer shows you a story, not tell you every damn detail. I will not read another book by John Green. It's like an insult to other great writers when I spend a second with one of his books.

Will not recommend.
Will not watch the movie.
Will not read beyond the first chapter.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Orenda

This wasn't a book I was expecting to read. It really wasn't a book I was expecting to fall head over heels in love with. It's everything unexpected and became an experience unlike any other you will read in print. If you were to ask me what I was doing Easter weekend 2014, I'll tell you that I was reading a Canadian masterpiece.

Why did I pick this up?
In brutal honesty, I saw this on sale for $12.99 at Costco and thought why not? I heard Joseph Boyden's interview on the radio for CBC's Canada Read contest (which it went on to win), and thought it sounded interesting. He seems like a cool guy who supports a lot of worthy causes in my city for Aboriginal communities.

I also felt guilty for not reading more Canadian writers. I've tried Atwood, Munro, Shields, and even Robertson Davies, but they really don't appeal to me. Don't get me wrong, there are some really great Canadian writers too like Wayson Choy, Farley Mowat and Yann Martel. I guess most of the "big names" in Can. lit don't tell stories I find myself relating to or connecting with.

So there I was with throngs of shoppers. I bought it and figured that I was doing my duty in picking up a book from a Canadian writer and one who writes about Aboriginal issues, no less.

I have never been more surprised by a book! After the first few chapters, I knew this was something special. Told from the point of view of three very different characters, it weaves together a complicated picture of early Canada. You want to hate the characters, pity them and then find yourself falling in love with them for all of their faults.

Snow Falls, an orphaned girl who is adopted by her family's killer of a neighbouring tribe, jumps out at you in part 1. You want to hold her and wish to see her survive and avenge her family. Then there's Bird, her new father and prominent member of the Haudenosaunee tribe. Despite my initial feelings, I empathized with him throughout part 2. And finally, there's Christophe, a Jesuit priest from France sent to save the souls of the savages, who surprised me most with his unwavering faith and courage.

The first thing I did after putting this book down (and drying my tears), was order everything else Joseph Boyden had written. Boyden is a writer who writes characters that comes to life and sits next to you as you read and then they become ghosts who haunts you after the final page.