Showing posts from September, 2012

Locked Up

As a result of...many different factors, we received two new project-wide policies this week.

First: Travel Allowance Policy
Second: Vehicle Policy

Both policies have made everyone quite upset. I understand the reasons for the change, and although  my travel budget is cut by about 40%, it is what it is. I can still get by. For the vehicle policy, we essentially have even more of our Independence taken away. If I want to go grocery shopping, I have to book a driver three days in advance and if it's after work hours - I have to get my Manager to approve it. I'm going to feel like a pretty big dork emailing my boss (the President) asking him to go grocery shopping on a Saturday.

Our days are: wake up early, eat cafeteria, work, eat cafeteria food, work, eat cafeteria food, go home. Unless, we've had the sense to book a car three days in advance and we've been given the green light. We'll all adapt and we'll make due, but for now, I'm feeling a little locked u…

Austria Day

Louis and I are kind of on an Air France ban, since they are usually on strike, run super late, and generally suck. (Although I will have to fly with them next year). We've been experimenting with Lufstansa and South African Airways, and trying other routes where we don't stop in London or Paris. Frankfurt has been the best so far, but we're basically stuck there for a full day on the way back...with not much to do.
This time Louis booked us with a stopover in Munich on the way back. It was an awesome idea. Years ago, Louis was a proffessior at a university in the Czech Republic, and he's familiar with a few of the surrounding countries. He had asked me what I wanted to do...and for once, I was sick of being the travel planner. I told him to surprise me. The only thing I was in charge of was trying to find a rental car. I looked on a bunch of places on line...and found RIDICULOUS prices. I'm talking like seven hundred euro for the day (we were looking at luxury c…

The Truth

The truth is:

I struggle living here more than I'm willing to admit. I'm at an age in my life, where I might be struggling just as much if I lived in China, Canada, or Russia. I'm scared about the thought of leaving here to seek work elsewhere.I have no idea how I'll ever adjust to living in Canada again.I have no idea what career I'll take on in Canada.After ending a relationship because my ex didn't want children, I'm not sure that I want children. I love children, I love the idea of having children, but I really don't know if I could do it. Husband or not. [Luckily I don't have to decide tomorrow].About a year ago, after the top-senior guy in my old department got hired, I was over-anxious and over-everything. I reached out got over-the-phone counselling with one of the coolest people on earth. She can tell that I'm extremely skeptical of this whole "let me heal your brain" mumbo-jumbo, so when we talk, she gives me pysiological and …

Bad Luck | kcuL daB

I thought this story was the biggest peice of crap and lies...then when I did some quick research...I found that it's true! Fady (or taboos) are taken very, very seriously. I'm still surprised that this fady exists.

IN a remote corner of Madagascar lies one of the world’s most incredible orphanages.

The tropical island is known as the idyllic setting for the animated movie of the same name but the isolated institution has remained hidden to the outside world — until now.
A safe house for abandoned twins from the Antambahoaka tribe, they are lost infants demonised by an ancient curse that leads to their murder at the hands of the people they expected to love them most: Their PARENTS.

“There are many old ways that have been used to kill newborn twins up here in the mountains,” says Latif, our local guide, shivering in horror at the thought of generations of dead children buried in the spongy rainforest floor beneath our feet.

Latif says: “Traditionally, the ‘matching’ babies fro…


I've been pretty lucky *knock on wood* that I haven't had anything too valuable stolen while I've been living here. A necklace is really the only thing I can remember.

Our camp is over 8km from the downtown (which doesn't seem like a lot...but it is), and we are separate from the actual plant itself.

(Love Google Maps...)

