29 December 2008

Christmas 2008

This Christmas, I hardly did any shopping at all. I kind of went on strike, to protest how Christmas has turned so materialistic and commercial. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday but people seem to forget that now. Ed and I didn’t exchange gifts and I bought just tiny tokens to give our family and friends who invited us to their homes or came to our house during the yuletide season. For the first time ever, the amount we donated to charity was more than the amount we spent on the little token gifts we bought. It’s a trend we hope to continue into future Christmases.

The main topic of discussion everyday was how much snow had fallen over our lovely city. I let the cats out onto our patio on Boxing Day. Bob declined and just watched Neo romp in the snow from the safety of our living room. Neo was batting at the snowflakes falling down with his paws and was digging at the snow to get to the flakes that landed. He was hilarious.

We hosted Christmas dinner for Ed’s family and my family. It’s the first time we had them over at the same time. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the food turned out well. Whew. We also enjoyed the company of close friends throughout the week. Spending time with family and friends has become the essence of the season for me. And I’m really glad we were able to see many of them the past couple of weeks.

We also had a house guest; cousin Jenny is here from Toronto. When we were snowed in on Boxing Day, Jenny had the great idea that we should do some baking. Since I haven’t baked in years, I had none of the essential baking ingredients in my cupboard. So we trekked to the nearby supermarket, loaded up on flour, baking powder, baking soda, etc and baked some goodies. My cream cheese brownies were delicious! I’m so proud of myself.

We also went for a walk in the snow around our neighbourhood. Winter wonderland! It was fantastic and so pretty. Too bad I forgot to bring my camera and totally forgot that my phone has a camera. Darn.

All in all, it was a pretty quiet and simple Christmas. And I enjoyed it a lot.

11 December 2008

No Olympics tickets for me

Everyone at work who put in requests for 2010 tickets got something. I got nothing. Not one ticket. Sucks to be me.

The message sent to me: “Due to high demand, the sessions you requested were subject to a lottery and unfortunately were not allocated to you. You will have the opportunity to purchase remaining tickets during the Priority Access Period (December 12 through 22, while supplies last). This option is available exclusively to account holders who submitted a request. The Priority Access Period will not be open to the general public.”

Sucks to be me.

9 December 2008

Home, at last

Flew back to Vancouver at around 2pm last Friday, got home, took a nap, then got ready for the Navarik Christmas party. It’s a little crazy of me to still attend the party - seeing that I have a cold and feel pretty crappy, and that I slept for only an hour or so during the flight. But the party is at the Metropolitan Hotel this year and I just didn’t want to miss it. The food was delicious! And it was great to see my workmates again. Ed and I didn’t stay late. In fact, we ate dinner and participated in the gift exchange, then went home. I’m glad I was able to partake in the festivities, even for a short while.

The best part about being home is being able to snuggle with our beloved cats, Bob and Neo. I really missed them! The moment we sit or lay down on the sofa, the cats are on us. They are the cutest cats ever!

Unfortunately, I spent the weekend in bed recovering from this cold and cough. I didn’t get a chance to upload any of the pictures from our trip just yet. But now that I’m feeling better, I will get to that in the next few days. I’m excited to show them off!

2 December 2008

Istanbul and London

Ed and I finished off our Turkey visit in Istanbul. We visited Dolbamahce Palace, where the last six Ottoman sultans lived, and Aya Sofya, a 1600 year old building that was originally a church, then a mosque, and now a museum. Both were impressive and it was a good way to end our visit.

We are now in London, still being tourists. We did the hop on-hop off bus tour, as well as a river tour from the Tower of London to Westminster. We walked through Green Park, visited the National Gallery and the Tate Modern, toured the Lord's cricket stadium, and watched the musical Avenue Q. All that in two days. Tomorrow will be a rest day!

I'm looking forwrd to going home. It feels like we've been away a long time.

26 November 2008

Ancıent cıtıes

Thıs trıp has all been about vısıtıng the ancıent cıtıes of Anatolıa. Startıng from the Hıtıtes settlements to the Roman cıtıes, we've been to seven or eıght ın the last ten days. We've been ın sıx Roman theatres. I'm not growıng tıred of them, eıther. Each one we vısıt ınspıres and amazes me.

Yesterday, we vısıted Ephesus. The place wıth the most tourısts so far, thıs Roman cıty's ruıns are quıte well-preserved. There was the bath, a brothel, the lıbrary, the maın street, and the theatre. The lıbrary was the most ımpressıve of all.

The people here are very frıendly. Whenever we get ınto a town, Ed and I try and get a walk-about ın. Not always possıble but on the occassıon that we arrıve early enough, we walk around to get a sense of the local lıfe. We've met some really frıendly people. In Selçuk, a shopkeeper named Sardar has an uncle who marrıed a Fılıpıno woman and just lıke that, we were frıends. He ınvıted us ınto hıs shop for some apple tea and we exchanged storıes for about half an hour. Not once dıd he try and sell us anythıng. We had a great tıme hangıng out wıth hım.

The group we're travellıng wıth ıs a fun bunch. There are nıne of us, plus our guıde Ergün and drıver Ekram. Sometımes we joın the the group for dınner and sometımes we go off on our own. It's fun hangıng out wıth them but when you're ın a group, the encounters wıth the locals tend to dımınısh and a bıg part of travellıng for me ıs connectıng wıth the locals, even ıf ıt's just for fıve mınutes. So explorıng the town on our own gıves us the chance to dıalog a lıttle bıt wıth the locals.

I'm keepıng a dıary of all the stuff we're doıng and wıll wrıte more detaıls about the places we vısıted and stuff we dıd when I get home. It's a bıt too much to process rıght now. It's quıte overwhelmıng to be ın these ancıent cıtıes, to walk on a 2000 year old road, to touch the structures from so long ago, to sıt ın a theatre buılt when Marcus Aurelıus was the emperor of Rome.

Tomorrow, we are goıng to Çanakkale where Troy ıs located. And ıf there ıs tıme, we wıll go to Gallıpolı as well. The next day, we have a long drıve to Istanbul where we spend a couple of days to end our trıp. It feels lıke we've been here a long tıme but I'm startıng to feel sad that the end ıs just a few days away.

