Mmmmmountains

If there is one thing that T-bone and I were looking forward to when we planned our trip home – after seeing family/friends and eating Vietnamese subs, of course – it was heading to the mountains.

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Ahhh. Eating a Vietnamese sub. What would this blog be without my flattering self-portraits?

Hiking, skiing, and eating the equivalent of our body weight in trail mix (“I have DEFINITELY burned enough calories to necessitate the consumption of 10 lbs of chocolate covered coffee beans”) are among our favourite activities in the Calgary area, and we were eager to head fer the hills ASAP once we recovered from our jet lag. As luck/planning would have it, two of our favourite siblings were visiting from California at the same time, so we got to roll a whole bunch of favourite things into one big favourite day.

Todd is displaying all of his favourite teeth at the thought

I was a little nervous when I heard that Todd’s brother Dean “The Machine” and his Cute’n’Perky wife Jane were planning the hike. These two eat mountains for breakfast, and I wasn’t sure that my beluga-esque body would be able to keep up.

They look innocent, but they are beasts

Fortunately, Machine and Cute’n’Perky had a plan: we would all hike to Sentinel Pass together, at which point they would split off and climb this Mothah:

The bony finger of the Grand Sentinel points in the direction that you need to climb (up)

It worked out great. Machine and C’n’P dealt with cold, wind, and severe exposure, while I hung out at the pass and psychoanalyzed our friend Tanis; tried (not very hard) to resist feeding the chipmunks; and mocked our friends Justin and Cory as they attempted to “skateboard” down the side of a mountain riding a slab of rock. It was a pretty good division of labour.

Dean and Jane prepare to climb…

Not exposed at all.

More my style: watching Cory trying to feed a chipmunk with his teeth

When Machine and C’n’P returned from their climbing adventure, it was time to head back to the valley. T-bone’s day was complete when he realized that he could squeeze in a little skiing along with the hiking and trail mix eating:

The view from Sentinel Pass. In the words of that wise sage, Taylor Swift: “I don’t know if it gets better than this.”

It was such a good day that we felt the need to head out to the mountains again the following week. This time, it was just me, T-bone, and Bannock.

Bannock and I scope out the valley (on the Stanley Glacier trail)

We ended up following the same pattern as our first trip, though. We climbed to the highest clump of trees we could find, where Bannock and I hunkered down to read a few chapters of Game of Thrones. Early literacy is extremely important, particularly when it involves raping and pillaging. Meanwhile, Bannock’s father decided that he needed to touch the toe of the glacier looming above us.

Have fun, T-bone 

On our way down, we discovered several fresh springs. A nice change from Bangkok’s bottled water. For any of you Old Testament buffs, these photos remind me of the story in Judges where God tells Gideon not to choose any men who bend down and drink like dogs for his army.

Good biblical technique

And dog technique

It worked out in the Old Testament, but in this case, poor Gideon would have ended up with the prego.

Leaving Todd free to continue his favourite habit of smirking next to mountain lakes

We actually made it out to the mountains a third time, but I’m saving that story for an upcoming post on bobbleheads….

Brides, Bikes, and Bannock: totally unrelated alliterative rambling

Bannock

Well first of all, let me thank you all for the congratulations. It truly warmed the cockles of my heart. Nothing, however, can quite top the reaction of the 5 year olds I subbed for the other day: when they found out that I was with child, one of the students dove headfirst at my belly and kissed it. Several other students settled for a good belly grope, and then spent the rest of the class pointing at my midsection and exclaiming “Look! It’s a little baby! It’s soooo cute!” Not sure how they would react if they could see what my 15 week fetus actually looks like – even as its mother, I can’t honestly say it has reached the ‘cute’ phase just yet.

