Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Exams are a Rap

Some of my cohort and I participated in a few study parties to prepare for our final exam. I missed one study session. One study session. ONE! And so they went ahead and made this up without me! ...But they did let me in on it and got me to film it with my admittedly not-so-great camera.

Our prof was trying to give some instructions when he noticed that four of his students were sitting in a row with hoodies and sunglasses on. "Well," he said, breaking off from his explanation, "I don't get it, but it looks cool."

Then this happened:

I had been too busy listening to our prof to notice when they put on the glasses, so I almost missed filming the beginning. Luckily, I was able to whip out my camera fast enough (no, cameras are not typically allowed in exams) to catch the first line.

Please note how Dr. Baurain was trying to respond to the lyrics throughout the course of the rap. And also how, when the verging-on-being-late student walks in, he tells him, "You've already missed the highlight." :-D

Great fun! I've got an awesome cohort. Good job, Jaynette, Stephanie, Chuck, and Nadine!

Professor Baurain, we want to know 
About the exam and what it is fo' sho' 

Didja write the exam with the key terms in mind 
Are you being tough or will you be kind?

What does it measure, is it valid?
Should we toss it, just like a salad? 

What about tomorrow, if we write it then 
Could we repeat the results again? 

Is this exam clean, or does it washback? 
If you taught to the exam, we want our cash back. 

Now logistically, is it doable? 
Is the time and energy practical? 

The real world is important to me 
Does the exam have authenticity? 

Let's not forget about transparency 
Is the purpose as clear as the eye can see? 

Criterion-referenced is the way to score 
We don't wanna see that bell-curve no more!

So now we pass it off to you, Professor Baurain 
It's all about us, but it's your terrain 

Thank you for the time we've had in this class 
We'll see you next year, 'cause we hope to pass!

BTW, this was a language teaching methodology class. All the terms in the rap were things were were tested on.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mostly Dead

It's official. School assignments CAN kill you.
My quadmate had to stay up all last night to do work that was due today. I, on the other hand, got to sleep until noon, because I don't have class on Friday and all my work is handed in. When I finally hauled my lazy hide out of bed, I heard a plaintive cry emanating from Joie's room. This is how I found her.

"I slept only a half-hour," she declared, "on my desk."

I took her picture.
Despite being mostly dead, she was in good humour and proud of her work, so she squirmed her way over on the floor to pose for a second one with her poster presentation.

"Carla, I'm so grateful you're my quaddie!" she said. Then her fiance texted her. She heaved herself onto her hands and knees. "I'm going to crawl to the stairs so Jeremy can give me coffee," she announced.

I attended her poster presentation an hour ago, and she was still alive then, so my hope is she'll pull through.

THE END IS NIGH! Stay strong everyone!

“Some people wake up drowsy. Some people wake up energized. I wake up dead.” John Marsden

Friday, 23 November 2012

Perception Fail

I can tell you that the two most internationally recognizable emotions are fear and anger. I can tell you that an emotion translated into a physical ailment is called a somatoform disorder. I can tell you that various negative emotions are likely to manifest as anger in many males. These are all things my psychology degree has taught me about emotions.

What my degree didn't teach me is how to identify in myself the difference between anxiety and an upset stomach. Must have slept through that lecture.

I seem to have trouble recognizing a lot of what I feel. I mean, I can manage the difference between happy and not happy, but whoever it was that said "females are more in touch with their emotions than males" clearly was thinking of someone else that is not me. Up until just a couple years ago, my supervisor at work was more in tune with my emotions than I was.

It was early morning at Tim Hortons. I glided behind the counter with my usual grace and charm, inquired as to the well-being of my coworkers, and started doing Tim Hortons stuff. It was a nice morning, so I hummed a bit and doodled with the grease pencil on the cream dispenser.

When my supervisor, Debbie, asked how I was, I gave her a long-winded reply to the effect of "fine" and mentioned that finals were over at school.

"Oh," Debbie said, "Is that what was making you stressed lately?"

"I was stressed?" I said. "I guess.... wait... Was I behaving poorly or being snippy or something?"

"Well," said Debbie, not making eye contact, "To be honest, you were kind of... quiet." By this, I take her to have meant sullen and dull and taciturn.

"Oh," I replied. "I'm sorry. If it happens again, let me know and I'll try to stop."

"Most people wouldn't notice," said Debbie, "It's just that I've known you for so long. I'm glad you're feeling better now."

For several months after that, my early morning shift at Timmy's was the primary tool I used to measure how stressed I was or was not feeling. I discovered that if I didn't spontaneously break out into humming while stirring coffee, but spent my time sighing instead, then that meant I was stressed. Eventually, I was able to extrapolate so I could tell where I sat on the stress-o-meter when I was at home or at school, too.

But it turns out that even measuring objective criteria doesn't always work.

Yesterday, something felt off. Initially, I put it down to worrying about finances, but I wasn't really sighing. So then I thought I might just be coming down with something, because I remembered mistaking nausea for nervousness during the puke fest at family camp this summer. But it didn't get worse and I didn't anticipate throwing up, so I just got confused.

At any rate, I told my prayer partners during class.

"I don't feel right," I said. Then I paused. "What does it tell you about my personality that I can't distinguish a physical ailment from an emotion?"

They laughed at me (and also prayed for me). Then the professor mentioned something about "all the people getting sick," so I thought the odds were good I was just physically ill.

This morning I slept until noon. Now I feel better, despite there being no change in the possibly anxiety-producing situation. It seems safe to say that I was actually sick. Which is good. Psychology major and crisis line volunteer or not, I wouldn't have known what to do had it turned out to be objectless, generalized anxiety. I only know what other people are supposed to do about it.

All in all, I feel pretty proud for having figured this out. One day soon, I might even be able to reliably tell the difference between frustration and embarrassment.

Dealing with ailments of the more existential kind:
Londo: What's wrong with me?
Vir: What's wrong with you is you!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mom Style vs. Aunt Style

Since starting school, my parents are too far away to conveniently visit for a weekend, but other relatives are much closer. My mom and my aunt get along really well, yet I've discovered a rather large difference in their parenting styles.

This is how something would go with my mom:

Me: Mom, it's a quarter past midnight. We're all going to start watching The New Avengers now.
Mom: What? This late? We have to go to church early tomorrow morning. You'll have trouble staying awake. And other people might be trying to sleep already, and the noise will be too much. At least turn it down. This isn't a good idea. I don't think you should.

This is how it went with my aunt:

Me: Aunt Ang, it's a quarter past midnight. We're all going to start watching The New Avengers now.
Aunt Ang: Ok.

Though, she did make a comment at breakfast the next morning to do with the cause of our sleepy tardiness...

 I love you both :-)

Hawkeye Pierce: I'm not sleeping, I'm inspecting the inside of my eyelids.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

I'm not a fan of war. This is nothing controversial; if someone were to admit to being a fan of war, they'd be dismissed as a sadistic sociopath. Yet, if I say that I am not a fan of Remembrance Day, I'm in danger of making myself out to be an idiot at best. Why is this?

Well, wars cause suffering and results in massive amounts of lost lives, limbs, and livelihoods. Hence, wars are regrettable. The soldiers themselves, on the other hand, are brave and sacrificial. Therefore, they are noble and to be respected. To disagree is to defile their memory and once we forget their sacrifices, we forget the horrors of war. If we forget the horrors of war, we will rush into another one. This is the rhetoric.

Never mind the fact that we can apparently remember very well, and rush headlong into wars regardless. Has everyone forgotten that there can't be a war without people to fight it? The soldiers are the ones that do the killing and a good amount of the dying. What is noble and respectable about that?

Remembrance Day does not, it is claimed, glorify war, but I feel safe to say that I was not the only one who, as a kid, was inspired and motivated by it to march off and join the military. My plans changed and I didn't go, but even now, the ceremonies on November 11th seem sacrosanct; they're beautiful in an sentimental way. The pomp and solemn ceremony around the day, while mournful, also makes us proud of the people who engaged in battle.

Yet, they fought to defend us on foreign soil. In wars that usually didn't threaten us. Making unreasonable demands on the other side that prolonged the fighting. Strafe-bombing civilian targets. Nuking civilian targets. Abusing the human rights of POWs.

