With mine adorable brother

I have been showered with adorable things my brother says, I could almost start another blog with his quotes. In addition to removing the word “my” from his vocabulary and replacing it with “mine,” this charming little boy never stops telling me how fun I am and how much he loves me.

I am living out my days in Kelowna with 3D movies, teddy bear pancakes and interactive video games.

Advertisements

Vancouver without a credit card

God I hate cash. It’s dirty and it disappears too quickly.

My wallet has been found in London. I am very lucky. On 3 separate occasions I have lost my cell phone, my passport and my wallet this month – no more. I’ve had my fill.

I am very happy to be home. I took my Nana for scallops and oysters for her 70th birthday yesterday and then hit a bottle of Syrah with Meg.

Traveling isn’t expensive, Vancouver is!

Thank god I am in Canada

Who would have thought I would be so happy to arrive in a snowy Vancouver International Airport?

There was a bit of a clusterfuck at the airport. Something to the effect of me leaving my passport in Andre’s car and not realizing until he entered a gauntlet of rush hour traffic.

Generously, he drove me to the airport at an obscure hour of the morning I am embarrassed to admit. He was going to make it home in time to miss rush hour traffic, but now I wouldn’t be surprised if I make it to Canada before he gets home.

The fun doesn’t end there.

I remained stoic as he crawled through traffic to bring me my passport.

My neuroticism escalated as the clock got down to the final hour before my flight. I made contingency plans including living in the Gatwick Airport like Tom Hanks in Lost in Translation until I got a new flight or going to Spain to learn Spanish.

Fortunately I didn’t completely run out of inner peace before Andre made it back to the airport, commencing operation receive passport 1 hour before flight takeoff.

Run, run, run – wait for elevator. Run, run, run – wait behind horrible people who have no concept of urgency, yet an admirable sense of preparation. Run, run, run – okay fine, I’ve got 2 suitcases – take a breath behind some slow walkers.

I found the check-in desk and I don’t know if they said there were 5 minutes left or I was 5 minutes late – I didn’t care, they were letting me on the damn plane.

Suitcase: 4.5kh underweight, brilliant.

Carry-on: 10kg overweight, wait…there was a weight restriction?

The carry-on I had used previously on 3 flights choose that convenient moment not to fit into the carry-on size restriction bin. Shit, one more thing “She’s got a purse with her” (aka, another carry-on).

At this point a team of soon to be very frustrated Air Transat employees were surrounding me.

I know that I am commonly a luggage policy offender. I also know that employees have the ability to turn a blind eye to the scale and I have worked out something of a strategy for this:

First contact: Say hello oozing with youth, novelty and nervousness. Make your presence remind them of the first big trip they have ever had away from home.

Now that we are friends: Let’s get flustered. Throw your shit around, knock something over, make them pity you – the last thing they will want to do is ask you to look for your wallet.

Give them a stake in the game: Let them know you are nervous about the weight of your bag. How the hell do I know what 20kg feels like? Cross your fingers, look at the scale in anticipation and make the situation as uncomfortable as humanly possible for them to give you bad news.

For today’s adventure, it was especially important to praise the staff as being godlike by letting me on the plane. It was not much of a stretch but that doesn’t make it any less strategic. I needed to make them feel good about doing me a favor because I knew what was coming with the luggage.

Yes, fine…I was gambling with my carry-on. I may have glanced at their restrictions and pushed away the sense of hopelessness I felt when I knew I couldn’t meet them.

Both my suitcases were open, sprawled on the ground as we tried to avoid the charge for +9kg and an extra checked back which would have been over $150 CAD. The manager with the radio was saying “Get her on the plane, we need to load the plane!”. The check-in guy fought with protocol as we managed to work out just a 40 pound charge ($75 CAD).

No problem, except I didn’t have cash. He told me to go to the ATM as another lady put my boarding pass in my hand, preparing me to run. The manager intervened and waived the fee. I have concerns about if my luggage will actually arrive in Vancouver but at that point, it was a good problem to have.

I flew through the airport. I went from the passenger drop-off road to my departure gate in one of the world’s largest airports in 20 minutes. I almost threw my laptop at a lady rushing out of the security line, then ran full speed through the airport holding 3 jackets and this time, a pair of jeans.

They called my name on the intercom for the second time as I arrived to the gate discovering other miscellaneous items stowed frantically in my pockets and slung across my shoulder.

UPDATE: Since writing this on the plane, I have lost my wallet! What a day.

Larger than life

I am in the Ljubljana airport and I can’t stop smiling – I just wore 4 coats through security.

Last time I flew with EasyJet they publicly humiliated me and I was really nervous to fly with them again. I made Tomaz come to the check in with me because I get really flustered with 2 suitcases, both presumably overweight and secret purses and books stashed amongst me.

I survived their inspection wearing 2 t-shirts, a sports jacket, a blazer, a leather jacket and a winter coat. I would have been wearing another pair of shoes if I had figured out how.

My luggage was 0.5kg overweight but I must have looked charming or nervous enough for them to overlook that.

Talk about optimization.

