Showing posts from May, 2012

Happy in Belgium

After spending the day with my favorite Belgians, I'm feeling a little extra sentimental. Life gets busy and we live like, 8000km apart (soon to be double that as they move back to Canada), and I hate the fact that we don't get to hang out all the time and do stupid things like, go to Walmart, for example.
I googled "Best Friend" quotes, and I found this one as my favorite:
The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~Elisabeth Foley Followed very closely, by this one:
You can always tell a real friend: when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job. ~Laurence J. Peter

Sorry Paris, it's not you, it's me

OMG. Can't get over how easier things are in Brussels than in Paris. I'm sorry, Paris. I hate your airport. Your bus system. Your train system. The people that I've met that are ridiculously snobby. This is just my opinion. Gazillions of people go there all the time, so there must be some charm or attraction that I just can't grasp.

Brussels? A super quick flight from Frankfurt. By the time I got to the luggage spinning thing, my suitcase was already there (I think this is like MAGIC by the way. Travelling Air France, there was a 50/50 ratio of having your suitcase temporarily lost), I passed a Starbucks (I didn't want to stop because I didn't know if I would have time...but I totally could have!! I will on the way to Milan!!!), I found the train station, spoke broken French (why does this happen??) to get my ticket for the train (which I just found out takes me directly to where I want to go, a train person even CAME UP TO ME AND ASKED ME IF I NEEDED HELP FIN…

MADAGASCAR: A poor country gets poorer

ANTSOHIHY, 25 May 2012 (IRIN) - The Basic Health Centre or Centre de Santé de Base (CSB) II in Anjalajala, near Antsohihy, the capital of Madagascar's northern Sofia Region, is housed in a recently renovated building and its status as a CSB II promises the availability of a trained doctor. But the doctor left for Antananarivo, the capital, in 2002 and has not been replaced, and whenever the remaining nurse is absent, services stop.

A guard sweeping the courtyard explains that currently the health worker is away visiting his mother and will only return in a week.

The situation at this clinic is not unique in Madagascar, where an already weak healthcare system has been in a state of decline since 2009 when the international community branded Andry Rajoelina's ousting of President Marc Ravalomanana a coup, and donors halted all but emergency aid

In the absence of donor support, the Malagasy government made dramatic cuts
to its budget for social services. In 2010, expenditure on …

So close..not so far away.

So tired.
Tamatave to Tana flight was horrendous. The flight fishtailed in the air several times. Not a fun feeling in a 14 seater.
Was slightly harrased for a bribe/gift at Tana customs. So annoying.
Johannesburg is my favorite airport and I think I could live there.
South African Airways is ok. The beds are much better. The food is ...well...anything's better than French food, but the service was pretty brutal. Oh, well.
I'm now in Frankfurt, debating if I should shower, since I probably smell like pickled kirslish or whatever they were serving on the plane.
Oh - still totally not over the whole German language thing. It is like, the funniest language to listen to or pretend to speak. No disprespect meant, I totally want to learn it!! But it sounds hilarious.
One more quick flight, 2 trains, and then I'll be at my final destination. For a few days at least.

Monday Hungover Rambles

I'm pretty lucky in that I think 99% of Louis' friends are great. Okay, I think 100% because I can't think of anyone that I don't like.

First, I'll mention one of Louis' friends (let's call him, Jacques).

I was friends with Jacques before I was friends with Louis. I've mentioned before, that I couldn't understand why Jacques was friends with Louis because he was soooo cranky. Louis thought the same thing about me! Well we all know how that ended. And oh - Louis and Jacques had known each other for like, fifteen years or something like that!!

Jacques/Louis/I didn't spend like every waking minute together, but it was nice to have someone that we could call up on the weekends, or after a day of work, or whatever, to hang out with that didn't require any effort and was to be around.

But, Jacques took a different job. It was a very un-fun time for all of us when he left. Being so far away from friends and family, you really get atta…

Madagascar vote must be well prepared: ex-mediator

CAPE TOWN — Elections to end a three year political crisis in Madagascar have to be well prepared and credible so that the outcome is internationally accepted, a former mediator said on Thursday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a forum of activists and academics, former president of Mozzambique Joaquim Chissano told AFP the elections have to follow the guidelines of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other global bodies.

"So it is very essential that elections take place when conditions are good internally but also that the international community is prepared to accept the outcome of such elections," he said.

"Because Madagascar is a member of SADC, so they can't go forward with elections that are not going to be recognised."

