Saturday, November 3, 2018

Welcome to the Jungle

When I was a kid, I remember having croup - a loud, barking cough that caused me to lose my breath. I recall my mom rushing me to the bathroom, turning on the hot shower and rubbing my back while I inhaled the warm, humid air. Although the sensation of not being able to catch your breath was scary, I also remember feeling calm and relaxed once the humid air reached my airway. After that experience, I found that the sound of running water and warm humid air relaxed me. I remember laying on the floor of the bathroom while my parents showered in the mornings, drifting in and out of sleep as I listened to the steady rhythm of falling water. As I got older, I found myself reading on the bathroom floor as the shower ran, pretending that I was taking an extra long shower (I had no idea that we actually PAID for water. Say Wha? Sorry Mom and Dad). When I lived in Edmonton, my best bud roomie, Janna, and I would sometimes find a quiet day to study at the indoor waterpark at west Edmonton Mall, where I felt like I could focus and relax with the sound of water shooting down the slides. You get the drift...Well, you can only imagine the joy that I experienced when we entered Las Cascadas Lodge in Honduras, and I realized that I would be sleeping near the edge of a waterfall. Now this was a dream come true!

Las Cascadas Lodge, an eco-hotel set amidst the rainforests of Honduras, was a breeze to get to. Cayman Airways flies to La Ceiba, Honduras twice a week, and the flight is a mere hour away (complete with complimentary rum punch - booya!). The lodge was a quick 30 minute drive from the airport. I was a little nervous about traveling to Honduras, as the news depicts it as a less than safe destination, but I was assured that the Lodge would arrange for all of our transportation and take very good care of us - which they did. Prior to our arrival, the Lodge emailed us frequently and provided us with details of our upcoming trip. They also informed us that we would be the only guests that week at the lodge and inquired about our food preferences. Now Ev and I don't typically scrimp on vacations but I must say that we've never had access to our own personal chef before! Luckily, I watch a lot of "Below Deck," on Bravo and know exactly how to be a pleasant posh person, as opposed to the asshole posh person who requests sea cucumber ovaries for an all-white themed dinner. So, you know, I told our Chef that we like everything.  And we did. We loved everything! As soon as Chef Olvin greeted us at the Lodge, he began pampering us with drinks and food and we ate and drank like Gods for the entire week! From fresh corn tortillas and (gasp!) fresh avocados!!! for breakfast to shrimp and chicken skewers for dinner, we stuffed ourselves silly. Our resort was "all inclusive," so Olvin set up the bar for us, and we mixed rum punches (5 kinds of rum. Why not?) with fresh Hibiscus juice and indulged in evening glassessss (multiple) in the evenings. Magic!

I love waterfalls!

The house that we stayed in, the Bejuco Lodge, was simply incredible! One entire wall consisted of screen, with a waterfall a mere hundred feet away (FYI: listening to running water consistently DOES make you pee more!).  We had a relaxing lounge area, a beautiful four poster bed, an authentic soaker tub carved out of rock and an outdoor shower space, to rinse off under the moon. The house was staged with fresh flowers, soft pillows, wood-carved furniture, and felt exotic, yet cozy. Just outside our door were trails of various lengths leading up to waterfalls, rope swings, and cascading pools. Picture Swiss Family Robinson, the luxury edition.

A bath made in heaven

outdoor shower

morning tea with my book

Although there were numerous tours to choose from, we opted into two separate tours, including whitewater rafting down the Rio Cangrejal, and a horseback riding tour through villages, orchards, and jungles. Both were awesome! The whitewater rafting was a little more intense than I had realized - although it was class 2-3 rapids, we got our money's worth and flipped our raft on the last set of rapids for the day - a little frightening - but everyone was fine (Evan landed softly on top of me). We also had the chance to cliff jump halfway down the river (Ev jumped, I watched) and float calmly through the rainforest, while watching toucans soar above our heads. The horseback riding tour was super cool, and the horses appeared to be healthy and well cared for. We were able to ride through streams, orchards (and eat fresh lychee and oranges), and through the two villages in the area, one of which was Chef Olvin's home! The kids ran to the road to wave to us and shout, "hola!" as we trotted by. Despite that fact that Honduras is a third world country - evident by small shack-like houses, outdoor plumbing, and pigs and goats roaming freely throughout the village - it was apparent that the villagers took great pride in their community. It was incredibly clean. We didn't see a piece of garbage anywhere!  Everyone was so friendly and responsive, as Chef Olvin explained that they rely heavily on tourism, thus welcome all visitors. Other than Evan's ongoing battle with his very stubborn horse who chose to eat constantly then gallop wildly to catch up ("OK. You need to calm down, horse. Calm. The f%$&. Down." hahah!!!), it was very chill, and we covered a lot of ground in 3 hours. There was also canyon repelling, multiple hikes, and zip lining, but Ev and I decided to spend 2 days touring and 1 full day relaxing - I even indulged in a sublime massage at a waterfall's edge. Pure bliss.

Check out my "fun" face. Oh dear. 

Beautiful scenery!

Proof of flip

He's a natural! ;)

stopping to pick fruit

Cowboy Ev and his lychee

Cliff jumping!!!

This is more my speed. 

