Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

The firmness of friendship March 29, 2012

Filed under: Friendship — wakingupincanada @ 6:00 pm
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When I was 16, our English teacher, a cheery, wise and happy man with a smock of white hair and thick black eyebrows commented that for our final exams, our poems would largely be based on transience, a mis-balance he believed, as in life, poems were mostly about love. I have become to wonder if he was wrong.

Banff is a transient town, and the lives of people like me are built upon hellos and goodbyes. Much revolves around the workplace here. In Banff, living space is everything, and many employers provide subsidised accommodation to their staff. The people I work with, I live with, ski with, eat with and socialise with.

Every week, people walk into our store, resumes in hand, and we don’t know if this is our new best friend standing in front of us. In our team, we have a plethora of characters  – the high energy people, the super-organised individuals, the laid-back crew, the super sellers and the super helpers. This mesh of personalities is like a microscopic view on the world and all that it takes to make it go around every day.

And just when you fall in love with it all, it is time for another goodbye. This week, we have a double dose of departure, with 2 beautiful people heading home. Unlike before in my life, when treasured companions move on to a better job or better home but stay in the area or at least the friendship circle, the international melting pot that is Banff sees possible Best Friends Forever fly off to the far reaches of the world, to a different career, a different lifestyle.

Somehow here, you connect with the transience that is life, the constant ebb and flow that is people. With every changing staff member or housemate, there is a change in the balance, the routine, the atmosphere. Sometimes it is a little shift barely noticeable, other times, for better or worse, a sudden movement occurs forcing ripples out in all directions. Sometimes the only thing is to stand firm in yourself and allow others the same courtesy. Other times, it seems to me, it is about learning from them, trusting them and enjoying them for as long as you have them.

It has been 7 months and many friends now. As 2 of my BFFs move on, I see all that they have given me: 6 mile runs through the mountains and gym workouts; pyramid hill sprints and scrabble in Tim Hortons, indulgent breakfasts and cheap cinema nights, wine and crackers and double dates. Only a true friend allows you to swear at them at the beginning of a 3 minute hill sprint or shares the joy in playing scrabble over good coffee at Tim Hortons, and offers to share the car she will win in Roll Up the Rim. A BFF gets lost with you and enjoys the views regardless.

It strikes me at these times, not how tough it is to say goodbye, but just how brilliant a good friend is. As we move through life and all its phases, a good friend grounds you, wherever your roots may be.




An unexpected surprise December 30, 2011

My gifts finally arrived in Ireland, with a little less fanfare than my grand plan for them to be sneaked under the tree for Christmas morning. I could gripe about the post, but I am overjoyed they actually arrived. I know I got plenty to be happy with from them, and this was but a small token.

In return, I made my way to the Post Office, knowing that 3 cards were on their way to me. Instead I collected a package and multiple cards. The cards were special cards, not the box set I had sent out at the end of November. I had a beautiful red one from a special little Redhead and her Mummy, one for a Special Cousin from a very special friend, and one from a very special friend Across The Miles. There is a  beautiful green handmade crepe card, and another one from my Mum, Dad and Sister. I list them to remind myself; I was that overwhelmed by each one and the thought that went into them.

And the package: a surprise as I ripped it open and could not believe who it was from: some people you work with are colleagues; others become fast friends forever. Tayto crisps, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Tea Bags though I am unsure if they are Lyons’ or Barry’s, a copy of Ireland’s Own with our wonderful Donegal star Daniel O’ Donnell on the cover, santa earrings and a skiing reindeer and as much love as I could ever need. Given it was these individuals who landed me 1000s of miles from home in the first place with their advice, sometimes gentle and whispered, sometimes loud and glaring, I guess it was the least they could do to send me some home comforts. I can see them in their office, making the list, packing it up, laughing and conspiring. Even their card was special, a simple rural scene, but on the back I see it is produced to raise money for Buncrana Concerned About Suicide Community Group and I love them for supporting local, supporting those we have all cared for, who work to make the world better by working in the community with those who need it most. The most touching part  of the package was a Christmas poem by Patrick Kavanagh. I still remember studying that poem for my Leaving Certificate, and even in the summer, feeling Christmas in its verses. Each item was a massive gift in itself.

Opening all these envelopes, I felt like a kid at, well, Christmas. I have thankyou notes to write now, a special thought as those cards deserve a few extra words for the New Year ahead.



Halloween Hangover November 1, 2011

Filed under: Travel,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 8:09 am
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Australians dominate my work, my home and probably Banff itself. Just as they revelled in the novelty of Thanksgiving, so too have they embraced Halloween. Talk began in September about costumes and from the moment we all moved into our accommodation, October 31st was earmarked as Party Night.

I was raised with Halloween. November 1st was All Saints Day and November 2nd All Souls Day and so October 31st was the night that the lost souls who needed our prayers rose from the dead and went wandering. In Irish, it is called Samhaín, or translated literally, summer’s end, a time to be grateful for the harvest and to prepare for the winter ahead.  In my home, it meant food, games and dressing-up.

Early on the day, my mother pulled the table close to the kitchen work top and supervised her team of daughters in making apple tarts. Usually the dough was left to her, or the more responsible, the peeling, chopping and placing of the apples left to us minor minions. At some point, someone would forget to add the half cup of sugar. My mother would complain about the juices running out of the tarts and ruining the oven. Last year, her eldest Granchild joined the Assembly Line, an historic moment. After dark the fun began. Our costumes were home made, from old clothes fossilising in the attic., our faces painted with children’s paints and bathroom toiletries. Our games were simple, and looking back, probably unhygienic. We tried to bite an apple swinging on a string from the ceiling with our hands behind our backs. We took it in turns to get money out of the basin with our mouths. It didn’t take long for the nut remnants and bits of apple from our mouths to float on the water.  Nuts, fruits and sweets galore. When I was very young I watched with envy my older sister dressing up and going out “mummering”, singing and reciting in return for a coins and a few lucky notes. A few years later, she and her friend taught us the songs and we took over, and so on, until now it is my nieces and nephews who are dressing up and heading out to scare the neighbours. Our evening usually ended with Blind Man’s Buff.

Here, where I am surrounded by fellow travellers, it was us doing the dressing up. We ranged from forest nymphs to Lady Gaga  and frightening Mummies to sexy vampires. There was also a nudist on strike. We had little cooking but plenty of candy. I haven’t seen one Apple Tart, and somehow, knowing I couldn’t make it as well as my Mum has put me off even trying.   We had candy for the passing children who are rewarded for a simple “Trick or Treat”, and I think on my niece who at just 4 can belt out a song for her treats. I learned that nobody can drink as well as the Irish, what a POM is and what it stands for and that sometimes just getting into the thick of things is the best policy.

Most of all though the night was about people far from home enjoying time in each other’s company, a night to play and laugh and be something different to the usual. For that I am grateful. At the times when I most miss home, it is nice to see, and help to bring, a little home here.