Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Ocean's Cool Side

Safely arrived in Germany!

However, that doesn't mean that my senses have caught up with my body; I think they are still floating around Amsterdam. I do hope that jet lag will be kind enough to give them back to me by tomorrow.

My last week back at home was exceptionally enjoyable, including a trip to the Green Door with my favourite ladies, a trip to Lennoxville with much moving and too much pizza, a delightful outing to Merrickville, which included a yummy restaurant and fudge and a neat museum, and a fun trip with Alex and Andrea to Canada's Wonderland and shortly afterwards, to Barry's funny new dwelling in Waterloo.

The Green Door was better than I thought it was going to be, and Merrickville was colder than I thought it would be, but Lennoxville was, unfortunately, just as rainy as expected. Speaking of fudge, I still have a piece of it with me. Lucky the lady behind the counter let us sample it, so I didn't accidentally end up buying a piece of that smores vomitrotious stuff. The chocolate fudge is simply divine, and we bought a pound and a half of it.

Wonderland was a lot of fun, and it was much warmer than last year's expedition. Also, because it was a Tuesday in May, there were hardly any line-ups and no screeching children! Next year, I am hoping that a bunch of us will be able to go to an amusement park because halfway through the day, Andrea and Alex wimped out, whilst I was still going strong (you can call me, "Stomach of Steel"). That's right, next year, whether she likes it or not, Alanna is coming with me!

We ended up seeing the Da Vinci code that night, which was surprisingly just how I thought it was going to be. I was anticipating great things from it, but then my brother warned me that it was not that great, so my expectations were considerably lowered. It really doesn't matter either way because I thought the movie was great, and unlike many avid readers who have read the book before, I wasn't expecting a magical way that they were going to incorporate their thoughts (only accessible from the novel) into the action. In movies, it is always less prominent, and I knew that going into it.

Thursday night, I left Montreal airport and was bound for Amsterdam. I switched flights there and got on a quick flight to Frankfurt. Despite a few train and bus confusions, I managed to find the hostel in Frankfurt, and after almost 12 hours of sleep (interrupted, however), I made it to Bonn with the group and am raring to go. I had forgotten how utterly quaint and pretty all the towns are here and how you come across a town every few kilometres you travel. The roads are impossibly small, and the shops are impossibly lovely. It is neat hearing German everywhere you go, and it is even more fun trying to answer questions when they are expecting that you are a fluent and extremely fast speaker as they are. Not always easy, but it is fun, and they are always understanding.

The German spoken here is a lot more hoity toity compared to the few Austrian speakers that I am accustomed to hearing. It is clear, albeit quite quick at times. I am looking foward to hearing the accent of those in Bavaria.

Much more to come! And much more sausages (Wurst) and pretzels (Bretzel) to be consumed!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ça fait du bien!

Hot tubbing. Nothing can be better after a long, grueling day of treeplanting.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Ode to the Trees

A few days after coming home from University, I started the grueling task of treeplanting.

It means waking up before seven o'clock, something I hadn't done regularly since last year's tree plant, putting on a thin, long-sleeved white shirt, work pants, a hat or bandana, and rubber boots. This apparel will be my clothing for the entire time planting.

It means hoping into a van with your lunch and bug spray and squishing in beside some other treeplanters. The car ride to our treeplanting site can be anything from ten minutes to ninety minutes. So, on the ride over, we wake each other up, we slather on sunscreen (I do more than others), and we make fun of Jeff (a major he-man) and his pink truck. His truck isn't actually pink, but we like to say it is, which in turn makes him defend himself profusely, stating that his truck is not pink and is "competition red". However, he has now come to accept that we refer to his truck as pink, and now he has even started referring to it as such. We laugh.

We get to the planting site, which is often large, sometimes buggy, and has a tendency to get very hot after lunch. Getting started is always slow. Our foreman, John, (sometimes Andrea) talks to the property owner (if he/she is there). John will flag the property, if necessary, as to make sure that our trees get planted in straight lines.

We soak the roots of our trees in a swamp or a creek or the ditch or really anywhere we can find. We usually fit about 100 in our pouches, fifty in in each pouch. You grab your shovel, your funky red sunglasses (in my case only), and you are off to the field.

Treeplanting means encountering ground as hard as rock -- there was the time we planted in a gravel pit -- which makes you almost snap your shovel in two and makes you almost want to scream and chuck the shovel in a nearby pit and go and pout in the van. And there was also the time where the ground was covered in boulders, the sun was unbearable, and the bugs were in love with me, and when John told me to grab another 100 trees, I almost broke into tears right then and there. I had just finished planting one hundred cedar in the scorching sun and my shovel was bouncing off every time I tried to shove it in the ground, and he was asking me to grab another one hundred? You've got to be kidding me. With the heat and the bugs buzzing around my head non-stop, all I wanted to do was shut myself in the van, recline the seat, and sleep. But no, I dragged myself to the bag of trees, gulped down half of my bottle of water, stuffed my pouches full of trees and reluctantly trudged back to the field. I have no idea how I kept going that day, but I did, and we actually didn't finish all that late.