I think the best part of the vacation was our "happy hour" time back at Las Cascadas. Because Ev and I were the only guests, we created our very own happy hour at the edge of the waterfall everyday at 4pm. We drank our rum punch and alternated between sunning ourselves on the rock and jumping into the refreshing falls. We read. We laughed. We played, "what does this song remind you of" (when the wifi was working properly), and reminisced about high school, hockey, and Candle Lake Days (Example: "'Fly' by Sugar Ray reminds me of that Raider party, at age 17, when you drank red wine out of a paper bag and puked on the assistant coach's car! Haha). We had a great time. I realize that some people would desperately crave conversation with other guests, but this was exactly what Ev and I needed. We've spent a lot of our quality time in hospitals and orthos' offices - let me tell ya, the waterfall quality time far surpasses "medical" bonding time. It's been one year since my last surgery - the longest surgery-free stretch in 5 years! So we had cause for celebration. And I know I've said this before, but let me reiterate - for the love of God, marry someone you like! A vacation like this would have sucked balls if I hated Evan's face, and I probably wouldn't have let him land on me during the whitewater rafting incident.

Olvin, our fabulous chef!

Lindsay happy hour 

hahaha! We definitely look the part. 

So my friends, overall, Las Cascadas was the perfect mix of adventure and total relaxation. I highly recommend it, especially to my Cayman friends who want a completely different landscape and perspective, but wish to avoid the inevitable feeling of defeat one experiences when traveling through  the soul-crushing Miami airport.

Salud!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Purchasing a vehicle: Adulting at it's finest!

Adulting is hard. It's even harder on a tropical island where it can seem as though everyone is living the carefree vacation life around you. For those reasons, I've made it clear that Evan and I adult the minimum amount needed to, you know, live a semi-respectable life. We've had our TV and internet disconnected because we've forgotten to pay the bill. We've driven around with no window in our car because we chose to go to the beach instead of the mechanic. We've temporarily been locked out of our PO Box for failing to renew it (As I read this list I can't help but think, "losers"). But...Evan and I have also done some very respectable adult things here on the island. We purchased our house (excellent decision, given the incredibly rising market in Cayman), we've held respectable jobs and I've managed to get my contract renewed twice, and we purchased a very respectable vehicle. Now buying a vehicle, my friends, is probably the most challenging, soul-crushing adulting experience on island.

Purchasing a vehicle consists of attempting to connect with sellers via WhatsApp, arriving at their home for a test drive only to find that they are not home (duh....they are at the beach! They are selling, they don't need to adult!) and then finding that a) the car is rusting out due to sea salt damage. or b) It's needs a new engine or...something important like that. Vehicles here are incredibly overpriced (about 50% more than in Canada) and let's be honest, no one else here is adulting, so generally speaking, the vehicles often haven't been taken great care of. When you take a car for a test drive, it's not uncommon to find heaps of sand in the backseat, empty beer cans rattling around in the trunk, and a cleverly constructed zip tie apparatus used to open the window. It's difficult to hand over $5000 CI for a vehicle that has remnants of prosecco spray on the ceiling. If you do get lucky enough to find a respectable vehicle for purchase, you then must withstand hours and hours (I am not exaggerating) at the DMV, waiting desperately for your arbitrary number (do not expect order) to be called. When your number is called, you will no doubt have filled out the incorrect form and be instructed to fill out a new form and enter a new and eternal line. By the time the sale is complete you are left wondering how you seemingly lost years of your life during this time-sucking experience. Adulting at its finest.

Now we got this experience out of the way within a week of moving to Cayman. We purchased a 2010 Mitsubishi Colt, which had been originally imported from Japan. It was a great car! It spoke Japanese to us and nothing was more exciting than when the GPS lady would scream "Get out of the effin ocean!" (I don't speak Japanese, but given the fact that our GPS map depicted somewhere in the middle of water, I imagine that's what she was yelling). Like college roommates who spent their last $10 on beer, Ev and I shared the Mitsubishi colt for 4 years. Most of our friends, who were obviously adulting at a higher level than us, thought it was odd that we managed to share a vehicle for so long. The fact is, Evan works from home and rarely needed the vehicle when I was using it. When he did need to leave the house for appointments during the work week, he didn't mind catching the bus. The "bus" on island, by the way,  is a white van that picks you up if you are standing anywhere near the road, and indicating that you need a ride.  But there were moments where the bus wasn't so reliable and Evan ended up running on foot to appointments in his collared shirt and "dressy" shorts. During one such incident, a dude, sipping a Red Stripe while riding his bike past an out of breath Ev, exclaimed, "Bro! don't you have a car?" It was at that moment that Evan decided we needed to step it up and start vehicle adulting.

learning how to drive in Cayman: hands at 11 and 1. Obviously. 

In all it's glory!

"Ev! We finally made it to Tokyo!"

We made the decision to sell the Mitsubishi to our buddy, Stacey, because we wanted him to experience the love that the Colt provided to us for 4 years. Then Evan began the process of finding a vehicle overseas to ship in to Cayman. This is a common occurrence on island. Although it's a bit tedious shipping in a vehicle and paying duty, you can hire a broker to take care of the details and generally speaking, you can find a nice vehicle and overall, pay less for more than if you purchased your vehicle on island.

As Ev and I scoured the selection of vehicles, we upped our adulting game hard, searching for respectable SUV's with sun roofs and leather interior (no prosecco stains in sight!) We settled on a used Land Rover because of it's extra large sunroof, which would provide a sea breeze and beige leather interior, which wouldn't be as hot as black leather.  See! Adult decisions. Evan and I were adulting like we had never adulted before. We examined the inspection sheet and determined that this would be a good respectable vehicle for the Lindsays. Done. Then we began our search for our second vehicle, AKA the #midlifecrisis #livingmybestlife Jeep.