23 November 2008

1week in Turkey

We've been here a week and we've covered a lot of ground. The most amazing place so far is Aspendos, a Roman theatre that is said to be the most well-preserved one. What a feeling walking into the theatre and imagining it filled with Romans. Amazing architecture. The underground city of Derinkuyu was fascinating as well. The week has gone by quickly but sometimes it feels like we have been here longer. So far we have travelled around 1600 km. That's lot of driving. But we are enjoying ourselves a lot. Turkey is a beautiful country with such a rich history. I highly recommend it as a travel destination.

Some observations:
- The food is fantastic! Haven't had a bad meal yet.
- Lots of cats walking around the places we've been to and they all look pretty healthy. Not scraggly.
- Central Anatolia region is definitely more conservative than the coastal towns. I hardly saw any women out and about in the central region. Just the men were out.
- Very hospitable everywhere we've been.
- The roads here are very well-maintained and are in excellent condition.

That's it for now. It's been a really great experience so far. Looking forward to the second half of our trip.

18 November 2008

Cappadocia

Fascinating place. There are many cave dwellings here dating back to the bronze age. We went on a hot air balloon ride to see them from the air. Great experience, although expensive. But we figured it's a once in a lifetime experience. The other highlight was a visit to the Hamam, a Turkish bath. We feel very exfoliated.

It's slow typing in the iPod but I'm getting faster.

We're heading to Konya today. Hopefully, there's wi-fi there too.

17 November 2008

Istanbul

I saw the Blue Mosque with my own eyes yesterday. I walked into the mosque and admired it's beauty. What a sweet feeling, checking off something from my life's to do list.

I'm typing this on my iPod touch. No long entries for now.

Turkey is very fascinating. I'm glad we came here.

6 November 2008

Sticky and Sweet Madonna

Ed and I went to see Madonna perform on Oct 30. She’s amazing. What a show! Non-stop entertainment, hit after hit, costume change after costume change. Nine of the 23 songs she performed were from the new CD, Hard Candy. The old hits, of course, got the most response and sing-along participation from the audience. 55,000 people packed BC Place. Imagine 55,000 people singing along. Pretty cool. I love the rock version of Borderline. That was the thing, too, that I found interesting - Madonna played the guitar for a major part of the concert. When she wasn’t playing the guitar, she was dancing or skipping rope. And the whole time, singing! Does she ever run out of breath? It didn’t seem so. Her voice actually sounded better than I anticipated. It was strong and resonant.

A very fun evening, indeed, singing and dancing for two straight hours. I hope she comes here again. Remarkable performance. She’s 50 years old! Amazing.



More concert pics here...

30 October 2008

Craziest workout ever

Last night, Ed and I had a session with our trainer, Brad, in CrossFit. After doing our warm-up, we did a bit of technical work by doing cleans. I lifted 65 lbs, then 75 lbs, then 80 lbs. I really enjoy the Olympic weight-lifting stuff that we do. It requires me to be very explosive and put it all together just so in order to get that bar up and I don’t end up on my ass.

For the actual workout, Brad had us do the craziest grinder workout ever. It’s in the “grinder” category because you just have to grind away at it to get it done. The workout is called the Santa Cruz 500 and is also known as the Chuck Norris. It’s a killer.

We had to do fifty (yes, 50) of EACH:
- box jumps (the box goes up to my knees, I guess around 2 ft high)
- jumping pull ups
- kettle bell swings
- walking lunges
- knees to elbows (hanging from the bar, you bring your knees up as close to your elbows as you can)
- push press
- back extensions
- wall balls
- burpees (with chest-to-the-floor push up)
- jump rope double unders (I can’t do double unders so I did 100 jumps instead)

Hence, you end up doing 500 reps in total (Santa Cruz 500 - get it?) and you get measured for time. It took me 35:46 mins to finish the damn workout, swearing the entire time. I thought I was going to puke.

And today, I feel like a bus hit me. Oh, the pain. Crazy...

24 October 2008

110 lbs, baby!

Last night, I did squats with 110lbs of weights on my shoulders. That's 3lbs shy of my body weight. Oh yeah!

23 October 2008

Long Way Down

I am currently reading the book Long Way Round where Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman write about their motorcycle adventure from London to New York, going east through Europe, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, Canada and the US. I’ve really enjoyed reading it so far and to add to my enjoyment, the actors’ new adventure documentary, Long Way Down, is showing on TV (National Geographic channel). This time, they ride their bikes from Scotland to South Africa. Very cool! Makes me miss my motorcycle a lot...

ps. When I get to watch the National Geographic channel is when I appreciate upgrading our cable package a couple of months ago.

Not two but eight more trays

Two weeks ago, I started wearing my Invisalign tray 19 out of 21. Invisalign makes my “braces“ and they use a series of plastic trays, one slightly different from the last, to move my teeth around. I change trays every two weeks and since January, my teeth have moved a lot. I thinks so, anyway. Most people won’t even really notice. (but I’m doing this for me, not them!)

Anyway, I thought I had two more trays left and mentally, I was very excited about the prospect that four weeks from now, I won’t have to wear the trays during the day anymore. You see, I have to brush and floss after every meal and can’t snack when I’m wearing the trays. But this morning, my dentist said they’ve had to do refinements to my alignment plan and instead of two more trays, I have eight more. That’ll be sixteen more weeks of brushing and flossing and no snacking!

Sigh...

22 October 2008

Turkey, here we come!

Come November, Ed and I will be vacationing in Turkey. The destination was my choice and I thought back to the list of places I’ve always wanted to visit. I find locations from ancient history intriguing and the destination list in my head reflects that - Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Turkey. Ed and I have been to Egypt already for our honeymoon in 2003. For this vacation, I decided that seeing the Blue Mosque with my own eyes would be a wonderful birthday present for me.

We’re going with a tour organized by GAP Adventures. This will be our first time going with a GAP tour and it’ll be interesting to see how it compares with our past trips where we organized everything ourselves. This is the planned route of the 15-day tour.


After Turkey, we will stop in London for a few days. It’ll be Ed’s first visit to London and I’m excited to show him around the city.

9 October 2008

Election thoughts

In a few days, Canadians are going to the polls to decide who’s going to be the Prime Minister of Canada. I’m actually still undecided. I listened to the debate last week and it was very interesting. Elizabeth May surprised me but I don’t want to vote for the Green Party. I thought Jack Layton did well, too. But I’m still on the fence...

The US elections have been more interesting than the Canadian one. But more nasty and negative. I hate the negative ads by the Conservative Party here but I think the negative US ads are a level above anything we see here. It’s a sad reality, these attack ads, one I wish would just go away.

Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin has been hilarious. I haven’t watched SNL in years but I’ve tuned in the last three weeks just to see Tina Fey. “Oh, are we not doing the talent portion?” So funny!

24 September 2008

Weekend with Lizza

Last weekend, my friend Lizza and I met up in Seattle for a weekend of shopping and catching up on each other’s lives. We’ve been friends since the seventh grade and have remained good friends through the years. She now lives in Spokane, WA and we try and meet up somewhere in the middle once a year. One of my earliest posts on this blog was about my friendship with Lizza.

This year, we decided that some shopping would be fun. We met up in Bellevue, WA and spent Saturday at Bellevue Square mall. We had a blast shopping for shoes, cosmetics, athletic wear, and house stuff. And we talked and talked and talked all weekend long.

Our friendship is one I cherish immensely. I consider myself very lucky for having a longtime friend like Lizza, to have someone who innately understands me and knows my life history. Spending time with her is always a highlight for me.

We had some fun with the PhotoBooth in my MacBook...

We were doing the Zoolander look and making some funny faces...




17 September 2008

One namers and initials

When there were no kids yet in our social circle, we gave the couples a name that combined both names - BriVet, EdZel, LeWongs. We couldn’t think of a one namer for Mon and Josh, though.

But now that we’ve graduated to having kids in our world, the one namers have changed to initials:
- MJM (Mon, Josh, Maddy)
- LPD (Louanne, Patrick, Danika)
- YBJ (Yvette, Brian, Joshie)
- LENB (Liezel, Ed, Neo, Bob) => our cats are our kids!

Mon came up with this. I think it’s hilarious!

8 September 2008

Camping!

Ed and I went to Bay View State Park in WA for our last camping weekend of the summer on Sept 6. It also marked the first time Ed and I went camping on our own, without friends. I’m happy to say we had a very enjoyable and peaceful weekend together.

Camping revolves around food. Having not grown up camping, I still find the experience somewhat strange. You bring your kitchen and bedroom outdoors and pretend you’re in the middle of nowhere. I guess some people do camp in the middle of nowhere but that’s too much for me. I prefer car camping which basically means we pack as much of the comforts of home into the car and we use our stuff outdoors.

Bay View State Park is near La Conner WA. Padilla Bay borders the park and overall, the park is clean and well-maintained. There are flush toilets and showers for the campers. We basically spent the weekend cooking, eating, reading our books, tending to our camp fire, and enjoying the view of Padilla Bay. We ventured into La Conner on Saturday afternoon and visited some of the stores and galleries. All in all, a very relaxing weekend.

Relaxing, until we got home on Sunday evening. My flight to Chicago was early the next morning so I had to pack. It would have been fine if that was the only task to do but I picked blackberries around our camp site (there were tons!) so I had to make jam when we got home. After all the jam-making and the packing, it was past 1am. Had to be at the airport by 6:30am. Yeah, my eyebags were in full force come Monday.

28 August 2008

Sublime Waters

This makes me really miss paddling and racing...



Crew: Jen, Sandra, Cathy, Lela, me, and Barb (from right to left)

Taken after we finished the 27km Gibsons race in Aug 2007. Photo by Barry Haynes.

25 August 2008

Another one done

I have been glued to the TV for the past two week watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I love watching the Games and I think CBC does a great job covering the events. And the streaming on cbc.ca was awesome, too. Most nights, I would have the TV on CBC and I’d have some event not being shown on TV streaming on cbc.ca. So cool.

Highlights for me:

- The Chinese female weightlifters snatching and clean-and-jerking more than double their body weight. Holy cow!
- Canadian men’s eight rowing team winning gold. And Adam Kreek belting out the Canadian anthem during the medal ceremony. Sweet moment.
- Simon Whitfield tossing his hat and coming from behind to contend for a medal in the triathlon. He got silver. What an amazing effort!
- The favourite Lolo Jones from the US stumbling over the last hurdle and ends up finishing out of medal contention in what is most likely her only Olympics. I felt bad for her.
- Carol Huynh overwhelmed with emotion as she sang the Canadian anthem and watched the flag go up during her medal ceremony. Wow.
- 10km marathon swimming: 1 hour and 52 mins of non-stop swimming. And “eating” during the race while floating on their back. Crazy.
- 20km walk: 1:26:31 winning time. The gold medalist walks 10km faster than I run it.
- Adam van Koeverden bombing out in his 1000m finals then coming back the next day to win silver in the 500m. Roller coaster ride for every paddling fan.
- The indoor volleyball semi-final and final matches between the US and Russia, and US and Brazil, respectively. So quick and powerful! Very entertaining.

I love the drama of the Olympics. The expected winner doesn’t always deliver, while an unknown breaks through with a victory. And you have athletes like Usain Bolt hamming it up for the cameras and Michel Phelps winning everything. This is the drama of sports, just magnified tenfold. It is the Olympics, after all.

Next up, the winter games in Vancouver, 2010. Can’t wait!

22 August 2008

I am stunned

I am in disbelief.

Adam van Koeverden had a disastrous final race in the K1 1000m last night. At the 250m mark, I thought that he looked a little tight, that his strokes were not as powerful as I’ve seen in his semi-final races. But I figured that it’s the 1000m race, not the 500m race, so it just must be a different stroke rate or race plan or something. Then in the last 200m, everything just unravelled. AVK started to fade, and fade, and fade. He finished 8th out of 9 paddlers. What a disaster. What a shocker.