Treeplanting means occasionally being a sloppy planter and then having John at your tail pulling out your trees because they weren't planted deep enough, for instance. It means trying to rectify your problem, keep on planting straight, don't let any roots stick out, and catch up with Andrea as to keep up the competition.

It means going through the swampiest and most remote areas, carrying heavy bags of trees near water, being swarmed by armies of mosquitos and black flies, and having your hands caked in mud, so when you scratch your mosquito bites on your face, your face just keeps getting dirtier.

A good treeplanting day for me means getting in 800 trees. A crappy day will be 600 trees, and an awesome day will be one thousand trees. My record to date is 1250 trees in one single day.

One hot day, when we had nice trees and easy terrain to plant in, the black flies were unfortunately relentless. I did notice the bugs throughout the day, but they weren't bothering me all that much until I stopped planting. At the end of the day, when we were driving home, Martina took one look at me and shrieked, exclaiming that half of my face had puffed up because of the black fly bites. No one else was quite this maimed, and was it ever unfair. If I have to have a puffy face, so should everyone else!

We plant anything from poplar to oak to spruce to pine to even ash. We also plant trees of various ages, so they can be anything from four inches tall to three feet tall (I kid you not). Last year, Steve took a picture of a tree and a shovel side by side each other, and they were both the same length. Of course, we don't encounter such large trees every day, but it's always interesting to talk about the most extreme.

But treeplanting also means coming home at the end of the day, having the most glorious shower or bath, pulling on some warm, comfy clothes, eating a hot supper, and then sitting around the rest of the evening. I realize that all of this sounds quite tame, but let me tell you, it is simply glorious after stomping around in mud and swamps all day. After treeplanting, food tastes so much better and sleep feels all the more restful. I always like simple pleasures, but treeplanting just makes those simple things even more enjoyable.

I suppose that is part of the reason why I treeplant; I enjoy the satisfaction at the end of the day. I also enjoy the comraderie amongst treeplanters and the inside jokes we have. Probably one of the best reasons is being able to be outside all day. If anyone wants to be at one with nature or anything of the like, I'd say treeplanting is one of the best ways to really get to know mother nature. It just feels good knowing that you are doing so simple, yet so fulfilling. You're planting trees. And trees are so beautiful and precious; people often develop significant attachments to trees and places with a specific tree.

I think that everyone should plant some trees. It's therapeutic, in a way, and it really gives you an idea of how good those little trees are and what they will become. It's difficult to explain, but treeplanting feels magical and yet so natural at the same time. Like Martina said, after treeplanting, you always remember the good times. Besides, everyone needs to get a little dirty.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Still Afloat


It has been nearly three weeks since I've posted. No, my blog hasn't become one of those that just fade out and eventually just die out; my blog is still up and kickin'. Well, at least in my mind it is still up and kickin' because there is so much that needs to be spewed out.

That being said, since the last time I posted, I have finished my second year of University, received excellent marks, gone home, and started treeplanting. I am currently in week two of treeplanting, and that is really the culprit that has been eating up all of my time and energy.

My last weekend at University was exceptionally enjoyable. I attended two parties with people from my German class, as well as with the German assistant Vera and her friends from Germany. The first party was at this couple's apartment (Lyna and Adam, whom I previously had a dream about), and the second party was at Vera's house. I met this odd, but interesting German motorcycle guy, who had a very humourous laugh. He pressured me into stealing a very good piece of German cake. I have no idea what his name is (or the cake's name for that matter), but I can find out through Vera, and I may look him and Vera up when I go to Germany.

So, as that statement may have given away, yes, I am going to Germany this summer. I was accepted into the work abroad program (
WSP) through my University, and I am very excited about it. I will be spending two months working in a hotel in beautiful Rosshaupten (of course the website is in German), a small Southern village only fifteen kilometres away from the Austrian border!

After working in Rosshaupten for June and July, I will be travelling a little of Europe for about two weeks. I am trying to get together with past Canada World Youth group members, and we'll hopefully be able to travel through Poland and Ukraine together. Ever since Canada World Youth ended in the spring of 2004, I told myself that I'd darn tootin' be back for summer 2006. It will be so nice to see those far away Poles and Ukranians and to visit Vienna for a while, but I will let you know how that all turns out once I am there...

As for the last few days of University and besides the German parties and Andrea nearly killing her shoulder transporting my bed down a flight of stairs, Andrea and I managed to sum up our second year at University in a very smooth fashion. After a delectable supper, we brought out the leftover Port from her birthday and two cigarillos and went out on her balcony. We pondered, we philosophized, and we were basically the largest wannabes of the intelligent and drop dead sexy Boston Legal star, Alan Shore (James Spader), and funny and smart as all hell, Denny Crane (William Shatner). I was Alan Shore, and Andrea, Denny.

Good thing I proof read this entry or else I would have never discovered the "I smell bad" that my brother surreptitiously wedged in between "gone home" and "started treeplanting". Word to the wise, never leave your unfinished blog entry unattended.