Adventures in Lovin’

It’s February 14th, 2014 and we all know what that means: It’s Makha Bucha Day!!

You know, Makha Bucha Day…the day when Buddha gave an important sermon to 1,250 monks? That’s why there’s a big, red 14 on my Thai calendar and my favourite restaurant is closed. That’s the big holiday today, right?

makha_bucha

I think something else is happening today too. Give me a minute, it’ll come to me…

…I’m sitting here in my pajamas, munching a piece of chocolate and typing away at 11:30 on a Friday morning, so it must be something special. Oh, wait. I’m a freelance writer – that’s kind of what every morning looks like.

I know, I know, it’s Valentine’s Day – and for the record, I’d like to offer big thanks to the friend who pointed out it might be unwise to title this post Adventures in VD. Oops!

I don’t know if you’ve been anywhere near the internet today or not (I mean, someone could have printed this post, stuck it in an envelope and mailed it to you…that’s still a thing, right?) but it’s mayhem out there on the Yahoo. Mayhem!

The Best Romance Films on Netflix! The Worst Romance Films on Netflix! The Top 5 Ways to Avoid Being Single on Valentine’s Day! The Top 5 Ways to Love Valentine’s Day If You’re Single! The Top 5 Reason’s To Hate Valentine’s Day If You’re Single! Watch This Video of Cute Cats and Forget You’re Single!

Well, that last one is clearly a winner, any day of the year.

I’ve never wanted to join that fracas. There are just too many exclamation points for my taste. Besides, my feelings about Valentine’s Day oscillate wildly from year to year, so I’m reluctant to commit to anything in writing. Jealous loathing, arrogant disdain, studied indifference – those aren’t feelings I wanted to hold on to long enough to write about, much less be reminded of years later.

Also, it’s because neither David Tennant nor Benedict Cumberbatch have ever sent me bunches of flowers or boxes of caramels covered in dark chocolate and sea salt (hint, hint)…that would kind of be worth writing about.

But this year, despite the lack of random gifts from famous people I’ve never met,  I’m ready to say it loud and clear:

I LIKE VALENTINE’S DAY.

Now why would a chronically single woman who is only a few years (and a few cats) away from being the Quintessential Spinster Cat Lady suddenly decide she likes Valentine’s Day?

Because it’s a day. And I like days. In fact, I’ll take as many days as I can get.

I’m not even talking about those fancy vacation days where I can watch the sunset on the beach or stay in a posh hotel with fragrant little soaps, hot water, and an actual bathtub. I’m talking about regular days.

  • Days when I can sit in my pajamas ’til noon, sipping a coffee and reading (or writing) a good book.
  • Days when I actually put on pants and go outside.
  • Days when I learn new things.
  • Days when lunch comes with an ominous warning.

P1020899

  • Days when I talk to my elderly Thai neighbour and can understand at least 1/10th of what he says.
  • Days when the grocery store tapes snacks together with this pretty orange tape:

P1030194

  • Days when friends gather to share some laughs and make these super-fancy gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Judging by the title of the article, the recipes were clearly custom-made for Cheese-Loving Spinster Cat Ladies like myself.

I’m happy to say that after years of Single-Lady angst, I can now quite unabashedly celebrate February 14th along with all the other 14th’s of the year.

So to you, wherever you are, whomever you love, and however you like your grilled cheese sandwiches, I wish you a…

…Happy Makha Bucha Day.

…Happy Valentine’s Day.

…Happy Birthday**

…Happy Friday.

…Happy Day.

**Some conditions may apply. See Birth Certificate for details.

Adventures in … Saudi Arabia?

… or Calgary…

… or Saudi Arabia…

… or Calgary…

About a week ago, I discovered that it’s really hard to get any sleep when my brain is wrestling with itself. I place the blame for my insomnia squarely where it belongs: the post office.

Wait, what?

Yup, the post office. Maybe the one in Thailand, maybe the one in Canada – I’m not sure. There’s really no way to tell. What I do know is that one document went missing from all the documents I needed to complete my application packet for a PhD program in Montreal. An incomplete application won’t be processed, so instead of scouring real estate listings for character-filled, historic apartments in La Belle Ville, the doors to my future were suddenly thrown wide open. And I mean W-I-D-E open.

You know me. You know I have some reservations about living in Antarctica, but any other continent is fair game. Standing on such a precipice with my passport in hand is like going to the dairy section of a North American grocery store after spending years in Asia. There are so many choices, it’s thrilling and paralyzing all at once. But instead of choosing between 8 types of Brie and 12 kinds of Cheddar, I have to choose ONE place to live somewhere in the whole world.

After very little thought – really – almost no thought at all, I had narrowed the whole world down to two choices: Saudi Arabia or Calgary.

Because those are both pretty similar, right?

In one, all the moisture in my body would freeze, in the other it would all evaporate. Both sound equally uncomfortable.

In one, I’d trade considerable freedom for considerable finances. In the other, I’d have tons of freedom, but no funds available to enjoy it.