I sat in silence, with my mouth hanging open. I’m a paddler. I’ve had races where I believed going in that I’m going to kick ass and then during the race I feel my body betraying me because it has tightened up and it’s not doing what I want it to do, and my mind starts to wonder WTF is going on. And after the finish line, I scratch my head and can only guess at what went wrong with me.

But I’m a recreational paddler. More competitive than most rec paddlers, but rec nonetheless. And I just never thought I would see a world-class paddler like AVK have a meltdown like that. Paddlers like me, sure, but not them. Not him.

Paddling has a lot to do with feel. Coaches always say feel the water, feel your pull, feel the blade. But when you tighten up, you lose that feel very quickly and you end up not paddling very well. AVK has the 500m finals tonight. Except for the race yesterday, he’s been paddling well all week. I’m praying that he gets it together for the 500m, that he’ll have a fantastic race. Go, Adam!

20 August 2008

Radiohead

I went to my first ever rock concert last night to see Radiohead perform at UBC Thunderbird Stadium. It was my first ever concert at UBC Thunderbird Stadium, as well. And it was the first time I could test just how waterproof my new Patagonia Rain Shadow jacket really is. It was pissin’ rain! (Happy to report that the jacket worked really well.)

I’m not really all that familiar with Radiohead’s music and recognized only a couple of the songs they played. Nevertheless, I enjoyed listening to them, as Ed and I huddled in the rain, trying to keep warm. The music was dark and moody and with the smell of pot heavy in the air, it was pretty cool.

7 August 2008

And it continues...

Last October, we bought a 42“ Sony TV. I posted about it then and Darren posted this comment:

oh, and now you'll have to get High Def satellite or cable...no point in having in having an HD tv with no content!“

Well, well... Darren must have had a crystal ball or Ed and I are just really predictable. As of today, our cable package is being upgraded from Basic Cable to Digital TV (we get the HD stuff for free for a month as a promo), plus we are getting an HDPVR.

So what prompted this upgrade? The 2008 Olympics. I am a big fan of the Olympics and want to be able to watch the live coverage that CBC and the other networks have. But I’ll be at work or sleeping when these events are going on, so I had to recant my heartfelt ”we can make do without HDTV“ opinion. I need a PVR. Of course, Ed is as happy as can be wtih my change of heart. I did have one condition for Ed - we had to lower our mobile phone bill to offset the increase in our cable bill. Ed got us a deal with Bell Mobility a month ago so now, our bills do more or less even out in the end.

So if you don’t hear from me for the next little while, it’s because I’ve gotten sucked in to mindless digital TV land...

3 August 2008

This executive class rocks!

The one perk I really like with work travel is being able to fly business class. We don’t always get to be in business class but sometimes, we get to. My flight from Paris to Montreal last July 25 was especially awesome because I got to fly in one of Air Canada’s refurbished planes. I thought the plane was new but Bill D. told me that they are actually refurbished. Well, I really like how they have redone the inside.

Each traveller has his own “booth” and the chair extends out to become a bed. I was able to sleep very comfortably for a few hours. Although for taller people, I don’t think they will be able to lie flat and stretch out. Thank goodness I’m not that tall.

It was not all perfect. The entertainment system didn’t function at all for my booth during the flight. Only 40% of passengers had working systems. The rest of us had to rely on our iPods and books for entertainment.

I think the newness inspired the flight crew too because the service was exceptionally good. Anyway, it was such a treat to fly in that airplane. I hope I get to do it again someday.





31 July 2008

The view from Eurostar

Taken from the high speed train I rode from London to Paris. This is the French countryside, after coming out of the chunnel. The train is going around 300kph. Notice how the sign posts are just a blur going by.

video

24 July 2008

Whirlwind Paris visit

Here’s a whirlwind recap of the Paris visit, so far...

Day 1:
Ed surprised me by showing up at my hotel! Walked to Notre Dame, Sorbonne, Pantheon, Rue Mouffetard (lots of cafes and restaurants). Bought some scarves at a street market along Bd. St. Germain and rue Monge, ate a baguette crudites poulet for lunch at the park beside Notre Dame.

Day 2:
Checked out the open market at rue Mouffetard. Had cafe au lait. The shopkeeper scolded us for using her table to drink our coffe and eat the croissant we bought at the boulangerie a few doors down. Her table is just for drinking her coffee. Ahem. Took the train to Musee du Louvre! Got there just after 10am and we didn’t leave until 9:30pm. Magnificent collection! And the buildings themselves were spectacular. Went back to the Latin Quarter and had dinner at L’Ecurie. Very delicious. And the washroom was an experience in itself! (more on that in a later post)

Day 3:
Went back to the rue Monge market to buy more scarves and shawls. Then took the train to Ave des Champs Elysees. Bought a bottle of Hanae Mori Butterfly eau de toilette (made sure it was “made in France”) and walked to the Arc de Triomphe. Went into Cartier and Louis Vuitton but didn’t buy anything (as if I can afford anything in there!). Time for a break so we had pastries and tea at Laduree. Sooo good! Next up, Montmartre! Walked up the hill to the Sacre Coeur basilica then walked about the town. Had dinner at a place called Le Restaurant. Again, fantastic food. Last stop of the day, the Eiffel Tower. Got there just in time for the 11pm light show.

We’ve managed to pack in a lot of sites but also have time to sit and enjoy some tea or coffee or a good meal. It’s been a fabulous visit. Defintely have to come back for more.

More Paris stuff next time. Now, I have to pack and get ready to fly back to YVR tomorrow morning. Bon soir.

20 July 2008

Holed up

I spent Saturday and Sunday holed up in my hotel room, working. I finished a tremendous amount of work, more than I ever would in the office in the same amount of time. I’m actually surprised at how much I got done.

This was my office this weekend:


Notice the bag of chips, wasabi peas, granola bars, and bottle of water. Brain food, definitely!

ps. If you think business travel is glamorous, it's not. At least I get to fly business class for this trip. That makes it somewhat glamorous.

19 July 2008

Some London pics uploaded

Check it out...

