Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“Isn’t Canada the Opposite Direction That You Are Heading?”

Warning:  This post is not about Puerto Rico, or teaching, or huge life changes for me.  If those are the reasons you are reading this, permission granted to close the tab.  This post IS about travel, however, and about what is going on in my life.  Please keep reading if you’re interested. 

I spent last week in an escape from daily life, camping in Ontario, Canada with four of my closest friends.  The group of us went camping in Canada last year as well, and this summer we extended the trip from 3 days to 5 and moved from Kakebeka Falls Provincial Park to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (which is 2 hours farther for us). 

We quickly learned several things when we arrived in Canada this year.
1)     Tourist season doesn’t start until June.  The campground was deserted (I think there may have been one other set of tent campers in the ground.  Maybe 3 RV’s…and that’s it.)  The Visitor Center was closed, and the Park Office was running on shortened hours.  The tourist sites we ventured to were empty (though still open), and we had a lot of places to ourselves.  The downside, of course, was that we didn’t always get quite the “full experience” because places were running on bare-bones, staying open for the few early birds like us, but not pulling out all the stops (because who would, when you only have 2 visitors a day as opposed to the 200 you receive in high summer?)

2)     There’s a reason for this.  Canada in May is CHILLY.  But though the temperature only soared above 60 degrees Fahrenheit on one day, we made do just fine.  We bundled up, built our campfire and kept it crackling, and spent more time than we otherwise would have inside of the tent, playing Monopoly Deal…or sleeping.  It was vacation, after all!  

3)   There are LOTS of DEER in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  On a walk from our campsite to the bathrooms, seeing 5 or 6 was pretty average.  Driving from our campground to a hiking trail head, we’d often see 10 or more total.  We started counting wildlife on Day 2 of the trip at 11:52am.  By Day 5 , we’d seen 126 deer (and 5 porcupines, 3 hummingbirds, 2 coyotes or foxes (I’m honestly not sure which, which sounds silly), and tons of ducks, squirrels, and chipmunks).  I’m glad they were deer and not bears.

Nothing to see here...

4    Canadian deer must be smarter than Wisconsin deer.  We didn’t once see roadkill in Canada, despite the copious numbers of mammals roaming the woods.

I was reminded on this trip how much I love the scenery around the North Shore.  Despite the long winters, I think I could be happy living there one day.  To have a view like this each morning, afternoon, and evening…worth it.

Our trip to Canada was the perfect retreat.  I escaped from work, stress, and responsibilities for a week and got a chance to soak up Canada’s beauty and spend quality time with amazing, hilarious friends.

Photo by Liz Rosendale

The following are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.  I’m also posting some from Aaron Frost, because he is both a much better photographer and has a better camera than I do.  

Just like Snow White, fauna of all types flock to us...

Photo by Aaron Frost

Photo by Aaron Frost

Photo by Aaron Frost

Photo by Aaron Frost

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hugs to Last Two Years

I like hugs.  A lot.  Sadly, I live my life with a fear of making strangers uncomfortable, so I don’t always give or get as many hugs as I would sometimes like to.  Last Sunday, however, I received (almost) enough hugs to last me my entire two years in Puerto Rico.  Last Sunday was my going away party, and I hugged people when they arrived, when they left, and sometimes while they were there…just because I could.

Reactions to my leaving vary, depending on the person.  One of my uncles assumed he wouldn’t see me for two years.  When I told him I’d be home for Christmas, he scoffed and said, “So since I’m seeing you today, I’m probably seeing you MORE than I would normally!”  Not quite true…but close.  Conversely, one of my cousins told me her 3rd grade son, who couldn’t make it to the party, has been crying because I’m leaving.  I think I’ll have to introduce Aiden to Skype (with the help and permission of his mom, of course). 

But let me tell you a little bit more about my day, and the party.  To say I found it successful is an understatement.  It was a perfect day.  The weather was great—sunny and 65—and the day was beautiful.  Spring has finally found Wisconsin, and the trees finally have leaves, the grass is green, and flowers are in bloom.  We rented a great shelter in one of my favorite parks.  It was big enough inside for me to get creative.  In one area, I set up a scrapbook station (thank you Grey’s Anatomy for the idea, haha).  My creative and artsy friends made me beautiful pages for the scrapbook/journal I’m bringing with me to Puerto Rico. 

In another area, I put out paper and…finger paints.  This was by far the biggest hit of the day.  I knew my friends would have fun painting, but I didn’t quite imagine the extent of their creativity…  definitely paint well used. 

At the back of the shelter, there was a fireplace, which meant, obviously, s’mores.  With the gigundo marshmallows. 
Wait a minute...are that marshmallow and that water bottle almost the same size?

And the final use of space in our huge shelter?  Well.  Some of my friends are great musicians, and the beautiful thing about great musicians is that sometimes, they know other great musicians, and then they get together and form bands.  And sometimes their bands are willing to come and play for free at the going away party of the drummer’s roommate.  That may or may not have been the case for me on Sunday.  So a special thank-you to The Song’s For for giving us some great music!  (As a sidenote…if any of the band members ever reads this, I have a feeling I’ll take some flack for calling them “great musicians.”  But I stick to my guns.  They make some great music.  And my mom really liked them.)  ;) 

I have tried and failed at finding the words to express my gratitude to all my friends and family for the party and the love they showed simply by showing up.  So to all of you—thank you. 

P.S.  If you’ve read this far, I figure maybe you know me personally and will be excited to read this.  My mom finally checked with my cell phone company, and Puerto Rico IS, indeed, included in my national calling plan!  Roaming charges apply, but I have unlimited Roaming…so, assuming I have reception when I get there, I’ll still be able to send and receive calls and texts from the US on the phone I have now.  Are you doing a happy dance right now?  Because that’s what I did when I found out yesterday.