Oh Canada...

I will apologize now as this blog is going to bounce back and forth from journal entries I wrote on the trip, probably way too many awesome pictures (psst, haven't even scratched the surface of awesome images), sentimental girly ass observations, and maybe- just maybe my long lost writer is going to pop out of the dusty corners now and then. Pour yourself a cup of whatever it is your drink at this time of day, grab a snack (preferably not Cheetos- you don't want orange crusted keyboards do we?), and might I suggest a potty break now?? 

What will NOT be in this blog post, other then a hint here and there based on social observations while in Canada will be anything political. I'm not trying to be obtuse and avoid mention of it- I just simply am sick of it all. What happens will happen. We voted, we made our choice and people are pissed about it. If you didn't vote- you're a moron. Sure- the choices all sucked, but not voting still makes you a moron.

November 3rd I embarked on my first ever trip to Canada. Planned, yet spur of the moment (in a way) and my goodness my Google search history reflects how nervous I was. Along with the chat history with SC (shortened Significant Canadian) reflects my bombarding him with all sorts of seriously, now that I look back on it, ridiculous questions... Example- can I cross the border with pink hair? In my mind exactly two weeks ago- that was a huge thing. Now, having crossed the border to and from- they could honestly give a poop less.

I guess the best place to start here is art of my journal entries I wrote while anxiously waiting in the bus terminal in Grand Rapids. Yes, I went old school and hand wrote in the brand new journal meant to be written in the entire time I was there, but actually only written in to and from. 
"... It's been 15 years since the days after 9-11-01 that I've ridden on a bus. Back then I was a scared, emotionally raw little girl that had been through her third bomb scare evacuation in the Cleveland Greyhound station. Brain vacant from no sleep and loud noises made me flinch. It took three days to get home from Alexandria, VA to Grand Rapids back then. Today- here I sit on a cold metal bench, head on a swivel, aware of the creeps in the corners, vowing to myself to not use the foul station bathroom- crucially aware of feeling ashamed of my fear growing about people around me. I must seriously be insane to be doing this. Traveling to a different country to stay with and visit someone whom I've only know really well for a year... 
... Did a touch and go in Kalamazoo. Filled out some of the border crossing paperwork there to ease the transition once we get to the tunnel. Funny how sitting here on the bus, music blasting from my earbuds I am remembering how soothing the highway is and how much I missed it. Watching the scenery blur and rush past with the soothing rumble and hum of the heavy diesel engine under my feet. Damn- I miss driving ambulances...
... Crossed the border- now sitting here in the Windsor station for the next three hours. I don't honestly know what the hell I was so afraid of. Sure, the U.S. guys- armed to the teeth and grumpy faced were mildly terrifying, but the Canadian guys were all smiles and "Have a pleasant visit..." I think I'm going to break out my notebook and work on photography homework, trying to avoid eye contact and conversation with the chatty guy from Grand Rapids that I really have no interest in hearing his life story or why he's going to Chatham- pronounced "Chaddam" but he seems insistent that I know it anyways. When I do talk, I can sense my accent has started changing. Hell I'm going to sound local by the time I get off the bus..."

Song played on repeat for the majority of the trip across... Sia- "Unstoppable"

"...I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am
I put my armor on, I'll show you that I am

I'm unstoppable
I'm a Porsche with no brakes
I'm invincible...
Yeah, I win every single game
I'm so powerful
I don't need batteries to play
I'm so confident, yeah, I'm unstoppable today
Unstoppable today, unstoppable today
Unstoppable today, I'm unstoppable today

Break down, only alone I will cry out now
You'll never see what's hiding out
Hiding out deep down, yeah, yeah
I know, I've heard that to let your feelings show
Is the only way to make friendships grow
But I'm too afraid now, yeah, yeah

I put my armor on, show you how strong how I am
I put my armor on, I'll show you that I am..."


Let's get a few simple mentions out of the way here first.
1. Yes- there are a zillion Tim Hortons restaurants. And yes, I do have a mild addiction.
I think I counted at least 6 or 7 alone in Chatham.
2. Yes, the McDonalds signs do have maple leafs on them
(can't remember who asked me to look, but I did.)
3. You cannot buy liquor at the drug store.
4. Yes, they say "eh", "ya", and "orry aboot dat..." and now so do I.
5. They are a nation of bacon. They put it on Cesar salads and my new found favorite food group is coffee crusted bacon. Because- it's Bacon with Coffee on it!!! I may have actually squealed in delight at the restaurant when it was brought out to me- SC would have to confirm that.
6. They have massive fields filled with those gigantic spinning wheels of death...- 'orry, wind turbines. And even thought they were Canadian ones- I still hate them and they still creep me out.
7. If you're brain can't math- like mine... Glancing over to the speedometer in a car will terrify you for a split second. Why because 70 MPH in the US is 112 KPH....
8. Crossing the border is mildly nerve rattling- the U.S. Border Patrol guys will make you question yourself right down to underwear choice. The Canadian guys- "Did you bring any fire arms? No? Carry on have a nice trip, eh?"
9. Dangerous- little known fact... Canadian beer gives you no hangovers.

