Oh Christmas Tree

Well, the weather outside might be frightful…it is yet another winter storm and it isn’t even officially winter yet until December 21st. Yet I am home warm and cozy in my new apartment making use of some much needed time to prepare for the fast approaching holiday. As the snow falls outside it is hard to believe that only a year ago I was eagerly preparing to spend Christmas in Tanzania and exotic island of Zanzibar. What a difference a year makes. 

Let’s just say that the Christmas trees that I experienced last year weren’t quite what I am use to 

Santa and the tree at the Maru Maru Hotel, Stonetown, Zanzibar
Santa and the tree at the Maru Maru Hotel, Stonetown, Zanzibar

 

Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
Tropical Christmas tree
Tropical Christmas tree

 

Thanks to the freezing cold (wind chill temperature have been hovering between minus 15 to minus 26 degrees) all week and the snow on the ground it is easy to embrace a traditional Christmas unlike my exotic adventure last year. Earlier this week I made a visit to the Christmas tree lot to pick up the traditional evergreen tree that I had purchased a few weeks ago. There is nothing like the gorgeous smell of a true evergreen tree standing tall adorned with tinkling lights to put you in the mood. 

So off I set to bring my tree home. In doing so I was reminded that bringing home the Christmas often is an adventure for me. When I was younger my family would hike back to the woodlot on our farm property, sometimes through deep snow to cut down our own tree. One Christmas while my parents were temporarily living in Goose Bay, Labrador the land of snow and polar bears we hiked through massive snow drifts to chop down a rather scrawny tree only to have a beautiful one blow off the back of a truck at our feet when we returned to the side of ride hauling our Charlie Brown tree. Needless to say we grabbed the beautiful tree stuffed into our car and quickly made our get away.

 

Just an example of my Christmas tree adventures. This year was certainly no different. In case you had any doubt bringing home a Christmas tree is now small feat and certainly a job for two people. But this independent Miss decided to tackle the feat alone! Where are Buche and Lawrence when I need them? 

Actually I had a plan….don’t I always? 

I was simply going to bring the tree home and unload it in the heated parking garage of my apartment building. From there I could get the able assistance of the resident property manager to wrestle it to my third floor apartment. The pick up of the tree went with out a hitch except that I didn’t have any cord to tie down my car trunk lid as I drove making my less than 3 km drive the slowest of my life to prevent the tree from flying out of the back of my car unto a poor unsuspecting victim. Luckily the numerous potholes and rounding corners didn’t dislodge my precious cargo and we arrived safe and sound in my underground parking garage. 

A trunkful of tree
A trunkful of tree

 Like all good ideas, once I executing it I always seem to come up with another one. 

As I had to take the tree out of my trunk before I could back into my parking spot, I thought why don’t I try to get the tree up to my apartment without waiting for someone else to do. Yes, I know, a brilliant thought. In my defense, there were accessories to the crime. One of the great things about my building is it comes complete with lots of extras that make your life so much easier including moving dollies and shopping carts for transporting heavy loads from the parking garage to the elevator and into your apartment. 

So a brilliant idea was formed when my eye spied a large shopping cart just waiting for a load…..

Just as I was beginning to haul the tree out of my car trunk my neighbors entered the parking garage on their way out. Let me first say how wonderful my neighbors are here. They are warm, welcoming and it seems indulgent of crazy independent women who think that they can tackle anything. And thanks to their able assistance between the three of us soon the seven foot tree was balanced on top of the said shopping cart just waiting for it’s ride. 

The next hurdle was navigating the said seven foot tree balanced on a shopping cart through two sets of heavy doors into the very tiny space where the elevator waited. Once again thanks to additional assistance from another set of upstairs neighbors I made it through that hurdle. A third set of helping hands held the elevator door open long enough for me to roll my rather cumbersome load onto the elevator for the trip to the third floor. 

Exiting the elevator was a piece a cake and easily executed all by myself

Proof of my tree's journey
Proof of my tree’s journey

 

Almost home!
Almost home!

Victory was in sight as home was only a very short distance away down the hall and through one more heavy door into my apartment. Putting my back into it , the tree and I were soon home at last. With an even more cunning plan. 

Once we were safely ensconced in the apartment and I had removed my winter coat and boots it was time to stand the tree up. Thinking on my feet I grabbed the tree stand and positioned it on the base of the tree screwing the tree stand to the trunk. When I was sure that the tree stand was not only tightly secured to the base of the trunk but that it was reasonably straight the next challenge was getting the seven foot tree now on a cumbersome tree stand off the shopping cart and upright in my living room. 