Busy week

I haven’t been posting on my blog not because I don’t want to but because I’ve been too damn busy. Long days with BP and then out to dinner with Randy and Roy. I have never consumed so much alcohol during a business trip before! It’s not that they forced me to drink but when you’re with people who drink, you end up drinking too. Anyway, it’s all good fun.

BP took us out after work on Thursday. We took the Thames Clipper boat from Canary Wharf to Tower of London and then we walked to a pub called Old Thameside Inn for pre-dinner drinks. Afterward, we headed to an Italian restaurant called Tentazioni and the food and wine were fantastic. (yes, more alcohol!) I had Dover sole for the first time ever and it was grilled to perfection. Yum. The folks from BP were very friendly and quite fun to hang out with. Gauging from the laughter and merriment around the table, everyone had a great time.

Since I am taking most of next off to go to Paris and we need to submit a proposal to BP by Friday, I have to work this weekend. I anticipated it would be this way. Before we left for London, Roy (my boss) said I have two weeks after our meeting with BP to finish the estimate we need to submit to BP. Well, last Wednesday, he informs me that BP needs it sooner and that I have a week, not two. I just stared at him. I’m in Paris next week and I’m not canceling! So I’ll finish what I can this weekend and Roy can take it from there. I’m going to Paris, dammit.

The really positive thing about this project is the BP team we’re working with has shown so much willingness and openness to work to us. We had three user representatives absolutely willing to spend the time with us showing us what they do and answering our questions. You’d think that is common but it’s not. It was really refreshing to work with a group who has bought into the idea of a system and are quite enthusiastic about it.

So it’ll be work, work, work for a couple more days then Paris. Can’t wait!

15 July 2008

London, visit #6

I’m staying at Canary Wharf, though, for the first time and it’s a very different experience than staying in central London. Canary Wharf is a business area and while there are shops around, they close by 7 or 8 pm. And once the office workers go home, the entire area is pretty quiet. But it is a short walk to BP’s office, so that’s nice. Otherwise, it is a 20 to 30-minute commute from central London by the Underground and that can be not very pleasant, especially in the summer when it gets warm in the trains. The weather has been good since our arrival but it’s suppsed to rain later this week. I’m hoping the forecast is wrong.

The meetings with the client have been very productive. Been quite hectic so far. But having the hectic days have helped me stave off the jetlag zombie feeling.

The highlights so far have been a black cardigan I bought because it’s colder than I anticipated and last night’s dinner with my colleagues where we had a wee bit too much wine. It’s going to be a fun week!

9 July 2008

Beyond excited

I haven’t been this excited about a business trip in a long time!

Because our major clients are headquartered in London, I’ve been able to go there a few times since 2002. I think this will be my sixth time going to London. The work days during these trips prove to be pretty long because as the London day is ending, Vancouver is starting up. I basically end up working double shifts. But I always make sure that I catch at least one show and go to at least one museum or attraction during my visits. However, I always have to rush back to Vancouver because our project timelines are always very aggressive. Gotta keep working!

This upcoming trip, though, it is possible for me to take a few days off after meeting with the customer. So, Paris - here I come!!! It will be my first time there. I am terribly excited.

The fabulous hotel where I will be staying - Acte V - in the Latin Quarter. And I'm taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris.

Did I say I am excited??? I am beyond excited. Excited is an understatement! :)

2 July 2008

Canada Day

Had a BBQ with the dine in/dine out group (sans Louanne and Patrick) at the park across from Mon’s and Josh’s place. Josh’s parents were there too. Louanne and Patrick couldn’t make it, unfortunately. The Second Narrows bridge was closed because of a jumper so there was no crossing to and from the North Shore on that day.

All in all, a good Canada Day. Great weather and good company.

Some pics here.

30 June 2008

Grandma's day

We laid Grandma to rest today. There was a mass at St. Mary’s church in Vancouver where Grandma attended mass every Sunday. Ed, Christine, and Victor gave a very touching eulogy for their beloved grandmother. It was a very beautiful service.

Thank you very much to everybody who sent their condolences, wished us well, attended the service, and kept us in their prayers.

25 June 2008

LG Shine 8700

Ed and I switched cell phone providers and as a result, I got a new phone. It’s very sleek and shiny! It’s an LG Shine 8700 and it has all sorts of bells and whistles that I am sure I will never use. This is my first phone ever with a camera, bluetooth, music player, etc. I've never been a big phone geek. I was more concerned about not paying anything for the phone rather than its features. As long as I can make calls with it, I was satisfied. But now that I have all these cool things in my phone, I have to admit I've been having a lot of fun with it. But I'm sure the novelty will wear off after a few days.

16 June 2008

You so lazy

Last weekend, I spent the day at Aunt Jennifer’s (the sister of Ed’s dad) house to celebrate Grandma’s 91st year on this planet. Two of Aunt Jennifer’s cousins were also hanging out at her house, enjoying Grandma’s company. The challenge for me when I spend time with Ed’s family is the language barrier. I don’t speak Chinese and the older aunts and uncles do not speak English. So we usually just nod and smile to each other but never actually converse.

After lunch, one of Aunt Jennifer’s cousin and Grandma were in the living room chatting. My purse was in that room so I strolled in to retrieve it. Then I here the cousin say “You! You so lazy.” I quickly surmised that she didn’t sound like she was speaking to Grandma so I looked over at them and sure enough, found her pointing at me. I’ve never had a conversation with her before and now she’s calling me lazy? What gives? I quizzically looked at her. Me? And she replied, “You so lazy. Why no baby? Grandma get old.” In a moment of insanity, I actually thought about making a rebuttal but as I inhaled to start speaking, I paused and then just said “Ok.” And ran out of the living room as quickly as I could.

I'm sure something got lost in the translation there. Now I realize, just nodding and smiling to each other isn’t so bad after all!

2 June 2008

Time trial

The coach likes calling it “time control”, I think to remove the sting a little bit. Because it is trial by fire. The fire you feel as your muscles burn, as you paddlie a few hundred metres down False Creek. Going head to head with two of your teammates.

