Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Large Ziplocs you say?

Los Encinitos, Honduras
You may remember the excitement of readying for summer camp? Well… knapsack has been packed (and repacked several times) for the Honduran mission. To make it clear, I located online maps to show you just where I'm headed, seen here right and left. I watched a couple of the 
Topographical view
videos and followed the instructions to 'mark clothes for the laundry to avoid mixups' so initialed my belongings. I also purchased large ziploc baggies in which to store my footwear as instructed - creepy crawlies like to hide in dark places. Instead of the $120 sleeping bag liner which Mountain Equipment Coop had on offer, I bought a twin sheet at Frenchy's for $3.50 and with 10 minutes at the sewing machine created a rather intense floral version of same which is now rolled up in the bottom of the backpack. I did however invest in the MEC travel umbrella as it is extremely lightweight and will come in handy in the UK if not the tropics. To qualify for free shipping on orders over $50 (because of course the offer of free shipping on all shipments only came on AFTER I ordered) I also shopped for freeze dried food (strawberries, ice cream sandwiches and raspberry granola), which I will take north with me to try out as they won't add to my grocery weight or bulk. The greatest difference between arctic and tropics is obviously the climate but other than that, minimalist living is quite similar. The final awaited parcel was a pair of Columbia zip off travel pants/shorts off eBay which arrived yesterday - fit well and look better/newer than expected. And since I discovered that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, I think it's time to give up on the research. Especially after a former co-worker told me her sister and husband had done an eco-tour in Honduras and found it intense - especially when 'they were delayed after dark and driving into the mountains the Israeli sharpshooter who was security got nervous'. I'm counting that the good will of a well established mission (which haven't had an incident yet in almost two decades) will provide better protection than a sharpshooter with tourists. I did however take note of the security document sent by Cape Cares which indicated they had registered us all with the US Embassy so I registered myself with the Canadian Consulate for Honduras as well. Read through the various listings on the Canadian Embassy website for levels of concern of countries and some of the major tourist destinations (Cuba excluded) were noted as 'exercise a high level of caution' so not getting myself too excited. Start the antimalarials next week and have lots of pepto bismol which is a practical plan. 

As I have online shopped for survival gear…..I got distracted and purchased a dress from Lands End which will be nice for the European vacation. It took two tries (hazards of shopping remotely) though as the first one was extremely frumpy, heavy polyester and reminded me of one my grandmother wore about 50 years ago. It looked so ugly even in the bag before I opened it that I checked the catalogue photo to see if I'd ordered the wrong dress - it didn't even look the same but the # was correct. Yuck. The keeper, pictured here on the right (albeit in a size 2) it is soft, light and flattering. It's an Italian ship on an European destination so the local passengers will be dressed from Milan not Target so I'll need to keep up. 

I've found some time to visit with friends - recruiting one for northern work, cajoling another to begin studies towards her certification, counselling a former coworker to move on with her life, having a group over for a feed of lobsters, greek salad and biscuits then a choice of apple pie or butterscotch brownies with ice cream and homemade butterscotch sauce and watching Netflix movies with the life partner on a fairly regular schedule. Getting used to fairly long periods of unemployment. 

Spring lobster gear
Since Fuji condemned my underwater camera which died in Mexico (don't have parts now) for the total of $100 (which covers labour + taxes) replaced the XP20 with the latest model (worth at least $250 + tax) of XP70 - I am quite pleased with the exchange as I really do require a dust, shock, freeze and waterproof model. There are some nice features with the upgrade (besides speed and size which area always better in a new model) especially the ability to take a photo while filming a movie and view all photos in portrait mode in the viewfinder so you don't have
 to rotate each one. Will give it the true test on my next little adventure. There was a parcel card in the mailbox so I'm guessing the repaired / replaced / overpriced point and shoot replacement purchased in Mexico which didn't work properly to be picked up. The new XP70 does take nice photos as evidenced on the left by the wide angle shot of Gary on a plastic bag on the floor - he and Stanley fight over this bag as evidenced by loud howls and tufts of fur following - above a telephoto shot of a buoy along the road where I walk.

I attended my physio appointment last week and yes all the old parts are staying aligned, but you have to keep a check on that. As I sat waiting on the bed for the therapist I could hear the staff discussing a Mexican Riviera vacation as it was the first day back to work aka insert conversation about the trip as frequently as possible day. The ex-pat British receptionist speaks with a strongly accented Queen's English and one of the local staff was excitedly describing a resort she'd stayed at before. When the dialogue ran to "yes, yes but was your room near the boofay or the pool?" I giggled and told the physio that I thought I was listening to a British radio sit-com and she said "oh I just have to tell them" and we both chuckled. 

