My Blog

Let the Adventures Begin

To celebrate my retirement from teaching, my wife and I, along with another couple are off to Europe in a few days.  Anticipating our European holiday, we often get into discussions about the memorable adventures we have while travelling.  I personally have been to Europe twice. The first time was in 1986 when I backpacked and stayed in youth hostels. The second time was in 1989 with my then new wife. Our three children have all been to Europe as well on school trips.

1194985444514621050formichina_architetto_fr_01.svg.medMy son tells a good story of his time in Europe.  This occurred in Italy. As I understand the story, my son and his roommate checked into their hotel room after spending a day of travelling.  My son had a bag of chips stowed away in his bag and, naturally, brought them into the room, sat down and began to eat them.  After eating two or three chips, to his horror, he discovered his bag of chips was full of tiny black ants.  They must have found their way into the bag when the bag was on the ground.  Anyway, his spontaneous response to this discovery was to throw the bag onto the floor.  Needless to say, the ants were now everywhere.  As my son tells the story, him and his roommate spent the next hour or so killing ants in the hotel room as neither one of them was prepared to go to sleep unless every single ant was gone.

The first time I was in Europe, I met an American from Alabama. So, having some things in common, we decided to travel together.  We ended up travelling together for two weeks.  On our way to Hannover, Germany, we had a two-hour lay over in Frankfurt. Since we had a couple of hours to kill, we set off to explore some of Frankfurt.  So off we went.  Now keep in mind that we were two naive North American kids.  As it turned out my travel mate and I stumbled upon what can only be called a “Red Light District”.  There were “peep shows” everywhere.  We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Walking by one x-rated place after another with shocked looks on our faces I’m sure,  then two attractive ladies standing in front of a peep show each took one of our arms and separated us.  The girl on my arm took me to a private table and wanted to have a beer with me. She was very persistent, I might add.  The same was happening to my travel mate elsewhere.  I refused to buy her one.  I told her I was short on cash.  She then got up and left.  The lady with my travel partner was a little more forward as she told him for twenty Deutsche (German) marks, she would please him.  He refused of course.  We eventually caught up with each other, shared our adventures and continued to look around.  We later learned that prostitution was legal in Germany.  Needless to say, I didn’t share that story with my mother.

When my wife and I were in Germany, we hitchhiked to Berlin.  This was 1989, and Berlin was still centred in communist East Germany and the wall still existed in Berlin.  I had hitchhiked to Berlin when in Germany the first time, so it was no big deal to me.  My wife, on the other hand, had never done such a thing before.  The place to hitchhike from, according to the travel books, is the border city of Helmstedt, West Germany.  We stood on a merging lane holding up our “Berlin Bitte” (Berlin Please) sign and waited.  Unbeknownst to me, my wife ran into the ditch two or three times to pee because she was so nervous.  We eventually got a ride and had a marvellous time in the intriguing city of Berlin.

During our hitchhiking adventure to West Germany, we caught a ride with a University of Berlin professor.  Since he was running late, instead of dropping us off in Helmstedt, he asked if he could take us into Hannover (a large city in northern Germany) where his meeting was.  We of course agreed.  This meant driving on the German autobahn. At times we were reaching speeds of 180 km/h.  I was scared “shitless”.  My wife, being the speed freak she is, was thrilled by the experience.

781619-tramThe adventure didn’t end there.  The kind man who gave us a ride dropped us off at the tram.  Unknown to us, this was the tram’s last stop.  A lady was literally yelling at us something like, “Dies its der letzte stop.  Sie müssen sich aus ” (“This is the last stop. You must get off”). We of course didn’t listen largely because we didn’t understand, so stayed seated and the tram door closed.  It then started moving, pulled into a dark garage  and stopped.  We were trapped. My wife, of course, freaked out.  The tram’s operator walked out, looked at us as if to say, “you stupid tourists,” and said in a few English words that the tram would leave in 15 minutes. Adding to the stress was the fact that we had not had a chance to purchase a ticket so if caught we could have been penalized with a fine.  The trains in much of Europe back then worked on the honour system.