Ha, you doubt my abilities I am sure! I may only be just over 5 feet tall but I pack the determination of a 6 foot tall person into my body. So with some careful consideration of physics (never one of my best subjects in school) and I was ready to leverage the tree off of the shopping cart and upright. Okay, I will be honest, it took two tries to get the blasted tree off the cart. That sucker was a little heavier than I realized. However, by holding the shopping cart still with one of my feet while simultaneously tipping the end of the cart while also simultaneously tilting the tree into an upright position…this is definitely where an extra pair of hands would have been useful…I defied the odds. 

Victory!!!!
Victory!!!!

 Other than a few branches that didn’t survive the arm wrestle with my determination I had a beautiful Christmas tree stand tall and strong. And the best part was the intoxicating smell of evergreen wafting over me. It is truly one of my favorite scents in the world. 

With a few twinkling lights I now have a head start on the Christmas spirit

Oh Christmas Tree
Oh Christmas Tree

And yet another adventure under my belt just proving that my adventures didn’t end in Africa 🙂 

 

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Baby it is snowy outside!

The first of many winter storms yet to come!
The view from my balcony of the first of many winter storms yet to come!

The day started with the continuation of a major rain and wind storm that has been sweeping through our area. My walk to work this morning was in wind and rain, but my walk home today was in the middle of our first official winter storm in PEI.

While the very cute hat that I wore to work adequately protected my hair from being dripping wet this morning, it wasn’t up to the job of providing any warmth at all during my trudge home through snow covered streets with winds gusting to 100 km per hour and the icy cold snow blowing in my ears and eyes. Luckily there was zero traffic so I wasn’t in danger of being run over by a vehicle as the police have asked everyone to stay off of the roads as driving is too dangerous.

It is only the 4th of December and already this is the third snowfall that we have experienced so far this winter. I can only imagine what is in store for the coming months. All I can say is that Jetske has been reporting to me that temperatures have been soaring in Gaborone into the 40s while we have been experiencing windchill levels of -15 to -18 degrees on a regular basis. And now the snow storms have started in earnest knocking out power and closing offices, schools and other essential services.

I would happily take the 40 degree African heat (even with the five days without water) that Botswana offers over a winter storm Maritime style. Jetske, do you want to trade homes?

A Cheryl Moment

First of all I have to acknowledge that I am truly back in the land of snow and ice. This week I have been walking to work in fluttering snow flurries, bone chilling winds (-6 degrees) and icy sidewalks. Oh how I long for the warmth and sunshine of Africa. Let’s just say that neither my body or psyche are adjusting well to cold Canadian weather.

Now on to my Cheryl moment of the day….while I may be back at work with the federal government of Canada taking on serious policy work that will make a difference in lives, I remain the typical Cheryl disaster just waiting to happen.

Today, I took a couple of hours out of my incredibly busy work schedule to accompany my dad to a medical appointment. My adventure in the doctor’s office proved that you might be able to dress me up but you can’t take me anywhere and I seriously don’t know if my dad will let me accompany him to any more medical appointments.

While I looked the part of a serious professional caring daughter, I am really nothing but a complete doofus 🙂

After patiently waiting in the outer waiting room we were escorted into the inner exam rooms and I quietly waited while the very professional healthcare worker did her thing and properly recorded all of dad’s very important vitals. Once she exited and we were waiting for the doctor I grew a little tired of remaining standing. Dad was in the only chair in the exam room so my options were to either hop up on the examination table (thank heavens it was minus stirrups) or the little round stool that the doctor sits on.

Well, like a good policy analyst, I seriously weighed my options and chose to avail myself of the doctor’s stool until he entered the room and required it. Did I happen to mention that this stool was on very well oiled wheels? Yes, you can only imagine as I backed up to sit down on it, the stool decided to do its own thing and rolled half way across the room without me.

Picture this me with my professionally dressed bum more than half down to the ground hovering in a position that could only resemble break dancing….I guess with my departure from Africa and no longer being able to participate in weekly dancing a girl has to do what she can. While the stool rolled, I gyrated and somehow managed to prevent my tailbone from making a sudden and painful connection to the very hard floor.

Fortunately both the stool and me were restored to respectful positions before the doctor entered the room saving me from having to seek my own medical attention for what would have been an incredibly sore tailbone had I made impact.

Thankfully it provided a moment of levity for my dad which fortunately wasn’t witnessed by anyone else and I returned to work with no one any wiser to my rolling debacle in the doctor’s office.

Cheryl’s not in Africa anymore!

This morning was a very rude reminder that I am no longer living the good life in the desert of Botswana.

I woke up to an outside temperature of -5 degrees. Brrrr is all that I can say.

So as I was getting dressed for the walk to work (it is only two blocks) and the day, instead of reaching for my usual wardrobe of dresses or skirts, only dress pants would do thanks to the below freezing temperatures. My short walk to work was brisk but lovely and I arrived with frozen hands as I forgot to grab a pair of gloves to wear.

