Thursday, August 22, 2013

En Route!

I'm writing from the Vancouver airport as I eagerly await my 3rd and last flight of the day to Seattle!  I admit that it took me until now to be excited about the trip.  Last week was a rough one.  Being exhausted from previous travel, learning how to handle a new puppy, a busy work week and being in the middle of moving houses all at once took it's toll on my sanity. But I did what I could while I was home, and I can't do anything more until I get back, which means I can justifiably in full vacation mode without stressing and feeling guilty about everything that needs to be done at home.  Hurrah!

I'm lucky to have such a great support system that brings me back to reality when I'm stressed out, tired and no longer rational. Chris advised me to consider my 3 days in Seattle as a break from life and to just go, have fun and forget about real life for a few days. Which is what I intend to do.  At least what I intend to try to do.  So to get started on my vacation from real life, in my usual style, I'm making a list of things I'm looking forward to in Seattle!

1) Sambo
Sam was my next door neighbour in residence n first year University as well as my roommate for 3rd and 4th year when we lived on Gerald Street in Charlottetown.  She's too nice for her own good and would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.  She's definitely the type of person you want in your corner because if you ever needed anything, she'd be there in an instant with a lending hand, kind words, encouragement and always with a joke.  We get each other's sense of humour, which in my case is embarrassingly lame, which is one of the reasons we're such good friends.  We've been keeping in touch via Skype and email since we graduated 2.5 years ago (omg, we're getting old! time flies!) but I haven't seen her since then.  To say I'm excited is an understatement!  We spent a lot of time together at the Starbucks in Charlottetown, so meeting up in Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, just seemed fitting.
Total Goof balls. LOVE IT!

2) Shopping
Remember that feeling of the first day of school when you pick out your outfit the night before, lay it out in your room, wear your brand new sneakers and have a new backpack full of crisp notebooks and new pencil crayons? I miss that.  We don't exactly have clothing stores in Hay River.  And I haven't really had a reason to go 'back to school' shopping in about 3 years.  Since I'm going straight to Victoria from Seattle for a week of orientation for my Masters of Public Health, I'm looking forward to being in a city with shops and am glad I finally have an excuse to buy a few new 'back to school' outfits and school supplies!

3) Seattle
For some reason, I've always wanted to go to Seattle.  I've heard nothing but good things and everyone who's been seems to love it. I'm excited to explore a new city, check out the space needle and Pike Place Market and be a dorky tourist toting a camera and a map.  We don't have any real plans for while we're there other than the above tourist destinations and a Mariners game.  I was intending to bring my Toronto Blue Jays hat to wear but it was already packed and i had no desire to sift through boxes and duffle bags to figure out where it was.  Is that a faux pas? Wearing a team's swag that's not even playing?

4) Sangria and a Girl's Night
I don't have a ton of girl friends in Hay River and miss having nights out with all the girls like we did in University. I was so fortunate to go to school with such a great bunch of ladies that were able to take courses together, do projects together and still hang out and go out together on weekends without any lame girly drama. I think Sam and I are due for a little Sangria induced night out on the town...een if she doesn't realize it yet!

5) Victoria
I've never been to Victoria, but again, it's one of those cities that everyone seems to love.  I'm excited to officially start school with U Vic, but mostly I'm excited to visit with my Aunt and Uncle who were generous enough to let me crash with them for the week.  Since I grew up on the opposite side of the country form them, I definitely didn't get to see them very often and am excited to get this chance to hang out with them (and their dogs).  National Dragon Boat championships are going on in Victoria that weekend too, which means I've got a few friends from home that will be there at the same time.  I'm hoping we get a chance to cross paths.  It might be a really busy week!

Yesterday I learned how hard it is to leave your dogs behind.  Our dog sitter / house sitter is awesome and I feel confident they will be well taken care of and loved but it still broke my heart a little leaving them.  Luna knew what was going on and just looked at me with her huge brown eyes, and Maverick had no clue but stuck to my leg like glue and cried for a whole hour after I left.  Yep...I'm totally a crazy person.

And there's my boarding call!  I'm hoping to check in from Seattle at least one with pictures of my adventures!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Home Again, Home Again (jiggity jig)

The one downfall to vacations (even quasi working vacations like Canada Games) is the pile up of stuff that’s waiting for you at home to get done. 