It really makes me wonder what kinds of adventures we will have this time in Europe after 26 years. I am willing to bet that we will have a few. I’m sure I’ll have some adventures and comments to make upon our return home.  If you don’t hear from me as regularly as before it will be because I am just too busy taking in the European sites or I am just too tired to type.

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What is really happening?

I have always been intrigued by the idea of aliens from another planet visiting our planet earth.  I’ve watched Hangar 1: UFO Files on the History Channel a number of times and have found the stories of UFO sightings and encounters quite fascinating.  When you “google” the words UFO sightings you get 1.8 million hits.  That says there must be something to these UFOs.  So when I cam across the story on Fox News: Apollo 14 astronaut claims peace-loving aliens prevented ‘nuclear war’ on Earth, I had to read it.  After all, this was a story involving the sixth man to walk the surface of the moon.

The story centres around Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut who was on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.  He told Mirror Online, an online tabloid, that top-ranking military sources spotted UFOs during weapons tests. He told us military insiders had seen strange crafts flying over missile bases and the famous White Sands facility, where the world’s first ever nuclear bomb was detonated in 1945.

Mr. Mitchell’s story falls right in line with one of the episodes of Hangar 1: The UFO Files that I saw in April of this year.  The episode was called UFOs at War.  This episode maintains that in every war throughout history there were sightings of multiple UFOs over battlefields. That included recent conflicts such as the Afghanistan war and Iraq wars. The episode was attempting to determine if the purpose of these UFO visits was to harm us or were their visits to warn us of our own potential self-destruction? I certainly was fascinated by the topic.

I have an active brain, so when I hear, see or read about phenomena such as UFOs, I get curious and want to know more.  Mostly, I want to know if this could be true.  So I turn to the internet to learn more.  Now one has to be careful using the World Wide Web as there is lots of misinformation on it.  I always try to use information from credible sites or from credible people. In this case, I looked to Stephen Hawking who was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller.  Furthermore, when you research the smartest people living today, Stephen Hawking almost always appears as one of the ten smartest people alive today.  So I reason what he has to say is credible.

ufoIn the article Stephen Hawking: Earth could be…, Hawking says, “The existence of 100 billion galaxies each containing hundreds of millions of stars means Earth is unlikely to be the only place where life has evolved,  To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like”.  The article also says that Professor Hawking has been open-minded to the existence of extraterrestrials before, but the discovery of more than 450 previously unknown planets orbiting distant stars since 1995 is believed to have strengthened his belief that life exists outside of earth.

In another article Stephen Hawking: We been overlooked, Hawking says, “that there are other forms of intelligent life out there, but that we have been overlooked. If we should pick up signals from alien civilizations, we should be wary of answering back, until we have evolved a bit further. Meeting a more advanced civilization, at our present stage, might be a bit like the original inhabitants of America meeting Columbus. I don’t think they were better off for it.”

Now I agree with Hawking views. I thinks it is just arrogance and naivety for humans to think we are the only living creatures in this vast universe. An article titled, Ignoring 500 Billion Galaxies, says, “There are some one trillion galaxies in the known universe and some 50 billion planets estimated to exist in the Milky Way alone and some 500,000,000 predicted to exist in a habitable zone [a zone where life is possible]”.  The article goes on to say, “Astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe. If you want to extrapolate those numbers, that means there are around 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 (50 quintillion) potentially habitable planets in the universe”. The odds of the planet Earth being the only planet in the universe with life seems to be against us.

I especially agree with Mr. Hawking that we humans are not all that evolved.  One just has to look at the way we treat one another to determine where we are on our evolutionary path. I figure if we are at war with one another and killing one another then we can’t be too far into our evolutionary development.  Add to that the fact that we mistreat our planet with pollution. Evolved civilizations would not do these things to themselves and their planet.

