Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm an idiot

I'm an idiot. I don't say this in a depressing, feeling sorry for myself way. It's just at times I make poor decisions. Falling through a roof, loosing my passport, not having an plan for after university, etc. I'm okay with it. I still feel awesome most of the time. I now make better long term life choices and confident my life is heading in the right direction.

Which leads us to my most recent mini debacle. Working on the mountain and snowboarding are essentially the only two things to do here. Some would add drinking to the list but I'm not into that kind of stuff...Towards the end of the day on Sunday, I got a 20 minute break to go for a ride on an incredibly sunny day. Need to take a t-bar up this one part of the hill.

Small children ride these things effortlessly. My first attempt was a fail. Embarrassing but funny. Second attempt goes better up until about a quarter of the way to go, I bail. Again sort of funny. I begin my walk of shame to the top. Exhausting work, I take a break. To my right there is a slope that leads to the track I need to connect with. I'm a cautious guy and asses how risky going down this somewhat steep ridge is. Not keen on walking the rest of the way up, I decide my riding skills will safely get me down this slope. Strap up, stand up and start to descend.

Quickly realize why there aren't other tracks in this specific spot. Ice. Shortly after getting up, I quickly began sliding down head first with my boots strapped in heading face first into a decent sized rock. Luckily I was wearing the helmet I had just bought and managed to dodge the rock and hit it instead with my hip. I heard a crunch, tumbled maybe twenty more feet down the slope and stopped. That didn't feel great. Was down for a few minutes but slowly got better. My hip and wrist hurt but generally felt okay and glad I missed the rock. Took the chairlift back down. started seeing spots and thought I might pass out. Make it to the bottom, told to clock out and check in with the medical guys to make sure everything is good. Ask me a few questions, doctor looks at my bruises, left wrist is a bit swollen, can move it and doesn't hurt like when I fell through the roof. Take a quick x-ray, fracture point same as the last time but looks way worse than my last x-ray. I did it again. Cast on 4-6 weeks, no snowboarding.

Going to see a specialist tomorrow in Taupo. Apparently my elbow might not be exactly where it needs to be from my last fall so will get that check out. Luckily I am able to continue working in an area that doesn't involve me having to pick anyone up or do heavy lifting. My hope is to be back riding at the start of September. Four weeks will fly by. I am just disappointed in myself for doing this again. I did not learn my lesson and I did not take car like I was told too.

Learning is a gift. Even when pain is your teacher.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A story from Stu

I lived in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for one year. I worked in the student support service department at an international school as an ESL/Reading Specialist. My partner Nicholas, and myself developed and operated our own program, which assisted students from non-English speaking countries develop their basic English skills. This included standardized testing and small group lessons focusing on each students individual goals. Despite the absence of managerial direction and times of complete confusion, the job was amazing and I had a lot of fun working with Nic and the students. Nothing is better than having the freedom and power to cancel an "important" grammar lesson, and focus on developing the student's vocabulary and conversation through the demonstration of magic tricks... Sorry, I mean illusions. I really did love that job. Also, I did love the downtown apartment down the street from the beach, two free flights, lots of vacation time, paid summer and bonuses, and the steady healthy paycheck. Why the hell did I leave?! Oh yeah, unfortunately, as much as I love teaching and working with students, teaching isn't a career choice for me......yet. Maybe one day, but not today. Plus, I didn't want to live in Abu Dhabi, and that's a whole other paragraph...Or more.

Lets start with "life in the Middle East". I don't think I have ever encountered a topic with so many opinions and misunderstandings, and so much confusion and just general ignorance. First, the Middle East is a huge mass of land within the Asian and African continents. It has around 17 countries within it. Each of these countries have their own array of cultures, foods, politics, languages, environments, religions, and laws. So, your friend who lives in Beirut has a much different view of the Middle East, than your friend who has a sister living in Saudi Arabia. This was a mistake I made early on. I was looking for Mediterranean Lebanese Middle East. Instead, I got desert gulf UAE Middle East. Lebanon and Israel, while not on the friendliest terms, are two of the biggest party destinations on Earth. Think, clubs, alcohol and drugs, beach parties, thongs, and lots of plastic surgery. Traditionally, the gulf region, which includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, etc, is a more conservative region. Think, no alcohol, cover your daughters and wives, and "that woman better not be driving no car!". Prior to the oil boom, this was also a poorer region, with only pearls and date trees.

