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Portuguese 101 (Part 1)

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It’s been 364 days since my last post (forgive me Father), and I know exactly as many Portuguese words as I did one year ago today: saudade and obrigado. It’s only a problem because I promised myself a year ago, the day I last blogged, that I would learn the language, and clearly that’s a goal that did not get smashed in 2015. Oops.

However, that could well be the only damper on 2015. I spent half the year with my beloved colleagues at the tv station, telling cool stories in a city that’s like home to me, celebrating with friends (any excuse for a surprise party), living in Mavoy Apartments with a kickass roommate, and I got to end the year with 6 months of a new career under my belt. I’m loving my job and my new colleagues, I live in a great apartment in a great city, and life is pretty good.

I mean, pretty good in the sense that I’m very happy, and things are lining up. So what about Mr. Right, you wonder? (You and my 90-year-old grandmother wonder the same thing). Well, for me 2015 was also a year of cementing my feminist ideologies, as my sisters will tell you with an eye roll. I read Kate Bolick’s feminist theory in “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own”, cyber-stalked Sheryl Sandberg, and basically bathed in Amy Schumer. So men didn’t play a big role in my year.

However, behind every strong, successful, feminist-minded woman, there is a long-suffering man who’s so manly, his masculinity isn’t threatened, and he even splits half the household duties and takes paternity leave. (He might have a beard, and definitely is slightly hard of hearing, so as to allow him to endure a lifetime of The Cackle.) This might be a bit much to hope for, but life is short, so why settle?  Worst case scenario, I end up single, and if current circumstances are anything to go by, that’s not the worst case at all. But hell, I should get out and meet my fellow Kelowna…ites? …ians? …ers? So, I ended up deciding to dip my toe in the water. More than that, I bolted past the greasy flames of Tinder, a previous failed experiment, and dove straight into the mildly polluted waters of Plenty of Fish.

Many people have success on dating sites. I have friends who met online who are now dating, engaged, or happily married. They’re all wonderful people, and they all found legitimate love that was born on a keyboard. (Gross visual, sorry.) You might think, based on this, that it follows that there would be other wonderful people online, at some point, waiting to do the same. Well, you optimistic freak of nature, you clearly have not walked a mile in my shoes.

POF was entertaining to begin with. On day 1 I received several messages. Oooh the fish they are a bitin’!, I think. But hold up. Of those messages, 95% are “hi”, “hey”, or “how ru?” Basically, the online equivalent of a grunt. Filtering through the profiles of these gems, I count very few who don’t purport to love “quading”, and one user’s headline is literally “FOR AN WOMEN”. NOW I remember why this has never worked in the past.

I mean, in the grand scheme of things, that’s all pretty harmless, if disappointing stuff. But we haven’t gotten to “T” yet. “T” is POF Day 2,  and “T”s messages are truly worthy of their very own post – which is coming very, very soon.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours a most wonderful New Year’s Eve. Thanks for sharing 2015 with me, and making me a little richer by being in my life. I hope you find health, wealth, happiness and peace in 2016, and I hope you left this year a little bit better than you found it – or at least learned some Portuguese.

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2014 doe.

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I’m not sure why New Year’s Eve carries so much emotion with it. I guess it’s probably due to the hope and optimism of a fresh start, and a chance for our busy lives to pause for a moment as we reflect on what we have hurriedly, and methodically, accomplished over the past 365 days. It’s also got to do with champagne, (not prosecco or cava), which is adept at bringing out certain emotions itself. (*hiccups*)

So, at the risk of sounding like Bob Geldof, my pause and reflection this year centres around how lucky we are in the Western world. Despite personal grief, and struggle, and national tragedy, most of us know nothing of the ills visited on the majority of the world. I won’t go into it, I know it’s not all rainbows and lollipops over here, and even they seem to decrease in number every year, but let’s be reminded tonight that we have not seen all of our sidewalks bloodied with the deaths of our people and we have not, on home ground, had to rise up against a government that would kill us. Just a little silver lining to tie off your 2014 with.

I also think tonight of the incredible and beautiful people – family, friends, and colleagues, who make my world wonderful. (*hiccups*) (Oh, don’t worry, I remember all the assholes, too. It’s ok guys, you get another stab at it in a few hours.) But to all of you who opened your ears, arms, hearts and homes to me this year, thank you, and I love you. (And, for the ones who listened too closely, sorry if I blew an eardrum.)