In the article, Aliens are coming,  NASA’s Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan claims, “First contact with alien life will happen very soon. I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.”  Stofan has held the most senior science position at NASA since August 2013, so what she has to say must be credible.

Now, I know it is difficult to know what to think or believe.  If you use the internet you will find convincing arguments both for and against claims that aliens are among us.  Having said that, I prefer to think that if aliens are indeed among us. then they are here for the betterment of humankind, so maybe they are protecting us from ourselves.  For me that is more comforting than extraterrestrials preparing to invade and destroy Earth or it’s inhabitants.  They don’t need to destroy humankind as we are doing a good job of that ourselves.

Pope Francis: A Breath of Fresh Air

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)This month, Pope Francis, leader of the world’s Catholics, was breaking new ground when he made the statement, “People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way. They always belong to the church.” (see Pope calls for compassion). Even more, Pope Francis goes on to say, “How can we recommend to parents to do everything they can to educate their children in Christian life, giving them an example of a convinced and practiced faith if we keep them at arm’s length from the community as if they were excommunicated?”

In essence, Pope Francis is saying remarried Catholics are not automatically removed from church membership, although the church’s rules say such couples are not allowed to receive communion. The Catholic Church permits remarriage only after a church tribunal rules that the couple’s original marriage is annulled. The pontiff understands  that children of these remarried couples are watching how the church treats divorced families.  What this means is Francis accepts divorced couples as members of the church and says they need to be treated as such.

This is not the first time Pope Francis has shown compassion towards those looked upon less favourably in the Catholic Church.  Back in June of 2013 the pontiff made a bold statement during an interview saying, he doesn’t have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself.  He is quoted as saying, “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?”  (See Pope Francis reaches out to gays).  It  would seem that the pope accepts gays and lesbians as well.

It is so wonderful to have this “breath of fresh air” in the Catholic Church.  Finally, the Catholic Church has a leader who is pastoral, who is welcoming, and most importantly, who is more inclusive than his predecessors have been.  It seems to me, that when a church claims to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, then their actions need to reflect that.  I honestly believe that His Holiness, Pope Francis is doing just that.  He especially demonstrated this when in November of 2013, when the pontiff paused  to pray and lay his hands on a man with a disfiguring disease.  (See Francis embrace of a Disabled man) If that action doesn’t say, loving acceptance I don’t know what does.

Why is it so important for the leader of a Christian Institution to be so all-inclusive? Very simply, because Christians purport to  be the embodiment of Jesus on earth, therefore the institution must act and teach as Jesus did.  According to biblical stories Jesus was all-inclusive!  Let us look at some examples.

Take the story of the Woman at the Well as told in John 4:7 – 26, for example. To summarize the biblical story, Jesus  and his disciples were traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee.  They took the quickest route which was through Samaria. Tired and thirsty, Jesus sat by Jacob’s Well, while his disciples went to a village to buy food. During his wait, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who came to the well to draw water.  When Jesus met this woman at the well, he did something atypical, scandalous really, in that he spoke to a Samaritan; a group the Jews traditionally loathed. Even more scandalous, Jesus asked  the Samaritan woman to get him a drink of water, which would have made him ceremonially unclean, according to the Jewish faith, because he used the same cup or jar as the Samaritan woman.

To help understand how powerful this story is and just how all-inclusive Jesus was, we must understand that the hatred between Jews and Samaritans was intense and long-standing.  Jews, who considered themselves pure, detested the mixed marriages and worship of the Samaritans. Thus, a faithful Jew would never go near a Samaritan let alone talk to one.

