November 26 2008

November 26, 2008 was my luckiest day, at least in terms of being in the right place at the right time. Or maybe just not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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I had been in Mumbai, India for four days and was just starting to get to know a tiny fraction of the city. When my plane had touched down I had breathed a sigh of relief. I had just spent a month travelling solo through East Africa by bus and motorcycle, with most of my time spent in a little Uganadan town near the DRC border. To me, landing in India meant a more developed country, family friends to take me in, and people who spoke my language. To me, it felt safe.
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makers
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I was staying with the Davar family, some friend’s of my Uncle’s, in the Maker Towers. The guest room had marble floors, air conditioning and high speed internet. They had a staff, including a masseuse. They had dogs for me to hang with. The uncle was an esteemed Bollywood choreographer. One daughter, Shaheen, was an up and coming fashion designer, and the other, Daneesh, worked at Vogue India. Both were stunning. If MTV ever does a reality show in Mumbai, I can see this family being involved. They were hospitable and kind and I can’t thank them enough for my longer-than-intended stay.
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gateway
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In the early evening of November 26th I met some friends from home, Bevan and Chantal, at the Gateway to India. They were on their own trip in this unbelievable country and when we realised our paths were going to cross for a few hours on this one day, we made a point to meet up. We shopped along Colaba Causeway. We ate too much at this Thali restuarant I had fallen in love with. We played tourist in the Taj Hotel, one of the country’s finest.
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And as we walked out the side door of the Taj Hotel, a group of armed young men walked in the main entrance and started rounding up people in the lobby. Oblivious, Bevan, Chantal and I walked up to Colaba Causeway and briefly deliberated grabbing a drink at Cafe Leopold, a nearby touristy spot I had discovered earlier in the week. No was a an quick and easy decision. We were tired, it was getting dark, their train left at midnight and my flight to Tamil Nadu was leaving the next morning. We said good bye and I hailed a taxi. As I was climbing in Shaheen called and told me there were gunshots fired at the Taj Hotel and I needed to get out of there. I didn’t pay it much mind, after my time in East Africa I had become accustomed to occasional gun shots. While en route,  Daneesh called me to say that there had been shootings along Colaba Causeway–Cafe Leopold to be exact–and I needed to get home. Whoa. I was in their living room less than 10 minutes later and the attacks were all over the news. In addition to the two places I had literally just been, there were several other targets, including the Trident Oberoi Hotel and Nariman Towers both of visible from the large marble patio of the Davar family home.
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terrorist
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I called my boyfriend (at the time), he wanted me to come home. I called my family, they wanted me to stay safe and keep travelling. I called the Canadian Embassy and they wanted me just to stay put until further notice.  For the next three days I sat in the lap of luxury, glued to the TV. I could see and hear the grenades go off in real time and then 2 seconds later see them live on the news. It was surreal. It was also hard to assure my friends and family that I was fine, that I was safe, when every time we spoke they could hear make-shift bombs going off so closely in the background. They would google my location and see how close I was to the targets and lose it.
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For too many reasons to mention, I boarded a flight to Vancouver as soon I was cleared by the Canadian Embassy to travel. The Davar family hired a private security car to take me to the airport. As soon as I got there a weight lifted off my shoulders and for the first time throughout this whole situation I started to cry. And then I found an airport bar and I started to drink. I drank until I heard my name being called over the PA and I thought to myself,  Seriously. After everything that’s happened, the one thing that’s going to make me miss my flight home is getting acci-drunk at the airport bar? Typical. I sprinted to the gate and caught my flight.
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November 26 2008 was my luckiest day because I missed being in the wrong place at the wrong time by a margin so narrow it’s hard to comprehend. But it wasn’t a lucky day for a lot of people. 164 people died on November 26, 2008 and many more were injured and traumatized. A lot of Canadians don’t even remember these attacks. A lot of terrible things happen a lot of the time and it’s easy to lose track. But I’ll remember this one  for always, grateful for the luck I had.

Lightning Dust

 

It was fun to see Lightning Dust on Saturday night with friends and friendly faces from past lives. Their latest album, Fantasy is awesome, though for me it didn’t top the perfect sounds of 2009’s Infinite Light

Deltron 3030

Heard of Deltron 3000? Of course you haven’t. It’s not a thing. But, as I’m continuously unable to grasp the concept of cool, that’s what I’ve been calling the supposed hip hop super group Deltron 3030 for the last few weeks. Fortunately for me and my rep, the only person I’ve been socializing with these days is Katie and she doesn’t judge.

If Deltron 3000 were a band, it would consist of 3 talented-yet nerdy-middle-aged guys, who peaked in the 90’s but decided to tour in 2013 for nostalgia’s sake. For this tour they would hire a backing band from the East Van metal scene, just to “mix it up” a touch. But Deltron 3000 is not a band.

My opinion of Deltron 3030 is an unpopular one after their sold out show on Tuesday, so I’ll keep it to myself.

The End.

Yesterday I went online and paid off the remainder of my student loans. And then I went to the bank and gave them the rest of what I owed them. And now it’s over, I’m in the black, I owe nothing.

