Archive for September, 2009


We arrived in our hotel late last night, with no more than a few small snags along the way. Even our luggage made it!

On our second stopover, which was in Mexico City, we got a pleasant (to me) surprise of an extra stamp in our passport. Since our flight to Lima was departing from a different terminal than the one we had arrived in, we had to pass through Mexican customs. Of course, Dan promptly found a bar and got a beer, even though we could have purchased one from the 7-11. I had a delicious guanabana margarita, ice and all. Mexico City itself looks absolutely gorgeous from the air, with all the bright coloured buildings and humongous cathedrals every few blocks. I would love to go back and actually spend some time in the city.

We got up late today and went exploring in downtown Lima. No real sights visited, just wandering around. There were a couple of very nice Plazas flanked by beautiful old buildings, as well as a charmingly falling-apart monastery, although Dan didn’t want in their catacombs due to the lineup. We also discovered what seems to be the main shopping street, where you can buy a top for $2 and a pair of nice leather shoes for $30. I was surprised when Dan suggested we use at least a part of our last day in Lima on shopping, but now that the offer is out there I might just have to take him up on it. Beyond clothing, on that street you can also buy pot – at least two heavily tattooed men with business cards and flyers offered it to us, along with tattoos.

The bus system is fantastic. 50 cents will get you across town, as long as you have a nice hostel owner (as we did) to tell you which of the 20-odd different buses going past the hotel to take. The buses rule the street, with everyone employing the “I get right-of-way because I’m bigger” rule.

I was surprised when Dan agreed to stop at a little hole-in-the-wall for our lunch. It was absolutely delicious. Apparently I ordered lamb, and it was good. We ordered beers, and ended up with a ginormous 650 mL bottle each. The beer cost almost as much as the meals, for a grand total of about $8 spent on lunch. We’ll know to order only a single bottle next time, since neither one of us was able to finish ours!

Tomorrow morning we fly out to Cusco, from where we will head to Ollantaytambo and then on to Macchu Picchu. More ruin exploration to follow. Should be an exciting couple of days!

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An open thank you note

All the bags are now packed, but I’m still too excited to sleep. I should, given that the alarm is set for 5 hours from now, but… meh.

It will be 5 weeks before I can get to writing thank you notes. But for everyone who should be thanked for their contributions to our wedding, let me assure you that you will be getting a thank you note. Not because etiquette dictates that I write you one, but because I want to – I want to thank you for the gifts you gave us, of the material variety to be sure, but also the gifts of your time, your talents, and your friendship. To thank you properly, my goal is to tell every one of you a story about your gift, and how it’s affected us, or how we will use it in the future.

The wedding was a blast. Would I plan a wedding again? Absolutely. Were there lessons learned? To be sure! – even the hyper-organized Maria blanked on a few things. But we pulled it off. Every bit of  it was fabulous from where we were sitting.

Is this too unclassy for a first picture from the wedding?

First shared drink as husband and wife

Oh well, you got it anyway. Dan in his element! Our incredible photographer also promised to have teasers up in a few weeks. If you guys check out his site you will probably see them before us.

On a trip note, my bag weighed in at just shy of 30 pounds. That means another 14 pounds of souvenir space for the way back. 🙂

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First flight leaving at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. I’m not promising any frequency of updates, but I’ll do what I can. Lots of pictures when we’re back, for sure.

Cross-linking to Dan’s blog so you can get two different sides of the story on the trip.

Oh, which reminds me – I’m married! 🙂 Feels so odd to say it (or see it written). Wedding was absolutely fantastic. We have amazing friends. Thanks to everyone who helped everything come together. The weather held up, and we even had the obligatory sprinkle of rain during the pictures for good luck. Everyone that we worked with was also professional and great all-around. I delegated. I sat down and relaxed for a few moments yesterday. I even had some cake!

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There has been an uproar recently in Ottawa about how bus stops need to be called out by the driver in both English and French. I will not get into that issue, because this would turn into a rant. However, this has had me thinking about the meaning of bilingualism, and it sort of ended up being represented in a neat little package in a recent email thread.

In the many recent discussions held about bilingualism, a lot of emphasis has been placed on being provided with information in YOUR language, whether it is English or French. However, here’s an interesting twist on that concept, which, in my mind, is a much better representation (to me) of the concept of bilingualism.

I would not say I am fully fluent in French (Dan will probably disagree), but I am capable enough. I have little trouble reading or hearing a conversation, because my vocabulary has been built up through learning it over the years. Speaking/writing takes more effort as I can’t as easily call the appropriate words to mind when I am trying to translate from English to French.

It has often happened that I will receive an email in French, reply in English, and the conversation will carry on like this. I understand the person writing to me in French, but I prefer to write in English – I am more comfortable doing it, and feel I will be better able to make my point. The converse is true for the other person. And, in an ah-ha moment, I realized that to me, this is what bilingualism would be in an ideal world – everyone has some the ability to function in both languages, but conversation on either end is carried out in the language that is most convenient for that person. The point is – the conversation does not have to be in one language, it is truly a bilingual conversation.