This was Ev's first choice ;)

I've never been one to be really excited about vehicles. I know some people love the "new vehicle scent" and yearn for the latest and greatest features on their vehicle, but that was never me. I just don't really care. I have, however, always dreamed of owning a Jeep. Since I was 16, I pictured myself as a super cool surfer chick, driving to the beach with my blond hair blowing in the wind, and jumping out of my Jeep and unstrapping my surfboard from my roof. I was told immediately that a Jeep was a bad idea in Saskatchewan winters. It rode rough. It was cold. It was shitty on ice. So I firmly placed my jeep dream aside and carried on driving my reliable Grand Am. But here I am. Nearing 40 years old, and although I'm not a surfer chick, nor do I have clearance from my Ortho to "jump," I'm finally living in a perfect Jeep climate and ready for my midlife crisis mobile.

So as we wait for our responsible "family" vehicle to arrive from Singapore (room for both the cat and the dog!), we are searching for our fun, rugged Jeep. Easier said than done. Now I have an open mind. Given that his is going to be our 2nd run-around vehicle, I'm willing to buy something a little rough around the edges. Evan jokes that I'm looking for "rugged luxury," but honestly, my bar is set quite low. I just want a cool Jeep. Unfortunately the first Jeep we test drove was a little more "rugged" than I anticipated. The seller was honest, explaining that it required x, y, z, a, b, c, d, etc to be fixed. When Ev started the engine I had flashbacks of driving my dad's old grain truck at the farm. Some belt squealed incessantly and the breaks didn't work well enough to actually prevent us from moving. As Ev drove this piece of rugged luxury down the road and commented happily, "It has character!" I was shocked to see that I could actually view the road beneath my feet! The floor was rusting out! Yabba dabba doo? As Ev marvelled at the bottle opener which had been cleverly attached to the dash for easy access, I couldn't help but think that we had adulted too hard with the Land Rover and had obviously regressed too far back into never never land - you know, the place where adulting is banned. I convinced Ev to discuss this "character-filled" vehicle with our buddy who is a mechanic on island before considering a purchase. And I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Jeremy for explaining, "It is bad if you can see the road from the floor of the Jeep." Haha. Thanks buddy. And, Ev, I'm sorry if I took you too far into adultville. I promise that once the Land Rover arrives from Singapore, we can fill that back seat with sand and empties!

"rugged luxury" haha. 


Cheers to #livingyourbestlife! haha.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

fangirling hard in Cayman

I love celebrity gossip. I am well aware that following the lives of celebrities via trashy magazines, daily entertainment shows, and TMZ online is not necessarily a sophisticated hobby; however, it brings me great joy and it doesn't hurt anyone so I continue to do it. Some people's vice is cocaine - mine is celebrity gossip, so kill me.

Now I've never really met anyone famous, but with all the celebrity stalking research that I participate in, I would assume that meeting one of these famous persons would be much like meeting a friend. I would remain calm and cool, ask intelligent questions, and refrain from taking obnoxious selfies. This is how I thought I would react - until I met THE BAND and made a complete and total fool of myself. I will refer to THE BAND as THE BAND throughout this post because they may or may not have a restraining order against me at this point in time.

There isn't a great deal of live music on the island. Evan and I were super pumped to find THE BAND during our first year in Cayman. THE BAND consists of two very nice men who perform several times a week at different resorts across the island. They play our favourite tunes from the 90's and throw in some Jack Johnson and Vance Joy which makes us smile. Typically on a monthly basis, Ev and I order some margs and nachos and sit seaside appreciating this awesome live music. THE BAND began recognizing us a few months in and acknowledged our presence with a smile and a wave. I thought that was cool. THE BAND knew we were fans. We obviously shared a special connection...and this is where I begin to sound like a crazy ass stalker.

On my birthday last year we did a Friday happy hour sunset sail with our posse. Now anyone who has experienced the Red Sail sunset cruise can vouch for me: something magical happens on that boat. It's some chemical reaction that occurs when you combine rum punch with wide open sea and a sailing boat. Each and every time you return to land after the sunset sail, you are shocked by the fact that you have quickly become incredibly intoxicated. Such was my state on that fateful day.

Walking through the lobby of the Westin, I was pleasantly surprised to see THE BAND performing in  the lobby! The lobby was quite empty, when I say "quite empty" I mean that It was basically my posse and THE BAND. That didn't stop me from exclaiming in a very loud drunk voice, "IT'S MY BAND! I LOVE THIS BAND! THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAND!" My posse would tell me later that THE BAND kinda snickered at my declaration. Perhaps at that point, they thought it was kinda cute that I appeared so starstruck by their appearance. I awoke the next day with a fuzzy head and a slight feeling of shame for humiliating myself in front of THE BAND. But that didn't stop me from continuing to sheepishly attend their performances.

My good buddy informed me that she knew THE BAND quite well, and one evening when we were out for drinks she introduced me to one of the members. At that point in time, I was super calm and cool. I asked intelligent questions and made conversation like a regular human being. I really felt that I had redeemed myself after my humiliating Westin lobby incident and I felt confident that I could continue attending THE BAND's shows without embarrassment - we had wiped the slate clean.

Unfortunately the Redsail sunset cruise got me again on another fateful Friday evening. As I disembarked the boat and found my land legs, that familiar feeling of over-intoxication grabbed a hold of me. Making my way through the Westin lobby, I could hear the soothing sounds of THE BAND playing their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," and something terrible happened...I morphed into the annoying giddy fangirl.

