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2013 in numbers and pictures

So, I haven’t been really good at posting this year. Constantly travelling made it harder for me to sit down and write, and travelling to places like Saskatchewan and Alberta made it difficult to find the motivation. Maybe that’ll be my 2014 resolution! In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of my year, in numbers and pictures!

200: Nights spent in various hotels, houses, buses, trains and airports around the world
165: Nights spent in my own bed. It’s kind of insane that I spent more nights away than home!20131231-132305.jpg

33: Number of airplane rides. It’s come to my attention that I have flown more times this year than most people do in a lifetime. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired. But I’m still, as always, itching to go on my next adventure.20131231-131446.jpg

100: Number of hours spent on trains. Taking the train across Canada does that! What a great experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next summer. My job really does come with awesome perks!20131231-131407.jpg

50+: Number of awesome new friends I’ve made, lucky me!20131231-131417.jpg

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4: Number of new countries visited

Looking back, I realise how great this year has been! I got to go to California twice, once with an old friend and once with my mum, I got to spend an amazing 10 days in Amsterdam with my bestie, I got to visit Ukraine with some awesome new friends, I met my all time favourite singer Passenger, I had a job that allowed me to really see and get to know my own country (like hiking around Lake Louise for work!), I got to visit family and friends across the country more than I ever thought would be possible, and I had a cozy house to come home to at the end of it all.

Happy new year to all of you, and here’s hoping for an even better 2014!

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On trying to blog while travelling and working full time

Turns out I was a bit delusional when I thought that I could spend the summer backpacking across Western Canada for work, and blog all the way. This was especially challenging because I thought that an iPad would be enough to write on every couple of days. It turns out that a lack of time, and no dependable WiFi connection, made this impossible. So I’ve just decided to put together a short post of pictures highlighting what I’ve been up to so far, and in the fall, when things have calmed down, I will be able to write longer posts about where I’ve been this summer. These pictures aren’t in chronological or geographical order because frankly, I’m just too lazy to sort through them.

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Reconnected with old students and ate a lot of fudge in Moosejaw, Sask.

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Discovered that Calgary is, in fact, a lovely city

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Spent enough time on the Prairies that I began to feel like a bit of a cowboy

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Went for a drive in the countryside of Saskatchewan, and found an abandoned bus

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Participated in a full on Mantracker activity

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Went sailing off the coast of Victoria, BC

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Went for a drive in the countryside of Saskatchewan, and found an abandoned bus

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Went to see the giant dinosaur in Drumheller, AB

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Discovered that Canada is even more beautiful than I thought, in Drumheller, AB

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Got to spend a day (of work) swimming in a lazy river in Kelowna, BC’s H20 centre

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Met the beautiful Marshall from Walk Off the Earth

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Hiked around Lake Louise

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Got to spend a day (of work) playing on bouncy castles

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Wore my first ever cowboy hat at the Calgary Stampede


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The time we ate everything at the Calgary Stampede

I was so excited to go to the Calgary Stampede, really really excited. I planned my entire summer around it, and told everyone I was going. By the time it finally rolled around, I couldn’t handle the excitement!

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The day started off really well with a Stampede Breakfast – for two weeks, all around town, you can have a free pancake breakfast. We ended up at one place that made bacon pancakes, which was a bit of a dream come true.

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We got to the stampede, and I was really excited because the first sign that we saw was for all kinds of fried food – I would finally be able to try things that I had only heard about!

Highlights of the Stampede included: pretending to birth a calf, a pretty cool water show, the opening act to the rodeo (not really the rodeo itself, that was kind of sad and scary) and meeting Walk Off the Earth. Turns out that the Stampede is pretty much one big fair, and I probably wouldn’t plan on going again unless I was in Calgary at exactly the right time.

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Otherwise, the most exciting part of the stampede was the food. We decided to photo document our food journey. As a team, we ate pizza, poutine, mac and cheese, chicken on a stick, schnitzel, frozen yogurt with all the toppings, cotton candy, donuts, and fried snickers and mars bars. Not bad for a day’s work! Our biggest regret is that we weren’t able to try the fried butter.

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On making your favorite foreign dishes at home (don’t)

Hypothesis: I can make Mole Poblano at home

In 2003, I spent three months in Mexico, where one of the traditional dishes is Mole. When I first had it, I thought it was the worst thing ever, but it wasn’t long before it became my favourite meal. I’ve only ever had the real things once since coming back, when a friend brought some back from a trip to Mexico, so I decided that now was the time to make it myself. I made it once in Mexico, in preparation for the day of the dead festivities (it was a three day, multi-ingredient process), so I figured that I could fumble my way through making it here. I browsed the internet, used four different recipes to put together an ingredient list that resembled my days in Mexico, and got to work. Mole is not easy work!

This is what the mole looked like about half way through blending all the ingredients.

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Thank god I had made it before, otherwise I would have been REALLY concerned.

Anyway! I put it all through the food processor (if any of you ever attempt to make this at home, don’t believe them when they say that a blender will do. It won’t, and you’ll just have to wash extra dishes), and put it in the Crock Pot, as per Martha‘s instructions.

Result 

– It’s only the second time I’ve used my slow cooker, so maybe I just don’t know it well, but the edges kept burning, so my mole has an (unintentional) burny taste to it

– It’s lumpy – as fine a job as the food processor did, it can’t break up the nuts as well as a good old fashioned Mexican mill can

– It’s really sweet

– It’s not spicy enough (even though I used 12 peppers, of 4 different varieties)

– There’s a large pot of slightly off mole sitting in my fridge that I will likely not eat

Conclusion: I ain’t never making it again

Take it from me: if you want genuine, delicious Oaxacan mole, go to Oaxaca, or go to this website – Phil has offered me the BEST customer service that I have ever received, and I will be getting a few containers of genuine Oaxacan Mole Soledad in the mail in 2-4 weeks.

 


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Travel Tuesday – My 7 Super Shots

Last year, HostelBookers came up with a game called 7 Super Shots, in which they gave 7 travel photo categories.

Well, I missed the boat on the original game, but since this is Travel Photo Tuesday, I thought that I would play, albeit a little bit late!

  • A photo that…takes my breath away. I took this in Peru, in the Colca Valley – it was very early in the morning, and we were on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors fly. The scenery and the mist (and the altitude!) took my breath away.

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  • A photo that…makes me laugh or smile. This picture was taken on Lake Nicaragua, on the ferry that took us to Ometepe Island. I talked the captain into letting me steer the boat – those are his sunglasses that I’m wearing, and the sign says ‘authorized personnel only’. One of my prouder moments!

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  • A photo that…makes me dream. Me: 21 years old, sand surfing in the peruvian desert, no responsibilities, still two months of travel ahead of me before heading back to real life. My dream right now is to get back to that state – planning a massive round the world trip!

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  • A photo that…makes me think. This is the Inti Raymi festival in Saqsaywaman, Peru. We decided to spend less time in Bolivia, to make sure that we wouldn’t miss it. As far as I know, it’ a re-enactment of an ancient royal event… although it all happened in Quichua, so I don’t actually know what happened. It makes me think about travel priorities – I still wish that I had spent time in Bolivia, but I’m also happy that I got to witness this event!

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  • A photo that…makes my mouth water. Ok, there are two of these, because the first picture is nothing special to look at. But you don’t understand. This is the best cheese sandwich you will ever have. In 2005, the bus ride from Quito to Canoa was 9 hours long, and about halfway into the journey, I would start thinking about this sandwich. Poor Marina had to listen to me go on about it for 5 hours. But she understood.
  • The second picture is from my first ever paid photography job. I took this picture for Taste, an excellent catering company based in Ottawa. This Burmese tomato salad tastes as amazing as it looks.

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  • A photo that…tells a story. Kids will be kids will be kids. I met these boys at an orphanage in Bamako, Mali. They were the ones who were too old to be adopted, and had been living there for most of their lives. Doesn’t matter – they were silly and hilarious and happy, like any other kid I’ve ever met.

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  • A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot). Come on, Nat Geo or Lonely Planet… I’m ready for you!

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Travel Photo Tuesday

You know that awkward travel photo that didn’t work out the way you wanted it, but it ends up being one of your faves? Well, here’s one of mine.

This was on my last day in Mali – I was walking through the city with a friend when we saw these giant cows lying around, and I decided to pose next to them. Just as I was getting close, one got up, and scared the shit out of me! Look at how huge they are! Anyway – as it got up, I jumped and sort of ran away, and a couple of men behind me started laughing and teasing me about it. What you see in this picture is my reaction to them, and it always reminds me of how much people in Mali love to joke around and have fun.

This also gives you a good idea of what many street corners look like in downtown Bamako!

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Travel Photo Tuesday

In 2006, I spent a week in Dakar. There was a 12 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco along the way, and the airline provided us with a bus into the city and a hotel room. Now, I am not the type to miss out on seeing as much as I can of a new city, no matter how tired I am. So, I dropped my luggage off in my hotel room and powered through, and went exploring with a girl that I met on the plane.

We were told ahead of time that it was Eid, a religious holiday, and that everything would be closed and we were likely to see a lot of dead sheep everywhere. We were not disappointed! I asked these two boys if I could take their picture, and they were so excited to pose for the camera! Afterward, they asked us what we were doing, and we told them that we had been hoping to visit the city, but that everything was shut. The man standing behind them to the right was their uncle, and offered to drive us around the city and show us the sights. Airplane girl and I jumped at the opportunity, and got a private tour of different Casa neighbourhoods, including a stop at this man’s mother’s house where we watched her clean and prepare the sheep (we were invited to dinner – a great honor – but had to decline because of our flight) and a private tour of a palace, where we ate sheep intestines with the guards. What a great day!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA