It's amazing how quickly plans can change. One minute I'm on a bus in Paraguay and the next I'm on a plane - well, 4 planes actually - heading back to Canada.
So what am I doing back in Canada?
Well, originally I had a return ticket to Canada for the end of June but had planned on extending it. In fact, I had already made plans to join a sailboat and lazily cruise through the Venezuelan and Dutch Antilles islands for July and August.
But then my 87-year old father fell and broke his hip at the beginning of May, and all hell broke loose as my older sisters battled against the appalling healthcare services in the province where my parents reside. He was justifiably bummed about being hospital-bed-bound for so long, and receiving abysmal healthcare to boot, and my sisters figured that a big family celebration on Fathers Day (June 18) would be just what was needed to boost his plummeting spirits. "Family" meant the inclusion of this wandering gypsy, so I received the summons to come home.
The selfish part of me wanted to continue in the direction of that sailboat. The good daughter part of me knew that family comes first, even though I really REALLY wanted to be on that sailboat! Boy, I hope my family appreciates the sacrifice I made for them!!
I arrived in Calgary on June 15 and, along with my two oldest sisters who also live in Calgary, flew out to visit my parents the next day.
We busted my dad out of hospital for his Fathers Day celebrations. It was a fun day for him and nice for me as well since I was able to see all my family again. In fact, it was the first time our family (Mom, Dad and 4 daughters) was together in probably 10 years.
In addition to visits with my Dad, who was finally transferred from hospital to a rehabilitation facility where he's presently in the middle of a 6-week physical therapy program, I spent a lot of time with my 86-year old Mom. We did road trips to neighboring small towns, many of which are nearly of ghost-town status these days, and we visited the old prairie homesteads where each of my parents were born. Most surprisingly, I was almost successful in making a soccer fan out of my Mom, although she talked non-stop through most of the World Cup games we watched.
Culture shock was intense. It was difficult enough to get out of the backpacker groove, but then to be plunked into an isolated small town in the middle of the Canadian prairies was almost too much for me! Give me a remote jungle village in South America any time over an isolated small town in Canada!
In addition to all this excitement, my parents also celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on June 30th. These days, where most couples stay together shorter than the time it takes to get an oil change in your car, 60 years of living together - with the same person - seems like an incredible accomplishment! Under the circumstances we just had a very simple restaurant dinner, only 16 family/friends in attendance, but my parents really enjoyed the day so that's all that mattered.
Not much else to do there at present, I decided to return to Calgary. Two weeks in Canada living with my parents and already it felt more like two years (just kidding Mom!). I flew back to Calgary on July 1st and couldn't believe how good it felt to be back in civilization!
So you're in Calgary and are wondering why I haven't contacted you yet, right?
Well, to be honest, I've pretty much forbidden myself from having any fun with friends until I get this bloody website of mine updated! I figured that would be good motivation for me ... and it seems to have worked cause here it is.
Of course I did allow myself a bit of free time to watch World Cup finals. Who'd have thought I'd turn into such a soccer fan! That's what traveling in South America has done to me; it's simply impossible not to get caught up in futbol fever when down there ... to the males of South America, futbol is more important than religion, food, drink, drugs, politics, work, sleep, parents, wives, children, even sex!
Calgary Stampede is also in full swing right now, and although I've mostly tried to avoid it, my sister Marge and I are going down to the grounds to watch the Chuckwagon Races tomorrow. For those of you who have no idea what Calgary Stampede is, I've included some pics that will give you a good idea of the craziness that takes over this town for 10 days every summer. The pics aren't mine; not having a stash of Stampede pics readily available I blatantly copied them from the internet.
I already have a good part of August organized, and somehow/somewhere I need to squeeze in another visit with my parents and a bit of time for a few potential business ventures that have come my way.
In honesty, it feels very strange to be back in Canada. On my previous trips it always felt like traveling was the exception and life in Canada was the norm, but somewhere along the line these roles have reversed. Travel seems to have taken over my life and I don't really feel like I belong in comfortable beds or fancy restaurants any more! Perhaps that should worry me, but in reality it doesn't. I too shall find my place in life again.
So, in the last 10 months I straddled the middle of the earth in Ecuador; I had jungle fever and finally saw my first jaguar, king of the jungle (after 5 different jungle trips!) in Peru; I survived a cycle trip on the "World's Most Dangerous Road" (been there, done that, got the Tshirt!) and was reacquainted with what is still one of my favorite countries but in a different way through the eyes of a new friend in Bolivia; I went stargazing and got the worst case of bedbug bites in my travel history (urgghhh!) in Chile; I touched down on a fantastic new continent and fell in love with penguins, whales, sea captains, baby fur seals, German cooks, and big fat burpy/farty elephant seals in Antarctica; I experienced the magic of tango, the miracle of birth, and the magnificence of waterfalls (oh, and I kissed a cute cop there too!) in Argentina; I became "painter/cleaner extraordinaire" and had the honor of having a beautiful sea turtle named after me in Uruguay; I survived South America's most corrupt city and rode up the lazy river on a cargo boat in Paraguay; and I had my first taste of Polynesia/South Pacific and got my first tattoo in Rapa Nui. I've made new friends from South America, North America, Europe, and around from the world.
And for this I gave up my day job.