And for everyone who didn’t have to read this as an interminable Facebook status, you’re welcome, and why the hell are you reading this?! There’s champagne to be drunk! (*sticks straw in bottle*) That’s all she wrote for 2014, here’s to a new year where we all try to be better: kinder, smarter, and more open-minded. Especially when it comes to champagne. I can hear you judging me, my straw, and my bottle from here, assholes. Happy New Year!

Ye Cannae Go, Scotland!

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I look back on one of the few pictures I have of myself in Scotland (with Catie Lind in Edinburgh, March 2007) like others might look back at a picture of an ex-boyfriend – but a good ex-boyfriend. The feeling is positive, nostalgic, and wistful, along the lines of; “it’s sad it wasn’t forever, but it was wonderful while it happened.” I travelled to the beautiful country many times between 2004 and 2008, stopping in to visit relatives, and friends, and relatives of friends in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Largs, Greenock, and Aberdeen over the years. It’s a wonderful place. Predominantly wet and overcast, maybe, but I’m from the Vancouver area, so that’s not new. Today I’m thinking back to my time in Scotland as the citizens of the country cast ballots in a referendum. They’ve already started, and we’ll know their answer to the question “Should Scotland become an independent country?” by late Thursday evening Pacific Standard Time.

I have tried to keep a level head and read some of the arguments for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom – Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tory government in Westminster chief among them. I understand that some Scots have felt downtrodden for the better part of three centuries, that the revenue from oil in the North Sea belongs to them, that wouldn’t it be nice to be represented by a party that they actually voted for. I get it. But I still can’t accept it. I do not want Scotland to leave. It only has a little bit to do with Ewan McGregor.

I worry about what currency Scotland will use if it can’t keep the pound. I worry Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond’s oil revenue projections are wrong and that, called upon to bolster flagging income, haggis will fail to blaze a trail as an international delicacy. I worry a little about what the UK’s flag will look like without the blue and white of St. Andrew’s Cross. I worry a lot about a UK without Ewan McGregor’s tender lilting accent, soft, boyish gaze, and built-for-a-kilt legs. It’s time to face facts. Colin Firth can only carry those limey bastards so far. On a significantly selfish note, I worry about whether my British passport will allow me free and full access to live and work in Scotland if the country votes to break away from the UK. This concern is prompted just slightly by Ewan McGregor and my plans for our happy and domestic future, cottage-bound and surrounded by kids, arm-in-arm, gazing out on Loch Ness. He’s still wearing the kilt, ps.

I am not Scottish, but I am half English with a titch of Scotch. My father was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, to my English grandparents in 1952. He and his family emigrated to Canada eight years later, and his mother, my Gran, is probably why they came up with the saying that starts with “you can take a girl out of the UK…” Through my family, I’ve truly lived my English roots my whole life, and maybe that’s why I’ve always felt a strong tie to the UK and an affinity with anyone from the United Kingdom, including, obviously, Scotland.

The Scots that I’m acquainted with, whether they live in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, or here in Canada, are over-the-top hospitable. They welcome you into their homes, feed you a hearty meal, force drink on you even if you refuse (but why would you refuse?!), engage you in lively conversation and never lose the twinkle in their eye. They do it all with a wry sense of humour, a quick wit, a no-nonsense attitude, and an accent that begs to be imitated. I don’t want to lose them.

It all boils down to the fact that I’m not ready to break up with Scotland. I looked back with nostalgia and a little spark flickered up. I started to realize how much I really do care, years later. I love it and its people too much, and I can’t let it go. I am selfish, and, reading back on this entry, I see that my fantasies about Ewan McGregor are starting to rage a little out of control. However, I am crossing my fingers that on Friday morning we wake up to a United Kingdom that still includes Scotland, and I hope to be back inside the bonny lass faster than you can say “restraining order.” See you soon, Ewan. ❤

You are better than “The Bachelorette”

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A little piece of me dies every time I have to watch The Bachelorette.

You could tell me I don’t *have* to watch The Bachelorette, but you might not know that my family watches that show every single Monday. Monday is often the only night I have to spend with my family. So – because I love my family very much and want to spend time with them – I *have* to watch The Bachelorette some Monday evenings.