Madagascar's electoral commission is expected to announce the polling date on May 28, according to a member of the agency.
Chissano said that elections would bring "a new atmosphere or political climate in Mada…

Third Grass Hut on the Left....

I had the best phone conversation yesterday.

I pay a ridiculous annual fee for this American Express because it has crazy benefits and it's paid for itself at least five times this year. BUT.

For whatever reason - my card always gets flagged. Visa? No problems. I've called them, they know I travel, book airline tickets in different countries, it's been...well...90% good. AMEX? Card declined. Fraud charges which results in a cancelled card.

So finally I decided to cancel the stupid card. Visa is still ok and I can still get good benefits from it. know when you cancel your card...they have a salesperson. Who apologizes over and over and tries anything to keep your valued business.

So I said, get me a replacement card - before Tuesday morning - to Madagascar.

"Oh, that won't be a problem! I can get our emergency team on it right away!"

Ok, now, I'm just along for the ride. It's near the end of my day, and I want to hear her reaction.

My address? I d…

Random Post Ahead

It's weird living here. Like, sometimes it feels like I've been here for years and years, and I have a regular "Groundhog Day" routine. Other times I feel like I'm living in the weirdest circumstances imaginable. Before I came here, I researched everything as much as I could. I knew before coming here that it was one of the poorest countries were the vast majority of people live off less than one US dollar per day. I knew there was political instability, I knew there were cyclones, and so forth. All this research proved worthless. The only worthwhile information was from a Senior Manager who told me straight up – Have no expectations. I think that’s what got me through my first month. Or five. I had no idea what to expect, I had no idea what was acceptable and what was not, and I figured it out (making huge mistakes as I went) as I went along. I’m always learning here. I talk about how I’m used to life here and now nothing is “new and exciting and thrilling” like …

7 Days Countdown to Groceries & A Hyperlink Fest

This morning I realized that in less than one week, I'm going to be able to go to a real, live grocery store.

Every time I go to Canada (or Belgium. Or South Africa. Or France.), I go to a grocery store and walk up and down every single aisle. I pick up a product or two that looks new to me - analyse it for a longer than required amount of time; I throw in a ton of produce that will most likely go bad before I can eat it; and throw in anything that looks exciting.

Examples of what's exciting?
Amy's frozen vegan/vegetarian mealsDeliciouso frozen pizza (somehow I convinced my mom that we should eat this for supper last Christmas Eve)Mixed organic lettuceFLAVORED VITAMIN WATER WITH 10 CALORIES (I know even with the "Vitamin" thing that these aren't exactly the best for you but I LOVE THEM SO MUCH)Perrier (they now have natual grapefruit flavored!!)Passion fruitrasberries and blueberries (either frozen or fresh)different colored bell peppersMILK (we only have th…

It Ain't Italy without a Guido

I tried on my cycling jersey this morning and it really made me excited for June 3rd.

Two Sundays from now, I'll start on my Italian Biking Adventure.

I haven't been on an actual bicycle since July 2009. (I'm borrowing a bike for a few hours when I'm in Belgium next week).

I've done a total of 72.02 training km.

The trip itself is 165km.

I'm not doing anything like biking, running, or anything terribly strenous until June 3rd as my knee is sore. I'm a loser and ignored it and kept on cycling even though it's been bugging me since my bright Mount Kenya idea.

Yesterday, I emailed one of the guides, gave him my background, and was sort of relieved with his response:

"From what you've said about your cycling experience, it sounds like you are well within the bell curve of our typical groups.  Piedmont is quite hilly, but it's very scenic as well and we stop to take photos, have coffee breaks, great lunches, winetastings etc. So the pace over t…

Lesson of the Week

The craziest things are happening lately.

Louis and I try to go for a massage every Thursday. Our current place (that is sort of clean and doesn't come with a "happy ending") is Hotel Calypso. For Madagascar standards, this place is amazing. HOWEVER, the massage is almost thourough enough to count as my annual physical. There is no modesty towel. There is a clock that LOUDLY ticks in the room. The massage rooms are RIGHT beside the weight/workout room so you hear myriad of weight machines clinking, techno music blasting, and treadmills running.  The massage is usually half-okay. But beggars can't be choosers, so we go anyways. Last week, my shoulders were killing me. I use the tennis ball trick all the time to help, but I really needed a massage. You'll never guess what I did!?!?! I told her where I wanted her to massage. And I told her I needed my towel because I get cold. And I told her that I don't want a front massage. AND GUESS WHAT? I had an…

Mission Impossible

My goal this week is to tactfully tell someone that THEY SCREAM EVERYTIME THEY TALK TO SOMEONE ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S ON THE PHONE!!

