Friday, 29 October 2010

All Hallows Eve

You know where I'm glad that I'm not spending Halloween?


Oh I know, I know. On Wednesday I brought up cows again, and now I'm talking about Adelboden again. But listen people (all five of you who possibly read this blog) I can't help it if these are two of the most important topics known to mankind.

It's true.

Ask anyone who sits on the Board Of The World That Oversees Important Topics. They just love reading about cows and Adelboden.

So today, it's back to Adelboden and it's to discuss with you the fact that I'm glad I'm not spending Halloween there. Never mind that the Swiss don't in fact celebrate Halloween, the issue is that certain nights of the year are prime witching hours, and whether or not your country chooses to recognize this witching hour is beside the point.

There is a Adelboden. I've seen it with my own eyes. And even though it was a sunny afternoon in the middle of August, when Dan and I walked past that shed, something really weird happened.

We entered some sort of twilight zone, and the world become sepia tinged. It was so bizarre. One minute we were walking along under a bright blue sky, and the next....sepia.


But not as spooky as this shed! This ramshackle, crumbling, shed that had a warning nailed over its door.

The warning.

This warning chilled my blood. This is clearly a message to the living that bucking and frolicking around in alpine meadows is not to be tolerated by the ghouls that call this haunted shed, home. This poor mountain sheep has had its stumped head exposed to the harsh winters and sepia summers for years, always with the message: Don't have fun in the alps. Don't have fun in the alps. They will find you. They will find you.

Absolutely chilling.

But me, I approached anyhow. I would not let the mournful warning of the taxidermied mountain sheep deter me from exploring this sepia coloured haunted shed.

Dan called back a warning to me that went something along the lines of: Have you ever seen 'Saw'?

And no, he wasn't asking me if I'd ever seen a see-saw. It was if I'd ever seen Saw: the movie. The movie where everyone gets chainsawed to bits, and you leave the theatre needing to pop a Valium to try and forget everything you just saw.

I forged ahead anyhow. I am that idiot, from those movies.

I'll just go down into the basement guys, alone, by myself, carrying this spatula for protection, to investigate that chainsaw noise I heard coming from that room that has no windows. I'll be right back.

But I was stopped short. There was a hulking and fearsome creature guarding the entrance to this shed, and this is when I realized I was dealing with the most psychotically twisted ghouls of all time.

Only blood thirsty killers use a fat spider to guard their lair.

But it wasn't until I turned my attention to the window and door frame that I really felt the skeleton's fingers dragging their pointed tips up and down my spine.

The window ledge is dirty and the door frame has cobwebs in it!

We were clearly not dealing with Swiss ghosts! I'm convinced that Swiss ghosts would not let their homes get so filthy. They want to be scary, not slothful.


I ran and ran until my sepia world turned back to colour, and I thanked my lucky stars I made it out of their alive.

I am so glad that on Sunday, All Hallows Eve, I won't be there to hear the stumpy head of the mountain sheep 'baa' his desperate cry, and to see the cold and dirty hands of the ghoul mess up my window ledges and add cobwebs to my doors.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Oh Yes I Am

And you thought I was done talking about cows.


No way.

I just finished reading a book about a woman's escape from polygamy, and I am now obsessed with the subject of polygamy. I never gave the topic much thought until I read Carolyn Jessop's memoir, but after reading about her experiences, her difficulty in escaping, and how she played a role in bringing public scrutiny to the many abuses of polygamy, it's been on my mind. After reading her story, polygamy appears to be nothing more than a cult where men try and hoard women, and the women are trapped in loveless relationships where they keep pumping out children to prove their worth, being kept isolated from the modern world, while at the same time sporting really unfortunate dresses and hair styles.

Read Escape, it's so interesting.

Now today, as I was out meandering around country lanes, I came to realize that the heifers that are part of the BC beef industry are in polygamous relationships!


Here I have stumbled upon the colony.
The sister wives are all looking at me, the outsider.

Look at this bull, with his heifers (and one child) surrounding him.

I count four wives (and a couple of kids) just surrounding him, with even more down field!

And look at this poor sister wife just staring me down.
I bet her name is Beulah.

