Friday, May 31, 2013

A week in Chelsea

We arrived at our dear friends Marie-Claude and Christian before they came back home. We climbed the uneven rock stairs amidst the wild lily-of-the-valley patches and lilac bushes that created an arch over our path. We arrived on top, short of breath, and opened the door of that nice little chalet and made ourselves at home. The girls dug into the bag of library books, while I looked around, trying to piece together the last 8 months of my friends' life... We hadn't spoken very often and I was trying to imagine what their life back in Quebec might have felt like after years in the Yukon... A photo of a cute couple on the board: maybe some new friends, the Juniper organic farm flyer, on the calendar, I could see that Ali and Xav both had soccer practice on Saturday morning. And they had tickets to go see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros!

Those friends had been such a big part of my (almost) daily life in the Yukon for so long, the idea that their *new life* was so foreign to me was kind of strange... and I could not wait to see them and hug them and find out more! And in the meantime, I was grasping at straws...

 :: Mara found a butterfly and took care of it until it was ready to fly away by itself. It stayed with her for a few hours. ::
:: My friend Marie-Claude is going back to school to become a midwife and she was preparing for her final chemistry exam. She was studying hard while we were there. I admire how determined she is in following her passion and making that dream come true by going back to school for 4 years at 42. What an inspiration! ::

We went to work and study together in a cute little coffee shop and I felt like I was at University again!
  :: Mara "helped" Alizée with her homework ::
   :: Every week, they go fill their bottles at the local spring in order to have great water to drink. ::
   :: Micha, the baby of the family, is just adorable and incredible at the same time. She is someting! I love her! Just before dinner, we could not find her. Chris looked for her everywhere and finally found her at the neighbor's (we're talking country neighbor, where she had to walk for a while along a high traffic road) sitting on a lazy boy, wrapped in a blanket with bowls of candies beside her. She gave Chris a big smile when he walked in, with smoke coming out of his ears. The neighbor had asked her if she had asked her parents if it was fine and she had said yes... Needless to say, Chris was not happy. So during our dinner, he repeated to her that she had to ask first before going to the neighbor. And that little 5 yo turned to him and said: Papa, can we stop talking about it now?! And I just burst out laughing! I know I totally killed the educationnal moment, but she is just so sure of herself! Two minutes later she said: You are not the boss of me, papa, you know! ::
   :: We had a dance party! When Chris is in the house, there is always lots of fun and laughter! ::

Our other good friends (and the girls' godparents) Val and JF just bought a house in Chelsea (they have lived in Ottawa for a decade) and they met us in a nice little restaurant and we went for a hike in beautiful Gatineau Park (King Mountain). We even got to see a beaver and her baby building its lodge!

We ended up being so busy with work that we didn't even go to Ottawa... Chris brought the girls to the beautiful Children museum and they had a blast. We went for short walks in the neighborhood, had an impromptu visit at a felt artist friend of Marie-Claude who was preparing a piece for a contest in which she was felting pieces of a 1850's wedding dress... The girls were enthralled!

On another day, Chris and JF took the girls on a hike and stopped at Pipolinka, the most amazing bakery in the area, and met a sweet French hitchhiking couple and invited them to pitch their tent on their property for the night. Mathilde and Micha spent the evening chatting with them and the morning after, we had coffee with them and great discussions. It's always lovely to meet with other travelers!

So now my friends, it's for real, we will be home in a few days!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Travel memories: much more than what meet the eyes

We went on a roadtrip across Alaska when Mara and Aïsha were 14 months old and Mathilde was just a little baby bump. We drove across the Kenai Peninsula debating if we would call her Taïga... Mara said her first word one morning in our old Boler while we were camped on the beach in Homer. "Nez, nez, nez (nose)" she kept repeating, pointing to her little peanut in the middle of her cute round face, giggling the whole time... They obviously do not remember how we were surrounded by the three glaciers that day while we sat on the shore to eat the wonderful clam chowder from the local seafood store, but I believe they felt the incredible energy of that place...

:: Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, winter 2006 (Mathilde) ::

Rudolf Steiner, who founded Waldorf education, states: "For the little child, up to the age of seven, everything, every action, every sight, sound, or other sense impression around the child is taken in and absorbed right into the child's inner being. These impressions become indelibly etched in the child's nervous system and can affect the development of the whole organism." 

The girls do not cognitively remember much from our life in the Yukon, the -40 January cold that bit their baby cheeks when they rode in their lambskin covered sleighs (and more often in slings on our tummies or backs), but we know they remember something much deeper than that. Their senses do. It is part of who they are now.
:: Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, winter 2004/2005 (Aïsha) ::

They remember some of the more intense moments, of course, like this one time during a salmon-fishing trip in Haines, Alaska, along the Chilkoot river when a grizzly came and stole our friend's catch! Of course, when our sense of fear is awakened, memories are created even at a very young age!

:: Silver City, Kluane Lake, Yukon, Canada, Summer 2006 ::

 :: On Montana mountain, Carcross, Yukon, Summer 2008, only a few days before we moved away
from the Yukon ::

 :: Camping in Northern BC near Muncho Lake under such a clear starry sky that
we will never forget... (2010) ::

 :: During the winter 2011/2012, we lived in Costa Rica for 5 months and the girls made friends with a lot of critters. They were afraid of bugs when we arrived. It didn't take the girls long to warm up to them thanks to the colorful leaflets that we bought, it quickly became a treasure hunt and they now have fond memories of stick bugs and leaf bugs and many more! ::

  :: In Costa Rica, we lived 10 minutes from a beautiful waterfall where it often was the only place to cool off. The girls have fond memories of this place. ::

 :: Holding and feeding a toucan at the La Paz Waterfall Garden, Costa Rica, is an experience Mathilde will never forget. ::

And the senses remember the very hot sand burning your feet while you are trying to run as fast as you can to reach the warm sea, the smell of the tropical forest after the rain during the wet season, the market hustle and bustle, as well as the mix of ethnicities in the subway stations in New York, the different languages in the ears, the calm quiet camping night away from everything and the northern lights. Ah! The northern lights!... Memories that encompass the cognitive mind.
 :: New York, May 2013 ::
I had the best example I could wish for just yesterday as we were collecting eggs with friends who are talking care of their neighbors' hens while they are away. While we were filling the feeder, two hens flew out of the coop and were on the loose. Mathilde, who was only 3 when we had hens and does not remember much, quickly acted and grabbed one perfectly on top of its wings slipping the hen on the side of her body to keep it from moving and brought it back to the coop. Somewhere, she clearly remembered. And I believe it's exactly the same for traveling... 

  :: Glacier National Park, Montana, Highline Trail, September 2012 ::

 :: Dry Fork Canyon, Utah, October 2012 (Aïsha) ::

  :: The Wave, Arizona, November 2012 (Mara and Mathilde) ::
 :: Snorkeling in the Florida Keys, February 2013 (Mara) ::

Now that they are older, the memories they are forming from the experiences they are having in our travels are incredibly rich. No book, lesson, movie, or YouTube could come close to leaving the same impression they had when we hiked up to the Wave in Arizona. I am pretty sure they will remember what they learned about aviation from our short visit at the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Pueblo people while visiting Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, or celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And it's the same for learning about shells and sea treasures from a passionate man on the shores of Edisto State Park in South Carolina. 

It's the stuff travel memories are made of...

By the way, this was a group writing project inspired by a wonderful group of traveling families I am part of, so if you'd like to read their take on Travel memories and children, here are the links to their posts:

Mary from Bohemian travelers 

Nancy from Family on Bikes 

Alisa from Living Outside of the Box

Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick

Bethaney from Flashpacker Family

Jenn Miller

Kris Herwig from Simon Says - Traveling With Tots: The World is My Playground

Heather Costaras from Living Differently -

Kalli from Portable Professionals

Kirsty from Barts go Adventuring
Anne from The Journey is the Reward 

Sharon from Where's Sharon -

Annie from Practical Adventurology - "Why You Should Travel With Kids Even If They Won't Remember"

Lainie from Raising Miro on the Road of Life (and Aimee from Suitcases and Strollers):

Nichola from We Travel Countries - 

Tracey from The Expat Experiment -

Natalie from Magnificent World -

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Toronto: ten years later

Toronto is another place where we lived for less than a year (JF and I moved *a lot* in the first five years of our common life together!). Toronto was synonymous with big jobs in big companies for both of us. It was good money and good experience, but I was so miserable... When the Yukon government called to offer JF a position, we packed our Wesfalia and left without hesitation and never came back... until last week.

We showed the girls where we lived and brought them to Royal Falafel to eat great falafel, where we would sometimes go after walking our big St.Bernard along the Lake...

Then we drove around a bit, but mostly got disappointed because things had changed so much in ten years we could not find what we were after and only succeeded at getting ripped off at the Big Carrot, that used to be a decent priced health food store...

Fortunately, we had a great evening with friends who made us an amazing pizza on the BBQ (Ricardo style). You throw the freshly made and rolled dough on the hot BBQ, cook on one side for 3-4 minutes (just enough so it has nice marks) and put it back on the plate, cooked side on top), garnish to taste and put it back on the BBQ until the cheese is melted nicely. It was amazing. It tasted like brick-oven pizza!!

It was the perfect evening to celebrate our return in Canada! We had a delightful evening and were ready to get back on the road to get to Ottawa!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coming home

As we inched towards the Canadian border, I tried to stay present with the mixed feelings that were arising within me. The magical feeling of the time spent with amazing new friends, the sadness of seeing our trip come to an end, the excitment of meeting with dear friends in Ottawa very soon and seeing more dear friends and family members that we dearly missed this year in the next few weeks, reintegrating our home, unpacking, cleaning, getting back to some kind of a *normal* life, and what this means for me right now…
What I know is that this year has been one of the happiest for me and I am not really looking forward to get back to a house life per se. I would stop by in a campground or two in Quebec for a month or two to catch up with friends and family members that we dearly miss and would be totally happy to keep traveling in my trailer… I’d go to Maine for a few months, then Oregon… then, California, then, then…

The life we lived in that year was quite unique. Can you imagine that I didn’t need to use a calendar for a whole year? No appointments, no obligations, no meetings… nothing written down… just the inspiration of the day. I loved that. I totally loved the spontaneity and simplicity of our days.
:: Beautiful Letchworth State Park: they call it the Grand Canyon of the East ::

By any mean, it’s not always easy on the road. We just had a really big rush for work this week. Working in a trailer with 3 children can be a challenge at the best of times, sometimes the new surroundings help, but most times, having my mom or friends nearby would be really helpful, for sure. But this week, amidst the rush of work and transitioning back to Canada, the girls amazed us once more. Of their own volition, they made meals, washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom (and a really dirty toilet: Mathilde, you go girl!) and when the contract was handed, they celebrated by telling us to sleep in while they prepared a surprise breakfast! 
 There is also the relationship to stuff. When I think about reintegrating our space, even just for a short period of time, I feel overwhelmed by the idea of dealing with our stuff… We don’t even have that much, but once you learn to live with what you can carry with you, well, any more than that feels overwhelming really. So basically, going back home, right now, except for the joy of connecting with my loved ones, feels like work, unpacking (house storage and trailer), scheduled life and well, just a lot to do compared to the rythm of the last year… It will be a transition for sure.
The girls are excited to go back home and JF needs some down time, so it’s time to go back, I think. One year on the road is long. Summer simply feels to me like a weird time to come back!
I feel a bit like this one time I was coming back from a week-long trip in Gaspésie when I just started University. I felt lost. Going back to the reality of my life was hard, even if at that time, that reality was quite different. There is something with the coming back from an adventure that makes my heart sink. I want to hold on to it. I know you’ll tell me it’s just normal. I love what my friend Laurence wrote on my FB page when I mentioned having mixed feelings about our return : each ending will be followed by a new beginning. Yes. I know, but I believe that my melancholic side sometimes like to linger in the sadness of what I am leaving behind, not of what is ahead. And I am trying to honor that right now. I feel quite vulnerable sharing this here. But I am OK with being vulnerable, because this is part of being human. And I am meeting more and more of my humanity every day.