Tuesday 27 November 2012

What are you grateful for?

My first American Thanksgiving took place two weeks ago.  In Cusco, Peru.

This is Tal.

In his own words Tal can, 'Piss a dinner party for 20'.  As such, an American Thanksgiving on a day´s notice was no big deal.  What we forgot to take into account was that I was helping.

This is me with Tal.

In everyone's words, all I touch turns to disaster (or adventure - it all just depends how you look at it!)

As such, because I was involved...

The turkeys that we purchased at noon on the day of our Thanksgiving dinner for 20 were obviously frozen.  We had to wade through a reeking room of poultry blood to get them.  Tal´s loudly proclaimed Peruvian swear words shocked all within earshot.  Fortunately for him, he oozes charm and can get anything he wants when he bats his big blue eyes.

Below is a portrait of our turkeys, en route home from the 'All things poultry' warehouse in Cusco.  (This seems to be the only place a turkey is available outside of Christmas.  Apparently all the other turkeys are too skinny at this time of year.  Or too tired from having flown in from Lima?)  Here we are giving our turkeys a break from their long Lima flight and sharing a ride home in our taxi.

Our turkeys were frozen and our oven is the size of a shoebox.  Rather than stuffing the fowl into the shoebox, we decided to outsource the problem.

This is Don Julio.  With our broken spanish, we think we´ve agreed to have him thaw and cook the birds at warp speed.  He does, after all, run a chicken roastery.  He must have an oven or two.  Or so we thought.

The photo is fuzzy because the boys are working so fast.

Believing that the turkeys were successfully outsourced, we were now free to toast to our brilliance with a Bloody Mary overlooking Cusco´s main plaza.

Unfortunately, due to our poor grip of the Spanish language, our turkeys were not in fact being cooked.  We arrived hours later to Don Julio´s, only to learn that his favour to us had been to leave the turkeys thawing on his counter.  Perhaps he thought we didn´t have counter space?

In true Backroads leader form (clearly the type of people who've pulled off gourmet picnics in 20 minutes in developing nations with hurricane warnings blaring and rabid dogs at our heels....) we showed our creative brilliance, took a deep breath, and threw more money at the problem.

This time we ran/hauled our fowl up the street to a special ´horno´.  This incredible wood oven down a back alley was surely the answer.  Twenty steaming cuy (guinea pigs) had to moved out of the way to accomodate our birds.  Because the guinea pigs were nearly cooked through, they couldn't even squeal their protest.

 At 9pm, we heaved steaming, delicious turkeys up the 3 flights of stairs to our apartment.

Tal is sideways after all the effort.  
And because I can't figure out how to turn him around...


Somehow Tal pulled this off in spite of my support - what a team!

McKay, Diego, and a whole lot of food...

It's odd that a Canadian and an Aussie should choose to throw an American Thanksgiving meal, but throw one we did.  Our home overflowed with new friends from Peru, Japan, Ireland, and even a few token Americans.  We played music, sang and shared our gratitude for food to eat and friends to share it with.

This day full of misadventures led to my first American Thanksgiving meal, and I am so grateful for it.  Of course, things never quite seem to go the way that you expect (ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE ME).  And thank goodness for that!  Because of it, I have been blessed by beautiful people who leap into my life to link arms and ensure that everything turns out better than expected (yeah Tal! thanks Emma! And Don Julio and countless others...).  Anyway, with a few misadventures under our shared belts, yes there are moments of panic - and a whole heck of a lot of fun along the way!

Of course we don't have to eat turkey to profess our gratitude.  How wonderful that we can practice being grateful anywhere in the world, on any day of the week.


*This phrase and image is borrowed from my all-time favourite restaurant, Cafe Gratitude.  Check it out next time you're in San Francisco!  Order up a serving of, 'I am adventurous'. Share a little, 'I am vivacious'.  Then wash it all down with a big gulp of, 'I am courageous'.  Yum!  A tasty serving of inspiration and gratitude...

Tuesday 20 November 2012

It's shocking, really

how much privilege I have experienced growing up in an upper middle class home in North America.

For example, I have not once been shocked in the shower.  Until now.  My hair is still dripping wet as I type this.  Had my hair not already been frizzy, it certainly would be now.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. My landlady did warn me not to touch anything metal as I showered.  This cautionary warning actually kept me out of our shower until recently.  Finally though, I tired of my own scent.