(This sounds like a tangent but it’s not) Thais love nicknames, and pretty much everyone has one – I’m guessing that this is to simultaneously circumvent their incredibly long names (ie: Nasigorengporn) as well as to channel qualities that they particularly admire: for example, Champion, Win, Best, Bakery. In order to make our child culturally acceptable, we have already chosen a nickname for it: Bannock. The name reflects our Canadian roots (for the uninitiated, bannock is a First Nations quickbread), channels Todd’s obsession with voyageurs, and falls within the acceptable 2-syllable standard for Thai nicknames. Certain members of our family are nervous that the child will be called Bannock for the rest of its life, but we see that as a bonus more than anything.

Brides

Ok. Enough about bread, quick or otherwise. On with the brides! On Saturday, we were lucky enough to attend the wedding of Te and View (note the Thai nicknames), two of our friends from church. Here’s a sample of the conversation I had with View (the bride) one week ago:

View: “Congratulations on your pregnancy!”

Me: “Thank-you!”

View: “I have some good news, too: I’m getting married!”

Me: “That’s wonderful! When?”

View: “Next weekend!”

I have never met anyone who pulled a wedding together in one week, but it magically came together. It was a small gathering, with an evening ceremony in the garden of a hotel. The bride and groom were adorable, and alternated laughing and crying throughout the service. As usual, my photography skills were in fine form, and this is the best photo I have of the ceremony:

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A wedding ceremony seems like an appropriate time to check your phone…

After the ceremony, there were plenty of photo opportunities. Sometimes I forget how massive I appear in this culture, but every now and then, I get a friendly reminder. Wearing a dress that hits the prego-ness in all the wrong places doesn’t help my cause.

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What every wedding needs: a couple of large farangs to make the bride look even more cute and delicate.

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The beautiful/indestructible cake arrangement

 Bikes

The following day, we had another cause for celebration: we finally bought bicycles. We have been talking about buying bikes since we set foot in Thailand, and it took us merely a year to figure it out. We kept tossing around different ideas: “Let’s get folding bikes! Let’s get mountain bikes! Let’s get village bikes! Let’s buy pieces-of-junk-from-the-grocery-store bikes!” In the meantime, our biking souls shrivelled. Todd finally decided that enough was enough, and started checking Craigslist religiously. For a long time, he found nothing but uber expensive top-of-the-line bikes and pieces-of-junk-from-the-grocery-store. When he finally found an ad for decently priced Trek touring bikes, he jumped on it. A couple who had cycled around SE Asia wanted to unload their bikes before they flew home. The only catch was that they wanted to sell them as a pair. Due to my *ahem* knocked-up condition, I wasn’t planning on buying a bike. However, the deal was too good to pass up, so I’m going to putz around on my sweet new bike until the belly makes me too top (gut?) heavy, and then we’ll re-sell it.

Once we handed over the cash, we realized that we were faced with another dilemma: how to get our new joyrides home. We were halfway across the city, and there is no way that we were going to bike all the way home through Bangkok’s insanity. We thought of taking them on the Skytrain, but that still wouldn’t get us close to home. Our only real hope was a jumbo-sized taxi, a rarity in Bangkok. We tried phoning for a big taxi, but were informed that it would have to come all the way from the airport, and would take 1.5 hours to arrive. Todd started hailing random taxis, and asking the drivers if they had friends who drove big taxis, but came up with nothing. Finally, we stood on the side of the road, and begged every taxi that came by to take just one person and one bike, but no one was interested. After 5 or 6 taxis, we were giving up hope, when an angel arrived on the scene. When we asked him to take one bike, he looked at us like we were crazy, and told us that he would take both.

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“Just need to remove the engine, and there will be plenty of space.”

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Look away, Math Teacher. This isn’t the time for an analysis of spatial dimensions.

He heaved all the tires into his back seat, and stacked the frames in his trunk. Half of both frames were hanging out of the trunk, but this didn’t seem to bother him – he crunched the trunk over the frames and bridged the two-foot gap with the aid of a suspension cord. He informed us that we’d have to avoid the highways, or the bikes would fly out. Not a problem. An hour later, we pulled up in front of our apartment. Taxi drivers often get a bad rap in Bangkok, but this one was a jewel.