I have also been banned from making sarcastic comments while the show is on. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to observe that rule.

Tonight I watched a former pro baseball player (you don’t even have to have A JOB to be on this show) who can barely string a sentence together, get engaged to some chick named Andi, who looks good in a dress and is employed. They almost immediately launched into a nauseatingly whiny exchange of “I love you more…noooo I love you more!” Some other guy who *is* employed was not chosen by Andi, and was driven off into the sunset, tears welling in his puppy dog eyes. (Later he chose to confront the woman who scorned him. Because that usually works out well, especially when you’re doing it on tv.)

I have a really hard time watching rich, good-looking white people cry about the person who didn’t choose them on a reality tv show about “love.” I think it’s embarrassing that society thinks this is important. If someone could please explain to me what it is about this show that makes it entertaining – I’d very much appreciate it.

I’m not saying my taste is impeccable. I love all kinds of humour that some people would say is tasteless or juvenile. I even like “The Notebook.” But I couldn’t think of anything less important or more cheesy than the concept of the Bachelorette (or The Bachelor for that matter). It may have been a novel idea when the show started over ten years ago. But like the CD ROM shredder, which was also invented in 2003 – time’s up. It’s a new era, things have changed, and frankly – we’re better than that. Let’s act like it.

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Happy Canada Day?

Happy Canada Day?

Hey you! Yeah you – the one shotgunning a Molson while wrapped in a cape otherwise known as the Canadian flag. Happy Canada Day, eh? It wouldn’t be unusual to see a sight like that today. July 1st is synonymous with beer, partying, national pride. It’s a day to celebrate the mother-loving GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!!!!

We are pretty great. It’s been reported for many years that foreign travellers have been known to unapologetically sew maple leaf patches or Canadian flag emblems on their backpacks when going abroad. It was so enviable to be perceived as Canadian that people from other countries would pretend to be from ours. Talk about a compliment, eh?

You can’t argue that we don’t have some of the most vast and stunning landscapes around. These are inhabited by beautiful, friendly and polite people. We have one of the greatest democracies in the world. Right? You again – the one in the flag cape, starting to get a little drunk. You voted in the last federal election, right?

Phew. I wouldn’t want to have to lecture you. I wouldn’t want to be a major buzz kill on a day of celebration by pointing out that you opted out of one of the single most important things that makes our country so G-D fantastic.

Even if you did vote, there are likely people standing in your vicinity right now who did not. In 2011 – 61.1% of the population cast a ballot. In many contexts, 61% isn’t too bad. It means you passed Math 10, right? That’s a positive number! But when you consider our country has over 31.6 million people – with only 24.2 million on the voters list, you might feel a little let down. When you know that we have 24.2 million people registered to vote, you’d hopefully feel downright disheartened to hear that only 14.8 million of us actually cast a ballot. Even if you failed Math 10, you should understand that those numbers are abysmal.

I won’t go into the other numbers, previous turnouts et cetera. I know that cooler beside you is packed with beer that needs shotgunning today. But let’s remind ourselves that if we don’t vote – if we don’t take advantage of a right that people die for around the world – if we were ‘too busy’ on election day, or the parties’ platforms were too complicated to understand – we just became the 30 year olds living in our parent’s basements rent-free. We are riding on the coattails of those who built our country. At that point – we don’t deserve to be the greatest democracy in the world, because the people who have the power to make it a true democracy are sitting out the game.

It’s not about getting the Conservatives out of power (although that wouldn’t maybe be the worst thing in the world.) It’s about demonstrating your national pride, not with beer and a party, but by participating.

Democracy only really works if you use your voice. So save some of it. When you’re proudly belting out our national anthem today, whether you’re wrapped in a Canadian flag or not, have a thought and preserve some of that swelling in your chest. You need to use that to propel yourself to the polls in 2015. Let’s do better than 61.1%. It’s what I would expect of one of the “greatest countries in the world.”

Happy Canada Day.

Loving the Living Room

If you haven’t been to a living room concert, there is a level of sweaty you haven’t experienced before in your life. If you haven’t been to a living room concert, there’s also a level of raw intimacy you (hopefully) have never felt while sitting in the middle of a room packed with people.

