A funny thing happened on my way home

[Ed. Note: I’ve stripped out a bit of unnecessary bit at the beginning, and it was suggested that I sanitize it for sensitive eyes…]
So last week, I was huddled with my mom back in Oakville, Ontario. No, I didn’t publicize this because — and utterly no offense meant to anyone — I didn’t want to see anyone but my Mom (and by extension, my sister and her family).
The story here isn’t the journey to Oakville, or even the events in Oakville. This is about my trip home to Calgary.
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The trip home

Well, Monkey, we’re home now. I know it doesn’t seem like it to you, because you’ve lived in three different homes since you were born. But this house, the one in Calgary (where we’re currently adjusting to serious sub-zero temperatures and drying out) is a home we hope you’ll come to know and love.
It’s not Costa Rica. It’s not always warm. It’s not filled with the sounds of parakeets, or tropical rainstorms, or filled with Spanish-speaking voices. This is the Great White North. It’s chilly for most of the year, leaves are seen for only five months, and the only monkeys you’ll see are at the zoo. It’s going to be an adjustment for you, and for Mommy and I, too.
It was a long road to get here.
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Taking a pet from Costa Rica

It figures, just when we thought we’d started to have everything figured out, we hit another snag. (There’s always another snag.) This time, it’s with Asia, our cat.
Our problem is not with Canada — all they need is a valid rabies vaccination, which we have. Our problem is not our airline (Continental) — we already have a reservation that allows us to take our cat. Our problem is with Costa Rica.
I’m so not surprised.
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Xmas in NYC, Day 1

Our first family Christmas away from Canada has ended up being colder than we expected it to be a mere couple of months ago. Back then, we were expecting to be in Costa Rica. But due to certain unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to fly up north for Christmas.
Well, actually, the fact that we flew to New York City is itself a bit of a twist — we hadn’t planned to come here for Christmas until about a month ago. Until then, we were working on someplace a lot warmer. In the act of researching flights, I happened to throw out New York City mostly as a joke. I mean, we’ve been living in a tropical country for six months. Why on Earth would we fly five hours north to free our asses off?  
Funny, how humour sometimes becomes reality…
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How to bring a pet into Costa Rica: Simplified

Okay, so a while back I was having kittens (pun intended) about bringing Asia into Costa Rica. Mostly because I simply could not seem to get a straight answer from anyone about the proper process. It was driving me batty.
So, to anyone bringing in their (small) dog or cat (this might also work for rabbits, but don’t expect success with gerbils or hamsters or any form of rodent; and it’s a one-way trip for all birds, you can’t take them out again) into Costa Rica, allow me to present the (current) process. It’s really easy.
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Enroute with the cat

Well, we’re on our way. I was up until almost midnight last night packing. Was originally thinking three bags, but went down to two. Which is good, because apparently I’d have been denied the third bag. As it stands, the backpack was overweight by three lousy pounds, so I got stuck with an extra bag fee and an overweight fee.
Where the heck did all these fees come from? It even costs me $100 to get the cat on the plane. Three and a half hours later, I’m in Houston, with a cat in a bag. Tried letting her out at the “Pet Relief Area” over in Terminal B, but all she wanted to do was hide in the tropical plants. I’m not even sure if she relieved herself at all.
Lunch was at Ruby’s, while Asia watched people go by. She’s been exceedingly good, and hasn’t had one freak-out as a result of all this. Whether or not she’s still in one piece when we get to our hotel in Costa Rica is another question.

Back in Costa Rica

Years ago, I used to think business travel was glamourous. You got to go to far-flung places, see different things, and engage in activities you just don’t do at home. Then I started going on business trips. I learned fast that the enjoyment is only so deep.
Worst experience was [[Live from Cincinnati|Cincinnati in 2000]]. Second, and only because I was utterly exhausted by the end (the trip itself was very helpful) was [[Je suis en Paris!|Paris in 2006]]. (As I learned, when you travel to Europe, you end up with 18-20 hour days, because you’re trying to stay sync’d with the home office.)
But today hasn’t exactly been a slice, either. And just because I’m currently in Costa Rica doesn’t mean I’m sitting on a beach.
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We have a travel-safe baby