Not all soldiers do these things. Neither do I wish to condemn soldiers that believe they defend us from our enemies. It it because I wish no one to be condemned that I do not support war.

I agree that many of our soldiers were very courageous. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believed in, which is highly respectable. We need more courageous people in our world. I will remember this and I will strive for courage myself, but I will not seek to follow their example. Their bravery was misplaced, their trust bought through propaganda and placed into the untrustworthy hands of ambitious generals and expansionist national leaders. They were duped into committing atrocities that most people would never dream of condoning. And I do not respect what they chose to do. Their sacrifices were brave but tragic and in most, if not all, cases unnecessary.

And so, on November 11th, I remember the tragedies that destroyed so much. I thank God for the soldiers that came home safely and mourn those who didn't. I cannot remember with pride the wars we have engaged in and I cannot believe that soldiers are heroes simply by merit of being soldiers. War is not sacred. Courage does not excuse all other failures. And if we forget this, then we are in danger of making a lot more courageous dead people than we ever bargained for.

The German soldiers in the 1940s had courage. Few of them realized the extent of the atrocities being committed by the Reich. Most of them were average people, who meant well and believed the war was necessary. Would you be comfortable with Germans now saluting their dead war heroes? With praising their bravery? With expressing gratitude for their actions?

Do we have any right to be more proud of our wartime behaviour than they? A true hero would balk at being honoured by a people that has no intention of avoiding similar tragedies in the future. This would be hypocrisy and propaganda in the first degree.

We remember the tragedy of the dead. There is nothing inspiring about tragedy.

"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise." Winston Churchill

Friday, 26 October 2012


This is a picture of me and two of the immigrants I helped teach English to this week. The smiling one wrote us a really nice letter thanking us for teaching them the words "brew coffee" and "sneeze" and also thanking our parents for "gave good direction about your life ladies." That is, "for helping the people that doesn't have education." The other one is a seventy-three year old refugee from one of the "bad" countries of the world. He barely survived the place, and could reasonably be quite bitter about it. Instead, he goes to school and photobombs people's pictures.
It was a good week.

"What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person. I am grateful every day that I have you, and that makes me happy." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, 22 October 2012

Beware the Heresy

I've kind of gotten the sense that people in Biblical studies tend to think their choice of major is  superior to theology. Well, probably superior to anything, but in particular, superior to theology. Theology is like the wayward cousin of Biblical studies - well-intentioned but misguided.

People in Biblical studies do, in fact, have an advantage over people in theology in certain circumstances. For example, suppose that two students are in a trivia game show:

Host: Please describe the process in the book of Numbers by which a woman suspected of adultery would be tried when there was no eyewitness evidence.

Theology student: Uh....

Biblical Studies student: Well, first they'd cart her off to the priest and give the priest some barley. Then the priest would put holy water in a jug, stick some dust in the water, and tell the woman to let her hair loose and the woman would hold on to the barley while the priest would have the woman swear that she didn't sleep with any guy but her husband and the priest would curse her so that her thighs would waste away and her abdomen swell up big-

Host: That's fi-

Biblical Studies student: -but he'd stick a disclaimer in there so that if she actually hadn't been sleeping around, then the curse wouldn't stick. And the woman would agree to it all, and the priest would write the curse on a scroll and then wash the ink into the dusty water and make her drink the water. And then he'd take the barley from the woman and burn some of it on the altar. Did I mention it had to be exactly one-tenth of an ephah of barley for the procedure?

Theology student: Did you memorize the book of Numbers?

Biblical Studies student: I was in quizzing as a kid.

Bible student, score one. Theology student, zip.

Knowing what the Bible says comes in pretty handy in a large variety of contexts.

But contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe, theology is actually the Siamese twin of Biblical studies and not the wayward cousin. If you try to have either theology or Biblical studies without the other, you'll end up with a shriveled, dead mess.

This needs some clarification. Technically, you can have theology without any Biblical basis, but it's going to end up whacked. It will be the product of your own head, your own culture, and your own dinner last night. Any divine inspiration guiding your theology will be entirely unverifiable.

The reverse is also true. You can study the Bible without considering any theology, but then you end up knowing lots of random facts without having any idea how to connect them. You can recite the book of Numbers, but you can't explain the Trinity because there isn't a verse that explicitly states it. As soon as you start looking at themes and how the verses relate to each other and what the Bible is trying to tell you about God, guess what - that's theology.

"Well, that may be so," the Bible students might say, "but our theology is based entirely on the Bible. It's straight from God. It's the purest, most true, and only worthwhile theology."

Funny you should say that. Actually, in the fourth century, there was a group of people known as the Homoians. They thought the same thing. They resisted using any kind of terminology or developing any ideas beyond what they saw was as being clearly demonstrated in Scripture.

They were also condemned and excommunicated as heretics for denying the deity of Christ.

What I'm trying to say is you really can't build a theology on nothing but the Bible. Your theology will still be coming from your own head and your own culture, except that you'll have replaced last night's dinner with the Word of God. You will feel more confident, but there's still plenty of room for things to go really wrong. It has certainly happened in the past.

That is why it is so important to have people studying theology beyond what is written in the pages of the Bible. When you study theology, you can see how other people from other cultures and other times have developed their ideas. You can see things about those theologies to which its creators were blind. You can see other points of view you would never have considered. You can follow the arguments back and forth to find out where the theories are weak and where they are strong. You can see what influenced their development, and fast-forward to discover its consequences. Best of all, it doesn't take you 2000 years to do. You simply reap the benefits of two millenniums of theological discourse in the span of one lifetime.

Studying the Bible allows for a lot of personal growth and is certainly a very important part of anyone's life. I don't intend to imply that Biblical studies are a waste of time. Study your Bible, and be excited about it!

But please don't turn up your nose at theology. That's just silly.

Uncle Ray: Are they teaching you any heresy at Bible school?
Me: Well, actually, I'm in a history of Christian theology class, so yeah... kind of a lot.

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period." C. S. Lewis

Monday, 15 October 2012


Mandarin class is my favourite. A lot of interesting stuff happens there.

We were not allowed to speak Mandarin in Mandarin class for about a month. The teacher called it our "silent period" and instructed us to just listen. However, we have finally been released from our silent period. I am not all that good at talking, but I like to say my numbers. It's like I've regressed to kindergarten. My favourite number is 2. When you say it properly, you sound like a seal. I'm always tempted to clap my hands together in a seal-like manner whenever I get to say it.

It's not a laughing or questioning seal, mind you. It's a very matter-of-fact sounding seal.

A group of us students were driving to Moose Jaw with one of Caronport's vans.

"We have van number two today," said Levi.

"Èr!" I said, excitedly, pointing at the number two.

Levi laughed. Luckily, he happens to know Mandarin and managed to catch my switch from English to Chinese. "Èr!" he agreed. "Good."

I don't always say it in a proper context, though. It kind of just bubbles out sometimes, like when Stephanie and I were walking down the hall.

"Èr!" I said. You can do that with classmates who are also learning Mandarin, but it might be considered rude or odd with someone who isn't. Happily, Stephanie had the social grace to reply in kind.

"Èr!" she exclaimed. And we went "Èr! Èr!" all the way to our dorms.

Whoever said college is a place for deep intellectual discussion never learned a new language for credit.


Class was over and I was packing up my bag.

"Hey Carla," said Chuck, "Which language is more romantic? French or Italian?" Apparently he and Timothy were having an argument over the matter.

Being the authority on romantic languages that I am, I was pleased to respond. "I think probably Italian, because French has too much of the hackxchhxhc stuff."

Chuck is a native French speaker, but said, "I agree."

"No way," said Timothy. "It's not German."

"How about you both say something romantic to me and then I'll decide?" I suggested.

"I'd be up for that," said Chuck. Timothy shrugged.

So I settled myself into my chair and delicately folded together my hands. Chuck stared over my head and said something in a quick stream of Italian. Timothy looked down at the table and said something in a non-Germanic stream of French.

I shrugged. "They're about the same," I reported.

Sheesh. If you're going to try to woo a girl, at least have the guts to look her in the eye.

We were working in pairs. We were taking turns saying sentences (in Mandarin) with the "X is a Y"  structure. The other person would match their picture cards according to what the first person had dictated.