I washed my (down here) winter jacket and put it away until…..May 8th, then have had to wear it a couple of times when the weather changed again. But I have decided that spring is here as the peepers began singing at top volume last weekend. I took the car to the garage to have the snow tires switched off for regular and the mechanic asked if I had hit any potholes. Ya think? How could I avoid this with the state of the roads? Another sure sign of spring are the craters post frost heaves. He had straightened out the dent in the rim he said. I cleaned the car as well and noticed the new car smell is still there and it is only on it's third servicing. With the price of fuel it is good that it is not moving much - imagine….$75 to fill a Dart! And thinking more positively, we have had two BBQ meals and I've gone gloveless and actually had to remove layers of outerwear on the way home when walking - practicing being too warm in anticipation of the mission, mind you that was a few days ago now - spring please hurry.

I have been puttering and organizing so have a few things ticked off the 'to-do while home list. I printed the receipt for the donation I made for Southern Sudan crisis. I chose:

as I've followed the story of Jacob Deng, one of the Lost Boys who has settled in Halifax and is raising his family there while contributing to African relief. I am beginning to understand how my father felt when he mailed cheques to Oxfam in the 80s saying "how can I not support them when they send photos of starving children and I look at my beautiful healthy grandchildren and think how lucky they are to be born to so much and how fortunate we are?" I also printed the list of 'what's stored in Nunavut' and developed my shopping list for Edmonton. Will be packing for north before I leave for south as it's a tight turnaround of only two days in between. 

I have been busy purging and sorting - dragged five full garbage bags of my clothes to the donation box. I simply don't require as many clothes now that I'm a) only home for about half of the year b) not doing an 'office job' where different outfits are required c) wearing uniforms when working and scruffy clothes when hanging out. And seriously - how many pairs of grey dress slacks do you need? Trust me, my closet and bureau are far from empty but I am now at least able to close the doors/drawers and find something to put on without frustration. Since I hadn't done the dreaded task for a few years I sorted/purged for the upcoming summer season as well and stored them in the closet awaiting my July return from work. My buddy also assisted in the large task of inventory and organizing of stored donated medical supplies which I need to work on finding a home for. Some can be distributed by travellers simply taking an extra suitcase to a developing nation but….larger items (crutches, raised toilet seats for example) will need to be part of a container shipment so that is a project for 'sometime this year'. 

Last weekend we had the unexpected upset of searching for a deaf senior dog - who was missing overnight and in total for about 20 hours (although she's been known to abscond for years - this was her personal record), I was contemplating what the wanted/missing posters should look like when we received a call from one of the neighbours about her being found. She had been fed cat food (not allowed at home) and looked very pleased with herself. Had gotten the clip from the cat run which she'd parted in her exodus caught in the rocks at a
Keely home
local fish plant and a neighbour had found her. She doesn't look the least bit contrite in the welcome home photo seen here on the left but she isn't known for that. Must've been a lot of sighing when 8:30 pm came and she wasn't able to put herself to bed on her soft dog bed in the mud room. We realized that we're not ready to be dog less just yet as both the shore captain and myself tromped through the woods, walked the shore, drove up and down the road and called the neighbours in the search - it did at least give us more physical exertion and we discovered that the rhubarb planted by our Polish farmer visitor is coming up yet again. As I walked through the woods in back of our 'old house' across the road where we raised the children I smiled when I passed a small plastic chair and roughly constructed wooden table where a playhouse had been. When I asked the life partner if he'd seen it as he searched, he grinned and acknowledged he did too. Ahhh, back in the day. Those were the days that camping was the upscale vacation. So speaking of which I offer the following link:

And for those of you who have lots of time on your hands ex. the retired, semi-retired, writers, those avoiding housework etc. here is a neat link to a site where there is telescopic text. Just keep clicking on the highlighted words - fun:

Time to wrap up the rambling and head to bed as there will be Easter visitors here soon. I must convince the shore captain to put away those Christmas ornaments from the spare bedroom. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coconut bras are optional

Have been settling in to my 'at home' routine rather nicely, if I do say so myself. Sleep in, drink tea and read the newspaper, check out the online world, putter about the house doing minimal amounts of domestic chores, walk the dog, read, make an effort to put together some supper, visit with the life partner and then decide later in the evening to take on a project - scrapbooking, crafts, sewing, downloading movies to take north or something else online and go to bed late. In between I can run errands, have tea with friends, plan trips or….truly not have anything to show for the day. Ahhhh, bliss. It is wonderful to travel but…a rainy afternoon spent on your own sofa with a dog and two cats napping beside you and absolutely nothing you HAVE to do is hard to beat. 

