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Summer break – where dreams do come true Part 1 – Calgary Stampede

Well, as I look at the date of the last entry, I think ooooops! From May until now has been quite a time in this Aussie’s life. I have decided to tell you about my summer in 2 parts, as a lot happened, and there are a mega amount of pics to be shared.

Ending off the school year, ensuring all curriculum needs have been met, the new reporting system has been entered correctly, happy students & families = happy Ali. They were a great bunch of students that were a pleasure to teach. May have been a few interesting moments here and there, but fortunately they were few and far between. They certainly have left a lasting impression, and hopefully I have on them.

A few days of well earned r&r, and the summer to end all summers was set to begin. First on the agenda was the Calgary Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world’s largest rodeos, a parade, midway, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions, chuckwagon racing and First Nations exhibitions.

And this year it was the 100th anniversary celebration of the Stampede. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Stampede quite early on in the year. A fellow teacher said to me one morning “Ali, what are your plans for Stampede?”, and when I said I hadn’t made any yet, she looked at me and said “well don’t you worry, leave it with me”. I hadn’t thought much about it, apart from the fact that I knew I HAD to go, it wasn’t “Calgary Canadian” to not go, especially to the 100th birthday. Well, was I in for a treat. Sherri had graciously organised for me to be included in her family and friends’ celebrations. Real Stampeders are the Gillis’. The Gillis family have been involved in volunteering and being a part of the Stampede for many, many years. I went to stay in Calgary with Sherri for a few days before I headed south to the US of A.

I was given some beautiful western shirts to wear, as well as some cowboy Bolo Ties, belt buckles to choose from. And what a selection of hats! Very honoured indeed to be kitted out in clothes and accessories that have been a part of their family for years.

We had front row grandstand seats for what proved to be one heck of a parade. The Stampede Parade didn’t disappoint. It went for over 2 hours, and with many decorative floats, performers, horses, bands and so much more to entertain the masses. I was also lucky enough to have some pretty sweet grandstand seats for the world famous CS Chuckwagon races and after concert. Chuckwagon racing is an equestrian rodeo sport in which drivers in a chuckwagon led by a team of thoroughbred horses race around a track. I had no idea what the “Chucks” were or what was involved, but my hosts explained it all to me very well. Like many sports it can unfortunately be quite dangerous to both horse and riders, but thankfully none were injured to the point of no return. The after concert that night was amazing! A spectacular show of dance and talent displayed by some of Calgary’s youngsters, who had been practicing for hours per week for several months. Then we were treated to a concert show put on by Alberta boy Paul Brandt. Wow, who would’ve thought, I actually thoroughly enjoyed his performance! Yes, me + country music! Paul actually became quite well known by winning a talent contest at the Calgary Stampede a number of years ago, and has just sky rocketed from there. Helps that he’s quite easy on the eye too 😉

To top off my Stampede experience, I was privileged enough to be invited along to a breakfast at Heritage Park. Quite the do really. Breakfasting with the Stampede and political royalty was a definite highlight. The war planes overhead, the people watching, the history of being in Heritage Park as a guest, and some drinking. The main event of the breakfast is the ceremonial drinking of “Syllabub”, a witches brew of alcohol that also includes milk straight from a cow. They poured what we were led to believe was things like dishwashing liquid, car oil, cleaning products, and gosh know what else (my memory has chosen to forget) into a big tub, then in came the cow. Freshly squeezed cow’s juice was squirted into the big tub and then while everyone laughed and looked at all the Stampede Breakfast virgins with an evil glint in their eye, they began pouring this concoction into little shot glasses. This is where my heart went to my throat, because as I was fighting the urge to vomit, and I actually think I did a little, I was ushered and cheered forward to have my shot. There was another guy, Michael, who was with our group, so we looked at each other and said “righteo, let’s do this”. And down she goes. One word “alcohol”, and PLENTY of it. Maaaaan don’t light a match near us any time soon. There was that much alcohol in there, my goodness me. We even got a certificate to prove that we were silly enough to drink such a mixture.

After having another one, yes we went back for seconds hehehe, we went to meet some of the Stampede Cowboys. Hmmmm “how you doin'” was all I could think as I giggled and had photos and got autographs.

A performing band from Newcastle Australia

Curtis Glencross from the Calgary Flames

So many beautifully presented horses

No Parade is complete without a drum and pipe band

Cowboy tricks

Yee haaaaawwwww!

Opening ceremony for the Chuckwagon races for the evening

O’Canada

Get ready

Go! Go! Go!

Such cute little cowgirl booties

Awesome garden idea

Such amazing talent

VERY talented group of young performers

Paul Brandt

Young performers – wow that was good!

Motorbike stunt performance

Paul Brandt and high rise performers

Paul Brandt

Local Siksika performers

I guess the fresh milk is ok …… until curdled by the alcohol

Umm, what exactly are you putting in that tub I’m supposed to drink from??

Syllabub – I think my throat is still on fire

Yahooooo, maybe HooYaaaa (?)

Look Ma, found me some real life Cowboys 😉

So after, a few days of parties, meeting and spending some time with some truly wonderful and kind people, it was off to the airport for a trip I had only ever dreamed of.