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Want a suspension cord?

The bikes have already been fantastic, and we are kicking ourselves for waiting so long. I’m getting depressed about giving up biking, but then again, there seem to be zero safety standards in this country – once Bannock is born, I can probably just balance him/her on my lap while I cruise through traffic.

Paddling the Mae Taeng, Part 1: A Voyageur and His Wives

Today’s post will focus on da paddlers. Next post will talk details – river, camping, gear, surprises etc. for anyone who wants to do a similar trip.

Last Sunday, T-bone gathered his two wives, David and Ruth, and headed to the Mae Tang river. No, Todd does not actually endorse polygamous behaviour, but his favourite historical paddling heroes, the Voyageurs, sure did. Every time T-bone gets near a river, he starts dreaming of being a Voyageur, and this trip was no different. For the uninitiated, the Voyageurs were a hearty group of French-Canadians who routinely paddled across Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect beaver pelts from First Nations communities. They played an important role in founding Canada, and are at least partially responsible for the fact that an overgrown swamp rodent is our national animal. They also had multiple wives – city wives and country wives. City wives were the official/legal wives, and they were fine for doing city/wifely things, but when you’re on the river for months on end, you need a husky broad on location who can skin beavers/lug your boats/maybe sew you a coonskin cap or something. The concept of a country wife was just too darned convenient for us to pass up, so we nominated David for the role.

Todd cannot believe his good fortune

The highly delineated roles of a Voyageur and his wives really worked well for our team. The tasks weren’t always traditional, but they got done with a certain je ne sais quoi that just wreaked of French-Canadian history.

Voyageur Todd: Fishing, Bannock-making, Navigating, Looking Visionary/Noble

Voyageur Todd did his best to fill those large francophone shoes by fishing and making bannock.

Sadly, he never caught anything. Perhaps this was because every man, woman, dog, child, and monk seemed to be out dredging the river with nets and spears at all times.

How can fish not want to be caught by such kindly folks?

Fortunately, his bannock making experiments were more successful. A nice hunk of beaver fat would undoubtedly have cranked up the flavour, but the Voyageur did pretty well with vegetable oil.He was also very good at gathering fire wood in his  birchbark canoe kayak.And navigating rivers. His navigation may not have saved me from flipping my boat, but it did provide some pontificating-full photos.

 

Country Wife David: Jumping off stuff, hauling wood/water/tents/boats/everything, being perpetually perky, and offering the best facial expressions a photographer could hope for

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Poses like this cannot be taught 

David had a knack for simultaneously making photogenic expressions while being ready to launch himself off the ground and haul stuff around the campsite. The perfect Country Wife.

The Voyageur doesn’t even realize what’s lurking behind him…

Mere words are inadequate.

David also enjoyed hauling boats and assorted schtuff on bizarre portage routes that he and the Voyageur dreamed up.

I won’t reveal the body of water that they decided to portage into, but let’s just say that it rhymed with “Irritation Locale”

City Wife Ruth: petting animals, conducting cooking experiments, growing algae colonies in my hair, sniffing out beverage/bladder stops

The little cow that tried to eat my arm. I think he liked the flavour of whitener-enhanced sunscreen.

I like to pet dogs, but even I drew the line at this one.

I conducted a variety of culinary experiments that ranged from successful to highly dubious and borderline poisonous. Fortunately, the Voyageur and Country Wife were a willing test audience.

I knew that banana flowers were edible. Unfortunately, I forgot which part.

Fortunately, some of the recipes worked out well, so I could hold onto a bit of City Wife cred.

Roasting eggplant, red pepper, and garlic in the coals. The hair/algae colony is only on day 4 at this point.

Sister wives can be friends!

The trip wasn’t quite full of enough hardship/misery/beaver fat to make Todd’s Voyageur dreams come true, but at least he nailed the wife bit, and got to bellow his favourite paddling song whenever the urge hit.

Next up: The River!