And this other poor darling, protecting her baby.

Beulah didn't trust me, and she's gathered this year's off spring and is taking them back to Bull.
Beulah, how many calves have you had.
And Bull, how many children do you have?
Probably hundreds!

But this curious lady, she wasn't going anywhere.
Where did I come from? And why was I wearing such funny clothes?
I'm sure that's what she was thinking.

She just didn't want to stop staring.
Maybe I was her inspiration to escape!

Can you believe how scandalous this is?!

Do you think the Swiss cows are living in polygamous relationships too?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Desert Beauty

It's weird to come home, because it's like time has stood still. It's like I never left.

There are cosmetic changes to my town, but the underground stream is still the same. It's the same current pushing us about our day, bumping us around, and that feels weird and unfamiliar in its sameness.

I have been told a couple of times now, 'Oh good, you're still the same.' I haven't been gone forever, but it sometimes is the case that people move away and when they return they're different. I've seen it happen. That people return to their roots for a visit and believe it's only shit and not fertilizer they stand on. That they are better than their hometown. So by default, its people.

Of course I'm the same, but also a little different. You can't not be changed by new adventures.

And what has changed for me the most is I have fresh eyes for my hometown.  I now look on my hometown with a new respect for its beauty. I have never, since the first day I moved to Kamloops, considered it beautiful.

It is a desert. The only natural green space that exists is right down by the river.

When we moved here, and the first time I drove up to our new neighbourhood, it was a hot hot hot July day; I looked around at the flat-top hills that we wound through and noticed the landscape was all...brown...and dead looking. Bushes of sagebrush provided a frosty green contrast, and there were tall ponderosa pines stuck here and there, but overall I was disappointed. To me, it wasn't beautiful.

I lived in Kamloops for twelve years (which is the longest I've ever lived anywhere) and the entire time I  craved green. Craved it like water. The more green, the better. This summer I was saturated in green, and so with my quota filled I came back to Kamloops with a fresh appreciation for the bare beauty that is offered in these desert hills.


It's nice to come home, to feel the sameness, but at the same time to also experience the newness.


It is beautiful here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A White Feather

I went for a walk along the river today.

Of course with my camera.

I saw this.

It reminded me of my grandad.

My grandad was in the British Navy, so you can imagine the stories he had to tell. My favourite was the one that saw him docked at some West African country, and he and his mates had been drinking the night away at some ramshackle bar that was made of sheet metal and old two-by-fours.

It was an utter dump, but the whiskey still got us drunk. 

My grandad would tell me how at one point in the night he staggered to his feet, headed to the back of the bar, past the kitchen, and went outside by the woodpile to relieve himself.

A beautiful night. Exotic. Warm breezes, a full moon, and every star in the sky was on. Everything was perfect except for that god damned chimpanzee that attacked me while I was taking a whiz! Scared the daylights out of me. It was someone's damn pet. A great big beast of a monkey. It was the bloody cook who saved me. Beat the damn monkey off with a frying pan.

I would laugh and laugh as I pictured what he was describing and ask, "Was the monkey okay?"

Of course it was fine. But what about me? I had whiz all down my pants.

"Okay, then what did you do!"

Well, I went back inside and rejoined my mates. 

"You went back inside! Even with whiz all down your pants!"

It's got to be six years since I last thought of this story. Last time I remember thinking about it, I had been sitting in Riverside Park beside the tree we planted in my grandad's memory. That afternoon, as I sat chuckling to myself, trying to commit every word of the story to memory, a white feather blew past me and got caught up on some weeds.

As I stared at the feather, caught in the weeds, I heard my grandad bark out a laugh before he replied:

Yes I went back inside, even with whiz all down my pants. We sailors were tough.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Did I Ever Tell You About The Time....

I made the 'Guiness Book of World Records' for shortest grandparent visit in the history of the world?

(Remember that one post in September where I told you to remind me of that really disastrous visit that my grandparents paid to my apartment? Oh, you don't? YOU MEAN YOUR LIVES DON'T REVOLVE AROUND MY BLOG?! Fine then. But here's the story anyhow.)