I’ve had the luxury of travelling many places of the last few years. Of those times, I’ve been on more than a few planes that were exhibit to babies that did not travel well. And by not travelling well, I mean they cried.
A lot. Loudly. Ear-piercingly.
My biggest fear is that we would have one of those children. Loud. Ear-piercingly. So instead of casting disapproving glances at others, we would be the recipients of such withering glances as to kill off entire forests.
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Aloha from Hawaii

Yeah, I know — why am I on a computer if I’m on vacation?
Relax, I have good reason. Our house is now effectively sold, and for whatever reason we’ve been unable to fax properly from Hawaii back to Calgary. Very odd, indeed. However, when you need to communicate with your realtor and faxes don’t work, you resort to whatever “official” form of communication they suggest. In this case, email.
Hence the computer. But given the trouble we’ve had, I’m sticking out for a few minutes to make sure it went through.
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How not to start a vacation

Oy. This vacation is not off to a good start.
One of the conditions of this vacation was that we were to incur no red-eye flights (in other words, no sleeping on the plane). That meant getting there and back was going to cause some difficulty in how we went from Calgary (a second-tier airport) to Kona (a second-to-third tier airport). Direct flight? Hah!
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Air Canada Sucks

Yes, I know I’ve ranted about Air Canada and their lousy service few times before (see [[Christmas in Oakville, New Years Eve in Calgary]], [[Christmas with my Family in Oakville, Cathy Gets Engaged]], [[Canadian airlines need some common sense]], among several), but just when you’d think they’d start to act better, they slap you in the face again.
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Je quitte Paris!

The flight left Charles du Gaulle at 11:30. That meant, of course, that I had to be there in sufficient time to check in, get through security, find the flight, and so forth.
Thankfully, I’d gone through the trouble last night of finding the RER station at Chatelet-les-Halles. As is turns out, it’s a weird sort of situation. Chatelet is the Metro station. Les Halles is an ex-market area. Chatelet-les-Halles is a station almost mid-way, pretty much right under my hotel, actually. So there was a fair bit of walking to get there and back. Which was fine, no biggie. It was still cheaper than taking a cab.
Albeit a lot more packed. While my trip in on Monday was blissfully free of people, the train was nearly full leaving Chatelet-les-Halles. When we left Gare du Nord, it was standing room in some places. The only stop after that was the airport. It’s effective public transportation, I’ll give you that! (Canadian airports and cities, please take note!)
No elevators this time to slow me down. Just a really long lineup for Lufthansa. It took nearly 45 minutes to weave my way down to a clerk. I had a bit of a terrific thought as I waited. Technically, my flight is Air Canada. What if I had to go to the Air Canada counter? They’re not even in the same terminal. My only consolation was when I’d verified my flight this morning, the Lufthansa website told me my seat assignment. I could only hope that it also covered my Air Canada seat from Frankfurt to Calgary.
Fears bubbled away as the rather cheery clerk (given the insane volume of people) jokingly suggested that my flight was cancelled and that I had to stay in Paris indefinitely. Admittedly, I was briefly tempted to believe him. But the rest of me quickly kicked in — I wanted to go home. I spent about 1/10th the time at the counter as the previous couple. Bag checked, boarding passes for both flights in-hand, I headed for Satellite 6.
That’s the way Terminal 1 is broken up: a central hub with seven satellite areas for boarding planes. And sadly, that’s about literally all there is at Terminal 1. It’s devoid of almost everything else. It’s probably the dullest terminal I’ve ever had the pleasure of waiting around in for an hour and a half. (I prefer to wait in airport terminals, rather than rushing. Too many variables that could lead to a missed flight.)
I had planned my Euro spending carefully, having only barely enough to pay for a muffin at a small cafe in the waiting lounge. That was fine with me — I didn’t want to go home with extra change. Still, I would have liked a ham and cheese baguette.
Like the train out, the flight out was also full. Although I had an exit row, I was seated next to a woman who clearly did not fit in her chair (or really give her late-teenage son any credit for anything). I think this is partly what led to a rearrangement of seats. She was moved to the front of the plane, and the couple across the aisle were bumped a row up. The staff didn’t say why, but since I was allowed to remain and thinner people were placed in the now-vacant aisle seats next to me, I can only assume it was to ensure that the exit aisles could be cleared quickly.
I passed out from exhaustion moments after the plane left the ground. I awoke only when the attendant happened to rather loudly plunk ice in a plastic cup. I was thankful for this — I got my cheese sandwich on dense German bread and a Coke. That would keep me going until I got my meal on the trans-atlantic flight.
Virtually retracing my steps through Frankfurt to find my next flight (including the 700 metre-long tunnel), I rushed along just in case there was a lot of people at security. Given how heavy the airport traffic was, I didn’t want to risk holding things up. As it stands, I didn’t have to pass through security this time — just passport control. While not the speediest passing through, I was asked no questions. Stamp, done.
Just past passport control was my gate, so I suddenly found myself with almost an hour to kill. Boarding would start soon, but my seat row meant I would be among the last called. Not a big deal, and far more comfortable as I wouldn’t have to listen to a jet engine the entire flight.
My rowmate (I love the outside row — only two seats) was an oil driller from Oman, travelling back to his home around Great Slave Lake or something to visit family. He’d been flying already for about 20 hours. I couldn’t believe that level of stamina. I think I’d lose it after that long, personally. (I want to go to Australia someday, but the flight worries me a little.) He started chatting with me almost barely five minutes after sitting down. So much for a quiet flight.
Actually, that’s not fair. He was an interesting person, having seen a great deal more than I have. And made me feel pretty damned petty about my mere 35 degree woes. Where he worked, it was 55 Celsius, not counting the blowing sand. He slept most of the flight, too, likely due to exhaustion.
The flight was mostly uneventful. Some bouncing around (though we had a nasty approach to Calgary due to strong winds), the movies were there and the food was decent. I plugged away at getting these blog entries caught up. And I slept, even if just a little. While I hadn’t been flying for 20 hours before this one, I was still wiped.
My bag was #155 coming off the carousel at the airport. Typical. Pass through customs, and waited to be picked up. Surprisingly not tired, I fully expect to pass out tonight.

