Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A West Side Story: Canadian Ecoholics

Dreamers, Doers...

(pics below)

The thing I love most about traveling, and much of the reason I do, is learning how other people do life – not only culturally or linguistically, but in the way they think and act. And although I am still trying to figure out why ME, I've been so fortunate to learn from MANY amazing people during my short life thus far.

Do you see what I see?
First, a big THANK-YOU is for those who let me visit and do life with them for a while.. literally each one of you contributed sooo much to my current state - you have no idea… and I appreciate it way more than you know! Love!

.. A Crazy Cunuck (the non-rioting kind ;))…

From this trip out West, I actually feel wonderfully Canadian probably for the first time... (saying a lot considering how I often criticize certain things about us) ...Not the kind of patriotism that assumes this state is superior, smarter, more rational or civilized, or that that certain people who live within these imaginary borders are more deserving to the land than others... but a sort of sense of how many people who live here are using our culture and resources to make our environment a hopeful and life-giving place. I grasped more of a sense of what Canada could be and is in small ways even now, as I bussed from the West across and down back to Waterloo, where I'll settle and simmer down again for the next little while.

The Itinerary:

1.    Flight to Kamloops, BC, and a short rendezvous through the mountains (last post).
2.    Edmonton, Lac La Biche, and teeny-tiny Caslan in (fondly referred to as "the bush"), in Alberta. I will attempt and fail to properly capture my Aunt Bev and Uncle Ben's inspiring story, which is summed up in the newspaper clipping that I’ll post – but this clip does not do justice the amazing heart and sweat that was put into this place.  I also finally stayed with my cuz who is boldly stepping forth to the Philippines, en route to be a part of the kind of community that she envisions for our own country for former victims of the ramped and very real modern slave trade – you can follow her story at
3.    Back to Edmonton to stay with friends back from our time in the teens, Jon and Ashley, who married two years ago and moved out there to start their new life together, getting into their communities and dancing in the kitchen, learning with each other what life means and how they can be better together..
4.    Habitat for Humanity Macedonia team reunion!  I stayed with the amazing Diana (team leader) and her husband Wayne (team commentator, realist, and angry Buddhist ;)).
5.    Winnipeg to visit to have some more fam jams with once again, people I am SO grateful to call family... people doing some amazing things for the world, working tirelessly but joyfully :)...
6.    Home - a.k.a. the Huether Hotel, where I apparently basically live.

Without wanting to make too many assumptions about all of the people who choose to tune into this blog I’ve got going on, many of us have great advantages that others will never have - right at our fingertips if we are creative or care – simply starting with the foundation of our place of birth. These doors do not make us better people, but give us a responsibility to see and utilize the resources we have around us… even with a high school education opens more doors than you may realize. There are always so many excuses or justifications not to act our dreams, or to not even have dreams...

The family and friends I visited had inspirational confidence in their areas of life, and were intentional about supporting those around them to better the world, and love laugh and love while they’re at it. It is not only about having a dream, but the courage to jump against the odds.  My Uncle B passed a book along to me… 

“Becoming the Answers to Our Prayers.” 

I’ll let you mull that over in your head for a bit. 

Most of us want things in this life… and some of us dream of more – relationships, jobs, chances, things, etc. Often we either wait for life to happen to us, or just discard possibilities as unattainable, instead of grasping the boldness we have access to, and with a little bit of wisdom, discernment, and patience… achieve something that could better our world. 

The people I saw along this route had hearts and active helping hands in some of the toughest aspects of our society – from mental health patients to dealing with sex slave trade victims to teaching in the roughest schools, living and working with struggling refugees, aboriginal populations, etc. The depressing list could go on.  But they are light where they are.  And times they are a-changin’.  I am inspired by their courage, joy, hard-work, hearts, and relationships.  I only hope that I can pass on the blessing that has been so deeply given to me.

What turns your crank? Let us learn to be satisfied with what we have, yet constantly learning to find hope in the impossible possibilities….

Realism and Optimism can go hand in hand, peeps.