This is my first time trial this year. I haven’t been training for races so I haven’t really had to. And I haven’t paddled in a dragon boat until three weeks ago. But now that I’m racing in Alcan in a few weeks, I had to do this time trial. I was nervous - not about coming in last in my heats but about the pain I knew was coming. Heat 1 is 800m and heat 2 is 400m, with around 5 mins rest in between, using a dragon boat blade (I’ve paddled mainly with an outrigger blade this year) and paddling only on one side the whole way (in outrigger, I get to switch sides every 15 or so strokes). Paddling on one side is a killer if you haven’t trained for it. And I haven’t been training for it!!! I was dreading the pain.

Aileen and Janet were the other two paddlers in my heat. I finished second behind Aileen in both heats. In the 800m, we were pretty close for about half of the race and then I faded away. I finished about a boat length behind her. In the 400m, Aileen and I were even until the last 100m where I again faded. I finished right behind Aileen and Janet finished right behind me.

It was painful. Both heats just felt sooo long. My thoughts were all about keeping my form and technique right especially as I got more and more tired. Just don’t think about the burning. Focus on technique. Bury the paddle before pulling. Have to keep working on that. Unfortunately, one thing I didn’t pay attention to was my steering. I zigzagged my way down the creek, which didn’t help me at all. I was all over the place! Oh well. I’m just glad that’s over.

31 May 2008

SATC

Just watched Sex and the CIty movie with some girlfriends. I had fun! It was like watching four episodes of SATC all in a row. The writing was not a sharp as a lot of the TV episodes but I didn’t mind. I still enjoyed it.

29 May 2008

Surprise trip

I was reading my emails, as I normally do first thing in the morning. One email had a subject of “Houston visit” and in the message, it said “I think ideally myself, Nathan and Liezel should attend.” I stopped and read the line again. Attend what? I looked at the subject line. Houston? I haven’t been told about any of this. Hmmmm....

Turns out there’s a strategic meeting next week with a customer of ours. Houston, here I come. As I said in my previous post, unpredictable...

Good thing I’m gone Tuesday to Thursday, which means I won’t have to miss my dragon boat practices on Monday and Friday.

20 May 2008

Not what I thought

Funny how things turn out sometimes. Last fall, I had a tentative goal of trying out for the False Creek OC6 team competing in the Moloka’i Hoe in Sept 2008. This is a 41-mile open ocean race which crosses the channel between Oahu and Molokai. I signed up in a gym and got small boat coaching throughout the fall.

Fast forward to Jan 2008. Due to his failing health, I had to accompany my dad back to the Philippines. I stayed for four weeks. Then a few weeks later in late March, just as I was getting back into paddling shape, I had to go to London for two weeks. By the tme I got back in April, I had missed quite a few time trials already and I was not in shape at all to do time trials. It’s amazing how in just a few weeks, I lagged so far behind the other paddlers.

Also spending time with my dad made me question what I am doing with my time. Maybe I should spend my time doing other stuff, aside from just paddling. How about all the other stuff I want to do, like photography and learning a new language? Perhaps I need more balance.

It is now mid-May and I am happy to say that I have been learning French for the last seven weeks. I also joined a book club (thanks, Yvette). I have been paddling, too. I was going out 2 to 3 times a week. But as of last week, I was asked by my dragon boat team to paddle (I was just going to call for them) so now, I have to train for Alcan which means I’ll have to be on the water at least 5 times a week.

So far, this year is not what I thought it would be. I didn’t think I’d be dragon boating but now I am. I thought I’d be paddling OC6 more but I’m not really. I didn’t think I’d be travelling a lot but I have. But it’s all good. I’d rather have unpredictable than boring...

2 May 2008

Schmap: California Photo Shortlist

Two photos taken during our 2005 trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley have been short-listed for inclusion in the Schmap California Guide. I got an email in Flickr asking me if we’d like to submit the photos for consideration. Although I don’t think these photos (this and this) are particularly great shots, it’s still kinda cool to be considered. Maybe they’ll even pick them for their site! Keep your fingers crossed...

1 May 2008

10K Sun Walk

On April 20, I walked the Sun Run route with my colleagues Yvette, Patrick, and Yiting. This is my third year participating in the Sun Run but this is the first time that I’m walking it. And no training, no GPS, no time-to-beat goal, no nothing. In fact, Yvette offered me the opportunity to join her only a few days before the actual event! I figured I walk 10km when I go shop at an outlet mall anyway, so I should be okay.

The Sun Run is a whole different experience when you walk it. I was able take pictures along the way and actually soak in the sights and sounds. In previous Sun Runs, my entire focus was being on pace to finish in my target time that really, all I saw was my virtual partner in my Garmin GPS telling me to “Go faster...”.

It was quite a cold day and I was very glad it was not raining. Once we started walking, the cold didn’t bother us too much at all. I enjoyed the walking experience. My hip flexors were sore but otherwise, I felt fine. Our time was 1 hour and 42 minutes. Not bad!






More pics here...

24 April 2008

Things

I usually use a To Do list to get myself organized. I go in spurts, though - either I’m diligently using my list or it’s sitting on my desk forgotten and obsolete. I keep trying different types of “lists”, too. Sometimes I just use Post-It notes. Sometimes, I use iCal. Sometimes, I use a notebook to keep my list. I think the weak link in this process is me remembering to add my tasks to the list. I just start keeping a list in my head and forget to put them down on paper or enter them into my computer. I haven’t really figured out yet how to fix this weak link.

Anyway, Bill Dobie sent me a link a while back to Things. It is a task management software that uses the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology - whatever that means! There’s a book of the same title and this software is based on that book, but since I haven’t read the book, I don’t really know the details of GTD. From what I gather from Things and wikipedia, it’s a method for getting the stuff out of your head and recording it somewhere. It’s a way to clear the clutter out of your head.

So, I will use Things to organize myself and see how long I stick to it. Should I have a to-do item of “enter tasks into Things”??? hehehe

2 April 2008

London tidbits

On Tuesday night, I went to the pub around the corner, Friend At Hand, for dinner (rump steak and fries) and I watched a bit of the football game (Man U vs Roma) while I was there. I also read my book, which probably was insulting to the local football fans in the place. But a player from Man U caught my eye.... Cristiano Ronaldo is HOT! Wow.