The concept is simple: Person opens living room to musicians, provides power outlets, seating, and charges $20 to $30 admission. Dozens of people show up, their own beer and wine in tow, sit in the living room, and watch an incredible show.

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My first living room concert was in downtown Kamloops last week, and while the room became stiflingly hot at times, the experience blew me away. Doesn’t hurt that Dominique Fricot and Hilary Grist are first-class musicians, their respective performance prowess rivalled only by their ability to connect with the audience. Everyone there knew they were part of something special. Hilary made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the night bringing all our souls together. I scrambled awkwardly to find my notepad so I wouldn’t forget it. She may have meant it facetiously, but she hit the nail on the head.

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You can go to arena shows, and festival shows, and pub shows, but there’s nothing that creates a closeness or offers a more visceral experience than a living room concert. I’m not going to wax *too* lyrical about the quality of the performances. You had to be there, it’s one of those. There were shivers, there were shift-in-your seat moments, and, at least from me, there was open-faced admiration at the palpable passion and raw talent exhibited by all performers. Don’t forget that a venue like this allows for better crowd control, resulting in some amazing audience participation moments. Hilary, her husband Mike Southworth, and Dominique closed with Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” It was a music-lover’s dream.

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Suffice to say, I recommend you hunt down the location and date of the next living room concert that comes through your part of the world, and attend it. You should attend it so hard. I know of a couple of living room venues in Kamloops, but given the limited seating, it’s sort of an exclusive thing. You might have to go underground to find one. It’s one of those where you have to know someone or know someone who knows someone. But trust me, you’ll be happy you knew someone. Ashley (pictured below) was my someone. I owe you big time, Ash! You all owe it to yourselves to get to one of these venues – or check out Hilary, Mike and Dominique. None of the aforementioned will disappoint you.

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It’s Going Down, I’m Yelling Tinderrrrr

Yup, the title references a Ke$ha song. Moving on.

Tinder, for the uninitiated, is a next-level online dating app that links to your Facebook and is used on your phone. You no longer have to login to your dating site of choice to find out that absolutely no one is suitable for you. Now, you just download Tinder on your phone to see immediately which ineligible bachelors are also on the app – and who falls within the distance and age parameters you’ve set. Disappointment has never been so instantaneous, and finding entertainment has never been easier. If you ‘like’ a person (by swiping right on their photo), and they like you – you can chat. If one of you says no, there is no contact.

After about a week of forcing myself to swipe right to guys who cannot spell, who ‘just wanna have a good time, babe,’ whose idea of a conversation starter is “Wussup?” – I was rewarded. Not with true love. With something immeasurably better:

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Ah “L”. In a sea of bathroom mirror selfies, an ocean of wifebeaters with chains, and a plethora of portrayals of jacked up trucks, your gun heart profile picture was like a cool glass of water on a sweltering day. My roommate and I saw an opportunity too good to pass up – we said ‘yes’ to “L”. Even better, “L” said ‘yes’ to me. Let the games begin.

First – we must establish whether he’s a murderer.

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Ok, fair enough. But let’s make sure he’s not lying about being a murderer.

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“L” does not disappoint. Smooth and suave is clearly the angle he’s playing.

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“L” literally suggests we discuss his clean criminal record over a meal.

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My handcuffs are calling, and dinner doesn’t gotta be tonight, but finally I’ve got something to look forward to. Where there’s one “L”, there have to be more. You’ll be the first to know if I unearth a goldmine. But for now, I’m just going to keep chasing bad guys.

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Why I Won’t Selfie

Why I Won't Selfie

Well that’s sort of misleading. It’s not that I *won’t* selfie, sometimes it’s the most practical way to take a picture. However, this trend that has girls everywhere posting pictures of themselves without makeup is, in my eyes, useless.

I first saw it done by a friend in Canada earlier this year. This beautiful girl posted a picture of her nude face with the hashtag #rawbeautytalks. A Google search shows the movement’s mandate is to “help women find a deeper level of confidence, self love and acceptance so we can shift our focus from the superficial to accomplishing the unimaginable.”