Je suis en Paris!

I’m beginning to understand why people hate business trips. You can’t pack what you want (you have to pack for meetings with clients) and you don’t travel necessarily when you want. But at least the locations can be interesting…
The account I work on now is European. They’ve got a massive global presence and are very good to work with. They tend not to hesitate on monetary decisions (unlike most clients), perferring to get the image just right (and understandably so). So when they said that I needed to be present when they were trained with the new RedDot Content Management System, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when they said I had to fly to Paris.
Yes, that Paris. France.
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Flying home to Calgary

I woke earlier than usual — about 8:45 or so. Craig was still up, but not nearly as tired as when he’d scared the bejezesus out of me.
Turning down his offer of a beer (for Craig, this was still the end of the day), I got a glass of orange juice. Craig and I took the opportunity to have a chat about his career. I guess I forced the issue. I’m worried about him. I don’t know Craig as well as perhaps I could — he’d family, but aside from a few visits, I don’t know him even remotely as well as I should for a brother-in-law. For what I do know, though, Craig works too hard. I know the desire, though. I know what drives him, what pushes him forward. I had that drive once. It’s died off in recent months, mostly due to recognition of my own faults.
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My Trip to Japan, returning home

When I finally arrived home from my stint with the CBC so many months ago (see [[Home for a rest]]), I was happy to be back. It will be nice to be home after my trip to Japan, even though it’s sad to leave it so soon.
When I arrived almost two weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. There were a lot of questions, intrepidation, excitement, and desire. The fear would not last long, and I certainly got a healthy dose of adventure. But there is simply too much to see and do in Japan — you could visit for a year and before you could see enough to be satisfied.
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Halifax to Huntsville