Right before moving to Switzerland I had some larger furniture items I wanted to sell because it wouldn't be cost effective moving something over there that we could replace for a cheaper price. I heard it through the family grapevine that my Bup and Nan wanted a new couch. Perfect! I would give them my loveseat and sofa, they would be able to save their money, and I would be rid of the beasts so creepy Craigslist people would finally stop emailing me.

Here are the old darlings.
They were the very first 'grown-up' furniture items Dan and I ever owned.

So I arranged that one day I would meet Bup and Nan at my apartment during the lunch break so they could take a look at the goods I was offering.

Now let me paint a picture of my grandparents for you: they are the best people in the world.  That's what you need to know. My Bup is gentle and my Nan (hi Nan!) is a little firecracker. They are the perfect balance.

Here's Bup and Nan last Christmas.
You also need to know, one of them is always blinking in photos.

So the day I invited Bup and Nan over, I opened my apartment door and things immediately started to go down hill; as we all stepped into the apartment, little Cosmo hopped out from the storage room where we kept the litter pan. As he raced away from the scene of the crime, a very pungent and indelicate odour climbed up our nostrils.

My Nan tried to discreetly cover her nose.

"Oh my goodness! That's so gross," I fumbled, as I grabbed a bottle of spring meadows Febreeze and started gassing the general vicinity of my grandparents. "Really sorry about that. The smell will go away in a sec...the litter we buy is awesome...but you can't help the immediate's kind of like when someone just walks out of the know what they say, everyone poops. Hahaha..." Just shut-up Caitie! Stop talking! "If only we'd come in three minutes later..." Just be quiet!

So my Bup tells me that he actually does need to use the washroom, so off he goes and Nan and I walk through the kitchen to the living room.  As we go through the kitchen I become very aware of the fact that my dish washing system really isn't a respectable system, and I probably should have cleaned up the kitchen last night instead of watching Teen Mom; there are loads of dirty dishes piled in the sink, and my dishwasher is full of clean dishes.  Since at this point Dan had already been gone for six months, I'd gotten in the habit of doing a dishwasher cycle, then just using the clean dishes right out of the dishwasher and letting the dirty ones pile into the sink, until the dishwasher was empty and the sink was full.

Clearly I am lazy.

So to protect my Nan from seeing the Leaning Tower of Dirty Dishes, I tried to shimmy my way across the kitchen and use my body as shield, but there really is no way to hide slothful living.

Once we were in the living room I tried directing Nan's attention to the couch and loveseat by marvelling at how great they were, when really all her focus directed into examining an old beat-up green leather chair I inherited from my parents.

(And fine, it wasn't beat-up when we first got it.)

"Caitie, are you aware there's a hole in this chair? All the stuffing is spilling out."

Oh God.

"Ah, yeah....I know it's terrible.  Cosmo has sort of been picking away at the hole for awhile now.  I've tried to get him to stop. I've really tried! Nothing works, he's the most stubborn cat in the world! But I think he mostly picks at this while I'm at work. I'm really quite careful with my other things. I promise! I mean, just look at the couch and loveseat. Aren't they so FAB!" I cheerfully tried to turn Nan's attention to the couch, while my voice cracked like some nervous teenage boy.

So my sweet Nan does a thorough inspection of the couch.

"Well, there is quite a lot of cat hair on it."

"Is there really? Are you sure? I just vacuumed it last night..."

My words die on my lips as I inspected the couch and realized that last night's vacuum job is now irrelevant because perma-shedding Poppy had obviously been rolling around on the couch all morning, shedding her clothes like some floozy.

I thought I'd been a better mom than that? Didn't I teach her better morals?

I grabbed a sticky roller and pathetically started trying to pick up the stubborn white barbs of hair while telling my Nan that I just want her to have the couch for free and I would really deliver it in tip-top condition. Then my Bup comes out of the bathroom and tells me most seriously, in his rancher dialect:

"Cait. One of your cats has had a wreck in the bathroom."


I go into the bathroom and I'm horrified at what I see: projectile vomit everywhere. All over the walls, all over the white bath mat, and even in the tub.

Oh Lord! Why are you punishing me? Why are all these things happening at once?