Seriously - would YOU trust this shower?
In the end, the morals I take from this story are:

 A) electricity and water should not mix, unless at a hydroelectricity plant (even then I have my doubts),  and

 B) it's okay to be dirty and smelly.  Better dirty than dead, I always say. 

(Which is likely how I earned my 'Dirty Girl' nickname in university.  But that's a story for another time.)

My visiting friend from Canada was horrified when I explained Peruvian bathroom procedures to him over a very classy dinner last night.  As a former wastewater treatment plant tour guide, I am used to speaking of such things over meals.  I should try to remember that not everyone is so comfortable.  I told Keith that the convenient wastebasket next to each Peruvian toilet is a receptacle for used toilet paper (for cases when you are lucky enough to be provided with such a luxury as toilet paper).  The pipes and systems in Peru (and most of Latin America for that matter) are not able to handle anything that isn't produced directly by one's body.  I get so used to this that I often find myself seeking out a wastebasket next to the toilet upon return to Canada.  (To my mother's obvious horror).

Oh, and of course there's no toilet seat.  I would develop strong quads here in Peru, if only I did a bit of exercise.

One commonly used word here for a toilet is an inodoro.  For some reason I find this hilarious...An odourless?  I suppose it beats the alternative, an odourful.  And really, what luxury!  A system IN the home that uses water to rush our wastes away to the nearest river?  Or if we are very lucky, to a nearby wastewater treatment plant?  These days, we are so lucky to use inodoros - a water closet being far less odoursome than the alternative outhouse.  Interesting.  The language here fascinates me.  More on this later.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I shall address the issue of: 'V bersus B'.

I take so much for granted at home.  How much I can flush for example, and the fact that I can drink my tap water (or could even safely drink my toilet or shower water if I were that thirsty).  Stay tuned for another upcoming post addressing my recent tour of Cusco's water treatment plant.  I believe I shall call it:  'At Your Service...??'

On the topic of privilege, please excuse my somewhat light take above on this subject.  If I were to really dive into the fact that most of my friends here have nearly no preventative health care, have never seen a dentist, make less than my lunch money each week and can't travel to my country even for a visit, well, it steps outside of the lighthearted, silly and self-indulgent nature of LittleMissAdventure.com.  So, that's all for now folks.

Til next time!

Little Misadventure

Monday 29 October 2012


Five days trekking around Cusco's most sacred mountain...
Pure heaven!  Need I say more?

I think this video will do more than I ever could to tell the story of my new favourite place in Peru.

Ausangate Trek, October 2012

Thanks to our friend Alex Estrada for his brilliant photography, cinematography, and non stop high altitude comedy act.  His one man show began each day at 5 am and ran through til tent time every night.  His numerous talents include (but are not limited to) climbing every boulder in his path, screeching Peruvian slang curse words at the top of his lungs, filling the world with his boundless energetic presence and teaching mountain yoga classes, which to my delight, ended with the sacrilegious shouted prayer,

Alex in action - walking a very thin line, as usual!

Sunday 28 October 2012

My mom told me not to fall in love in Peru...

...but of course, a daughter never does as a mother says, does she?

I went one better and have fallen in love with not one, but TWELVE people in Peru (thus far!)  And Mom, it's okay, they aren't Peruvians! (I know you fear I may move far away and stay in Cusco forever.  For the love of the city I still may, but for now at least, my heart still lives in Canada.)

My Backroads trekking trip in Peru this fall introduced me to a group of special strangers.  As they supported one another on one of the area's toughest high-altitude treks, they made a pilgrimmage towards Machu Picchu.  It only took days for them to become amigos, dancing together on tables, laughing late into the night and rising for magical mountain sunrises.  Their special Journey reminds me of a song that we sang all week that goes on and on and on and on....And I LOVED the way that even on the hardest of days, our team didn't stop believin'!