Our camp is secured by a ten(ish) foot tall fence, with rows of razor wire. Each blue arrow represents an exit. Only the furthest left is used and is manned by a minimum of 3 nationals and 1 Filipino security staff. Security staff constantly patrol the perimeter
 Our villa is the one with the heart around it. (Yes, I know I'm a dork).
While the villas with the red arrows, in theory, would be the nicest villas to have because they back onto the forest (which has the fence/razor wire on the other side still). BUT, there have now been TWO incidents where these villas have been broken into. Always when the resident isn't home. Laptops, iPads, iPo…

China Info

November is the beginning of the real winter weather. It can be an ideal time to travel in China after the peak season crowds head home and before the worst of the chilly winter weather arrives. North China sees its first snows, but Central and South China have moderate and comfortable temperatures. November is a good time to see fall foliage in China, as leaves change color after the first frosts.

In November Beijing slowly begins to turn wintery, and the first snow usually falls in this month. It is very dry. The average low and high temperatures are respectively at -1 °C (31 °F) and 10 °C (50 °F). Prepare winter clothes such as sweaters and a padded coat.

During November, the weather gradually turns into winter, with prevailing windy and dry conditions. There is a noticeable drop in temperature between days and nights. November generally brings sweater weather, and one needs a coat for cooler days. The average low and high temperatures are, respectively, 8 °C …

Paying another tax again

It's been a while since I've had to pay the Bitch Tax.

The rules and regulations for when the Bitch Tax is enforced are a little vague...but I decided my behavior in the Munich airport lounge qualified for the penalty.

Our layover/last vacation day in Germany/Austria was pretty cool. We purposely ate supper before leaving Montreal so that we could sleep as much as possible on the plane and not be too sleep deprived/jet-lagged when we landed. When we arrived, we were both pretty alert, but the whole sleep deprivation thing is kind of funny because on the way back, we both could tell that even though our bodies looked awake, our brains were kind of sleeping because our conversations either made no sense or took a really, really long time to get out of our mouths. Luckily we were already back in the city and almost near the airport (and not driving on the autobahn!!).

So let me tell you about one of the most important things with regards to regular long-distance travel. ROUTINE.…

Almost back @ work

The last day (or two days? I can't keep track here!) seem to have gone by in a blur. Thankfully I checked our itinerary late Sunday night or we would have missed our flight. I'm not sure why we both thought we were leaving Tuesday, but we were WRONG!

Monday was spent finishing errands; Tuesday we landed in Munich, rented a car and drove to Austria for lunch (I have great pictures! It is so beautiful there!! I totally wanted to get on top of a hill and yodell but we ran out of time); flew to Johannesburg; saw a doctor in Joberg (wasn't able to get specialist appointment in Canada during my 2 week vacation, so our medical provider set me up something here. Joberg may be a poor country, but wow, if you can pay for it - their medical system is amazing. If you can't pay for it...well...that's another story entirely). Back from the doctor's and tests and waiting for the tiredness to set in. We leave for Tana tomorrow morning.

What a crazy rotation!

Tomorrow :(

Shocking surprise, I messed up on the day that I thought we were travelling.

Very last minute (which isn't like me when it comes to travel plans), I was on-line tonight booking a car for our 12 hour layover in Munich (Louis wants to go to a bunch of places) and booking a hotel for a night in Johannesburg (I need some minor medical tests done that I couldn't get in my two weeks in Canada), and by pure chance, I checked our entire itinerary (seriously, if you travel or are planning a vacation, is freaking awesome), and saw that we leave TOMORROW. We've been planning our entire week thinking we leave Tuesday.

Luckily, we've had two cars and have essentially all of our "Canada" errands done, but I was really looking forward to having one more day. Oh well.

We'll have a pretty nice day anyway.....and we don't leave until 20h15 so we'll at least get to spend most of it here. Still not super thrilled about leaving.

Driving Miss Daisy Myself...

It's amazing how a little GPS device and a couple of hours running errands on my own can make me feel like a real person again. Not one that's always asking, Can we go here? When can we go there? Can we do this? When can we do this? Louis graciously drove me all around the last time I was here, but all of his errands, plus my errands, plus cheer/violin/tumbling/swimming/etc/etc/etc were a little much.

