I'm shocked. The last blog posting was 1 year ago! Yesterday I turned 51 and haven't written here since my last birthday! Well, I can only say, that when there's no time to write, it's because life's just too exciting!
My 50th year was the best of my life so far. I bought a bike and trained all summer. I swam across the lake each day, sometimes the full there-and-back 1km swim. By August I was ready.. I did 2 triathlons! My first time ever, and aged 50! WOW. It was a little terrifying but the 2nd was much easier. This summer I'm planning to do 3.
I took ownership of my new Retreat Centre cottage in May. Then there were 4 moving days throughout the year, moving belongings to the new 'home' and clearing out the city house to make it into a 'hotel' style rental home. Lots of clearing. Not enough throwing out. Then I set up the new home away from home. We have settled in well now, and the 'cottage' is more of a home than the house in Toronto now!
By November my writing had taken off again, and after completing another novel (#23), I got organized and published my first book on Amazon.com in time for Christmas. "The Bird People: Children of the Dragon series" came out in time for Christmas. It's selling well, and the 2nd edition will be posted up this month.
Last week I posted up the 2nd book in the series "The Thinkers" -also in the Children of the Dragon series. It will be out on Amazon.com this month, and on Kindle next month. I'm also working on the 3rd book in the series, rough draft.
Last September I travelled to Europe to visit friends and attend a wedding in France. En route, I realized that I wasn't far off 50 countries. I was at 47. If I could visit 3 new countries on this trip, I could make it to 50 countries in 50 years! So I went to Prague on a 2 day all-night bus trip, and then on to France, and on the way to the wedding, I attempted to visit Jersey and Guernsey in one day. The ferry schedules would allow it, -5 minutes between boats- but the Jersey Government wouldn't!. I got to Jersey and they refused to let me take the journey, since they allotted 45 minutes for border control between islands! Poppycock I say!
And so, down at heel, I spent a very very boring day in Jersey, wishing intensely that I'd gone to Guernsey instead. In despair I entered a small spa to get my nails done for the wedding. The spa was a 'fish spa' -and for the sake of having a hilarious story to tell, I let 100 small turkish fish eat away at the dead skin on my feet for 15 minutes! The torture of tickling is unfathomable! -hilarious though.
The wedding of Michael and Natasha was the most stunning wedding I have ever attended. Such an amazing event, and everyone so happy. So much love between them both, too. I made new friends (Monika and Fergus) at dinner, and we've kept in touch as pen pals since the event.
The year of 50 rounded out nicely last week with a trip to Washington D.C. No, not a 50th country, but a nice little escape for Easter weekend. I can always attempt 60 countries in 60 years. Plenty of more deadlines to face in the decade ahead!
Happy Times to look forward to!
Well, it's been a few months since I've blogged here. I feel slight twinges of guilt at my absence...
But much has happened.
For example, yesterday I turned 50! ME? 50? Fifty is what happens to other people, not me. I'm ageless and live an endless existence. I don't follow those numbers like other people! And yet, here I am. Skin less stretchy, hair less colourful, eyes less able to focus, thoughts less able to focus. I hate that phrase "it happens to us all". No it doesn't. Not in the same way. and not at the same time. So when I turn 50, I"m on my own that day. Those who have gone before have forgotten the age, since they are now in fear of 55, or 60. Those who are not yet here at this hurdle, don't feel the sudden overwhelming difference it makes.
And it does. Just a few days ago, I had a thought, or perhaps it was a feeling, that here I was, here I am, half way or more, and I've done it all without making any major mistakes. I haven't got hooked on drugs, didn't get pregnant at the wrong time or with the wrong person, didn't have to claim bankruptcy, didn't damage anyone's life, didn't go to jail or break a bone, or even crash up a car (minor bumps, only). And i've raised a son successfully, -he'll be 16 this week. So What does all this mean?
It suddenly meant to me, that I can relax and enjoy the next 50 years! I'm no longer chasing dreams, no longer fearful of not accomplishing something or making an irreparable mistake. I'm here. 50. King of the castle. Top of the sand pile. I can slide into home, letting go of all that effort to get here. I'm here. This is the peak of life. At least for now it feels that way!
Who can say what the next 10 years will feel like?
I'm content. Life is mine to devour with passion!
Well, we arrived home from the trip of a lifetime.
And then life became messy again, almost immediately.
The day after we returned home, the sewage pipe in the 2nd floor wall suddenly burst. Actually it let go. It had held itself there for 40 years without complaint, despite never having been glued when it was first installed. And suddenly, on December 29th, it decided it had had enough. It let go.
And my kitchen below was filled with a spray of sewage, covering counter, cupboards, table and chairs, floor and walls.
The insurance took over. They spent 3 long months ripping out the whole ground floor, and opening up holes in the 2nd floor walls. We felt like refugees, living through it all with a toaster and a microwave.