The UAE is a bit of an exception to this rule. The Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have decided to use their oil money to bring in hundreds of low paid labourers, build incredible skyscrapers and hotels, and develop their countries as tourist destinations. Well played UAE. But, remember, tourist love to go to bars and get really messed up, stare at beautiful scantly clad ladies, and then wind up going home with a prostitute. No fear, tourists and foreigners can drink to their hearts content, but only in a bar/club connected to a hotel and please don't pass out in the streets, or we're sending you to jail. And shit, we'll turn a blind eye to prostitution. Oh, and to sweeten the deal, all bars/clubs shall host a ladies night at least once a week, where all ladies shall drink as much as they can at no cost. Let the debauchery ensue! But you better not be rollin' up to no club without your designer boots and a fresh new Rolls Royce!! If drinking champagne and chilling in classy bars/clubs with beautiful ladies is your thing, Abu Dhabi can be a blast. A friend once told me, "there are beautiful women all over the world", maybe he was on to something.

With all of the money around, Abu Dhabi must be an expensive place to live?? Not really. Due to the lower class of labourers and secretaries, which make up a giant percentage of the population, food and drinks can be had for pretty cheap. It's important to keep the working class within reach of things that make them happy..... and living. Think $1 shawarma and $2 Indian talee. When in doubt, shoot for the big spinning stick of meat.
It's important to remember that native Emirates only make-up around 20% of the population in the UAE. And generally they don't want much to do with the other 80%, just as long as they keep the machine rolling. I knew a few women who dated Emirate men and I've met many Emirate men at bars, but that's usually the extent. I don't think I saw an Emirate citizen for the first 2 weeks in the UAE. The Emirates want to make their country rich and powerful, and maintain that wealth and power, everyone else is just swinging by to either spend some cash or make as much as they can and run. 
This national psyche transcends into everything and results in a strange emptiness to the cities. Make money, drink, party, sleep with a hooker, and then get the hell out! Don't get me wrong, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes the UAE a very easy place to make some money, relax, and then leave when you're ready. There are some really great things about life in the UAE. I know people who have lived there for 20 years, and will continue to do so until they revoke his visa. Abu Dhabi is an easy city to get around in, food can be cheap, there is always events happening, the winter weather is amazing, the beaches are great, and the desert is unreal. I'll always remember camping in the desert with some of my best friends, climbing a sand dune in the middle of the night, and sitting at the top watching the stars stretch all the way down to the horizon with only sand dunes for miles. I also developed some of the greatest friendships of my life in Abu Dhabi. If I hadn't have got into grad school, I would have been back in the big sandbox making a little more cash and enjoying another year with some fine folks.
I hope this helps shed a little more light on my life in Abu Dhabi and the Middle East. It was a bit of a strange place, but so is any country. That's what travelling is all about. It wasn't a good or bad experience, it was just life.

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Editor's note: 
Stu and I met in Thailand. One night on an island, I got a tattoo of an anchor. After seeing mine, Stu then promptly followed with his own "manchor'. After this, a few other people in our town got anchors. Let's not forget who started the trend. Just saying. Thanks for the post Stu!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Intricacies between Western and Asian women

I know what you're thinking: "Bert, you don't know anything about girls, blah blah blah". I would say you are almost right. I've somehow managed to learn at least a few things about the fairer sex from two different regions and thought I would try and share what I may or may not know. This not only comes from first hand observations but those stories I hear from friends. Do not trust this information. The terms girls and women are used interchangeably throughout.

Let's start by saying that while cultures and customs make certain people act differently, girls/women are fundamentally the same all over the world. I tell myself this all the time, there are girls everywhere. Everywhere you go you will be able to find one, usually in packs. They all want to be treated with respect, be protected, have someone to love, laugh with, create memories together and share their day with.
From what I gather, women in the Western world are a bit more prone to hand holding, kissing etc earlier on and faster that Asian women (aka easier). I'm not really sure why and not true for everyone but I think is more accepted in the western media than it is if family/reputation centered Asia. I would guess the amount of guys women sleep with is higher in North America than in Asia.