Cosmo and his sensitive little stomach are definitely the culprits behind this grotesque mess. As my bathroom had clearly NOT looked like that when I left for work in the morning, I figured that once again he behaved like a little pig at breakfast and wolfed down his meal then Poppy's; by the time I'd left for work his bulging insides obviously couldn't handle all that nutrition so he'd spewed it everywhere.

I lamely tried to assure Bup and Nan that my bathroom had been quite clean when I'd left in the morning, and I just had to find my lone bottle of Seventh Generation all purpose cleaner and I'd have that mess cleaned up in no time. So then I started frantically hunting for the cleaner, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

"This is so weird, I wonder where that cleaning detergent went? I was just using it last night..."

I wasn't.

So my Nan tries to be helpful, "Well dear, don't you keep all your cleaning supplies together in one place? Like under the kitchen sink? Or maybe in your storage room?"

"Ahh...right, yes. I definitely do that. Most definitely."

As I hunted for that damn Seventh Generation, I began to panic. I was searching for that bottle as if my life depended on it, because I had to prove that I did honestly own cleaning supplies. That my mama did done raise me right!

When I located it I let out a joyous whoop that one probably only uses for major life events like sinking a hole in one, or rushing out to the hospital waiting room to tell everyone the baby's here. The whoop I used was certainly a bit dramatic for finding a bottle of cleaning detergent. But I proudly peacocked that bottle in front of my grandparents as I headed into the bathroom to clean up Cosmo's mess, while shouting cheerful conversation to Bup and Nan.

Maybe if I'm super upbeat, they won't notice what a disaster I am.

But it was no use, because I was then let down by the one cat I thought would never let me down.

As I scrubbed the puke from the floor and rinsed out the bath mat, I looked into the living room just in time to see Poppy (who had been racing around the apartment this entire time, overjoyed by the fact I was home) take a flying leap at the green chair, sink her claws into the leather, and then start to slip.



Poppy stopped slipping, regained her footing, then started determinedly (one paw in front of the other) scaling that delicate leather chair like a rock climber purposefully scales a cliff.

My Nan stood motionless watching Poppy rip up the chair and my Bup turned away from the sight while rubbing his eyes and proclaiming, "Jesus Christ Caitie!"

What more was I to do?

"She never does that! Never."

I promise you, she really doesn't. She is the 'good' one.

I stood in the puke destroyed bathroom, caught whiffs of festering spring meadows wafting through the halls, couldn't help but see a kitchen that appeared a bit nuclear, and looked at the green chair that was clearly being used as my cats' bitch.

Epic fail.

"Well Cait, we better be going," Nan said. "Bup tried lying on the couch but it's just a bit too hard for his afternoon naps."

"You have a good afternoon at work Caitie," Bup said as he and Nan raced to the door to escape my miserable little dwelling that was clearly inhabited by wild animals.

When the door shut behind them, I looked at my clock: not even ten minutes had gone by.


Epic fail.

That night I called Nan to apologize for the chaotic and messy visit: "Nan, I am so embarrassed for how things turned out this afternoon."

"Why honey, whatever are you talking about? We didn't notice a thing."

Ah grandparents: the most masterful dealers of the little white lie.

Love you Bup and Nan!

Monday, 18 October 2010

What Do You Do With Geographers?

No, no, no, you don't ignore them.

You actually pelt them with rocks while quizzing their memory on how that little mineral cluster was formed many moons ago.

Okay fine, you don't do that either (this visit...).

What you actually do is take them to a glacier!

That's what Dan and I did anyways. Alexi and Clarence were reminiscing how they had a geography professor who raved to his students about Switzerland, and told his class that if possible it should be a place they visit. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because of those alps, and glaciers, and rocks, and sh-t. Snore, boring...pass the chocolate.

Luckily for our guests, Dan is a little more sensitive to educational enthusiasm than I am ("OMG guys, you should totally check out THE FASHION that Switzerland has to offer. I have like, totally, like, earned, like, an A+ in my degree, like, in speaking the language of H&M. Guys. Guys?? Where are you going? Why don't you respect me?) and he decided to center one of our excursions around that glacier geographic super star known as Aletsch.

