Buried

It’s easy to feel alive up here. I am spending my holidays in camp and we have been building an amazing snow cave and today we began phase 1 of our gingerbread fortress, complete with a helipad and remote control helicopter. Last night I cut Jessica’s hair, we went on another underground mine tour and my biggest worry is that I have been laughing so much lately I think I have lost my sense of maturity.

Here are some things I have learned about building snow caves:

(1) Build your entrance lower than the main part of your cave so that the hot air remains trapped

Entrance

Entrance

(2) Candles are a great source of light and will not rapidly burn up your air supply as I had imagined

Oxygen depleting mood lights

Oxygen depleting mood lights

(3) Smooth out the roof with a bowl to avoid drips

(4) If you’re unsure about the width of your walls, put 3 meter marker sticks in them

(5) When applicable, mark off your snow cave with bamboo sticks so that you will not be run over by a Snowcat

(6) A dome shaped roof increases the stability of your cave

(7) You can always fit another person in

Camp Dad & John

Camp Dad & John

(8) Don’t wear an oversized toque when trying to dig in confined spaces

(9) Avalanche shovels are great, ice picks help too

(10)               You can’t hear anything if you’re not inside the cave. It’s a great place to yell secrets.

We plan on sleeping in it one night, and mark my words, it will happen.

Advertisements

Receiving her Christmas tree by helicopter

This tree is about 15-20 feet tall and Lucas welded the star for the top. It is in the middle of camp next to our snow cave, giving a bit of a ski lodge plaza atmosphere.

This tree is about 15-20 feet tall and Lucas welded the star for the top. It is in the middle of camp next to our snow cave, giving a bit of a ski lodge plaza atmosphere.

Geoff has been a good friend and a pilot in our camps for 3 years and I hope his email regarding the Christmas tree that he picked out, chopped down, and has flown into our camp will give you an idea of the comradeship and adventure I get to experience at work.

Here is the story of the Christmas tree that has caused so many holiday smiles in our secluded winter wonderland:

______________________________________________________________

Hi,

I have located a tree, which says a lot about me and my looking abilities since I live in the middle of a forest FULL of trees, but this tree is exceptional!!! Exceptional in that it is not a swamp spruce… which is really all that is growing in this lousy valley.
This fine tree that I have found seems to be quite nice, relatively speaking, it is bushier than most trees. It does have one small flaw though… its pink. Actually its not pink, but it does have a flaw…
the very very top appears to be not as bushy as I’d like, but it extends higher than the natural taper and you can cut it a bit to make a wonderful looking, symmetrical and text book shaped tree. Once modified it will probably accommodate a star, or an angel, or a giant piece of core with a gold nugget embedded in it quite nicely and it should look smashingly fantastic. Any who, Jaret and myself will go and cut it down tomorrow evening and prepare it to fly. When I say Jaret and Myself I mean that I will watch Jaret from the safety of the road as he tries to wade through the 4 foot deep snow, filling his boots and getting his feet and socks all wet and cold. I will hold the pair of snowshoes incase I need to go help him out of the tree well after. I hope that you guys will be as happy about this tree as I am, I guess if your not as thrilled then you can go cut down your own tree in that hellish cursed mountain pass with no green vegetation in it other than the broccoli in the kitchen fridge!!

Love, Geoff

P.S. – I don’t really think that it is a hellish cursed mountain pass with no green vegetation in it other than the broccoli in the kitchen fridge, but I thought that it would be a great way of saying if you don’t like the tree I picked then you will have to find your own. I actually really love it up there and miss the place and the people 😦

Nautical nudist in Cuba

Ship built in 1920 - saw it on our blasé dive trip

Ship built in 1920 – saw it on our blasé dive trip

Havana streets

Havana streets

Outside the cigar shop

Outside the cigar shop

IMG_0522 IMG_0530_2 IMG_0540 IMG_0544 IMG_0557

Just outside a market where I bought a beautiful painting. Note to tourists: it needs to be certified before you can take it out of the country!

Just outside a market where I bought a beautiful painting. Note to tourists: it needs to be certified before you can take it out of the country!

This is the norm for taxi's parked around Cuba

This is the norm for taxi’s parked around Cuba

IMG_0599

There was a seat sale to Cuba for $621 all-inclusive, so I went.

I picked the resort with the nude beach. At first I took my top off to validate my presence on the beach with so many naked men. They were clearly gay or European, straight Canadian men do not stand that proud while stark naked.

