Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'll Have a Tall Extra-Hot Detox Macchiato

We have been home in Victoria for almost a month now. I've gotten re-acquainted with where things are in the kitchen, and yes the joy of actually having a kitchen again. Vegetarian eating! And is it too much to say the "ecstasy" of having my own personal espresso machine? I think it was in Newfoundland where Jack had to jump behind the counter and show the waitress how to use the restaurant's espresso machine. No one had ever asked for a drink from it before.
When we returned, we literally had almost of week of illness, that we think was actually detox from road-food and way too much caffeine. Then our poor cat Rocky suddenly became ill and died. As my friend Sophie said, it was "a f**king sob-fest."
In any case I am still feeling unsettled. I recognize "reverse culture-shock" and have experienced it before, although I hadn't expected it from my own country.
The term 'macchiato' is typically used to describe an espresso drink that has just a touch of milk. In Italian it actually means, 'marked' or 'stained.' And I suspect my culture-shock may turn into some permanent macchiatos.

An unexpected permanent stain from the trip is my attitude towards the seal hunt in Newfoundland. This is particularly shocking considering my pain, guilt and existential questioning of our choice to have poor Rocky euthanized. Also, when I was a kid I was scandalized by the seal hunt from the time I was 10 years old, when our teacher invited Greenpeace to come into the classroom and speak to us (yeah well it was Boulder Colorado, 'where the hip meet to trip.') The idea of taking a big club and bopping a cute, innocent, fluffy, white, baby ball of cuddliness over the head is still something I would have a hard time doing myself. Let alone 300,000 of them in a year. It's obviously something that's emotional.

I am also completely convinced that if they rounded up the live seals and put them on a truck and 'processed' them in a big metal 'facility' somewhere, the world would have no problem with it at all. Like is done with the 100,000 cows per DAY in the USA alone, (or the 420,000 pigs, or the 23 million chickens...) This has nothing to do with sustainability, but with humane treatment.

Implements of torture?

Theoretically, there are humane standards for killing animals. Theoretically the animals are 'stunned' (not killed) before they are strung up by the heels to have their throat slit and having had the pleasure of watching what happened to the individual in front of them. You get the picture. I know that for my cat, we had the vet make a house call to avoid the trauma of the car trip and the stainless steel table, but in the end Rocky struggled to get away from the needle. This is as humane as it gets. In industrial killing there is no time for caring.

I think the Newfoundlanders are astounded by the backlash, because Brigitte Bardot never bothered to have her photo taken cuddling up to a cod. The way a fish dies is never considered by anyone. When I worked in the fish plant, some of the salmon would come in practically chopped in two by net marks from being squished with tons (literally) of other fish in a purse seine. Not a way I would choose to die. But it happens underwater, so no one sees, so that makes it okay. Besides fish aren't that cuddly.
Maybe I should have had that seal dinner after all. It still would have made more sense than a Big-Mac.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Taking Sides

We had the "good fortune" to be in Saskatoon when "W" came to town.

We had heard there would be a protest at the site where he was speaking, and we wanted to swell their numbers by two. When we arrived, we found a few people milling about, but other than 3 old ladies with an unreadable sign, most looked like they were there to actually listen to W speak. (The whole idea of 1. George W Bush putting together actual sentences, and 2. someone wanting to listen to them, is unfathomable and I'm sure covered in someone else's blog.)

Kandahar Saskatchewan that is.
The bombed out looking building is a dilapidated decommissioned school.

Meanwhile, I was not sure to be happy that no one thinks W is worth protesting, or depressed that no one cared. Expressing this to my neighbour, she said, "Oh no they are gathering at the farmer's market and all coming together."

Does the farmer lean to the right too?

The interesting net affect was that I was standing on the "secure" side of the barricade when the protesters did arrive. By then, there was a huge long line of people waiting to get into the show. They were mostly white men wearing crisp white shirts, black leather jackets, shiny black shoes, and expensive jeans: the chamber of commerce type. (sorry Rob).

On the other side of the street, behind another barricade, were the protesters, wearing a colourful assortment of woolies, with banners, signs etc.

Because I was wearing a worn Gor-tex jacket, and was carrying a largish SLR camera, everyone must have assumed I was a journalist (as in, a REAL one.) A note to keep in mind if you ever wish to get behind a barricade.