It's finally done, and the world is back to a new more beautiful normal!
Also this season, the sale of my old cottage has gone through, and there will now be a lull for 6 weeks, until the new cottage is finally mine! Life is getting more and more exciting, as the deadline approaches. I've been waiting since last October!
Miraculously, the insurance people packed up all the bedding and belongings that were waiting to go to the cottage, so the house has been cleared of clutter, -16 years of clutter!
So now my new business venture begins. Instead of living with tenants and having the stress of feeding other people's kids all summer (and cleaning up after them, and chasing them to pay their rent, or bugging them to take out their garbage at the right time, or clean up their garbage when the raccoons have tipped it all over the alley before the bitchy neighbours start ranting about it to me).. I have found a new system of landlordability.
I am renting out both my house and my cottage. They will bring in enough money to cover my expenses and perhaps some left over to take a summer holiday!
And when both buildings are rented out, I travel. If only one is rented out, then I have a week in that location. Week at the cottage, week in the city, week at the cottage again.
And so, my new freer life begins!
So far, 7 bookings have been set for the 2012 summer season. I have covered my summer expenses now. Things are feeling more comfortable already!
There are some new furniture items in the house, sitting waiting to be moved to the new cottage. There is a stone counter still not here, -it will soon be installed- and there is a cottage waiting to have it's frills and clutter removed. It will all happen in good time.
Patience is gradually becoming easier to find!
Oh, and there have been 5 students living here this winter, through the renovations, and 2 large landscape projects have suddenly popped up to be considered. And a new ESL in the Home job has been accepted.. So the summer might be a lot busier than initially anticipated. But ti's all good.
Yes, we got home last night, after 36 hours of transit time... airports and flights and more airports. Iain and I both had our longest flight ever from Reunion to Paris: 11.4 hours! (just slightly longer than the direct flight from Hawaii to Toronto).. strange to think of the world measuring in flight times. But there it is.
There will be more photos posted in the next few days, since I'm now home and have access to my great computer.. so the downloads will begin! Keep your eyes on this page for changes!... I may post more photos into each section too, so scrolling down might be worth the effort! :)
Well, we've been island hopping for a few days now, and there are interesting similarities and differences between them. Reunion was lovely. A mixture of Swiss alpine meadows, Bolivian highland volcanic landscapes, and Newfoundland scrubb trees, as well as a forest of tall ferns taken right out of Jurassic Park! The island belongs to France, is a member of the EEC, and is very modern and well-kept.
Mauritius is just 1 night's sail or 1 hour flight away, but very different. Mauritius is 54% hindu, -with a strong Indian influence. We visited a Hindu festival (Christmas day!) and a tamil group were having a street festival/parade as we drove by. The culture is so completely different from Reunion, which is owned by France and so close you can see Mauritius from the top of the volcanoes Reunion.
Iain and I both thought we could live in Reunion. It felt quite comfortable, both in climate and culture.
Both these islands are much cooler than Madagascar, although in similar latitudes. Madagascar was flat, at the North end where we were, and scorching hot. It was also poor like Africa. The children were selling shells and cloth along the sandy roads, as well as charging to let you photograph a chameleon.
(photos to follow when I get them downloaded.. computer is overloaded with images at present!)
Another amazing stop on our trip... 2 days in Madagascar, one in Nosey Be, (Meaning Big Island), and the 2nd in Diego Suarez, a town at the north end of Madagascar itself. In Nosey Be, we visited a Ylang Ylang forest and flower production centre, as well as a botanical gardens. Wonder of wonders, we got to hold chameleons and lemurs and boa constrictors!
Today, we visited Diego Suarez and got a private taxi to see Baobab trees and a drive through the countryside. Madagascar feels very much like Africa, although we've never been to Africa. It's as hot as we can stand, and Iain didn't even want to swim at the beach since the heat is so intense!
Well, we've had a lovely 3-day visit to the Seychelles islands. There are 115 islands in total, but we only visited one. It was as lovely as expected, although very hot.. and it's still only their spring. It's about 35 degrees, and will get up to a possible 60 or 65 by March!
The beaches were pristine white, the turquoise water bathtub warm, and the jungle vegetation really interesting. We tasted cinnamon straight from the tree, and lemon grass plants, made into tea. The jungle is everywhere, and we drove through it as our guide pointed out trees like 'ylang ylang' and cinnamon, and rubber and avocado and lime, mango and breadfruit, and other exotic things. The palm varieties were just as exotic, -coconut and wild pineapple, cocoa de mer, and cocoa (chocolate), as well as tea.
Highlights of the 3 days were feeding and bonding with the giant land tortoises, -they live to be over 300 years old- and they loved having their necks stroked, so we stayed with them for hours. Then yesterday I was alone in the jungle above the botanical gardens, and saw one of the huge fruit bats (They live by day and night), and it was just gorging itself on a giant ugly fruit. (I think).. so I got some great shots as well as some videos of both favourite events!