Unsurprisingly, it was quite liberating not having to worry about tan lines and being twirled by the waves. Most girls have a story of resurfacing from the ocean without her top on at least once. And when I wasn’t half naked, I partook in catamaran lessons and scuba diving – all the things that make me wish I were a mermaid.

I would like to buy a small catamaran. Mine would need cupholders and I fancy that my catamaran will have to fit on the roof of the Mini Cooper.

My favorite part of the trip was realizing that I am not incompetent at Spanish, and I am in fact, actually quite good. I spent a lot of time practicing with the locals and I have got this ‘ready to conquer the world’ feeling going.

The Cuban people are very friendly; the tourists are mostly boring. I don’t think I would stay in a resort again, I prefer the gritty streets and cities instead of the pink tourists commenting on poverty and resort food quality while taking photos through the window of an air-conditioned bus.

I had only a 10 hour layover in Vancouver and now I am off to camp again. Approximately 7 more hours until I am in a snow storm with my very good friends.

Not in Cabo San Lucas

Oh well, I wouldn't have wanted to go through US customs covered in explosive powder anyhow.

Oh well, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through US customs covered in explosive powder anyhow.

A friend advised me “you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone to find adventure.”

I’m Nicole Freaking Fisher!!!!!! I couldn’t even bat an empathizing eye when people looked at me like I was crazy traveling through Ex-Yugoslavia by myself. I think I was getting tattooed in Serbia this time last year.

I booked a last minute trip to Cabo San Lucas today and after an afternoon of turmoil and anxiety I cancelled it. Now I am laying in bed next to a packed suitcase and I’m tired.

I think the conventionality of it frightened me and I didn’t want to spend $2,000 on a tequila bender to go to a wedding by myself.  In homage to all the beautiful and unique places I have been in this world, it wouldn’t have been respectful to enjoy a week in an expensive Mexican resort, would it have?

As with many things in life I’ll just cling to my absurdly high standards and wait for a better adventure. It’s going to happen, just wait.

As Oscar Wilde put it:

I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.

On a brighter note, I took my grandparents to the most incredible 50th wedding anniversary dinner. I have honestly never seen them enjoy a meal, or maybe anything that much. “That’s the way food is meant to be eaten” they exclaimed over our Italian tapas at Tavola.  My family very rarely exclaims.

When I gave them their handmade card labeled “to the happiest couple in the room,” my grandfather almost got up declaring, “we should go find them.”

Fortunately his smile wrinkles give his and my Nana’s happiness away, Nana doesn’t get wrinkles.

In good company

Camp friends are unique because we don’t put any effort into showing up and we don’t ask where each other’s lives are going, or pry about where each of our places are in the world. We show up with wind swept hair, rosy cheeks having  had weathered the same storm…then we just talk about the little things.

The details we know about each other are only ones we have shared and perhaps some intel about dumping a snowmobile on a snow drift. We get to live with people who become like family without having their own set of standards and benchmarks for you.

It’s like a public defense putting effort into changing outfits and fixing hair before picking up a bottle of wine to meet friends in Kelowna or Vancouver. The formal updates on progress and happiness over dinner challenge your memory of what it is to act like yourself.

Our subtle moments in camp end up meaning more than anything.

Tonight we lovingly mocked our mechanic for saying “way cool,” because that’s what he “heard the young people say.” Then we clinked our lemon water glasses to cheers because we thought we were so clever to add the lemon pulp before noticing any preexisting floaties in our glass.

Winter, and all the perks

Finished making my boot knife with an antler handle (mine is on the right)

Photo from our road trip – in front of the salmon glacier

 

View from my bedroom window

 

More icicles

 

I went on a heli photo shoot to document a clean up of a nearby camp – this is the portal entrance at our mine site

Driving the Chieftan (a piece of equipment twice as big as my studio apartment in Bangkok)

I have always loved road trips and crewing in and out of camp is becoming something I really look forward to. You get to spend a whole day or two traveling with someone new in a very positive, very company expensed road trip.

We had an unbelievable amount of fun arriving to camp this shift. The four of us never stopped bantering as we tried to leave town with our series of never ending last stops. I met an incredible Hungarian lady in the Walmart parking lot and after we finally made it our of Terrace, we made two glacier photoshoot stops, got “Hyderized” with a double shot of moonshine in Alaska and then bought necklace at the pawn shop.

Then I worked a 23 day shift and did it all again in reverse.