Mark 2:15-17 tells the story of Jesus sitting down to a meal in Levi’s house, the home of a tax collector.  Tax collectors were for the most part Jewish people, and therefore they were hated by their own people. When they collected taxes they would collect the required amount of money for Rome, plus some additional money for themselves. They were considered to be extortioners of large sums of money. Plus, there was the fact that tax collectors worked for Rome, who were Gentiles (non Jewish) in the eyes of the Jews, and so they were treated similar to the worst kinds of sinners and prostitutes.  So for Jesus to sit down and have a meal with one of these tax collectors would have been scandalous to say the least.  Yet, it says that Jesus accepts even those most loathed by his community.

Jesus touching and healing a leper as told in In Mark 1:40-45 is another example . What makes this story so incredible is the fact that lepers were cursed, not only with a terrible disease, but also with exclusion from society. People wanted to keep far away from those with this contagious illness. Lepers lived in the outskirts of civilization and, if they came close to people, had to warn them by yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!”  Yet, Jesus was willing touch and heal such a person.  Was this not an incredible act of acceptance?

Thumbs upSo as you can clearly see, the biblical Jesus accepted and included even those most marginalized by society. So to restate my point.  If the Catholic church claims to enbody Jesus on earth, then it must be all-inclusive just as Jesus was all-inclusive.  That is why Pope Francis is such a “breath of fresh air.”  He accepts all those that have been traditionally marginalized by the church. So “Thumbs up” for Pope Francis!

Where are all the Good People?

I recently read a news story called, City cracks  down on bad behaviour in Calgary cabs. about a cab driver in Calgary, Canada who was being verbally abused by his clients.  Just recently in our local paper was a news story issued by the police warning citizens of a tax scam. The scam involves a person who calls saying that they represent a government tax agency and that the person they are trying to scam owes back taxes.  The caller then requests that the payment be made to an individual rather than the agency, and if the person does not pay a warrant will be issued for their arrest.  Apparently this happens in many countries as the article Tax time ‘ATO’ scammers indicates. Then there are the atrocities committed by the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL. The list of people being mistreated goes on and on.  When you hear these stories you begin to ask, “What is the matter with people?”  You begin to lose faith in the goodness of human nature. You begin to wonder is there are any good people in this world. I felt this way until I thought about it.

As I reflected upon human behaviour, I started to realize  that with the exception of a few “bad apples”, the vast majority of humans are good.  It doesn’t matter where I go, there are good, kind, nice people everywhere. I would like to share some of my experiences with such people.

Earlier this summer, my wife and I were helping our eldest daughter who was preparing to move to a different place.  She had purchased a media unit that she found on an on line garage sale site.  We picked it up for her and took it to her apartment to unload it.  My wife asked, “How will we carry this heavy thing up to the apartment, which was located on the third flour.  The only solution I had was me on one end and my wife and daughter on the other end. I pulled the unit part way out of the back of the truck when young couple out walking their dog walked by.  The kind gentleman then turned around and said, “Do you need a hand?”  He then proceeded to help me carry the heavy unit up to the third floor of my daughter’s apartment.  Moments later, while my wife was preparing to carry up the middle section of the unit, two guys on bicycles stopped and asked my wife if she needed help.  It is reassuring to know that there are kind people willing to “lend a hand” when it is needed.

While visiting Toronto a few years ago, our experience with the its people was most positive.  We spent one day going to various places throughout the city using the subway or underground system.  Any of you who ever used these rapid transit systems knows how easy it is to get lost or to not know which platform to be on.  There were numerous occasions where we would be standing somewhere in the Toronto underground looking confused, when some kindhearted, random stranger would come up to us and ask us if we needed help. Thankfully, there are many kind, caring people in Toronto.

When I was backpacking alone in Europe in 1986, I had hitchhiked to Berlin with my American travel mate from Alabama.  The driver dropped us off at the Berlin University where we could catch the Subway to downtown.  When we got dropped off, my travel mate and myself both had to use the facilities, very badly I might add, and so we walked into a university building thinking that a public washroom would be easy to find.  We could not find one, so we asked a lady working at a desk.  She showed us the washroom and when we returned, she randomly asked us if we would like a sandwich and a coffee.  We graciously accepted her offer and had lunch.  I fell in love with Berlin right then and there.  I will always be grateful for meeting this kind Berliner.