Now today however, I have done a bit of clearing up as the cleaning lady comes tomorrow and she must have surfaces to clean. She opened the oven door last Friday, looked in disapprovingly and suggested I get some oven cleaner for her and I had to admit that….the oven is self cleaning. There is no way to replicate the look she gave me but I'm sure you can visualize it yourself without much difficulty. We've been 'moved over' in this house for almost eight years and I hadn't used that feature yet, so…I had to unearth the manual and attempt it. The instructions basically said to take out the chrome racks and press the button that says self clean. Complicated eh? I was a bit concerned about the part where it spoke of providing good ventilation and mentioned some birds are particularly sensitive to the fumes (likely canaries I thought) so they should be moved to another room. But it was actually not too unpleasant and when I wiped out the ash which was left, the oven sparkled. I hope for a good cleaning lady reception tomorrow. I got the shore captain to bring the step ladder down from the barn and clean the blades of the ceiling fan in the living room as per her instructions as well. None of us (except the pets - she is an animal lover and spoils them) are safe from her plans. I cleaned out the plastic storage container drawer this afternoon in keeping with the 40 bags in 40 days theme and wanting to have something on the 'done' list today. Speaking of houses and life hacks, here are some neat ideas:

This week I was awake in the night as the life partner had a belly bug which acted suspiciously like norovirus. He certainly didn't count himself lucky but one 45 min. bout is a mild version. When I mentioned about having the bug for hours (about 10 yrs when I worked in long term care) and lying on the bathroom floor thinking I was dying - he could 'vaguely remember'. One of us does nursing care and one of us avoids it - can you guess? He has made an excellent recovery and is back on his workaholic schedule again. And as he didn't give me the bug, he is still allowed to live here.

There has been a great deal of media attention about healthcare this week as the government introduced Bill 37 which effectively means healthcare workers have lost the right to strike. This is because the NSGEU has pushed for nurse/patient ratios for safe care. A wildcat strike with a cease and desist order, then the legal strike today both of which were accompanied by pickets and demonstrations ensued. Presentations by nurses (many gave me goosebumps) to the committees in the legislature and lots of public opinion. It is amazing how many people state that the province cannot afford lower nurse:patient ratios but will be the first to drop Grammie in the ER as they are leaving for a tropical vacation - no worries that  the hospital per diem has to be paid by taxpayers. These same people would not hesitate to  phone the CRNNS (College of Registered Nurses of NS) if they felt an RN had not provided safe care (with or without just cause or even thought to the implications for this professional's license) to the aforementioned Grammie dump. The answer is simply to be found in science - all RNs must grow an additional arm. Those of us too old to do that will have to rely on cloning. It is a sad time to be a nurse in this province. I am glad to not be employed here but annoyed that the tax dollars I submit are paying for this circus. Capital Health the employer of the NSGEU nurses has made it mandatory that they all take a customer service course - big bucks spent - versus providing safe numbers of staff. Pretty clear they weren't interested in settling from the start. 

Yesterday I made my way to the bank just before it closed and picked up my Honduran cash (lempiras) which I'd ordered. Not a particularly popular order the clerk told me. No surprise. I also took my rolled coins, (which I save for a tropical nursing course) and after about five years I've managed to amass almost $200 so it's a good thing I have other sources of funding. As the central american mission date approaches I have managed to book myself overnight accommodation in Miami on the way down and back. Taking in to account all the negative reviews of facilities and services in Miami airport hotels + the strong Canadian dollar…I considered myself fortunate to have found room at the inn which includes a free breakfast, shuttle to the airport, and wi-fi with pool for under $115 per night while avoiding the poor reviews. It did take a bit of research. 

Last evening a travel buddy and myself planned our Boston gig for the Jimmy Buffett concert. Who are we kidding? It's all about the pre-concert (tailgate) party! Do you think it's the definition of greed to ask if Aeroplan miles can be earned on a flight booked with Air Miles? I mean, it is an Air Canada flight after all. Well, greedy or not…..don't ask, don't get.  I earned Aeroplan miles anyway on the taxes/fees as I paid with the Amex card which earns Aeroplan miles and will await the answer from Aeroplan. We went out for a late supper at The Lobster Shack and my travel partner treated me so life is good. I spent part of the morning watching videos of the pre-concert parties and now I'm a bit concerned about packing as I am hoping to only take a carry on and those grass skirts take up a bit of room:

Pre-concert party attire

I sent a message to my niece's husband, who's a Navy guy, about borrowing his coconut bra (which he had bought as a souvenir for my niece while on exercises a few years ago) if she agreed. He okayed the loan for sure but advised to not let it touch bare flesh so I think I'll pass. Boston in July is warm so I turned down the 'excellent wig' he offered as well. Think that Frenchy's will not disappoint when we go concert outfit shopping. The concert theme is surf boards. Learned today that the female steel drum band Chicks with Sticks will be playing as well. Good time ahead. 

As I work my way through vacation planning, I found a nice link to some photos and since several of them are destinations we'll be visiting in September, I offer the link here:

Tonight the life partner and I watched the Mel Gibson movie Get the Gringo on Netflix which was predictable in both format and brutality but Mel did look good and I got to practice my Spanish. This is what passes as date night in this house and I'll take it. Time to turn the sleep apneaic on his side as the snoring is reaching NIHL levels and crawl into bed as I must be on deck for the cleaning lady or….she finds me housework to do.