I hate alarms. Especially when they go off while you’ve still got an hour of darkness left of the night. I had an early flight to Toronto, though, and wasn’t keen on missing it.
I had packed the night before, so all I had to do was shave, shower, dress, and throw all my bags in the trunk of my rented car. Checking out was trivial, just the way I like it. Then it was off to the airport.
Now here’s where either my unbelievably good sense of direction, or my unbelievable stupidity, shows through. Most normal people would ask where the airport is and how to get there. Not me. I decided I could find it based on the solitary sign I’d seen on the Highway 102/103 interchange yesterday. Oh, I should mention that it was still dark when I entered the highway, and the radio was calling for dense patches of fog … about 10 seconds before I ran into one myself.
So I drove north. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to the correct airport. (I didn’t know how many airports were in the Halifax area.) For a short time, I considered turning off to get directions. But something kept me going. I found my way to the airport, though. The correct one, at that!
One of these days, this behaviour is going to get me into trouble. Big trouble.
Checking in was fast, as was picking up the seafood feast I was bringing back to Ontario. Five lobster, two pounds of mussels, and a pound of scallops. And so help me, none of it cooked in butter. (Not counting sautéing the onions and garlic for the white wine sauce.) The box the seafood came in, however, needed to be taken on the plane. Along with my two carry-on bags. This was over my limit, and a bit of worry. Luckily, the plane was only about three-quarters full. The staff didn’t stop me.
Toronto came quickly, and I was soon waiting in the baggage claim with my three carry-ons. My duffle bag was the first bag off. My knapsack was significantly later. As I exited baggage claim, my mother came in the main doors. Five minutes later mom, Cathy, and I were on our way north.
I was goaded into coming back to Ontario for Thanksgiving. I wanted to go home to Calgary. I’ve been away for a month and a half, and I want adjustment time. But somewhere in the back of my mind, staying for a couple of days in Huntsville seemed like a good idea. I gave into pressure and decided to come in. However, I’ll probably only see the airport, the highway, and the cottage. I doubt I’ll see anything else, or anyone else.
The ride north was uneventful, save for the Teeming Thousands who were similarly heading north. The traffic, according to Cathy, wasn’t too bad though. On long weekends during the summer, you simply just don’t go up on Saturday’s. It’s just shy of declaring insanity. When we hit the Highway 69/Highway 11 split, the traffic lightened. The rest of the trip wasn’t so bad.
At Orillia, I convinced Cathy that we needed to stop for lunch. I hadn’t eaten a thing since leaving Halifax, and it was now 3:00pm according to my stomach. This meant, of course, a stop at Weber’s — an institution in this part of Ontario. Virtually everyone who’s driven this stretch of highway more than once has eaten at Weber’s. And for good reason: it’s fast, fresh, and good.
We were in Huntsville about an hour later. After a quick stop for beer (I’m a picky drinker), we made the long trek out to the cottage. It’s a bit of a hike — a lot longer than I remembered from my last journey out here (see [[Visit to Ontario, Cottage in Huntsville, Thanksgiving Dinner, Algonquin Park]]). But the cottage was as I remembered it. The outside, anyway. Cathy and Craig (mostly Craig) have put in a huge amount of renovation. It’s not done yet, but one day it’s going to be the smartest-looking small cabin on Lake Vernon.
Craig was already there, having been doing yard work for most of the day. Bear and Kylie (both dogs) raced out of the woods to greet us. Within minutes of being inside, I started to feel a little more relaxed. I still wanted to go home to Calgary, though. I guess all this travel has just left me feeling a little tired.
The renovations were awesome. The kitchen was totally different, the floor all tiled, and the bathroom looked almost totally new. (Well,it practically is.) Still, some work was still needed, including the walls of the living room and dining room, and the downstairs. But one thing at a time.
Dave arrived not long after, Chuckie (Dave’s dog) in tow. Anne and Rebecca arrived not long after. We chatted and made fun of each other until it was time to get cooking. Which was when the lobster pot finally got to a boil — after being on the burners for about three hours.
Lobsters: about 10 minutes. Mussels: about 7 minutes. Scallops: about two minutes. Time to eat it all: about an hour and a half. But worth it, if for no other reason than it cleared out the memory of the scallops I had in Lunenburg. We had no room for dessert.
The fun continued after dinner as we resumed making fun of each other. I didn’t participate as much, being quite tired from everything (and the alcohol not helping much). It was a good time, but I didn’t really feel all that relaxed. I still wanted to go home. Maybe tomorrow, I won’t feel so uptight.