This person and I have definetly had our rocky moments...and for some reason now we have taken a peace treaty and we're getting along.

I know I'm a little special when it comes to noises (I'm more sensitive than others, I think), but..seriously, this person starts talking and I can't even begin to form a sentence. I close my door and I can still understand every single word he says (ok, not really because he's speaking a different language).

This guy can be really nice....I'd like to keep things on a sort-of-somewhat-friendly basis, but seriously, I am going to go insane (if I haven't already) if I don't do something soon.

July Madagascar Trip

The past couple of weeks I have been trying to organise my July vacation. I'm going to have three travelling partners! Louis hasn't travelled Magadagascar at all, and he's been promising his daughters that once the youngest turns 14, that he'll bring them both over. Our second (or third?) family trip! I travelled MG last year, but this vacation is going to be verrrry different! It's going to be very busy, a lot of driving, a lot of sightseeing and a lot of...well..rustic conditions (rustic = code word for bare bones, hopefully clean, and hopefully minimal unwanted insect experiences).

Beginning of July, the girls will fly from Montreal to Paris to Antananarivo (Tana). Because the youngest was 13 when we booked the trip, Air France has a rule that an extra fee must be paid and that she is escorted by an agent at all times. This is AWESOME! Although the trip can be a very uneventful experience, it can be an eventful experience with lots of things to go wrong. Its 20…

In twelve hours - it will be Sunday

The Good
The dog that sits outside of our camp, waiting for food, is still alive. I've heard that the guards even play with him.Tomorrow is Sunday.
The Bad
I've been dealing with a local travel company trying to arrange my/Louis/the girls' two week vacation in Madagascar. It's super, super, super frustrating. It's unimaginable, especially because I've done all of the work - I just need him to make the EXACT reservations I've asked for. Apparently this is hard.I've underestimated the "new job stress" a lot. I think because I have experience in audit and have worked for the company for a few years, that it would be a natural transition. It has been at some level, but there's still the brain overwork that comes along with creating everything from scratch. The Ugly
I've been trying to convince Louis that we should feed the dog outside our camp. Getting anywhere near this poor dog puts me at high risk of catching some illness and/or me getting …


Antananarivo — The Malagasy Christian Council of Churches (FFKM) released a declaration on the crisis in Madagascar. The PC(USA) works in partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), which was formed by the union of three churches in 1968. The FJKM is a member of the Malagasy Christian Council of Churches. The following is the English translation of the declaration. Pray for the people of Madagascar.
May the grace and peace of God be with you.
After the numerous pleas to the churches within the Malagasy Christian Council of Churches (FFKM) asking them to address the national crisis, we, your religious elders, gave a mandate to the SEFIP (Ecumenical Commission on the Life of the Nation) to listen to the people's voices and complaints. The people have articulated their own proposals for sensible decisions that would enable all the Malagasy people to live together in harmony with justice and mutual understanding ("fihavanana").
After compiling a broad rang…

BOO for Growers' Direct and!!!

When I was in Canada, I picked up some small gifts and Mother's Day cards to mail.

I even went to the post office and got stamps.

I even addressed them.

And then I brought them to Madagascar.

I could have put them through the shipment we send to our Toronto office each week...actually, I did!! But I did I guess they'll be a little late.

Anyway, I thought it would be a nice idea for my mom, my grandmother, and Louis' mom to get a simple bouquet of flowers the Friday before Mother's Day.

My mom got her order, no problem. I'm not even sure what company I used, but I saw a picture and they looked perfect!

Louis' mom got her flowers too! The card was supposed to read (in French), "Happy Mother's Day! We love you!! Louis, Claudie, Laurie, Maggie, and Nicole. xoxo".

Maggie (the dog) and myself got left off of the card. Not a big deal...but when you factor in the ridiculous delivery charges...kind of a big deal. So when sent me a &q…


..seconds until this rotation is over.

This week is going FAR better than the previous weeks.

But I'm still ready to see my friends and drink some Italian wine.

Quiet, please.


People have been moving into the offices near me and there is a main secretary that talks so incredibly loud.

Yesterday I slammed my door at least three you think people would get the hint?! This is a freaking office environment, NOT THE F*CKING BAR!!

I'm thinking the noise is amplified because there aren't any people in the office.

I kind of feel like Rain Man with my sensitivity to noises sometimes.

♫♫♫Lonely, I'm so lonely♫♫♫

I moved offices.

Although my official title is Internal Auditor, I'm completely outside of Finance, which is a nice change.

My old office is about a 30 second walk from my new office. But SO DIFFERENT.

My old office was loud. I listened to headphones quite often so avoid having a nervous breakdown. Most of the people didn't shut off their backup power supply when the power goes out, so it would be this horrendous orchastra of BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! at different intervals. In addition, people here LOVE to customize their ringtones. They are LOUD and they are ANNOYING. People are getting SORT OF better, but they are still a little crazy. Speaking of crazy, I got so annoyed at the stupid/loud cell phone rings that if someone had their ring LOUD, or missed several calls and had a LOUD AND ANNOYING ring tone, I would turn off their phone. More often than not, I couldn't figure out how to turn off their phone so I would just take it apart and take out the battery. Ok, maybe tha…

Happy Mother's Day!

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
~Jewish Proverb

To all the special moms, aunts, and grandmothers in my life, I love you very much!!!


I like my new iTouch so much, that last night after my workout I forgot it in the gym at camp. I remembered about an hour later, and thankfully my ex-boss had found it and turned it into the reception desk.

I am seriously special sometimes.

I'm an addict AND I pretend that I'm a millionaire.

Like seriously, I am seriously, seriously dependant on my iTouch. Like, I don't know how to live without it.

Today, I felt like some kind of meth addict. I didn't sleep Thursday because I was trying to fix it using any/every solutions on the internet I could find...Friday I was in a horrible mood, and today I was running around trying to find an extra cord, hoping, PRAYING that a new cord would fix was just my old, sort of frayed cord.

And then I gave up. I asked around, it looked doubtful that I would be able to find a "real" iTouch. I was desperate. And then I remembered "the driver connection". If you need something, be it a real live elephant or a special kind  of make-up, I swear it could be found through "the driver connection". Someone always knows someone who knows someone who knows someone...who knows someone. I found a store that had a 4GB Shuffle and an 8 GB iTouch. The 8GB doesn't really impress me, but the price differen…

"It will put hair on your chest!"

I think the number of posts per week can correspond to the week that I'm having.
Zero posts means I'm having a bad week.
One or more posts per week means I'm havine a mega, really super, overboard shitty week.

They happen to everyone. But when they happen to me, I think it's because I'm not strong enough to be an expatriate, that I should never have left Canada, that I should probably go home, that I shouldn't have been married because I'm too dramatic, that things will probably end up to be so bad that I'll end up living in my parents' basement (that neither one of them have), eating Beef-a-roni and eating ice cream from a four litre bucket (I've never tried Beef-a-roni), weighing 150kg, watching re-runs of the Golden Girls while bleaching my moustache (which is currently naturally blonde, but since this is the worst case scenario, I have know grown dark, thick facial hair).

I know I have a lot going on. I know that I don't adapt well to ch…

G, B, U

THE GOOD: I am moments away from making myself a flavored Starbucks Via. I haven't had them the entire week and they make a big difference in my morning. YES I AM SERIOUS. Oh - another good. The dog that I am sure is going to get run over was alive today and greeted us as we left the camp.

THE BAD: It's not yet 07h00 and I've already said twice that I'm having a bad day.

THE UGLY: I am currently attempting to "Restore" my iTouch BECAUSE IT'S BROKEN. Anyone that's known me more than five minutes knows that the importance of this peice of technology runs a close second with Louis.

I'm a jerk.

I don’t know how to not sound like a jerk while writing this.
Although, I was, in fact, a jerk.
Last night I was at the gym, cycling and sweating my face off. A colleague came and was trying to get the elliptical trainer to work, but it wouldn’t. He went and asked the Help Desk to assist, as it was clear that the electrical plug-ins weren’t functioning properly.
The Help Desk Guy, who has helped me out many times, came over and started trying different outlets.
Before I go any further, I need to say, I like ADDICTED to knowing how many kilometers I’ve cycled. I know the machine probably isn’t that accurate. And that it really doesn’t matter as long as I work out, but I WANT TO KNOW THAT NUMBER.
Friendly Help Desk Guy started unplugging various machines, I thought it would be PRETTY OBVIOUS not to unplug mine, but of course, he did. And I FREAKED OUT.And I yelled. He plugged me back in. I was livid. How dare he unplug my machine?! Didn’t he know that I check those stupid stats like they …

Obsessive Compulsive Travel Paper Printer

I have a bit of an obsessive side when it comes to my travel itineraries. I need to print every single peice of paper that I might need (and anyone that is travelling with me) and file it in the same order as the travel. Train schedules, Google maps, activities in the area, restaurants I might go to (along with a Google map). On top of that, I download the calendar for the month and type in my flight and train times (departure and arrival), the name of the hotel (if I'm staying at one), and any planned appointments or activities I have. This gets to be the first page of my very thick travel package. I sort of feel dorky. I could easily use my cell phone, computer, iPod to track these appointments, but I'm not happy unless I have that printed off calendar. Today I had a few extra minutes and I typed up my calendar. After typing everything in....I realized that maybe I'm not all that weird (ok, I am. But its still a lot of freaking stuff to remember).

May 29
1. Confirmation o…

Mid-Week Update

The bra is back. Now a light shade of grey, but it's still wearable. Stupid things here become really funny. At work, there is a hilarious (clean) inside joke going on about Kermit the Frog, and I'm finding it far funnier and more entertaining than a normal person would.I'm already excited to fly to Frankfurt (May 29) and start speaking German*.It's only 07h13, but today is already a better day than yesterday.I have been working out with Louis. I HATED the gym and was quite intimidated by it (it's all yucky boys) and am so happy I started going. I get an awesome workout and have someone to push me to go to the gym. I've had a rocky relationship with running the past year and a finding something that I don't dread is super exciting. Today is a workout day and I'm sort-of-mildly looking forward to it.Even though I'm no longer working for Finance, I sit in my old office (for the next few weeks). It's cool because I get to see how my old g…

Come Visit Me!!!

I was very surprised to read that a cruise is being offered in Madagascar in 2013!

"Join us in visiting charming Fort Dauphin in Madagascar. As you cruise aboard the MSC Sinfonia there’s something to entertain you every minute of the day or night. The 58 000-ton MSC Sinfonia offers all the facilities one would expect on the world’s best liners, including a golf simulator, putt putt course, two swimming pools, Jacuzzis, shops, bars, show lounges, casino, spa, gym and 770 cabins, including 135 suites with their own private balconies.
The ship sets sail from Durban [South Africa] on January 31, 2013 and returns on February 6.
Six of the days are at sea, with day four set aside for Fort Dauphin."
(Don't listen to anything I ever wrote about cruises...)
Fort Dauphin is a short 1426km from where I live, and with the lovely roads, is expected only to take 20 hours and 21 minutes (according to Google). I'm not really sure what's in Fort Dauphin...I'm taking my second …


I made a stupid move. A very green, a very what-the-hell-was-I-thinking move. I had two white bras. And a few bras in other colors. Then I made the stupid mistake of leaving one bra in Quebec, so that I would have one less thing to pack for rotations back to Canada.

I thought that would be okay. I don't NEED two.

Except - for EVERY article of clothing that I really like or wear frequently - I make sure that I have two.
Firstly, because the housekeepers have a very good track record of frequently ruining clothing.
Secondly, because everything gets "lost" here.

So...WHY did I forget this?!?! I've alerted the authorities. The person in charge has spoke to me about it. Since moving back into the camp, I've been vocal about any bigger problems. As such, they will be re-pay me for the cost of my bra. Which is great. Unfortunately, MG is a little short on La Senzas and Victoria Secrets.

On Off the Couch

I’ve written it a gazillion times. I’m very fortunate and very lucky. I’m healthy, have family, friends, travel, enjoy my (new) job, etc, etc, etc. But since I’ve come back from this last vacation, I’ve been in quite a funk. Not such a funk that I don’t laugh. Or that I don’t socialize. (As I get older?) I am realizing that all these little things that I don’t feel like doing when I don’t feel fantastic actually help me in the long run. I’m working out regularly. I’m doing all of the things that someone should do to feel happy. I have a good…everything. But I don’t feel good. I feel disconnected to the world. I don’t often go into town anymore. Edmonton doesn’t feel like home. Quebec doesn’t (yet) feel like home. I sometimes feel like my Las Vegas weekend with my cousin, friend, and cousin’s fiancée wasn’t great for my “moved far, far away from home” movement that I was finally okay with. I loved spending the weekend with them. It’s rare that I get to see anyone that I knew pre-MG for mor…