Today I went for a coffee, then to Canadian Tire to return something (and spoke French!! I know I speak French like more than 50% of the time but I get so nervous here!), went to Walmart (surprise), to the Post Office, the pharmacy, AND the grocery store! Normally this wouldn't be like, such a big deal, but independance is wonderful!!!!

My little doggy friend follows me around and it's so.freaking.cute. She's not the brightest so she gets the odd kick in the head when I'm putting my jeans on or something like that, but she'll get over it.

My cough is allllll…

Back to work soon...

Look like (for now at least) there will be no "extended vacation" (ie: no job) for us, at least in the near future.

The Malagasy government granted the project an operating permit. Not sure of the conditions, it seems a little too-good-to be true right now, but that's what "they" are saying. What a crazy country!


My cough is still kind of running my life and it better be gone soon. Good old regular Buckleys, drunk out of the bottle in the parking lot seemed to help a lot. (For some reason the "nighttime" cough medicine creeps me out because I feel like I'm some kind of zombie). That is my exciting life.

I really, really, really need to either practice driving more often or calm down. Maybe a bit of both. I DO NOT like driving in Montreal. I think it was the day in general that helped end things in tears, but the getting lost for over an hour certainly was the breaking point.

I was happy to see the girls (well, technically I only saw one because the other one is having a bad day and locked herself in her room. I don't miss being a teenager AT ALL) and of course, my little dog friend Maggie. She was happy to see me and follows me around wherever I go. We were playing last night and I kinda forgot that I'm like, half allergic to dogs/cats (sometimes I don't notice anyth…

Back Home (one of them)

It's somewhat comforting that I was happy to get to where Louis, I, and the girls live tonight. It was seemed like a very, very long ride. My day started out a little rocky (I hate leaving, and I feel like seeing my family/friends for such a kind time is kind of like torture. I get to see just enough of them to really feel what I'm missing. I'll save that for another post).

Next was some upsetting news. I have a second cousin, who is very young (under thirty), that passed away last night due to a very serious infection. Although her and I were not close, the loss is felt throughout my entire family. Death is always shaking, but death for such a young person is even more unsettling.

I didn't sleep last night (cough and drank a coffee) and then didn't sleep on the plane.

I rented the car - and got lost in the freaking parking lot. Somehow I made it 90% of the way here, and then just lost it. No sense of direction, crying phone calls, coughing....I found my way to …

Weekend Family Getaway

Adjusting to a blended family is never a streamlined process for all parties. I've had struggles, and although it's never been officially talked about, I'm sure Louis and his girls had to learn to adapt to the +1.
It's still not a streamlined process, which is fine by me.
I never thought that Facebook comments would impact me like they did today.
I post this picture, but didn't tag anyone. Louis tagged the girls, who both clicked "like" on the picture. Along with 10 (now 11) of our family members and friends. The comment I like the best is from one of the girls' friends that translates to, Cute family!
And we are. I'm not their mom. (Or even their step-mom). I don't see them every day, or talk to them every week, but we are all somehow linked. We've spent the last two years figuring out how to interact with each other, in a way that works for all of us. We're probably still figuring it out. (I still struggle with bickering and nois…

First Day in Montreal Recap

Wow. I wish I would have taken the time to write down in half-day increments just how I feel when I have jetlag, so that the next time I have it, I can read what it's like and be like, Oh. Ok. That's why I feel like this. Next time for sure.

This afternoon I left the house FOR NO REASON, no errands to run, no nothing, just because I felt like I had energy and wanted to go to do something. My head was clear and I could like, speak properly. Yay, jetlag is gone! (Until next week...).

Anyway, I was thinking back to my first couple of days in Montreal. I didn't get to write (or take pictures of, which is what I really wanted to do) about my traumatizing salon event. Ok, perhaps traumatizing is a little dramatic.