Of course, W was escorted thru the back of the building and was never visible, let alone in reach of the few shoes that were thrown into the middle of the street, or within reach of the imaginary pie that Jack dreamed of tossing.

In any case, after taking a photo of the 3 elderly women, who were escorted by police to the correct side of the barricade, I was left with Global TV and an assortment of photographers who ignored me. Jack had left by this time, since this side of the street had become "the enemy." The feeling of discomfort at being left there was overwhelming in me. I wanted to ask some people why they had spent $150 each to sit and listen to this person. What did they really think they'd learn? But I found I was too lazy or too scared to ask the question.

These elderly ladies get police escort to the other side of the barrier

One of the loudest protesters had a megaphone and was insisting that "911 WAS AN INSIDE JOB." I didn't want to associate myself with this wingnut either. I thought it was unfortunate that the W-supporting wingnuts looked so reasonable. And then another protester tried to start a fight with an attendee who was smiling. So much for give peace a chance.

So much of our world is groups of people separated by barricades and lines, physical, mental, ideological. So much energy spent just trying to move those barriers around and saying, "We want more room on my side." On this trip I've been talking to hunters, loggers, chemical farmers; people with whom I would have thought I have little in common. But by talking with them about their passions, I've found that I do.
Round-Up or not, it's still beautiful
Finally I politely moved thru the lineup to the middle of the street where I stood, as usual, in the middle, thinking what a great metaphor this was. I also determined that I was invisible, because other protesters standing beside me were escorted by police back to behind their barrier while I was left alone.

In the end I did decide that I had to take a side, so I made my way to the protesters, having decided that the non-wingnuts need to be loud too sometimes.

These birds of a feather do stick together
(the snow geese were intimidated and left earlier)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks

"For food for friends for loving care,
for gifts to give, for gifts to share,

for all that makes live sweet and good

Dear God…(something something something)"

This was the preamble to a grace that my family used to say prior to eating and prior to Dad becoming vehemently anti-religion. I don’t remember when that happened exactly. But this thanksgiving day, it all applies.
We are truly blessed as individuals and as a nation to live in the fashion to which we've become accustomed. For this year's Thanksgiving, called Action de Grace in French (or as Peter says, Inaction de Grace, since the Quebequois do not recognize the day in any way other than another day off from work), we had the good fortune to have 3 thanksgiving dinners. One in the Laurentians, one near Pointe Au Chene, near the Ottawa river, and one in Ottawa (on the other side of the river). Actually there was a fourth too, in a place called Echo Lake with the brother and sister-in-law of a close friend.

For all of these dinners the hippy west-coast vegetarians had to suck it up and eat meat. Oh so difficult when it's succulent duck breast with a maple cranberry sauce. Or a tender chicken raised there on the property. Or beef raised there on the property served with veggies also raised there, all with views over a lovely river valley, or lake. At all of these dinners we had thought-provoking conversation, often about the food we were eating.
Real vegetarians

At Lac Saint Jean in the Saguenay valley, we came upon a view of the lake and in the distance the wind was creating whitecaps all across the lake. Then Jack said, "those aren't waves, they're birds.” Sure enough, thousands of Snow Geese (not snowbirds, those are a different breed altogether) had descended onto the lake and surrounding fields. At one point a few began to take off and then a few more and then a continuous stream of V's and W's began to fly overhead.
not snow...snow geese

They were close and beautiful in striking white and black and I was relishing the joy of flight, and then…POP POP POP. And a goose began to tumble, catch itself and glide painfully down to the field where a hunter ran towards it. It could only run away on goose feet, and I was imagining trying to run in a hayfield while shot and wearing a pair of snorkeling flippers.

finding the beauty in catching your dinner

We’ve seen a lot of dead animals, moose, geese, caribou, and the people who feel remarkable pride in killing them. And I can appreciate the pride, while at the same time I'm feeling the pain of the animal and sadness at the whole affair.