I was happily sipping my sauv blanc at the bar with my two girl friends when the member of THE BAND whom I had spoken to a mere few weeks ago stopped by to say "hello." Now I have no idea what came over me at that point, but I very awkwardly put both of my hands in the air, palms facing outward, and shrilly proclaimed, "I'm here!" Out of the corner of my eye I saw my two girl friends look at me with complete bewilderment. What was I doing? Why was I so freakin awkward? At that point, panic overtook me and I began giggling incessantly. These awful 13 year old girl giggles were just bursting from my mouth. Wide-eyed, my buddy indicated to THE BAND member that my behaviour was not my norm, nor was it acceptable. THE BAND member cautiously replied, "Ok then..." and continued on his way. It was mortifying. Upon his departure, my buddies exclaimed, 'Kirstie! What is wrong with you???" Ugh. I felt shame.

So here we are today. I wouldn't put it past THE BAND to have a restraining order against me. I really wouldn't. I was a creep. It's sucky because there are so few live music acts on the island and I really enjoy their music. But...I've just heard some fabulous news...apparently there is a new BAND on island who is not yet familiar with me or my fangirling tendencies. I hear they are playing at the Marriott tonight so, you know, time to get my autograph book out and redeem myself. ;)

Have you ever been completely starstruck and made a complete ass of yourself? Please say yes.







Friday, August 17, 2018

#surgeryfreesummer

I can't believe that our summer in Saskatchewan is winding down. Seven weeks flew by! I hashtagged this summer #surgeryfreesummer, and let me tell ya, #surgeryfreesummer kicked last year's horrific #theneverbendingstory summer's ass! It's amazing what a difference a year makes. I spent the majority of last summer on the damn knee bending machine, popping pills, and hoarding food. The #surgeryfreesummer was filled with friends, family, activity, and laughter. I summered good. Cheers to modern medicine!

I've narrowed down my top 10 favourite things about the summer of 2018, AKA #surgeryfreesummer. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Happy Family, happy life

When you move so far away from home, you return every year with the realization that things have changed. You get a snapshot of your friends and families lives every summer and observe that some changes are awesome - new babies, new relationships, new jobs. And some changes, unfortunately, are not positive. Last summer I left Canada feeling unsettled. Some of my friends were experiencing challenges and my Baba had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. I cried when we drove to the airport, uncertain about what the future held for the people I love.

This summer, it was so fantastic to see my family doing well and feeling happy. I was able to catch up with my parents, sister, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Although my Baba did have some health issues this summer, it blows my mind how strong and active she is at age 90. It brings me great joy to see my Baba picking weeds in her flower garden at the farm, a house that she wasn't sure she would be able to return to  after receiving a cancer diagnosis last year. Take that, Cancer!  My Grandma, like my Baba, is doing well at home and happily living with her kitty. I'm so proud of her positive attitude and her ability to continue doing the things she enjoys like making soup, jam, and baking cookies for all of us. There is also great joy in seeing your parents happy and healthy. I observed my Dad living his best life, riding his dirt bike on the beach with a 19 year old grin on his face, his girlfriend cheering him on from the deck. I'm so happy that my Mom and Lenny enjoy so many wonderful days on the boat together (and take me as a passenger!), making plans for their winter in California. We were also able to spend a lot of time with Evan's mom this summer, who, along with Evan's Aunt Joan, rented the cabin next door for 4 weeks. It was so nice to just cruise over and drink coffee on the deck with them or engage in a competitive game of corn hole.  I was also able to spend a lot of time with my sister, Kayla, and we had huge laughs floating on the unicorn, doubling up on the paddle board, and singing on the boat - "To the window!!! To the wall..." In addition, it was great to catch up with cousins, share family gossip, and meet their new additions. Overall, it was a positive summer for my family and it was really nice to observe everyone flourishing.






2) Fresh Air

As soon as our plane lands in Saskatchewan, I crane my neck through the jetway in hopes of catching my first sniff of fresh Saskatchewan air. Summer in Cayman in stifling, and the air feels heavy and unbreathable. The combination of fresh lake air, pine trees, and campfires makes my nose very happy.  As I walked the dog every morning, I made a conscious effort to savour that fresh lake air.

2) Activities galore!

It's hard to believe that a year ago I was seriously contemplating whether or not I would ever walk again. This summer, not only was I walking, but I was riding my bike, paddle boarding, surfing, practicing yoga, and lifting weights. I can't even articulate how fantastic this feels! I refused to stay stationary this summer. Whenever I had some down time, I hopped on my bike and rode around the block. Why? Because I could! Every morning, as long as it was calm, I climbed on my paddle board and paddled to the end of our bay, stopping to do sit-ups and push ups. I surfed. I walked up and down stairs with no difficulties. I practiced beach yoga. I even pulled out my old school boat headstands, circa 2000. I rocked it! I haven't been this active in about 7 years! I am well aware that with the disease, things can change quickly, so I'm just soaking this all up and feeling grateful for the fact that, for the first time in 4 summers, I was able to participate in life during this holiday. Can you sense my massive smile as I type this???





3) Shark week baby shower followed by a baby!

When I initially found out that my bestie was having a baby at the end of August, I was disappointed that I would likely miss meeting her new human, but I quickly realized that I had the ability to pull off an epic shark week - baby style! The shark week baby shower was such an epic day with friends. We donned our shark hats, ate shark cupcakes, floated on unicorns, and drank champagne on the boat. We celebrated Allicia, Darren,  and baby Harper, who was still quite cozy in Allicia's womb, and we laughed until our faces hurt. Unbeknownst to us, while we chased each other with shark fins, baby Harper was planning her exit 3 weeks early! Incredibly, Harper made her way into the world just a few days post shark week party and I was able to meet the newest Hunter. I am so lucky that not only did I get to meet and hold Harper, but I was able to see my best friends over the moon with their new little person!