Being super clingy and obsessive is a trait that is found in both cultures. It is a trait that is bit more frowned upon and discussed in the West. Girls know that guys don't like being texted/called all the time because they don't like it either. On the other hand, in Asia, it is seen as more acceptable to be a bit more involved early on, calling or texting all the time even if they don't know each other very well yet. I'm not sure if Asian guys act that way to other Asian or Western girls but it is certainly a theme I hear others talk about when dealing with cross cultural relationships. 

As a very general rule, I would say Western women are more independent and will stand up to a man more than in Asia. Western women aren't as worried about finding a new man in their life and have their friends to back them up and encouraging them to end things. Asian women might accept a slightly lower behaviour from their boyfriends and just not express it as vocally or straightforward than other women might. There are also women is Asia who will straight up bite you in a nightclub for no reason so you aren't ever entirely safe.

Another interesting difference I found is that Asian women tend to age a bit more gracefully but will also lie about their age by adding a year, not subtracting. This is a small sample size but something that is in strike contrast to the Western world.

Finally, and this is purely my own experience, I feel like I trusted women in Asia more and thought they were less likely to cheat. While you have to be careful that some might date you because you are white, I just felt like I never had anything to worry about. Just my opinion.

The more I thought about it, the more similar both types of women are. Women love to gossip about other guys, like to buy new dresses and go out dancing, want a family at some point in the future and want a reliable, good hearted man beside them. They both can get jealous, be incredibly generous and funny. I think that dating and love are hard enough as it is without adding a communication barrier, differing attitudes towards money and cultural/family differences. I think that dating people from another culture or country is something to be encouraged and embraced. You will learn about another way of life and maybe view certain things from a different perspective.

Finally, I think we get too involved in the thinking about the future (I am incredibly guilty in this respect) and not focusing on what make us happy right now. Things might not workout with this person 9 months from now but it might make you a whole lot happier in the next 3 weeks. While we should keep an eye onto the future, let's not delay our happiness to a nondescript future date that may not ever arrive.

"Feel more, think less" Kaitlyin Poisson

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Glory days

I've heard it my whole life. "High school was the best time of my life. No job. No responsibilities, hanging out with your friends all day." "University was the best time of my life. Away from home, drinking all the time, hardly going to class." "I'm getting old, things aren't the way they use to be..." "I wish I could go back" and things of that nature. You hear anything similar?

I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way but getting old isn't as bad as people make it seem. I distinctly remember being in an English class in high school and the teacher told the class that at the present moment, this was the best time of her life. Not high school, not university, now. I remember it because it was probably the first time I heard someone say that getting old wasn't all that bad. I see now where she was coming from. Being in high school for sure has its positives. Living with your parents, nothing all that serious you need to worry about, see your friends every day, house parties to go to, sports to play, life is good. University is also great. Studying what you want to study, being away from home, eating cookies for breakfast, going out, learning to talk to girls, reading week, finding houses to live in with your best friends, playing video games, having fire extinguisher fights, etc. I feel like I was taught that the "real world" is a scary place where you need to fend for yourself, awful 9-5's, bills, bosses, mortgages and the like. Some of that is definitely true. I've experienced hating my job, not having money (still an issue), dealing with cell phone bills, commuting, making new friends outside of school, paying an exorbitant $250 a month for rent at your cousins house; it's an adjustment. But as an adult, I can do ANYTHING I want. I can book a one-way ticket to Moscow and nobody could stop me. I could buy 50 beers and try to drink them all in one day and nobody would stop me; people would probably join me. 
As an adult, nobody tells you really want to do. Other than the police and all of their rules, day to day you are generally free to live your life the way you choose fit. As a kid, you are at the whim of your parents. Mom wants you to go to Renfrew for the weekend? Think you've got a choice? Parents want you to go to an all Catholic, completely French speaking school your entire life without either of them being able to help you learn french? Better start studying. Not that I had a hard childhood in the least, I was spoiled, just ask my brother or sisters. But in the end, my mom was in charge and I was aware of that fact.