So Mom, since I know you're worried, allow me to introduce you to the dozen who have filled my heart so far:

There's Debbie - an intrepid traveller, spin teacher and Silicon Valley powerhouse who took Peru (and our collective hearts) by storm.  We have all decided that we want to adopt her into our lives.  Here she is on the right with Marlena, rewriting (and belting out!) an old favourite song:

Which brings me of course to Marlena, a gorgeous jazz singer (and lyricist, as above!) and her Esteban (or Steve) who kept us healthy at high altitudes and well-hydrated with the best wines South America has to offer. (Perhaps my favourite high altitude tidbit from Steve is that as people age and their brains 'rot', they are less susceptible to cerebral edema because there is more room in their skulls for their shrunken brains to expand.  Mom and Dad, you're perfectly suited to a high altitude adventure!  Now aren't I a nice girl to have learned that for you?):

Don and Shelly led the charge to the hot tub every night.  They were ever ready with their camera for all the perfect shots and look so perfect together that its impossible not to photograph them too!  Clearly still so in love after raising their two beautiful daughters, it would be impossible not to love this couple.  And wow, you should see that Senor Don ride a horse!  Here they are, smiling as always, featured in front of Mount Salkantay:

Tammy and Scott (or, esScott, as we say in Peru) really got us off on the right foot with their excellent combined lyrical and dancing abilities.  Their endless energy has me working hard to recruit them away from their stable jobs into The Leader Lifestyle as Backroads' next staff dream team:

Sabine and Steffi stole everybody's hearts with their beautiful and supportive relationship.  Aunt and niece, though more like soul sisters, they made their way over Salkantay pass through hell and high altitude to the enigmatic Machu Picchu:

And as we were all falling in love as a group, a certain couple were falling even more deeply in love with one another.  They chose to commit to a life together during this pilgrimmage!  All our very best to Severin and Silvana as they dance forth into a life together that is at once as adventuresome, as supportive and as magical as their shared journey to Machu Picchu:

Finally, with her signature pink lipstick on display here in Machu Picchu Mountain's registration book, Conni danced from Long Island and New York City all the way to Machu Picchu and into the hearts of every Peruvian and traveller who chanced upon her:

Dancing every step of the way!

I can't forget to mention our trusted horse guide or 'Arriero' named Teofilo, whom we playfully nicknamed 'Senor T'  (Pity da foo' who doesn't get to work with Senor T!).  Like some 'Where's Waldo' character, Senor T seemed to show up unexpectedly at every turn:

Our journey would never have been the same without the expert guidance of the indomitable Javier Bello:

Or Whilder's incredible support on ALL fronts from dawn until well past dusk:

I've learned so much from my new friends.  I will never forget our magical journey together over the Salkantay pass en route to Machu Picchu.  Nor will I forget the lesson we learned on one of our first days together.  When it rains, link arms to make a rainbow!

Post Script
Mom:  I had numerous misadventures on this trip, most notably the bottle of champagne that shattered in my backpack, tearing holes in my clothes in all the most inopportune places.  (Though I am still striving hard to maintain my dignity in this somewhat reserved area of the country)  This incident occured when our horse spooked and galloped down the Salkantay Pass, throwing its load as it went.  (In all likelihood, the poor horse spooked at the sight of a shock of flaming red curls in its normally brown and grey environment.  But I prefer to stick with Javier's explanation - that a backpack - mine of course - fell off the horse and scared the poor creature into a full tilt gallop.)  But breathe a sigh of relief Mom, because none of the near daily misadventures yet include my meeting a man who shall steal me even further away from you.  Remain ever vigilant, but for now I am happy to report that I am yours, as always,

Monday 1 October 2012

Preppin' for Peru

And now a little bit about what it took to get here...

1.  Four travel immunization shots, two in each arm (mostly unecessary, me being paranoid)

2. A grocery store trip to purchase $650 worth of granola bars, chocolate and individually packaged wet wipes and hand sanitizer.  The scope of this expenditure required approval by the grocery store manager.

3. A trip home to Ontario from Calgary, clearing ALL of my belongings from the house I'd been living in.  Obviously I couldn't leave a single item behind, not even a cucumber.  I could barely haul everything onto the plane.  I could just SEE people in the departure lounge thinking, 'Wow, that girl has a LOT of baggage'.  Well...while that may be true, how rude to think that of me without getting to know me first!   Besides, a girl travelling on her own SHOULD carry a cucumber.

Oh, and 4. A delicious aiplane meal to send me off.  Word to the wise: NEVER profess your preferences as 'vegan' on an international flight...(and WHAT kind of an excuse for water is that???  It sure made me appreciate the incredible access we enjoy to quality tap water in Calgary...)

Sunday 30 September 2012

A rainy day in Cusco

I have landed in Cusco during Peru's 'primavera' or springtime, which means that it's raining here a little bit every day.  I have finally decided to take advantage of this liquid sunshine to post a few recent misadventures!