Under a peaceful sun

I am sitting under the sun in a cafe in Ljubljana. It’s one of the few sincerely sunny days I’ve seen in Slovenia.

I haven’t come up with the words to describe my Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia trip yet, but I will give you a spoiler that it was absolutely incredible.

It’s feeling a bit final here. A coffee under the sun and couple dinners before I make my way back to Canada. I suppose my goal is to make sure that life is fantastic there too – be a little more open to meeting people and remember the value of espresso vs. coffee when it comes to my bladder.

They say the way you spend new years eve is how you will spend the following year.

It must be true because it’s only been 2 weeks since I bailed onto an Amsterdam train and again I have a rather unnecessary step in Croatia to thank for my limp. It was cold enough to run full speed into the dark and I hit the ground so hard that I briefly lost my words and laughter. My knee is cut, bruised and damaged and I wouldn’t mind much if I couldn’t see myself as a crippled old lady thinking “it was this damn ledge by the Adriatic Sea…”

Yeesh, I really feel like I am standing on the ledge of mediocrity. What if I come back to Canada and have nothing to blog about? Perhaps I am more interesting at a distance.

Knee deep in landmines and snow

Beginning the war tour with my flat-sister

Sarajevo, Bosnia Hercegovina is a very important place to visit. Aside from being able to point it out on a map, it’s important to see what the hell happened here. You can piece together tragic pieces of news reporting but I think you have to be here to realize how deliberately it was attacked. Imagine that tomorrow Ontario took all the Canada’s military forces and attacked British Columbia. They would spend four years trying to take our land, forcing to live in our basements because they would kill anyone who wasn’t from Ontario. Bosnia was in disbelief when Serbia attacked them. They were both from Yugoslavia, a nation whose slogan was “Brotherhood and unity.” Sarajevo was surrounded by military for four years and I couldn’t find a spot in the city where there wasn’t a bullet hole. I stayed in the family home of a war veteran who ran a guesthouse. It was wintery as hell and I was their only guest. I was fortunate enough to be able to go on their war tour in the mountains, knee deep in snow. Everyone I met in Bosnia proudly boasts that Canada is their neighbor country because we hosted the Olympics after them in 1988. The grass seemed a little greener on our side of the fence as we drove towards the front line of their 1991 war. The snowy trees and mountains looked undoubtedly like Canada. The difference is that no one has utilized our high ground to surround our cities with snipers while decorating our forests with landmines. The dark shadows of the Sarajevo forests are less likely to be explored than cave systems hundreds of kilometers below the earth. My host optimistically noted that their forests are not polluted with trash. Our war veteran designed tour navigated through Serbian bunkers, the front line, battle sites with personal stories and on a path through a live mine field. The Olympic buildings and bobsled track were bullet-ridden markers of our tour through a war zone. The abandoned wintery mountain could have been Whistler, and I did feel like a neighbor. Arijan inquired about camping in Canada and as I boasted how wonderful it is, he reminded me how unrealistic camping in Sarajevo’s forests is. After everything that has happened they can’t even enjoy the nature that drew the world to their city for the 1984 Olympics. On another tour I visited the Tunnel of Life. Surrounded by the military of their former “brothers”, Sarajevo didn’t have any supplies so they built a tunnel under the neutral ground of the United Nations.  They didn’t use the tunnel to flee because Sarajevo surely would have been captured – 90% of the residents stayed. The war museum offered a unique perspective with photography and video coverage of scenes that are usually left to our imagination. On a lighter note, I am riding a bus to Dubrovnik. Somehow I mistook the Sarajevo post-office as the bus depot as I waited for it to open so I could purchase my ticket 15 minutes before the bus departed. I didn’t have time to mail the Christmas cards I have been carrying around for 2 weeks but I did manage to scramble onto the bus next door. Our bus stopped on for a break and on the side of the highway an elderly lady told me what sounded like her life story in 3 different languages. She gave me a sandwich and hoped that lung cancer won’t kill us all. She smoked 4 cigarettes as she told me about what must have been her great-grandchildren, judging by the wrinkles in her skin.

Tattooed in Belgrade

Blogging about my tattoo is reminiscent of Grad 2006 when I told my family I was moving to Mexico instead of going to school through the announcement as I walked across the stage.

“Nicole Fisher has gotten a rather large tattoo in Serbia.”

They can’t be that mad. I’m 23 and Mom still refers to me as the daughter who pierced her own belly button.

So, I got a tattoo in Serbia.

I had been planning this tattoo for over four years. I have talked to many tattoo artists and nothing has felt right until now. I was browsing in Belgrade when I spotted a stunning sketch matched with an incredibly skilled portfolio of designs.

They belonged to the director of the shop – a true Madame of the industry.

She is about 50 years old, and a painter. She doesn’t tattoo much anymore but she liked the style of my tattoo so they called her into the shop. I trusted her assertive and graceful presence immediately. She had a team of people working with her that we collaborated with for 3 days, it was comfortable and the perfect tattoo experience.

I had two people tattooing me at the same time. It was hilarious, not once did they ask if I was doing okay and they would switch off for breaks while I endured 3 hours straight. It quite tolerable until the last half an hour when there was a bit of squirming.