I’m sitting in the airport and in the past 24 hours traveling out of camp I have had some inspiring conversations with really great friends. We went out for dinner in Stewart, spent the night then had a slightly nauseous road trip to Terrace.

The best part of camp is spending so much time with people you probably otherwise wouldn’t.

The slew of board games I ordered arrived on my last night and we ended up playing for 3 hours. Even our mine manager played, a couple operators, a miner, our avalanche tech and a cook. I laughed myself to tears.

The highlight was when Dave was trying to make us guess a word with his clues: “I’m hanging off a cliff………….I’m shaving my own back!”

Then he looked at our mine manager and said: “You are……”

Dramatic pause as our mine manager stares him in the eye and says “Fucking awesome” in his British accent.

This quickly escalated into over-dramatizations of our mine manager hanging over a cliff, shaving his own back whilst gritting his teeth and exclaiming his new nickname, Fucking Awesome.

The word we were guessing was “independent.”

Board games aside, this shift we also put our snowmobiles back into circulation. Our mechanic made me a custom windshield and wrote “FISCHER” all across the shield. I am a little bashful about it in case people think I did it myself but it was a very sweet gesture and it makes me smile when I see it.

Of course we also visited the ice caves again.

I also learned a lot about explosives and managed to get past airport security today with a jacket that I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to swab.

An old time miner made me really proud when he said that in his whole career, our camp is by far the best one he has ever been to.

Blondes have more work

I put in some discreet “ombre” blonde highlights because every girl has gotta’ do it once. I’m happy with it, but hell! What a lot of work. I used to boast that my hair looked its best when I went to sleep with wet hair and let it dry overnight, now it looks like a complete rats nest.

I actually straightened my hair this morning at 4:30AM.

So apart from having a small piece of my soul die for all the extra work it takes to maintain my bleached hair, I like it. However, in the future I’ll stick with my sun kissed brunette locks.

I have a new respect for blondes. It’s incredible both that they are able to maintain an entire head of blonde hair without it all falling out, and that they have the temperament to do so.

Here’s my hat off to you, blondes!

I prefer the snooze button and a sleep in…any hairstyle demanding maintenance is too much for me.

At the Vancouver International Film Festival

This Ain’t California

It felt good to be back! The cinemas were busy in Vancouver and it didn’t even rain on us as we lined up to get into the popular films. It was perfect leather jacket and summer dress weather.

I love the atmosphere at the festival. Four of my screenings had Q&A’s with the directors afterwards and it’s always interesting to hear their stories about filming.

Of the 8 films I saw, these were by far my favourite:

We Were Children – a docudrama about residential schools in Canada

Keep the Lights On – a riveting relationship drama film

This Ain’t California – a film about skateboarding in East/West Germany

Oh how I would love to be a director or a film editor, but I just don’t have the temperament to be a starving artist.

Designated Dads

Amber

Uncle Gary

Dad – Bobby – Uncle David

 

Amber and I went wine touring on Salt Spring Island yesterday. We ended up with two designated drivers because we had to call our dads to come collect us from the Salt Spring Winery vineyards.

We giggled under the sunshine with 2 bottles of wine and a plate of goat cheese. I convinced Amber that it’s standard protocol to drink too much and call dad. I also clogged the sink in the boat within 4 hours of arriving to Salt Spring – it’s one of those things that daughters do.

I was about to pull out 2 more wine glasses when we got the phone call from the parking lot. Convincingly, my Uncle Gary put his stern face on and we felt like 14-year-old girls about to get scolded.  I laughed, like I always do, but I wasn’t sure if Uncle Gary was annoyed.

Five minutes into our drive home Dad slowly pulls over to the edge of the road and I had this odd feeling like I was about to get grounded. It turns out we were just stopping for a roadside antique sale. Amber and I stood there suppressing laughter as our dads shopped, and again I felt 12.

My Uncle David said he knew something was up when he saw my Dad & Uncle Gary walking down the dock with “shit-eating grins on their faces.”

I guess we were as charming as I suspected.

A night in Vancouver

It’s so charming to visit my Grandparents. My Nana always collects newspaper articles she thinks I might like – this trip I got one on hair braiding trends and traveling to Ljubljana, Slovenia.

I then went for wine with my Grandpa and convinced him it would be a good idea for him to get a medical marijuana growing permit. Grandpa didn’t take much convincing, but Nana said no chance in hell, and she usually wins.

Now I’m waiting at the ferry terminal to go to Salt Spring. I feel rather bored for a  girl used to working 10-14 hour days surrounded by 160 people who never seem to leave me alone.