In one, I couldn’t drive if I wanted to. In the other, I wouldn’t want to drive if I could. (Seriously, the Deer Foot Trail in Calgary terrifies me.)

I was equally excited about both – and equally worried. Sure, the worries were different, but as far as my internal worry-o-meter goes, they were both about even.

As the roosters started crowing after my third sleepless night, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: For me, the thought of moving back to Canada is scarier than the thought of moving to a country where people get beheaded for breaking the law.

How can Canada be scary?? (Not counting the Deer Foot Trail, of course, that’s obviously terrifying.) It’s not you, Canada. It’s me. Really.

When you’re living, travelling, working, snorkelling or eating your way through other countries, it’s easy to pick and choose elements of culture that resonate with you. It’s fun to identify things you love about your host culture (Giant Nation-Wide water fights? Yes please. Heated floors? Love ’em.) and easy to grumble about things you’re not so fond of (Get your elbows out of my rib cage, you horde of crazy grandmothers! Why is there a chunk of congealed blood in my soup?) But the not-so-awesome things are tolerable, because you know they’re temporary. Eventually you’ll move on, and you won’t have to take the unpleasant things with you.

Not wanting to confess, even to myself, that I’ve been actively avoiding my own country, my decision was made: Calgary.

Image

Nestled in the protective embrace of the Rocky Mountains, it’s home to the Calgary Stampede, giant belt buckles, and a university with a PhD program in Language and Diversity. It’s also stupidly expensive and unbearably cold.

After being away from Canada for 14 years, I find myself accessing Immigrant to Canada and expatriate websites to navigate my way back into my own country. That’s a little disconcerting. There are things I’m really excited about when I think of moving back, but I wonder how much trouble I’m going to have when I realize that Canada is home. I can’t pick and choose what I like about Canadian culture, and I can’t leave the bad stuff behind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not terribly worried about those things. I’m not losing sleep over them anyway. I just wonder what it will be like to live in Canada again. If I do start to get anxious, I simply remind myself I’ll have 8 different types of Brie and 12 types of Cheddar waiting for me.

How did you wind up in your current home? How did you choose where to live?

Adventures in the Eaton’s Catalogue

Every once in a while, I get an itch to dive down the rabbit holes of history. Sometimes to recreate a vintage hairstyle, sometimes for sheer amusement, sometimes just out of lazy curiosity.

Last night, thanks to the magic of the internet, I found myself here, flipping through the pages of the Eaton’s Spring/Summer mail order catalogue…from 1894. It was 185 yellowed pages of, well, everything. Anything and everything you might need for late 19th Century life – clothes, groceries, furniture – all delivered to your door (or the nearest railroad crossing).

For any of you who aren’t familiar with the Eaton’s catalogue in Canada, it was like the Sears-Roebuck catalog in the US, and dominated the Canadian retail industry for almost a century. It truly was the Amazon of it’s day, and possibly even catered to Sherlock Holmes:

SherlockHe’s missing his deerstalker hat, but don’t fret. That can be found on page 55 for 25 cents.

The magazine was amazing…at least for history nerds. The item descriptions were no-nonsense, the models were all poised and elegant. I found myself wanting to say things like, “I do declare!” and “Astounding! Simply Astounding!”

Then, my evening took a sudden plunge into jaw-dropping, head-shaking incredulity. You see, I skipped ahead a few years to the 1920 Fall/Winter catalogue.

Suddenly, I was browsing through SIX HUNDRED pages of some of the most disturbing things ever. Maternity corsets and corsets for children! Bear traps! Boxes of asbestos! Sixteen full pages of fur accessories – heads, legs and tails still attached! Instead of simple product descriptions, now even the most hideous of hats are described as stylish, popular, serviceable and pretty.

"Stylish" is not the word I would have chosen for this one.

“Stylish” is not the word I would have chosen for this one.

By the time I got to the switches of fine quality hair (guaranteed to be “Made from 50 per cent European hair and French refined hair”), I knew I should just call it quits and go to bed…but I couldn’t tear myself away. It was that awesome.

Even the hand drawn models had changed. The men were no longer dapper and refined like this fellow:

Why hello there, handsome.

Why hello there, handsome.

By 1920, the men were stern and frightening, like this angry man:

I might be sporting a comfy sweater, but rest assured, I will cut you.

In fact, I think you could probably write a creepy crime story based entirely on the characters found in the menswear section. I mean, really, what’s the back-story for these guys?

- I want to write a story based on strange vintage ads. - No George, you should write TWO stories.

– Herman, as I’ve been standing here lifting weights in my underwear, I’ve decided to write a story based on strange vintage ads.
– No George, you should write TWO stories.

The possibilities presented in these catalogues are endless. Now if you’ll excuse me, I just found the link to the 1907 catalogue – and I’m ready for some giant hats, ribbons ‘for street or evening wear’, some truly frightening hygiene products, a bottle of carbolic acid and a fancy new wood-stove.