Hm. So we’re supposed to move away from the superficial – by taking a picture of our faces and sharing it with the world? By advertising our superficial selves? Can someone explain to me how that shifts the focus from the superficial? I’d say if you *really* wanted to place less emphasis on what’s on the outside, you’d be better off posting pictures of the volunteer work you’re doing. Maybe you could advertise a group you started that supports the elderly in the community. Or just do an old-fashioned kind turn. Be nice to someone who was an asshole to you. Kindness costs nothing, it makes you feel good about yourself, and has absolutely nothing to do with your face or body.

I don’t doubt that the #rawbeautytalks concept was born in a room of successful and beautiful women with clear skin, healthy self-confidence, and a positive outlook on life. Women who may have their hearts in the right place, but who completely missed the point. All they’ve done is encourage people to buy into the “look at me!” culture we have online, and increase the emphasis on outward appearance. The more I break it down, the greater my suspicion that this is a brilliantly executed prank by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. His team masterminded the viral video of the girl Twerking and catching on fire. They’re also behind the apparent wolf wandering hotel hallways at the Sochi Olympics. He’s great at exposing how gullible we are. That’s what makes me think that in the not-too-distant future, he’ll reveal he’s behind #rawbeautytalks, and will proclaim loudly on his show: “you suckers are so full of yourselves!”

To add to the bogus thrust of this movement, I never got the memo that people always wear makeup on Facebook, and that it’s a no-no to appear on your page with a naked face. I and a good chunk of my friends – of all ages – have many, many pictures up on our pages where we’re not wearing makeup. And that’s just online. Step outside into the fast-fading ‘real world’ and look! We’re hiking, we’re running, we’re camping, we’re in grocery store line ups, clothing store change rooms, chatting with the bank teller – ALL WITHOUT MAKEUP ON!!!! No need to advertise it. No need to remark on it. I understand that some people would rather not appear on social media – or in public – without makeup. That’s up to them, and it affects no one but themselves. It does not need to be made a ‘thing’.

The no-makeup ‘movement’ has now spread. I have had friends from overseas posting their (beautiful) makeup-less faces for cancer awareness. While it’s fantastic that the nude-faced selfie trend has taken a more charitable turn – it lacks clout. People who are suffering from cancer, or loved ones of people struggling with the horrific disease, are well aware of its existence. How do you help them? Probably not by posting a picture of yourself. Donating to a recognized charity? That’s a little more reasonable.

Circling back to the North American-based #rawbeautytalks selfie campaign: I’m all for encouraging women to love themselves more, and to be more confident. That, however, has absolutely nothing to do with what you look like, with or without makeup. It’s in who you are on the inside, how you treat others, and what positive changes you try to make in the world around you. So put your money – or your effort – where your selfie would otherwise be. I don’t care if you have lipstick on or not – just make a difference. Your fellow humans will thank you, and you won’t need a mirror to feel like a million bucks.

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Last Post: Dubai Desert Safari

Last Post: Dubai Desert Safari

The full second day in Dubai was incredible. Caitlin had booked us into a desert safari. Apparently not all tour companies in the UAE are very reputable, but a friend of hers from her yachtie days had done one with this company and was impressed. We were picked up by a peeved Pakistani tour driver, upset that Caitlin didn’t answer two of his seven calls that morning.

He was calling for directions – which she gave the first two times she picked up. The crazy thing is, my sister doesn’t have an address. She has a building name and a neighbourhood. But that’s it. It seemed like that for every single destination we chose. Every time we got into a taxi it sounded like this: “we’re going to Al Nahda 1. It’s across from the Mai Tower and down the street from the NMC Hospital. Ok you see that parking garage? Pass it and take a left. Yes, left now. No, NOW! Here! Ok keep going….” you get the idea. And it’s never as simple as being dropped off at a tourist destination, or navigating anything. We were taken to the Armani Hotel when we asked for the Burj Khalifa, and it was a miracle we ever got out of the Dubai Mall alive. That place is a hellish pit of people, excess and commercialism that has NO CLEAR DIRECTIONS. I had a bit of a meltdown there one day.

So – Caitlin ignored the driver’s persistent phone stalking and he let her know he was angry as we got in the vehicle. But all was forgotten 10 minutes later as we picked up a family of three from Lyon, France, at their hotel. We took the highway to the desert about 45 minutes outside of Dubai. I never knew the name of the tour company, and we didn’t sign any waivers, so it could have been a random guy out to make a buck, but hey, if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. I imagine my mother finds this paragraph very comforting.