Aletsch is the rock star of all the European glaciers, and he only goes by one name; kind of like Cher, and Bono, and Madonna. Aletsch has a bit of an ego (as do all superstars) and sometime goes by the name The Great Aletsch, but I tried to play it cool when I met him, and only called him Aletsch. It's really tacky to fall all over yourselves when meeting someone you deem of importance.

Aletsch is considered king of the glaciers because he is the biggest glacier in the Alps, and is 23 kilometers long and covers 120 square kilometers. Basically Aletsch is large and in charge, and for that reason he has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But you all know what that means don't you? Whenever something is deemed a world heritage site, it is because it is generally in danger of disappearing and so it is given public recognition in an effort to bring awareness. I am sad to say that just like his fellow one-name-internationally-known-on-the-microphone counterpart Madonna, Aletsch is also starting to get those crazy skeleton hands that is caused by fanatical exercise and an abhorrence of fat: also known as glacial receding.

Except unlike Madonna, there aren't glacier plastic surgeons who can inject some of that abhorred fat into his cheeks or pack some more snow and ice onto his body to recover some of the calories he has lost due to global warming. Aletsch wants you all to know that he actually doesn't want to loose anymore calories: he wants to remain 23 kilometers long and continue to cover 120 square kilometers. Especially since a few years ago, in a quest to raise awareness for global warming, a whole bunch of naked people got down on the glacier to be photographed. Aletsch was really not comfortable with this, so if you could all just do your part to make sure he stays the way he is, he'd appreciate it.

So here are the pictures I took of our day visiting photogenic Aletsch.

Hey look everybody! It's a giant piece of Toblerone!
(also known as the Matterhorn)

Riederalp, the jumping off point to our day.
Can you spot the teeny-weeny golf cartesque vehicle in front of that chalet?
Riederalp is a car-free zone, so these little electric golf carts are how people get their wheelin' and dealin' accomplished in this alpine village.

Dan, I want to live in Riederalp.
Dan, I want to live in Riederalp.
Dan....oh, you get it.
I've been singing this to him since last summer.
I don't think he takes me seriously. Most people don't.

I always love a bend in the road.
So mysterious.

There was some serious official geography terminology being thrown around about these cliff formations, and I was all, "You mean the official name for this isn't 'pretty' or 'awesome'?"

 Now let's all make the same noise those little three-eyed aliens from Toy Story 3 make: "oooooo".
(Totally watched that movie on the plane and laughed out loud once or twice)
And contrary to what I originally thought, God did not drive his Tonka truck over Aletsch and make those dirty looking tracks. There is actually an official geography name for those.
Alexi, me out.

Let's all try to ignore the fact my right leg looks really weird and short.
Note to future self: don't try and prop your leg up on a shelf ledge, then lean forward.
Not a good look.
Dan, Alexi, and Clarence, all look nice though.
As does Aletsch.

Please look really, really, hard. There are two jets flying over Aletsch.
What a diva. Demanding military protection. Pscht.

There's the plane again.

Close-up of Aletsch.

View points.

A random stone wall, that didn't appear to have any purpose.

Map consultation and close-up of pointless wall.
I didn't want the wall to feel bad, so I took twenty-five pictures of it.
Want to see all of them?!!!

Both sides of the mountain.

It goes without was a nice day.

A little patio refreshment.
Dan and I each had spiked coffees.
My drink was a Baileys with a dash of coffee, and Dan had a mug of Amaretto with a dash of coffee.
Weee!! The walk down was so fun! Weee!!

Back into Riederalp.
And what's any Caitie excursion without stopping in to check out the local church.

It was pretty inside.

So folks, that was your backstage pass to Aletsch. Now you are all acquainted with him a little better, please remember the following:

Next time you're awake at three o'clock in the morning, and you feel compelled to pick up the phone and buy the stuffed and mounted singing trout that the home shopping channel sells, stop and ask yourself this: How much did Aletsch shrink, in order for this stupid stuffed laughing trout to be manufactured, produced, and shipped to me? Will I be laughing with the laughing trout? Is the laughing trout that funny? What would Aletsch do? 

Then put down the phone, turn off the television, and go to bed.