I booked my hair appointment for the day that we landed, so that I could get my hair colored and cut right away and be done with it. Good idea - in theory. Louis and I got to the airport, sweaty, disoriented, and we hadn't really discussed who was going to do what…


This evening my throat and brain are feeling much better. I'm dissapointed that I'm here for such a short time, but I am going to be back a lot more in 2013 so I just keep thinking about that.

I'll be in Montreal for almost a week and then back to the jungle. I've kind of been joking that I have some version of Stockholm syndrome...because for some crazy reason I always look forward to going back.

I hope that I'll be able to catch up with some friends tomorrow night, then it will be back to land of les frogs. I'm renting a car and will be driving myself home in rushour traffic. Since I'm not a super fantastic driver to begin with, and have drive maybe 5 times in the last year or two, I'm not super thrilled. Always love the adventures....

Moving on

While I've been drinking Booster Juice, eating ice cream, sleeping, and rinsing with mouthwash (this seriously works like amazing when you're sick!), I've perked up a bit since my "I have no idea how to explain that coming to Edmonton is stressful which makes me feel like a freak" incident.

I had thought I had got enough sleep the first three nights in Canada, but when I think back, it was more like I slept like a baby - up every few hours. Obviously that didn't help my problem.

One of the contributing factors to me losing my mind, is that there are so many people here, so many things to do, and one of me. And one of me is supposed to be like "relaxing" on vacation so that I'm all charged up and well rested before I go to work. And, I feel guilty for not spending enough time with so-and-so, or making time for so-and-so, or not even seeing so-and-so, and the guilt kind of sucks me away sometimes.

Looking back, I was more anxious about the new fa…


The blog post will be as equally sucky as the title.

Last night was my cousin's wedding. Very poor planning on my part to have arrive three days before his wedding, as typically I'm at my peak of  "overemotional zombie" jetlag stage. I was home by 22h30. My cousin and I go wayyyy back and I would have liked to look back on this day and night as a super good night that I danced the night away and came home a sweaty mess.  It was not in the cards.

A few reasons:
I smashed the rental car (just a tiny bit)The rental car doesn't need a key to start. The keys have to be in your pocket or something and you just push a button. Is this not the stupidest idea EVER?? It is very, very confusing to someone who is going through sleep deprivation.I am pretty sure I'm going to have to go to the medi-center today. I keep trying to think that my throat hurts just because it's dry here. It really hurts to I think I've picked something up. If none of the abo…


We are in the Toronto airport on our way to EDMONTON!!! Flight times suck and the layover sucks but we'll make it there eventually.

Us girls are getting our hair/makeup done tomorrow morning, while Louis goes on the hunt for some shoes since his are in Madagascar.

Very jet lagged. Very tired. But looking forward to a great weekend.
Landed in Montreal. Got hair cut. Very tired. Very short hair. So tired.

Questionning my Sanity Sometimes

Well wasn't that last post a bucket of sunshine.

This post is quick because I only have a few minutes before our next (and last) flight. We had to stay in the plane, on the ground for one hour on our flight to Frankfurt because apparently they have these things called "noise pollution laws" and airplanes can't fly over the city before 06h00. Wow! Anyway, it was uneventful and a very good supper.

Louis and I kind of acted like teenagers (or maybe younger??) but they had "rice balls" on the menu. I swear that the high altitude messes with your brain.

I've also found a cure for when I have my "I hate the entire world" moments when I travel. Well, maybe not a cure, but it helps. I DO NOT TALK. That way, I can't say anything cranky, or pissed off, or just annoying. The mood (that usually doesn't last too long anyway) goes away quicker and I haven't said something to try my travel partner's patience (um.. just since we're on the…

Off to the airport

I'm just about to catch the shuttle to the Antananarivo airport and meet up with Louis. For some reason, I dread the flight to Joberg. It may be because the first time I took it I had major flu (or whatever stomach virus is here) and spent most of the flight in the fetal position or in the toilet. Even worse, I was flying with a co-worker that I absolutely, incredibly detest. One night at the camp bar, we got into this wonderful conversation about Soweto, poverty in Madagascar, how we are both trying to make a difference, how he's showing his children another side of the world  - fast forward one month later and he was coming back from a night "on the town" (including prostitutes) with a guy that I breifly dated (and our relationship had been over for about 2 days). Ok, I'm totally rambling.