The last few days in Sherbrooke were awesome.  I got to watch the finals for men’s and women’s volleyball, I met up with a long lost friend from University, saw an old paddling coach for about 5 minutes while I was getting on the bus and Team Ontario was getting off, and got to soak in the energy of the games as the new athletes arrived at the Athlete’s Village.  All in all it was an incredible experience, and I’m definitely hoping to have more opportunities to be involved with team NWT. Ideally in a dietetics related role but who knows what may happen down the road!

I got back to Hay River on Sunday evening and within 12 hours we were packed into the car for the 12 hour drive to Edmonton.  We finally got to pick up our puppy!  We’ve been waiting for him for about a year.  We had been in contact with this particular breeder last summer but she didn’t have any pups left at that time and put us on the waiting list.  She let us know they were having another litter in the early spring and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the chance to bring him home ever since.

I was a little bit nervous about getting a puppy!  I’ve never had a pup before so my only experience with dogs is the year we’ve had Luna live with us. She was already almost 3 years old though, and already well trained. It took her a bit to warm up to me but I like to think we’re best buds now.  She’s so entertaining and makes me laugh every day.  Plus it’s been nice having her around the house to keep me company when Chris is up at the mine. She doesn’t exactly love other dogs, and only really gets along with a select few.  She’s a little too sassy for her own good sometimes, which made me hesitant to bring another puppy into the house.  She’s little and runs around the yard like crazy all day.  Now she’ll have a big dog to go on backyard adventures with!  She’s still a little grumpy with the new addition but is slowly warming up to the new pup. They even played tug of war together a few times! It’s going to be a slow process but I’m hoping and wishing that they’re going to be best friends eventually.

The new puppy is a White German Shepherd named Maverick!  He is pretty awesome, but challenging!  He sleeps most of the day right now, he hates his crate and cries whenever he’s in it, and he is a little bit whiny and clingy.  We’ve only had him 3 days though and are still establishing a routine.  He’s slowly getting more courageous and wondering further from me in the yard, and has started trying to keep up with Luna as she sky rockets around the yard chasing mice and birds and squirrels.  He normally runs about 10 feet before giving up since he’s so much clumsier and slower than she is right now.

I’m slowly turning into a crazy dog lady! I apologize in advance for the copious amount of pictures of the dogs that will likely appear and the number of times I mention them in each post.

First trip to the beach...tired him out!
This month is crazy busy!  I had Canada Games, then the new pup and next week I’m headed to Seattle for 3 days to meet up with Sambo, my bff who I haven’t seen since I graduated University, which embarrassingly is like over 2 years ago! And then I’m off to Victoria for a week for Orientation for my MPH and to see my Aunt and Uncle. And then, when I get back, we’re moving into a new house.  As excited as I am for the upcoming adventures, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to be a little bit excited for September to come and to be staying in Hay River for more than a week at a time.

Happy Weekend Everyone!  
My plans are to pack up as much of the house as possible, teach Maverick to love his crate and to stay and to get a solid run in with a friend.  Fingers crossed that iced coffees, a good book and some beach time fit in there too.  Oh and as always, take the time to stop and smell the flowers!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let the Finals Begin!

It's day 7 of the Canada Summer Games and time is flying by!  Today is the last day of formal competition for both Basketball and Swimming.  I say formal because everyone who has even been to a Canada Games in any capacity knows that the real competition heats up off the court, field and out of the pool.  The top sport here at the games is pin trading and clothing swapping! Each province gets a set of pins to wheel and deal with other athletes and it's always a mission to get the rare pins from the smaller provinces and territories or to collect each piece of any puzzle pins that teams have.  A puzzle pin is a series of 2-6 pins that all fit together to create a bigger picture or animal.  The top pins this year are the 5 piece narwhal pin from Nunavut and the bobble head pins from the Yukon and Manitoba. I remember trading pins back in Regina in 2005.  It's such a great and easy way for the athletes to break the ice and meet people from other teams and in other sports.  I haven't been collecting this year, I've mostly just been giving out my pins to the little kids who have been volunteering to take out the garbage or who helped carry luggage to dorm rooms the first night.  I did however acquire the elusive narwhal.  I've heard rumours that I might be able to trade the full set for clothing - are trading t-shirts and hats and shirts for trading is that intense.