Being able to chose what job you want, how to spend your money, being able to go to Vegas and gamble, it's just awesome. I guess I still feel like a little kid inside. The fact that I don't have a bed time still makes me happy and I can watch as much TV as I want still gives me some sort of satisfaction. So if you have noticed the years slowly passing you by, try to look back in fondness about earlier days but don't forget to appreciate the freedom, the choices and the opportunities you have before you. And if you're thinking "Well I had freedom until I had kids" that shouldn't be a complaint. You know how babies are made and still, you own that kid. You can make them do whatever you want. You can dress them in cute little outfits, make them learn an instrument and basically mold them into what you want them to be like. They also say hilarious things. I can't wait to have cute little babies but that is an entirely different post.

"I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to 

wear socks, I don't have to." Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why are you crying?

 Had the last five days off so I've either been snowboarding, watching movies or checking out all of the National Park walking trails. Some are under an hour and some can take more than eight hours to get to. Once you do get there, you set up camp and hike back the next day. Here are some pictures of those walks:

Then something strange happened. I love listening to podcasts while walking so I was listening to Alec Baldwin interview Rosie O'Donnell about her life, how she became famous and the way society has changed in terms of gays and lesbians. Then I just got sad. Then I started to cry. But I don't have anything to be sad about. I'm in an amazing country, doing the job I set out to get, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, have friends and generally life is looking pretty good for the next year or so. Maybe because I'm a guy (man?) and I just don't understand how feelings work or what I'm actually feeling. While trying to figure out what could make me cry out of nowhere, I came up with a few hypotheses:

-I miss Thailand. I miss how easy things were and my quality of life.

-I miss my old girlfriend. She made my life better.

-I miss teaching.

-I'm tired of not having a bunch of money and just having enough money to live. I don't want to be concerned money.

The main reason I think I felt that way at that time is I just miss my family. I have nieces and nephews I don't really know very well and one that I haven't even met yet. I miss my brother and sisters. My mom isn't the worst mom in the world so I guess I miss her sometimes too....
Part of me wants to go home. Part of me thinks that feeling this way is just normal after being away for two years, going on my third. Once I went home, after a few weeks I would want to keep travelling and teaching abroad. I don't want to be away from home just to be away. I feel like at some point, if I ask myself every day if I want to go home, eventually I will have more yes's than no's.

I try to write posts about how great travelling is and being generally optimistic while keeping our expectations in line. I also want to be honest about what life away from home is like to anyone who is thinking about leaving home. Missing babies being born, weddings, birthday parties, holidays and generally being a car ride away from people who are the most important in your life is what you miss out on. Hopefully this experience will make me appreciate my family more once I finally do go back for good. On the plus side, I genuinely feel like I've made friends these last two years that I consider my family. Now that is something to cry in joy about.

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” 
 Charles Dickens

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Whakapapa, New Zealand

Another Canada Day is in the books. Hope you enjoyed it and spent time with people you care about. Will try and keep this one short. I'm in Whakapapa Village (pronounced Fuck-a-papa) (am I allowed to swear on the internet?), working at Whakapapa, on an active volcano named Mt. Ruapehu. Last time it erupted was 2007 and before that 1995. Had a bit of avalanche/volcano training last week. They say they should have about a 90 second warning before it erupts and have a good idea of where the eruption will go. Basically, stay out of the valleys and get to high ground. Any of the buildings are safe, as is the parking area....I think. 

Hill opened on Saturday, just Happy Valley, the beginners part and one small blue run. Here are some pictures of where I work:

These are the photos just outside the place that I'm staying:
Basically staying at a summer camp. Have my own room, they feed us breakfast and dinner, have transportation up and down the hill. Living in a National Park, isn't much to do on your days off other than snowboard. There are walking trails all around here. Here are some pictures of that:
Went snowboarding for the first time today. One of my friends landed wrong off a jump and dislocated his hip. Had to take a helicopter to a nearby hospital where they apparently just popped it back into place. This is the type of world we live in: After he fell and cut up his face, while the Ski Patrol were checking to make sure he was all right, he asked us to take pictures of his face and with Ski Patrol repairing him. I probably would have done the same thing. Need to be careful out there people, keep those wrists safe.

Start work for real on Friday, being a lift attendant and possible de-icer. Got some training with it last week but not sure if I can handle it. This is a video of what I would be doing:

Will let you know how that goes but it's good to be near the snow, get back to snowboarding and living a pretty relaxed lifestyle. Enjoy the summer!

"Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action."