How to Kill a Summer and Move On…


Fall is here in this “Paris of the Prairies” and another summer has more than wrapped up, with already one below 0c night that I can think of.  My garden is all pulled up and it’s definitely around this time of year that my mind starts turning Westward.  Or Eastward.  Or anywhere that isn’t this bloody cold! I am usually lamenting the end of the summer here and all the beautiful hot, dry weather that comes with it.  But let’s face it, this summer has been shit.  I am so glad it’s over and I am able to MOVE ON.

As I’ve touched on before, this summer has been completely dominated by my health problems/health scare.  Doctor appointments, neurologists and trips to the University, blood tests, and finally an MRI all to determine what happened in my head back in April where I had “sort of” symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia, but not really.  The more the tests and time wore on, the more I started to get really freaked out that I had MS or something else.  My symptoms were quite bad at some times and I was usually crippled with a near debilitating exhaustion.  Numbness and tingling in my face and fingers and arm, dizziness.  It’s all been very annoying, but mostly just blindingly stressful.  For both of us.  And my family.  What would happen if I had some disease that was going to be here for the long haul? What about our long term career options? My husband is an artist.  What about him? What about travel? Would he have to eventually take care of me? What was going on in my brain RIGHT NOW? 


Fortunately, to make a long story short, my MRI turned out okay and there are no signs of any lesions or tumors.  I do have some small, minor birth defect whereby a blood vessel didn’t form properly but it’s completely unrelated and won’t cause any problems down the road.  So while I don’t know why I had the initial nerve pain and the fallout from all of that, I am obviously elated that it’s nothing too serious.  I have one more neurologist appointment in November so maybe he can shed some light on what I should do if I am abroad and this happens again. 

Sooooo…..Now that all THAT is over, for the first time, I’m and WE are actually able to start looking forward at what is next for us and what our next travel plans shall be! This has all put a huge new level of excitement on travel for me.  I mean, for a while there, I didn’t know when and if I’d be able to be away for a longer trip again or if I’d need to hang around here for more tests or what.  Nothing had flavour or interest to me during those months and the prospect of travel didn’t really interest me because I wouldn’t allow myself to think of anything that far in advance. 


We have all sorts of ideas of what we want to do and where we want to go and because of the above mentioned sidetracking, it looks like we will probably be leaving about a month later than we normally do, which is okay because we get a chance to save a bit more.  We’ve started getting some ideas together and budgeting out what would be viable.  Ultimately, as much as we could keep on going and doing this every summer, we feel that this could be our last “big” trip for a while.  We are playing around with the idea of going away until next summer again, coming back here and working another summer and using the money to move to Toronto.  It’s not something we are super pumped about, but opportunity wise, it might be best for us.  But that is a ways away, so who knows yet! It would be kind of nice to unpack some boxes that have been in storage since 2011 and to have my own kitchen again.  But once I start travelling, I don’t worry too much about that so I wouldn’t be surprised if we change our mind again. At any rate, as far as locales and dates we don’t have anything set in stone yet.  I am trying to swing a flight through Vancouver so I can see my family and friends, which would be so great.


We are also hoping to do some house sitting to cut costs.  Not having to pay for accommodation is a huge deal while travelling and we are looking at joining a particular house sitting website that has great reviews.  This could open up some potential places to use that would otherwise have to be pretty short visits.  I would really love to go back to London and to be able to spend more time there than last time. 

So really, one of the only other positive highlights of the otherwise “heavy”  summer has been my creative ventures.  I’ve managed to fill quite a few personal orders for my handmade items as well as sell a few things a local store.  I’m not sure if I will leave my stuff in there while I am away or take it out.  It has been really fulfilling making things for people and making people happy with things that I can create.  Working on these things has been a great way to take my mind off of stuff when I was so worried about my health.  Apart from this I have been working here and there for a few local businesses with friends either in the local homemade ice cream stand, which I always love, and more recently for a catering gig through the Co-operative Cafe I worked for last year when I was here.  I love being able to use any creativity, through work and get paid for it too.  Now I am trying to finish up some stuff that people have requested I make for Xmas gifts, so that has been keeping me quite busy.  I am always up for more orders though, which I can do up until I leave, of course…more soon, maybe?



Children’s Day and Crazy Happenings… #tokyo #travel #backpacking


May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan.  This holiday is part of Golden Week, a week long smattering of holidays which have been kind of connected together so that a few, very fortunate Japanese people get more time off work in succession.  Many people have to work off and on during this holiday but most people do get today (Friday) and Monday off.  Children’s Day used to be called Boy’s Day.  Girls’ Day is another holiday (not within Golden Week) called Hina Matsuri, but the government changed the name of the holiday to celebrate the personalities and futures of all children, regardless of gender.  The main symbol of this holiday is the koi or carp, who, struggling upstream can be thought of all children in their perseverance as they make their way up the challenging upstream of life and growing up.