"They are children," I said. Tianna matched her cards.

"She is a young person," said Tianna. I matched my cards.

"You are a baby," I said nonchalantly to Tianna, wondering if she'd notice. She matched her picture cards.

"You are an old woman," returned Tianna, equally nonchalantly. I matched my picture cards.

It's probably a good thing we both temporarily forgot about the picture card of a dog in our pile.


I was given my Chinese name today by my Mandarin teacher and our Chinese intern, Miao Yu.  It's been 23 years since I was last named, so it was pretty exciting. One does not simply receive a new name every day. Miao Yu spent a lot of time thinking and praying about our names.


This is pronounced "Hé Àipíng" and means "loving peace and justice". They also gave me a verse, Micah 6:8, which just so happened to already be hanging on my fridge - "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

This is a very good name and I like it a lot. My face was plastered with a ridiculous smile all class, which only got larger when, as the teacher asked for Chinese words we knew with the "H" sound, I pointed out my name and she had the whole class tell me hello.

I'll still answer to Carla, though. That's a good name, too.


"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering." Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Great Husband Hunt

When people at home learned of my school plans, they typically had one of two reactions:

1. "Nice! What are you studying?"
2. "Good luck getting your M.R.S.!"

Seriously, I was just about drowned in BridalQuest jokes. And now that I've been away for a full month, I'm sure there are a great many people out there who wish to know whether I'm dating anyone yet.

So, just for those people, I thought I'd go ahead and document the highlights of my love life here. It's a gripping tale.


Open dorms in my building are really open. Guys just wander into our quad.

"Hey," said a guy as he wandered inside. "Aren't you in my theo class?"

"Um," I said, looking up from my computer.

"You're writing a paper on Arius," he said.

"Yes," I replied.

"So am I," he said. "I've borrowed some books from the professor, and I've photocopied the stuff I need. They're good primary sources. I'll go get them for you right now."

"Oh," I said. "Thanks."

So he came back right away with the appropriate research material for my paper. At least I managed to learn his name before he wandered back out again.


"Is this a dorm date?" asked Mark during the dorm's campfire worship time.

"It's a dorm date," I replied.

"It's NOT a dorm date!" Greg the RA interjected.

The official dorm date happened later. They went bowling. I missed it. I was busy hiking with my cohort.


I'm not the only one here who's no good with names. It was open dorms again, and James wandered into my quad to invite me over for supper - two more guys and two more girls were also invited. I think James was the only one who knew everyone's names. Over the course of the dinner conversation, however, we sort of introduced ourselves several times.

"Ok," said Heather to Mark when he declared that he now knew all our names. "What are all our names?"

He managed the first two girls (they had coached him on their names just prior to this conversation) and then got to me. "Umm...." he stuttered, "Uh... this incredibly lovely and most beautiful woman over here!"

"Nice," said Heather, "but that's not her name."

"It's not?" said Mark, abashedly heading for the door, "Well, it should be."

Saurov shook his head at Mark. "Your name means 'love' in French though, doesn't it?" he said to me.

"Uh..." I said, "No?"

"It doesn't?" he said, surprised. I think he thought my name was Amy or something.

"Nope," I said.

"Oh! No, you're right, it doesn't," said Saurov, trying to cover.

"I'm Carla," I said.

"Right, right!" the guys chimed.


I was a bit tardy getting to chapel in the morning. Yet, when I arrived in the academic building, way more people than usual were still milling around, chatting and undeniably not in chapel. I kept walking toward the auditorium, because what else would I do?

As I passed a classroom on the way there, someone or other called my name. I looked inside. There was a full circle of about a dozen guys sitting inside. Even now, I'm not sure who called my name, but it was probably Chuck. He's part of my cohort. I think he was the only one there that knows my name well enough to recognize me, retrieve my name from his brain, and get it from his mind to his mouth fast enough to catch me in the hall. It could possibly have been Nathan - after he had generously given me the books on Arius, he found out he couldn't renew his other ones because I had put them on hold.

"Was that you?" he had said, stopping me in the hall.

"Uh," I said, embarrassed, "...yeah?"

"Oh, well," he said.

At any rate, I only knew two of the others in the circle; Mark has probably forgotten my name already and I'm pretty sure Greg at least knows my face.

"Is there no chapel today?" I asked.

"It's variety chapel," they responded. "We break into groups. Come be the lone female representative in our group."

Seeing as I had no idea what other options were available, or where, I sat down.

"Really?" said Chuck.

"I guess," I said.

They cheered. Nathan opened with a prayer that went something along the lines of "Thanks, God, for all these guys and girl..."

Now I know how Chuck and Andrew feel in a cohort of females.  My small group is full of guys and me. It just happened. No, I swear, I'm not engaged to any of them.

Although there was that one time I was talking to my dad and brother on Skype and my RD, Kathy, momentarily thought I had two guys in my room. She was convinced enough to walk in and check.

But rest assured, it's only Thanksgiving. Some people take a whole two months to find their husband, you know.

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?
Buttercup: Well, you were dead.
Westley: But death cannot stop true love... all it can do is delay it for a while.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Anglican Church: An Analysis

I ended up going to the Anglican church mostly out of desperation (see my last post). Although Anglicanism and liturgical churches aren't quite off-my-radar like the Mormon or the JW churches I visited, it's still a bit of a stretch from what I'm used to. Yet one of my cohorts, Jaynette, had been there before and said that last year she had contemplated making it her regular church. Also, my school's chaplain is Anglican. Figuring it couldn't be too bad, I asked Jaynette if she wanted to go again with me.

"I don't think you'll like it," she said, but she agreed to come anyway.

So we dressed up and drove downtown and found a place to park. Then we walked around the building to go inside. I remark on this because my first impression was formed before we ever got inside.


I've been in churches like that before, but never for service.

The problem with awe inspiring architecture and stonework is that it can also be intimidating, but I have to give the church this: the people themselves were very warm and welcoming. The older gentleman who opened the door for us was happy to see us. The "greet your neighbour" time that seems to be universal among churches of every denomination was uplifting. And we were invited to stay for a light lunch afterwards. But more on that later.

Second impression: Wow. Given the formal setting, I'm surprised so many people are in jeans and t-shirts.

There was even one point that a guy in a Rider's jersey got up to pray in front of the congregation. It felt a little odd to watch him, and to simultaneously see the priest behind him, decked out in full ecumenical wear. But I guess in a way, it was a good thing. In my mind, uniformed robes like the church clergy wear not only distinguish the "holy" people from the lay people, but separate them. Yet here, the run-of-the-mill congregants and the clergy interacted and treated each other like normal people, robe or no robe. It was one community - not one set of people putting on a show for another set of people. And even in the football jersey, the man still solemnly bowed his head before the image of Christ at the back of the church before he sat down again.

The service itself was very stimulating. For one thing, Jaynette and I had a fun, if not mildly frantic, time of flipping through the two books and the bulletin that contained the responsive readings and the hymns.

These weren't your average hymnals, yo. They were the "Book of Common Praise" and the "Book of Alternative Services", which were affectionately known as the "Blue" and "Green" books, respectively. My praise book had all the lyrics, but not the music. And you needed the music, because the tunes went all over the place. They were highly creative and pleasant melodies, but not exactly easy to catch on to. And the organ music didn't lend you a lot of clues about where the song was going to go, either.

Jaynette's praise book had the music, but the substantial score made following the stanzas a mind melting task. So basically, I'd end up trying to read both of ours at the same time, which is another trick in and of itself. And then, in the middle of the song, the congregation would stop and go into a responsive reading, which was in neither of our books. Then we'd just scratch our heads until Jaynette discovered that unannounced responsive readings were typed out in the bulletin. Sometimes the readings were in the green book, but if you missed the brief mention of what number was being used, you were lost. I was lost most of the time.

But throughout all the songs and all the responsive readings, I didn't find anything that I felt I couldn't say. Granted, I only found some of it, period. But what I did see and hear was very clear, classic, and poetic.

Impression number three: Aha! I'm catching on to this cue and response thing! We even do some of this at school!