I’ve never seen anybody eat spaghetti with a knife and fork before. It was like he was eating steak or chicken, except he was cutting noodles with his knife instead of meat. The elderly man at the next table cut the spaghetti into a small “piece”. He then proceeded to put the cut noodles on the back of his fork and put the noodles in his mouth. Interesting...

Tube fiasco... I got the the South Kensington station at 8:45 tonight and the sign said that the train was coming in two minutes. Fifteen minutes later, I was still standing on that platform. There was a fire alarm in the previous station, hence, the Piccadilly Line service was suspended. The attendant at the station said I should take the Circle Line to King’s Cross and then transfer to the Piccadilly Line there. He said the service should be back up by the time I get there. Again, I waited and waited but no Circle train. So I go back to the Tube map to look for another way. Aha! District Line to Victoria station, then the Victoria Line to Green Park station, and then hopefully, the Picadilly Line will start working by then. Thankfully, it did start up again about five minutes after I arrived at the platform in Green Park. By the time I got to Russell Square, my destination, an hour and 15 minutes had gone by. Agh!

1 April 2008

Greenwich

Last Sunday, I rode the 188 bus from Russell Square to Greenwich. Riding the bus gave me a chance to see parts of London away from the touristy sections. It took about an hour to get to Greenwich and once I got there, I visited the Painted Hall and Chapel in the Old Royal Naval College. The Painted Hall is breathtaking. Hard to describe in words how overwhelming the magnificence of the hall is. I just stood still for a few minutes to savour it. From the Naval College, I walked to Greenwich Park where the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and the Royal Observatory are located. I only had time to visit one of them and I decided to go to the Royal Observatory. I visited the meridian line and took a picture (like millions of other tourists) with one foot on the west side of the meridian and the other foot on the east side. I then headed to the planetarium and learned about black holes, dark energy, and dark matter. Fun! I gave a kid nearby the evil eye because he was being noisy when I was watching the video that explained all this stuff.

It was another day of exploring, lots of walking, going to places I’ve never been to before. Again, it would have been more fun if Ed were with me. I’m getting tired of talking to myself. hahaha

30 March 2008

Brighton

This weekend, I decided to explore places outside of London. I’ve been here several times already and I’ve always stayed in central London because there is so much to see and do here. But this time, I decided to visit the coast of England, to see the sea and the cliffs. I headed to Brighton, an hour south of London by train.

It wasn’t raining but it was a gray, windy day. The sound of the waves and the wind was almost deafening. Brighton is a touristy seaside town with an amusement park on a pier, ocean-front hotels and restaurants, a maze of shops and pubs, and a royal pavilion. It is so quaint but over-the-top at the same time. I walked along the beach, enjoying the wind and the sound of waves. I walked along the Brighton Pier and saw the white cliffs in the distance. I toured the Royal Pavilion which was the built by King George IV. I browsed the shops in the Lanes and enjoyed some Cornish pasty. All in all, a very good day.

March 29 is also my wedding anniversary. 5 years! Unfortunately, Ed and I are not celebrating the day together this year since I’m here and he’s in Vancouver. But that’s okay, we’ll celebrate when I get back home next week. I know that Brighton would have been more fun if Ed were with me.





More pics here.

7 March 2008

Grown up furniture

When Ed and I moved into our townhouse in 2005, we decide to graduate from Ikea furniture. Grown up furniture is how I refer to non-Ikea furniture. Grown-up furniture means they are made from solid wood, are meant to survive more than one move, and last for years and years. They also mean more money. So slowly, we’ve been furnishing our home with grown-up furniture.

Our latest grown-up furniture is a bedroom set. For both Ed and me, this is the first time that we have a bed frame for our mattress. In addition to the bed frame, we bought two night tables and a six-drawer dresser. It’s made by a Quebec company, Baronet, and is made of solid maple. The collection is called Java 25.

This was an impulsive purchase. We knew we needed a bedroom set. We just didn’t really have a set plan to purchase one right away. But Ed wanted to go shopping one recent Sunday afternoon and before we knew it, we were putting down a deposit. And yesterday, our grown-up bedroom set settled nicely into our masters bedroom.

Funny thing I noticed this morning - when I sit on the bed with my feet hanging, my feet are about a foot from the floor!

26 February 2008

Ouch

I attended a CrossFit class last night. My last CrossFit workout, prior to last night, was on Jan 17. That was five and a half weeks ago! Needless to say, I am quite sore today. I was scared to start working out again because I knew it was going to hurt. But I’m so glad to get that first workout over and done with.

Next up, getting back on the water. I haven’t paddled since Jan 20. I know it’s going to hurt, too! Maybe I can procastinate a little longer. I’m such a chicken...

24 February 2008

Back in Vancouver

I got back from Manila a few days ago. I'm still struggling with the change in time zone, five days after arriving. Hopefully, I'll be sleeping normally in a few days. My trip was not really a vacation but I did manage to find time to relax. The best part of the trip was really being able to spend time with my sister, Leslie. I got to see my friends from school and help the Philippine economy by shopping a little bit. I even was able to spend a day at the beach.

My dad, who is the reason I made the trip in the first place, is settling in nicely at the care home he moved into. He has caregivers looking after him 24/7 and he seems to be getting along with them. Finding good quality care for my dad is a big relief for our family.

Pics from my trip are at my Flickr site.

7 February 2008

Driving stress, etc.

I've had my dad's car for a week now. It's great not having to rely on other people to drive for me or to take public transportation. The downside is I have to tackle the traffic and the non-existence of road rules. There are no lanes. If there is an open space, a vehicle goes for it. Vehicles doing a left turn do not wait for the oncoming traffic to clear up (b/c they would wait forever). Instead, they inch their vehicles forward to get in the way of the oncoming vehicles. But while the inching forward is happening, the oncoming traffic swerves to the right in order to avoid the left-turning cars. This happens until the left-turning vehicles have created enough of an obstacle that the oncoming traffic has no choice but to stop. Also, since the cars just go wherever there's enough of an open space, the cars end up being inches away from each other. I swear, my heart is going 200 bpm while I'm driving here.

