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Saturday, November 23, 2019
Thursday, July 04, 2019
May / June 2019
Oh Canada, our home and native land…well actually our home is our sailing vessel, KaijaSong, currently in Indonesia, but yes it is our native land. It is where our oldest friends and family reside and where Kaija and I spent the majority of our lives going to school, growing up, our working years and where we met.
Our friends and family are spread from the west coast, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, then Ontario, Toronto, Oshawa, Hamilton, Cobourg, Ottawa & Owen Sound. Given the size of Canada, it is no small feat to cover all that territory in a brief amount of time…and brief best describes our short visits. We were lucky this time to have set aside two months for this visit and still we would not see everyone we wanted to see, or spend near enough time with those we did. But such is life.
Part of the problem is that old word…scheduling…trying to coordinate what we could do, working west to east and then back again with the busy lives of those we wanted to spend time with. Life happens, and plans change, and we were forced to change with them…that is life and we are flexible!
Our first week in Vancouver was part business, and part pleasure. We needed to renew our Indonesian Visitors visas which required a visit to the Indonesian Embassy in Vancouver. Kaija needed to spend time with her mom and siblings and we had a list of friends who wished to see us.
Top of that list is my oldest living friend, Wayne H. We grew up as young boys together and have followed each other’s careers, loves and lives ever since. It is always special spending time with Wayne.
Tony G, Barry VL and Dan S, are among my oldest Vancouver friends. I’ve spent many hours on the water with these men and I value their skills and friendship. These three are excellent sailors having participated in World Class sailing genres and winning the Worlds in the Star Class and big boat events like Transpac and Vic Maui.
Spending time with Tony and Jane at Barry and Katherine’s beautiful new home was an evening full of laughter and giggles…it was fun!
Those first few days flew by. We flew directly to Ontario where we would spend the next 6 weeks doing needed maintenance at our summer cottage. Lucky for us, we picked the time of year when the weather should be most conducive for outdoor activities. “Should” being the operative word. This was the working part of our trip and while looking forward to it, it was what it was…a list of projects that needed doing and only so much time to get them done. We love the cottage, but being on Lake Ontario has both advantages and disadvantages. If the weather is hot, it is wonderful, as the lake works to moderate the temps and supply enough lake breeze to make even the hottest days pleasant. But when it’s cold…it can be brutal. Unfortunately for us, it was COLD.
Despite the cool temps and rain…we managed to get the projects done one by one…doing inside jobs when it was too wet, and outside when the sun shone.
Cobourg is close enough to Toronto and Oshawa and Ottawa to make daily trips to catch up with old friends and family. What a treasure for me to meet up with some of my oldest friends, John L along with his wife Cathy, Raul and Lea P and John & Debbie W.
I have known them since my teen years when we traveled and sang together in a Gospel Group we called The KJV (King James Version). The group was originally called the Churchmen, Dave M, Raul P, John L and Ed W welcomed me when their original piano picker left. I was young and not very bright and how they put up with this obnoxious clown still amazes me…but they were patient, long suffering and very good and keeping me humble. Eddie left the group and became a backup singer for Elvis, not a bad gig. John W joined the group as bass singer and did a wonderful job. John L, Raul and John W can still sing the pants off most any song worth singing. The years may have flown by, but being with them, never gets old and despite the fact that years go by between visits, it is like we had just seen them yesterday. In hindsight the years I spent with John L, Raul, Dave, Ed and John W were certainly some of the best years of my life!
My extended family are mostly in the Oshawa, Hamilton, Owen Sound area and it was terrific to spend time catching up.
It was good to see my Aunt Jean who is doing remarkably well in her later years and with the support of her ever faithful sons here pictured with Lloyd and wife Marilee, Luther, Lindsay and wife Coleen, Daughter in law Jan with Paul, Kaija and me.
After enjoying a fine service at Ralph and Patsi’s church we enjoyed a lovely Sunday visit with my precious Aunt Pat, daughter Bev with husband Bruce & daughter Laura, and cousin Lloyd and Marilee, Kaija and me.
I always enjoy spending time with cousin Steve. He was a cop for many years, and I enjoy his dry sense of humour. He is now retired and we share a passion for all things boating. Being an old Rag Hanger (sailor) I can find it in my heart to forgive his yearnings to be a Stinkpotter (motor). He was happy to show off his new Yacht, aptly named After Taxes.