Oh the joys of Canadian weather. While fall is one of my favorite seasons of the year with it’s sunny days, brightly colored leaves, crisp mornings, the smell of wood fires in the air and who can forget my favorite holiday, Halloween, this year my body and soul are not quite so enthusiastic. I guess you could say that I am truly missing not only my friends and family in Botswana but the sunshine and heat as well. But I am Canadian through and through and unlike my good friend, Buche I don’t need to bundle up too much against the colder temperatures. I just need to adjust my perspective….Jetske, can I meet you in the pool????

 

Home at last

Although I left Botswana almost four weeks ago…it is so hard to believe that… this weekend I finally got to settle in to my new home – for now 😉

While I am truly grateful for my kind friend Alexa, who took in this homeless waif while I navigated the drama filled environment of apartment/condo rental, I am delighted to be able to stop living out of a suitcase and access my warmer Canadian clothing. And to put the drama of dealing with real estate agents behind me.

My new home is not the original place that I had planned on renting….let’s just say that the motto “buyer beware” is so appropriate as you should never sign on the dot lined line until you can visually inspect a place. Thankfully, I was smart enough not to fall for the sales pitch and as a result am now happily ensconced in an apartment fit for an African Princess.

As I was lying in bed last night after a whirlwind weekend of moving and unpacking (barely scratching that surface) I realized that my new bedroom which comes complete with a huge walk-in (through) closet and en-suite master bathroom with both a walk-in shower and deep soaker tub was in fact larger than my entire Bird Cottage at Peter’s Place in Gaborone. It just doesn’t come with a housekeeper and laundry services but I do have underground parking and lots of other amenities.

My bedroom
My bedroom

While the recent renovations at Bird Cottage in Gaborone left me with a substantially larger closet in which my ever expanding wardrobe had to be stuffed, my new walk in closet is more than adequate to accommodate both my African wardrobe and all 4 seasons of my Canadian wardrobes. It is every woman’s dream let me tell you!

Walk in heaven

 

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So now that I have some place to call home I can promise more regular postings again. To bad I can’t just find someone to unpack for me, then I would truly be a happy African Princess living in downtown Charlottetown, PEI.

 

 

Potty Training

Everyone keeps asking me if I am experiencing massive culture shock from returning to Canada after a year in Africa. The honest truth is not at all!

I am simply not the type of person who ever has an issue with this. Where ever I go seems to feel like home for me and once I move on to somewhere else, it simply assumes the same feeling of home for me. I guess this is a lucky thing for me as I seem to pack up and migrate to new places so often during the course of my life.

However, this week I did make myself laugh. During my first day back to work I eventually was in need of relieving my bladder. As I stood up from my desk I found myself patting my bra to ascertain if I had stored the obligatory stash of Kleenex there as back up in case there was no requisite toilet paper in the necessary…old habits die hard obviously.

As I chuckled to myself that since I am now back in Canada I no longer had to worry about always carrying an emergency stash of toilet paper. I also was deliriously happy thinking as I entered our area restrooms that each and every one of the toilet stalls would not only have toilet paper but would also have a functioning door and working lock! Wow, definitely my idea of heaven.

So I will enjoy the pleasures that a Canadian restroom brings but I will still be secretly longing for the chaos and adventure of African toilets. What can I say, I am a sucker for punishment 🙂

 

Home Again

Well this week was certainly a whirlwind of activity.

After putting in an incredibly busy day on Monday, tending to car and apartment acquisitions, settling into my friend Alexa’s house as my temporary accommodations until I can move into my new place and liberate my belongings from storage, it was time to go back to work on Tuesday.

As I already noted in my previous blog, I could not have had a more welcoming reception by my friends and colleagues. While working in public service can be extremely stressful these days, I am incredibly lucky to work with a fantastic crew. The sense of team work, support and fun within my work section is amazing. While our Directorate tends to be one of the busiest in the department with often being tasked to handle urgent crises by the handful, we always conquer the impossible but working together and laughing whenever possible.

This week while sitting in my well decorated cubicle, I had a constant smile on my face as I listened to the familiar banter and good nature ribbing that takes place among our considerable smaller policy team. Although everyone was working under incredibly tight and stressful deadlines there was still time to laugh and affectionately abuse each other over our cubicle walls. I had truly missed the feeling of awesome teamwork and genuine friendship that our policy team is composed of. It actually feels wonderful to back as part of the team.

While I might have temporarily left Lawrence and Buche for greener pastures, I am reunited once again with my other favorite men, Andrew and Trevor. Long before I had Buche and Lawrence, Trevor and Andrew were enduring me on a daily basis. This week I proudly informed them that they had better get use to being blog fodder.