How I got to being in debt in the first place is a common and uninteresting story. I went to university and travelled, but mostly I lived beyond my means for an extended period of time without any regard to how it would affect my future. Eventually I snapped out of it and made some good life choices: I got a massive raise, I took out a low interest bank loan to pay off my credit cards, I moved to a more affordable apartment, I took on a second job and I started living a more frugal lifestyle. And then I made some other choices that, in terms of on paper debt repayment, weren’t wise, but were absolutely the right choice in every other aspect of my life: taking some time off work and borrowing money to travel East Africa when I couldn’t really afford to travel anywhere, let alone Africa and taking an initial 5-figure pay cut to work at my dream job in international development. While these choices may have been financial set backs that added months/years to my debt repayment, they were the right choices for my career and my heart.

When all was said and done, when all these choices were made–I’m talking May 2012–I think I owed somewhere between $11K-$16K. I don’t even know. Is that bad? That’s bad. I set up the minimum payments to the various lenders and continued living life. In March 2013 I came across the world of personal finance blogs (in particular Blonde on a Budget, Girl Meets Debt, and My Alternative Life) and through their inspiration and advice I was able to double my debt repayments just by being mindful of my spending. Just by having my budget in the back of my mind and not ignoring and the fact I had debt. I didn’t even feel my life change. In September I wrote out a budget for the first time ever and realized that if it was something I followed I could quadruple my repayments every month. Quadruple, just by planning a little more and writing stuff down.  So I did. And now it’s all gone.

The end.

Lindi Ortega

On Thursday night I had the privilege of seeing the adorable and flawless Lindi Ortega, thanks entirely to Atomique Productions.

Lindi Ortega and her band put on an unbelievable show and had fun doing it. Now, I don’t know a lot about guitar skills, but I’m pretty sure the guitarist was crazy talented.  Ortega herself sings words that could absolutely speed up the healing of the heart and perfect songs of a woman scorned. I wish I had discovered her before landing in an insanely happy relationship. The cherry on top of the already awesome evening were the hippies dancing to Ortega’s country jams. West Coast pseudo-hippies dancing to Tennessee y’alternative? Sit with that image for a minute. A+

Long Weekend Cooking

One of my priorities this Remembrance Day long weekend was to do some cooking. If you’re into easy cooking, healthy ingredients, and over-all deliciousness, then check out these recipes:

1. Kale and Quinoa Salad. (feeds 5 people who eat the same amount as I do)

When I think of Buzzfeed, the first thing that comes to mind is gif-lists about the differences between 20-somethings and 30-somethings. It was while perusing one of these lists last week that I came across this recipe. Believe me, I was as reluctant to try a Buzzfeed recipe as you are, but I did and no regrets. This kale and quinoa salad was fresh and filling and healthy and delicious. Also, easy and inexpensive. I would definitely recommend it.

2. Butter Paneer (feeds 7)

I hear a lot about the miracles of butter chicken and as someone who doesn’t eat chicken I have always been a bit jealous of this delicious meal I could never try. This weekend I decided to take matters into my own hands with this recipe I invented:

Steam: 1 large carrot, 1 head of cauliflower, a bunch asparagus (Personally, I like how carrots and cauliflower taste in Indian food, I only included the asparagus because it was in my fridge. I meant to add peas, but I forgot. You should use whatever veggies you’re into.)

Sautee: 1 small onion, 1 bag mushrooms, 1 package paneer (I used shitake mushrooms, but any kind would be good. Paneer comes packaged like firm tofu and doesn’t need to be cooked. I mostly just threw it in the frying pan because I didn’t know what else to do with it.)

Cook: 1 cup rice or quinoa or blend

When all of the above is complete, mix it all together in a large pot over low heat. Add in a can of chickpeas and a jar of Sharwood (or whatever) butter chicken sauce. I’m sure there is a way to actually make butter chicken sauce from scratch, but let’s be honest, I’m not even close to being there. Stir it it all up and you’ve got dinner!

If and when I try this recipe again I will use a few more veggies and 2 jars of sauce. Use 2 jars anyway if you prefer your meals sauce heavy.

I know it kind of sucks trying a recipe without seeing a photo, but I didn’t take any, so you’re just going to have to take my word on it….Good luck!

Part 2: Yes I have Tattoos. No You can’t touch them.

By the summer of 2001, by the wise-old-age of 19, I had had three different boyfriends. I had loved them all in various ways and had hurt over them in various ways, though until that summer I had yet to feel any kind of hurt that really cut deep. And when it finally happened, I decided I needed a permanent reminder to never be vulnerable ever again. I decided I needed a Celtic heart tattooed on my, ah….lower stomach. Today the idea that a Celtic heart tattoo would ensure I never make myself vulnerable again doesn’t really make sense, but then again 19-year-old me had a sense of logic only to be understood by 19-year-old me.

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When I brought the idea to the tattoo artist, he tried to convince 19-year-old-me of another spot on my body for this tattoo, citing pregnancy and aging as his defence. No, no I assured him. I do, like, 300 sit ups a day and I always will. I’ll always have a defined stomach, even if I have kids. Oh, the optimism of 19-year-olds. Note: At 31 I certainly no longer have a defined stomach.

I  put the ink on my credit card, as that summer I was working full time as a hostess at Chilli’s Texas Grill making $5.90/hour.  My best friend, also a hostess at Chilli’s, came with me to the appointment to keep me company. We didn’t take very much seriously then, the two of us. Given our life circumstances, doing so would have resulted in severe depression. So as the artist worked away, the two of us laughed and laughed as we always did when we were together. And to spell out the obvious, laughing while getting a tattoo on your stomach  isn’t the best idea. There are a lot of mistakes. This is not a good tattoo. In fact it’s a terrible tattoo. Fortunately for me, the….lower stomach is an easy place to hide.