We stopped at a tourist trap to go to the bathroom, buy snacks, and be basically assaulted by men intent on wrapping us in their headscarves – I’d say that was Caitlin’s highlight as she doubled over laughing for a good five minutes because of my expression when we were draped with the material. Caitlin was not given a ‘holy sh*t’ handle to hold on to when we went dune bashing (4×4-ing on the sand dunes), and we got stuck twice and witnessed many bumpers that had been ripped off on previous expeditions. We had good fun, but the French girl upchucking her dejeuner into un sac did not fare so well. Luckily by then it was on to the camels and the ATVs!

I had been really looking forward to the camel ride, but as soon as it was time to mount the animals, my stomach clenched. These animals are tied up in the desert, waiting only for tourists to crawl on top of them and fawn over them. Who knows how well they’re treated apart from that? It was all of a one-minute tour though, so I felt better that we weren’t forcing them to trek that far. However, my heart sank as we left later that morning and I saw a herd of camels grazing in the desert brush – their front legs attached by a red piece of fabric, presumably to prevent them from walking too far. No time for camel pity, though, there were ATV’s to ride!

It was intimidating at first, riding the little 4x4s up and down steep sand dunes, but you get the hang of it, and in no time we were ripping around like nobody’s business. The trip had been made for me by that point, super cool experience, and we didn’t die. So Caitlin did pretty well with that choice.

Later that day we visited The Palm, a man-made cluster of sand outcroppings in the shape of a palm tree that can be seen from space. The Palm is home to some of the most affluent hotels and neighbourhoods in Dubai, catering to the very richest of clientele. At the head of the Palm is Atlantis, a massive resort modelled on one by the same name built in the Bahamas in the ’90s. It is really beautiful and its castle shape is impressive and sort of eerie to spot in the distance, obscured by the constant layer of pollution/sand that hovers over the city. We had dinner there at ‘Kaleidoscope’, a buffet style restaurant – but this is no type of buffet you’ve ever had. Every single dish was absolutely mouth-watering. I’m glad it was since we paid 200 dirham each for the meal alone – about 60 Canadian dollars.

On the last day we went to the top of Burj Khalifa, and Caitlin and I both agreed it was overrated. I’m glad to have done it, because I would have regretted not seeing the view from the top. However that view from the top wasn’t very clear, and it wasn’t worth the 100 dollars Canadian we paid to see it. Note to future visitors – reserve your Burj Khalifa rooftop tickets well in advance to avoid being fleeced by the tiered pricing. Once that was done, we boarded the hop on, hop off bus tour and had a fantastic remainder of the day. We stopped at Jumeira public beach for lunch, took shots of the Burj al Arab, the iconic sail-shaped seven-star hotel that provides an air limousine service between the airport and its own helipad. We capped off our excellent day by returning to the souk across from the Dubai Mall for a delicious meal.

The next morning, we had time to stop at the Montessori centre where Caitlin works, saw some of the adorable kids, and then it was off to the airport for another 24 hours of travelling to get me back home. Thanks again to Jennifer Roussy – that wasn’t painful. I was booked into Club class once again, for both the Dubai to London flight and the London to Vancouver flight. I really can’t complain about any aspect of travel on this trip, it was luxurious and I am too lucky for words.

So here I am, back at home – tired, jet-lagged, sick, but thoroughly exhilarated and beaming with happiness. This trip was truly one of a lifetime. People keep asking me about my favourite part of the holiday, and it’s too hard to choose just one from the reel of incredible sights and experiences that has been playing over in my mind since the journey began. But then I remember what really made it for me. It was the people. I got to see some of the people I love most in this world, many for the first time in years, and everything was the same. I love them just as much, they still make my world brighter, happier and better. So to those who hosted me, fed me, took the time out of their busy schedules to see me – thank you, I love you, and you made my trip amazing. Door’s open if anyone ever wants to come to Kamloops – we have a pretty phenomenal pulp mill you might want to check out. 😉 Now – time to upload the pictures and sift through one of the best experiences of my life all over again. ❤ ❤ ❤