Our friends John and Rosemary are sailing friends we met in Tonga and who so graciously invite us for dinner and we spend three days. It was the nite of the championship Basketball game and we were all rooting for the Toronto Raptors as they claimed their prize while we garfed down some of Ontario’s best butter-tarts. Oh what fun we had.
Just before leaving for the west we had a lovely visit with good friends Sue and Arnie who share our love of Gospel music and were delightful hosts in their beautiful new home.
Our cottage projects were finally completed and a couple of days before leaving we awoke to hear the sounds of heavy machinery which sounded like it was about to invade…getting quickly out of bed and running outside we saw that our neighbouring cottage was about to be no more. It took less than an hour to totally demolish a cottage that has been beside ours for 60 yrs…new owners and soon to be a new look. We will have to wait till our next visit to see it.
It was time to head west. It is not possible to go back to Canada and not stop in Calgary to visit with my good buddy Brian S his wife Roxy and their family. These folks know how to make you feel welcome. We have known each other for decades and it is like putting on a comfortable sweater to just spend time with them. This was a special visit with the addition of new grand-babies in their lives. The oldest son Phil and wife Kelly have two of the cutest children on the planet. And this year their daughter Brianne and husband Patrick gifted them with a healthy baby boy Parker Roy. It was a special time.
Brian and I share a wonderful history and have many things in common, including his love of big bikes and our history of selling pianos. It is always fun me to spend time with him at his very successful store whiling away the hours talking about old times and playing some of the finest pianos ever built. Roxy and Kaija get on like sisters and we enjoy visiting with the "Grinch" Jeffy. Roxy is a gourmet chef and her culinary skills are legendary. Combine that with the fact that she likes me…and I am in little Piggy heaven. YUMBO…I just need to remember to push away from the trough…but it ain’t easy…Just sayin!
Next stop was Vancouver for Kaija’s 50th High School Reunion. My oh My where have all the years gone. She enjoyed visiting with old classmates and catching up on their lives.
Our final Canadian stop was Vancouver Island for more good times with friends Tom and Jane B. They have built a beautiful home in the woods in Nanoose Bay…a quiet sanctuary where you will see deer grazing on the grass…just not on the front lawn, which is well guarded by their Canine child Gina…ever watchful loyal Gina.
We had a fun outing driving down to Victoria to visit friends Darlene and John V. We met John on his yacht in Cuba and have enjoyed his friendship and introducing them to Tom and Jane. The meal was outstanding as was the fun and fellowship…another special evening with special people.
Our time in Canada was at an end. We boarded our flight to Hong Kong returning to our beloved boat in Indonesia. We had a stopover in Bejing.
I can now say…Thank you to the wonderful hotel manager Eddie at Novatel in Hong Kong for his diligence in helping us. Thank you to the Air China for finding our luggage and making the effort and going the extra mile to get it done and thank you to Garuda Air for finally delivering our luggage to us in Sorong Indonesia.
Lesson Learned…take pictures of your luggage, make something about your luggage Unique and keep your luggage claim tags separate from your boarding pass. In our case, it was a particular Travel strap that we had used and the fact that our luggage had Canadian Flags…OH CANADA!
Thursday, April 25, 2019
We departed Sorong, Indonesia heading for Canada which is 6000 NM east. However, to get there required us to first fly 1500 NM west to Jakarta via Makassar, then 2000 NM north to Hong Kong before finally turning east toward Vancouver.
This seemed like a perfect time to see Hong Kong and spend a couple of days stretching our legs and taking the sites and sounds of this Historic city.
We had never flown on Garuda Air and were surprised and delighted and the friendly staff and generous service. The flight attendants were all coiffed, immaculately attired and with their best smiles made the miles simply fly by.
The service was outstanding and the inflight meal delicious, the entire flight a real delight. Given today's travel norms of grumpy overweight flight attendants and a bag of nuts for a meal,what can I say, but this was a rare medium well done!
Before we knew it we had landed at Makassar Sulawesi’s Sultan Hasanuddin Airport with a short layover before heading on to Jakarta and Hong Kong.