Learning Followership... it starts with us... it starts with you...

Aunt Bev and Uncle Ben spent years dreaming, planning, talking, researching until they finally bought land completely off the grid (no electrical power reaches their land), and built a place with that aspect in tact through the use of solar power and wood stove heating (I am sorry, I cannot remember the techie lingo and details for all their stuff!! :)...but it's cool)
Click to enlarge and read more of their story and words, if you wish!

Walking the land

Pesky Beavers

Cousin Erin (the one going to Philippines - ee!)


Scary wildlife.

Aunt Bev's "Chickens"
The original cabin that was built to live in temporarily while the house was being constructed

Inside the cabin.

Cats are not my friend.


Solar panel!

Homemade solar cooker, to give school groups a bit of an idea of what solar power is... yay for spreading the love through sharing :)

OKAY... so this is a compost toilet. And honestly, truly, I would not lie... no smell, nothing. The stuff drops to the thing pictured below, and only once or twice a year does the crank need to be turned, and... compost, beautiful healthy NON-smelling compost is made... no water waste AT ALL.. it's actually amazing.  Seriously.

Bottom of the compost toilet, in the basement.

Wood-working! Another example of learning do take on new skills and interests no matter what stage of life you're in

Aunt Bev asked me what hobbies I had... and I laughed because I don't really think I have had time for hobbies... BUT... she helped me make a saweet pen...!

Mine is the bottom one, hers was the top, my last year's Christmas present made from fair trade Olive wood from Bethlehem

Check it.
Inspiration station for Uncle Ben's hand carving.

Motherboard. Solar stuff... I can't relay any of the info because my brain isn't wired that way... but really cool how the power sources switch from one thing to another automatically to save and use power.

Bad picture, but cool piece of furniture made by Uncle Ben! Just one of many!
Beach in West Edmonton Mall
:D together again!!! Me and Ash :).

A gloriously made latte by Jon, and gluten-free deliciousness.
saweet willow chair that Wayne is going to try to make (already make their own wood furniture... all these people REALLY make me want to take up a hobby... or a skill or SOMEthing!)

Wayne testing the chair, probably commenting on something :).

Funny story behind these Lady Slippers, which are illegal to transplant/pick, etc. in Alberta... but a certain couple slipped away in the middle of the night and took a few of these lady's to a new home as the government was going to destroy the place they were born... not all illegal is bad, folks ;)

I have learned that Canadian towns like to build pointless monuments.  This is a giant sausage.

I was tempted to buy the souvenir winter mini-monument sausage, but I was strong.

Giant Ukrainian Easter Egg

Wayne describing the time the Queen came and waved right at HIM and only him.


Okay so I literally wish I had a better picture of this.  This is one of the many oil refineries we passed often.  When we were driving back to the bus station for me to head away from Edmonton it was 11 at night and we passed a few miles of refineries... it was LITERALLY what you might envision a stereotypical hell to look like... hundreds and hundreds of lit up pillers with barrels of fire and smoke at the top set against a pitch black background... for miles. Smelling like burning. Yay Canadian oil!!
The song that Nicole and I would listen to in Europe entitled "All the Freaky People Make the Beauty of the World" was an actual theme this trip.  This house, and what is painted on its walls is Exhibit A.

Bus through the prairies.
Gardens in Winni

New friends and fam I was so fortunate to play with :)

Another monument from a town in Ontario - supposedly where the original Winni the Pooh was found.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One and Three Cups of Tea

The view from the Teahouse at Lake Agnus (just a short and steep climb up from Lake Louise, AB) is food for painters.  My eyes keep jumping from cliff to tree to tree to glacier to cloud to waterfall: just breathing it in. One thing us Canadians cannot gripe about: how beautiful the land is where we have been born and/or live in.

Flight into Kamloops, BC. These are mountains, ;).

A sunrise hike I decided to take while in Banff; I got dropped in the town at 3am so I went to the Timmies until the later early morning and watched the sunrise through the hiking trails... unbelievable! 