Today I'll comment on:
1. Being invited to a Peruvian wedding on my 3rd day here and
2. The very strange sign on the bike in my bedroom

On the topic of #1:  When I arrived, I had to haul my very overweight bags (stuffed completely with granola bars and dark chocolate) three blocks to our Cusco apartment.  The taxi stopped short of our home because our street is currently under construction.  Fortunately, a kind construction worker took pity on me and carried my bags in his muddy wheelbarrow to our apartment door.  As I made this trek, I saw a familiar face under a construction helmet.  I thought to myself, 'I am SURE that's Benito'....But after four years away, I didn't want to approach a stranger in the street.  (If I'm being honest,  I also feared being accused as one of those North Americans who just think people from other places all look the same).  So I didn't say hola.  Two days later, after seeing him every day, I finally just launched myself upon him in a friendly hug.  Sure enough, it was Benito, the night guard from the hostel I used to stay in whilst in Cusco!  We were thrilled to reconnect, and he immediately invited me to his wedding, taking place the following Saturday.  Unfortunately, I'll be away trekking and cannot attend, but what an honour!  The moral here:  Never be too shy to approach somebody in the street...they may just have a wedding invite up their sleeve for you! 

The photo above relates to Topic #2 - a bike found in my bedroom, bearing this note.  I noticed it before going to sleep on my second night here.  Upon awakening, I dug deeper to get more details.  Apparently a donkey spooked and crossed the path of an unsuspecting bike rider.  The cyclist quite literally rear-ended the donkey.  The moral of this piece:  You never know when you may unwittingly hit an ass in the ass...

Tuesday 17 April 2012

From California to Calgary

and snow in both places - say what?

I am never very excited to leave California.
Really - who enjoys flying AWAY from sunshine, beaches, the world's best burrito and the Golden Gate?

This time though, I finally got what I had always wished for.  That's right, bumped from my overbooked flight! Yes, I was thrilled about this.  Sitting in the departure lounge, wearing my Calgary-bound cowgal hat, I had been silently wishing for this to happen.  I'd been supplicating the universe with, 'If you bump me off this flight, I promise I will meditate daily, practice better communication and not eat this chocolate croissant.' Well...the universe delivered!  So henceforth, I will be meditating daily.  I think I would have hidden somewhere to eat my chocolate croissant (it didn't really happen if nobody saw it, right?) but in my excitement, I forgot it under the seat.  In return for my hasty promises, I got a free hotel room, meal vouchers, coupons towards future flights and best of all, a bonus extension to my sunshine vacation!

Life could hardly get better, unless maybe I were to get picked up at the airport by the hippest 2 year old north of L.A. and his stunning mama, greeted with a sunny love letter in my car and take a trip straight to the Canadian Rocky mountains for heart-melting hugs, home-made strawberrry lemon kombucha tea and a sunset run.

With that kind of reception, I'll do California to Calgary anytime.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

no such thing as a free lunch!

(those are my initials.  exclamation mark included.)

it`s also what i burst out with the moment i realized what i had done at lunch today...

i think i mentioned that after last night's pottery class i was back on track again?

well, today's misadventure topped the charts.

i was rushing to a work luncheon, delayed in my usual fashion, when it happened...

i parked and zoomed into the usual banquet hall, my red curls wildly unruly.

i thought i could sneak over to the buffet table inconspicuously and really was quite stealthy about the whole thing.  i'm not sure anyone even noticed my arrival.

with a full plate, i pulled up a chair at a table of friendly-looking women.  i eagerly tucked into my meal and then looked up to chatter idly with my table mates.  i asked their names and proceeded to introduce myself by name and explain that i was here, of course, to discuss water conservation and the municipal toilet rebate program (this is NEVER acceptable lunch table talk, so i was not initially alarmed by their raised eyebrows).

then i asked what they did.  they all seemed to work in the healthcare sector.  hmmm...that's odd, i'd never met anyone in the healthcare field at these luncheons before.  i actually felt quite excited about the stimulating conversation i could anticipate over lunch.

and then the woman across from me cleared her throat.  'yes?', i looked up. ..but before she could answer, i got that terrible i-am-in-the-wrong-classroom-and-not-wearing-any-pants feeling.

i quickly scanned the room and saw that it was nearly all women.  the condo association luncheons i normally attend have a far more even male/female distribution.  and not one of the attendees at THIS luncheon seems to be an insurance agent nor a property manager.  none of them are handing out business cards.  and all of them are waving this strange handout about reproductive health.

...REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH??? i've stolen a free lunch and accidentally landed in a two-day retreat focused on SEX??!!?  well, at the very least, this sounds both stimulating (excuse the bad pun) and most interesting!

 i've taken many a faux pas, but this one must top the charts, even for me.  wow.  what to do now? i could quietly finish my meal and sneak away, but that's really not my M.O.  best to just enjoy.  so i did.  i engaged in a robust discussion of water fluoridation with my bright and interesting table mates and when the microphone came around for new arrivals to introduce themselves, i proudly stood up and introduced myself, put in a plug to regularly check one's plumbing (see! toilets ARE relevant to this conversation!) grabbed my jacket and my chocolate mousse and thanked everybody for the free lunch.

NOTE: dear reader- i did NOT in fact ask luncheon attendees to check their plumbing.  it was only after the fact that i wished i'd publicly done so...the sort of brilliance that always strikes two hours after it is most needed.  the rest of the story, i'm sorry to admit, is completely accurate.

one of those days...

it has been two of those days.

the kind of days when you're just so sad that you HAVE to buy one of those frothy expensive drinks with a prename, a middle name and a surname, accompanied also by a suffix and a prefix.

and then you`re just so jittery and discombobulated that your hand jerks and projects the aforementioned froth over the very attractive barista who's clearly been hired for the way his hair looks unwashed and yet so very cool at the same time.

you stare, appalled at what you've done to mar this beautiful specimen, yet are somehow resigned, recognizing this as yet another part of this VERY BAD DAY.

deep breath.

you're simply left standing with half of your seven dollar drink as the rest of the creamy liquid slowly foams its way through the hipster`s mullet and drips onto his raised collar.  he's very kind about the whole incident, perhaps even smiling and winking one of those dark, poetic eyes, which quite frankly people, makes the whole thing a whole lot worse.  (at least when somebody yells or causes a scene, you can pretend that they deserved this, or better yet, blame them in some way for your involuntary hand spasm).

that was a five minute clip from yesterday.  i moved through much of the day in this same shroud of deep, dark uncoolness.  i think i finally emerged when at the end of the day i spent hours in a near-meditative state at my magical new pottery class.  (clearly, being muddy comes naturally to me. it's likely how i earned the nickname 'dirty girl' in university.  MOM! that really IS why they all called me that!!)

here's to sleep and to better days!
(though i have to say, sometimes the VERY BAD DAYS do provide more fodder for one's self-obsessed blog....)

Sunday 22 January 2012

she had dumps like a truck...

truck, truck...thighs like what, what, what?

WHAT??!! my thighs are protesting...

...aching! the snow...it's so deep!

skiing this deep snow, this dump...here it comes again, 'dumps like a truck, truck, truck...'

this chorus ran through my mind (and to the dismay of my companions, out of my mouth) all day yesterday as i enjoyed one of the largest snow dumps Fernie has seen in a 5-day period this side of 1983.

Thong Song by mizz_reality

nearly every ski fanatic in the Canadian west made their way to the quaint mountain town to experience the truck-like dump for themselves.

Jan 20, 2012 - everyone making their way to Fernie!

it was in a word, epic.  but of course, a video is worth a million words...

Friday 13 January 2012

friday the 13th

of COURSE i would launch my blog on Friday the 13th.  it's in line with so many of those things i don't quite mean to do that result in initial hysteria, followed closely by surprising and unexpected joy.

this date is significant.  not just because i'm finally launching my dream blog, but it's the kind of day that people NOTICE, often exclaiming something to the effect of, 'Oh my god! It's Friday the 13th!' i've just learned that not only are an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States affected by a fear of this day, there's a word for this fear: friggatriskaidekaphobia.  whoa. how lucky i am not to feel this fear, nor to need to be labelled with this terrifying 9-syllable word.

as superstitious as i may be, i love today.  the sun poured through bluest skies over the city all day, setting just in time for me to go skating in Calgary's downtown Olympic Plaza. i met my friends at centre ice in the Limelight, a temporary spotlight installation.  It was brilliant to observe kids twirling, shining and skating uninhibited under the spotlight- and to feel myself skirting around the edges, wanting to shine in the light but feeling somehow shy...

and now, eating salted dark chocolate, i sit here supported by two talented, generous friends who built the most beautiful blogs (check paper bluejay and room to breathe!) and are holding my hand as i create my own.

now that's what i call a lucky day.