Lack of food, other then the almonds and beef jerky I packed in my backpack had fully taken hold by the time I stepped off the bus at the gas station bus stop in Chatham. I might of been that, or the extreme amount of caffeine I had taken in, but my heart was in my throat, tummy full of butterflies as I grabbed my seabag from under the bus- finally laying eyes on SC. Whom, at this point was totally pulling a John Cusak, "Say Anything" moment with my favorite Def Leppard song blasting from his phone. Travel by bus makes you this weird combination of tired but wired, hungry but not. By the time we got to his house, I just wanted beer. And then he gave me chocolate mousse tarts with fresh raspberries and honey brown Sleemen's beer. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I excused myself at some point to go outside for a smoke, tummy full of chocolate goodness and alcohol- my brain started bending around facts of my current situation. There was something comforting yet cosmically huge about looking up at the night sky, seeing the moon and my favorite constellations with foreign soil under my bare feet and unfamiliar surroundings and sounds. It was enough to make me feel uncomfortable for a moment before SC stepped outside and the sight of that familiar face made all my worries and travel seem to fall away. And I knew that maybe I wasn't so crazy for taking this trip. Maybe it would do me some good.

Friday Morning: Point Pelee National Park...

Sleep kinda really didn't happen Thursday night. I'm sadly one of those people that sleeping in a "strange place" doesn't work so well on the first night. It happens where ever I go, I just simply cannot sleep in new places. Anyhoo- SC filled my tummy with my first taste of Tim Horton's, (as mentioned previously- my new addiction) and off we went on our first road trip adventure to the southern most point in Ontario Province. Funny thing about this autumn- there shouldn't have been leaves still on trees or colors showing... But there were and it was spectacular! I have been so busy with work and such here at home that I never really got to go out an take pictures of the autumn colors.

It's at this point I should probably mention that I wasn't shooting with my own camera gear. I was using SC's main camera. An amazing piece of equipment that I will not lie, my hands were shaking for a good hour after clicking it's shutter a few times. Brand new- the set up of his I was using- cost in the ballpark of $10,000. He took me to the camera store in London, ON to prove it. I almost pooped myself right there.










I think this is when I first sighed. At some point by the end of Friday, my sighing became obvious to me and proved exactly how relaxed I was. SC would just smile every time it happened. I could breath again. I sighed a lot. Usually my doing that was to calm the uneasy storm in my brain cells or from stress trying to take over. Not there. I honestly relaxed and each time I took in a deep breath an exhaled... It was just awesome. FYI- this is the first time I've actually seen Lake Erie. Once, a longtime ago I was in Buffalo, NY at like two in the morning and was told "somewhere over there is the lake..."








Ermegerd!!! It's a boat!!! It's a boat!! It's a frieghter!! Oh... wait.... you didn't know I was a boat nerd did you??? Damn.



The shot I was taking (above), when SC took this shot of me...


Wheatley, ON:
 After grabbing coffee and tasty pastries in Leamington, ON at Lakeside Bakery- we headed to the coast of Lake Erie again. We wandered around another beautiful park, snapping pictures and walking the beach where we collected sea glass and shipwreck pottery. Then it was lunch at a great little bar in Erieau. No- I did not at any point eat poutine while I was in Canada. It looks gross even though I like all the components of it. 














While SC made us dinner Friday night, I feverishly started working on a doodle based on something I remember hearing someone say in Tim Horton's that morning.  I became crucially aware that there are actually two people in this world that enjoy watching me draw- Hubby and SC. I think it's probably the fascination of me muttering like "Rain Man" while scribbling in a sketchbook.


However and completely unrelated to previous doodle ranting- I am warming up to the idea of grown-up foods. For instance- I now eat "visible" onions as Mouse calls them and Bell pepper. Both present in dinners on Friday and Saturday, as well as Sunday's breakfast. I'm growing up!!!

Otterville, ON:
Nothing more then a quick lotto stop along the way to the amazing adventure waiting for me in Simcoe, ON- SC let it slip he'd always wanted to photograph this old millpond falls with the autumn colors behind it but never did because the timing was never right. So we stopped. And magic with cameras happened. Seriously- how perfect is that canoe?? We liked it so much- we stopped there on the way back too.






Yes- the image above is a bit blurry because some dumbass didn't check her camera settings (oh, wait- that was me!)- but the picture is still perfect.

Then- this really awesome guy took a really awesome picture of me using a camera and lens that cost almost as much we paid for Hubby's car...

Simcoe, ON:
One of many highlights of the trip, but honestly the biggest was our day in Simcoe. SC took me for a photography shoot fest of raptors at the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. These magnificent birds are trained with falconers. Having never done a birds of prey shoot at SWMCCC (always too busy doing that Model Mommy thing) this was just amazing!! Like tears in my eyes, hands shaking, awestruck uttering of "...Dude..." This is also where no longer speaking with an American accent was of great benefit as topic of conversation was about the "joke" of an election in America. I kinda kept my head down but ears perked. It was harsh to hear how people from a different country think we're a joke based on our political choices- so that's why I took lots of pictures and avoided conversation with anyone but SC for the day.

And oh.... the pictures... Total for the trip was near 5000 images. 2/3's of that was at this Raptor shoot. Granted- SC set the camera at 10 frames per second for me (because I looked at the camera and all I could say- I don't know how to work this thing!! Dude!!! Make it do stuff!!)


The image on the left is Sam, the surfing Bald Eagle- you'll see why in a bit... But honestly this is going to be my go to image in my head when someone says something utterly ridiculous.








Ha! SC in action!!






When Sam dips his wing tips in the water, it's called surfing. And it's freaking amazing! I feel overly compelled to look at these images and utter "Dude..." Like a lot.






Time to switch raptors... Politics? The other's are talking politics aren't they? Oh look! Pretty nature things!! Totally took pictures of wildflowers and milkweed in Canada. Because I'm me...



This is Snowflake the Snowy Owl. He likes to pretend he's a chicken. It's hilarious and honestly all I could think of when he did it. In photographer speak for a second... That's back light in he feathers though....





This was a juvenile Owl that wouldn't do the flights he was supposed to because he was a little scared and a lot cranky. But he was adorable and I still took a ton of pictures of his cuteness.













The eyes on these guys... Just beautiful. Until this point- I'd never really had any interest in photographing wildlife, like raptors, birds of prey... anything like that. Now I cannot wait to do it again, and again, and again.... It's just awesome! (anyone keeping tally on how many times I've used that word yet??)


Saturday night we had the delicious Pad Thai SC cooked for us (fyi- another one of those grown-up dishes I've been afraid to eat) and burned stuff in the fire pit (kind of a no-no in Chatham, but his neighbors are cool and old and went to bed early) in the back yard- staying up too late, talking a lot, and drinking too much. The amount of Sleemen's I drank- I should have been painfully hungover, yet I wasn't. Like at all, Sunday morning. Thank god.

SC took me for a greater tour of Chatham Sunday morning before we ended up witting in the car for almost an hour waiting for my bus to pick me up and take me away. We talked a lot the entire trip. Enough to where he probably knows more about me then he'd ever thought he was, and I can walk away knowing him better then imagined. The bus rolled in and after quick goodbye's I was on the bus headed West again.

Not going to lie... my stupid girl emotions got the best of me for a while. The hum and the roll of the heavy bus engine carried me away from my fun and adventure and I wept. Quietly. Then Lady Gaga's voice came through my earbuds...

"... We can be strong,
We can be strong,
Follow that unicorn
On the road to love...


She's just an American,
Riding a dream
When she's got a rainbow syrup
in her heart that she bleeds...


They don't care if your papers
Or your love is the law
She's a, free soul, burning roads
With a flag in her bra..."

I saw my reflection in the window- rainbow sunglasses covering fading sunburned cheeks from the day before in Simcoe. I sighed again, wiped away tears, dropped the seat back and drifted off to sleep knowing something inside me had changed.

I have changed. I had so much fun, learned so many things, absorbed so much... It's definitely changed me. I don't know how and I don't know why. Maybe it was shooting with a bigger, better camera, maybe it was a change of scenery, maybe the change in my accent, maybe it's something in the air... But it was just an experience that has gotten me to thinking about being better. Doing more and taking control of a lot of things.

It's brought focus to the fact I'm really not as happy as I'd like to pretend in my job currently and that I need to grab a hold of the new opportunity offered to me. That I need to force myself into seeing I have a lot of talent and build up the courage to prove it. Not only to me but I need to start living up the expectations other's have of me. Instead of being locked in my own "not good enough" brain. It's brought on a different way of thinking in my mind (and I know I am rambling at this point) and hopefully all this thinking is going to bring on a change here in my life in Michigan. 

Yes, I am totally planning on another trip over to Ontario. Not exactly soon, but within the next 6 months. Only if SC will have me of course :) There will be more pictures as I go deeper into sorting an editing them from the trip so any time I am feeling the odd version of  "homesick" I have been suffering the past couple days I will post more images :)

There are more up on the website in the Ontario Gallery...

But... I need to carry on with my day. Errands to run and such before the big awards ceremony tonight for the art show my work has been in for almost a month. Wish me luck!!!

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