As in my last blog, I'm still a bit "unhinged" as one of you so eloquently put it. And I continue to be so. The complexities around a simple thing like eating could only have been invented in North America. Perhaps not something for which to be thankful. But the trip has given me a new perspective on my idealistic ideals, and for that I am thankful.
yeah..more beauty...yada yada yada

Now after these wonderful meals with the hospitality of friends old and new, we’ve tried to pay it forward by giving a good long ride (700 km) to a young hitchhiker. But since we've since ditched the hitch-hiker (literally I think he is spending the night in a ditch) I'm feeling somewhat guilty being warm in a lodge while he is under a tree somewhere. and it's snowing.

So yes, unhinged is a good word.

a hard frost or snow every morning now
not house-proud

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Newfoundland and Labrador - Whinging from the edge of the world

I'd thought we'd reached our furthest point at the end of the world when we visited L'anse Aux Meadows in Northern Newfoundland. However, now that we are again headed north and east in Labrador, I can't yet say we've begun the journey home. I can't complain, or at least that's what Newfoundlanders say, so instead they write songs. The songs they write have an upbeat tune, depressing lyrics and usually involve a lot of drinking. In that vein I think I need to do a bit of cathartic sea shanty bitching:

Wellllll IIIIII'se
sick o'de road
and sick o'd' van
and oh me lord help me
I'm sick o'd' man...
no wait that's not what I meant. Let's try again:
Well me name's Lori
and I live on the road
I'se happy and healthy
'Til I smelled like a toad.
All me possessions is mildewy grey
and me passion for trav'lin' is slippin' away...
or maybe:
It's another frickin' night without no heat,
another frickin' day out on the peat,
another frickin' mile of freakin' gloom,
but what I'm sick o'frickin' most,
is "Scuze me" ballet in a 4 foot room
You get the idea. Can you tell I'm ready to come home?

Roughing it more than I am:

Actually I don't smell like a toad, but something fungal is growing on my back and considering the environment I could be breaking out in something larger. I'm hoping for chanterelles.

Gros Morne (literally = "majorly gloomy")

I'm pretty much upside down right now.
I started calling Jack, "Melove."

Mr. Carrot meets Ms. Carrot

I'm eating caribou and actually sorry that I didn't buy the mooseburgers from that really drunken guy in Trout River who just wanted us to come over and get stoned. I didn't go. But I even congratulated a hunter on her killing of a big bull moose. My vegetarian ways don't make much sense here. Not that anything makes a lot of sense here.
Seal Meat anyone? Mooseburgers?

It appears that the moose on the island have done some pretty serious damage to the balsam fir forests. The moose are not indigenous and when their populations were small the wolves helped keep them in check. Now there's no more wolves, and people have come to rely on getting a moose each season so there is no appetite to cull the moose populations. Now the indigenous populations of arctic hare and caribou are so stressed that re-introducing wolves (to an extent that would help with the moose) would only stress their populations further. No easy answers, but to have a moose burger periodically.

I'm not really missing my stuff at home as much as I thought I might, just missing warmth and having 4 walls around me. In Newfoundland, the attitudes about property are more flexible than my Victoria Victorian ways. Property lines are not clearly defined and roads become driveways and vice versa without any warning. I've become accustomed to walking across what turns out to be someone's backyard, and when I've been approached, instead of a gruff warning that I expect, I get a warm hello.

If there are berries around people pick them, it doesn't matter where they might be. Jack and I have taken to carrying paper bags in our jackets, since most hikes turn into berry picking epics.

Now imagine a whole hillside of this:

Then there is the Newfoundland front door. If there is a front door in a house, and there typically is, there is no way to get to it from the outside. Often the door will open out to a 4 foot or higher drop-off onto the front yard. People say they are built that way because that's what's on the house plans, but the exterior finishing is unnecessary and expensive. People only come to the back door, and that enters onto the kitchen. The protocol is: knock once, then enter and call hello. On Fogo Island, people explained that it's usually too cold to wait outdoors, so it's only practical to enter the house. No one ever locks the doors, even when not home. However, it is impolite to enter further without an invitation.
I hope they don't sleepwalk:
I know that my homesickness is also upside down, because I know I'll be homesick for Newfoundland when I leave. I hope to import some Newfoundland protocol when I get home. I'll plant some berry bushes on the front boulevard, and please don't lock your back door.

not everyone makes it home
self-portrait after a month of no yoga