Then there were those times when my wife and I were travelling in Europe 26 years ago.  We were making our way to Sarajevo in what was then the country of Yugoslavia.  We arrived early, 6:20 AM, at the train station in Ljubljana, in the former Yugoslavia in the hopes of making a reservation for a compartment only to discover that the train was full. Now when they say full, they mean it.  There were people everywhere. The compartments were full.  The hallway was wall to wall people. Having no choice to take the train anyway, we sat in a small area in front of the W.C (symbol for Toilet).  We sat on what looked like a heater, and had maybe three inches to sit on. It was hard and most uncomfortable on the butt. About two hours later, the train stops in some town and a young couple come onto the train, followed by about seven pieces of large luggage bags.  My first thought was, “There’s not even room for people on this train let alone seven large bags.”  A few minutes later, the lady of the couple said to us in Croatian, what I can only assume was “come” and pointed her finger at my wife and I. We of course followed them. They led us to a compartment that they located with empty seats.  Her husband then came and helped with our backpacks.  When we got settled into the compartment, the kind Croatian gentleman pulled out a beer and hands it to me, and then handed my wife a juice.  These were truly good, kind people.

On that same trip, travelling from the former Yugoslavia to Rome, Italy, my wife and I boarded an overnight fairy to cross the Adriatic sea.. We settled into our tiny room and then went up to the deck where we met a young couple from Switzerland.  Now since we wanted to go there, my wife struck up a conversation, as she is the talkative one.  In the process of the conversation the Swiss people invited us to join them in their home in Switzerland.  They said they would show us around their country.  They even bought us a drink that evening.  We graciously accepted their invitation and met up with them after visiting Rome.  The time we spent with them was fantastic.  They were most gracious and hospitable. We will always be grateful for these kind, sweet Swiss friends.smiley

Now I could go on with more stories, but I think you get the point.  I truly believe, based on my experiences, that there are more good people on this wonderful planet of ours than bad ones. So to all the numerous kind, wonderful people in the world, I salute you!

Vive La France

I just read a really interesting article. In May of this year, the France National Assembly voted unanimously to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.  According to the article, France pass new law forbidding food waste, large grocery stores must donate edible food to charities and allow inedible food to be used for animal feed or compost.  Way to go France! Now this got me thinking.  How much food is actually wasted in the world? How much food is wasted in North America (namely Canada and United States)?  So, I did some internet research to find an answer to these questions.

According to the United Nations Environment Program,

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion, is thrown away each year.
  • United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. 1219803198381116322trash.svg.med

To paraphrase from the article Food Waste Cost Canada, more than $31 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada, and that the total doesn’t include what’s being wasted at federal institutions like prisons, jails, hospitals and schools because there isn’t reliable data on that. If those numbers are included, along with the true cost of things like energy, water, land, labour, capital investment, infrastructure, machinery and transport, the true cost of wasted food is actually closer to $100 billion a year.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find these statistics rather disturbing.  What if a law, like the one France passed, was put into place in North America or other parts of Europe? Or even better, a law not only applying to the large grocery chains, but a law that also applies to institutions such as prisons, hospitals and universities.  How much of a difference would such a law make?  If the edible food was sent to charities, such as food banks and soup kitchens, how many fewer people would go hungry?  That got me wondering, how many people in wealthy countries like United States and Canada go hungry?  So, once again, I sought to find out the answer.

According to 11 Facts About Hunger in the US by DoSomething.org, a global organization for young people and social change,  1 in 6 people in the United States face hunger.  The article also says 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. Now lets put that into perspective.  That means about six times the number of people who live in New York City go hungry.  That is a shocking number of people to me.