4) Singing on the boat

Picture this: It's a beautiful calm summer evening. The setting sun is melting into Candle Lake and the stars are beginning to scatter across the sky. I am floating on a boat with my posse, drinking my Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc and belting out Mr. Big's 90's classic, "I'm the one who wants to be with you." Ahhh...Pure magic. End of story.

5) Grooming a friend for the island

Our super bud, Stacey Weber, is moving to Cayman! I'm not exactly sure how it happened. He was at my birthday party in Cayman in April. We were partying on a boat. I was chambonging prosecco and the next thing I knew Stacey had 2 job offers! Go figure. I am very excited to have him join us in paradise. The three of us actually lived together about 10 years ago for a short period of time...Three's Company style, and although Stace will have his own place in Cayman, I'm excited to drink some rum and sing, "Come and knock on our door..." with my bud. I really enjoyed preparing Stace for the move to the island and reliving the feelings of excitement and trepidation that come with moving to a tropical island.



6) Fabulous Hair

Gosh my hair is fabulous in Canada. It curls, it bounces, it flips. It's really incredible hair, if I do say so myself ;)  I am already mourning the loss of my "Canada hair," as I can expect the limp, greasy, lifeless locks to return as our plane descends upon the island. Well...it was nice while it lasted.

7) Polite Canadians

Ever try to politely squeeze past someone in the grocery store or in a theatre as you are returning to your seat and say, "Sorry. Just gonna sneak by here..." If you are Canadian then, YES, there is a 99.9% chance that you have uttered those words. This is a uniquely Canadian phrase and I love it! I get teased non-stop on the island for my polite "Canadianisms" and it was such a great feeling to be back among my uber polite people again, apologizing profusely for....what exactly? being Canadian, I guess? Sorry.

8) Quality Visits

Let's call a spade a spade. Last summer I was highly medicated...AKA stoned. I was taking meds every 4 hours just to get through the painful days. When my friends came to visit, filling me in all their news over the past year, I struggled to process their words, respond appropriately, and provide witty comebacks, "Kirstie" style. I could see the concern in my buds' faces and felt like a terrible friend. Our conversations consisted mostly of surface topics and I suspected that some of my friends were holding back, knowing that I didn't have the cognitive capacity to delve into deeper topics.

Given the fact that I am now drug-free and mostly pain-free, I felt like my old self this summer. I felt confident, funny, witty, and quick. I had a really fantastic visit with my kindergarten bestie one afternoon this summer and we were able to really catch up and discuss everything that we've missed out on the past few years. When I hugged her goodbye she said, "I couldn't talk to you like this last year. It's so nice to have you back." Music to my ears.



9)  Road trips

Do you know what's kind of awesome? Setting your cruise control to 110km/hr and listening to your favourite music while you drive down one of the straightest highways in the world. I forgot how much I missed this!

10) Feeling Prepared

Last summer, when it was time to return to work at the end of August, I felt incredibly overwhelmed. I didn't feel like I was even close to a full recovery, and I was concerned that I was not physically or mentally strong enough to return to work. Upon returning, while everyone discussed their exciting summer holidays in the office, I felt completely ripped off that my summer "holidays" were not "holiday-like" at all.

This summer, although I thoroughly enjoyed the time-off of, I feel ready to get back to work. I feel energized, relaxed and mentally prepared to tackle another school year and speech pathologize like a pro! And that's the whole point of summer holidays, right?



Cheers to a wonderful summer! Love to all my Canada friends and family. Cayman...soon come. 





Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How 6 days without wifi changed me

We are back at our home at Candle Lake, and although it's been wonderful reuniting with friends and family, we hit a few snags during our first few weeks back in the Motherland. Firstly, our pump house did not winter well. Multiple leaks and broken pipes meant that we were without water for about a week. It sucked. I filled pails of lake water to flush toilets and used Culligan water to wash my face and brush my teeth. Luckily, Ev's mom is renting the cabin next door and my parents each have homes up here, so we were able to catch up on showers every few days. It definitely blew, but other than the fact that Ev began to smell a little ripe, we survived.

We hit a major snag a week in when lightning struck the wifi tower at Candle Lake and we were without wifi for...gasp...6 days! Now most people have the option of accessing mobile data to Whatsapp, Messenger, and Google very important information. Given that we own Cayman Islands cell phones, our data plan is incredibly pricey if used out of country. Mobile data was not an option for us.

Now I've read several articles about the benefits of "unplugging" and "living off the grid" on your overall quality of life, so I thought that being wi-fi-less for a week might just be a very positive and empowering experience. I decided to chronicle the week, with visions of family Trivial Pursuit nights, cuddling by the fire, restful sleeps, and blissful unawareness of celebrity gossip. It didn't end up quite as planned.

Kirstie Lindsay: Unplugged


Day 1:
Uh oh. Evan can't work without wifi. He has to drive an hour to Prince Albert and work from Darren and Allicia's home office. I guess I won't see him for a few days. So much for more quality face-to-face time. That's ok. I will message my mom and see if she wants to hang out. Shit. I can't message her without wifi. I guess I will ride my bike to her house. The chain just fell off my bike. I'm not exactly sure how to fix that so I google "how to fix a broken bike chain." Dammit. I don't have wifi. Whatevs. That's fine. I will do a paddle board workout. As I go to pull up my Pinterest app to retrieve "Best SUP workouts," I am faced with the pixelated dinosaur along with the dreaded, "There is no internet connection" message. Defeated, I pour myself a glass of wine. This is going to be much harder than I anticipated.