For example, whenever a portion of scripture has been read, the reader will follow it up by saying, "This is the word of the Lord," to which the congregation replies, "Thanks be to God." That's the one we do at school. The church also used one during prayer. Whenever the person who was praying felt like it, they'd say, "Lord, in your mercy," and the congregation would join in, "Hear our prayer." And during the neighbour meet-and-greet, the standard exchange was "Peace be with you," followed by, "And with you."

I like those things. They helped to make sure that you didn't zone out and start thinking about how a ninja could creep along the structural supports or how much starch they used in the ecumenical robes. You had to be paying attention so you could reply appropriately. We use this kind of tactic at kids' day camps, only it feels rather more sacred at this kind of church.

When the priest gave the sermon, I was pleasantly surprised. Usually, when any non-Pentecostal or non-hellfire-and-brimstone pastor is depicted preaching in movies, it's a reverend of the liturgical brand. And the scene usually proceeds like this:

Reverend: drone drone drone
Congregation: yawn.... sniff, blink
Reverend: buzz buzz mumble
Congregation: zzzzzzzzzzz.....

But the priest here was very dynamic, upbeat, and relevant. He cracked a few jokes and at least once prompted someone in the congregation to talk to him. He seemed to have a twinkle in his eye the entire time. Maybe he knew how funny it was to watch a man in ecumenical garb enthusiastically discuss the Avengers movie. Apparently he had only been at the job in this church for a matter of weeks, but he seemed perfectly comfortable. And the sermon was a beautiful mix of one part scriptural exegesis, one part what-that-means-for-us. I got the impression that he would have no problem with challenging the congregation on a point of devotion or morality.

At the end of the service was the Eucharist. They specifically said that anyone who had been baptized in any denomination should feel welcome to take part, and I'm glad they did. It was a special experience. I've done communion many times, but it was done just a little differently here.

First, you lined up and put your hands cupped together to receive the bread. The bread was disgusting, by the way. Not that it matters, but it tasted like styrofoam. At any rate, you waited until the priest came down the line and personally took a piece of "bread", blessed it, and put it into your hands. Then the People's Warden came after him with the shared goblet of wine. Real wine. You took a sip, and then before moving on to the next person, she wiped where you had sipped with a rag to give the appearance of sanitation.

I make jokes, but I found the experience moving and actually felt as if I had been blessed.

After the service was over, the People's Warden introduced herself to us. "Hello," she said, "I'm Carla."

"I'm Carla," I replied.

After musing on the sameness of our names, she invited us to the basement for crackers and cheese, which we accepted. While we were there, several different people came over to find out who we were and to chat. And we kept them quite a while. Jaynette and I had a lot of questions about what exactly the Anglican church believes about the sacraments, salvation, and what role of the queen has (her picture was prominently hung in the basement).

So far as I can tell, they don't believe anything too bizarre or even non-protestant. At least, these ones didn't. I don't know if the priests would claim an apostolic inheritance of their authority or not, but this church seemed pretty down to earth.

I don't know if I could attend an Anglican church full-time for an extended period, simply because I would miss the more laid back Protestant evangelical kind of church I've been raised with. But I would definitely encourage people to visit one from time to time, to remind themselves of how sacred and awe-inspiring God really is.

Unfortunately, I don't have any particularly relevant quote to end this with, so I'll use something I found from Saint Athanasius:

"For God is good, or rather the source of all goodness, and one who is good grudges nothing, so that grudging nothing its existence, he made all things through his own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ." (section three)

If God creates things based on not grudging them, think of how many things he must have created! It's incredible!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Pernickety Schnickety

Living in a new province and all, I'm trying to find a church to attend. At midnight on Saturday, I was sitting with my computer, trying to decide which of the many congregations in Moose Jaw to try the following morning. The problem I ran into, however, wasn't that of having too many choices. The problem was that the more research I did, the more frustrated I became. See, I'd like to be able to volunteer at whatever church I end up attending. And most churches, if not all, have you sign a statement of faith before you can really get involved - fair enough. So basically, if I can't sign the statement of faith without a massive amount of cognitive dissonance, then I can't volunteer. Which means that I need to start my search by perusing the various church creeds.

Before this weekend, I thought that Protestantism was a movement aimed at stripping away the baggage that came with Catholicism. It was about getting back to the simple truth about Christ and grace. Well, evangelical churches have certainly succeeded in being not!Catholic, but I'm not so sure about the rest.

Each church website I looked at had a list of detailed beliefs several pages long. Most of them were quite similar, and some of them I agreed with more than others, but in all of them, I would have had to misinterpret something or other on purpose in order to bring myself to sign them.

I could have happily attended, or at least visited, any of these churches. I mean, I didn't see any statements of faith that could be construed as anything but evangelical Christian. The frustration came with the way all these churches deemed the minor differences of opinion important enough to build their identity on them. Important enough to require anyone who wants to help to swear they believe them, too.

Does it matter if we believe the Bible is "verbally inspired and inerrant" or just "inspired"? Does it matter if we believe in the pre-millenial return of Christ or have other ideas with regards to eschatology? Does it matter if we believe we receive the Holy Spirit upon first repentance or as a separate event later in time? Of course it matters on some level, but does it matter so much that we can't worship and work together?

And really, you Pentecostal and Pentecostalish churches, please defend for me why you say that only people who can speak in tongues are saved. Talk about adding doctrine that is nowhere to be found in the Bible! I can speak in tongues - this isn't an issue of me feeling excluded from your ranks. This is an issue of me being aggravated that you would claim someone's salvation depends on it.

I'm not saying that churches shouldn't require volunteers to believe the same basic things. And I'm not saying that we're all equally correct in our different beliefs. In fact, I think some are definitely wrong. But aren't we all Christians? To use an old cliche, let's "keep the main thing the main thing." I thought we had learned to get along despite our differences.

Miao Yu, a Chinese Christian here at school couldn't understand why we have so many different denominations in Canada. In China there are only two - the Official Church and the Underground Church. But I can understand why we have so many denominations. It's because if we're not fighting for our lives, we're finding things to fight about amongst ourselves. It's because if all these denominations don't believe specifically what I believe and so won't let me be involved, then I need to start my own denomination.

As the night grew exceedingly late, I finally found a church with a statement of faith with which I could whole-heartedly agree. It quoted the Apostles' Creed and added a few statements about what a Christian is supposed to do with his or her life. It was a breath of fresh air. So I went to the Anglican church in the morning.

Evangelical churches, I'll try again later, but I'm disappointed.

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, 17 September 2012

Philosoraptor Says Hi

There are several posts I would like to write, but every time I get the urge type something up, I am suddenly overwhelmed by an impending sense of doom. This sense of doom hinges on the fact that if I have time to write, I should be writing my essays for school. And it's tough to write those before the research is finished. So really, whenever I feel like blogging, I should go to the library and read, but it's very difficult to do research when you want to be writing. Sigh.

I'd post the things I've made for school, but you wouldn't understand. For example:
Suggestopedia, in particular. See? I said you wouldn't get it.

So for now, my blogging has taken a backseat.

And oh! I have a new baby cousin! Welcome to the world, baby Veronica!

Speaking of Suggestopedia, here's a word from the wise via an instructional video:

"Nothing is so successful as success." Lonny Goldman

Friday, 7 September 2012

Village Bylaws

I suppose that in such a tiny little town as mine, you really do need rules to cover every contingency. You never know what kind of weirdos from the city are going to show up.
Fine. If you insist, I shall endeavour to restrain myself from driving an 8-wheeled amphibious ATV to chapel. But I'm not happy about it.

Oh, and here's a quote from one of the books* on church history I'm reading:

"[17 year old] Origen was keen to follow [his father] into martyrdom, but his mother, evidently deciding that it was bad enough to lose her husband without losing her son as well, hid his clothes. Teenage modesty prevailed over religious enthusiasm, and Origen remained safely at home."

*Hill, Jonathan. The History of Christian Thought. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003. Page 42

Sunday, 2 September 2012

She-Woman Eats Sushi

The cohort went to a sushi restaurant in Moose Jaw the other day. I point out that it was in Moose Jaw just because I really like to be able to talk about all the things I did in “Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan”. I don't think it'll matter where in the world you go, that will still be a really goofy name.

Anyway – Saskatchewan sushi! Eating sushi was one of the items of my bucket list and I figure if I end up in Asia somewhere, it'll probably be good to start adjusting myself to raw seafood as soon as possible. So I went to a sushi place. And I ate sushi.