So what about Canada?  Well, according to PROOF, an organization that does research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity,  claims that in 2012 four million Canadians (1.5 million are children) live in households that struggle to afford the food they need.  Now keep in mind that Canada’s population in 2012 was 34.75 million people.  Now to put that in perspective, that is about the number of people who lived in Los Angeles, California in 2014 or that lived in Montreal, Canada in 2011. That seems like a staggering number of people to me.

I was told by a former employee at one of the grocery stores in my community that the store the former employee worked at throws out up to 50 loaves of bread a day and up to 10 cooked chickens a week, The reason, I was told, that this much bread is thrown out is because the bakery has been told to bake a certain amount of bread so that the shelves remain fully stocked even though the store’s decision makers know that they sell much less per day. As for the cooked chickens, the store’s policy is to ensure that the customer will always have cooked chickens available to purchase.

clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdNow I know this is the teacher in me coming out, but if there was a law forcing institutions and large chain grocery stores to donate all their throw away edible foods to charitable organizations, such as food banks and soup kitchens, then I have no doubt that the number of people experiencing food insecurity would drop.  The world can only become a better place to live in with such laws.  So France, I applaud you for taking the lead on such a law.  I sincerely hope that the remaining wealthy countries of the world will follow suit.  We are human beings and human beings help one another.

I also got to thinking that it is unfair of me to just rely on governments to make change.  Don’t get me wrong.  They do need to make laws like the one France has passed.  But, what can I do as an individual to help reduce food waste?  Could I be doing more to make a difference? Curious as to how much households waste, once again I did some research.    According to the The Washington Post article, How the U.S. manages to waste food, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This can cost the average family between $1,365 to $2,275 annually.  According to the Globe and Mail article, Canadians waste seven billion kilograms, the average Canadian household wastes between 500 to 750 grams of food per person a day, or about $1,500 a year.  Now that is a lot of food.  This is shocking! This is wrong!  It reminds me of some of the lyrics from Nickelback’s song, When We Stand Together, that says,

How can we fall asleep at night?
When something’s clearly wrong
When we could feed a starving world
With what we throw away

So what does a person do about it? One of the comments regarding the article, Food waste cost Canada, the commenter indicated that he had cut back on food waste (quoted exactly as he wrote it) by

  • Buying less and going to the grocery store more frequently means less spoiled food.
  • Careful planning of meals and making all your own meals at home.
  • Less income in the past several years makes me aware of foods value – the less money you have the less food you waste. I know that for a fact.

Now I thought this was good advice, especially now in light of the fact that I am living on a fixed income as a pensioner.  Furthermore, eat your leftovers.  I personally know of people who refuse to eat leftovers.  They throw out their leftovers.  My wife and I like leftovers as it means less cooking.  We have at least one night a week where we eat just leftovers. I challenge all of you to make individual changes to lessen food waste.  If each household wastes less food, then less people would go hungry.  We all need to do our part!  Together we can make a better world.

The Encounter

Every year my son and I hike in the Canadian Rockies.  We’ve been doing this for about thirteen years now.  Every year my wife grills us about safety.  Do you have bear spray?  Do you have bug spray? She always ends with, “Be careful out there and don’t fall off the mountain”!

In the 13 years we’ve been doing this, and loving it I might add, we have only encountered a bear once (if you can call it that).  It was four years ago and the bear was on the trail in Jasper National Park some 500 or more metres ahead of us.  When we yelled and my brother-in-law set off a “bear banger” (that is a device that makes a very loud bang) the bear took off like a “bat out of hell”.

The other encounter was in 2004, 11 years ago when my son was about ten. We arrived at our camp site called Lillian Lake in Kananaskis country near Calgary, Canada with our back packs, set them down and went to explore the campsite for a few minutes.  After several minutes, we returned to the spot we selected to set up the tent only to discover that a squirrel (the common red squirrel to be exact) had started to chew a hole in the top of my son’s pack attempting to get at the trail mix.  To rub salt in the wound, it was the first time my son had used his brand new backpack.  When I let my wife know that we returned safe and sound, and that we had an incident with an animal, she “freaked out” thinking it was a bear of course.