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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Spring Break

3 letters to describe what was one of the best times of my life – OMG! And I will warn you now, there’s a fair few pics to peruse through, so if you don’t like photos – look away now 😉

I had originally planned several things for my Spring Break (one week), starting with a trip down through Great Falls Montana to Mt Rushmore in South Dakota, then I was going to head over to Seattle and BC (British Columbia), but then came up with an idea that turned out to be an absolutely stellar week. I made some enquiries, did a little research (google) and booked my flights.

I headed to Chicago for 4 nights/5days for a sporting fix. However, the sporting fun started before I even got to Chicago. A few months before that I booked a ticket to my first NHL match to see the Calgary Flames V Vancouver Canucks, and that was on Easter Thursday. That morning, I got a phone call at school from a friend (husband of another teacher) who offered me two wicked tickets to the game as he couldn’t go. So I invited another teacher and her husband and off we went. Kenny sat up in my second tier seat, and I sat down by the sidelines in some of the most amazing seats.

Flames Goal Keeper Miikka “Kipper” Kiprusoff

I enjoyed the fact that you didn’t have to leave your seat for either some food or a beverage (adult & children style beverages), but apparently that’s only the case in the awesome seats. I was even asked to put my camera lens away, and of course I did (then got out my other camera). I asked the security why and he said that removable lens cameras aren’t supposed to be used as the quality is too professional and we were close enough to get good shots. Ok no argument, it went away, not before I managed to score some really great shots.

Enjoying our sweet seats – thanks Craig 🙂

Flames Captain (and eye candy) Jarome “Iggy” Iginla

Thirsty work being as good as Kipper

Group shot

Nothing wrong with a bit of biffo, even if you are the skipper :/
Straight to the sin bin for both

Case of “push me – shove you”

Another hockey biff

Great game, awesome atmosphere – especially when you beat the Canucks 3-2. And in true Aussie style, had a bet on the game with my cousin at home – bad luck Nic 🙂

As you can tell, I have plenty of pics “Ali Collins – Papparazzi Extraordinaire” 😉

Bucket list item crossed off, a hockey fight. Afterall, isn’t that what NHL’s all about? Also, as one of my students proudly wears on his t-shirt “Hockey is where we live, life is just a place where we spend time between games”.

After a lovely Easter Sunday at a friends place (my extended Canadian family), I was ready to head to Chicago. Shocker of a plane ride but eventually arrived. I am getting used to eating out by myself and often get even better service. The next day I met up with a lovely gentleman Matt, who was a work friend of Craig’s. Matt and Craig had pulled some strings and gotten me a personal tour of the Chicago Board of Trade. Through a big security checkpoint, they decided that this Aussie was safe enough to enter Manland aka Board of Trade. I actually managed to listen to the guys talking about the way a trade centre operates, and even know that the best way to trade is “options”.

Chicago Board of Trade

I spent the afternoon walking around Chicago and discovering that it is indeed a very pretty city. So many flowers, even in the middle of the road. Some beautiful parklands and grounds situated along Lake Michigan.

Lovely old fountain in Grant Park – pity the water no longer flows

Beautiful Millenium Park

So many exquisite tulips, just gorgeous

Just gorgeous

Sightseeing

Sightseeing

Always time for a little shopping 😉

Well I guess I could share all of the pics from walking around that lovely city, but I hope I’ve been restrained enough. Next on the agenda was the NBA. FINALLY, this girl was going to actually watch a Chicago Bulls game live. Even though my personal basketball skills leave a lot to be desired, I am from the generation where the Chicago Bulls were just THE sporting team of the world. I was originally only going to one match, Chicago Bulls V New York Knicks but ticket master told me that I “needed” to also see the other NBA match that was in Chicago at the same time I was going to be there. The Bulls were playing Miami Heat, one of ‘the’ teams to see. Hmm, not really any cheap seats left 😦   Kept looking just to see and although I debated going for a courtside seat, deep down I knew I was going to get it, but to avoid an instant heart attack I delayed and bought it a few hours later. Wow! What a decision that turned out to be! Such an amazing view, omg it was like sitting on the bench. I could’ve just about reached out and pinched them, but didn’t because I didn’t want to be kicked out and miss the game. Some absolute cracker photos too. I was on a mission to get a photo of LeBron for an old mate who worships #6 for Heat. And yup, I got plenty. I had also ordered a new camera lens that borders on telescopic, and that had arrived a few days before I left, so that was just the icing on the cake. If you don’t like basketball, look away now.

First batch from the Bulls V Knicks game Tuesday 10th April, 2nd tier seating

I thought Derrick Rose (MVP last year) looked short on court, probably because the others are giants! (and I’m the short one)

.
Benny the Bull floating around the air in the stadium

Pre-match entertainment – talk about atmosphere!

Pre-match warm up

Game on

Duuuuunk!

Crowd of 22131

Time Out entertainment

Get a ticket before the game, and during one of the time out breaks, they have a little game and if your                                           Dunkin’ Donuts character wins the race, you can claim a free one at a local store

I also went to a MLB game, Major League Baseball. Chicago Cubs V Milwaukee Brewers. Sat in a reasonably good seat with a great view. Fabulous atmosphere at Wrigley Field. The crowd goes crazy indeed. The speed of baseball is a little slower than that of the sports I normally enjoy, but I am still glad I went. Great experience.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field Scoreboard

Cubs Pitching

Batter up

Wrigley Field

Me at the Cubs V Brewers match @ Wrigley Field

I even managed to receive a certificate for being a first time visitor. Mind you, I think they’re primarily for children but ah well, I’m a big kid – that counts. I even remembered to eat the expected hotdog, but passed on the beer.