Newspaper Articles about our boys!
Although our Basketball team hasn't won any games, I have been so impressed with them!  They are genuinely excited to be here and to play against such high quality teams, regardless of the final score.  They are having fun and really demonstrating the whole point of the games - to enjoy sport, to meet athletes from across the country and to have fun doing it.  It hasn't gone unnoticed either - our athletes have been featured in the Canada Games newspaper almost every day!  We've also had volunteers and coaching staff from other teams approach us to say the same.  Ontario is the Basketball powerhouse this year, and before we played them, the coach approached our team and asked for a team picture with both teams since the Ontario boys were excited to play against NWT since it's not somewhere they've ever been.  They were nice and didn't completely demolish us like they could have - very sportsman like!

Canada Games has developed this incredible app!  It only works on iphones but every time I use it, which is hourly, I am more and more impressed with it!  It lists all the venues with a link to google maps which provides GPS directions, it gives you a list of places to eat and things to do in Sherbrooke which are also linked to GPS directions, it has the full schedule of events with the scores in real time as they happen, provides a list of all the athletes by sport and team and has links to the JCG2013 twitter and instagram accounts to instantly stay up to date on all social media related to the games.  I'm so impressed!  As Mission Staff it's been a lifesaver while trying to find venues and decide what events to go to when.  We've used it to find some awesome restaurants too!  I think I'd still be driving around aimlessly looking for a baseball diamond if I didn't have it!

The app also lead us to some great little restaurants that we likely wouldn't have found on our own.  Notably was a mexican place that made a mean margarita and guacamole and had a great little patio.  We also went to a steak house for team supper that had Duck Wings on the menu.  We ordered some for the table and they were awesome.  I had never had duck before but I'd definitely order it again.

During the two weeks, the provinces and territories take turns hosting Mission Night's where all the mission staff from each time get together for a night out.  There are 4 nights in total, 2 each week.  On Tuesday night we went to this pub called "La Cachette" that had about 4 ball hockey courts with hardcore rubber floors, score boards and lights at each rink.  The hosting teams organized a big Dodgeball Tournament which was really fun.  We were paired up with team Alberta which was awesome because they were hardcore full of team spirit and made it really fun.  We may not have won but we definitely had the best cheering section and team.
We've got spirit, yes we do!

Finals we're checking out today include Men's and Women's volleyball and Women's Soccer as well as swimming.  Turns out my good pal Alexander who was my co-captain when I swam for UPEI is here coaching the New Brunswick swim team.  I'm so excited to meet up with him tonight or tomorrow.  It's literally been years since I've seen him.  I love how sport brings and keeps people connected! I've been reminded of all the good times we had swimming for UPEI - the house crawls, the banquets, the swim meets, the bus trips to other schools...all the good stuff.  I couldn't tell you what my personal best time was for 200m free or 50m breast stroke but I can tell you countless stories about the trips we took as a team and the nights we partied together.  All the good stuff! It's exciting to think that the athletes here at the Games are getting to do the very same as I type.
A little blast from the past!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 4!

I'm checking in from the NWT Mission Staff Office desk since the internet at the hotel isn't fast enough to be able to post from.  The last few days have been long - 7am until about midnight.  We've got some downtime during the day between events but it's been pretty busy!  I feel like I'm cheating if I'm not in the office or watching sports whenever possible.

The opening ceremonies went really well!  From an athlete's perspective, it went really well!  We didn't have to wait too long in the holding area before heading out on to the field, the host provided snacks and drinks while we were waiting and the busses were fairly well organized.  The ceremonies themselves were great.  Short and sweet!  A good mix of the required speeches from government officials and cultural entertainment.  There were musicians, and dancers and a bit of a circus act where these guys were falling off a building onto trampolines and doing some crazy tricks.  I definitely felt like a huge phoney walking out though since I'm not competing.  TSN was broadcasting the ceremonies so all of our athletes were really pumped to try to get their 15 minutes of fame on TV.

Our teams officially started competing Yesterday.  Ours Men's Basketball team played Nova Scotia yesterday and Ontario today.  The boys were happy with how they played.  It's tough because we're a small territory with our players spread across a large region so we definitely have a hard time competing with teams that have the opportunity to play together regularly, and teams that have hundreds of kids to choose from when selecting their team.  The Swim team all swam personal best times!  Events were men's 800m free ( one athlete took 30 seconds off his pb which is HUGE!) and the 4X200m relay for both men and women.  The girls took 20 seconds off their personal best time and one of the guys broke a NT record for his 200m.  The same athlete also made an A final in 50m breast stroke tonight.  So far so good!