The irony of course was this year while my son and I were on our hiking excursion in Banff National Park, seeing very little wildlife other than two Golden-mantled Ground squirrels begging for food, my wife had an encounter of her own.  My wife is a very social person and on the Saturday of our trip she went to a Barn Dance, an event that doesn’t occur much any more.  When she returned  home, she opened the front door, put down her keys and cell phone, and returned to the vehicle to collect some more items.  At the truck she turned toward the house and saw movement, to her horror she realized it was a skunk of the front step!  She was trapped.  She “freaked out” to say the least (That is probably an understatement if you know my wife).  She eventually found her way to the back of the house, found the spare key and entered the house.

As she typically does when worked up, she decided to talk to one of our daughters about it, even though it was midnight.  Our eldest daughter was still up, so she phoned her.  Upon telling our daughter about the skunk encounter, and getting herself progressively more worked up, my wife started thinking, “What if she had left the door open while unloading the van?” What if she had watched the skunk go into the house? This really made her hysterical.  My daughter, the calm, cool, collected person she is, had to talk her mother down.

How is that for irony?  While out hiking in the wilderness, it is very rare that we encounter any wildlife other than those annoying mosquitos, pesky flies and the occasional curious squirrel.  But my wife has an encounter with some wildlife in our small town of 5 000 people where we live.  Go figure!   8TAorn6Ec

The Outdoor Experience!

tentEvery year during the summer season North Americans dig out their tents and camping gear to experience the great outdoors. I personally have done this for most of my life.  In July my son and I, along with cousins, a brother-in-law and friends, were camping at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.   Lake Louise is known as one of Canada’s most beautiful places.  The lake has visitors from all over the world.   Just sitting along the lake or hiking on one of the trails, you will likely hear ten or more different languages.  It really is cool to witness.

On our first night of tenting, across from our campsite were a group of young campers of Asian heritage.  I’m not sure which part of Asia they were from; China, Japan, Korea and really it does not matter. They looked to be university students or at least of that age. What was fun to watch was that this was obviously their first time tenting.  Likely the first time they camped ever.  They apparently had just purchased a new tent and were attempting to set it up.  One of the young ladies was holding the instruction papers. Several individuals were scuttled around the tent lying on the ground.  And so our “entertainment” for the evening began.  Two of the young men pulled out the tent poles and placed them into where they believed them to go.  Eventually, they got the tent to “stand up” only to fall down once they let go.  This went on three or four times.  At one point they appeared to have the tent looking as it should but still had a pole.  Where to put the pole?  They had not realized that the extra pole was for the tent’s fly.

There were two or three times when one of the young people would run over to another camp site of what I can only assume to be friends that were camping with them.  They would return with someone else in the hope that they could help them understand the directions and get their tent set up.  We  referred to these as the “consultants”. This also went on two or three times.

What was great to see is that this was all in great fun.  At no point did they appear frustrated as we heard much laughter.  Feeling sorry for them, I suggested on more than one occasion that one or more of us should go over to help them, but we were just too engrossed to find out if they would succeed.  I am happy to report that they eventually did get their tent set up; without our help I might add.

It is so wonderful to see people from all parts of the world experiencing the outdoors of our beautiful country.  I must admit, we were entertained by them for a least an hour and an half.  I am sure that we can be equally as entertaining to people in other countries when we visit their country.  I know the French were most entertained by my attempt to speak to them in their own tongue.  I can just picture them laughing after I left them.  To be human means to laugh and some of the best laughs are at ourselves.  I have no doubt that these visiting Asians, or perhaps new Canadians, will tell their story of tenting in the Canadian Rockies many times in the future and have many laughs about their experience.  I know my family and I still laugh when telling the stories of my attempts at speaking French.

So don’t be afraid to have a good laugh at yourself once in a while.  Laugh with those laughing at your entertaining ways.