Next on the agenda was a massive big souvenir shop along Michigan Avenue and then across to the Shedd Aquarium. Wow, what a beautiful place. So many gorgeous aquatic animals and also a great 4D movie. I saw the one about Happy Feet. I thought huh? what’s 4d? As you are watching a little spin off movie about the Happy Feet characters complete with 3D glasses, as it rained on the screen, little bits of mist came down from the ceiling. Ahhh what a nice touch I thought. When a few of the little penguins had a bit of a barney a big *whack* came out from the back of my seat straight into the middle of my back! Gee thanks. Scared the audience big time. Ah ok, 4D we get it. Um no not quite. as one the penguins jumped into the water to create a big splash, water from the back of the seat in front of each of us squirted us bang straight in the face! OMG! That gave me (and everyone else) a massive fright, yet so funny. And low and behold, it happened again! Nasty 😉  The dolphin and Beluga whale show was just a huge wow factor. All I kept thinking was gee Tia would love this place. I am still totally mesmorised by the Jellyfish display. Such cool looking critters.

Seahorse @ Shedd Aquarium

Japanese Sea Nettle @ Shedd Aquarium

“Hairy Jelly” @ Shedd Aquarium

“Spotted Lagoon” @ Shedd Aquarium

“Leafy Sea Dragon” @ Shedd Aquarium

Starfish waving at me as the one in the tank in Finding Nemo did @ Shedd Aquarium

Found him! Nemo’s alive and well @ Shedd Aquarium

pretty boy @ Shedd Aquarium

Beluga Whale @ Shedd Aquarium

Dolphin jump @ Shedd Aquarium

Ok, only a couple more stops before my Chicago trip was to come to an end. The night before I left has left a footprint on my memory forever. I saw Bulls V Heat from a courtside seat, which meant I was sitting extremely close to the action. TOTALLY different atmosphere from the first game, which in itself was sensational. But this certainly stepped it up a notch. As I was sitting on my throne (well it may as well have been), I was just in awe of the surroundings and lapping up the entertainment. when I look down at the Bulls bench and consequently nearly fell off my chair. Paramedics, someone call the paramedics, my heart was flip flapping about. Nah surely it couldn’t be, but after picking my jaw up off the ground and fumbling to operate my camera, I realised that the guy standing 20 metres away from me was in fact the god of all basketball courts, the number one player to this day, none other than Mr Michael Jordan! I was absolutely gobsmacked, as you might’ve picked up. By the time I breathed, picked up my camera, I managed one shot before he left the floor. But maaaaan that would have to be the single biggest and best sporting moment of my life thus far! Big call, yes I know but wow so true. Even though the night Andrew McLeod put his arm around me at a black tie dinner is a favourite, unfortunately I don’t have photographic evidence anymore, but this moment I do.

The god of basketball Mr Michael Jordan himself 😀 (no totally clear, but I couldn’t really concentrate)

Chicago Bulls V Miami Heat

LeBron James

Nice attendance (more than some other sporting teams I know 😛 )

There you go boys (and I can happily say, they did dance well for their age – some looked not that much younger than me)

One of the timeout entertainments. They had to race to build burgers. Not sure what they were going to win, $1000 I think, but was laughing too hard to listen properly.

Joakim Noah – a new favourite

Derrick Rose – Bulls captain and MVP last year

Me and the Westmount mascot Westie

Me and my mascot Macca (Wally the wombat was having a rest)

Hustle!

LeBron James staring straight down my lens 😀

Well, there’s one more stop until this dream weeek came to a close. NFL Chicago Bears stadium, Soldier Field for a tour. Not a huge fan of the game, but a good friend back home is a little more than obsessed with them, so I booked a tour. And am I ever glad I did? So much history in this stadium, I really enjoyed the tour. Unfortunately I have lost some of the pictures (not happy Jan), but I do have some left to share.

Chicago Bears home ground (& Macca)

Part of original building @ Soldier Field

Me standing beside the turf @ Soldier Field. You weren’t allowed to touch the grass, as the guide had given the security a licence to shoot if we did. (of course we then did it as soon as the guide wasn’t looking, and no bullets came our way)

Well I hope you enjoyed the picture story of my sporting visit to the windy city of Chicago. I know there’s a lot of pictures, but trust me I restrained from putting a heap more up, there’s literally just over 900 pics from that week!

I am also saddened to discover that some of the photos are possibly gone forever. I make a plea to each and every one of you, please double save your photos, before they become memories. I had been really careful saving all of my photos from this year on to a separate usb, as well as on the camera memory card. However, shortly after I returned from this magnificent trip, and before I had done the ‘double save’ there was an incident. One of my memory cards was destroyed 😥   Irretrievable. I am lucky I had double saved many but unfortunately not all of the photos. A data retrieval specialist company can have a try at retrieving the pictures, but at what is close to a week’s wages, and even then it’s not guaranteed. So yes, it may be a pain in the behind, but do yourself a favour and please double-save your memories.

Chat soon!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Still “living the dream”

"I think I can, I think I can" (at least I looked the part)

Well, I kept meaning to check in and let you all know how things were going, but time kept running away from me. Today I realised that it’s been a month, so best I catch you up on a few things.

Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to be asked to go on the school ski trip with the Grade 6’s (even though I teach grade 5), and of course I said “umm YEH!”. The bus left at 6:10am and with 2 buses of excited but sleepy students we set off for Nakiska. Nakiska hosted the downhill ski part of the Calgary Olympics (1988?), so it is quite a well known and as it turns out, awesome place to ski.

I really do still love the snow, and to be able to spend a day out ‘playing’ in it always makes this Aussie girl smile. I have never tried downhill skiing before, have always wanted to because it looks so much fun. I have been cross country skiing a few times, and people were right – the two types of skiing are VERY different. Well I had a lesson along with the students, and good because nobody laughed at me (not that I heard anyway), then we had a few runs down the bunny hill (beginner slope). Great fun indeed! I didn’t like using the poles as they seemed to get in the way, so after one go with them they were. I took my camera on a little journey down the hill and that is funny footage. I was lucky enough too that a friend (one of the other teachers) caught my first ever cruise down the hill on video – thanks Jana! And I know some of you are thinking, alrighty, how many falls. Well to my surprise – none! Until some of the others thought it was time to go visit the proper slopes.

Chairlift was as cool as I thought it would be, and I even thought about doing the Jim Carey thing and sticking my tongue to the pole, but I refrained. As we were going up I said to my friend, ‘um how do we get off’. So she kindly explained that, then we went back to chatting. All of a sudden she starts standing up, and I said “oh now?”. Nearly came a cropper going down that initial bit and straight into the principal who was too busy laughing at my uncoordinated-ness. (Mind you, it would’ve looked funny though). Then after a quick chat, he took off and it was just us three girls. As I turned around, I looked and said “you have got to be kidding? You want ME to go down THERE?” Hahaha hmmm. Danielle and LeeAnn were so patient with me and helping me to go down the right way and not head first. Than one of our students thought it would be cool to go down the track under the chairlifts and got hurt, so LeeAnn went to take care of that (student had a twisted knee but she’s ok, and got a nice ride down in the motorised thing). So poor Danielle was left to try and get me down the hill without killing myself or anyone else. “Just go across and turn” was a common phrase. But umm, the lesson instructor kind of forgot to teach us how to turn 😦 Quite a few screams later, a few colourful words (which I have apologised to Danielle for hehe), and a fairly decent wipeout I got up and wanted to keep going. My body however had other ideas. It froze. I couldn’t move. Mind over matter wasn’t going to work, my body was stuck. So I ended up taking my skis off, walking down a little bit, putting them back on and having a great ski down, straight because I can’t turn.

Needless to say, I didn’t actually go back up there again, I spent the rest of the day having a great time up and down the bunny hill. Lots of students on there, so they kept me company.

Lesson time!

My ever so patient personal instructor (hahaha) Danielle, and Wayne (laughing at me nearly coming upside down - and that was just getting off of the chairlift)

LeeAnn and I before the chairlift

You're expecting me to go down there???

Ahhh nope, think I might just sneak down a little bit first

What an absolutely fantastic day! Even if I do look slightly dishevelled at the end of it

Bit of a snow angel in front of the Canada, Alberta, Nakiska flags (and a bus full of grade 6's)

After a short drive back to school, we were all a bit tired but wow what a day! Thanks to LeeAnn & Danielle and of course Wayne for inviting me to share the day.

Since the day at Nakiska, I don’t think I have stopped (hence the lack of keeping this up to date – sorry).

There has been the final few weeks of the school drama production, and after practice and rehearsals every Tuesday & Thursday after school, the play “Tam Lin & the Fairie Queen” went sensationally well. Lots of effort put in by the students, helpers, staff and everyone. Well done on a great show.

There has also been my first school reports and parent-teacher interviews. I will admit I was really nervous. As you can expect, I was worried about what I had written, how I had assessed etc etc, and also whether how I did things would be taken by families. Well as the others told me (and of course I didn’t listen) everything went so well, I consider myself very lucky. I hadn’t done interviews in a few years, and although I had a solidly booked out night, it went by so smoothly and quickly. And yep, these grade 5’s are still growing on me 🙂

One thing (one of the many things) I love about teaching in Alberta, is we had a day off in lieu of parent interviews! Sweeeeeet. So the Friday following the interviews was ours to spend as we pleased. A bit of a relaxing weekend was in store. I could have taken it to catch up on the sleep I lost worrying over reports and interviews, but nope I wasn’t going to sit still. I booked a hotel and off I went to the mountains. Love love love them. I finally got up to Lake Louise,, and to my surprise, I actually walked around on top of the actual lake! Bit strange. People were even cross country skiing across the lake, it looked fantastic. I had the skis in the car, and nearly went back to get them, but maybe next time. It is such a beautiful place, so serene and peaceful. I can’t wait to go back up there again, maybe in the change of season to see how the lake and its surroundings have changes. So Gaynor and Graham, we have a date! In September when we meet in Banff, we are taking a day for Lake Louise, it’s a must.

Lake Louise
(so pretty)

Lake Louise

Someone's footprint in the snow on Lake Louise. Can see the ice "right there", hmm exit stage left (a little too close for comfort).