I've been loving being back in the sport world! I've missed being around sport in any capacity.  Definitely a downfall to living in Hay River.  I've had a chance to explore Sherbrooke a bit too, which I must admit has quickly become one of my favourite cities! My navigation skills leave something to be desired so I've taken a lot of wrong turns trying to find different venues.  I've had a solid driving buddy though so our wrong turns have mostly just ended up in awesome adventures.

On day two, our attempt at finding a baseball diamond out of town lead us to this huge suspension bridge that we had a chance to check out.  We ended up going on a mini half hour hike and adventure walk!  On the same trip, we stumbled upon the Laiterie de Coaticook which is this awesome creamery that makes ice cream on site, but it also is part ice cream museum.  I never turn down a chance to eat ice cream and we definitely stopped here.  Delicious!  It's on the list to go back to before I leave Sherbrooke.
View From the Suspension Bridge

Being part of Team NWT has been awesome.  I have my own hotel room and own rental vehicle provided by the team which allows a lot of freedom to check out all the venues and different sports.  The Canada Games experience has definitely been enriched by having the opportunity to explore the city in addition to just the venues.  On every corner there's a pub, a rooftop patio, a microbrewery or a little hole in the wall restaurant that can't be passed up.  I've had some delicious beer and great food so far and I have a list of a few places still left to visit before I head back up North.  Definitely loving life on this trip! Watching sports, good company (new friends!), great food, cold beer on patios at the end of the day and stumbling upon adventures at every wrong turn.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bonjour from Sherbrooke!


I have the pleasure of writing from Sherbrooke Quebec!  I'm here for a week for the Canada Summer Games as mission staff for Team Northwest Territories!  I'm pretty pumped to be back in the realm of elite sport, even if it's not as an athlete.  Although I've coached at the canoe club, I've never been involved in a sporting event at this level before as anything but an athlete.  I'm really excited to experience the flip side of the event, gain a greater understanding and appreciation for all that goes into the games and hopefully get my foot in the door for more involvement with team NWT.

Today was a travel day.  We left Yellowknife around noon on a chartered flight that took us straight to Montreal.  At the airport we saw an awesome army plane loading up on the tarmac beside us. We flew with Canadian North and they took really good care of us on the flight.  We even got a hot meal that was delicious en route even though it was only a 4 and a half hour flight.

When we got to the montreal airport, the plane taxied right up to the hanger and we were greeted by the mascot and a whole slew of Canada Games staff.  There was music (the games has their own song!) and snacks and we were well taken care of until our luggage was off loaded and we jumped on coach busses for the 2 hour drive into Sherbrooke.

Arriving in Montreal

I have actually been to Sherbrooke before!  My very last (and most successful ever!) National Championships for Canoe/Kayak were in Sherbrooke.  So I have a bit of a sweet spot for it.

We got off the bus on the Bishop's University campus which is the 'athletes village' for the games.  We grabbed our bags and headed straight into a mission staff meeting with the chef de mission and the other Team NWT big wigs.  Everyone has been really awesome so far, and it seems as though this whole mission staff thing is going to be pretty chill, and way less strict and structured than I anticipated.  Essentially my job is to float around the venues watching sports all day, with a 2 hr shift in the office answering phones.  The only catch is that if any athletes get injured, I have to liason between the athlete and Team NWT.  I don't actually provide any medical services, I just accompany athletes to the hospital when their coaches have to stay behind with the rest of the team.  Luckily Team NWT is small and we only have about 30 athletes here this week.  We've got swimmers and basketball players so fingers crossed no one gets hurt!

As mission staff, we're actually staying in a hotel in town and not in the village.  Which is actually kind of nice because it allows us some down time and allows us to be 'off duty' in the evenings which is a luxury that the coaches and youth ambassadors staying in the village don't have.   We also get our own hotel rooms and our own vehicles to drive throughout the games.  Pretty sweet!

The real fun starts tomorrow with the opening ceremonies and the start of our jobs as mission staff.  So far the other mission staff have been awesome and I'm anticipating a really fun week!

I'll be tweeting from @kewparkes throughout the week and if you want to check out the games, follow @jcg2013 and #jcg2013.

The only downside?  Having to leave this face for a whole 10 days!  She's in good hands with Chris' sister but I still wish I could just bring her with me every where I go.


PS Internet is a bit sketch at the hotel but hopefully I'll still be able to get some pictures up eery day!