Not knowing what to expect but thinking we were in a third world country so with expectations kept in check we were blown away by just how modern, clean and convenient both these airport were.
Both these facilities were modern and clean and big but amazingly efficient and well laid out.
With a certain sense of humour as depicted in many of the wall sketches of the fire extinguishers and modern art.
It was not uncommon to see both Segways and inline skates being used by airport support staff.
Hong Kong is an extraordinary, vibrant and crowded territory of more than 7 million people. The view of Hong Kong islands skyscrapers from across the harbour makes a stunning urban panorama, and this insomniac metropolis buzzes with energy day and nite. Despite this, and my foregone conclusion that I would feel claustrophobic in amongst all the crowds…amazingly it was not like that. Yes there are people everywhere…but somehow, someway, everyone seems aware that personal space is respected.
It did not matter whether day or nite, crowded streets or overflowing bus and tram rides…people were polite and provided just enough elbow room to allow personal space.
We only had three days to see this amazing city, and we ran hard to do and see as much as we could. With the help of the friendly staff of the the Local Hop On Hop Off transit system we were able to see a lot in the comfort of open air buses enjoying the many varied sites, sounds and dare I say smells of this megalopolis.
The downtown streets are filled with shops and more shops, street vendors of all manner and tailors hawking their wares. Every few steps there would be another one handing you his business card and claiming to be the best and cheapest and fastest offering full tailored suits in 24 hrs. The prices were not what they used to be, but what is…even so, a full custom tailor made suit for less than $500 and made in a day!
One is awestruck at the density of people and buildings. New next to old, architecturally stunning against downtrodden and dilapidated…and graveyards set in the middle of it all. Space is a premium and it is all used. We found some of the best shopping in the central open markets…day and night they are hustling…and it is possible to buy reasonable quality at bargain prices…haggling is mandatory and expected…so it was also kinda fun!
You cannot visit Hong Kong without going to see The Thai Tan (Golden) Buddha. Getting there required us to make use of the high speed underground rail system. It is modern, clean and efficient. Well, maybe too much so. To buy your ticket involved dealing with the automated Ticketing machine. In spite of our best efforts, we could not manage to get a ticket. Finally in a slightly exasperated voice I said…”Does anyone here speak English?” A young man turned around and said “how may I help you Uncle”…hahaha no way were we related, but my white hair allowed me a measure of respect. It took him a couple of tries with my $100 note and he finally went to a Kiosk and purchased two tickets for us. When I tried to pay him, he refused to accept saying “you are a guest in country” and walked away with a smile on his face…Wow!!...we hopped aboard the train and Kaija struck up a conversation with a nice young lady who wanted to be sure that we were OK and did we need any help.
Very impressive, I shudder to think whether an Asian guest in one of our Great Canadian cities would have received as warm and generous a welcome.
The gondola ride is half the fun…stretching miles high above the city and surrounding hillside it afforded the perfect opportunity to take it ‘all’ in.
The Buddha is a shrine, and the crowds are quiet and respectful. It is a walking tour culminating in a 220 step climb to the top and then a visit to the temple housing three Golden Buddhas. The first two are merely Gold plated, the third however, is solid gold. It is quite an eyeful.
Our last day we took a ride up the 100 floors to the top of Sky100 to take in a view from the top. You cannot fathom the density. 40 story apartment towers are the norm and there are hundreds packed together as far as the eye can see. There are many many taller structures. 7 of the top ten tallest structures in the world reside in China.
If Hong Kong is on your bucket list and you feel like splurging you might consider staying where the stars stay...Elvis, Diana, Frank and every US president since Roosevelt just to name a few. The Peninsula Hotel offers a level of comfort and service seldom found anywhere. With a fleet of 7 Rolls Royce's at your beck and call...just saying "you can't take it with you".
I will admit that my stunted understanding of China and Hong Kong was sorely lacking. We expected to find a third world country with commensurate amenities…instead we found a modern vibrant functioning city that reminded us in many ways of our home city of Vancouver, on steroids. Set on the waterfront as a coastal city surrounded by mountains the people who run this town have figured out how to provide services, transit, communications and accommodations that are modern, functioning and a real delight to visit.
Our 3 days passed in a flash and Hong Kong was a blast.
We're not sure we would want to live here, but we are sure glad we took the time to visit.