Trevor had promised to give me a week of grace before the torment started, sadly he didn’t make it. Let’s just say that when I first joined this work team four years ago, Trevor who is a lawyer along with a fellow coworker welcomed me by turning my cubicle into a crime scene. For anyone who knows me well, they can attest to the fact that I could not possible rest until I found out the guilty parties. My investigative talents can easily equal CSI when necessary. What has ensured over the subsequent years between Trevor and I has been a constant game of torment and one-up manship.

As for Andrew, he is such a great guy and so easy to torment. I spent a year as a his policy mentor when he was learning the ropes and it is hard to say whether the good that I taught him outweighs the evil. Although I am happy to note that he did turn out to be a great policy analyst! I also conditioned him to bribe me with my favorite york peppermint patties. Which somehow I end up having to pay forward to Trevor as a user fee for using his highly functional three hole punch. Oh, the office politics.

All of this to say, while I certainly miss Africa, Buche and Lawrence to name a few, I am happily back at home in the bosom of friends and colleagues who are equally capable of keeping my life interesting. No doubt the simple fact that I am now sitting in between these two guys will give me lots of opportunities for mayhem and fun.

My welcome back to VAC

I am a lucky girl indeed.

While I had landed back on PEI last Thursday afternoon, it was today that I actually returned to my workplace at Veterans Affairs Canada. After days of running around moving my worldly possessions, car shopping and apartment hunting I was actually looking forward to sitting still for a few moments at my desk.

This morning after going through the signing in process that all Canadian federal government employees must endure to enter their secure work sites, I was taken to my new old work station where I was greeted by this wonderful thoughtful sight as my friends and colleagues had gone to considerable effort to welcome me back. 

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I certainly could not have felt more welcome or missed! It is nice to know that even though I was far away having an adventure of a life time that my friends and co-workers truly did miss me and welcome me home with open arms. How lucky can one person be? I know that I truly am.  My coworkers even loved my bright purple and pink African jacket and had left a brand new mug along with a special package of David’s Tea. 

As for culture shock, I am happy to report that I have not suffered even one twinge of it except to remember when I am driving which side of the road I really need to be on. The only shock around me is what I am causing in other people but that is just a normal every day occurrence for me 🙂 

 

 

I am back!

Literally and figuratively, ha! In Canada I mean!

Last Wednesday I boarded a plane in Gaborone and traveled for 31 hours straight before landing on Prince Edward Island, the land of my birth. All in all it was a relatively uneventful trip.

Buche didn’t make me totally cry when we parted at the airport. I made all of my connections and Addis Ababa Airport was certainly an experience as a true African airport. I was only sorry that I could get my camera out and snap some shots but my hands were too full and too little time. I would definitely highly recommend Air Ethiopia as a great airline to fly from Africa to Toronto, Canada on.

Although 16 straight hours on an airplane can be slightly claustrophobic  if you are in the window seat as I was. But I survived. It wasn’t until I hit Toronto Pearson Airport and Air Canada that I had any travel difficulties. Let’s just say that at one point I very loudly yelled at the Air Canada employees who were totally rude, disorganized and clueless that they needed to go learn a thing or two from African airports. 🙂

Once I had my feet back on Canadian soil, it was time for the whirling dervish to kick into full throttle mode. Who cares that I hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours, after being in a land locked country for a year I simply needed to stick my feet in water that was not full of crocodiles, hippos and various or sundry dangerous wildlife. Fortunately, my parents live on the north shore of Prince Edward Island a simply five drive had me waterside with toes soaking in the salt water…who needs the Peter’s Place pool when you have the whole Atlantic Ocean? Fortunately, I arrived in PEI to Gab like weather as it was hot and sunny and perfect for swimming.

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I really did miss the beautiful harbour and seaside

North Rustico Harbour
North Rustico Harbour

 

Not the least bit tired it was time to go for a nice drive to drink in the beauty of my homeland which is so green compared to Botswana.

The green fields of PEI
The green fields of PEI

It is hard to believe that I had gone from this

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to this

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Both are equally beautiful in my eyes!

 

 

The Many Faces of Kgale Hill

Thanks to my amazing friend Sheila, who is now running up Kgale Hill three times a week and participating in a Botswana Defense Force exercise program at the top of hill, I can now show the view from Kgale Hill.

I love Kgale and the surrounding hills. Since arriving at Peter’s Place one year ago and developing an immediate love for the beauty of the hills, the love affair has only grown. Kgale Hill stands as my own personal beacon showing me the way home no matter where in the city I am. And as you get closer to the hill it’s beauty changes throughout the day from the glow of early morning sunrise through sunset and the dark of night.

I hope that you enjoy these pictures of Kgale Hill and beyond.

A view from the top of Kgale hill
A view from the top of Kgale hill
The quarry
The quarry

 

 

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The top of Kgale Hill
The top of Kgale Hill

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