Then I went to Banff. Drove through the main street and ooohed and ahhhhed at the surroundings. I followed some cars and ended up at the Banff Gondola. It was closed last time I went there, but it was open that day. All I could say was “oh my goodness”!!!!! The view up the top was simply stunning. Took my breath away (and not just because of the high altitude hehe). I could have stayed up there for hours. I did stay up there for a long time, but not hours.

View from the top of Sulphur Mountain
(Banff Gondola)

Another special view from Sulphur Mountain (Banff Gondola)

Banff Gondola


Well I have nearly caught you up on the adventures of the “aussielivingthedream”. There are a few more tales to tell, but will leave for an update next weekend.

It is Easter Sunday at the moment and I am about to head out to spend my Canadian Easter with one of my mates and her family, I can’t wait. Spring Break for me starts tomorrow. I am off to Chicago USA for a bit of a sports fest. My sport fest started Thursday night with my first live hockey match. And yep, I got to see a hockey fight 😀 Chicago will be filled with a trade centre tour, 2 NBA matches, a baseball match and stadium tour, and a tour around the NFL Chicago Bears Soldier Stadium. Bit of excitement coming up I reckon.

Take care, stay safe, and I hope everyone had a great Easter spent with the special ones in your lives xxx

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Muscles in the Mountains

Only entitled this entry as ‘Muscles in the Mountains’ simply because last weekend in the mountains, Canmore to be precise, I felt every single muscle in my body and then some  more. They twinged, groaned and gave a little ping just to let me know they were there. Where’s Tim when I need him? (Tim is my physio back home).

But enough of being a ‘la la’, the weekend in Canmore was worth every single muscle ache that came about!

Where do I start? Through the Southern Alberta Exchange Teachers League, some ex-exchangees organised a weekend of fun and adventure for those Aussies currently living in Alberta. Bruce and Sonia were the organisers of this weekend in Canmore. Kudos to you both – it would have taken a fair bit to organise such a large group, much appreciated 😀

View from hotel room - pretty ordinary hey 😉

I think I left school on the Friday as soon as it was acceptable (that is – as soon as the last parent was out of the carpark) and headed to Walmart to try and find a ‘Crazy Carpet’. A crazy carpet is a flexible plastic sheet about the size of a bath towel that kids (and big kids) sit on and slide down snowy slopes. Basically kind of like a toboggan. Massive $2, so had to have one. Then straight off up the highway heading east. Just as it was getting dark, I arrived at the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge where we were all booked in for the weekend. Coming out of check-in I ran into Jane, another Aussie teacher (from Bendigo), we both just about squealed as we hadn’t seen someone resembling the ‘comforts of home’ for a while now. We met up with a group of other teachers and headed out to dinner. An earlyish night was had, as I knew we had to be up and raring to go fairly early.

Saturday:

WOW! This turned out to be such an awesome day, I just don’t know what to say. First thing in the morning I had booked in to go Dog-Sledding. A short minivan drive later and we arrived at Spray Lakes to the sight and sound of a big group of barking, excited huskies. The group consists of a range of dogs: Canadian Inuit Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Canadian Indian Husky, Seppala Siberian Sleddog, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Husky.

After a comical, yet informative introduction from Jereme (co-owner) we were led to our sleds to meet our dogs. We were encouraged to cuddle, pat and talk to each and all the dogs at any opportunity. Gee that was going to be difficult – not! The dogs were so excited, so pumped to see us and kiss us, jump at us and all the while they just seemed to want to run. They were keen to get going. Upon meeting the lead dogs of my sled, I knew I was in good paws. Vespa and Vivian gave me the look “can we go yet huh? Can we go yet huh? C’mon we’re ready, let’s go”.

For the first half of the ride I was lucky enough to be on the back of the sled guiding the dogs and their sled. I wasn’t totally responsible for driving the sled, I was under the guidance of instructor Chris (who happened to be a guy from Brisbane). He totally made me feel comfortable enough to yell out to the dogs and really feel the experience of such beautiful animals. So “hike” it was and off we went. Really had to hold on for dear life as we went bumpity bump over the bumps in the first part, and around corners, then stopping every now and then (a dog has to do it’s business whenever the need arises). Maaaaaan those dogs can run! So fast, so keen to just go.  Some commands I learned were

•  Hike!: Get moving
•  Kissing sound: Speed up, faster.
•  Gee!: Turn to the right.
•  Haw!: Turn to the left.
•  Easy!: Slow down.
•  Whoa: Stop

I would love to have stayed out there for hours, but unfortunately I had to share the puppies with others who had booked in after us. So after many more smooches, cuddles and lots of photos later, we moved aside and enjoyed a warm, apple cider around a small campfire.

Vespa - such a sweetheart

My team 🙂

Jane standing in front of our team as I get ready to enjoy being in the sled 🙂

Guiding the sled!

Having a ride in the sled

I would love to share all the pics I took, and trust me there was quite a few, but maybe some other time. Just need to say that anyone that’s ever thought of doing something like this – DO IT! It was such a sensational experience that I would really like to do again someday. Cheers to Chris, Jereme and everyone involved at Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, awesome, awesome time, and so honoured to be led by such sweet puppies.