Going to the mall is the official leisure activity of people in Manila. They don't really shop but they sit and enjoy the air-conditioning. But some people do shop and I must say that I've been frequenting SM Mall since last week. Decent shoes for $20. How can I say no???

Corruption is still everywhere and it doesn't seem to be getting any better with time. My dad has property in a rural area called Lucena. Since we have to settle up the property taxes, we're going to have to go there to pay. I was advised to not talk to the tax people myself since I sound foreign. Apparently, the tax people will make up problems to make it hard to retrieve information or process the payment, whatever, so that I will be forced to bribe them to get the "problem" to go away. So I have to find a local to speak to the tax people. Good thing my mom has relatives in that town. But what a pain!

And that's what I've discovered. Getting things done here can be a slow, inefficient, and painful process. Even getting from one place to another can be very slow and nerve-wracking.

Makes me appreciate Canada even more.

2 February 2008

Manila tidbits

Using a dial-up connection makes me appreciate high-speed connections even more! This is just painful...

Craziness is Manila traffic. Attending my aunt's party in the other side of town (around 50 km), we had to leave my sister's house three hours before the start of the party.

My sister's maid, Jessa, is awesome. I don't have to lift a finger at my sister's house. Having a maid like her is definitely the way to go!

At my aunt's party, they served a buffet dinner. There was no vegetable dish - just rice, noodles, and meat! I wonder how vegetarians make it in this city.

I bought two pairs for shoes for $25. I had a haircut and pedicure at a nice salon for $12.50. I bought a t-shirt for $7. My sister and I had a big lunch for $7. But gas costs $1.10 a litre, just like in Vancouver.

30 January 2008

I'm back!

I didn't think I'd be back in Manila so soon. Ed and I were here in Oct 2006 for a backpacking adventure. But this past Christmas, it was decided that my dad needed a travel companion since he is not able to travel on his own any longer. Hence, my hastily arranged trip to Manila.

My goal here is to sort out my dad's affairs. My dad had a stroke last year and now needs us to help him with these things. So since my arrival last Sunday, my sister and I have been sorting out things with banks and city hall. Land titles, tax bills, bank accounts, power of attorney, etc, etc. It's weird going through someone else's stuff. One thing is for sure - my dad is a pack rat!

Manila is a funny place. On one hand, it is close to North America - music, tv shows, movies, shopping. On the other hand, it is a third world nation. Banking is a perfect example. Each branch operates separately, mainly because they are not tied together by one computer system. So, if I opened a chequing account in branch A and later on go to branch B to withdraw money, branch B has to fax my signature over to branch A which then has to fax back some authorization of some sort so that I can withdraw my money from branch B. For a savings account, I am allowed to withdraw my money only from branch A. And since in this city, it takes about 2 hours to travel 40 kms, being required to do transactions with only one branch is very inconvenient. And yet, people put up with it! Unbelievable.

My dad is now living in a care facility here. Filipinos don't use nursing homes. The elderly usually live with families so we get blank stares when we say that our dad is in a home. Home? What's that? My dad has a caregiver 24/7 and doctors to monitor his health. The home is owned by my sister's classmate from medical school and we're lucky to have found it.

More stories next time.

15 January 2008

Invisalign

I got braces today. Oh, excuse me. They are called aligners. Invisalign aligners.

First, my dentist made some of my teeth thinner by fraction of millimetres to make space for the planned movements. Using a saw of some sort, he thinned out my teeth. Now I have a gap between my two front teeth.



You can’t really see the Invisalign on my teeth. I am talking funny now, though, so people notice that. But if I were just to smile and not say anything, the Invisalign is certainly invisible.



The aligners feel tight now. It hurts when I first put them on or remove them. But apparently, this will subside after a couple of days. I am excited about finally getting them. I first talked to my dentist about getting them about six years ago. It took me a while. The downside is that I can’t just munch on snacks. It is a bit of a production to take them off and put them back on. So I can’t just take a cookie and chow it down, for example. I guess I can but I now ponder whether eating that cookie is worth the trouble. I’m going to miss grazing on snacks whenever I feel like it.

13 January 2008

Bonspiel

Well, not too much of a match. We had more of a curling lesson. Ed and I went with a group of friends to try our hand at curling. We had a blast! Patrick was the most hard-working - he'd throw the rock and then chase it so he can sweep in front of it. I was more concerned with how I was going to get up from the ice after throwing the rock. All I aimed for was for my rock to make it past the line! It sure was fun!

This is me in my not so fine form..


Thanks for organizing, Yvette! Here she is in fine form...

11 January 2008

Jan 11 2008

CrossFit workout was “strength day”. Clean squat = 65 lbs. Dead lift = 115 lbs. Bench press = 50 lbs.

It’s pretty cool to be able to do heavier and heavier weights. I’m really enjoying it. I can’t believe I dead lifted my body weight! And my trainer said I have to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound I weigh.

Picture of the day

Recording my days

I find myself wishing sometimes that I’d taken the time to jot down a couple of thoughts about my day. Time just goes by and I end up forgetting what I did or thought. There was one year, I think it was 2004, when I kept a journal and wrote down something everyday that I did or thought of that day before I went to sleep. Now that I keep a journal electronically, I don’t tend to do it because I’d have to go get the laptop, turn it on, etc. But I’d like to try anyway...

And this time, I will share them on this blog. And to make it more interesting, I will try and include a photo of the day.

Let’s get started!

Modest changes, little tweaks

That is my goal for 2008, to make modest changes and little tweaks in order to improve my well-being. A main goal is to reduce the stress in my life and a major cause of stress for me is taking on too much. So, instead of making lofty resolutions, I will pick three modest changes I can start with.

These are:
- be in bed by 11:30 so I can get enough sleep and start my day earlier
- allot sufficient preparation and travel time so I am not always rushing to make appointments
- make time for meditation and quiet time so I can relax my mind and body

Wish me luck...