ImageHardly comparable, my life as a foreigner in Japan is quite easy.  Japanese people don’t expect as much from me.  I am not expected to understand formal customs and rules (despite the sometimes raised eyebrows if we sometimes cannot meet those expectations), but I can’t help but feel that we have been swimming upstream the past couple months with this past week having it all come to a dramatic head.


Minding my own business and enjoying my Golden Week, I decided to head to immigration to find out what the hold up is on our Certificate of Eligibility.  This is the piece of ridiculously redundant paperwork we require in order to change from a Temporary Visitor Visa to a working visa, (and a dependent visa for my self employed artist husband).  We need this piece of paper to apply for the change of status which allows us to stay here. 

The whole process of application was predictably horrible.  Immigration authorities in any country are less than pleasant, usually and while the Japanese staff here are quite friendly if you get the right person, they are unable to think outside the box and our situation threw them for quite the loop.  Not a lot of people change from a tourist visa to a work visa within the country.  They weren’t sure what paperwork we needed and it required about four visits before they stopped contradicting themselves and we had everything they asked for both from ourselves and my company. 


But since our Temporary Visitor Visa (Tourist Visa) would be running out on May 13th and since we had a return flight booked back to Europe for May 7th because when we first came here you needed to have a return ticket to enter as a tourist, we were starting to get a bit nervous, particularly since Golden Week was coming and we knew the office would be closed for many of the days and there would be no mail as well. 

To make an even longer more convoluted story short, I finally talked to someone who could find my application, still on a desk somewhere, who told me that there was only a 50/50 chance it would be completed on time, before our Visitor Visa expired.  With incredulous disbelief, I asked them what I was supposed to do.  I had completed all their many trips to immigration and requests, I had photocopied and got official stamps and been there many times-in effect: I had done my job, why can’t they do theirs? They just told me it wasn’t completed yet and they had received many applications in February and March and there was no guarantee it would be done in time.  If it wasn’t done before May 13th, and our Change of Status applications weren’t in before then, we would have to leave the country. 

Despite my arguing (I have no idea why I always ask questions and argue my point at Japanese immigration-I always know at the time that it’s totally pointless), despite the fact that they have my application sitting there, there was nothing they could do.  They recommended I go back to my own country, wait for the document to be sent to my employer who could then send it to me in my country, which I then take to the Canadian Embassy and apply for the visa before reentering.  They recommended that I get my ticket in order to return home.  I sort of had a feeling that there was something else going on here, like they knew I would be rejected or that something was wrong with my application, but maybe that’s just my paranoia.  It is likely just under a stack of other applications, in an unalterable order and that’s just the way it is.


However, upon returning home, it started to become clearer and clearer to me that we had to make some very quick decisions and in saying that, we sort of realized we didn’t have many options.  We phoned the airline to see if we could bump back our ticket another week with the hopes that the paperwork might arrive.  There was nothing available in our class during the dates we needed and an upgrade would cost about $1500-$1600.  Even if we did that, we’d still only have a 50/50 chance it would come on time.


We started to realize that we were leaving Japan.  A huge wave of shock and sick to my stomach-ness came over me.  What the hell, man? We were just getting settled.  I was meeting up with friends, buying furniture, getting comfortable.  Admittedly, there was always a small niggling feeling in the back of my head that the documents wouldn’t come in time, a part of me was kinda like, “Nah, they’ll see on our applications we are running out of time and they’ll just hurry up and do it!” There was also a part of me that thought we might get our applications rejected for some reason, but until the prospect of having to leave was right here in my face, it was a lot easier to put it out of my mind.  Before Golden Week, my boss asked me about the application, as did one of my coworkers and I told them that I still haven’t heard anything, despite it being a month and I was getting really nervous and stressed out about it.  That is when we agreed that the best thing to do was to go to immigration and find out. 


(my garden which I won’t be here to see grow…)

So in a day or two, our lives have been turned upside down.  With no alternative but to head back to Canada for another summer, we have to take that return ticket.  We are now scrambling to ship things home, cancel housing (for which we just paid a months rent), tell my boss, say goodbye to friends and buy some last minute omiyage (souvenirs for friends).  It has been emotional and shocking.  As most of you all know, I hold no particular allegiance to Canada and I was really looking forward to coming here in a lot of ways.  Far from perfect, I prefer it to my own country in many ways.  I was happy with the break from it and didn’t have any plans to return for a while.  Teaching English has never been my passion but it afforded us the luxury of being abroad.


We try to tell ourselves all the cliches: everything happens for a reason, it’s not permanent, we can come back etc.  But it’s still really hard.  I feel so grateful for the time I’m able to spend abroad.  I am so fortunate.  I said to M the other day: “I just leave my home country because I feel like it.  I have that luxury.  There are people going through various immigration processes everywhere that are trying to escape terrible, horrible situations or people that have no legal recourse or escape.  My country isn’t under attack, my people are not being persecuted (unless you count the fascist regime of our current government who is doing their damnedest to destroy our country-but that’s another story-Ahem).  I get to spend a lot of my time travelling and visiting other countries for fun because of the lifestyle we have chosen and the choices we have made.  That doesn’t mean things always go smoothly.  We’ve had similar situations travelling in SE Asia where visas can’t be extended and we’ve had to leave unexpectedly.  It just feels a bit different because we were hoping to settle here for at least a year. 