After the sledding experience we made our way back into Canmore for some lunch and a bit of a reflection on our morning. Then we made our way out to the Canmore Nordic Centre to have a go at Cross Country skiing. Bruce and Sonia guided us on different ways of moving on skis, and the correct techniques involved when trying to go along the flats, up the hills, down the slopes. Of course I though ‘yep I can do this’, and for the most part I could. The downhill idea still gives me grief and of course my butt managed to meet the snow on several occasions (so did my elbows, knees, head etc). When we ventured off of the training area and onto the tracks I tried to concentrate enough so that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else that I may have fallen in front of. Not too bad. I made it most of the way and my behind didn’t meet the ground until right near the end. Little bit of success 😀 It was quite hard not to stop along the track and just look around. The mountains certainly are spectacular when laced with white flurries. The tracks were busy with plenty of families out to celebrate Family Weekend. After my recent cross country experience, I was a little hesitant to go too fast through the tracks, just in case they ended and I came flying out with little control of my skis. But I took a teaspoon of cement, toughened up a little and thought “what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I stack it again, maybe I don’t”. And guess what I didn’t! I am only skilled enough to face plant the snow on flat surfaces :S

Cross Country Skiing (next to the tracks)

"Wally the Wombat" having a rest after skiing

That night although I was barely able to move, as the muscles were starting to let their presence be known, I met with the rest of our group for a pizza and drinks supper/dinner. A group of Aussies in the mountains, fueled with great experiences, pizza and a beverage of choice, I think we could have all talked well into the night. But knowing that the next day was going to be a long, hard slog, I went to bed at about midnight.

Sunday turned out to be a day I won’t forget in a hurry. The white flurries were upon us, falling quite beautifully as we drove up the mountain. Putting on our snowshoes wasn’t easy, but once I had adjusted a few things, the shoes were on. Walking in snow shoes is not as easy as I thought. Walking with my feet further apart than usual took a little getting used to. You can’t walk normally because the shoes are quite a bit wider than a normal boot and if you walked normally you’d step on the other shoe and trip yourself up (yes it almost happened). Ok, so up the hill we started. All good for a while. The trail steepened which made things interesting, and along with being so high up and the oxygen being quite thin, I was beginning to struggle a bit. Proving that I am not quite as fit as I would like to think. That and the fact that my feet were starting to rub and some decent blisters beginning to form. “Nope got to do it” I kept thinking. I kept picturing the way I felt when I made the decision to stop when I was almost at the top of Mt Fuji. I wasn’t going to stop this time. So after chatting with the wonderful Connie (ex-exchangee and friend of Bruce & Sonia’s), I decided to admit that my feet were absolutely killing me. Connie and another Canadian saviour stopped with me. We dressed my wonderful blisters, had a chat about ‘it’s ok to admit pain’ etc, we were on our way again. Once we got to the top of what I swear was the highest mountain in the world, a wave of relief flowed over me. I sat down plonk in the middle of a big pile of fresh snow and ate lunch. It was just an amazing feeling, eating lunch, covered in snow, while watching the kids slide down the slope on the crazy carpets, and feeling quite pleased that I’d pushed through and made it. Would have, could have, should have had a go at the crazy carpet, but I decided that it was best I sit and rest my sore feet and get over my little bit of grumpiness and watch the kids instead. Going down the mountain was so much more enjoyable than going up. I guess mainly because of the different pressure placed on my feet, the encouragement from Bruce, Sonia & Connie and also that I was now in the frame of mind to be able to enjoy the surroundings. Thanks Connie – as the kids would say ‘you rock’. I will endeavor to have another snow shoeing experience before I return home, just not any time too soon.

Ready to climb!

Nearly there "I think I can ... I think I can ...I think I can"

Ahhhhhh done! Made it (.....eventually)

View of Canmore from the road back from Snow Shoeing

It's ok, we stopped on the non-avalanche side of the sign 😛

Well after what was a mighty looong day, my body was informing me that it was greeting all the new muscles that it found it had with a slight amount of inability to move. But a nice hot bath and a bit of a lay down and I was beginning to feel semi-human again. Off to dinner with some great new friends, another family from Adelaide, and we enjoyed sharing our experiences from the weekend. We also began to make plans to catch up after this weekend too. We had contemplated going to Lake Louise for a downhill ski the following day, but Jon’s boss from Red Deer, had mentioned how he went there on the Saturday and did not even get out of the car because of how many people were around. So instead, we decided to go to Mt Norquay and spend the day tubing. What a fun day that turned out to be. Sitting in a big rubber tube, being dragged up the mountain by a cable (saved using the legs again to climb it), then being spun around and flung down the slopes. And funnily enough most of the staff at the top of the tube run were Australian guys. One of our teacher friends even ran into a student that he’d taught back home a few years earlier – small world.

Loved the idea of being towed up the tubing slope by a cable ride. No way was this tired body going to climb another mountain at that time 😉

Ready to sliiiiide!

Would love to share some videos of going down the tube runs, complete with girly screams and all, but I can’t figure out how to add videos on here 😦

Don’t really know how exactly to describe this weekend of fun in the snow, but I will say that I had an absolute ball! Definitely ticked a few things off of the ‘bucket list’, whilst pushing the body beyond it’s limits. It is so totally worth it when you are spending time in the Rockies ‘playing’ with new friends, many of whom I know will still be around in years to come.