I won’t annoyingly boast that “I have a high tolerance for pain” as people who get tattoos love to point out, but the Madame said I was like a dragon. 🙂

THE TATTOO – What is it, why?!!

Wise and fierce, the tiger represents my Grandfather. He is all of my inspiration and the foundation of who I am.

The tree of life, my Nana. She is one of my best friends and she is the most loved person I have ever met. Her two daughters have given her seven grandchildren and this month she turns 70.

Four orchids represent my younger siblings, Cassidy, Morgan, Caden and Devon – the bud that wasn’t given the chance to bloom. My Nana and I shared a magnificent orchid for a year, but I won’t get into the details of that story.

To become immortal – this is a nonchalant line from the 1960 French film Breathless. An arrogant and chauvinistic man is asked what his greatest ambition is, he replies “To become immortal, and then die.”

I admired his confidence and I have kept his words for my own standard in life – there is nothing I won’t strive for. I am in Serbia alone, I have travelled the world, I have gotten the beautiful tattoo I have talked about for years and I am proud.

Hitchhiking in snowy mountains

I have sympathized with countless friends over countless lost phones, never exactly understanding what is so difficult about keeping track of them. Now that I have lost mine, it feels pleasantly irresponsible.

My phone departed me en route to Uzice, the village I am staying in with a Serbian family.

My host and I hitchhiked to Mokra Gora, the village of the famous Serbian director of Life is a Miracle. Hitchhiking is apparently a regular mode of transportation here. It took us five rides and at one point we had to stand in a hitchhiking queue. We took a train through the mountains and visited some filming locations of the Life is a Miracle set. I forgot to bring my flat-sister, it’s tough being 2D.

In Serbia the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th and after 24 hours in the festive countryside I can confidently identify the sound of a gunshot. Initially I had to clarify “firework or gunshot?” I added an awkward explanation of Canada’s gun laws: Hunting yes, celebrations…frowned upon.

Another custom is picnicking at a grave after someone passes away. There is an annual day of remembrance but they also visit a grave 1 week, 40 days, 6 months and 1 year after someone passes. The Serbians laughed whole heartedly explaining how ridiculous they thought it was to light cigarettes, pour liquor into the ground and to sprawl a picnic over the burial site – sometimes in the pouring rain. That sort of thing may get you arrested in Canada, but I think its quite sweet.

Christmas hasn’t been “Hallmarked” here. During communism Christmas celebrations were not allowed and the holiday hasn’t been fully adopted yet. It’s more like this day where if you’re religious you begrudgingly follow some customs with your family. The rest of the country went to the bar and we followed.

In the first bar the shoulder blades of the man standing behind me were at least 4” taller than my head while I was wearing heels. If he turned around to talk to me I probably would have thrown my arms up in fear, Darwinism at its finest.

The next wine bar has live folk and gipsy music. The musicians were glowing with happiness standing in the middle of the bar bumping elbows with the crowd. It was incredible to dance in a crowded room and know that no one was watching, everyone was captivated with the band.

Tomorrow I am heading back to Belgrade. Why, might you ask? That will be another post.

Trip of a lifetime in Turkey

Look closely and the Istanbul bridge behind them is also lined with fishermen

My blog was reignited after my trip to Turkey with Megan and Kristina. We travelled through Turkey and Cyprus together for 2.5 weeks in November.

Every aspect of that trip glittered. Our mistakes turned out to be some of the highlights of our trip, for instance, taking the 21 hour train instead of the 12 hour bus and showing up in a middle of nowhere town to catch a ferry that mistakenly wasn’t scheduled until 36 hours later.

Megan and I have known each other for a few years and Kristina is her friend from high school. Experiencing incredible things with another person really makes you closer.

For instance, the time we were food poisoned together. Imprisoned by our bowels, we were thankfully in Cyprus, which is a very boring country.

Cappidocia was another unbelievable experience. It is a region of Turkey with cities carved into the hills and it was the film set for Star Wars. It would not be difficult to mistake which planet you are on in Cappidocia, I fell asleep on the bus ride there and I’m still not certain that it was Earth.

Other moments of a girls trip in Turkey naturally included the wild night in Istanbul, a philosophical “wow” moment watching a sunset followed by the re-evaluation of your own life as you start praising Turkish people for things like having gardens, as if it was the strangest thing we had seen on the trip.

The “Who am I?” game was a hit, further justifying the Post-it notes I have been carrying around for a year. Writing characters on each other’s foreheads to guess was equally entertaining whether we were in a pub or at a bus stop.

We traveled during the off-season when shops were empty and the owners were bored. When we asked if a restaurant was open, the person aimlessly sitting in front of it would pause and say “sure.” After we ordered our food they would run to the grocery story because they weren’t stocked with anything. It made for a very personal experience in Turkey because people took the time to talk to us and offer us tours of their city. It also made for very fresh food, or perhaps slightly outdated food (hence the poisoning).

Turkey is definitely on my list of places to return to. In the meantime my experience there lives on through my friendship with Meg and Kristina.