What's up with the dinosaur? T-Rex is ruining my life. 


Day 2:
I still haven't seen Ev since he had to leave for the city at 5am to make his 6am Skype meeting. I'm beginning to develop Instagram withdrawal. Many of my Cayman co-workers are on exotic holidays and I wonder what they are doing. Did Jeanria see the whale sharks? Did  Monty make it to Prague? And what is Wayne eating in Greece today? Now I will NEVER know. I'm also oddly curious about the whereabouts of the Kardashians. I'm quite certain that today is someone's birthday, but sadly, Facebook is not available to verify. I do some sit-ups and immediately grab my phone to enter my activity into "My fitness Pal" app, but realize that I will need to calculate my calories and activities by hand this week. If you don't enter your activity in your fitness app does it even count?

I decide to do some writing. Microsoft Word works just fine without wifi! One paragraph in I realize that I rely heavily on the online thesaurus. Unable to think of a synonym for "frustrated," I start to shake and drink wine to calm the wifi withdrawal.

Day 3:
I still haven't seen Evan. A "friendly" family debate regarding the age of Kathleen Turner escalates when I am unable to google it.  I realize  that the only way to settle this argument is to drive to Meath Park and look though my Baba's encyclopedia collection. I retreat to my bedroom and observe my appearance in the mirror. My skin looks sallow without my Gingham filter.  I ponder whether or not my island friends have tried to reach me or are concerned as to my whereabouts.  For fun I re-read old Whatsapp messages from last week. I drink some wine and contemplate sending a smoke signal.

Day 4:
Does Evan even live here anymore? Our septic tank is full and needs to be pumped out. I do not know the phone number, nor do I own a phone book. I go door to door asking for a phone book but apparently the phone book has been obsolete since 1997. I ride my bike to my dad's house and ask him to phone for a septic pump out. Kayla informs me that Justin Beieber just got engaged. I am incredibly disappointed that I missed such an important world event. As I prepare for a bike ride home, I notice that the sky has turned an ominous shade of gray. Is rain in the forecast? Can you still call the "time lady" for the current weather conditions (764-1411)? I take my chances and ride my bike home through a torrential downpour. I decide to dry off and drink some wine.

Day 5:
I am oddly missing inspirational sayings today. As I lay listless in bed at 10am, I try to recall a motivational quote that will inspire me to get out of bed. I can picture the poster that I had as a child - a cat dangling precariously from a tree with "hang in there" scrolled across the bottom. Not quite the motivation I'm looking for. I finish a book on my kindle and decide to search the amazon store for my next read. Alas, the kindle does not approve of my absent wifi signal. I realize that I am in dire straights. I wonder what year Dire Straights released "Money For Nothing." '85? '86? I will NEVER know. I decide to stay in bed today and drink wine while pondering the true meaning of life.

SEND HELP!


Day 6:
I give up. I feel isolated and alone. I decide to search for flights back to Cayman, as I can no longer live in these apocalyptic conditions. Upon realizing that I cannot access Expedia, I pour myself a glass of wine, just as our wifi signal miraculously appears from the heavens.

Fearing it's disappearance, I quickly access Messenger and Whatsapp and reassure all my friends that I am, indeed, alive - but barely. I load up Facebook and send be-lated birthday greetings to all my Facebook friends. I quickly check my email and realize that all of our Cayman bills are overdue. I promptly check the weather forecast. I scream in horror as the wifi signal drops off - and then on - and then off again.



Epilogue:
The wifi signal eventually returned to full and even strength. Did living off the grid empower me? Did it free me from the confines of social media? Did it convert me into a better person who appreciates nature and face-to-face quality time with loved ones?

Nope.  Did the world end without wifi? I don't think so. But if the world was indeed ending, I wouldn't have known about it!

I need wifi. Plain and simple. Social experiment complete.
Now excuse me while I drink my wine and peruse Insta. 😜

Sunday, June 3, 2018

From cheers of joy to heartbreak: The Levels of An Island Goodbye

One of the realities of living on a rock is that people are constantly coming in and out of your life. Island life, for many expats, often comprises just a chapter or two in the personal story - a stepping stone for a brief stop-over before heading back into the "real world." In my four years in Cayman (I cannot believe it's been four years!), I've said goodbye to dozens of friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, and neighbours. Every person I've ever bade "adieu" to has definitely impacted my life - some in more positive ways than ever. I've come to realize that there are different levels of goodbye on the island - from the goodbyes that make you cheer with joy to those that result in an ugly cry. For simplicity sake, I've labeled them levels 1-4.
Let me explain:

1) Level 1 Goodbye: Don't let the American Airlines cabin door hit you in the ass

"That's not how we do things in insert name of country here." Once these dreaded words are uttered by an island "newb," you can expect a hasty island exit in 6-8 months time. The "it's better in my home country" folk never make it on the island, and if they do manage to stick around for longer than a year, they leave a trail of misery in their wake. It's even worse if the "knows better" newb is a co-worker. You can expect that instead of just performing the job duties, this person is spending every minute ranting and raving about how broken the system is in comparison to that of their motherland. Nothing makes the office cheer with happiness more than a letter of resignation from a "knows better."

Lucky for me, I've only met a couple of these incredibly irritating people, and I have to be admit that the goodbye is more of a celebration than anything else.

Tear level: 0
1 cheer of happiness

2) Level 2 Goodbye: We're here for a good time, not a long time

Some people make it very clear upon introduction that they will not be sticking around. I'd like to call these people the "next best thing." Although this person is not complaining like the above, he/she makes it very clear that this particular rock is simply a stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things. Which is totally cool. I've learned, however, to never get too attached to the "next best thing." You may enjoy a few great office coffee break chats or a fun drunken day on a boat trip together, but you never divulge too much about yourself, nor do you really learn a whole lot about what makes this person tick. This is definitely a surface relationship, and surface relationships are just fine!

Tear Level: 1 tear πŸ’§("remember that one time we got super drunk together...that was so fun! Sniff sniff.")

3) Level 3 Goodbye: Hey! I'm going to miss you!

Friends are awesome and it sucks when they leave the island. A level 3 friendship is one in which you legitimately bonded with another human. You texted, you found yourself in deep conversations at parties and happy hours, and you lamented about the "knows betters." You got along great! Although this person may not know your intimate secrets and greatest insecurities, he/she is an important part of your life. When this person leaves the island, initially, you might not realize how much his/her absence impacts your life. But then one day, you see 4 chickens chasing a rooster with a slice of pizza in it's mouth and you think, "Man, insert friend's here would have died to see this!"

Tear level: πŸ’§πŸ’§πŸ’§a solid 3 tears, maybe 4 when you've been drinking red wine.

4) Level 4 Goodbye: I think my heart just broke in half

If you are very very lucky in life, you will encounter the rare level 4 relationship on the island - an island bestie. A level 4 island relationship is much like having a best friend in kindergarten. You meet each other when you are innocent, naive, and an open book. Think about how you met friends as a child - you simply encountered a kid you liked, asked them to be your friend, and then instantly became best friends, sharing Barbies and My Little Ponies with ease. Interestingly, as adults, we rarely allow ourselves to be so vulnerable with another person so soon. We slowly reveal our quirks and oddities, careful to present only the best version of ourselves. We analyze our relationships ("What did she mean when she said x?" "Was she judging me when I said y?").

When I moved to Cayman, sight unseen, I had to change my game plan as I was desperate to make a friend as soon as possible. I was scared. I was lonely. I felt incredibly intimidated, and I just really hoped that I would meet someone likeminded, kind,...and FUN! There was no time to play hard to get. Lucky for me, I met my island besties during the first week of work! The three of us instantly clicked, groaning about the long-ass orientation days and celebrating in each island success (We got our driver's licenses! whoot!). Within a few boozy happy hours, we had revealed our greatest fears, our greatest challenges, and our greatest successes. I watched one of my island besties become a wife and then I watched both of my island besties become mothers. They became my surgery cheerleaders and even threw me a celebratory 10th knee surgery happy hour. They can tell, just by reading my facial and body language, when I am angry, annoyed, worried, happy, and extremely intoxicated. These girls accept me at my best and at my worse and, man, can they make me laugh! Although it's only been 4 years, our relationship was fast and furious, and I can't communicate clearly just how important these women have been in my life.

Unfortunately with the rare level 4 relationship comes the agonizing Level 4 goodbye. Rationally, you understand why your island bestie is leaving the rock to start a new chapter. You stay strong for your buddy, encouraging her and reassuring her that this move will be great. You want the best for your island bestie, but your heart breaks when you embrace goodbye. You head to your first happy hour without her and feel a sense of emptiness when you no longer hear her hearty trademark laugh - the laugh that used to calm you when you felt out of place and intimated.

But...the brilliant thing about the island bestie is...it's not a goodbye forever. It can't be! Dammit, she's got too much dirt on you! She will always be a part of your life - maybe not daily life on the rock, but you will both make that extra effort to stay in close contact.

Tear Level: πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦πŸ’¦The Caribbean Sea could not hold the amount of tears that you shed.



So, Kat, my island girl, instead of saying, "goodbye," I bid you a "soon come."

Love you,
Kirstie




Sunday, May 13, 2018

duuuun dunn...duuuunn dunn...(That's the Jaws theme song)

Evan and I are fascinated by sharks. The fascination began as an intense fear that we both experienced when we were young (I blame "Jaws"), and has grown into this obsession with all things shark. Personally, I think sharks are inspirational. Sharks are fearless, majestic, powerful, and smart. They command respect. Sharks don't wallow around in self-pity after injury, they just power on, doing bad-ass shark things. I think that over the years, sharks have gotten a lot of a bad press as man-killers, and I've always felt that they are grossly misunderstood (can we blame them if they misidentify a surfer as a seal? Lighting is shit under the water, people!)

We love sharks so much, in fact, that we celebrate them every August at the lake during our very own "shark week." We typically try to time our celebration with the famous Discovery Channel's week long event. We watch hours of shark videos, dress up like sharks, and drink on the boat. Why? Why not! We've had the opportunity to dive with Caribbean reef tip sharks, hammerhead sharks, and nurse sharks, but have always dreamt of getting into the water with the King of Sharks - the Great White Shark. So it was a no-brainer that our South African adventure would include a Great White Shark Dive.

We hopped on a 2 hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, grabbed a (very) quick night's sleep and started out early for our 2 1/2 hour drive to Gansbaai, located on the Western Cape of South Africa. The waters off the coast of Gansbaai are like the Sizzler Buffet for Great Whites. Migrating Great Whites are attracted to the wide range of fish species, seals, and an ideal temperature of 12-24 degrees Celsius.