Thanks again to Bruce, Sonia and Connie for their sheer awesomeness, organisational skills and hospitality (and the encouragement that got my butt out of it’s self pity slump and up that mountain). See you all again on another adventure soon 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Ouch my head hurts

We had a flex Friday last week and another teacher and her husband invited me to go cross country skiing with them. So of course that was met with an “ohhhh yehhh! absolutely!”. We headed off to Kananaskis for the day. Having never skiied before in my life, let alone cross country skiing, I took and wore everything. I had my thermal long pants and top, leggins, track pants, snow jacket, normal jacket, neck warmer, beanie – sorry must call it a tuque, and whatever else fit in my bag. When we arrived I thought yep, skiing = cold. Soon after we started, my thoughts went to hmmm skiing and working my body like it hasn’t been worked in ages = not so cold.

Me!

Thank goodness I took my backpack, because that soon got stuffed full of extras. Which actually proved to be an advantage later. When Karen told her class that she was taking Miss Collins (me) skiing they all said ‘ohh cool, can you tell us how many times she falls over?’ Hmmm nice kids :/ I will actually have some of them next year in my class so I’ll get them back 😉 Needless to say I only fell once, but gee whiz it was a beauty! Heading towards the end of the afternoon, had been up and down and along tracks all day. Had moved past the fact that I was beginning to feel some muscles that I never even knew existed, this cross country skiing thing was hard work. Going up slopes is not as easy as it looks. You have to walk up looking like an overgrown duck. Skis pointed outward as far out in a V shape as you can manage. And then try and walk up without sliding down – then you’re in trouble. So I ended up crab walking up the slopes most of the time. Took a bit of time but saved sliding back down. Anyway, had been down a few slopes on the track and was beginning to pick up some speed on one, then I looked and noticed ‘oopsie the track looks like it’s about to end’. Oh dear is what came to mind. Too late to use my sticks to slow down, not to mention that I probably would’ve stabbed myself in the foot at that speed. So when I left the track I thought this is going to hurt, as the skis weren’t being guided by the track anymore, they went pretty much wherever they wanted. My initial thought was if I went forward I would break my arm/wrist as I tumbled down the slope, so I leant back landed on my butt, toppled backwards and SMACK went my the back of my head on the snow. After I actually stopped sliding I realised, no blood, no broken bones, just a broken backpack and a bruised ego, so up I got ………. eventually. I did actually giggle. But I think if it was anyone giggling I might have been inclined to throw my stick in their direction. The surprising thing is, as eventful as the fall was, and landing on my backpack, I didn’t break the camera in my pocket, my big camera inside the bag and I didn’t even split the custard tub that was also in there. That would have been ugly.

Well I obviously got through my little mishap, and sadly there was no audience, so I could have turned it up a notch and dramatised it a little more but nah, maybe next time.

On the way home we went via Nakiska to have a look at where the Alpine events of the Olympic games were when they were here. Looks picture perfect, so white, so fluffy, and so very steep. I really want to downhill, but a toboggan might be more to my liking. It just looks so steep :/

One thing I will add before I sign off for the evening, is the absolute tranquility that is the Canadian Rockies. I am so in love with the mountains that I don’t think I could ever get sick of going there. Even if I can’t get to ski it properly, I can at least still look at it (for hours). I could photograph it forever. Such beauty. Such a peaceful, serene environment. What a de-stresser!

That said, this weekend I am off to have another crack at the fluffy white stuff, which I now know is quite hard on the head. Off to Canmore for what will be a weekend of attacking the Bucket List. More later x

just exquisite

Should I go down there? ... yeh not likely!

Going up slopes isn't that much fun

hmmm wow

Such a peaceful little trickle flowing

Off we go again

Evidence there is a Moose nearby (hehe sorry, the child in me said I had to include this one - for the younger viewers of course)

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Vegemite Quest

Since just before Australia Day I have been on the search to find some Vegemite. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve brought some with me from home, but didn’t. Internet searches later, and I had a list of shops to try. Some of the websites were a little out of date, but on a sunny afternoon in Calgary I went on a quest. Iphone in one hand, GPS in the other, I looked up and programmed in an address and off I went. Another mission was also to find an atm that I could access some cash through. To access cash with Visa debit or visa credit on a card from another country has proven to be quite the challenge. But I have worked it out and where I can get some, so when I get there I can usually get a bit more than normal out at a time, so all good.

Casually I drove around Calgary, from one side to the other, even venturing downtown in the city. Navigating the bridges, overpasses and turnoff ramps would’ve been dead set impossible without my driving companion. But, with confidence and time on my side after many disappointing stops at stores that did not stock the product I was after, I eventually found it at a British store in northwest of the city. When I saw it on the shelf, I actually said “oh yeah” out aloud. The shopkeeper looked at me and laughed. When I told her I’d been looking for this everywhere, she said ‘oh really? We’ve always stock it’. Nearly thanked her for being so informative because I know that NOW.

And then I was a “happy little vegemite” (yes pun intended).

Happy little Vegemite

My students tasted it today. They smelt it, dipped a toothpick into the jar, waited for everyone to have some, then ate it/licked the toothpick together at the same time (this eliminated the inevitable ewwwwwwwww to prevent others from being brave and having a try). To my surprise, many liked it, quite a few wanted more, a couple said yeh it’s ok but I don’t want to try it again, and only one didn’t want to try at all. I encouraged him to at least smell it, which he did, brave boy. At least then he can say he liked/didn’t like the smell. Some of the looks on their faces were priceless  ha ha ha. After the toothpicks, they all tried some on bread. I remembered not to spread it as thickly as I would for myself, and not one piece of bread left! Yummm was a common word, and the phrase “ohh that’s better, it’s actually nice” was used more than once.