Not much, just three little pieces of California roll. It barely qualifies as sushi in my head, but I thought I'd start small. So here's what I did. First, I stalled by asking seasoned chopsticks user Adrianna how to use chopsticks despite already having a general capability with them myself.

Then I stalled by asking seasoned sushi eater Melanie to demonstrate how to eat a piece. Chopsticks, soy sauce, PUT IT ALL IN YOUR MOUTH AT ONCE! Chew, swallow. Ok.

Then I saw no more reasonable way to stall. So I picked up my chopsticks. I picked up the piece of sushi.

Then, it was my turn to make up the question for our game of Would You Rather. So I put the piece of sushi down and asked whether they'd rather allow their spouse to die or if they'd steal the appropriate medicine to save them. The group split (mostly, the guys said they'd steal and the girls said they wouldn't marry a man who would deliberately steal) and thinking the discussion was a good way to distract myself, I picked up my chopsticks.

I picked up the piece of sushi.

I dipped it in the soy sauce.

I put it in my mouth.

As it was still whole in my mouth, even before I tasted anything and began chewing, my gag reflex kicked in and I almost barfed. I pulled myself back under control. And I closed my teeth. And almost barfed again. Seriously, there was nothing fundamentally awful about anything in my mouth. I just have way too much psychological baggage when it comes to food that once lived in the water. I ate barbequed salmon for the first time in like, fifteen years just last month.

This was far more intimidating than salmon. I looked around the table, hoping to see somewhere I could reasonably throw-up without being thoroughly unsanitary and disgusting. Failing to find one, I put my hand over my mouth and tried not to breathe.

At this point, Jaynette noticed I was having difficulty. “Bit into something you wish you hadn't?” she said, sympathetically.

I shook my head and pointed one finger at my brain.

“Just listen really intently to the conversation while you chew,” said Jaynette.

So I did. Chuck delivered multiple arguments in favour of stealing and was reprimanded by the women until he compromised by saying he'd have to ask God for wisdom and then cross that bridge when he came to it.

I swallowed. My stomach did not immediately send it back up. There was no disgusting aftertaste. I had officially finished my first piece. Victory! At some point in the meal, I did throw my arms triumphantly into the air, but I don't remember if it was after the first or the third piece. At any rate, the second piece went down a little more smoothly than the first, the third was a bit more dicey again, and then I figured that three was enough to say I'd eaten sushi and I gave the rest away.

I finished my teriyaki chicken and rice and enjoyed the conversation. Maybe one day I'll be able to eat raw octopus on rice, but currently I'm content. For lunch today, I'm eating a noodle cup.

“If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison', it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.” Lewis Carroll

Saturday, 1 September 2012

How Cohorts Bond

My professor refers to the group of my classmates and me as a "cohort". Regardless of any images of Baby Bowser and evil henchmen you may get in your head when someone uses the term "cohort", that is what we are called. We have recently verbified the word and now spend time together "cohorting".

Most people have yet to even arrive to begin school, but my cohorts and I just wrote the final exam for our first course this afternoon. This morning, one classmate hosted a study party in her apartment.

The study party was temporarily derailed when Miao Yu tried to teach us how to say her name properly. I had already tried to learn once, but she informed me that I had mistakenly called her a fish instead, so we were due for another lesson.

"Miao Yu," she said.

"Miao Yu," we all repeated.

"The tone goes Yu," she said with a hand motion to demonstrate.

"Yuuu? Yu?" we said, voices swooping in different directions.

She laughed. "Miao Yu. Yu, Yu, Yu," she modeled.

"Yu. Yu yuyuyuyuyuy," we tried again.

"Yu. Your tongue like this." She showed us with her hands what her tongue was doing. It seems we may have gotten the tone but still weren't getting the vowel.

"Ew?" we said, twisting our tongues. "Eu? Ooo? Uuew. YOU! Ieu? Yuie. Yuh. Yeu. Yui?"

"Yu," she said, making a fish face to exaggerate the correct positioning of the mouth.

"YU!" we all replied with fish faces. "Yuuuu. YUH!"

"Sort of," said Miao Yu.

We all sighed.

"When you learn Mandarin, the teacher will tell you how to say it," said Miao Yu.

So we all gave up and started studying.

"Hey, wait," I said. "You're auditing this course, aren't you Miao Yu?"

"Yes," she replied.

"So, are you actually taking the exam with us, or are you studying just for fun?"

"I take the exam," she said. "For fun."

And that, dear readers, is how TESOL cohorts spend time getting to know each other.

As an additional treat, I composed this after midnight because I couldn't sleep:

To the Guy Upstairs:

Are your feet made of lead?
I can hear you from bed
As you romp, clomp and stomp
Above my poor head.

I am not impressed
As you may have guessed.
Please go to bed
So we can all rest.

“You have that look on your face that says 'hold me to your ear; you'll hear the ocean.'” Londo Mollari from Babylon 5

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sending-Off the Dell

Well... disaster befell. And only a few days before I'm due to move to SK for school....

Now what? The screen and keyboard survived, but the hinges are completely shot and the bottom fell out.
Of course, it didn't look that much healthier before the accident, either...
I guess Mr. Blue Barfy Face has finally gone to a better place.

Because you can't really hear him say it in the video:
"Well, that's not a good place to store it." Dad

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Closing of Three Chapters

Next week I am moving to a place that will allow me to formally adopt Corner Gas's opening music as my own personal theme song. It's a place so tiny it doesn't even pretend to be a town. It proudly proclaims itself, legally and otherwise, to be a village.

This will be a new chapter of life. However, one can't start a new chapter of life without closing an old one. In this case, at least three old ones. Well, four if you count living at home with your parents, but that isn't the primary focus of this post. The three focuses of this post are my church, the Distress Centre, and Tim Horton's.
I'm not leaving church, mind you, just the one I've been attending since I was twelve. They don't have a satellite church in my village, so attending would be difficult. I had my final shift at the DC the other afternoon. I will miss that place. And Tim Horton's I actually left in May and just neglected to mention the fact. I don't miss it and don't intend to ever go back, but I do have many fond memories of the place.

There are a lot of memories from both places, with many similarities and many differences. I could write a book comparing them, but I'll keep it short.

At my church, I shredded quite a bit of paper.
At the DC, I made a lot of paper for someone else to shred.
At Tim's, I swept up pieces of ripped up napkins.

At my church, I usually wore at least kinda nice shoes.
At the DC, I wore whatever random shoes I felt like.
At Tim's, I wore the same stinking pair of second-hand shoes for five years.

At my church, I knew how to get into almost anywhere, whether I legitimately had a key or not.
At the DC, I had a card key but could only get into the phone room. 
At Tim's there was only one room to get to. But I did know the supposedly secret code to manipulate the registers.

Moving away will really confuse me. Timmy's and church camps have been my pretty steady provider of sleeping t-shirts for a good number of years. Where am I supposed to get my pajamas from now?

A person is changed when they spend large amounts of time in the same few places. As it is, I now have phantom phone syndrome. The phantom phone syndrome is kind of like having phantom limb sensations, except instead of feeling like you should still have all your limbs, you feel like you should be picking up the phone.

 Being the temporary church secretary meant that I was constantly running back into the office, believing that I heard the phone ringing when in fact, it was silent. Being a crisis line volunteer meant that I was constantly checking my system during slow shifts to make sure I had remembered to log in, as if the seventh time I checked wasn't sufficient.
Working drive-thru at Tim's didn't contribute to the phantom phone thing. That headset would go
in my ear so loudly that I'd jump whenever a car pulled up. I had no problem telling when that sucker was on or off. But it did contribute to my inability to answer the phone correctly. I told several distressed crisis callers they had phoned Tim Horton's. In my desperation to not ask coffee customers about their crises, I stumbled through the drive-thru greetings so poorly that sometimes it barely sounded English. My international coworkers sniggered at me. And I had to actively remind myself of my church's name whenever I answered the office phone because my pastor could hear me talking.

I don't know how long this effect will last. If you call me and I pick up but don't immediately say anything, it's probably because I'm trying to remember where I am.