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First comes marriage…

So by now, I think everyone has seen this video of an awesome wedding ceremony entrance.

Completely by accident, I stumbled onto this video today, done as a sort of tribute to the first video. Fast forward a few months…

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Encountered at the grocery store last week.

I was waiting in line at customer service to check my lottery ticket (yes, the first one in a year – predictably, I didn’t win). One person in front of me being helped by the cashier. One person behind me. A lady comes up and starts loitering near the counter, but a bit off to the side. Looking like she’s going to take any chance she gets to jump in ahead of the line (judgemental? probably; but that’s really the vibe she was giving off). The cashier is done helping the woman in front of me, and turns around to put something away. As I’m moving up to the counter, the loitering lady starts talking to clerk.

*ahem* “Excuse me”, say I to the lady, “I’m pretty sure I was here before you” – glancing at the line of now two people behind me.

“It’s ok, I only have a quick question,” she says snarkily. Pause. “You don’t have to be so rude”.

My deliberations on how to put “Errr… so do I, what’s your point”  into slightly more polite terms were cut off by the cashier’s intervention.

So… since when is it “rude” to remind people of the up-to-now-basic principle that lines are first-in, first-out, and in general only one line per cashier should be formed? I can’t even blame this on being a “21st century” thing because the woman, like me, did not grow up in this new, “let’s blame everything that’s wrong with the kids on it”, century.

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La route des vins

On the Saturday of the long weekend, we toured La Route Des Vins. Who knew there was a fantastic winery region within a 3-hour drive of Ottawa?

Well, actually, our adventure started on Friday. We I left work early (Dan already had a compressed day) to beat the traffic into Montreal. Success! We crawled along a few times, but never hit a standstill, which is exceptional, in my experience with Montreal traffic.

We left early-ish on Saturday morning, with me rushing (as always) so we could make it to L’Abbaye Saint-Benoit for the gregorian chants, which the book said were something not to miss. They were definitely good – the church was also exceptionally modern-looking, in a sixties sort of way. Very neat. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get pictures of the carved figures near the altar. There are times and places for sneaking under rope barriers subtly meant to keep you out – in an abbey immediately following a service is not one of those (in my books).

It was (finally) a sunny and sweltering summer day.  Dan laughed at me when, as soon as we got out of the car, I threw a jacket over the very summery (and somewhat revealing) strapless dress I was wearing. What does he know?

As part of their business model, the monastery makes cheese, cider, and grows fresh fruit. Unfortunately, the orchards were all closed off from the public, but we did manage to procure some cheese and cider in their gift shop. As the cider would be lost on Dan, it will probably end up as a day-of treat for the girls in the wedding party. The cheese is delicious. In addition to the gardens, there was an adorable little chapel on the grounds, with gorgeous stained glass windows.

Out of everything I’ve seen in this corner of the country so far, the Eastern Townships are probably the hilliest.  And very beautiful. Sparkling lakes and whispering vineyards. Hills that a few million years ago looked like the Rockies.

For once this summer, sunny weather on a long weekend. Spending a whole day driving around in peace with hubby-to-be. What a lovely mini-vacation! And much needed with 3 weeks to go until the wedding!

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The wonders of youtube

A friend sent me this link … oh… a few months ago, but I finally only got around to watching it a few days ago. Priceless, that’s all I have to say. I find it amusing that someone would put so much effort into something like this. I find it even more amusing that the music really does sound like all the hits from the 70s/80s. 30 years from now, is this how people are going to feel about music from our decades – “if you’ve heard one, this is how they all sound”?

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Here’s what prompted this latest go at joining the blogging world:

A few days ago, I was going through our bookshelves, looking for a nicely-bound book to put the reading for our wedding into.  Nobody wants to see the reader squinting and struggling to keep the sheets from flying away. I think fourteen “where was I”s later even the loveliest poem wouldn’t get any support from the audience.

We settled on  nice leather-bound “book” that was actually my travel diary during my 4-month trip to Asia (blog (which contains excerpts from the real diary), pictures) 3 years ago. The tentative goal is to more or less keep up with this diary over the next few months, going over all the adventures I had.

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After months of waffling on, of all things, the username to use for the blog (mariakat was already taken, and my brain was fixated on that name only), I’ve decided to go through with it and create one. Because, really, does it even matter? Everyone uses RSS feeds nowadays anyway, don’t they? I know I do.

My previous blog was on Livelink. It outlived its usefulness when I stopped travelling for extended periods of time, as it was mainly a travel blog updated when I had time at an internet cafe. When I came back and settled down, with a “good ‘ol job” with only 3 weeks of annual vacation, I felt like all of a sudden there were fewer things to talk about. No bat caves. No sherpas. No extra-clingy eels. No Buddhist monks in a remote monastery.

I could have reused it – but it’s Livelink. And it has ads. And it doesn’t make RSS feeds obvious. But most of all, I could use a fresh start.

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