We arrived at the Great White Shark Diving training center just as a heavy mist of rain enveloped the harbour. I actually said to Ev, "Well this looks ominous." To be honest, I wasn't particularly nervous. I had watched countless youtube vids in prep for our adventure, and other than the unfortunate incident where the shark jumped into the cage, it all looked rather safe to me. I did become nervous; however, when we began watching the training video. The video clearly showed how you hop in the cage, submerge yourself underwater, hooking your legs to the bottom of the cage, and listen for direction to look left, right, or down, in order to see the shark clearly. This all sounded cool to me. What did freak me out was the manner in which we were to exit from the cage. With 10lb weightbelts around our waists, we were to climb out of the cage and hoist ourselves back into the boat. Gulp. Climb? Dammit. I began frantically whispering to Ev, "Shit! My knees can't climb! I'm never going to be able to get out of the cage!" Always cool an calm, Ev reassured me, "We'll figure it out, buddy."

Before the dive: I was sooo excited. This is Ev's excited face. 
It took about an hour via boat to reach the special shark spot - sharks do not show up on a fish finder, by the way,  so the tour boats rely on each other to communicate where the sharks are at at any particular moment. They began by chumming the water with fish guts in order to convince the sharks that we were worth checking out. Within about 20 minutes, we had an interested shark and were instructed to gear up and get in line. Suddenly all my fears about exiting the cage had disappeared and my adrenaline kicked into high drive. Instead of waiting for Ev to get his wetsuit on, I abandoned him so that I could be first in the cage (What's my favorite kind of seafood? SelFISH. haha). The staff on the boat moved a giant fish head on a long stick around the boat so that the shark would stay and play a while - kinda like playing with a kitten. Eventually, the shark will realize that it's not legit food and carry on its way, but in the meantime, we all get a close-up glimpse of these incredible creatures, and the sharks are not harmed in the process.



The sea was angry, my friends


The shock of entering the 15 degree Celsius water momentarily took my breath away, but before I could protest, our shark sighter frantically yelled, "DOWN!DOWN!DOWN!" That was the cue to take a giant breath and submerge yourself down to the bottom of the cage. I gasped and hooked my feet to the bottom rung of the cage, ensuring that none of my body parts were exposed outside the cage. I pushed my face as close to the cage opening as possible, looking frantically to the right, trying to get a glimpse of my first Great White. The visibility was not good. All I could see was dark nutrient-rich water all around me. I pushed my face closer to the opening, searching the waters for an approaching dark shadow - nothing...nothing...nothing...BAM! Suddenly the Great White was right in my face! He seemingly appeared from nowhere. I watched in awe as he swam from right to left, directly in front of me in the cage. He had a huge bad-ass scar across his body, and appeared to be completely focused on his "prey." He had zero interest in me. After that first sighting, I became addicted to viewing the sharks, holding my breath until nearly passing out just so I could gain an extra few seconds with these magical animals. I closely examined their gills, the intensity in their eyes, and their massive scarred bodies. When it came time to exit the cage the first time, I simply shouted, "I have bad knees!" and one of the boat staff picked me up and plopped me on the boat. Easy peasy! Shaking from cold and the shock of spending about 5 minutes with the most badass creature ever, I grabbed a towel and got back in line for a second go with the sharks.

SHARK!!!!!



I can't feel my face or my fingers. This is awesome!

Pure joy. 

Most of the customers on the boat got 2 encounters with the sharks. Me? I got 4. I bullied and pushed my through College students, large men, and even a kid. Where was Evan? Did he get a turn? Apparently he got 2 turns and then videoed from the top deck of the boat.  Pulling my wetsuit hood over my head, I shamelessly lied my way back into the line. I NEEDED more time with the sharks! On the last go, the staff warned me, "The sharks seem to be dwindling. You might just be sitting in cold water for this turn." Fine, ya, get me in there! As warned, after watching one massive 15 foot shark rip apart the fish head and swim away, I stood in cage, submerged in freezing water for 15 minutes, chatting up a young American exchange student in 15 degree water with no sharks in sight. Teeth chattering, my cage neighbour expressed her concern that hypothermia was imminent. I agreed that this could be exactly how Jack felt right before he froze to death on that floating door in Titanic, but I also (very wisely) said, "Just think about where we are right at this moment? We are in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Africa with Great White Sharks! This is unreal! Screw the cold!" (ya, I was totally hopped up on adrenaline. Sharks, NOT cocaine, people!)

Say "cheese" - such a lovely toothy grin


I loved when the shark came from below - natural hunting style


Watch shark video here

Overall, I had an incredible experience. Evan wished that the experience could be more authentic. His wish is to observe a Great White hunting without the enticement of chum and fish heads. But, um...I'm thinking this might be a difficult thing to witness - unless you are, in fact, the hunted. Just sayin'. Although there is some controversy over shark "tourism," I think that as long as the practice is not harming the sharks or changing their behaviours, it is, at the very least, educating people about these beautiful animals and raising awareness about the threats on sharks. Worldwide there are an estimated 100,000,000 sharks slaughtered annually. Man is killing these beautiful animals for shark fin soup, trophy fishing, and as bycatch (when a shark becomes entangled in a fisherman's net).  I can guarantee you that every single person on that boat that day experienced the same awe-inspiring appreciation for the Great White Shark as I did.

We left Gansbaai on a serious high...after living through  lions, cheetahs, and Great White Sharks, we had no idea that the greatest threat, the African Baboon, was soon to unexpectedly enter our lives.

Stay tuned for killer baboon gangs, Penguins and Wine...lots and lots of wine.

Cheers!