Each place had its own quirks, personalities, and dangers. Tim Horton's was easily the most stressful of the three places to be. I mean, sure, the Distress Centre had the occasional, "No, no, please don't kill yourself!" moment, but not every call was like that. At Tim Horton's, the stress was constant. In fact, it was at Tim's that I first learned to identify whether I was stressed or not. For at least several hours every shift, there was considerable pressure to go fast, do it correctly, interact politely with crazy customers and simultaneously do seven other things fast and correctly and politely. Plus, there were exploding creamers, shattering coffee pots, jets of boiling liquid, sharp knives, and toasters hot enough to brand you. You took your physical well-being into your own hands every time you showed up to work.

The church also had a few dangerous points over the years. A random creepy man that turned out to be a criminal hanging out in the foyer. An angry neighbour that shot his pellet gun at kids in the youth group. A not-quite-dead pet animal someone abandoned in the dumpster. That time I used Sharpies in an enclosed room for way too long. Not to mention the ever-present hypothetical possibility of someone drowning in the baptismal tank. But Timmy's wins hands down for being the toughest job. Though, they did pay me.

These three places changed me in other ways, too. They were all learning experiences. I took away a lot of knowledge and wisdom from the Distress Centre. I had to exercise considerable mental energies to navigate sensitive conversations and help the callers begin to sort through their messes of life. I got some of that at church, too. We had interesting and challenging conversations on ethics and theology. I got a lot of practical experience leading people and being on a team. After five years at Timmy Ho's, I still don't know how to make a pot of coffee. Don't look at me like that. It's rather more simple at Tim's than in real life, you know.

It is time to move on. As much as I hate to say goodbye and maybe our paths with cross again, for now I must bid farewell. To the people involved with my life in these places, thank you. I'll see you when I see you.
"It is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, 13 August 2012

Skyline: Mudsliding Home

It was a dark and stormy night. Part of our group had gone to bed so early that they didn't notice the incoming clouds, but Dad and I prepared for the worst. That is to say, we made sure our shoes were inside the tent before we went to sleep.

"Does it look like it'll rain much tonight?" Dad asked.

"It might rain," I said, "but I don't think it'll be too hard, or at least, not very hard for too long."

It poured for hours. The clouds spewed down and the sky flashed and the air rumbled and grumbled and my sister, in her half-awake state first thought someone was setting off cannonballs beside her tent. However, there were no casualties and we all survived until morning.

We ate our last breakfast and set the four fast guys loose. Here was the plan:

1) Four guys start early and go fast. They beat us to the end of the trail by a considerable margin.
2) They use that margin to drive in Andrew's car to the trail head and pick up the other two vehicles.
3) Andrew leaves for Kamloops because that's where he wants to go. Meanwhile, the others come back in the other two vehicles so we can all drive to Jasper.
4) We'll go to a restaurant together.
5) We'll go to the hot springs together.
6) We'll carpool home in our vehicles.

So Justin gave me the rest of his athletic tape and took off with the others. Thanks to the giant storm of the night before, the first thing they had to do was cross what used to be a stream.

Luke looked at the river and calculated in his head. "There are ten of us," he said. "The odds are good that at least one of us will fall in." He found it understandably regrettable that he was not going to be around to watch the six of us cross.

All four of them made it across without incident. The back group hung out, taped our feet, finished breakfast, and took down our tents. Then we also crossed the stream-that-wanted-to-be-a-river.
It was rather anti-climactic. No one wiped. Take that, Luke.

Of all our days hiking, this final day had us cover the most ground, with a good 15 kilometers we had to tuck under our belts. The morning was pleasant and interesting. Alpine meadows in general are pleasant and interesting.
Then, about halfway, we found a bike rack and it turned from a hiking trail through meadows into an old forestry road through thick trees. At least it claimed to be an old forestry road. It was so overgrown in some places I'm convinced that nothing but a motorized unicycle would be able to drive all the way up.

Thick trees are beautiful, but get a bit monotonous after a while. Plus, since we had climbed so high on the other days, we had a lot of elevation to lose, meaning the entire thing was downhill. My feet were mostly ok, but one person's knee was acting up so we were moving fairly slowly. It got tedious. We played 5000 Questions a few times. Oh, and we found some clothes that someone dropped along the side of the path and also something's skull.
And then we passed some hikers going the wrong way down the path. And then we passed some more. And a few more. A bit confused as to why, my dad stopped to chat. All I caught was him saying, "Well, that'll sure change our plans."

Indeed. Thanks to the mega-storm during the night, there had been a mudslide along the only road that linked to the trail head, meaning that once we got off the trail, we would be effectively barred from collecting our other vehicles. And also from driving home - at least until the road crews cleared the mud away.

"They're hopeful about reopening the road tomorrow," said the other hikers.

"Looks like we'll be staying in a hotel tonight," said Clary.

But my dad remained optimistic. "People usually give a worst-case scenario," he said as we continued on our way. "We'll find out how bad it is when we get into Jasper."

"Andrew wants to leave for Kamloops," said Clary. Andrew's car was the only one not blocked off by the mudslide. "What if he leaves and we can't get into Jasper?"

"I am not walking to Jasper," said Gillian. "If we have to walk, I am just going to pitch my tent at the end of the trail and you can leave me behind."

Some of the motivation to finish the hike sapped away with the knowledge that we wouldn't be going home that day. But Clary tried to remain cheery, thinking of all the things she would do with her extra day in Jasper.

"I have a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt," she said with a dreamy smile. "I can put them on after soaking in the hot springs in my bathing suit..."

"Your stuff is all in our van," I said.

The dreamy smile disappeared. "Ah," she said. And we slogged on.

And then....

"I think I hear the highway," I said.

"I see cars!" said Clary.

I whooped. Someone in the parking lot whooped in reply.

"Run!" said Clary, "Run the last few yards!"
So the two of us jogged in raptures to the parking lot. My sister contemplated crawling. Meanwhile, Andrew hooted like a maniac and jumped around waving enthusiastically, giving us the last oomph we needed and welcoming us to the finish line.

With a big smile he told us to sit down and take off our boots and then fed us all Oreo cookies. And then he told us that, yes, we were going to be spending the night in a hotel. He stuffed three people and their backpacks into his car and deposited them in Jasper. Then he came back and stuffed my dad, sister and me into his car and drove us to Jasper, too.

He had already taken the other guys there. They ate KFC together and had a nap. Then, despite the fact that he was late heading out for Kamloops, Andrew came back and waited by himself in the parking lot to play ferryman for us. Then he stuck around even later to make sure we didn't need a ride to a hotel. He was our hero.



Leather seats!

We learned later that the guys had not received such a warm welcome as we had.

Apparently Justin, having enjoyed his Lord of the Rings music so well the day before, found that singing along to it while he ran gave him the motivation to keep up his speed. Before long, all four of the boys were humming out LOTR as they dashed dramatically around corners and out the exit. They told us about it when we were at Earls afterwards.

"There was a middle-aged woman unloading stuff in the parking lot when we got there," said Justin. "She watched us come out and told me, 'Well, that's stupid.'" He glanced down at his plate. "I thought she must be joking, so I stared at her, expecting her face to crack into a smile, but it didn't. It's happened to me a few times lately."

"What song were you singing?" I asked.

"The main one," said Justin.

"Which one?" I asked.

He demonstrated:
"Hey," said Brianna, "it sounds kind of like you're saying 'bear'."

"Oh," said Justin.

"Now it all makes sense," said Braden.

Note to self: Do not crow "bear, bear" while dashing maniacally to a trail exit.

At any rate, once we were all reunited in Jasper, we learned from the information desk that the other hikers had not, in fact, given us a worst-case scenario. They had severely understated the case and things would be interesting for them when they ran out of food on the other end of the trail. There had been not one but multiple mudslides and the authorities were hopeful that they would be cleared not by tomorrow, but by the end of the week. Assuming there wasn't any more rain.

One night in a hotel is doable. Five or more is not. Andrew left for Kamloops. Luke had already hopped on a bus. The rest of us rented a couple of vehicles and got home that night, minus a few personal belongings. We unloaded, showered, and showed Mom the pictures from our trip. The next day we unpacked and Dad set up the tent again to sweep and wash it clean. With that, the hike was officially a wrap.