Also found this at the same store.

mmmmmm makes me thirsty

Must say though, I am a little disappointed in the green can 😦    Doesn’t quite taste the same, so I don’t think I’ll be scooping it straight out of the tin this time.

Downtown Calgary reminded of inner city Melbourne, lots of grey, tall buildings, and way too many one way streets hahaha.

Calgary Tower

Calgary CBD

Wandered back through the city, stopping at various stores and malls just to have a gander. Found some school supplies, bought some candy for the students and got home just in time to watch SuperBowl. I tried so hard to get into it, I really did. I watched and watched and watched, trying to read the plays and understand what on earth was going on, but who am I kidding? Ahhh well, sorry Waller, at least I tried. I really enjoyed the halftime show, Madonna -still go it at 53 🙂

Still really enjoying school, nothing new to report there. Am heading for my first ski this Friday and to say I’m a little excited is a slight understatement. I’ve only played in the fluffy white stuff so far, but now it’s going to show me what it was made for. Looking forward to the adventure filled weekend that’s coming up soon too.

Went out to dinner and a movie in Calgary on Friday night. Great company, great movie, a little 😦 about dinner. The steak was nice (as it should be in Alberta – steak territory around here), but the shrimp on the top were umm not what I expected. The whole tail on, and on a skewer. First thought ‘how am I going to actually eat this?’ So not one to be shy about asking, I asked the waitress how am I supposed to eat this? She laughed and said no problem, and showed me. Had to fold it open, peel the tail thing off, plop out the meaty bit. Yuck shrimp smell. Weird. Well ‘weird’ is probably a bit harsh, ‘different’ is probably a better word to use. But yep, have just decided on my first meal when I get home – trip to Hogs Breath for a fat steak with some yummy prawns. (Rach, book me a table).

I am still a little in love with technology too. Iphone and laptop = love 😉 Laptop for blogs, emails, blogs etc and Iphone for those things as well. Iphone Skype app is free and works just as perfectly as on the laptop. (now Shelley my dear all you need to do is update your software and I’ll be able to see you as well as talk to you, hint hint). Speaking of technology, not only have I spoken to some of the closest people to me in the last week or so, I had my first ‘moment’ on Thursday night. Very late night here and after school time on Friday in Adelaide and a quick text turned into seeing Jarvis and Tia (nephew and niece) for the first time in about 6 weeks. Such special people those two. As we started to sign off, Jarv hugged the laptop and Tia kissed the screen. Ahhhh such a sweet moment, made me melt. And on that note, I will bid you adieu until next time.

Take care of yourselves and the person next to you xx

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Out and about

Well, I have been a little on the “lazy blogger” side of things lately, but I won’t apologise, as I’ve been “out and about” 🙂

My trusty little companion and I have been venturing further into the big bad world. Not quite, but sounded good. Going to brave the big bad city this weekend in search of Vegemite! Yes I want it, I need it, I just have to have it. Besides, I want to video the looks on some faces when they all try it at the next staff meeting 😉

If you have ever watched the Winter Olympics and come across the sport of Curling, you may have looked and yawned a few times before switching the channel. Next time it comes on, have a gander. I have just spent the weekend at a Curling Rink in Pollockville AB at a women’s tournament. No, I didn’t play, I spectated, and by that I mean I kept the seats warm in the bar and watched from upstairs. I REALLY enjoyed it! Looked like so much fun. I even think I understand the rules. Will definitely be venturing down to the local rink at some stage to throw a rock down the ice. Pollockville is around about 2.5 hours east of Strathmore heading towards the Saskatchewan border, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Met some absolutely wonderful people who I will definitely see again. They were all so welcoming and inclusive it was just awesome, gained a new family I think. We got there late Friday night, watched a few games, then back to Darlene and Keith’s place for Turkey rolls at about midnight. There were a huge amount of people that came and stayed at the farm, it’s the tradition. Matches staggered throughout the next day-night-day, and made it home here just after 10pm Sunday night. Gosh I was tired, but so worth it. Cheers Dolly Lama for the invite 😀

'Dolly Lama' sliiiiding an awesome rock

Skip Darlene throwing down one of her reliable rocks

Things at school are continuing to get better each day. I am feeling more confident AND competent with the ‘big kids’. I might actually be enjoying them (but don’t tell Bob hahaha). I am working with some amazingly supportive staff who have been bombarded with ‘silly questions’ and don’t seem at all fazed with helping me out and doing whatever they can to help me find my feet. Cheers ladies and gents, without you I think I’d have gone insane by now (well further than I already am).

We have another mascot that was added to our classroom on Monday. His name is Bert the Beaver. Bert was given to me by a young lad who loves ours class mascots and saw ‘Bert’ and just had to have him. Thanks buddy, Bert is cool.

I also said on the weekend that I am coming back here to live. Teachers are well looked after, as they should be. Salaries leave ours in the dust, great health plan, no scrap that – actually a sensational health plan, and did I mention a pension plan that to me, sounds out of this world! Kicks you know what over anything we have, way better than our government superannuation scheme. Now, just to talk Mum and Mike, Bron and the kids into coming here too ………

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized