Be Our Guest!

Before I board that flight tomorrow (!!!), I would just like to take a second to thank the WONDERFUL friends who invited me into their homes this summer and surpassed all my hopes and expectations by not only allowing me to be their guest, but also to be a part of their families!

In order of (my) appearance : )

 That lovely girl you see there in the middle is Susannah, and I had a really nice time staying with her for two nights in Newcastle, England. She, too, has been to Africa which gave us lots to talk about, and her home was so warm and friendly and welcoming. She makes amazing coffee and bacon sandwiches! She is so laid back and gave me a key to her house so I could come and go, and made me feel so very much at home! Thank you, Susannah!

 As you know, I wrote a HUGE post about the Shells here. Definitely a summer highlight for me! Besides the fact that they are an amazing family, the opportunity to “live” for 4 days on a farm in the middle of absolutely nowhere was priceless. Thank you Duncan, Laura, Miriam, Pippa, Josie, and Enoch!!!!!!

Meet Laure! Isn’t she lovely? (and doesn’t she look like the chick from Brave?). While I didn’t spend a night at the Dobie home, I was still their guest. The Shells dropped me off there on my last day in the Borders (the day after the wedding), and after a great visit for a few hours, Laure and her (lovely) mother brought me ALL the way to Edinburgh so I could catch a train to Glasgow. Thank you, Dobies!!

 Oh my word, Fiona and Stu (and Molly the Lab, and also a wee little baby in Fi’s tummy—YAY!) in Glasgow, Scotland. You haven’t heard me mention these guys yet, or at all. It’s not because I don’t love them to pieces, which I DO! It’s because the precious few days I spent with them were spent sick as a freaking dog on their couch! I felt awful (literally and figuratively). Fiona and I met in Canada in 2005 when she came over to travel and work for awhile. Our friend Dave hooked us up and we became very good friends. I haven’t seen her since 2008, and had barely spent any time with Stu before that, so naturally I was very excited to see them! But I give them a lot of credit for having me, because I wasn’t only their guest, I was also their patient. They took good care of me, and by the time they brought me to the airport I was feeling a bit better! Thank you, Beggs! (and let’s try that again soon!)

 This is Rachel and her precious little girl, Elisha, in Bristol, England! Rachel and I met and taught together at Gateway Christian School in South Africa in 2008. That was the last time I had seen her, and she had only just gotten engaged, so lots has changed in the last few years! Things have even changed since I saw her last month, as now she has another baby—a gorgeous new son named Reuel! Even though I was still quite sick for this visit, we still had a lot of fun catching up and visiting Chedder, England…you can imagine what was “invented” there, I’m sure : ) Sadly I don’t have a picture of her husband David, but he was a very good host as well and it was great getting to know him! Thanks, Enchills, and huge congratulations!

 And last but not least, you know all about the Lonanders from this post. It was AWESOME to see them and catch up on the last few years, and I am confident it won’t be the last time we see each other. I have amazing memories from my time there and can’t wait to laugh about all our inside jokes one day down the road. Miss you guys already…thank you, Londanders!!!

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When we love anyone with our whole hearts, life begins when we are with that person; it is only in their company that we are really and truly alive.
William Barclay

My heart is full of gratitude, and I can only hope and pray that I can extend the same hospitality to these dear friends should they decide to one day visit Canada (which I definitely think they must!)

~C

 

 

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Can’t Get You Out of My Head (August)

True to the title of this post and series, this really IS something I can’t get out of my head. And the fact that I haven’t said it sooner definitely makes me feel like a coward. Or perhaps just…human?

August 18th was a special day, and not just because it was marked by the fact that I am still residing in beautiful Europe. No, it was special because it marked an anniversary for me; an anniversary that wonderful, faithful, and loving Myranda remembered completely on her own. I am so lucky to have her.

Just as I have celebrated August 18th by writing this post (2010) and this post (2011), I am adding this one to the mix, even though it isn’t as happy. But this post will be real.

Because back-sliding is real.

On that first August 18th, back in 2009, when Tamara held my hand and I realized I was totally and completely ready to change my life and heal from bulimia, she told me something I didn’t want to hear at the time; she told me one day, statistically, I would relapse. And silly me, I didn’t believe her.

But I realized this past month that relapse is totally and utterly and completely something that I am capable of.

And also something that totally and utterly and completely almost happened.

A huge difference between my battle with bulimia then and the battle now is my ability to talk about it. Then, I was scared and hiding and very much unwilling to let anyone in my little circle of lies. On the same note, though, I truly had no one who was willing to talk to me about it. People knew. People heard. People saw. Even my own roommate(s) knew what was going on but didn’t know how to ask me about it. The whole thing was awkward. And painful.

But now I have The Net. You have heard me talk about them here. Otherwise known as my entourage. My friends.

Where would we be in life without friends? It’s the most beautiful gift I can think of receiving. We talk a LOT about this war that rages within me. They aren’t afraid to ask me hard questions, and they are gentle when they receive answers in return that aren’t exactly what they wanted to hear. No judgement. No fear. Just reminder after reminder that everything’s gonna be okay.

Part of the healing journey back then required me to come up with an idea of what my “triggers” are for my thoughts leading to bulimic episodes. That wasn’t hard for me to figure out: boredom, for one, but most importantly, loneliness.

Boredom, not so much, but loneliness has definitely tried to have a strong-hold over me this summer. At times, I should say; not always. But it only takes a spark…

…and before you know it, the thoughts are back. The dark, scary, hideous thoughts that lead a young girl to believe that there is one way and one way only to rid herself of guilt: to bend over a toilet and throw up.

That is completely bullshit crap. And I refuse to go back there. I’ve made it 3 whole years, and that’s too many to throw away. I don’t want to have to start over again.

And thanks to the Net, I won’t have to. They caught me once again. Stopped me from going over the edge. Thank you, girls.

Here’s to another GREAT year! Happy anniversary to me, and cheers to picking oneself up after a fall.

Until next time…

~C

This picture of Tam and I was taken on the original August 18th.

I will never forget that day. Ever.

 On the edge of glory, with no idea that my life was gonna change.

August 18th, 2009

Lido di Venezia

Normally I am not a huge money spender. I would much rather have a few really nice, long-lasting things than a lot of crappola. But something called my name in Venice which I just had to have, and it pretty much sums up the entire trip…

It’s a yellow Guess purse/bag (gasp! who me?) that says “it was love at first sight“.

And when I arrived in Venice, it certainly WAS love at first sight.

I was plastered to the window of that tiny little airplane like a toddler looking into a window of a toy shop from the moment the captain announced we were flying over the Austrian/Italian border. Blessed with an amazingly clear day, Italy looked just as beautiful from above the ground as it would later prove to be from the ground.

Another announcement from the captain moments later informed us that the current weather conditions in Venice were clear with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30’s. Translation: exactly 39 degrees on the tarmac. It was like stepping off a plane straight into a sauna. And this heat-loving, Africa-adoring girl was in heaven. And I knew from that moment on that I was in trouble; that this wasn’t simply a little jaunt to Italy, but that I was most definitely going to leave a piece of my heart behind me.

I did little-to-no research on Venice, save for booking my hotel. And even that was a shot in the dark; hotels.com did most of the work. I just specified that I HAD to be near the water. And so that is how I ended up staying in a hotel (no, make that RESORT) on the gorgeous and exotic island of Lido.

I watched a documentary once that was called “Last Minute Flights” where a camera would follow this guy around as he took these random, unplanned trips around the world, and it seemed amazing to me. And more or less, that’s what this trip has been about. I’m SO not a meticulous planner when it comes to details and it has made my life so much fun and so interesting!

I met some really cool people on this trip, too! The first was an elderly man with the brownist, most weather-beaten skin I have ever seen, and there is only one word I can think of to describe him, and that is: beautiful. He looked like he had lived his life right, somehow. He looked happy and content. And he helped me find Malamocco, the area of the island I was staying in, which I would have never found without him. See? THIS is why I don’t plan too carefully; I would have never met that kind, local soul.

To all you out there who are history buffs and architecture nuts, you will probably hate hearing that I went against the tourist current and didn’t go to San Marcco Rialto. It’s something I would have done for sure if I had more time, but honestly, I have seen a lot of history and culture these last 10 weeks, and all I really wanted to do was simply enjoy being in Italy…I wanted to soak in every ounce of sunlight and lay for as long as possible on that glorious beach. And I am so proud of myself for the way I spent my time. I swam in the Adriatic Sea! And I don’t mean I walked in up to my waist and then got out. No, I swam. Properly swam. Out to where I couldn’t touch the bottom. And I put my head under and enjoyed the warmth of the water, warmer even than the Indian Ocean in Kenya.

I ate a whole pizza. And I am not even sorry.

I ordered a drink off the menu in “perfect” Italian, a drink I had never even heard of. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted in my entire life! But I didn’t even care. It was worth it, just for the adventure.

The hotel was something out of a dream, and honestly, I didn’t pay very much for it. Not much more than if I had stayed in a youth hostel. I have been learning more and more lately that being here solo is really a huge blessing. Not only because single rooms in resort-hotels are dirt cheap, but also because I really DO get to do whatever I want. It’s pretty amazing. I love my own company and have had a blast listening to music, reading to my little heart’s content and meeting people I would NEVER meet if I wasn’t dependant on the kindness of strangers.

The flight home was scheduled for 19:05, but it was an hour late, so I sat with the other sandy, sun-kissed, weary travellers on the floor of the departure gate, and I watched a little girl about 9 or 10 years old burst into tears. Her mom, astonished at the sudden break down, tried to comfort her daughter, who just kept saying, “I don’t want to leave!” Well, that did it for me. I cried, too. Real, hot tears. I called it when we landed days earlier; I was going to leave a piece of my heart behind in Italia. And like a true traveller, that I did.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~C

<3 Sweden <3

I really, really, really could live in Sweden, friends. It.Is.BEAUTIFUL!!!

I took the train on a Monday morning from Bremerhaven, where I live, aaaallllll the way to Sweden. It took a long, long time. But I can honestly say I loved the whole journey, except for the fact that I had a terrible cold that made me very sleepy. Of course I had to transfer trains many times, but it was worth it, especially considering that this way I could see some of Denmark! The train stopped in Flensburg and Copenhagan, which are both really great cities. No, I didn’t eat a danish there, but next time I will 🙂

THIS was amazing…if you look at the geography of Germany to Denmark to Sweden, you will see that you have to cross a few bodies of water (the North Sea). Instead of having to take a boat or airplane, the train goes over bridges. I love it!

Malmö, Sweden

I spent one night in Malmö at a gorgeous, much posh-er than I was expecting, hotel right by the water. There I refuelled, watched TV in ENGLISH (oh, the simple things) and enjoyed both a good, long sleep and a delightful 5-star morning buffet.

Then, it was back to the train station for me, and I headed 2 hours north to Nassjö (no, don’t even both trying to pronounce that, it’s basically impossible!) to see my dear friends, the Löndander fam.

I wish so badly I could have stayed longer than 3 days (I think we all wish that, actually), but we made the most of what we had and had an incredible time together and have made many, many memories!

Sandra, Aunty Annie, Emma, and me. Missing: all the boys!

Doing a little bit of preaching in a church built in 1704

Overlooking Smäland (I think!)

Beautiful Aunty Annie gathering raspberries for us girls.

YEAH we did!

So THIS is gonna be hard to convey…it’s really hard to tell, but you are looking down the side of the mountain to a large crevice in the rocks. And there where the lights are, there is a stage set up. We went to a freaking CONCERT down there! And in order to get there, we had to walk a good kilometer through a mining tunnel in the dark! I almost peed my pants I was so excited! Best night of my life!

The entrace to the mining tunnel at the bottom of the mountain.

A perfectly imperfect picture of my girls and I that night. It was very cold!

On a secret adventure at the school…Linds, pretend you didn’t see this!

I sincerely hope that wasn’t my last visit to Sweden—it was so much better than I was expecting, and I am so very grateful for the experience I had there.
Thank you SO much Aunty Annie, Uncle Mats, Sandra, Emma, Sebastian and Simon for making that trip amazing! And thank you to my beloved and very missed Solbrekken’s for sharing your (our) family with me!

~C

Keep Calm and Carry On

I hadn’t ever heard of the “Keep Calm” phenomenon until my last birthday when Linds gave me my birthday present in a pink bag that said, “keep calm and have a cupcake”. Now though, I have learned that it is quite widespread, especially in jolly ol’ England. Everywhere I looked I saw it…

Keep Calm and Never Say Never

Keep Calm and Keep Your Head Up

Keep Calm and Drink Tea

Keep Calm and Have a Bath…

You get the picture.

Anyways, keeping calm was a big part of staying alive for me in the UK. I say that with a smidgen of humour, but there is some truth to it…

You can’t go traipsing around the world if you’re gonna be uptight or anxious or scared or too afraid to ask for help. That’s what I have learned. When I was 20 and leaving for Africa for the first time, someone told me that I can never ever be afraid to ask questions…as many as I wanted, as often as I wanted, and to whomever I wanted. It was great advice. And I have done just that. Even when my pride gets in the way.

For the most part, I have been very lucky about only encountering people who want to help out a young girl with a Canadian accent. Maybe once or twice I have asked someone too busy to help, or someone just plain mean, but not often. When us kids were little, Mom would always tell us that if we got lost we needed to find a mother…someone with kids, and they would keep us safe until she could find us. And I have kind of stuck with that, even though I am not a kid anymore. I really do tend to gravitate towards asking women for help. No offence to the guys!

Keeping calm usually helps me out. But on Thursday night, I almost lost my cool. I came out of Wicked around 11pm, after a simply lovely day in London, and quickly felt my heartbeat speed up…I don’t know why, exactly. But for some reason, that was the first time I felt truly alone and scared in a big city at night. I needed to get to London Stanstead airport, and all along I had just assumed that would be easy to do after the show. But suddenly I wasn’t so sure, and questions started to pour into my head...

…is it too late to get a train? are there even any trains going there? what if i can’t get to the airport? where am i gonna sleep? would i survive the night on the street? how much would a 2 hour long cab ride cost? do i know anyone’s phone number off by heart who could help me? do i have enough change to make a call? what if i miss my flight and have to stay here?…

It was an awful feeling letting my mind go to the place where I so often refuse to go. Usually I just get through things calmly, but not this time.

I ran as fast as I could, dragging my little backpack on wheels, to the train station and stared in desperation at the huge board looking for a train to London Stanstead. None. So I did the best thing I could think of: found a woman who looked like she knew what she was doing. She told me there was NO train to the airport and I could have cried right then and there. But God has a way of putting the right people in my life at the right time, and just then she told me that she thought there was a coach bus (like the Greyhound) that goes to the airport, but I would have to run to the station and she didn’t know if I could make it. But I took the chance. After all, it was now 11:15pm and the city was shutting down for the night.

So run I did, thankful, very thankful, for the sense of direction that God has given me, and I made it with 4 minutes to midnight to spare, after buying my ticket, on the last bus to the airport for the night. And it took more than 2 hours to get there…I can’t even IMAGINE having to take a cab…it would have been a million dollars (sorry, pounds)! By the way, if anyone is wondering why I didn’t just get a hotel room for the night, keep in mind that I was in the middle of Olympic madness. Go ahead and try to find a hotel room in the city. I dare you. 😉

Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s what I generally live by. That half hour of panic did nothing for me, and so I will try hard not to go back to that “what if” place. That’s not how God wants us to live. I should have trusted him more that night, because he has always kept me safe and sound.

~C

One Short Day in the Emerald City

You have heard me COUNTLESS times quote my very favourite musical in this space. Too many to count, probably. And I don’t want to bombard you with more, so I will keep this short and sweet.

Last year my dear friend Kristy and I went to see Wicked, the Broadway tour, in Vancouver. It was awesome, but at that point I was still a very sad girl. After seeing the West End performance last week in London, a few people have asked me if it was a better show or worse than the one I saw last year.

I thought long and hard about what my answer would be, because they were certainly very different experiences…and absolutely NO offense to my dear Kristy for getting me out that night and making my dream of seeing Elphie in real life come true, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed this time around a lot more. It has nothing to do with which theatre company did a better job. They were both absolutely phenomenal.

But this year I am just in such a different place than I was then. This year I strode into that theatre with my backpack in tow and strongly, independently, courageously, and willingly watched all by myself. I might have been the only person in that whole theatre with no one beside them, but it is okay with me. I am a very strong girl. And I had an absolute blast!

From that first note on the violin to the last, I smiled through blurry tears and I watched these characters who feel like friends defy gravity. Goosebumps. 2 entire hours worth of goosebumps. I was in my GLORY!

So if you care to find me, look to the Western sky. As someone told me lately, everyone deserves the chance to fly!

And if I’m flying solo, at least I’m flying FREE! To those who’d ground me, take a message back from me.

Tell them how I am defying gravity, I’m flying high defying gravity.

And you can’t bring me down…

Amen, Elplhie. Amen. Can’t wait till we meet again…

~C

London, Baby!

Oh Joey…

What can I say about London? While it wasn’t my first time being there, it was my first time really SEEING the city, or at least, as much as possible in only 1 short day. But it was enough and I am grateful. My feet were killing me from walking so much and I must have looked pretty ridiculous jumping up and down at Buckingham Palace, but I couldn’t care less. I was so so so excited!

Getting a little lesson in geography from a royal guard 😀

Since I know you’re wondering (okay, at least I know Myranda is wondering!), no I didn’t see the Queen or any other member of the Royal Family. No, I didn’t have a chance to ride the big ferris wheel (sorry Mandy, I know you had your hopes up). And no, I didn’t go for high tea with Fergie. BUT…

I DID get to do a lot of other things that I am very grateful for.

As mentioned above, seeing Buckingham Palace was awesome. It feels like just yesterday that I was watching William and Kate’s wedding on Ree’s bed with a huge bowl of ice cream, nursing a broken heart. It was awesome being there in real life.

Nicki, there is a certain song from grade 7 chamber choir running through my head…yours too??

I was talking to Nicki on Skype about the London 2012 Games, and I was saying how it just wasn’t the same hype as we had in Vancouver 2 years ago…and she said that she wasn’t surprised. London is a much bigger city. So while I went to Hyde Park and got to see a bit of the Olympic fun, it wasn’t the same as being on Robson Street in the freezing cold wearing an HBC hoodie and red mittens. But that’s okay. I still felt the patriotic vibe that London was putting out.

And last but not least, after a day of window shopping (emphasis on window…good grief, London is expensive!) I checked my backpack into a coat check and settled in for my second viewing of Wicked, the musical. I was in absolute heaven. I cried and I laughed and had head-to-toe goosebumps the whole night in that blessed theatre. It was glorious. And I will be writing more about that in the next post. Count on it.

Loving this exciting, if a little exhausting, life right now.

~C