Oh, then we have a super short connection in Joberg and more often than not we have to cut to the front of the line in customs to catch our next flight. I should quit complai…

Travel Mess

I haven't kept track of the number of times that I've done this back and forth trip, but I'm always amazed by just how FAR I am from Canada and how long it takes to get there.

1 hour flight from Tamatave to Tana
3 hour 40 minute flight from Tana to Joberg (really, really don't like this flight, I'm not sure why)
11 hour and 5 minute flight from Joberg to Frankfurt (we only have a 3 hour layover and I'm *really* hoping everything is on time so that I can have a shower!)
7 hour and 40 minute flight to Montreal

Going to Canada isn't so bad because we're soooo super excited. HOWEVER, I'm still a jetlag baby. While Louis gets tired can be average-cranky, I get nauseous and can't eat much (three days later I'm starving all day long for 2 days), I get to the point where if I'm walking or shopping, I feel like I cannot take one.more.step. Last Christmas I remember carrying some bags into my rental apartment and I had to lean against the wall for…

Change of Travel Plans

But not big ones!! I have a meeting in Tana on Tuesday morning, so I'm leaving Tamatave on Monday afternoon!

I'm taking the 16h30 company charter, then I'll go to the (urgh) hotel, and at 19h00, I'll be met by a lovely lady whose name I don't know, but runs a small business called "Precious". I went there on vacation last time, and I was so impressed. I guess I think I'm a millionaire, because I wanted a pair of earrings to wear to the wedding that I'm going to the weekend after next (OMG!!).

I've emailed her the design and color of stone that I want, and I'm really testing her skills right now. It's a bit of a complicated design, I've been pretty specific about the color, and I'm very excited to see what she's bringing me. It only sorta sucks that I'll be able to wear any jewelry I've ever bought for like...the three or four weeks every year when I'm in Canada...but oh, well.

I'll have a meeting early Tu…

Love Handles


I'm sure that most people struggle with weight at one point in their lives.

I've struggled with mine...all of it, I think. Since I'm being open and writing about what I want to and not giving a f***,  I'll talk about my struggles.

Growing up, I was never thin. Although looking back at pictures, I wish I would have realized how great I really looked. Then my 20's came. Partying, cooking for myself, eating out, I was overweight but not unhealthy. During my mid-20's I started running, but stayed the same weight. Then one day I decided I had enough "fat days" and decided to do Weight Watchers. It's a great program to learn about portions. I think their "new" program is a great way to learn about "real vs processed" food as well. I, took it a bit to the extreme. If I didn't know how many points something was - I just wouldn't eat it. The program worked wonderfully for me and I lost 40lbs. However, I followed it re…

F@(K !T

One of the things I want to work on is NOT GIVING A F@(K about what people think of me, what I'm doing, or my life.

My "password protected" blog was driving me insane.

I want to write about something, I have to think, Is it secret? Should I only share it with non-project people, or non-x people, or whatever?

Who the f*ck cares.

I'm always careful to not put the project name or any work specifics on this blog, but let's face it. Mining project in Toamasina. Any Google search will lead you to it. And I don't talk about work people specifically (maybe perhaps my current boss) but other than that, everything that I'm going through is in one way or another, something that another expat is going through at one time in their lives. (A senior director was crying/bawling/sobbing earlier this week. He's been an expat for like 15 years at least, so I KNOW that everyone has the same insane crazy thoughts as I do, maybe they just don't deal with them like I …