We are soon to be reunited with our lost belongings and vehicles. My blisters look disgusting but are healing. My muscles are no longer sore, despite not making it to the hot springs. I got halfway through Notes from the Underground and am enjoying it very much.

Next time, I'll bring my own foot tape. And I will use that foot tape before I ever spawn blisters. Assuming I can handle that, I assume I could handle another backpacking trek. Maybe, given my experience, I'd even move up in the ranks from Pippin to... well... Pippin 2.0. Until that day, I have pictures.

"Ah! The tent is blowing down the road!" my sister, seeing the tent jump the fence from our backyard and make a break for it. Our across-the-street neighbour caught it flying for a fairly busy intersection.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Skyline: Orcs and Nazis

By some strange alignment of the stars or something, Dad and I were the first up the next morning. Dad chatted with a backpacker who wasn't a part of our group while I soaked my feet in the stream, psyching myself up to do the most difficult climb of the hike. When I eventually shuffled my way over to the picnic table, Dad introduced me to the other backpacker.

"She's already done the hike a few times," my dad said to me.

"This is the third time," the woman said, "but the last was in 1997."

"Show her your heels," said my dad.

"Ouch," the woman said with a matronly smile. "You'll survive."

For some random reason, I believed her. Maybe I figured she was credible, having done the trail twice already. Maybe I was tired of summoning up despair every time I contemplated the next leg.

Feeling a bit better, I helped make breakfast. Breakfast each morning consisted of maple and brown sugar flavoured instant oatmeal. It was kind of like sludge. We also had thick slices of marble cheese from Luke, who had packed an entire slab. I'm guessing they were so thick because he wanted us to eat the weight away. Also, he was probably tired of making it resolidify in the stream each day after the hike.

This morning, the instant oatmeal and cheese was not enough. I decided I was still hungry. And given that this next stretch of the hike was considered the most difficult, I was not willing to try it on an empty stomach.

"I'm still hungry," I said, hoping someone would offer me their food.

"Have some peanut butter," said Andrew. Clary had lifted a few peanut butter packets from the restaurant we ate at the night before the hike. Andrew, on the other hand, had packed an entire jar. I think he was also looking to have us eat the weight away. I used my spoon and dug in.

After breakfast, we taped up my feet again. This time, we held nothing back. There were 7 layers:
1) polysporin over the blisters
2) bandaids over the polysporin
3) athletic tape over the bandaids and the rest of the tender skin
4) duct tape over athletic tape to make sure it stuck
5) duct tape strips to tape the first layer of duct tape so it didn't shift
6) thick socks
7) another thick sock on my right foot

Yes, that does mean I was visibly wearing mismatched socks.

I do believe I now qualify as the blister wrapping queen. It was like having sandals within my sandals.
Plus, I laced my boots just a little more than they were the day before so my heel didn't lift out all the time. Happily, this cozy foot arrangement seemed to work. After the initial few tender steps, I forgot about my blisters and they hardly slowed me down.

Still, it was a long way - a very long very uphill way - to go, so I was worried.

"I think," I said to the group as we broke after breakfast, "I will have to pretend that I am escaping from Nazis over the mountain to keep me motivated to go on."

"From the Nazis?" they replied.

"Yes," I said. "Unless someone motivates me by, I don't know, bribes or sweet promises to carry me part of the way."

"We're interested in this Nazi story," they said. And they genuinely were. They asked for periodic updates on how far behind us the Nazis were and whether they had been bright enough to discern our trail. Maybe they needed the motivation themselves. I was happy to share it. The trail was sitting easily at thirty degrees, at least. And that was before we got to the steep part.

Then we did get to the steep part.
At least, I found it steep. Braden whistled happy tunes all the way up. Those of us who couldn't do that had different tactics. My tactic was to push forward until I was gasping and couldn't catch my breath, then to pause, take a drink of water and start again. It worked pretty well. Gillian, on the other hand, didn't like restarting, so she never stopped moving forward. She was like the Energizer Bunny. Not a very energetic Energizer Bunny, mind you, but she sure had that going... and going.... and going thing down pat. Basically, I'd push forward, pass her, then pause for a gulp of water. Meanwhile, she'd shuffle past me. Then I'd start going again. We pretty much leapfrogged up the incline.

One of those leaps brought us to the Notch, the most highlighted feature of the entire hike. It's also the physically highest point. My first thought upon realizing we had crested the Notch was, "What? That was it? The most difficult part of the hike, and that was it? That was nothing compared to yesterday!" The second thought was, "There's no way those Nazis are getting us up here!"

As relatively fresh as we were, we were still not as fresh as Braden. Upon climbing into the Notch, he casually dropped his backpack and proceeded to run up the peak. He was basically prancing. Gillian and I shook our heads, then dropped our own backpacks, and proceeded to sit down and snack. Then Braden came back with what is probably my favourite picture of the entire hike. The dark splotches in the middle are us, by the way. Click to enlarge if you don't believe it.
The view was incredible.
And then Braden became a gremlin and photobombed our Notch family picture.
For whatever reason, the Notch was also the only place along the hike where we got cellphone service. I'll let you imagine how people spent their lunch break.

Following a brief lunch at the Notch, we kept moving. This is the part of the hike that gave the Skyline its name. It was an incredible walk on the ridge. If you turned your head to the right, you saw down one side of the mountain and everything beyond it. If you turned your head to the left, you saw down the other side and everything beyond. I really did feel like I was on top of the world.

But it wasn't just me up there. Up where there's nothing but harsh winds, driving elements, extreme temperatures and rocks... there were flowers. Not giant fields of them, and not big ones, but they were beautiful, brightly coloured pinks and yellows. Up where strong and majestic trees were unable to survive, up where weeds and grass couldn't even find the sustenance to grow, these fragile little flowers blossomed.
Nobody tended to them. Nobody planted them. As far as those flowers knew, there wasn't even the guarantee of people walking by to see them. Most mountain wildflowers are probably never ever seen by any person. They had no reason at all to fight for survival, grow, and bloom except that they wanted to. They bloomed because they could, to bring beauty to an otherwise barren place. Even with nobody watching.

I found it inspiring.

Though, perhaps my personification of plants is what makes it a psychological ordeal to prune my bottle gardens.

Shortly after this ridge walk, Clary decided the trail wasn't difficult enough, so she took Gillian and added a hike to their hike. The rest of us stuck to the path. Believe it or not, that little blip along the edge is them. Again, click to enlarge if you must.
Then I arrived at a little bowl along the ridge. The four guys had made it there earlier and were taking a break when I arrived. They cheered my arrival. Not having expected to see them until we got to the campsite, I was mildly surprised. I was also surprised to discover that the rest of the group wasn't quite on my tail, either.

"I wasn't aware they were so far behind me," I said as I came down into the bowl.

"That's because you're a speed demon," said Andrew.

"Or just naive," said Justin. Then he paused and reconsidered. "No," he amended, "you're a speed demon."

I guess in comparison to the day before, I was a speed demon. It's all relative. I'll take it.

This little bowl was my favourite part of the whole hike. As soon as you took a few steps up the side, you had a spectacular view and understood just how high up you were. But in the bowl, it was like a tiny little world of its own. There was a snow patch that was melting, and the melt-water was forming a pool large enough that we were able to skip rocks and refill our water bottles. It was a treat, seeing as we had been told that there wasn't going to be any place to refill our bottles for some distance yet.
The rest of the group arrived and we hung out for a while. It made sense. We could hang out there or we could hang out at the camp later. Skipping rocks seemed a nice alternative to mini-cards. Then Andrew started throwing bigger and bigger rocks. He tried to put one in Braden's bag. Then they fondly recalled throwing rocks at Andrew's mom. It was time to go.

Then Gillian hit on an idea.

"Let's walk out today," she said.

"Pardon?" we replied.

"I don't want to spend another night camping. We should just hike out today," she said.

As relatively energetic as I still was, I was not enchanted with this idea. Neither was just about anyone else, with the exception of Clary. She would have hiked out that day if she hadn't felt obligated, as the hike organizer, to stay with her group of charges. She would have hiked out and then spent the extra day hiking back in and then out again. She likes hiking. But it would have been bad form, so Gillian was overruled.

The next day she even had the grace not to say I-told-you-so.