We're back at sea now, en route to Madagascar. By the looks of the images we've seen, it's a very poor island, and will be a step down from the nice village on the Seychelles.
Salalah was a peaceful city on the coast of Oman. We were only there for the day, but we saw a few mosques, temples, the sultan's palace (one of 8), and the Frankincense museum, as well as an archaeological site still being dug..(I insisted that they include this for Iain -it was extra usually- since he's on this trip to get archaeological experiences, if nothing else!.. we got our wish.. they took us around in the golf cart to see all the ruins being worked on! (Photos of that are on the other card.. will download tomorrow)..
We had a lovely time at the market in the afternoon.. no heavy sales pressure like Egypt met us with.. We bought frankincense and hats and some antique silver beads.. I wanted to stay longer, since it was a comfortable country.. but this is winter there.. 35 degrees. In summer it can get as high as 65C!
We're now heading farther south through the Indian ocean. It's a nice rolling ocean, peaceful enough, with the odd wave that rolls deeper than the last, but nothing too disturbing! If it stays like this we're in goo
Well we survived the first set of 4 days at sea.. nothing much to report on that, except that the cruise ship doesn't have a no smoking poilcy enforced, so we were struggling with that problem.. until last night! .. after a few days of whining and complaining, they suddenly offered Iain and I an upper cabin wtih balcony and jacuzzi bath tub!.. We had to pay an upgrade fee of 150 euros each for it.. but we're not suffering! The smoke was horrible when we were sleeping.. now we have the door open all night.. and Iain's taking baths daily! (the photo is only half the cabin.. Iain's bed and the couch are to the right) :)..
Obviously a long post.. Egypt deserves it! :)
Our second stop in Egypt was Luxor, connecting with the town of Safaga, a small port town on the Red Sea. We set off in our excursion bus at 7am, and drove 3.5 hours west, through the mountainous desert. Gradually the land became greener, and we knew the Nile was close. I'd expected Luxor to be a large open area with ancient ruins along either side of the Nile, -which in some ways it is, but the modern city has developed around the Nile shores, and ancient ruins are basically stranded in the middle of a thriving centre of activity. I was surprised at how history has been lumped in with modern buildings.
The 2 giant statues of Ramses II are just standing alone in the middle of a field of weeds, beside a parking lot, with a small rope fence around them. So casual.
In the morning we visited the Valley of the Kings, but, alas, they no longer allow ANY cameras at the site, since people have used flashes and are fading the painted images inside the tombs, so now, they have banned all cameras. We were swarmed by masses of boys and youth trying to sell us trinkets and post cards. Our whole bus was overwhelmed with them by the end of the morning. They have had almost no tourism recently due to the political activities in Egypt, so their sale pitches were all the more intense since it's their livelihood. I used the experience as a chance to practice my Arabic, and a boy and I exchanged language lessons for a few minutes, which was a nice 'cultural exchange' for me!
The afternoon segment of the trip was the real highlight though: The Temple of Karnak. This has always been what interested me most about Egypt. The temple is certainly the most impressive, and I was in heaven, as was Iain of course!
We wandered away from the lecturing tour guide and spent some time wandering away from the tourists, to immerse ourselves in Real History. Karnak is full of different eras of massive pillars decorated with an assortment of different painted images and carved hieroglyphics. There are also some massive obelisks, each carved out of one solid block of granite! We wandered all the way through the temple, and had a bit of an adventure with a fake police official (wearing full uniform including a rifle!) but my instincts warned me that he wasn't to be trusted -especially when he suddenly expected us to pay him money because he pointed out a few good photo spots!
Anyway, it was fast and furious, just 2 whirlwind days in Egypt, but we got a taste of the country and can return again when the political situation is under control. The only signs of 'political unrest' we noticed by the way, were masses of banners posted along roads, etc. en route to Luxor.
Now we are in the '4 days at sea' stage of the journey, en route to Oman... And we're about to pass through “pirate country”. We've noticed a few changes on the cruise ship: An armed guard posted on either side of the ship, 24 hours a day-toting binoculars and bullet proof vests- as well as 4 stuffed life-sized figures of 'Costa Captains' posted at the 4 top corners of the ship, as decoys, should any pirates be looking to take a first shot at us!
I suspect it's all for show, so that the cruisers feel safe. We also received a bed time notice the other night about 'going to our muster stations' should any pirates suddenly attempt to attack us...
Anyway, it all adds to the adventure. Over and out, until we reach Oman, home of Sinbad the Sailor and the Queen of Sheba, as well as frankincense forests!
Hilary Slater: I write in the morning before I get out of bed. I write in the evening when the world is quiet. I write at Starbucks, where I can escape the household interruptions. But most of all I write in November, when NaNoWriMo inspires me!