View hiking up to Mirror Lake and Lake Agnus Teahouse

Me at Lake Louise! 
The Rocky Mountain setting, which I have been fortunate enough to bus through the past few days during my route homeward, has provided a compelling back drop to the book I've been reading along the way...
Teahouse at the Lake Agnus! There is a secret about this mention in my post, but I am not going to tell you! baha, so mysterious.
Momma Gray recommended a book to me before I left, and I picked it up at the airport before grabbing the teeny plane to Kamloops, BC.  You may have heard of it; "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Moretenson (the man the book is half about) and David Oliver Relin.

The book's form is one that I particularly attach too: a story.  A story of how humans - "ordinary" or not - can help weave a better world by breaking down barriers and building relationships.  Humans inspiring other humans. Sick.

"Three Cups of Tea" in sum (summer reading? ) begins on the summits of K2 ((okay, I know the Rockies are like anthills in comparison, but gazing at them gives the imagination a boost) I also want to add that my discovery of the existence of Harper Mountain gave my imagination a different kind of boost - not so inspiring ;)), side-tracked.  In sum, is about a man who almost reached the top of the world's deadliest peak but failed, however through the relationships formed with strangers who took him in and showed him utmost hospitality - strangers that many in the Global North do not value - fought the steep and challenging climb of building and maintaining schools in Pakistan's remote peak's villages, where many of the extremist Taliban's roots lie...

Now, an interesting spin to me writing this wee recommendation comes as I have discovered that there has been some recent controversy surrounding the text's validity. The allegations involve serious questioning suggesting fabrication of the original story, as well as the competency of this mountaineer/doctor to run an NGO. Of course I hope worst claims are not true.  BUT, I have had some conversation with people about this case, and you can come to your own conclusions about the situation.

In the mean time, a story that has roots of truth that relay the amazing capacity of humans fighting odds together all over the world IS what can be internalized, and even if this work was one of fiction (do not mistake me, I am by NO means condoning lying for social justice) perhaps it can inspire us using words and the power of language to link us to reality and the possibilities of our own lives. We can still know that great things are possible if we do this together and find our own place. Instead of just pointing the finger in blame (though it may or may not be needed), we can look in the mirror and point out in ourselves our own possible hypocrisy, apathy, gluttony, selfishness... oh, and abilities to turn those things around, and love despite it all.

blahblah, there's the hippie talk again... eat it up, I've got more ;).

Words and stories can potentially rip apart but they also have the ability to inspire, and this book's negative shadow right now will not black out the encouraging affect it had on me about the possibilities of people crossing the bridges of "other", building life together. I can weed out the inspiring good from the potential bad.

I'll leave you with a quote from the intro to the book;

"I wish [the project] success because it is fighting the war on terror the way I think it should be conducted. Slamming over the so called Karakorum 'Highway' in his old land cruiser, taking great personal risks to seed the region that gave birth to the Taliban with schools, Mortenson goes to war with the root causes of terror every time he offers a student a chance to relieve a balanced education, rather than attend an extremist madrassa..."

And, in words mentioned from "The Quiet American," 

"Sometimes to be human, you have to take sides."

Let's move mountains, people! :)
Speaking of which, hey look! Here's some now...

Checkin' me out before looking to his left for dinner:

A British couple and I watched this little stare down go on between the dear and Coyote.. luckily we didn't see any mangling, so we'll live in denial and believe that the deer avoided the circle of life's realities for another day.  I'm not ashamed to say though that I wasn't being the one stared down.

Oh yeah! And if you are looking to spice up your relationship, consider getting temporary tattoos (we wouldn't want to have TOO much fun/crazy and go permanent now would we?? ;) I laughed to myself, thought I'd share).

Mirror Lake

Gophers who were popping up and bouncing up and down ALL around me while I was sitting eating my lunch near Lake Louise. They were cute.

Legit Banff water - the guy who gave it to me was VERY proud that it was the best water in Canada, and that even if I wasn't thirsty I should drink it.  I did, willingly... and it was better than any bottled water, hands down... the Timmies guy didn't lie.

En route to Edmonton...