The rest of the day was full of meadows and marmots, one of which I had a conversation with. It was delightful.
As we were walking, Justin put on his headphones and started listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, giving us periodic updates of his location in the score. You may recall, on the first day we had all claimed various LOTR characters to be. I was Pippin. Mike was Gollum - his choice. So in addition to being Aragorn, Justin was also our theme song guy.

Naturally, with him giving us updates on where the orcs were and me giving updates on the Nazis, a debate broke out about whether it would be worse to be hunted by Nazis or by orcs. My vote was for Nazis. Orcs are weak in daylight, travel in giant smelly hordes, lack any semblance of stealth, and will kill each other if left to their own devices for long enough. Also, they have to physically catch you to kill you. Nazis have brains, wear camouflage, and can shoot you from afar. Even having cleared the Notch, I was wary of rock ledges where snipers could be hiding.

When the day's walk was finally done, we settled at the camp and made supper. Supper always consisted of freeze-dried food and dehydrated fruit. It was ok for a while. The males all thought it was gold.

"Next time I have to cook for someone," said Andrew, "I'll just make a few of these and not tell anyone!"

"Yeah," agreed my dad. "This is pretty good."

"I know how to wet freeze-dried food. It's easy!" said Andrew.

Meanwhile Gillian sat there glum that her meal was runny yet again.

Then Luke started making noises. "Woooo-eeee-arrrrr. Hoooo-waaaaa!"

"Luke is making airplane noises," Braden offhandedly pointed out.

"Oh. I thought he was having a conversation with a fly," said I.

"I thought he was being Chewbacca," said Gillian.

"I think Carla is closest," said Justin. "Which was it, Luke?"

"I don't know," mumbled Luke. "I was just making noises."

And that was more or less the end of the third day, which more than made up for the painful second day. But there was still one more day to go.

"Climbing is as close as we can come to flying." Margaret Young

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Skyline: Blisters of Doom

Morning broke, as did the blister on my right heel. Determined to begin the day with protected feet, instead of leaving it too late like I had the day before, I began asking people for stuff with which to wrap them up. Andrew had a blister, too, so there was some competition for supplies. Braden, being a good friend of Andrew, offered him his moleskin. Then I hiked up my pants and Braden caught sight of my blister.

"That's disgusting!" he exclaimed. Without a further thought, he reneged on Andrew. "I'm giving it to Carla instead," he said. "She needs it more." Andrew used tent repair tape.

I also claimed a whack more athletic tape from stillnotmybrother!Justin and used a sizable portion of Dad's duct tape. We spent a good deal of time attempting to protect my heels from further destruction. Then I put on my boots. As far as I was concerned, someone was standing behind me with a blow torch aimed at my feet, turning it on every time I tried to slide my heels into place. But I managed nonetheless, hoping to live up to the moniker "Woman of Iron Steel" that I had earned in ballet class years before. Of course, I earned that moniker for never getting blisters to begin with, not for valiantly dealing with them.

At any rate, we set off. Three things happened within the first twenty minutes:
1) I called a company halt, as the prospect of a full day's hiking in my condition was altogether too daunting. Dad and Brianna both offered me a pair of thicker socks to add another layer. I took Bri's.
2) Justin called a company halt because he noticed I was limping. He and his dad, Mike, argued over the best way to tape blisters and then redid my feet with an assortment of various supplies. Meanwhile, Braden took pictures. Clary was probably looking for extra hills to scale.
3) I called another company halt, because I still wanted to cry every time I put a foot down. Dad suggested I partially unlace my shoes to take some of the pressure off my blisters. This finally seemed to make a difference.

A person can be the cause of only so many company halts within a twenty minute span before feeling extremely self-conscious. However, everyone was very gracious.

"How are you doing, Carla?" they would take turns asking. "Do you need to stop?"

"You realize," said Brianna, "that we're asking mostly because we want an excuse to pause for a break without admitting we need one."

"We're only feigning concern," said Mike, "because we need to rest ourselves."

"That's what I did when I went hiking with Rachel," said Brianna. "'Hey, Rachel! Let's pause for your asthma,' whenever we went up a hill. I needed it."

"Oh, is that so?" I said.

"Totally," said Mike. "We are just using you."

Plus, I overheard someone saying to someone else that I was a trooper, so that was encouraging. And once my blisters had been dealt with, the morning was actually quite pleasant. We were hiking mostly through alpine meadows, which Braden later referred to as, "The Meadow of Wonders". Every twist, turn, or rise in the path seemed to open up to some new and interesting or beautiful feature.

"Wow," said Bri, noticing this snow drift and creek.

"Wow," I agreed.

Dad didn't even wait to see what we were wowing at. "Picture time," he said.
Photographs do an exceptionally poor job of demonstrating the breathtaking depth of the views. Not to mention completely exclude the charming sounds and breezes of the actual thing.

We broke for lunch at the next campground, then kept going. Andrew, Luke, and Justin took off ahead of us. Apparently Andrew actually ran to keep Luke from catching up. They ended up beating us to the campsite by at least an hour-and-a-half, and that was after they climbed a peak for fun and doubled back part of the distance to search for the cell phone Luke lost in a field of rocks. But this is what happens when the pace for the back group is set by a gimped girl who essentially tip-toes the entire way.

Braden, though perfectly capable of traveling with the crazy trio, got stuck in the very back. By the time he realized how slow I was moving it would have been awkward for him to leap past the crippled girl to join his friends. So he hung out taking pictures and I didn't hear him complain once.

"This is actually kind of nice," he said. "Refreshing. I'm in it mostly for the scenery, anyway."

The scenery may have been as pleasant in the afternoon as in the morning, but I was not appreciative at the time. We covered almost 12 kilometers on this day, but I'm convinced they were all in the afternoon. In my head, the only thought was, "This path just keeps going... and going... and going... and I'm NOT the Energizer Bunny!"

Most of it was uphill, and I had to climb pretty much exclusively on the balls of my feet, because my heels came out of my boots. All of me plus my backpack on just the balls of my feet for an extended time... it wasn't a good scene. Then when we'd go downhill, my toes were squashed because of the multiple socks and it wasn't really much better on the balls of my feet. Not to mention my blisters, of course.

It turns out I wasn't the only one hitting my limit.

"Well," said my dad, exhausted, as we crested hill number six hundred and thirty-seven to see yet another long expanse of rolling hills, "I can see why you'd want to drill holes in your toothbrush."

But we finally made it to the end of the trail. From there we could see our next campsite... way down in the bottom of a valley.

"It's only three hundred metres away," said Mike. Wordlessly, we all slogged onwards.

Fifteen minutes later, I said, "I don't think this is just three hundred metres."

Ten minutes after that, my dad said, "I don't think this is just three hundred metres."

"I think," said Mike, "that the fold in the map made a point eight kilometres look like a point three kilometers."

It was the trail that never ended. And we would have to reclimb it before climbing the purportedly most difficult part of the hike first thing the next morning. I was not a happy camper. When we finally (finally!) stumbled into the campsite, Andrew cheered in welcome. Clary told us to soak our feet in the creek.

Then Andrew said, "Isn't it great to think that you don't have to do that again for another eighteen hours?" He was totally serious. He found that great to think about. I just tried not to cry. Here I am, trying not to cry:
And here are my blisters, so you can feel some sympathy:
The campsite itself was beautiful, though. On one end was a creek and on the other there was a view of a mountain waterfall. And there weren't any mosquitoes! So we made and ate supper, Clary went for another walk, and several of the guys washed their hair under a waterfall.

We killed time with a limitless question version of 20 Questions, and fought in front of other backpackers while playing mini-cards. Brianna had tried on the trail to start a game of I Spy, but it went like this:

Brianna: "I spy with my little eye something that is yellow."

Clary: "A flower."

Brianna: "Which flower?"

Clary: "One of them somewhere in this field?"

Brianna: "Yes."

Clary: "That one?"

Brianna: "No."

Braden: "That one?"

Brianna: "No."

Justin: "That one?"

Brianna: "No."

The game lasted only one round.

So rather than revisit the world of I Spy, we then settled down for the night, again at about eight-thirty. No bears pawed at our tents. No Sasquatches screamed in the night. No helicopters came to my rescue.

And then it was morning.

"In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet." Alice Abrams