So what now? We are scrambling to buy connecting tickets (outrageously expensive on such short notice) and we currently only have a ticket from here back to Amsterdam.  M, joyously, gets to spend his birthday in Amsterdam and we’ll do our best to celebrate our crazy lives before we head back to his hometown for another summer of saving money and then we shall see what adventures are next for us.  There are many reasons why it probably isn’t going to work to come back here right away but they are too boring and extensive to get into for you, my already far too patient audience.  For now, we are trying our best not to be sad and mope (though I have the odd meltdown here and there) and celebrate our last few days here with gratitude and happiness.  We don’t know what is next for us, but we will embrace it head on, with curiosity.

Thanks for reading.


Vegan Food Swap-September Edition!


Hey there y’all.  Been kinda busy over here.  Sorry for neglecting you! It’s time for my latest and final (for now!) Vegan Food Swap Update.  This month, my package came from Sasha at One Small Vegan!

Here’s what I got:

Thanks Sasha! I’ve eaten almost everything in this photo and I’ve loved it all! 🙂

A trip to Manitou Springs Mineral Spa…

We went to Manitou Springs Mineral Spa for the day.  I’ve wanted to go for a long time.  It was a very windy, blustery day so the hot water was very welcome!


Through the window photo…harvest time is here…


The water at Manitou Lake is very high.  Apparently there are no fish due to the high salt content.  This house was creepy.


Road washed out…

Typical Canadian Prairie Scene: Grain cars and grain elevators…


Danceland is very old and historic.  It has it’s original horsehair floor…

August Update…

                                                                                                                                                           Source: Uploaded by user via Leslie on Pinterest

I realize that I haven’t really posted any sort of personal update for a while and I guess it’s just because it’s been a little bit difficult to put it all down succinctly, once too much time has passed.  So I will endeavor here to let you all know what I’ve been up to for the past month and what I am aiming for, for the next month or so!

As mentioned before, this hasn’t been quite as successful a summer, money wise as last year.  The bad weather start to the summer means we were rained out on a lot of events that were previously quite busy for us.  But the summer has slowly picked up and the weather is improving (now that summer is almost over!) and we aren’t doing horrible by any means.  I would be lying if I said that this slower progress hasn’t affected my mood or outlook, though.  I have had a lot of discouragement and worry about how much money we are saving and what we are going to do with it once the summer is over.  More on this in a minute…

So, partially because of this slow start, and partially because I always seem to like to have my plate full to the point of brimming, I have taken on a few more odd jobs here and there.  For starters, I have been doing some childcare for a very good friend of mine who is in town for the summer.  She has two little boys (3 months and 2 years) and I have been with them three days a week.  They keep me very busy for the brief amount of time I am there each day, and they are adorable.  It’s been great getting to know their little personalities and I will be missing them when they go back to NYC very soon!

I work the odd day here and there for a locally made ice cream shop, at a beautiful location down by the river.  This is quite a relaxing place to be and not difficult at all.  I’ve met a lot of great girls down there, and the owners are lovely people who I am happy to help.

Finally, I have just begun to work at a brand new cooperatively run cafe.  I am super pumped to be working for a cooperative, and gain experience working in that kind of environment.  It’s also great for me to work for a cafe from its start up point.  I would love to have a cafe and shop one day (if I ever settle down in one place), and it’s so cool to work with people who are like-minded, politically and socially.  Eco-conscious with a focus on local, handmade and vegetarian, this is one cool place! 

So basically what this amounts to is that I am very busy this month.  All creative projects have gone on the back burner and I’m kind of taking a hiatus this month from all my sewing and crafting to make some coin! Which irritates me as I was kind of starting to get on a roll, but I still have some time before we leave to do some more work.  I have spent some time working on a logo and it’s basically done, but my dilemma lies in the fact that once we leave the country again, it’s kind of hard for me to sell on my Etsy shop.  If I sell something, and I am overseas, it’s kind of tricky getting someone else to handle it for me back at home.  

Regarding this overseas business, that is a situation no more clear to us than at the beginning of the summer.  Particularly because it’s too early to tell how our savings will be by the end of the summer.  This is further complicated by the fact that we need to have reserve funds to set up wherever it is we choose to settle down and work next.  At this point I can’t really for see us coming back here again for another summer, but I didn’t see it before this summer either and yet, here I am.  The prospect of teaching English somewhere isn’t the most exciting for me, as I mentioned before, but if it affords a life less ordinary, then maybe that’s something I just have to suck up.  There are far worse jobs.

I do really miss Japan these days…

A Day at the Fair…

Oh petals! What to do?!  The autofocus on my camera just conked out and stuff I’m reading online said that it could be dust or a dirty sensor but I can’t figure out how I clean this.  I really hope that is all that it is.  It’s probably still under warranty but barely! Crappy!! Anyway, in the meantime, while I figure this out, enjoy my photos (pre-camera crap out) of my day at the fair…